Description: After the Rumble, Juri arranges a meetup with her students at the famous Rainbow Room. Underage drinking, deep psychic lore, and warnings about the future are all more or less ignored in equal measure. She may not have high hopes as they head into the unknown, but she does at least get to threaten Daisuke with a good time.
The Rainbow Room has a cute name and... that's about it.
Peeling paint on the exterior had once shown all the colours of the rainbow in beautiful display, now it mostly just looks sad. But that doesn't matter to the club's patrons.
Because it is Saturday Night and that means it is time to get drunk, dance and ... well, do the things that come naturally when you've spent the night getting drunk and dancing. Inner Sunshine might have the Noise Factory with its carefully curated image and beautiful people looking to see and be seen; Outer Sunshine has the Rainbow Room, where the music is just as loud, but the bands are never live, the drinks are half the price and the bouncers are a lot less discerning.
Juri's instructions had been clear. Meet outside the club at 11pm sharp, dress so you aren't embarrassing.
The woman herself is in a classic; baggy pants held up by a double looped belt held in place with a skull; a triangle of purple fabric which just about covers her chest, long purple gloves with pink fightin' gauntlets and spiked cuffs she definitely isn't ripping off from Chun-Li, and her hair styled up in her iconic devil's horn design.
She's also lounging against a streetlight - which, given this is Outer Sunshine, isn't actually working - and watching the club across the way. Even at this distance, the music is faintly audible, a heavy electronic beat. And, more to the point, there's a good few hundred people packed in there, by now they're largely good and buzzed, and that is going to make it perfect for the lesson.
The instructions were clear enough. The intent behind it all less so. Daisuke is not exactly the kind of person who familiarizes himself with city nightlife, but... at the same time, he knows better than to say 'no' to Juri with something simple like that.
As for not dressing embarrassingly? Daisuke is not exactly a paragorn of fashion, but at least someone had the sense to tell him the extremely tourist-y shirt he's been going with since arriving in Sunshine City does not... really do anything to help him blend in. So what does he wear for his outing to this part of town? A white t-shirt and blue jeans. ...Well,, it's not even vaguely anything special, but at least it looks 'normal'.
It probably still took the redhead from Southtown a good few turns to get here, to avoid any unsavory people. He seems to know better than to make any obvious call out to Juri, either, on his approach to her. Simply walking up to her on the street with his hands stuck in his pockets, and assuming position standing besides her, facing the same way. Completely casual-like, as if though it's completely coincidental that they happened to stop and stand at the same spot. Like they're waiting for the bus! ...Well, not that there's a bus stop there.
"Hey," he does offer when he does stop there, though, wiht a sideward glance to the woman's way. He seems casual enough in her presence these days. There might be some nervousness hidden in there still, but he's at least *much better* about hiding it, ever since that talk they had on the warehouse rooftop.
"So... what are we doing here, exactly?"
Constance Coalbridge is a young lady who likes to live in a certain level of comfort, free of such concerns as cost over convenience. After a particularly volatile car journey back in the direction of the Ryu Zui Ken dojo, she'd abandoned her teammates at Team Blaze altogether. Ariastra had whisked her away from the scene, ultimately dropping her off at the nicest hotel in Inner Sunshine, from which she'd been spending her last days in Sunshine City before the Rumble distributing her time between the gym, the beach, and her suite. Forget roughing it in a shared living space. She had been promised personal training from Sagat or Adon for her sacrifice of comfort, and that had never materialized, so as far as she's concerned, her time on Blaze has been a total disaster. Before and since the Rumble, she's been screening all contact, ordering room service, and catching up on Love Island with Morgie so that she can feel better about her own disastrous recent relationship experiences. She's been practicing self-care, keeping her body in absolutely rocking shape, and getting in tune with her new sense of self-understanding. She's been doing what she needs to do to feel better.
Not that any of it has worked.
So, even though a cursory glance at the reviews for 'The Rainbow Room' tells her that it is absolutely not the kind of place that caters to her personal preferences, Coco has leapt (in a strictly metaphorical sense) at the opportunity. After all, in her experience, these are the sorts of places where they usually don't worry too much about carding, especially if you're pretty. If nothing else, it should present a prime opportunity to get properly plastered. Or, perhaps, get vicariously smashed. She still hasn't worked out how that works, exactly, but apparently it's a thing for her.
A truck pulls up across the street from the club, and Coco climbs out of it, carefully placing each step of her eight-hundred-pound silk-crepe Christian Louboutin sandals until she's made it safely onto the sidewalk (Juri did say not to dress embarrassingly, after all). Smoothing down her sequined dress, she turns a smile over her shoulder.
Okay, apparently she hasn't completely ghosted everyone from Team Blaze, but who would ghost Brian Storm?
Coco shimmers as she saunters toward the unlit street ornament that Juri is leaning against, shifting a hand along the strap of her handbag.
"Hiya, Juri! Lovely to see you again, darling. I love your outfit, it's so you," she greets the suspected psychopath, clearly in a good mood. She turns her gaze toward the red-haired youth in his white t-shirt and jeans, canting her head to one side. "Looking for a little respect?" she says in a tone that makes it unclear whether she's suggesting an answer to his query or making one of her own.
Genie was told to dress "in a way that isn't embarrassing." Truly, this gave Genie considerably anxiety as she debated what to wear. What would Juri consider stylish? Who else was going to be there? There were so many variables to consider that Genie considered not going at all--until that too sounded like a recipe for disaster.
And so, Genie finally arrives, dropped off by a rather nice BMW X-series SUV and gives a polite wave to the driver as she steps out. Much like Coco, Genie seems to have a firm grasp of "designer" in her choice of wardrobe. Her sleeveless dress shows her shoulders and prominent earrings stick out from her pink hair. Her shoes have a bit more platform than heel.
And then she spots Daisuke. "Oh! ... did I overdress? Should I have Mr. Amstutz come back and bring something diff--"
When Genie spots Coco, she goes pale. "Ah, um. Hello ..."
Juri gives Daisuke a long look up and down with her one good eye as he approaches, clearly appraising. "Well." She says, "I guess you worked with what you had." The arrival of the other two shortly after is met with more approval. She flashes a wild grin to Coco, "Nice shoes. Really screams 'payday', but maybe that's the hostage taker in me." Whilst Genie is favoured with a shake of her head and a, "You're fine. Now."
She claps her hands together and stops slouching against the defunct lamppost.
"Lot of reasons I brought you all together tonight." She says, apparently deciding to completely ignore Genie's obvious discomfort. "First. Celebration for my two favourite students. Coco, you kicked ass. Can't take credit for most of it, but I saw what you tried to do at the end there, and it was a good call. For someone with just a few hours of instruction? Nice."
Then she turns to Genie. "And you." That wild grin grows even wilder, "Again, those kicks taking apart the tech bro? I laughed my ass off. We've still got a lot to work on, but we'll get there."
She turns back to Daisuke, "You're here for the second reason." She continues, "All of you have problems with your empathic senses. Daisuke, Coco, you're at the point where it is faint and not really something you can control. Genie, you have trouble blocking it out when you want to."
She gestures to the club, "These places are just full of emotions. So we'll drink, we'll dance, we'll train... and we'll discuss a couple things I don't want to bring up until we're inside."
Looks like Coco's instinct was on the money there, too; Juri wants a drink, she's going to get a drink, local age restrictions be damned. It'd take the world's bravest bartender to turn her down, and King is all the way back in Southtown.
Daisuke doesn't look like he fully understands the look Juri's givign him, upon his initial arrival. His arms spread out a bit and he looks down with visible confusion at himself, before asking outright, "What's wrong with my clothes?"
With Coco and Genie coming along, though, and him seeing *their* outfits? He might be starting to get at least a *little* bit of an idea of what is wrong with his clothes. There might even be a little bit of red going over his cheeks while he's looking over each of the three women he is apparently going to be accompanying now. It's *mostly* embarrassment. Mostly.
Though in the middle of all that, Coco does get a deadpan kind of look and a "Huh?" over the reference that clearly goes completely over the young man's head.
