Description: After their planned bank heist goes south thanks to the betrayal of a key member, Miki and Ash are drawn into a run-and-gun battle with the police through the sewers of Southtown. They end up hiding in a collapsed tunnel, and as the cold of night sets in, turn to their only source of warmth... (NOTE: The summary is a lie.)
Late afternoon in the business district. It's not all /that/ cold, but the business district is covered in snow, and more is falling. Very few people walk very far in it if they can, but there are quite a few cards. In another hour or two, the streets and sidewalks will likely be a rush of people leaving by various means, but for now the sidewalks are unusually empty.
A girl wearing a spotless elaborate kimono walks down the sidewalk, her wooden geta coming in use for once as she's raised slightly above the snow and slush. She carries a large, somewhat heavier than usual traditional Japanese umbrella in one hand - black, with a gold moon and stars sprinkled across it. In the other hand, she carries a wet, dirty black kitten by the scruff of it's neck. A car drives by her, and she slides her umbrella down and towards it, deflecting the incoming spray, and then raises the umbrella again before more than a few flakes of snow have landed on her.
The kitten meows, and the girl looks over to it dispassionately. After a moment she looks back in front of her, and continues her way down the sidewalk.
It's late afternoon and you're not at school?
Why are you not at school, Miki?!
Actually, Ash isn't at school, either.
Guess that means we're both...
I had a pun lined up, but I hate puns. On with the pose!
Sitting on the top step that leads to some ritzy apartment complex is the lackadaisical Frenchman, a young man named Ash Crimson, which could be a moniker just because it sounds so ridiculous. He doesn't care. The teen is bundled up to excess because he hates the cold, even though it's not particularly chilly out. He wears a woolen jacket of beige with a lime green scarf looped twice around his neck. His trousers are a non-descript black and designer brand. In his mittened hands, he rolls around a bottle of nail varnish, blue eyes cast in its direction, but not actually seeing it.
These last few weeks over the holidays have been something of an ordeal for the flamewielder: He now has very intimate knowledge of what it's like to die and his mind still has difficulty wrapping around the concept of living, but persist Ash does. The consciousness that lurks in the dark recesses of his soul provides nothing to ease his troubles; no answers, no explanations for the event. It has remained amused but silent ever since, much to his chagrin.
Although he would prefer to, Ash can't just sit around all day and hide from the world until coming to terms with the experience that felt too real to discredit or dismiss out of hand. But he's taking it slow, people-watching, gradually integrating himself back into the hustle and bustle of Southtown, rekindling his interest in all things and individuals unique...
His pretty face arranged in a blank expression and staring through the item in his hand, however... That's not how people-watching is done. That's ruminating.
None too gentle with his continued fidgeting, the small vial of polish topples from his mitt and tumbles down the three steps, tracking through sidewalk snow and slush until it comes to rest before a peculiar girl bearing a cat. Or a kitten. A very dirty little kitten, hoisted by the scruff. One pencil-thin eyebrow lifts and disappears behind his fringe of pale-coloured hair, only a few shades darker than his skin. Ash clears his throat softly, forces a tight-lipped smile that hints at descriptors like affable or gregarious, but settles therein around the word 'strained'. "Cherie, I don't think le petite chat is happy." Not when its being hauled around by the loose skin at the back of the neck for a long period of time.
He moves to connect elbows to knees, cupping the generous curve of his chin with both hands. Ash scraches at his freckled cheek through the mitt with one long fingernail, painted white with intricate red designs (not that anyone can see, but just for reference.) His voice is able to convey what his face cannot: The quality of his words are a lyrical sing-song, light and sweet... But quick to grate on the nerves of the wrong person. Is Miki the wrong person? There's only one way for the flamboyant flameslinger to find out! "Saa, but it's wet. I suppose cuddling is out of the question, ahaha~"
Miki blinks as something rolls in front of her, her grip tightening slightly on her umbrella, her hand curling inwards as she prepares to toss the kitten away from there if there's trouble. She simultaneously glances down to see the small vial of polish, then glances up to see Ash. Seeing no particular danger, she relaxes her grip. She stares at Ash at his place on the top step of the stairs, listens to his words. "Enchanté." Neither her voice nor face imply that she particularly means that phrase. "No, I imagine it's not happy."
She reangles the umbrella on her shoulder behind her to better herself, and to a lesser extent the tiny bedraggled cat, from the wind and snow.
