Description: Rose takes a bath, Alma paints. Art is furthered, as are dark schemes (to eat on Kensou's dime).
The bathing room. The fixtures are archaic, tastefully lit. Stone and brick, ancient bronzes behind, and illumination coming from a skylight above. A bouquet of lushly pink roses sits in the foreground on a table; an old painting sits to the right, propped up gently.
In the center is Rose, laying in the glittering water. Her right hand rests atop a glass of red wine, as if caught in the act; the other holds three tarot cards, seeming to be casually drawn, but positioned where they can be seen - the Eight of Cups, the Queen of Swords, and a half-hidden third card between them, not quite clear. Today she's drawn from the Thoth deck, it seems.
She gazes forwards, her expression mirroring the serene and confident poise of the Queen of Swords. Her eyes practically gleam. Her hair is down.
Rose is able to speak aloud to the painter without words - both of them share enough talent to communicate clearly, especially at this range. Her tone is conversational, almost amused.
"How long must I hold this pose, Alma? The soap is a bit itchy, and I fear the water will go cold."
His brush whirls with a life of its own.
Had Alma not found his calling in art, his life and philosophy would have been very different. The empathic powers which he has studied under Rose render him sensitive to the bonds of meaning all people share, and it is tempting to conclude from such strong intuitions that the truth of the world is unity. Those who heedlessly sever ties or act as though they exist in isolation have always hurt and troubled him, and at worst, he meets them with impassioned defiance. Moreover, his psychic energy is itself a unifying force: all that he experiences becomes manifest as a singular will with which to reach out or strike. Yet art is different.
He moves as though he is fighting, his arm slicing like a blade, his body swaying, his fingers moving with a surgeon's precision, his eyes intent on her.
But the experience is not quite the same. For what is primary is not he, the vessel, but the inspiration which passes through him. It is the different, the external, which takes priority, exceeding him, and providing a countervaling lesson, that there is always an existence which resists his appropriation.
And, at last, he stops.
"It is finished."
The words of his mind do not echo as they should in this chamber. The beautiful young man lowers his brush at last, exhaling deeply, and smiles, the intensity fading from his gaze.
"Thank you, Sensei. Your presence is a continual inspiration to me, in so many ways." He sets his brush open the easel and steps back, unrolling his sleeves. "To allow myself to be swept up in it is like returning home. To know that I can return to it is a blessing."
With their minds in contact, there is little point in averting his eyes, but there is a flicker of his consciousness, as though he considers it.
"I ... have not been at one with myself, in recent weeks."
Rose keeps her lips from curving up into a smile. It takes discipline. It's a good exercise for her. Even so, the soap bubbles on her wither and shrink into a film slowly but surely. Fortunately, this happens to complete itself JUST at that statement.
Rose unwinds, sinking down into the water to the neck almost immediately. She twists her wrist around, placing the cards in with the rest of her Thoth deck, which has been carefully hidden behind a bit of bronzework. The wine is raised upwards.
Rose rises again then, dripping, and takes a healthy and long-belated swig. After that, she exhales, tossing her hair back and straightening up to sit properly upright. She is in no hurry to get out of the water, although she does lean forwards to fiddle with the drain. If she's going to be here, she might as well heat it up.
The thought is clear, at least. She does speak aloud, even if it has a rich vivacity of meaning now that she's no longer forced into a pose. "Do let me see once the paint's dried a bit. Will the humidity in here pose a problem for it?" Another sip of the wine, then: "You can turn the light on, I think, if you want."
As the tub gurgles, Rose looks at her student with thoughtful eyes. "No? What has been troubling you, Alma?" The parallel thought comes from her mind at the same time: 'then who have you been with, instead?'
As Rose sinks beneath the water moments before the bubbles about her bosom burst, the art world suffers a terrible loss.
But Alma's an impressionistic painter, so no one can tell what's on this canvas anyway. He sinks to a traditional seiza seating position by the rim of the tub, a picture of the respectful and attentive student. Even were his emotions not detectable by a second sense, he would radiate purity and devotion. He waits as Rose elegantly sips her wine.
"I shall remove it to quicken the drying," he replies, his voice quieter and deeper aloud, where in his mind he betrays more of the earnestness and vulnerability he holds in reserve. He rises and carries the easel toward the door, taking care to turn on the lights as he goes, and soon returns to Rose in her fully illuminated glory, resuming his position.