He straightens up in his posture, suddenly, when Juri starts addressing him with her explanations. ANd oh. Oh, he doesn't like that. Not one bit. His eyes widen with the realization, looking back and forth between Juri and the entrance to the club on the other side of the street with *increasing* worry.
He might not have been *entirely* truthful about his claims of how well he has a handle on his senses. He has basically *no filter* on them at all. THere's a reason he avoids big crowds. And this is basically going to be the *worst* kind of incredibly dense crowd.
"H-hey, I just remembered, I, uh, um, left the stove on, I s-should, go deal with that, aheh!!"
There is no stove at the Frost warehouse. He is trying to escape. Too bad his starting line is in Juri's arm's reach, though.
As Genie arrives, Coco turns her silver eyes in the other gap-year girl's direction, then puts a smile on, tilting her head to one side as she raises a hand to flutter fingers at her. "Hiya, babes. No hard feelings about the Rumble, right? Sometimes I get a bit excitable in a fight, so I totally get why you might've said something you didn't mean."
Another Rumble memory is dredged up by Juri's comment; one that's frankly rather unpleasant. Chevy's reversal of the new technique that she'd been trying to develop had made it the farm girl's moment to show off instead of Coco's. At least Juri isn't twisting her knickers about it. As far as she can tell, anyway - and she tends to have good instincts about that sort of thing. One has to, if one wants to survive the Chelsea social scene.
"Aww, ta, babes. I gave it my ass, that's all," she says with a friendly smile that becomes more brilliant as Juri reveals their reason for being here. "Wicked. I love clubbing. I am well up for this after the last few weeks I've had. You know you're having a shitty month when getting kidnapped is one of the highlights."
She turns her head around to mention to Daisuke, "You're pretty much a leather jacket away from a cool retro vibe, really. As is, you just look - hey, where are you going?"
She doesn't make a move to try and stop him, but she does give a glare - one that may perhaps be surprisingly intimidating, if not paralyzing, though as a more experienced psychic, the youth may likely be capable of holding his own against it.
"I'm not going to force you."
Juri's voice is very, very cold as she addresses Daisuke and his attempt to flee. The implication is also clear; she absolutely could, if she wanted to. "But this is non-negotiable if you want to stick with me. Remember that I said things were going to get more serious from here on out? I was right. So get with the program, or get lost."
Her one good eye swivels back to Coco. They're the same age, aren't they? So why the hell does she feel like she's the one out of touch with the lingo of the youth. "... right." She says, "Follow me. All of you."
And just like that the psycho killer detaches from the broken streetlight and stalks towards the club. As she does, a smile splits her features; full-on, predatory and dripping with menace as she approaches the bouncer. A tall, broad-shouldered woman in a sharp pink suit, with a fashionable side-shave and blue dyed hair.
"Juuuuude." She purrs, "I bet you're just SO happy to see me again. We're going inside." The shorter woman has to stand on her tip-toes to rest one hand on the bouncer's shoulder and use the other to tuck a couple bills into the jacket's breast pocket. "Not a problem, right?"
The people in line seem to think there is one, waves of animosity and frustration boiling over as Juri just skips the queue along with her little underage group, but Jude seems to have forgotten how to speak - she's gone very, very pale in fact, and frantically shakes her head as she gets out the way to let the group inside.
Into the hot, heavy, throbbing din of pounding music and very inebriated dancers.
And, even more scandalously, the psychopath doesn't even lead them straight to the dance floor or the bar; there is, in fact, a small VIP area roped off and slightly elevated. It's there that she heads, and ~maybe~ her students will be sensitive enough even in a place like this to realise that there's more than just her natural intimidation at play as people scurry to get out of her way, parting like the Red Sea to make way for her lesson plan.
It's not Coco's stare that makes Daisuke stop. He... might have actually preferred for Juri to have just grabbed him by the ear and physically dragged him along. But no. This way he has to admit to some choices he's been making lately. But she probably knows that too, doesn't she?
The redhead doesn't say anything. Not for the few seconds he stays stood there with his back turned to everyone, or even when he goes to turn around to actually follow behind them.
Maybe it won't be that bad, though?
That particular thought is, unfortunately, starts getting proved wrong before he's even fully past the bouncer Juri, uh, sweet-talked her way past. Irritation from the queue behind them, fear from Jude, it all spikes into Daisuke's mind already. That much he can deal with, usually, but there is a dawning realization that this is only a miniscule fraction of what is waiting for him.
And with every step that he takes closer to the doors leading inside, his head feels heavier.
He hesitates for just a second behind Juri and her other 'students', before steeling himself for pushing inside. Something he regrets almost immediately.
The pounding music delivering the vibrations of heartbeat-like bass through the bones seems to only enhance the delivery of the sea of emotions around him, crashing like a rapid-fire of enormous waves that threaten to wash away his very sense of self.
Joy. Anger. Jealousy. Lust. Hate. Fear. So many, so strong, all blurred together in the beat of the music and the inhibition-releasing alcohol, in such a small space. And Daisuke feels *all of it*. It makes his head spin, and any of the others will peek back, they'll very well notice him stagger for a moment on his feet too, clutching his head with one hand while color drains from his face. It's not just that it makes him feel like he has the migraine of the century, no -- though that is definitely bad enough to make him feel like he is about to hurl. It's also the sheer overload of the psyche, without any filter there to stop them, in a whirlwind of 'others' around him that makes him feel like the 'self' is getting buried underneath their weight.
IT was never this bad even when he went to Taiyo for his classes.
"...It's okay." It's a lie. "I'm fine." A big fat lie, directed not just at his companions but at *himself*, too. There's no way he thinks staying here is a good idea. And yet there's something else pushing him to keep taking steps forward, unsteady as they might be.
Even amidst the thunderstorm of thoughts and emotions that batter against his sense of self, that need to see things through still seems to remain, at least.
Coco saunters on in Juri's wake, looking entirely pleased with herself, basking in the status of badass-by-association as a hanger-on of the deadly rogue. Jude gets a smile from Coco as well - more smug than slasher, in her case. It could even just be friendly, if it weren't for context. Of course, it's hardly the first time she's queue-jumped her way into a club before. She usually feels bad about it, but whether that's her own feelings or secondhand aggro is now up for debate. Right now, she's unconsciously ignoring it, her internal appetite already whetted for what lies beyond the doors by the thumping of the bass that she can feel emanating from inside and all that that represents.
Once Juri enters, Coco's right on her heels. Where her red-haired compatriot might be taking his time to breathe in before submerging himself, Coco dives in like a fish returning to the sea - but even she's caught slightly off-guard by the intensity, the joy and lust and release hitting her harder than the heat and noise and light. With her 'inner eye' more open than it's ever been, it's like she's gone back to her first time, a junkie taking their first hit after months of sobriety have worn down their tolerance.
"Oh... em... gee," she says as she pushes a palm against her temple and staggers on her eight-hundred-pound heels for a moment, her silver eyes sweeping around the dingy swirl of colour and her nostrils fill with the smell of sweat and the intermingled scents of dozens of perfumes and aftershaves, head swimming and stomach churning with the dizzying deluge of drug and drink as she teeters on the verge of sickness.
"This is LIT!" she declares with a pixie grin.
And with that, she's staggering on, her poise returning steadily as she gets her metaphorical sea legs back. She turns around as she walks, beckoning to the others. "Come on! Let's get some drinks in!" she calls over the music before turning back around, bumping into a burly man stood in front of the bar with a cocktail in hand.
"Oh, that looks awesome. May I?" she asks, not letting the bloke answer before taking a slurp through the straw. She nods appreciatively as she pushes the drink back into the man's hand. "Lush."
The burly man turns a shocked look to the man next to him as Coco carries on after Juri. Both turn stares after her, seemingly hypnotized by the sparkles of her departing dress, then look back at each other.
"Wasn't that Coco?" the other one says.
The other lights up. "It was, wasn't it?! Coco drank my drink!"
"PURPLE PRIDE!" the two purple-clad men shout after Coco, toasting her before clinking their cocktails against each other. Coco throws a smile and a V salute over her shoulder before disappearing into the crowd, re-emerging a minute later next to the others, having finally realised that they were supposed to be heading for the VIP area and not the dance floor.