"If I cuddle the cat, I'd get this kimono dirty, possibly permanently damage it, which would be a very inefficient thing to do. Sentimental value aside, it would be more utilitarian to kill this cat, sell this kimono, and donate the profits for the good of catkind if I wished to go that route." She walks up the steps, holds the dirty little kitten up to Ash's face. Raises an eyebrow at him. "If you want, you can cuddle this petite chat." She smiles at him - perhaps just a trace of genuine warmth there. "I merely wished to save it's life, but mostly I just find it an annoyance so far. Perhaps you care about it more than I do?"
It's not often that the fussy Frenchman is struck dumb and speechless, but Miki has managed to do this and in record time. Faintly freckled lids flash over the blue orbs as he blinks numerous times in rapid succession. Speaking his native tongue isn't too surprising, even in a place like Southtown, but it's her... cold assessment of the situation, almost robotic in her reply. To say that it would be utilitarian to kill the cat strikes a weird chord and Ash visibly winces, teeth bared for just a brief instant in the beginnings of a grimace before it is all smoothed over and replaced with another genial smile that does not seem quite natural.
Like her, there is no warmth to it, not even in the depths of his eyes, the windows to his soul.
But for all the expression lacks, his cheery tone is enough to mask it, right? Make up for it? "I... suppose that is one way to look at it, oui." Ash generates a soft noise denoting thought deep in his throat, not really thinking about it at all because he doesn't care to. He's putting on airs to be friendly.
She clacks up the steps with her geta and thrusts the little creature in his face. He recoils from the smell of the bedraggled kitten, who possesses the fragrant odor of wet sewage, the bridge of his freckled nose wrinkled in distinct distaste. "Would rather not, c..herie," he chokes out. It's in his mouth now, IT'S IN HIS MOUTH OH FOR THE LOVE OF GOD WHY! Ash would hold up his hands to reject the offer completely were it not for the words that Miki... meant to save it.
And now it's just an annoyance.
The kitten mews at him, hanging there by its scruff, eyes of blue that have yet to fade to amber staring at him sorrowfully, tugging at his heartstrings... If he had heartstrings.
Exhaling a sigh (and not breathing in the stench of the critter again through his mouth), Ash lowers his arms to accept the little burden because maybe Shen is good with animals, better than this girl. Elisabeth was. The fey flamewielder never really grew accustomed to them in his youth back in France, even horses. He's not... like this, though. "I won't lie and say that I do, but that really is a lovely kimono and I would hate for it to be ruined. I'll find le petite chat a home." It's almost flirty, smooth and syrupy with a touch of sly.
First rule of living with the fastidious flameslinger: You will not make a mess.
Second rule: See the first.
Does she dare leave a life of an animal in Ash's probably capable hands?
Miki doesn't miss that wince, that grimace. Or the fact that his smile doesn't make his eyes despite his tone. But she doesn't look hurt or embarassed by it. She tilts her head a bit to one side, staring at him, her smile growing just a bit wider.
At his acceptance, she places the little cat gently in his arms, looks up to meet his eyes. "Thank you." The kitten squirms, immediately tries to bury itself in his arm, probably ruining that woolen jacket he's wearing. She looks down at the cat with a slight smile, and then tries to wipe her hand on his jacket as well - it's already ruined anyways, right? "It looks like it's an annoyance to you too, but you still care. I always wonder what it's like, to be a normal person." Throughout all her talking, she barely opens her mouth.
"The interesting part to me is, if I had just left le petit chat there like so many other people did, you'd think better of me. Performing a duty without a whole heart is better than performing it half-heartedly, perhaps?"
Without another word, she turns, walks away, back out onto the sidewalk.
She crouches down to pick up the vial of nail polish, stands back up, walks back over to him. "I might as well return this to you, since I've laid a burden upon you." She tries to wipe the vial and her hand on his jacket as well.
What does she think he is, some sort of towel?
Well, that's good. Many would find the lack of sincerity creepy, or just plain unnerving. It's a bit like staring into the Void, and difficult to read because of the endless offering of nothing at all.
He's always been the unpredictable, capricious sort.
The kitten is deposited into his mittened hands, and immediately rubs its unpleasant scent all over his woolen jacket as it attempts to bury itself into his arms. Because wool is very difficult to wash, Ash indeed considers his coat ruined. The smell of wet sewage would never dissipate. His brows draw together over eyes like the clear sky. A word of reprimand to the animal that can't possibly understand him bubbles to his lips only to die away.
His gaze returns to the girl in the pretty kimono. Thanked for his acceptance, Miki goes so far as to wipe her dirty hands on him?! What the heck! That's just so rude! Ash... Ash just... does nothing, although it is clear he won't be voicing approval because of the slight turn of the corners of his mouth, expressing a frown. "It isn't an annoyance, not exactly..." Were the flamewielding Frenchman to say what really goes on his head, it would be that, you know, adding more dirt to his ruined jacket is not very cool at all.
