Description: In which it is proven that ninja sneakiness trumps romany alertness, and in which matters involving dolls are discussed. But not the good kind, like you want.
CASA DEL ROSE
1:22 AM (local time)
Rose's personal home is not that huge, being a rather stately but low-key two-story villa on the outskirts of Genoa. Ibuki can track this down through the advantage of ninja contacts, although she may in turn have had to dodge the dozen or so well-mustached men who lurk throughout Genoa and may be the closest thing Rose has to goons.
Actually, they're from the group she was born amongst. Now that she's made good everyone can have a job.
It also means there's some people roasting pork ribs over an open fire on the outside of the one really posh element of Rose's domicile, namely an expansive yard complete with a generous thicket of forest - an orchard, in fact, now overgrown. But trees are also a ninja's friend.
In fact one leads up to the second story balcony which leads to the master bedroom. Though the weather has kept Rose from leaving her bedroom windows open, for however scenic the breeze may be when it is rustling diaphanous and gauzy curtains, it's... well... December.
However, an agile ninja would be able to see the world renowned psychic sprawled on a queen-sized bed in the throes of slumber. The only thing between her and an audience with Rose would be a large sliding glass door.
And the romany guys outside, and the general difficulties in reaching the Genoan suburbs, but, well, that's possibly why it IS so late.
CASA DEL ROSE
01:22 AM(local time)
The moment she started asking uncomfortable questions about 'Psycho Power' and 'Super-assassin girls without agency.' She'd been shut down hard. So hard that she didn't have her normal clan channels to go through to investigate these things.
Fortunately ninjas believed in mysticism and supernatural avenues, probably as a result of using techniques that would look like magic to everyone who hadn't been performing ultra boring training to do them for the last ten years of their life. Which is why she was here, to get a special private, and completely unannounced 'Please don't psychic out my identity' reading from the world's best psychic.
Ibuki had found it a tad curious that Rose hired guards which were literally cooking hog in an overgrown orchard. Her stomach rumbled at the thought, and she clamped a hand over her abdomen in chagrin.
While she could be swift, instead she took her time, staying low, staying patient, and staying not so much silent, but as quiet as the chill December breeze as she moved from each patch of overgrown foliage to the next, before timing her climb to scurry upwards and crest the balcony of the second floor.
CASA DEL ROSE(Master Bedroom)
1:46 AM (local time)
There's a kunoichi in the room. The only sound heralding her presence at first might be the sliding of a glass door, checking her smart phone's picture that it had loaded of Rose from the internet to be sure it was her in the bed, and closing the door behind her.
Assuming she hadn't woken up yet, she'd find time to leap and hang from the ceiling first a ways from the bed because it would give her more time to gauge Rose's reaction just in case it was ultra-negative, which it was likely to be. She started by clearing her throat. "Uh, hello!" A short pause, "Now, please don't freak out, but I need your help." The moment Rose actually starts looking her way she'd start to wave, amicably, though it has a stilted awkwardness to the motion for obvious reasons.
Ibuki's silent approach does not alert the company outside. They are looking out for gangsters, probably, or maybe Shadoloo helicopters, and their purpose may be as much to raise hell as anything. (Also, someone ought to use this big house while Rose is couch surfing in Alma's place.)
Ibuki then, of course, slips in.
The smart phone picture of Rose in her scanty belly dancer princess outfit from that SNF a couple of weeks ago reveals that she has the same face, similar hair, and the same pouty octopus lips, which means if this isn't Rose, it's her twin sister.
Rose's first reaction was to say entirely clearly, if without opening her eyes, "And I need yours, mi amore." She rolls... forwards, thankfully, one arm sprawling out off the side of the bed.
"My back is still devastated. Can you possibly...?"
With that she trails off.
Fortunately, she's wearing a silk robe.
Fortunately Ibuki is wearing a half-mask, because a few things happen in that moment. First, her mouth hangs open agape, then she holds up a finger upside down. Then it's lowered back to her side. Then she's flushed wine red from her nose to the tips of her ears.