"This is so great. Isn't this so great?" she says as she slumps down onto the VIP seating like someone who's already had too many, stretching an arm across the back and her legs across the seat.
Juri's approval gives her some renewed confidence, but it's quickly deflated by some of her anxiety around Coco. Even so, Genie takes it in stride. "Ah, well, of course! I was a bit heated too." She seems to unsure how to advance for a minute, and the talk of Daisuke's fashion sense is a welcome diversion, albeit brief.
WHat quickly takes the place of it is Juri's proclamation of why they're going to the club. Genie bites her lip, and it takes her a moment to get a proper response together...other than not leaving. She falls into formation as they enter the club, bad vibes or not.
Genie's entrance is somewhere in between Coco's swagger and Daisuke's anxiety. The Swiss miss makes a face like she just smelled something sour when she steps into the club, one hand going to the side of her head. "Ooogh." She shakes once or twice, then straightens up a bit--until brief contact with a lady eyeballing her makes her face flush.
"You do not go to places like this as often as Coco, do you?" she asks Daisuke, watching their purple compatriot flop onto a nearby seat.
Juri gives a slight nod as Daisuke does, in fact, fall in line and join them. She would've hated to have to cut him loose at this late juncture but the stakes are getting too high to tolerate the kid's lack of confidence. That might, in fact, be one of the last hurdles they need to get him over to make him a real force to be reckoned with.
Coco's enjoyment gets a smirk back on Juri's lips, "It's not bad." She agrees, having definitely spent a lot of time in a lot worse places. The vibe of the club is down and dirty, but it isn't a total dive. There's more focus on enjoyment and desire than looking for a fight. Though, whether that is a good or a bad thing for their illustrious mentor... that varies on her mood.
Right now, getting in a scrap would cause more problems than it is worth. She can always find someone to savage later if she needs to let off some steam.
As Coco sinks into a seat, Juri beckons to one of the waitstaff assigned to this area. Part of the privilege of being VIP; actual table service. "Vodka coke for me. Get the rest of 'em whatever they want, too."
Juri spins a chair around and sits on the back of it, lifting her leg to cross her ankle over her knee. Her eye settles on Genie, and then on Daisuke, and she sighs. "Okay." She says, "I need you all focused up, so let's start with setting up a proper barrier."
It's only after she's spoken that most of the students might realise... they had no trouble at all hearing her over the din of the club. Telepathy has its advantages. And she extends that link, looking between each in turn as her expression turns more sour.
"Concentrate on me."
As she says those words, she relaxes her mental barrier - and they can feel it. It's just natural for her to keep her guard fully raised at all times, in case of sudden psychic assault. Her mind is HER MIND, and relaxing that reflex is like uncoiling a muscle she's kept clenched for ... well, years, at this point.
It's an entirely internal change. But the telepathic connection helps. They can see how she conceptualises herself; a monster, a beast, ravenous and untamed. And she gathers that part of herself, the devil-horned shadow with the burning purple eye, setting it firmly about her mind in a snarling, raging mass of anger, spite, and sadism. The three souls she's allowed in past the defenses, of course, remain untouched.
But all that raw emotion swirling through the club? That never even gets close to touching her.
"There." She mutters, "You're gonna need your own Individuation, I can't tell you what bit of you is best to fend off the outside. Figure it out."
She mops some sweat from her brow and glares back out at the club, "Where the hell are those drinks, anyway?"
"Hhhh...huh...?" Daisuke does... not look like he properly even heard Genie's question. It's not just the actual noise of the club proper. It's everything assaulting his mind. This is the real reason he has never gone to a place like this after he developed his psychic sensitivity (not that he ever did even before that, but still!).
By the time he gets to the VIP area with everyone else, he looks positively *miserable*, like he is simultaneously fighting off a migraine, the urge to vomit and possibly a heart attack. Or, you know, death of the ego. He all but slumps down onto a cushioned seat, sweat dripping over his forehead and breath visibly quickened. It's hard to focus on anything, with the unfiltered torrent of emotions of everyone else in the club flowing through his mind.
And yet Juri's voice somehow gets through in his mind. Not through his ears -- it feels like it's directly inside of his skull. He hasn't the thought to spare for how *weird* that feels in that moment, or even how it seems to be washing everything else away.
It... doesn't really do anything for the headache, truth be told. But it does apparently help enough that he can at least straighten himself where he sits, and drag his gaze upon Juri.
Or... the manifestation of Juri's self, anyway.
It draws a nervous gulp from him. An initial, primal instinct of fear that the image prompts deep in the ancient lizard brain. But... it passes, within a moment. The fear doesn't remain in his eyes for long. Instead, there's something Juri herself might find much more insulting.
He actually looks at her... sadly, of all things.
"I... don't understand," he murmurs, once she gives the more verbal explanation. "Is your... concept of self your inner shield, too, is that it...?"
"I'll have a... Strawberry daiquiri," Coco chimes in to the waitstaff after a short mid-sentence deliberation period. "Or a Pina colada. Just bring both. I'll decide which one when they get here."
The exhasperating English teen settles back on her seat, then suddenly riles herself again, shouting after the server. "No, wait! Long Island iced tea."
Crisis resolved, Coco turns back to the rest of the quartet and endeavours to catch herself up on the conversation. They're supposed to do something or other so that they can set up a proper barrier. Even though Juri's begun to speak directly into her mind, it's not coming through entirely clearly, thanks to the beer monocle over her mind's eye.
"Won't people just mind the cordon? What do we need a proper barrier for? It's not like we're One Direction." she wonders as she stares off toward the entrance to the VIP section. Then, after slowly turning her gaze back to Juri, she finds herself confronted with a vision of demonic horror that causes her to promptly flinch-flop off of her seat and onto the even-more-horrifying club floor.
"Oh God! What - seriously?!" she says, peeling her hands off the sticky surface and hiding behind her seat as she stares agape past it at Juri's inner self. "What the fudge is an Individuation?!"
Genie bites her lip when Juri lowers the drawbridge and lets them all see her for what she is--or at least, what she imagines herself to be. Sweat beads on her proud, her pinkish-hued bangs clinging tightly to her forehead. She takes a deep breath and holds it. She releases, then takes another one. Genie, for all her inexperience, saw a bit of this before. It makes her a bit more prepared---for what it's worth.
"I think I understand," Genie nods, slowly. She glances over at Coco.
"Are you OK?" She could almost hear her peel off the floor there, which in itself makes Genie wince.
Juri reaches up and pinches the bridge of her nose as two out of her three students catastrophically fail to follow along with her. She takes a deep breath, exhales hard, and then leans down to snap her fingers in front of Coco's face.
"Hey. Lightweight. You haven't even smelled your own drink yet. Focus. Up."
Her eye swivels around to Daisuke next, and her lip curls with irritation, "If you keep looking at me like that, I'm going to make you regret it." She warns. "It's not your concept of self, it's the strongest parts of yourself. The bits that make you, you. Look. Nngh... I can't believe I'm going to have to do this..."
She reaches out and lays a hand fondly on Genie's shoulder. "She gets it. Now. Try and pay attention. I'm not showing you how to do this again."
She hadn't really shown them how to do it the first time, she'd just done it and hoped they could intuit the means by which to follow. Again, she dismisses her own mental barrier. The untamed animal that seeks to destroy and consume all who enter her sight disappears from her inner world. The vague, annoying emotions of the club wash over her.
And, defenses lowered, the students can feel something else coming from her, too. There's a fair amount of irritation, yes. But also, embarrassment. There's no way around it though. If she wants them to build their own Individuation, she needs to show them how she did it.
The formative, core memories that created the beast.
