Description: Neither will ever be able to forget the night the killer attempted to rob one girl of her chance at life at such a young age, but together they might be able to move on, perhaps with a little help from a fluffy friend.
Momoko sits as she so often does of late, her body rigid and upright atop one of the wide benches strewn about the small shopping district, her hands neatly folded over each other in her lap. She does not adopt this posture out of some intense personal discipline or an abundance of propriety, but rather to keep as little of her body from making contact with the hard surface of the seat as possible.
Nearly every visible inch of her skin that protrudes from her flamboyant clothing is swathed in heavy bandages. Dark stains the color of fresh rust marr the pristine white of the medical gauze in several places and it is only through extreme care that she manages to keep from bumping the abundant injuries she has sustained against something or other. The ordeal that had left her nearly dead on that cold alley floor has forced her to deal with a great many hardships, the least of which is the lingering pain that she now suffers.
But it has also taught her things as well, like patience and focus. Her usual flippant and upbeat attitude might have seen her gesturing wildly while speaking or rushing about the sizable home which she shared with her family to help out with the chores or keep her younger siblings in line. Now, every move has to be calculated and measured, lest she tear something open anew and set her recovery back even further.
The tiny dancer stares wistfully across the open park to a small arcade nestled into the strip mall across from Taiyo High. Several small groups of youths, mostly students by their attire, whittle away their free time and allowance to the flash of neon lights and catchy music. It is something she herself would likely be doing if not for her current infirmary.
Momoko sighs at the injustice and slumps. "Uuuuoo... this sucks!"
That night was a blur. From the intense, relentless battle against Rock Howard, to staring into the face of a killer in a cold alley in a dim corner of Southtown, to carrying the wounded girl back to the taxi she had waiting, to swift but nearly not fast enough rush to the hospital, to the police questioning as she sat exhausted, drenched in her own blood as well as that of the poor girl she had come across at the last possible moment, to finally being driven home where she was at last able to pass out.
No one had stayed up for her that night - with her match over at Taiyo, they expected she would be late. She had collapsed and slept through much of the next day - a welcome respite from what was no doubt a hard battle, the others at the humble second floor store-front apartment concluded, leaving her alone. In truth it was a time of little sleep, the girl keeping the harrowing experience to herself, dozing off only to be startled awake by nightmares unreleting.
Perhaps hoping to find good news and maybe someone who could shed some light on the ordeal they shared unwittingly, she went to the hospital that afternoon to check on the patient. She overheard a name in the process, not having even caught one the night before - a crime against a child had even the press muted on her actual name even as the story about the seriel killer's attempted murder was starting to get around. But she wasn't family, wasn't even really a friend, and given the critical state of the girl she had found, Athena had not had the opportunity to visit. Hovering around all the same, she did glean enough information that she could find the girl once she was released.
Back home, the week slowly slipped by into the next and little by little she found herself able to sleep again, albeit oft times troubled by dreams in the process. She would be fighting Daigo soon and would need to be at her best, but it was hard to avoid feeling worn down with what she was going through. Perhaps it was time for that visit afterall.
Clothed in a white blouse, navy blue skirt, with a sharp, red vest with blue trim over it warn over the long sleeved shirt, she strides through the market place on blue buckled shoes worn over white stockings. Well recovered from her own far more minor injuries, she moves with a quiet demeanor, glancing around the marketplace with curious violet eyes, she looks toward the square where she had learned that the other girl was known to engage in public dancing displays from time to time.
Naturally, she doesn't find her there. But it gets her close enough. The bundle of bandages and slouched shoulders looks nothing like the pictures she had seen of her in peak health, but they match the appearance of one only recently released from traction.
Momoko would probably not even sense her nearby, in spite her gifts. Athena knew that impulse that had drawn her to her recsue well... and she was very good at building walls herself under the teachings of Master Gentsai.
"Hey there," she offers, appearing at the Taiyo girl's side, hands clasped behind her back as she leans forward just a little, a warm smile on her face even if she can't quite hide the look of concern in her eyes.