Yes, she was breaking into someone's bedroom but she hadn't been in a situation quite like this before. "W-What!? No! You don't know me." She says in Japanese, before moving back to English, her most passable European language.
She clears her throat again audibly, to recompose her dignity, before saying again, only slightly more loudly, "I'm dropping in unannounced because I need a special reading. An anonymous one. I don't really know who else to turn to."
A lengthy pause, she drops down to the floor, turning around, and landing silently on the toes of a single foot, and holding the other leg up, before delicately letting it land. "I guess..." She rubs the nape of her neck with a gloved hand, still quite red-faced, "...I could massage your back if you really wanted that as payment, but I was hoping to work out another kind of arrangement." This was definitely out of her comfort zone for what would normally be a simple infiltration.
Rose shifts a little bit. Perhaps it's from Ibuki blushing hard enough to serve as an anti-missile flare. Perhaps it's from those sputtering words. Perhaps it's from hearing such key words as 'reading'. Either way, Rose rolls onto her side, squinting as she pushes herself up on one elbow.
Then she smiles, faintly. "Well, perhaps later, if you want. This is highly irregular, young lady, I will have you know." She sweeps out one arm --
And points towards a settee on the other side of the room, where a bottle of wine, a half-empty glass, and a small wrapping of silk cloth sit. "Bring me my cards, then. You do not seem to hold ill intent. Bring the wine too, if you like."
"Well of course it's highly irregular." Ibuki says cheekily. "I mean how many ninjas have you entertained inside of your home, after they've broken in?" She doesn't press it beyond that though, because Rose is indulging her without violence. And seeing that she was a talented fighter, she was glad for the lack of violence part.
She moves over to the side of the room, and gathers the bottle of wine, and half-filled glass with an audible clink. It was enough to make any sommlier's eye twitch with how she handled it. The silken wrapped cards get handled with care in the other hand, before she moves back over to the bedside, placing them down there. Her other hand reaches behind her waistband in the back. "The reading isn't exactly for me, though I guess in a way it is..."
She produces a photograph of a girl about Ibuki's age wearing a jinbaori, fighting another young lady that looks suspiciously like Ibuki except for the color of her dogi and the style of her hair in a Neo-League match. Right beside it are two drawn pictures, with an amateurish hand in colored pencils.
The first is of the same girl that was wearing the Jinbaori, wearing a navy blue leotard, with crimson gauntlets, and a matching military style hat. The blade she's wielding has a violet aura glow around it which the artist had apparently taken liberties with. The other is a similarily inexpert drawing of a girl in the same attire, except with long, twin blonde braids, and painted camouflage lines on her legs.
These two drawings, and one photograph are laid down on the bed, facing Rose. "It's for them. I'm trying to figure out who is pulling their strings." She murmurs, with a sort of quiet gravity in her voice. Looking at her other hand, she shifts the half-empty glass to her now free hand. "Would you like me to top it off for you?"
Rose says, "Oh, more than I'd care to admit," before yawning. She is not aggressing against Ibuki, because...
Well, maybe she hopes she can get a ninja back rub out of the deal in the end.
The cards are brought over and Rose unfolds them, though she doesn't mess with them otherwise. When the photograph is produced, Rose nods - and when she sees those other girls, particularly the one with camouflage lines done up and down along her legs, she frowns.
"Yes," she says, about the wine.
When it's delivered, Rose takes a long sip.
"I do not need the cards to tell you my suspicions," Rose says, darkly. "I have encountered this woman -" tapping Ms. Legstripes with a manicured fingernail, "already. Tell me... when, and how, did you encounter her?" A pause, then, "Are you certain that all of these women are connected...?"
The cork is removed, the glass is topped off and delivered. She sniffs the air lightly to take in the aroma, before the bottle is then stoppered again and placed off to the side. While she isn't opposed to drinking in general, and in fact had been trying it for years, she feels like she needs a clear head for this.