She closes her eye, draws each of them to her more tightly through that telepathic connection and-
There is no club. They're a tiny child, trapped in a twisted hunk of metal that had once been a car, their mother and father bleeding in front of them. The side of the car tears open to reveal a towering figure; enormous, red, with blank white eyes and a rictus grin in his huge jaws. He reaches out and one massive hand closes around their head-
-they are strapped to a table, helpless, that same hand is reaching towards their eye, people in labcoats and strange uniforms watch them struggle, pain... PAIN-
-Power. It flows through them. They're crushing one of those uniformed people beneath their feet. Unstoppable. Invincible. Nothing can hold them in place again. Nothing can hurt them again. They lash out. It feels good to be the one who hurts, rather than the one hurting, it feels great, but that red-suited, grinning tyrant is always watching-
Each memory brings that same image they had seen before into sharper focus, until again, it rages around Juri's mind, and she lets out the breath she had been holding. They snap back to themselves.
Damn, she hopes that works. She really doesn't know how else to teach them.
"You've got your own cores." She mutters, "If you didn't have what it takes, I wouldn't be wasting my time. So do it. I'm going to find those drinks, I want you sitting here comfortably *yourselves* by the time I get back."
Furious, she severs the telepathic connection and stalks back out into the club proper to do just that. She can't beat someone to death right now. She, shouldn't, anyway. No matter how much she wants to.
Sit here comfortably on your own, she says?
Daisuke is the furthest from 'comfortable', by the time Juri has turned to stomp off, with the connection broken. The redhaired teenager looks almost *catatonic*.
The images burned into his mind gave him insight. A certian understanding of Juri. All the more so with his own sensitivity, more than he could have even hoped for. But that unfiltered sensitivity is a double-edged blade.
It's not just the sea of mixing emotions from the crowds that seep into him. It's Juri. Everything that made her what she is, every ugly, painful part. It beats against his mind from the inside, while he sits there, blank-eyed. It tries to color him anew. While it feeds something deep inside and makes him slowly smile at the thought of--
The boy twitches.
''No no no no no. That's not me. That's not me.''
There's a voice that is trying to tell him to let go. To just melt away and be born anew. But...
''That's not me''
He would rather stay as he is. Even if it hurts? Even if he is burnt to ashes? Even if--
''It doesn't matter''
...So be it.
The sudden sudden jolt of motion from Daisuke on the seating that suddenly brings his back against the backrest is practically strong enough one could almost hear the sound of something invisible breaking, as if the world around the redhead was glass and it was just shattered into a million tiny pieces left to glitter in the neon lights of the club. And with that... something has changed. His breathing has steadied, and he looks... at peace, like neither the thrumming noise of the club nor the overload of emotions of the people surrounding him can no longer pierce into him.
He found his barrier. If you asked him, he would say it was, in fact, his seperation of his sense of self. The realization of the self turned into a pillar. But that's... not true. Wether or not he was right about his read of what he saw of Juri's psychic manifestation, that still isn't the truth with him. The truth is, Daisuke's sense of self is twisted. Burnt and broken by something long ago. What protects him now is instead a Lie. A Lie that he tells both the world and himself.
The Lie That He Is Okay. That illusion built to fool the perception of the world and his own in equal measures, turned into an enormous protective wall, supported by the sense of responsibility towards everything but himself.
Perhaps if one of the other three psychics in the club is sensitive enough for reading him, they can even tell as much. Still, at least... he learned... something? Even if it probably wasn't exactly in the way Juri might have intended or expected. Or was it?
Well, whatever the case is, the redhead is left laid there on the couch for at least a moment longer, with his eyes closed. It might be enough to cause worry that he has been knocked the hell out.
Is Coco OK? Well, she's probably actually doing better than Daisuke, if one is being honest. Despite being crouched behind the chaise, she's actually giving off more of a sense of curiousity than real fear. It's at least somewhat sobering to witness what she's being made to witness - and slowly, her focus intensifies, her body steadying. It's hard to read any emotion coming off of her as she joins with the others in experiencing Juri's formative past. But being made to feel Juri's experience causes an uncharacteristic pang of empathy inside her - an empathy forced by the nature of its truth. Suffering is a frequency that she's never truly been tuned to, but this is no broadcast - she's inside the station, experiencing the performance live. It speaks to a part of her that doesn't really know how to speak back.
When Juri stalks off, Coco pulls herself back up to her feet before plopping her sequin-covered ass back down on her chair and heaving a sigh.
"Total buzzkill," she laments as she crosses one leg over the other and her arms across her tummy.
Truth be told, she doesn't really understand the assignment, or how it's supposed to help her win fights, but she has nothing better to do than try and sus it out while she waits for Juri to come back with her drink. So, she starts running through a highlight reel of her own childhood.
==*== AGE FOUR ==*==
"Surprise! It's a pony!"
A young Coco gasps in delight as the blindfold comes off and she sees the pony leaning its head over the fence in front of her on her parents' country estate.
"Oh, and Daddy said sorry for missing your birthday again. He's promised he'll see you next weekend," her mother's voice says as the pony takes a moment to relieve itself noisily in front of her.
Little Coco just smiles. "Wicked!"
==*== AGE NINETEEN ==*==
Back in Coco's mind's eye, in the club, she's now sat side-saddle on an imaginary pony. Is the pony protecting her mind from outside invasion? Probably not. It's just a pony.
She strokes the velour of the seat tenderly as she patiently and contentedly awaits Juri's return with beverages. She can't remember what she ordered, so that will be a nice surprise.
"Good girl," she tells the pony-chair as her mind floats in a sea of shared consciousness.
As Juri unveils her secret truth, Genie assumes an absolutely atrocious poker face. She covers her mouth in shock, and, in that moment, the Swiss miss looks like her eyes are starting to water. To her credit, she does not look away, if such at thing were even possible. Her focus keeps, battered as it is, until Juri moves to the turning the tables. Genie shivers, without explanation, playing with her dress by rubbing the fabric between her fingers.
Daisuke is next, with that tumult of emotion brewing. Genie bites her lip, shuffles her feat, mouthing concern before he finally settles with the sound of something breaking. Her face still projects concern.
Finally, as Coco rubs the seat like her its her invisible steed, Genie plops her own rump next to Coco's---with only some mild hesitation. The Swiss heiress closes her eyes, takes a deep breath, then lets go. Inward, outward, inward, outward. As the breathing becomes an afterthought, Genie delves into her own memories, flipping between them like someone scrolling through old reels on their phone.
A teenage Genie looks disappointedly at a small ice cream sundae, the chef presenting it waiting with anticipation. She sighs deeply, and sticks out her lip in a pout. He takes it away. In a moment, he returns with one portioned for nearly three people. She looks around guiltily before digging in. The scene changes.
Little Guinevere hits the ground hard on her bottom as another girl stands over her, hands still extended and giggling to herself. Genie starts to sob, right as another young child, this one a boy, walks by to see what's going on. Genie stares at him, intently, wishing he'd do something. He looks confused, almost hypnotized for a minute. Then he tackles the other girl to the ground. He seems as confused as she does. The scene changes.
Genie furrows her brow on the couch, clutching the greasy faux-seude of the seat. She bites her lip. She delves back in.
Genie looks out at a scenic landscape. The forest stretches before her, a stream babbling gently in the background. In the distance, Mount Fuji stands careful guard. A young female voice calls to her.
"Hey! Are you listening Genie? Just 'cause you're older doesn't mean you get to ignore me!"
Genie snaps to attention, looking back at the darkhaired Japanese girl, slightly younger than her. Genie smiles, tilting her her head a little. "Sorry, sorry! I am listening!"
"So you're gonna be the princess," the other girl continues, "and I'm gonna be the shogun. You sit there in your cool tower waiting to be rescued, 'k?"
Genie furrows her brow, ever so slightly.
Genie still sits in that tower, even here in the club. With her knights around her, their shields and spears at the ready. She squeezes her thigh with her fingers, eyes still closed. Is that what she wants? Her mind protected by other people? Genie opens her eyes and looks at Coco, for a moment, really looking at her. Somewhere, in the tower of her mind, something stirs with hot breath and leathery wings.
But Genie just tilts her head and smiles politely at Coco. "Do you think this is hard? I think this is hard."
When Juri returns, she is less than pleased.
She does have drinks, at least. A tray of them, in fact. It looks like she's got her drink and all three of the ones that Coco mentioned; the tray is set on the table, but if Coco actually leans in to try and take her Long Island Ice Tea (or the Strawberry Daiquiri or the Pina Colada and ESPECIALLY if she goes for the vodka coke) she will receive a sharp slap on the back of her hand and a sharp hiss of reproach.