Momoko is caught off guard by the sudden voice at her shoulder, something that she is not used to any more these days. Even the weakest spirit has a voice, a presence that presses at her mind. She can sense the approach of other people and feel their attention, like she has some kind of sixth sense, a third eye or something, she supposed. Whatever it was that granted her this gift, people don't really get to sneak up on her any more, and in light of the recent events in her life she's somewhat understandably startled.
The tiny student very nearly jumps out of her bandages, figuratively speaking. In the more literal sense, she does visibly hop in surprise which earns her a sharp pang that shoots through her entire body when she comes back down on the bench.
Momoko winces, clutching her arms against her side in a very real display of pain despite the somewhat comical reaction. Fortunately, it's just a small jolt so the moment passes quickly, though there's still the faint glint of moisture at the corner of her eyes from the shock.
Turning her attention towards the owner of the voice, she peers up at Athena with a curious but unknowing stare for a long moment. The gears shifting in her head are almost audible. Who knows, maybe they are to a powerful talent like hers. Eventually, recognition sets in and the girl's mouth drops open. Her hand lifts into the air, one finger pointing up at the pop star's face, and for once she doesn't seem to care about the burning sensation that this sudden movement causes.
Athena's eyes widen as she startles the girl, realizing in an instant she should have considered another approach perhaps - it would be reasonable to think that she might be particularly sensitive to unexpected approaches after what she went through! The epiphany is visible in the faint blush that registers on Athena's cheeks, her left hand swinging forward, palm raised as she swings it back and forth quickly.
"A-ah, I'm so sorry, I just- I didn't meant to startle you! My name is Athena Asamiya," she still feels an introduction is in order after all that.
She looks the other girl over. Even from behind her bandages and gauze, she looks to be a number of years younger than Athena herself... she would never have remotely guessed her correct age. Which is probably why she finally brings her right hand forward, bearing a gift that might be better suited for a younger audience.
"A-and I brought you this..." she murmurs a bit sheepishly after her minor scare and the extremely energetic reaction she is getting from the other girl. In her right hand is a stuffed rabbit with a blue jacket and little black shoes on his large hind feet - a Peter Rabbit plush animal. While immaculately well kept, it doesn't look brand new either... From a personal collection, then?
"I wanted to leave him with you at the hospital, but they would only let me drop off store-packaged gifts or flowers..." she murmurs. Understandable for keeping the environment germ free, naturally, but it was mildly offensive to suggest that Peter Rabbit was anything less than pristine and clean!
All the same, she holds the animal out for Momoko, trying to make sure she doesn't have to reach at all for it if possible. She doesn't mention anything about what happened prior to the girl waking up in the hospital. Whatever she can't remember would be for her own good, the young idol fighter muses.
Despite her injuries, Momoko is up and on her feet now, practically bouncing in place as if she were standing on a trampoline. The movements are a bit jerky due to the restrictive bandages but the fire in her body is heavily outweighed by the fire in her soul as the figure that she has looked up to and very nearly worshipped since the start of her career simply walks up and starts talking to her out of the blue!
The girl's enthusiasm manages to hit the breaks when the doll is offered to her. She quickly winds down becoming practically statuesque be comparison. Momoko stares at the gift as if it is made out of solid gold, her eyes going wide as dinner plates and her pupils dilating with abject wonder. "This is... for me?"
Ever so slowly, Momoko reaches out to accept the offering, cupping her hands around the rabbit as delicately as if it were a living breathing creature. She stares at it quietly and then just as carefully clutches it to her chest.
"T-thank you...! I-I don't know what to say."
Wait, did she say the hospital. Suddenly, something seems very wrong. Why on earth would someone super famous and awesome like /Athena/ decide to visit her after the attack? Not only that, she'd hunted her down. This isn't a chance encounter - she was looking for her.
Not quite sure how to proceed with this realization, Momoko slowly lowers herself back onto the bench and peers up at her idol. The star-struck quality to her gaze doesn't waver despite her confusion. The tiny girl chews on her lower lip nervously, looking for the words she wants.
"I... umm... I-I'm a big fan! The biggest!"
She adds that for emphasis. Most people probably do. In her case, it might just be true though.
"I can't tell you how great it is for you to come here a-and talk to me like this! I mean, I'd never have expected you of all people to just show up! Ahaha..."
Her cheeks start to burn with embarrassment and she stares at her hands; she's rambling now, just get to the point! Momoko swallows and finds her voice, looking up again slowly.