When Rose says she's encountered the second girl with braids. she quietly exults. "Yep." It's a single word reply, she says it quickly, before clarifying. "Positive. And my gut instinct says there's a lot more like them, and will be even more." She sits on the side of the bed, giving her some space. "Let's see. How can I explain this without giving away clan secrets. Uh. I was after an item. The first girl." She points at the Satsuki, before tapping it down on the drawn one. "Was after it too. Another ninja clan got involved and it turned into a huge mess. The two took each other out, I barely managed to get away."
She then moves the finger over to the picture of Cammy. "A few days later, she came after me for the same item, which I didn't have anymore. Much better fighter than the other one. She almost took me out for good, but I managed to hold her off barely." Her opposite arm drops her elbow against her knee, and her hand against her chin.
"Then the first girl, her name is Satsuki by the way..." She points back at the photograph, "...encountered her again in a Neo-League fight. Learned a few things. For instance? They speak the same way. It's really creepy and precise because they've got some sort of medical or psychic brainwashing. I don't know many of the details, just that she acted like she wants this. Said I could benefit from the same." Her eyes show a touch of something, when she speaks of it. Fear maybe? But perhaps resolve as well, around the edges, "But that she's just a weapon to be wielded by someone else."
She let's that linger in the air for a while for Rose to process it before continuing, "Anyhow. I thought she was a cyborg or a robot in our first fight, so I accused her of being a robot. You know..." She sounds pleased with herself, "...ninja versus a robot. Sounded pretty rad. But she told me that she's not, as it would reduce her 'psycho power'." She taps the sword with the purple aura, "I've felt it first hand. It's like getting seared with pure hatred in your mind if it touches your body. And the other girl." Again at Cammy's picture, "Felt the same from her, but she didn't... I dunno, manifest it? Other than kicking my butt hard, I guess. She was mostly emotionless, then I felt that from her and it was like she'd gone berserk. I was so sure she was going to kill me."
Rose frowns - perhaps even frowns big - as Ibuki starts laying down some knowledge. The fact that this confirms that there are multiple ninja clans involved in the shadow wars of the world is just kind of a bonus, really.
"They were fighting each other?" Rose asks for clarity, regarding Satsuki and Cammy.
But then, Cammy. "Hm," she says, pursing her lips. She can remember a house in India, and her failure to obtain actionable intelligence. And perhaps greater, her failure to burst through what Ibuki has touched upon.
Rose takes in a deep breath. "Did she," she murmurs. "How horrifying. If she asserts such a matter, it implies the experiment has been tried." With that she drains the glass and holds it out for a top-off.
"It must have been very challenging for you... I am glad to see that you have come out from it, so well. It speaks well to your ability and talent." After a pause, Rose asks, "Why do you think there are many more like them?"
"Nah. It was more like one was back up when the other failed." Ibuki points to the picture of Cammy. "Satsuki is tough, but that one was like a force of nature. Especially when she went berserk." She glances to Rose, "Which means you must be pretty terrifying yourself if you've encountered her and are still among the living." She offers, a healthy amount of respect in her voice.
Ibuki shrugs her shoulders when she asks why she thinks there are more, "Conjecture mostly. The fact that they wear the exact same uniform is a big tell. The fact that they speak nearly same way even more so. You probably noticed it yourself, it's got this lack of emotion which just creeps me out you know? Really flat affect. But it was mostly Satsuki telling me I could benefit from the same training." She looks Rose's way, looking quite uncomfortable, though it's somewhat difficult to see it anywhere other than her eyes due to the half mask covering the lower half of her face.
"Put it all together, and to me it sounds like someone is pressing people in service, to be programmed then wielded as living weapons." There's even a hint of fear that glimmers as she speaks on it. The implications of what could happen to her by digging too deeply into this were certainly not lost on her. Why then was she here? Why would she take these risks at all?