She turns her attention on Daisuke first, scrutinising him closely. Her one good eye squints in the darkness and she sucks her teeth.
"Not what I was going for." She says, "But fine. Whatever works."
Then, on Genie. Another long moment of introspection before she nods her head, "Not a bad start. You're not all the way there yet, but, you've got the right idea."
Her features twist into a frown almost immediately when she looks to Coco.
"Two out of three." She mutters irritably, "Ugh. This is such a pain."
It's not surprising, though. She's not a teacher. She's only good at hurting people. Everything she knew about the more complex elements of the art she'd learned more or less innately after the Feng Shui Engine had been forced into her skull. Experimentation, stolen research notes and the tricks she'd learned when she'd honed that power to its apex could get her so far, but it couldn't turn her into a mentor. Not really. Maybe she just wasn't cut out for this at all.
Great time to figure that out, Juri. You're going to get everyone killed.
But. Maybe. She can hurt them until they get it right? There's more to hurting people than just delivering beatings, after all.
Leaning forward, she presses a finger against Coco's forehead.
"When I dragged you out onto that rooftop and you didn't know if I was just going to throw you off, you actually had the guts to mouth off." She hisses, "Now, you can't find it in you to stand up to a crowd of drunk weaklings? Where's that part of you? Hell. Where's the diva? I'd take them over..."
And she draws back, waving her hand up and down to indicate Coco with a look of disdain, before she snatches up the iced tea and begins to bring it to her own lips.
"Whoever THIS is."
It takes a while. But eventually, Daisuke's eyes snap open, just shortly after Juri has made her inspection of his... situation. And apparently decided that it's good enough. Maybe that alone could have been enough for Genie to decide that he is not, in fact, in any dire danger.
Though his eyes do appear to *glow* when they open. It's another thing he can't quite help. When he's channeling his power or even making use of his senses, it flows to mirror out through his eyes. The window to the soul. The emerald irises glow now, while he pushes himself up slowly, to look over the surrounding area. Watching over... everyone else.
It's a strange sensation. To be able to *see* the whirls of emotion around him, without letting them get into him. Like products on store shelves, waiting to be picked out for closer inspection. Individually packaged up, kept safe within their own containers before they are deliberately opened up.
It's... preferable to what he had to suffer through previously.
The redhead wipes a hand just underneath his nose. Some blood had dribbled out. Even now, the control of psychic energies is... at least a little volatile, for him.
The glow eventually fades from his eyes. It doesn't *completely* disappear, but it does at least stop being easily noticable -- a dim reflection instead of bright-ass neon lights, if you will.
And that gaze falls on Juri and Coco, now. He frowns. Juri probably could have guessed even before she started that he wouldn't particularly approve of her teaching methods either. The redhead is incredibly kind-hearted like that. For just a moment, he looks like he is about to interject and make his particular protests known. But... in the end, he doesn't. With a sigh, he ends up deciding to trust Juri at least a little longer with this, but...
Even when he shuffles to the side, he keeps the corner of his eye on the two. Just in case. But for now? He noticed something else just now. His mind's eye might not be as well-trained yet, but he could still see something there on the other person present here. Something fiery.
"Hey," he says then, once he's shuffled up to sit next to Genie, with a faint look of concern. Just loud enough to be heard over the ambient noise of the club, while trying not to overlap the moment between Juri and Coco. "What was that just now?" He asks, with faintly pursed lips. There was something in that tower of her mind beyond what she presented outwardly. "You okay?"
"Ow!" Coco protests, retracting her slapped hand and rubbing it with a rueful frown on her face, looking to the others for sympathy as she pulls a face that isn't nearly as discreet as she thinks that it is before turning her eyes back to Juri. The other two get positive feedback, and neither of them found a pony, so Coco anticipates a gold star for her own efforts. Instead, she gets a finger pressed against her forehead and a verbal blasting. Coco's eyes nearly cross as they focus on Juri's derisive finger.
'Whoever THIS is.'
The purple-haired heiress' gaze focuses as her eyes start to narrow.
==*== AGE 19, THAILAND ==*==
A drunken Coco stumbles along a jungle path as she tries to find her way back to the Full Moon party, having taken a 'comfort break' out in the relative wilderness on the outskirts of the resort. Alone with her own thoughts, her mind reels with the news that she's learned and spent the night trying to unlearn: the complicity of her parents in creating oppressive working conditions for locals, and worse - in her mind - their part in the abuse of animals for economic gain. The phone calls where both of them had made it clear that not only were they aware of what was going on, but that she had best keep quiet about it if she didn't want to be cut off completely. A teardrop starts to trickle down her cheek as anger boils inside her gut - as do the contents of a half-empty bottle of Captain Morgan in her hand. Suddenly, she trips over a tree root that stretches across the dirt, falling unceremoniously forward in the dark.
Coco winces as her chin hits the packed earth of the path, pushing herself up to a kneel and groaning.
Coco's eyes turn slowly toward the sound in front of her before meeting a pair of twin black beads that gleam in the moonlight. A second later, the telltale fan of a cobra spreads out to either side of the reptilian assassin's eyes.
It's not fear that sends a tremble through Coco's body as she meets the snake's gaze. It's rage.
It's already been the worst day ever, and now this bloody King Cobra is all up in her face like it owns the bloody jungle?
She rises up to the full height of her feet, and as she does, the cobra follows, stretching up from the ground to match her every inch of the way.
"Look, you rotting bastard," Coco says, coiling into a combative stance as her wrath stretches the limits of her will, "Do you know who I bloody am? I'm Constance fucking Coalbridge, and I know Muay Thai."
She cocks back a fist like she's ready to punch the snake right in the nose as her gaze bores into it, her eyes flashing momentarily with the snake's reflection.
"So, fuck off."
With that, the cobra stares for a few more seconds before slithering away into the undergrowth.
A scuffling sound behind Coco causes her to whip around suddenly, levelling an equally deadly gaze on the creature behind her as her rum sloshes from the bottle with the violence of the motion.
"What d'you want?!"
The binturong standing behind Coco freezes in fear as her gaze meets its own. Coco lets out a gasp.
"Oh, come here, sweetie! I've got to save you from my parents!"
==*== RIGHT NOW ==*==
Forgetting that last part, Coco keeps her eyes narrowed as the pony suddenly disappears, replaced by a cobra coiling around her psyche and draping from her shoulders as she gives Juri the same death glare that she'd mustered on that fateful evening. The psychic haze that she's been wallowing in is blown away as the projection of her Individuation hisses and bares its fangs. Suddenly, Coco is sober, and she's not pleased.
"-Fine-," she says with a scowl as she pushes herself easily up to her feet, holding her gaze level with Juri's. "I'll get drunk the old-fashioned way."
Then, the diva makes a sudden swipe for the vodka and coke, aiming to grab it, clink it, and knock it back with a bravado that just might equate to a death wish, before wiping any excess away from her mouth. After all, she's Constance fucking Coalbridge, and she knows Muay Thai.
Genie nods, doubling down on that idea. The image of the castle in her mind, the tower, solidfies. Genie is safe in her tower. She is the princess. This is the way of things.
Something within the the depths of the tower stirs again, knocking loose dirt and stone.
"Huh?" Genie looks over at Daisuke. "Oh, I am fine! Thank you for asking!" She smiles pleasantly at Daisuke. Nothing amiss here. No sir.
And then Coco gives it another shot. There's suddenly a -cobra- and Genie slides her bottom a little away from Coco and toward Daisuke.
Genie blinks. "I think Coco is angry," Genie whispers to Daisuke.
Juri shoots Daisuke a bit of a Look as he bleeds all over the place. Okay, so the kid is going to need some more refinement. That can come later. Psychically, he's doing an okay job. Not, stellar. But good enough.
Coco, though, soon has the majority of the psychopath's attention once again. The death glare is met levelly, and- then the heiress actually reaches out and takes her drink, in a reversal of the move she had done to coax a response herself.