The exuberiance with which Momoko respnds to her only seems to make the girl more nervous, blush extending up to her ears, contrasting violete yes glancing around the market place as if worried about the attention she is going to garner. Indeed, there are definitely some glances toward the two, but out of her showy fighting outfits, Athena manages to blend in a bit better than at her various recorded appearances.
She looks genuinely alarmed as Momoko gets to her feet. Is that a good idea? Is any of this a good idea, but by the time she's come to realize it enough to be concerned about it, she has managed to de-escalate the situation a little by the presentation of the treasured animal. There. At least hse's calmed a bit. Athena would hate to be the #1 cause of re-opened wounds or return trips to medical care for the girl.
It feels weird to have someone so excited about meeting her, she thinks to herself. Not that she had not experienced it before, but... it had been five months since her last song, and three months since Chin had put the kibosh on that whole career path all together... not that she hadn't forgotten about her aspirations in that world since then, but... perhaps she just assumed everyone else had?
"Y-you are?" she asks quietly, right hand lifting to brush strands of hair back over her right ear. She definitely hadn't expected the girl to know who she was beforehand. To say she isn't really sure of her own level of fame is putting it mildly. But that thought alone brings a touched look to her face, a heartfelt expression of pure happiness, "Thank you, that means a lot to me," she states quietly, resting her right hand at her chest, bowing her head quietly in a brief moment of contemplation, the blush finally fading from her own cheeks only to transfer over to Momoko's it would seem.
"Ah-" she's caught off guard by the question before half closing her eyes in thought. It makes sense, she thinks to herself... the girl was barely alive even when she found her.
But how can she answer without treading on memories that might be unpleasant for the both of them?
"Do you mind if we sit together for a little bit?" she asks, slidding onto the bench, hands going to rest at her lap as she keeps her focus on Momoko. The moment is uncomfortable for her now. It dawns on her the magnitude of this moment yet all around the two of them, people are going on with their lives, blissfully unaware of the trauma they had shared. It's strangly comforting, she realizes, relaxing her own guard just a touch to share the slightest sliver of empathy with the bustling visitors in the market area all around.
Swallowing with trepidation, she finally brings herself to ask softly, "A-ah, well, um, do you... do you remember how you ended up in the hospital?" She lifts her right hand quickly and waves it rapidly, "Y-you don't have to talk about it if you don't want, I don't mean to bring it up. In fact," she shakes her head, sucking in her breath, feeling like she was going about this all wrong.
"I found you that night and have been worried about you ever since." she finishes, managing a softer smile now that she feels like maybe she's barely regained control over the situation.
Athena wants to /sit by her/! Eeeee!
Momoko has never moved so fast in her life as she scoots sideways to make room; a pointless gesture as there was already plenty of space but it seems like the right thing to do. If she sits -too- close it might look weird and then her idol might get offended and that would /ruin her life/. But, there is another part of her that just wants to... reach out and touch her. Make sure she's really there.
She supresses that urge but just barely. The little rabbit doll takes the fall for her instead as Momoko begins to squeeze it like some sort of stress relief ball. Despite its age, the little thing seems to be quite sturdy and takes this treatment without complaint like a stoic soldier.
Unfortunately, the topic turns to a darker place in a hurry. Momoko's awe-struck smile falters a little at the mention of the fateful evening in question. Her mind drifts and she floats back to that dark and forboding alley. Flashes of emotion surge through her - pain, fear, anger. Darkness like she had never experienced before. She had been attacked the injuries that the terrifying man had left behind went far deeper than her flesh and bone.
Even in her silence the tension around the small girl grows more intense. Momoko's gaze drifts downwards to the ground as if she is afraid to let her idol see the dark expression that those memories create on her normally child-like features. While this behavior is obvious to everyone who might be watching a more subtle and invisible change flares up. The energy in her aura shifts and realigns becoming slightly darker, a phantom mirror of the horrible evil that touched her; a scar on her soul.
"I... I remember...", she manages. Momoko lifts her knees up tucking them against her chest and wrapping her arms around them as a child might when frightened. Her voice becomes little more than a harsh whisper as she continues.