As to her question--
"I have been dreaming," he replies, "dreams of another world. The faces I see and experiences I undergo are familiar to me; though I have no recollection of them, it has become impossible for me to believe them mere fantasy or metaphor. It seems to me now I have had these dreams from time to time, but only as I have studied the ways of the soul have these visions appeared with regularity. I roam at times, seeking a path to return to these fleeting images, but I found none ... until yesterday."
His face softens, showing concern.
"I met a young woman, a shrine maiden, who knew and challenged me -- and I spoke to her words I did not understand. Words about a man I have never met and battles I have never fought. She would not divulge her secrets. But now at last, for the first time, I have some evidence I have not gone mad. There is a secret lying in my dreams--"
"--and, I fear, an enemy behind them."
To answer the other question: probably Rainbow Mika.
Did the art world suffer a terrible loss, or make a gain? Rose sits upright, and the matter is academically moot. She sips her wine, well lit and glossy. Her legs cross and one reaches over to close the drain, curling around a bit to open the water taps as well. A slow but well timed trickle.
She looks at Alma, thoughtfully, as he explains. And then she says, "That's quite strange, because I had an encounter of my own."
Rose sips her wine. "I ran into a woman who wanted a reading - you know how I enjoy going out and rendering a few of those now and again, just to keep my skills sharp. Of course, that's not so unusual, but she began getting familiar."
An index finger points up towards Alma. "Lest you fear for my virtue, I can assure you she was simply worryingly well informed about myself. She played host to an unusual entity as well - I don't know if it was a split personality, or a genuine indwelling spirit. It was terribly insistent. It all but demanded I train her in the use of her talent - which, it seems, the creature is very well aware of - and began speaking QUITE probingly about..."
Rose trails off, and finishes her wine. "Bring me the bottle over there, would you, Alma? I feel I need another glass. Either way - the woman you fought, she would not be named Jira Kasagi, would she?"
Alma's composure breaks for the first time.
But, of course, his teacher has already anticipated his startled reaction. The artist settles down, though his brow remains somewhat furrowed, suggesting that he remains troubled at this development. To think that anyone would profane his beloved mentor. To think that anyone would dare lay even a single finger in desire upon her sculpted, sensuous body that now glistens with water and light.
tNo, it's unthinkable.
Furthermore, it's a misunderstanding. Alma rises obediently and fetches the bottle, approaching and kneeling again to pour her a glass with the delicacy of a sommelier. "Another nascent psychic?" he murmurs. "If anyone can cultivate this power for good, it is you, Sensei. Did you agree?"
He lifts the bottle, the stream of wine slowing to a ruby trickle before ceasing, just as Rose speaks her last words, leaving only silence.
"No," Alma says at last. "I know of no Kasagi."
Rose smiles, at nothing in particular.
It's brief. As the tub refills, she says, "Take the least bright looking of those flowers and hand it to me?" She sips her refilled wine, rippling water washing over her.
"I did not," she says then.
This requires explanation. "Consider the situation, Alma. I was concealing my identity, and someone all but walks up to me and demands to be given training and education, when they already seem almost eerie in how much they knew already. The woman held some sort of a spirit which had entered her - it claimed to be some kind of a weapon, or guardian, of a long-lost family."
Rose sips her wine. "Except, of course, that it knew of HIM." She doesn't have to specify who HIM is here - Alma doubtless knows of that man's identity.
"However, I did not refuse outright. But I am suspicious... and I find myself in a quandrary on how such suspicion could be eased. Do you think that these memories are common, here in Southtown?"
His teacher's request is peculiar, but Alma shows no hesitation, ever of service in such trivial matters. If he evinces anything, it is a trace of consternation at the lingering thought of someone defiling Rose, no, even imagining how sweet it would be to touch her voluptuous form, which now lies wreathed in the faint remnants of the earlier bubbles and steam from the heated water, clad in mist like the muse of man's fevered lusts.
He can't get it out of his mind, for some reason.
He listens as he selects what is to his eye the flower that meets her description. At last his expression clears, pulled from his preoccupations by the mention of a foe great enough to be worthy of full attention. Alma has never yet met /him/, and his followed his teacher's lead in not directly seeking him out. The younger empath trusts her wisdom in this regard.
"No spirit has spoken to me, to be sure," he replies thoughtfully. "It is possible that what I possess are the memories are some other consciousness, but the people I encounter in my dreams speak my name -- and the priestess I fought recognized me. If I encounter another who has such knowledge, I will inform you immediately."