For a moment, Juri lets the moment hang in the air. And then she laughs, loudly. She shakes her head, and takes a long sip from the cocktail, before setting it down with a contemplative look. "You know, that's not half bad." She says, "I'll have to remember that."
Finally, she actually sits down properly, throwing herself into a chair and folding her legs beneath her.
Goddamnit. Coco is far too much like her for her own good. Karmic revenge for a thousand Shadaloo briefings she'd messed around in, and the suffering of her fellow sponsors trying to get her to show respect.
"I'd be more pissed if I didn't basically ask for it." She says, addressing Coco, "You and the Boy Hero over there have got a lot to learn." She jerks her thumb at Daisuke, as though there could be any doubt about who she was referring to. "But we can beat some sense into you when I'm not worried about someone else doing it first."
She fishes in her pocket, pulls out her phone - with its stylish Juri-hairstyle cover of course - and begins fiddling with it.
"You're all going to need to learn to project this kind of defense constantly. Stray thoughts can get you killed. I doubt any of you have what it takes to stand up to a full psychic assault, but you should at least know it is happening now, and maybe that'll buy you time to get out of there or call for backup."
She pauses, looking between each of the three in turn, as though weighing it up. There's no going back after this point, after all. But. There's no going back anyway. The die has been cast, now they just have to live with the results.
"Places like this are good camouflage. The background emotions make it a pain in the ass to pick out individual minds, and if you're protected too, it's even harder to actually read anything. Which is good. Because there's one more thing I need to discuss with you before we can enjoy the evening."
And then she throws her phone down on the table between all of them revealing... a very grainy shot of a young woman grinning in the crowd at the Rumble.
"Remember this face."
"Hrmh..." Daisuke does not appear entirely convinced by Genie's assurances. But instead of trying to pursue that particular thought... "If you say so..."
Some part of him, you see, is telling him that some of present company would not be terribly happy with him trying to prod deep into Genie's psyche. This is the first time the two have really met too, so the woman herself will probably not be terribly pleased either as far as he figures.
But he tenses for just a moment when he notices how Coco has decided to respond to Juri's prodding. Uh oh. Some color fades from his face while he watches her swigging that drink down, and he leans forward in obvious preparation to launch himself out--
But then he hears Juri laugh. Instead of, you know, smashing Coco's face into something. A tensed breath leaves him, and he lets himself lean back again.
Now is listening time anyway. He blinks rapidly at the 'boy hero' monicker, and he *almost* looks like he's about to say something about it, too. But assumably some logic circuit turns on right before that, so he decides to refrain from it.
Once Juri displays the photo on her phone, the redhead leans in real closelike, squinting his eyes at the not-terribly-clear picture.
"Um... Who's that supposed to be, exactly?"
With Juri apparently deciding to accept Coco's defiance for now, the purple-haired teen plops her bum back down on the chair, setting the partially-drained vodka coke back down between them as her own tarnished beverage is returned to the neutral zone. She reaches for the pina colada next, just in case this is about to turn into a war of who-gets-their-germs-on-which-drink-first, settling back to suck it through the straw that came with.
"I really don't know what you're on about," she admits as her Individuation slithers back and forth behind her. "How can a stray thought get you killed? And how am I meant to be keeping some sort of mental guard up all the time? I don't even look before crossing the road, most days."
She screws her face up as she tries to get a good look at the picture that they're being expected to memorize. "What he said," she settles on.
Genie shuffles in her seat as egos clash, first from Coco's bold declaration, then from Juri's swift rebutal. Her shoulders stiff and her knuckles white as she clutches the edge of the seat just a bit harder than is strictly necessary.
"Is it really that dangerous out there?" Genie asks. "For any fighter, or specifically ones who are," Genie gestures vaguely. "Like us."
She leans in more closely to look at the photograph. Her eyes narrow, as though she's trying to pin down why the woman looks familiar. "Ah, um. Do you run into trouble often, Coco?"
Juri tucks her hands behind her head and slumps backwards as she looks up at the ceiling. Maybe she's going too fast. But what choice does she have, exactly? They're moving towards the endgame now.
"Okay." She says, slowly. "That girl is 'Miss September'. I knew her as Xiayu. She works for..." A moment of hesitation. She can't say the name. "The same people that I used to work for. Congratulations, everyone, you've made it to the big leagues."
She shrugs her shoulders, rocking back forwards suddenly; her movement definitely growing a bit more erratic now.
"I don't know if Professional Fighting Worldwide are a front, were extorted, or if it's just a coincidence, but I know that it is very convenient that now we're throwing the teams up in the air, the new system says I definitely won't get to keep both of you on board if 'September' here forces her team to take one of you as a top pick."
Her eye turns on Genie, then. Bright and wild and, well. This is the difficulty with dealing with psychics, especially when you're trying to keep everyone linked. It's much more challenging to hide genuine emotions. Like rising panic.
"There's lunatics all across the fighting world." She says, "But we get a special one all to ourselves. Give him the chance, and he'll reach right into your head and twist you until you're a monster just like him. If you're lucky. If you're unlucky..."
Her lips twist into a sneer and her gaze drops back down to the phone.
"September isn't even really a person any more. She's been hollowed out. Turned into a Doll that just does what she's told."
And then she's on her feet, stalking around the students as she speaks.
"This is EXACTLY what I wanted to avoid. I could just kill her, but then we're not playing his little game any more, and he'll come down with his whole army and burn everything to the ground. He's toying with me. And if I stop being fun, he'll take everything away, so, we don't have a choice, we don't, we have to..."
She's ranting. Rambling. Damnit, she'd rehearsed how she was going to try and convey this to them a hundred times over in her head, so why is she losing it now? She has to get it together. She's going to cause more harm than good if she can't, stop this. She's supposed to be the one who knows what she's doing. She's supposed to be the one with the plan.
"Doll...?" Daisuke might not be knowledgeable of the particular context that word is used with by Juri, but the way she describes it? He can definitely tell it's something *not good*. THe very *tone* behind Juri's voice with that word is enough to make him imagine awful methods for completely wiping out a personality. Causing death of the ego.
He doesn't dare to say anything else while Juri is speaking. Some of this he has heard before, but... this is also the only time he has gotten certain other bits of context. A lot of the important ones he got during the shared visions she bombarded their brains with.
Once she is up and pacing, however, his brows knot into a frown. Worry rises, and the panic that rises in the air with Juri's rambling reaches him, too. But he does also give a quick peek to COco and Genie, before a different thought slips through his mind. A breath flows through his nostrils, trying his best to compose himself. Not an easy task under the best of circumstances, but...
He manages enough to lift himself up from his seat. Enough to step up to Juri in the brief moment her back his turned, and... do something most people who know Juri would find immediately inadvicable. Suicidal, even.
He places his hand on her shoulder.
If she doesn't immediately resort to violence in response to this particular act, she will find him giving her a look. There's a meaning behind it. One that could very well be saying 'you are freaking out the new guys'. But... The subtle squeeze his hand gives her shoulder for however long she allows it to remain there says something else, too.
'We're with you', it says.
Constance F. Coalbridge doesn't appear to be as absorbent of the revelations that Juri is showering on her young (or, uh, more-or-less-same-age) proteges as one might hope someone to be when it comes to matters of life or death. This is because she's trying to decide if her pina colada has too much ice in it or if the pineapple just isn't fresh enough. She decides to reach for the daiquiri instead, leaving the pina colada half-empty on the centre as she takes in the strawberry flavour. This one is better, she decides. She prefers pina coladas, but a mediocre daiquiri is usually nicer than a mediocre colada. It's not like she's off at some resort, for once. She'll just have to lower her standards in the pursuit of worldliness. She's already done it when it comes to men, after all.
"Well, it seems to me like if the NFG was ever going to get popular, then obviously all sorts of people would get interested in it. But if it's popular enough, then shady people can't really do properly shady things, can they? And thanks to your shenanigans before the Rumble, everyone's going to be on high alert for shady business. Kidnappings especially. So as long as we're in the NFG, we're safe. And I'll still be wealthy and, let's be honest, probably pretty famous after the NFG, so I'll still be safe."