"Oh, I don't know," Rose says, cryptically. "And yes - I am not surprised to hear that."
Rose takes in a deep breath. "I suppose that I should reveal some of my mystery to you, here. Are you familiar with the organization called Shadoloo, by some?" Rose looks at the pictures again. "I am not even certain that is how it is generally called, but I have encountered the name, at times, and in places."
Rose swirls the wine in her glass. She seems to be weighing what to say next. "I oppose the man who has done these things - or, at least, has caused them to be done. And that is in the end not so different a matter. What you reveal is a grave concern... I can tell that you are afraid of what it may bring."
Rose exhales, and her shoulders slump. "I wish that I could tell you warmer things."
Ibuki is silent for a few moments, perhaps considering how best to respond. 'Shadaloo! Of course, what sort of a ninja do you think I am!?' is tempting, but eventually she shakes her head, "Nope. My clan elders, I think they know of it... but don't want me going near them."
Her own shoulders slump, "I'm still in training, but they let me deal with a lot because they know I can handle it. So if they don't want me going near whatever this organization is..." Then it means it's incredibly dangerous to her. Beyond even her norm, which was already extremely dangerous.
Ibuki sucks in a deep breath, closing her eyes for a moment, maybe processing whether she even wants to continue to get involved in this. It takes a while, before she finally queries, with notable hesitance in her voice, "So then. You know who's in charge?" Her eyes open again, "I mean I came for a reading on them, so I could start doing some digging on what's been done to them, and how to set them free. But if you've something more concrete, I'll take it."
"Your clan elders are wise," Rose says soberly. "I do not mean to insult your own prowess, my dear. But these people are not to be trifled with. If you intend to confront them, I would bring an ally to watch you - or do your best to observe from afar."
Rose is quiet for a few long moments.
"I know who is in charge of them. I know little more. Long ago I confronted him, but it is clear I was unable to conclude the matter. I have grown stronger in some ways... but I do not expect that he has sat upon his laurels either."
Rose sweeps her hair back with one hand as she straightens up further. "You want to set them free? I hope that it is possible. Would you like that reading then - and one that addresses the question?"
She unwraps the cards as she says this, lifting them up and setting the wine glass on her knee (it balances perfectly). A couple of shuffles, and then she holds the deck out: "Ask your inquiry aloud - be /precise/ in what you ask - and shuffle once. Then cut the deck and return it to me, and I shall tell your answer."
It's hard for the kunoichi to admit that she may be in over her head. And yet, she knows that she is. She nods reluctantly at Rose, as she offers her advice to bring an ally. It's more a dip of the head than a promise aloud.
She wants to ask exactly who the man is, but there's something in Rose's words that stops her from immediately doing so, as if that battle had a personal significance to her. Perhaps far more personal than Ibuki's own quest to free these girls who had become living weapons. Instead she sits, listening, until she is asked if she'd still like that reading, "I... I would."
A hand hovers over the cards, as she considers her question. It's tempting to ask, 'Will I be successful if I try to free them?' 'What will happen to me if I pursue this?' Instead, she swallows, before finally asking, "Where should I start looking for more information on the program that created these two?" She says, as she looks to the figures drawn in the pictures.
Inwardly she figures, that she'll have no chance to know how she might end this, without first knowing the beginning. And even once she has that information, she'll need a lot of help. Her fingers descend, and she shuffles the deck with a dexterity that appears to bely her seeming uncertainty. Once they are shuffled, she sets the deck down, and cuts it. Then she holds out the cut part of the deck to Rose.
Rose takes the cards and lays them out quickly. A five card spread - one in the center, then to the left and to the right, then one above and one below.
"The seven of wands, Valour, represents you. This card indicates obstacles and the courage to meet them."
"Your motivation - the two of cups. Harmony of male and female energies, and as you can see beneath - it is named Love."
Rose taps the other card, on the far side. "But your obstacle is the eight of cups. Indolence; success abandoned from loss of interest. Travelling from place to place, and misery without cause. Throwing things aside as soon as you gain them."