"I... can't forget it. I want to believe it was all just a bad dream. I-I must have tripped and cut myself on some trash or... or gotten attacked by a stray dog. But, no matter how hard I try... I..." She sniffles suddenly as the emotion behind the ordeal rises up like the tide washing back in over a beach. She buries her face in her knees as if trying to hide.
"I can't get it out of my head!"
Seated together, Athena falls quiet as she watches Momoko, observing her on more levels than one might normally expect. There was no forgetting the beacon that had called her to her - a psychic emanation of incredible power to be felt even through her latent defenses against such. Had it not, she wouldn't have made it in time to stop the fel thing's hand from plunging into the heart of the girl, and Momoko would be an unfortunate statistic in the Southtown Daily Herald.
She leans forward, watching as the girl shifts her posture, becoming more defensive. She knew this might happen - it was a risk just from seeing her at all, the dark bond that ties them together being something no one should ever have to experience in their lives. But she came for more reasons than to just check on the wounded girl's recovery process...
As her face vanishes against her knees, Athena finally scoots closer, "There, there," she murmurs, leaning in tighter, her left arm draping over Momoko's back as she bows her head in quiet thought. She could feel the tangled web of emotions, the stress, the trauma, but deeper still, something else.
Master Gentsai had told her often of the dangers of her own gift... of what could happen to those who fail to control it but instead yield to it, allow it to drive them, to become vessels of incomprehensible ego, powerful yet powerless to control their own lives. His teachings had helped her hone her talent, how to suppress it or embolden it, how to control it and block it. Did this young girl have anyone to teach her such things?
"I know it's scary. I can't forget that night either."
The monster's words, his bladed chi, his murderous intent permeating the entire area unlike any pure darkness she had ever felt before.
"But you are a survivor, I can tell." She reaches her other hand over to pat Peter Rabbit on the head, smiling softly at the dear old friend with a flicker of fondness that passes after a moment.
"Momoko..." she finally addresses her by name. "I... am sorry for bringing this up. But I wanted to talk to you about what happened... about how I found you in time." She pauses, realizing she wishes she had rehearsed a way to broach this subject that she had never really talked to anyone about outside of her fellow Psycho Solders, or the enematic Rose.
"Well, s-see... I was able to feel, to sense your energy from even very far away. It, ah, do you, well, I mean," the normally eloquent girl struggles for the right words. "You have a special gift, I can tell. Surely you know this as well, right?"
The touch on her back is painful, even the slight pressure sending spiderwebs of searing lightning through her skin, but Momoko endures it in order to bury herself in the comfort of another person's presence. She tilts to the side instictively, leaning against Athena as if she were a mother bird shielding a fledgling with her wing. Even so, her tears flow freely, further staining the bandages where they fall.
Momoko remains silent while she is comforted. Having someone who can understand her pain is theraputic on a level she didn't know she needed. No matter how hard she tried she simply couldn't deliver in mere words the full depth of what she had experienced that night. But Athena was there. She was... there.
That figure that had swept in at the last moment. The one who had saved her! Even though Freeman's face was carved into her memories through the power of his dark energy, she had never gotten a good look at the person who had swooped in to rescue her. She just remembered light... and wings... and a sense of peace.
Slowly, Momoko lifts her head from her lap. Wiping her eyes on the back of her wrists, she sniffs a few more times before turning gaze up at the older girl, the wonderment and adoration returning to her face. No one else she'd ever met had known anything about her strange gifts. The ability to sense other people, to connect with their emotions and understand them without words, to project her thoughts into power; she had thought these things unique.
"Are... are you an angel?"
There is no training for moments like this - indeed, lacking for a younger sister, and even really a younger sibling at all other than the more recently added Bao to the growing cadre of trouble Chin Gentsai seems to draw to himself, Athena finds herself woefully unprepared for how to deal with all this. All she can do is act on instinct. She had never talked to anyone outside her circle about her own gift before. Surely, some suspected, the curiously powerful energy of her techniques that seemed to leave no visible mark or nor draw blood... her incredible presence that seemed to deny being ignored... but she never even discussed this subject with the few students at school she had grown closer to. Some thought psychics were all mind readers, mind controllers, con artists, or other kinds of ne'er-do-wells. It was hard enough getting through High School as-is without everyone thinking you were a freak...