She's Constance Fucking Coalbridge, she repeats to herself in her head. The strawberry is getting a bit sweet for her, so she switches back to the pina colada. It's not as bad as she thought, really. She must have just had some ice stuck in the straw.
"We'll just make a deal. If any of us ends up getting scoped out by this creepy calendar model, the rest of us will make sure they don't get into a situation where they're alone with them. Same as when you're worried about a creeper at a club. I'm sure I'm the most experienced kidnappee, so try and make sure you get Genie back on Team Frost if you can."
Dolls? Genie remembers dolls from her childhood. Dolls and doll houses, sure, but nothing like this. Nothing so sinister, so nefarious, so...
A voice in her head? Genie can remember something like that, something during the Rumble when she demonstrated a surge of power that was still of no avail against Coco. There as a voice, asking her about power, making mysterious promises like a...like some of the characters in the books she read when Mummy and Daddy were too busy with work. She'd tell them it was for schoolwork, but--
Genie is back in the moment. "I will try to watch out, and keep good people around me." Genie nods. She tilts her head toward Coco. "Oh, that would be nice. I would like to stay on Team Frost..." Oh, Genie, how little you know of what is ito come.
Daisuke's gesture of support is a good move. Unfortunately, it is undone almost immediately by Coco's flippant words. Juri turns, her eye meeting his for just a moment, and then she is angrily pulling her shoulder away from him, rounding on the purple haired heiress.
"Is that what you think?" She snarls, "You think a spotlight will keep you safe? It won't. If anything it'll just make you a more tempting target."
Her jaw grinds, and it is all she can do to stop herself tearing into Genie too - but Genie is more fragile. Less ready to hear things like 'if you'd performed better I'd have an earlier pick and maybe then I could save you'.
There are efforts of Will, where a psychic's strength can be put to use to perform all manner of strange feats, such as the Individuation. Then there are efforts of will. It is one of those that Juri needs, to rein herself in. It's never been a talent of hers. None of this is, really. If she were better, if she had held on to more of her power, maybe she could do something fancy. Instead, she's forced to face down the brutal facts.
"We won't get a say over how they train." She says, "And I can't get someone on the inside of their camp. Keeping whoever is there safe is something they're going to have to take care of themselves. And the only way they'll manage it, is if they can convince September that they are pathetic. If she reports back that they aren't worth his time, that's the best shot we've got at stopping him taking a personal interest."
It's a desperate gambit, and one that will require more skill in deception than she thinks either of the girls possesses, but it's the only option she can see.
"In the meantime, we'll have to continue our lessons in secret. Somehow. That'll be easier to think about when I know where we're going."
"Juri, don't--" Daisuke does call after her the instant after she's stormed past him to give the female students what for. He does step after her, but he slows down for just a second when it appears clear enough that she isn't, in fact, about to completely tear Coco and Genie's heads off.
"Look, easy," the redhead urges of Juri after she's said her piece, stepping up to stand besides her. "Getting pissed at them won't help anyone. Same with scaring them." He's quick to hold up his hand right after he's said that, though, since he *fully* expects Juri to have some choice words for him over saying that. A signal with an unusually firm look in his eyes to show he's *not done*. But it's not Juri the rest is directed at.
"She *is* right though," he continues, turning to face Coco and Genie with his arms going to loosely crossing along his abdomen. "This stuff's serious, so you ought to listen to her, and *believe* her. I might not be as experienced with these specific people as her, but..."
A brief pause. His gaze goes kind of far off for just a splits econd, while his teeth worry at his lower lip. "...I've seen enough of the world to know the really shady people can find ways to do awful things even in the middle of something like this. ...I guess I kind of had a feeling that would be the case even before I got to saw what I've seen. It's why I've kept my abilities hidden as much as I can. Though at this point, keeping it all completely hidden is... probably too late. Both for you and me."
Afterall, he ended up needing to channel his psychic energies in the fight at the warehouse. Word has almost certainly spread to the other teams in the aftermath. Which... is just made worse by the fact that Ichika recognized him. It's probably going to be only a matter of time before she lets the school body back home know about the slights she has perceived, along with... what he can do.
He frowns at this thought. The understanding that at some point down the line, he likely won't be able to go back home again.
"...So do as she says," he says as a final offering then, starting to step to the side with the clear intent to sit himself down again. "Make yourself look not worth the attention. Fame and money right now is secondary."
Somehow, Coco is down to trying to decide between revisiting the vodka coke she's sipped and the Long Island Iced Tea that Juri has sullied. Both of the frozen cocktails have already been consumed. The brain freeze she's experiencing is making the decision harder. Juri's outburst brings Coco's eyes up to the kick-happy Korean. Unfortunately, being two drinks in, the purple-haired princess' optimism is already unflappable. She grabs one of the drinks and downs it.
"Look," she says with a relaxed air as she sits back on the sofa and crosses her legs, the snake winding its way from one of her hands and across the back of her neck to the other, "I /can't/ make myself look like I'm not worth the attention. I'm young, I'm sexy, and in case you've not been paying attention, I have been kicking ass all over this fight club slash reality show slash whatever. So me, making myself look hopeless, is not going to be believable to anyone. I'm not some Oscar-winning actress. Sorry, it's impossible."
She flits her eyes across to Genie as she reaches for the other drink.
"Genie might be able to pull it off. But I can't. And if they're going to be picking before us, obviously, they're going to pick me. I'm way ahead of Genie in the standings, and I even knocked her out of the Rumble."
She takes a sip of the beverage before smiling. "On the bright side, I'm fully capable of giving a hard 'no,' and I have precedent of already having a rocky relationship with the Blaze sponsors. So when I'm back on it, I'll just use that as an excuse to nope out of anything I think is sus."
She sets her empty glass back down and slaps both hands on the table. "So relax! We've got this. And I'm getting the next round in."
She peels her hands off of the table with a frown.
"After I wash my hands. What sort of club is this, anyway?"
With that, if she doesn't get stopped, she'll be heading off - first to the toilets, then to the bar.
Genie is quiet for a long moment. She looks toward the middle distance as a dozen different thoughts run wild through her head. Juri warned her once already, and NFG has done little if not shown her how wild and dangerous the world can be. She bites her lip and looks forward those sticky, disgusting floors of the club for a long moment.
"I am going to get strong, too," Genie pronounces. "I cannot just sit by and expect other people to protect me. That's what got me so low in the rankings." At least she's honest." She looks over at Juri when tempers rise.
And Coco makes her proclamation. Genie frowns. "I am going to do better. I am going to get better. I don't want to get trounced again." She puts on a good face, but then Coco heads toward the WC.
"She did not have to remind me," Genie sticks out her lip. "I have to do better next time."
Once again, Daisuke does all the right things to try and mollify Juri. Once again, her students do their best to drive her crazy.
The expressions that Juri's face work through as Coco not only rejects her advice, but works hard to sour whatever relationship she might have been able to salvage with Genie is really quite a thing to behold. Irritation, exasperation, fury, incandescent rage... why it's practically an artist's study in all the shades anger can take.
"FINE!" She shouts at Coco's retreating back, "DO WHAT YOU WANT THEN!"
Swinging around, the woman's emotions finally need to find release. Her leg snaps out and in an instant she's kicked the chair Coco had been using into the air, before flipping around and driving it down into the ground with a flash of brilliant, pure white power. The seat explodes in a shower of cheap wood and stuffing. Tendrils of darkness fade away from the point of impact more slowly, and more than a few people in the club stare. There's some confused, scattered applause. Maybe this was some sort of demonstration?
Perhaps wisely, the staff don't yet decide to try and intervene on behalf of their furniture budget. And the act of petty destruction really does help Juri feel better. It's not as satisfying as if it were a person, true, but, it is something. A little hit.
"You're the one with the greater potential." She mutters, turning back to Genie in the aftermath of her assault. "Why do you think I bothered to turn up to this crappy tournament at all? Anyone paying attention can see you've got power in you just waiting for you to figure out how to use it. That girl... tch. She'll be lucky if I don't kill her myself if she keeps this up."
She's joking. Probably. But it doesn't sound very much like it.