Down low. "Your recent past is the Chariot. Triumph, violence, ruthlessness - obedience, faithfulness, and lust of destruction. Interesting, is it not? This seems as if it could apply to these vulnerable women as well as yourself, from different perspectives. And ahead of you..."
Up high. "Prudence - the eight of disks. Skill and cunning, but over-cautiousness in small things at the expense of the great. There is a saying in England: Penny wise and pound foolish."
Rose looks up. "What do you think these cards mean, for what faces you now?"
It's easier to read the kunoichi than she'd like to admit, as Rose moves forward with the reading. At first she just shifts uncomfortably, but then she blushes again, enough that the tips of her ears and cheeks are rosey. That all fades when she gets to the third card, where she allows herself to sigh. That exhalation of breath, becomes a sharper intake as she continues forward, before simply nodding and hanging her head.
It takes her a while to respond to Rose, thinking, truly thinking, before she taps a finger to the first card of the spread, "You know when you hear of valor. Most consider it a really heroic quality. In the end though, it's just courage in a fight though? Feeling fear and acknowledging it, and moving forward anyhow. I guess... I mean there are some fights which I walk into terrified from the outcome, but I go anyhow. That's not really heroism. Sometimes being a ninja is being a thief, or a spy... or a killer I guess. I've never killed though. Maybe..."
A beat, "...I've just never been afraid enough to know I have to cross that line." She is silent for a time, maybe contemplating that such a card could represent her, then setting the thought aside.
Her finger moves to the second card, but she doesn't look at Rose, maybe she's afraid of what Rose would see in her face. "I'm not just a ninja though. I'm an ordinary girl too. I go to high school, plan to go to the university after. Figure out a normal career. It's the life I want to live. The choice I made. And I guess..."
She shifts in place on the sheets, "...these girls, had that choice taken away from them. I just want to give it back to them." She shrugs, "Love though? I dunno. I-It's not like that." She stammers, weakly protesting, "I'm into boys. Though I don't think I'd mind..." The question lingers, "...being their friend. When I look into their eyes..."
She cuts herself off and hastily moves her finger to the third card, "Anyhow, that gives you a lot of context to the third card. I'm a ninja, I'm a teenager. I'm constantly being tested and stretched thin with all the demands on my life. The elders say it's because I need to commit myself to one thing or the other, but I want to be both. And everywhere I go I find myself involved in something different. Not long ago I got captured by a ninja that..." She shakes her head, "...you know, it's not important. Let's just say, I get involved in a lot... but this cause... it's particularly important to me. I don't /want/ to abandon it, even if circumstances might lead me to doing it temporarily."
The fourth card. She lets a little half-snort, half-laugh leave her lips, "Obedience, faithfulness. Well. I love my clan. They're the family I never had. I want to help them. If they ask me to perform a mission, I'm going to do it. But what do you think a ninja's life is like? You pretty much hit it right on the nose. Triumph, violence, ruthlessness..." She taps the card again, "...destruction. And if I keep encountering these women, there's going to be a lot more of that. They can't help it! I have to hold back as I genuinely don't want to kill them but... they're not going to. That... that's going to make my job tougher."
Rather than dwell on the difficulty however, she taps the fifth card, "I imagine it means that I need to balance direct confrontation and most of the time I should try to fall back on my other skills. Stealth, infiltration. Wish I had a lot more tech skill than I do, I imagine I'm going to need to locate someone who can help me with that. Anyhow... I'm rambling. What's that poker saying? 'Know when to hold them. Know when to fold them?' I always sucked at cards." She looks balefully at the cards. Perhaps the reading had been almost /too/ on the nose.
Rose replies during the response.
"Valor is many things. Do not feel yourself limited..."
And then with a small laugh, "Love has many faces. Please, don't be embarrassed. Sometimes I think that I should say 'positive' and 'negative,' instead of 'male' or 'feminine', but that is not the traditional reading."