She watches the girl, studying her emotional ebb and flow even more than she realized she was. She found herself captivated by the strength she discovers there... how long has she gone with her gift without any guidance? How far has she gotten? How much has it helped... or hurt?
She leans forward a little, her touch light, her face studying Momoko with a blend of sincere concern and quiet wonder. She opens her mouth to continue, having received no response from her prior words. It was okay to let them sink in, but had she scared her in the process of broaching these complex, confusing topics with someone who might not have the slightest idea about them? She had to know she was special though, Athena thought to herself. How couldn't she?
But before any further words escape her lips, the girl breaks the silence between them with her simple, sincere, heartfelt question, and young Asamiya is struck speechless. Her mouth is agape for a few seconds before finally closing, violet eyes blinking before she shakes her head slightly. "I- n-no, I mean-"
Is she an angel? Why would she ask something like that? Even though to date, the young woman had never exhibited any recollection of her life prior to coming under Chin's care, such an impossible thought had never crossed her mind. It must be because she saved her, right?
"Maybe in a way... anyone could be an angel if they were willing to do the right thing at the right time, right?" she finally finishes, her smile returning as she feels she has recovered well enough from the startling question. "That was me in that moment, at the right place, doing the right thing. And now we'll get past that night together... okay?"
Momoko doesn't look particularly suprised by the answer she gets. Ofcourse she's not an angel, not in the sense she had posed the question, atleast. Such things don't really exist. But for all the intent that matters to her, Athena /was/ an angel, and she had saved her from a certain and horrible demise by risking herself for a complete stranger.
The girl lowers her gaze and nods. She has tried very hard to to put that horrifying experience behind her but, like a dark and insideous cancer, it persists, rotting away at her thoughts from the inside out. Perhaps it is the very gifts that she speaks of that are responsible for that. Even if that isn't the case, Athena seems to know something about the powers that she possesses. Maybe that's the real reason she tracked her down.
Right now, the small girl doesn't care why the person she's looked up to all her life has decided to show up or what it is that is keeping her there. Her presence is strangely soothing and any balm on the pain in her soul is a welcome reprieve.
"How did you know?"
Still hudded into a tiny ball, Momoko's face shrinks into the protective embrace of her arms, more out of a sudden resurgence of nervousness than distress. The fact that she's talking to someone famous /and/ the person who saved her life makes casual conversation a bit strange.
"Do you... have these powers too?"
When she braves asking the question central to the young woman's visit to her, Athena's smile warms, the girl sitting up straighter than. She doesn't withdraw, staying comfortingly close, but she also gives the balled up Momoko a bit more room to breath. She doesn't answer at first, merely murmurs softly. "Hmn..." She'll figure it out, she thinks to herself. No point in rushing it.
When the follow up question, an answer in and of itself, finally comes out, Asamiya nods her head slightly. "Yes, that's right." She pauses for a moment, giving that a chance to sink in. She wonders what it must be like for the girl, having those feelings, those gifts, the sense of experiencing something no one ever warned her about, no one ever described as part of the normal growing experience. She never went through that herself... at least that she can remember. Her own life record began with her encounter with the awkward but friendly Sie Kensou and continued. Was there ever a time where she experienced the same uncertainy this girl must be feeling?
It doensn't matter. "And I have other friends that do too." she continues after a moment's hesitation. As Momoko reflects on the incident, she can't help but radiate a certain sense of it - powerful emotions, dark every bit as they are real. Left to her own, what would happen in the long run? Maybe she would figure out how to cope with that shard of darkness, maybe it would fade with time.
Or maybe she would become a monster.
"I would really like for you to meet them. I know you would like them," the girl prompts after another moment. She falls quiet for a moment before her arm finally returns to her lap, hands clasped together. "I would be very grateful if you didn't tell anyone else about this though... at least, not about my own..." SHe lifts her hand to rub at her cheek absently, "I... don't really talk to people about it very often, except for my friends. Is it the same with you?"
Momoko deflates a little as the arm around her is withdrawn but she answers the question with another nod after a short pause, seeming to grow slightly more confident to compensate for the loss with every passing second. She sits up straighter and her head lifts from her lap, though she continues to stare at the ground rather than meet Athena's gaze. Moving the subject away from the events of the attack renews her energy rather quickly. The change is rather noticable, almost profound in its nature.