Heh, a 'normal person'.
That's the first time he's heard of it.
In spite of the rising irritation regarding his coat that is used as a towel, Ash vents a snort of laughter, his nostrils flaring gently. Good-natured mirth wars with the twist of displeasure, eventually hoisting the banner of triumph. White rows of teeth are revealed with their braces as he grins faintly. "Saa, being normal is overrated."
She speaks of the cat, earning more blinks from the lackadaisical teen as he looks down to the purring black monstrosity that has somehow wormed its way to his chest in the moments of inattention, curling against the flameslinger and taking an impromptu nap. "Any particular reason why your heart was not invested in what was clearly a good deed, cherie?" Ash's fascination returns with the singing cadence from before, only because his 'flirting' feels rebuked. No matter what her smile, Miki remains just as robotic as when he first raised his voice to hail her.
Leaving so soon?
Hang on, stop wiping your hands on him! Seriously!
"Merci," he intones rather flatly as his nail vanish is brought back to him.
Miki smiles at that laughter, and the opinion that normal is overrated - a bit of a genuine smile, perhaps, even. But still, it's controlled, like she's very concious of the movements of her mouth.
"I want to know why people would do something like go to the trouble of rescuing something extremely weak and inconsequential they don't even know, so I try out doing that sort of thing when I get the chance." She's silent for a moment. "I'm likely going to be very very rich one day, so I need to figure out what I'm going to do with all that power. I test it out on things like kittens, because one day the lives of humans may lie in my hands."
His displeasure at being used as a towel does not go entirely unnoticed. She squats down in front of him, placing her oversized sleeves carefully in her lap, stares into his eyes. "I'm sorry about your jacket. It's not as nice as my kimono, but it still looks like it is... well, /was/ a very nice jacket. I can buy you another one if you like." She's silent for a long moment.
"Why are you smiling so much and talking in such a friendly manner, if your heart isn't in it? Does pretending to like people make you happy? I don't think you're doing it out of fear."
He might wonder exactly why she's so conscious of the movements of her lips, but Ash simply does not care enough to expend the effort. Effort is the bane of his existence.
It requires the sort of investment that he never wastes, even on those worthy of his acknowledgement. Crimson doesn't get close to others, he allows them to merely graze the surface of him. To have a general understanding, but nothing deeper. This goes both ways, to an extent.
He can't have anyone involved, lest they interfere with his goals... which may not be his. They may now be those of the resting consciousness, which even now has nothing to add. No snide comments to impart to his descendant.
"Nothing is inconsequential, cherie. Every life matters. To let anything die leaves an imprint on your soul that you may have to atone for later on." Igniz taught him this, between dreams and wakefulness. The world of the clearing where he wasn't real, his injuries, his death. Ash was brought to justice for a crime that never happened and it taught the Frenchman to value some of what he has...
The flamewielder's grin from before softens into something that cannot be so easily discerned. It might be a smile, it might be sad. It may be entirely empty, devoid of emotion. Just another expression perfected that makes itself right at home on Ash's attractive, freckled face. With each shift of his thin lips, the strain lessens. "I'd wish you luck, but you seem quite certain. If the lives of others rest in your hands one day, just remember that each loss will always cause someone to feel sorrow." This is just as rare as his speechlessness, the rare advice presented in lyrical form with a slight French lilt.
Ash would wave away her apology, because at least Miki acknowledges the damage she foists upon his ruined jacket, wrecking it further, but kitten. The little creature rolls over in its sleep; he suspects that the nap is a ruse, because the purring hasn't ceased even for one instant. The blonde head bobs in a nod, fair flaxen strands fluttering before they come to rest obscuring his vision as they are wont to do. "Ahaha, don't worry about it~" Ah, sometimes it is good to be rich.
And then, the question that strikes the heart.
Expecting that the robotic, kimono-wearing megalomaniac(?) with dreams of grandeur might excuse herself by this point, her queries are enough that the slender teen balks, resisting what he has heard. The slight cold had brought some colour to his cheeks, but it drains away, drowning in the snow of his unblemished skin save for the freckles that mark it. Half-lidded eyes of blue travel to Miki, pupils narrowed in scrutiny. Somehow, despite how it is pointed out, the turn of his broad slash of a mouth does not falter, "Not fear, no," Ash admits, "Let me ask you something, cherie. Why do you think a dispassionate leader will always fail?" Is this a game to him, a run-around for fun and personal amusement? Could be. It also could be the gradual build-up to something more.