And finally: "That would be a wise approach, I think. I have tried my best to impress upon you the very real threat of this organization." Rose picks up her wine glass, sweeping around, and gathering the cards back up. "And so I will now speak of something more hopeful."
As she wraps the cards back in that red cloth, Rose says: "They are powerful. They are widespread. They have their tendrils shot throughout the soil of this world in a thousand small ways. But they are not immortal; they are not invincible, no matter what they say. It is possible to defeat them - to foil their operations. Even, in the end, to slay their leader - whose name I will give you: Vega."
Rose twirls her glass - and it doesn't spill. Is the wine sparkling?
"Whether or not these girls may be healed... or at least, freed from his clutches... this is a matter which we must trust to hope, for now. If you should find more information, please don't hesitate to reach out. Do you wish for a number to contact me...? Or will I instead look forward to such visits?"
It's an old legend, that of Vega and Altair. The weaver and the cowherd, starcrossed lovers. Which is why when she hears that the one behind this is named Vega, she initially looks startled. However, she doesn't allow that sudden thought to undermine the threat he likely poses.
She could barely fight one of his servants to a standstill. To face the monster who could do that to a person? It would almost certainly mean her death. Or worse. She didn't have to face him directly though, did she? Her goal was smaller scale. To cut loose several tendrils away from the body. To remove some of their enforcers from their control.
She watches Rose wrap back up the cards, twirl her glass. The dexterity that must be present in those fingers for her not to spill even a drop surprises even Ibuki. She may be peering at the glass a little closely, to check if it was some Magician's trick. Ibuki thinks on the matter for a time, before a pen appears in her hand in a sleight of hand trick. Picking up the hand drown picture of Satsuki, she jots down the number, "I'm not comfortable giving out my identity. I have too much to lose on that front if it... gets out." She looks up at Rose, "I'm not saying I don't trust you, just that I have to be careful if I want to maintain the life I want to live. But this number will let you reach me anytime at a disposable cell phone I have for this purpose."
She hands it out to her, before clicking the pen and readying it over the other piece of paper showing Cammy. "If you give me your number, I'll keep you informed on my findings." She shifts, "And whether I need help. My clan isn't going to offer me any when it comes to this. The last thing I'll need to know is..." She looks up at Rose, "...if you know where any of their bases of operations are."
Rose draws a card out - it looks for all the word like a tarot card, but on the other side is the simple name "rose" in lowercase and tasteful font, with a phone number. It's Japanese. (It is for Alma Towazu's apartment. He knew the job was risky when he took it.)
"I understand completely, my dear. I hope that we will grow to trust each other more deeply as times go by."
When the final question comes in, Rose shakes her head slightly. "The last time that I checked... it was in India, however. I believe they are strong in the area surrounding the Indian ocean... but this is the best that I can manage to tell you. In time, I may find other leads. We'll be in touch."
Rose's lip quirks. "I do have one request... if it is at all possible, inform me of your intention to visit. I really have been trying to recuperate from that disaster..."
Ibuki puts away the pen, taking the embossed card, and looking at it for a moment, before putting it away. "I hope so as well. I'm rather certain I won't be able to do this alone."
Rose's comment on where to look is... well vague, but that's alright, "I last saw Satsuki in Thailand. Maybe there's a local connection there as well, outside of the tournament."
While speculating on the matter, Ibuki gives her a confused look, then one of chagrin, "Oh right. You did mention your back was devastated. I'll be sure to let you know in advance next time." And she owes her a mssage. Doesn't she? She doesn't bring that up yet. "Did something happen?"
"Oh," Rose says, thinking back...
To when a man she had nearly been slain by, and had in turn fended off, somehow, by some miracle... had smashed his fist into a roof and felled, not a fighter, but a skyscraper.
"Don't worry about it."
Log created on 23:02:51 12/23/2014 by Rose, and last modified on 00:17:22 12/27/2014.