"In the long run." She continues, "That was the plan. Get you all together. Teach you how not to suck. Then we kill the Devil. I just, thought we'd have more time. Everything is happening too fast."
"Coco, that's--" Daisuke starts to try and call after the retreating purple-haired woman, but, well...
Juri's louder than he is. Loud enough to make the redheaded boy jump subtly in place, and leave him staring wide-eyed at her while she takes her (very much understandable) frustration out on the furniture.
"...Well, this is a mighty shitshow, alright," Daisuke promptly mutters with a rub over his head as he lets out that uncharacetristic bit of profanity on his own part. He remains standing for the time being, soem run-through thoughts causing him to be the one pacing this time around instead.
"I guess... life doesn't really like giving a lot of time sometimes," he mutters eventually, with a sigh, coming to stand right by Juri and Genie both eventually. "Look, I'm gonna be honest. If this September lady is as much trouble as you say, 'getting better' might have to be put on the backburner for some of us." He... might be addressing Genie more than Juri with that statement. He *would* be addressing Coco, too, but, well. She's decided to walk off for a while. "Surviving and avoiding unwanted attention might very well be the overriding priority if either of you two ends up in a different team. But, I mean..."
He scratches his cheek with one finger, thoughtfully, quiet for a few seconds before he looks over to Juri. "I'm still not officially part of this whole thing, right? Is there any way you can use me as a wildcard for getting in touch with someone who might end up seperated?"
Genie draws up when frustration turns fierce, but to her credit, she doesn't cover her head and hide as she once would have. Instead, she pulls into a defensive stance and, for an instant, one of the her signature bucklers starts to cut a silhouette in the air. It flickers briefly as Juri finishes off the furniture, and then disappears again. Genie blinks a few times.
"She is...frustrating, sometimes," Genie says, taking a deep breath as Coco leaves. But then there are other issues to discuss. She looks at Juri, then at Daisuke.
"I think...I think it will be hard just to lay low, but I... get what you are suggesting, I think. I need time to get better, or I need friends to help while I do. I am listening," Genie says, "but I also cannot go back to where I was. That ship has sailed, as they say." Juri saying she has more potential seems to have put wind back in Genie's sails.
Juri quirks an eyebrow at Genie's assertion that she can't just walk away. It was a suggestion that she'd expected both heiresses to make. Coming from families of wealth and privilege, it's an easy assumption that the trappings of luxury will be some kind of shield.
There might be more going on with Genie than she had thought. Which isn't surprising. She's barely interacted with the girl; she doesn't know a huge amount about who she is, only what she can do.
"You might." She concedes to Daisuke. "You and Abigail, I've kept fully briefed. The big guy isn't half as stupid as he likes people to think he is, and he's been around the scene long enough to know the kind of people we're dealing with."
She sits back down. Then she swings her legs over one arm of the chair, tilts her head over the other side, and lets the pounding music of the club wash over her for a few moments.
"It's not all bad news." She says at last, "The good news is, I'm here, and we know. Which means we can plan. Some of their biggest guns are tied up in World Warrior, too. They've got to be stretching themselves pretty thin right now."
She purses her lips thoughtfully at that. Maybe there are more possibilities than she'd thought of.
"So. We keep training. We get you all as strong as I can make you. And then when they try to grab someone, we rip off their hand."
She gestures loosely, upside-down as she is, it isn't an entirely clear gesture, but she does her best.
"I wouldn't call it a plan, but I guess it's the best we've got. Daisuke. You remember what I told you to do if I ever mysteriously vanish, right?"
"I think I might be getting better at identity concealment, too, for what it's worth..." Daisuke offers for Juri's benefit, with a subtle poke made with one finger against one of his temples. "I doubt it will fool stronger psychics still, but..."
Still apparently choosing to remain standing, the redhead gives... kind of a dubious look at Juri over her chosen way of settling onto her seat, though he's quick to avert his gaze almost right after.
"I remember," he answers without any hesitation then, with a quick sidelong peek sent back to her. "Not that it's a lot to go on. The name you gave me is not exactly an uncommon one, you know? ... I'll do everything I can, though. That being said, though..." He jerks a thumb over his shoulder then, in the vague direction of the bathrooms. "You think she'll come along willingly if it comes down to it?"
Coco is a swift operator. As Daisuke is nodding toward the toilets, the purple-haired club princess is already coming back from the direction of the bar, two Long Island Iced Teas balanced carefully in each hand. She sets them all down on the centre table as she re-seats herself casually.
"I realised after I got to the bar that I never asked what you all wanted. So, I got us all Long Islands. If anyone doesn't want theirs, I'll have it. And the waitress will be along shortly in case anyone wants something different. So..."
Coco takes a swig from her drink, then gestures toward the dance floor.
"Are we sorted? I told the Purple Pride posse that I'd be hitting the dance floor soon, and I don't like to upset people."
"Oh I um," Genie seems nervous about another mention. "I tried not to assume anything about Mister Abigail." She leaves it at that, for now.
"That is...good?" She does not seem to know whether Daisuke getting better at concealing his identity is an improvement or not. Once again, perhaps it's better not to ask too many questions.
ANd soon enough, Coco has also returned. "Oh, I think ... I think I will pass. Thank you!"
"Who can say?" Juri says, shrugging her shoulders in what has to be an incredibly uncomfortable position. "She will or she won't. That's for her to figure out."
That's the problem with willful sorts. Nobody was going to make that girl do anything she didn't want to do. That might serve her well, if she did wind up back with Team Blaze. As much as she was loathe to admit it, Coco's assessment was more right than it was wrong.
And it isn't all terrible. Despite the danger, there's things to be proud of here too; the very fact that her enemies were taking an interest meant that her students had advanced well enough to be worthy of attention.
When Coco returns, Juri rolls herself back out of the most uncomfortable seating position it is possible to take, and snatches her phone back up off the table, hiding it away again.
"Yeah. We're done with the serious stuff." She says, taking one of the drinks and draining it in one. Which is, inadvisable, with something as strong as a Long Island Iced Tea. But from the wild grin that spreads across the woman's features, it seems like just what she needed.
"All of this worrying about the future is boring, anyway." She says, wrapping one arm around Daisuke and pulling Genie to her feet with the other.
"Come on, you two. You don't have to drink, but you DO have to dance."
Because the music is pounding and the night is young; tomorrow will be what it will be, but they can seize tonight.
"Let's tear the roof off this place."
"Eh..." Daisuke does *not* look particularly enthusiastic about Coco's declaration of dancing intent. He even brings one hand up to give a kind of a dismissive wave, on the tail end of Genie's... well, passing. "I think I'm good. YOu have f-..."
But then he feels an arm around him.
The redhead blinks with surprise over that, and peeks sidelong to see that Juri is the one responsible for this. And probably for more or less carting him around, too, like that, while some red color gathers at his cheeks.
It gets worse when he's informed in no uncertain terms that he MUST dance.
"Eh? Eh?! B-but, uh-- I don't--" THe poor boy is damn near squirming now.
"I don't know how to dance..."
Seeing Juri drain her glass, Coco takes the signal that it's time for bottoms up, toasting before following suit with what's left of her own after a casual "Cheers."
Then she sets her glass down and joins forces with Juri in applying pressure to her peers, reaching out to assist in pulling anyone still reluctant toward the dance floor.
"Nonsense, Andy. You don't have to know how to dance. You just do it. It's an instinctuive thing."
The alcohol might already be starting to hit her as she splits the difference between 'instinctive' and 'instinctual' with a certainty that her higher thought process lacks. Then again, she's lost track of how many drinks she's actually had by now. She makes sure to grab another of the Long Islands on the way so that it doesn't get left behind.
"It'll be fun! Don't think, just feel! Woo!"
"Oh, I have not danced in some time!" Genie says excitedly as she's pulled out of a funk and into the funk. She smoothes out her dress. "Do I need to teach you?" Genie says. "This much I know!"
But does she really? She is, at least, enthusiastic about it if nothing else. Perhaps that counts for something.
Log created on 01:45:58 08/28/2023 by Juri, and last modified on 13:49:20 09/13/2023.