He lowers his gaze for a moment, contemplative.
"I have imagined thus far that only following the impulses emerging from my dreams will guide me to the truth," he continues, "and they have taken me one step, at last. But now that I have confirmed there is /some/ truth to them, perhaps I may apply some better method." He pauses before looking up, expression firmed. 'Sensei, what if we gather others like us, taught in the ways of mind and soul? Would more of us be better able to collectively detect such disturbances in the fabric of the world we know?"
There are other famous psychics in this world, of course, but his teacher would know more than he on the prudence of this approach.
Rose smiles a little more widely, perhaps, even as her tub fills more. Collecting the flower, she plucks the petals, letting them fill her palm as she reaches up with one pedicured foot to stop the flow of fresh water into the tub.
"What you say has a great deal of wisdom to it, Alma," she then says, as she crushes the palmful of petals and drops them into the water, leaning forwards so they rest where the spout had poured and made ripples in the water.
The air ripens with fragrance. Rose leans back, with a leisurely sigh. "It seems very likely. If nothing else, if there is no real distortion in the world - but only in the minds of others - it could be more easily felt... detected."
Her eyes, which had largely lidded, open - or at least one does. "After all, we can't trust that it's just what it seems. It could be an elaborate attack - by HIM, or some other party. But, with our hearts and our minds, I doubt we'd be pinned to a chessboard for long..."
Alma lowers his head in gratitude at his teacher's compliment, closing his eyes momentarily as he takes in the soothing aroma of the flower petals now permeating the room. No matter what his teacher does, it seems to serve to make him feel more at home. Her presence is as a warm embrace to him, he who was lost before he was found, first by his power and then by her. A warm, pillowy embrace, into which he could sink forever, nestled deep in a delectable softness, blind to the rest of the world.
Er, hm, maybe not exactly like--
"I see." It didn't occur to him that they as psychics would be more keen to troubles in the minds of others when the world about them is at rest, but upon reflection, it makes much sense. "And in harmony with others, our gaze might see more."
Her words of caution elicit a nod. "I cannot say for sure. The opponent I faced did not wield our power, and I detected no traces of it in the vicinity, but I will take all care possible to remain aware of such influence."
Then he smiles.
"All the more reason to find an ally like us to aid me."
That warm embrace radiates out, perfumed with rose petals and the scent of wine. "Quite so," Rose murmurs when Alma speaks his thoughts. "Though yes - do be vigilant. And..."
She leans back, and says as her hair pools in the water, "Do bring me my robe, would you...?"
Rose immerses herself in the water then, her entire face sinking beneath it as her eyes close. Only one arm remains above, still cradling the wineglass in her fingernails. She stays submerged for a long lingering thirty seconds...
Ninety... The wineglass in her hand wobbles slightly.
One hundred... one ten...
Rose rises up just short of two minutes later. She does not gasp for breath, rising instead to her feet as water pours off of her body. The wine glass is kept aloft, tipping dangerously but keeping its posture, keeping its vintage within its walls, by the virtue of subtle and prismatic ripples of Soul Power over the surface of it. It pours, it surges, but it doesn't fall out.
Rose steps onto the vintage brickwork that makes a wholly unnecessary but very texturally pleasant outer ring surrounding her bathtub, and rises up as she brings the glass to her lips and drains it.
Alma stands as Rose luxuriates, turning as she sinks into the water. His steps are soft, nigh silent, as he pads from the bathroom again. He pauses a moment to regard his own work where it stands drying, his expression inscrutable as he examines what he has produced with eyes unlike before, as it must always be. His power may be an extension of his self, but works of art are more than this.
If he comes to a conclusion, he does not evince it. He turns away and walks out of view, soon returning with an elegant robe bundled in his arms. Unconsciously he bears it with a kind of reverence, but such perhaps in the manner to which Alma lends all trivial acts, all the more so when it attends to his mentor.
He takes up a position by the side of the tub and waits. Then, with no visible warning, he opens the robe wide, blocking his own view a split-second before Rose rises to the surface, draping it about her almost instantaneously before stepping aside so that she may pass with glass in hand.
It's almost like he's used to this.
Well ... maybe he is.
Log created on 19:13:00 11/07/2014 by Rose, and last modified on 00:38:42 11/08/2014.