"No one knows. Not even my parents. I tried to tell them once but they just thought I was making things up."
She shrugs and smiles a little at the memory. She'd been only twelve at the time, still young enough to entertain herself entirely with an overactive imagination. She couldn't blame anyone for believing as they did. The kinds of things she could do were the stuff of science fiction. She learned rather quickly, however, that showing off only got her in trouble. No one would believe she could conjur burst of energy with her mind. They had to rationalize it somehow, make it fit into the structure of their reality. Energy became fire and harmless displays became dangerous pyrotechnics.
Since then she'd be very careful not to use her powers unless she had some way to cover it up. Her dancing was the primary outlet for this creativity. A few fireworks and some dazzling lights were just par for the course; hers just happened to be a little bit higher quality than most. It was one of the things that drew people in to her shows and quite harmless unless she wished it to be.
The revelation that there are others like her in the world is something of a relief. It has been something that Momoko always suspected, after all there are plenty of people who can do extraordinary things in the fighting circuits. Maybe some of those fighters are like her, covering up their power behind mundane things. But to find out that her idol is among their number? It's indescribable.
"I won't tell, I promise." Momoko smiles again, bright and enthusiastic. "Hehe, I guess that means we share a secret now, huh?"
"I guess it does indeed," Athena replies with a quiet smile, continuing to watch the girl even if she doesn't look back at her. "It's better than having to bear it alone, right?"
She falls quiet then, the girl seemingly content to just share the bench for a while. For as much as she has hoped to comfort the victim of that violent creature, just being here, out in the sun, enjoying the warmth of helping another soul through trying times has done wonders for her own uneasy feelings as of late.
Her hand reaches out to rub the top of Peter Rabbit gently, running her fingers around the base of his ears to make them flop up and down a couple of times. "Here," she finally speaks up, holding her extended hand out, palm upward. Pressing her thumb against her middle finger, she snaps her fingers, creating a small mote of pink, sparkling energy. Now pressed between thumb and finger is a small lavender business card that wasn't there before.
She grins at her little 'magic trick' before offering Momoko the card. It was something she had gotten printed up when she was hopeful about the prospects of a singing career. Everyone successful has a businesss card, right? Of course... all that's on hold now, her beloved Gentsai affording her no choice but to eschew the limeline and focus on her training. He had been... exceptionally exact on that matter.
So now all she has are some useless business cards and deferred dreams. But that was a subject for another time. At least the card has an address and phone number on it. "That's where we live. In Chintatown, just across from the Genhanten. You should come visit there sometime. Maybe when you're feeling a little better," she suggests.
Of course, she wants Chin to help the girl out with her situation. And of course she hopes that he takes her in as a student as he did for herself over four years ago. And of course she didn't ask her venerable master about ANY of this ahead of time... but what else is new?
Momoko stares at the outstretched hand curiously and her face lights up with childish delight when the card appears as if by magic. She's always liked showmanship, people who know how to take the mundane and fill it with wonder and mystery. If her hands weren't already full she'd be clapping with glee at the simple trick. Instead, she just accepts the card with a bright smile and a light-hearted giggle.
The tiny dancer glances at the writing on the small piece of paper and sucks in a sharp breath when she realizes what it is. An invitation to /Athena's house/! Could this day get any better?!
Her head snaps up to look at the former pop star directly for the first time since their initial introduction, a quizzical yet hopeful expression on her face. The unspoken question she had been broadcasting is answered by Athena's next words and the tiny student practically swells up like a peacock with from the deep breath that she takes as a result.
"Really?! You want... /me/ to come visit your house?"
Her injuries once again momentarily forgotten, Momoko bounds off the bench and hops in place, her high-pitched voice exhaling an ear-piercing squeal of excitement. The reality of her current physical status quickly catches up with her, however, and she doubles over against the bench, wincing.
Momoko recovers after a moment and grins sheepishly at her idol. Maybe when she's feeling a little better. The excitement might very well be fatal.
Log created on 00:04:13 01/11/2015 by Athena, and last modified on 13:50:27 01/11/2015.