Miki nods, furrows her brow a little, considering Ash's advice. "Well... people worry about a cold little kitten, but don't think about the lamb who was slaughtered so they could eat yesterday. Stuff like that." She shrugs. "I tend to think most people just care about themselves and people they know, but they don't want to admit that. That's how I am, except for the not admitting it part." She looks down at the kitten.
"But that might be how I feel because thinking like that doesn't make sense to me - assuming you're doing things the best or only way can seriously stunt your learning." She smiles. "And looking down at that kitten looking purring in your arms makes me a little happy, even though it's survival makes no difference to my life."
She looks back up to Ash, blinks as he waves off the apology, meets his eyes, quirks an eyebrow. "You really care about manners, don't you?" She pauses. "I don't think a dispassionate leader will always fail. I imagine they're more likely to fail due to their followers hearts not being sufficiently invested in them, or to not being invested enough in their goal to give it all the time they need to carry it off properly. However, an overly passionate leader may have other issues too - buying into the truth of their own agenda too strongly, or tiring themselves out on things that aren't truly central to their mission, for example. I imagine a balance between the two extremes is ideal for a leader, but I'm not much of a student of leadership." She tilts her head a bit to one side, continuing to stare at Ash.
"Why? Are you a leader?"
People don't tend to think in general, unless it affects them directly. But there are some, the unique few, and even a mundane always has the ability to work against their core nature of selfishness. Still Miki's words ring true -- he isn't going to argue simply for the sake of arguing, not without proof and factual evidence. Ash smiles on as the girl speaks, shrugs, and looks down to the little kitten still curled in his hands, feigning sleep. She continues to bear an interesting point of view, strange and very unlike anyone he has ever met.
Then she changes track so quickly, like a whirlwind, that the flamboyant flamewielder is left reeling in her wake, struggling to catch up.
"Manners?" He asks, coupling the question with a merry titter. It's redundant, she need not respond. "Perhaps~" Thin shoulders rise and fall beneath his woolen jacket, marked by dirty snow and a dirtier animal. Ash absently scratches the tiny beast behind the ear, causing the purring to grow louder as it is shown a modicum of love and attention.
Her answer regarding leaders gives cause to pause and consider. "You're a very astute young lady." His eyes reduce to slits, expression fox-like. The fey Frenchman does not hint to his agreement or disagreement -- no answer was really correct or incorrect. There is something to be found in his mysterious and simple redirection, something that could be missed. It is why he speaks in a friendly manner, even though his heart isn't in it. It is whether or not pretending to like people makes him happy.
Ash could be trying for the balance between the two extremes, faking it until he makes it.
Or maybe he plays the dispassionate leader because he is truly the opposite and cares far too much.
So much insight to his character is concealed in her direct statement, much of his own behaviour explained. This is all left for Miki to figure out.
"Maybe I am." A leader, he means. "Does it change anything?"
The kitten drops all false pretenses and the almond-shaped eyes of blue open. It mews, and mews, and continues mewing. Hungry! Feed me! Ash starts, then there is the swift motion of his head as he flicks platinum blonde bangs out of his sight. "Ahaha, I didn't forget you, mon petite chat, I promise." He thinks there's a can of tuna in the fridge? The effeminate young man rises from his step, nearly a full foot taller than the girl in her lovely kimono and even moreso when she's not on the same level. "Cherie, I'm afraid you'll have to excuse me so I can see to..." Hm. "Are you a garcon or a fille?" Like the cat can tell him.
"Adieu, and try not to slip, it's icy." Another smile lacking in warmth, but there may be some, right around the very fringes. He pivots smoothly on the balls of his feet and spins to the door of the ritzy apartment complex only to pause with his left hand extended for one of the brass handles. The fair head turns, looking back over his shoulder, "Je m'appelle Ash. Ash Crimson. Et toi?"
Miki smiles at Ash when he laughs a little, but it's more amused then friendly. Not that she seems unfriendly, just... detached. Ash is an interesting puzzle that she hasn't quite figured out how to solve, and potentially some of his thoughts could be usefully applied to her own lifestyle in the future.
As Ash says that she's very astute, Miki nods.
"Yes," she agrees, "I am."
She furrows her eyebrows slightly, watching his expression as he considers this issue, like a scientist entering new data as she observes his reaction. She doesn't commit to an interpretation - well does she know how people can mislead each other - it's just another piece of data. At that question, she tilts her head a bit to one side.
"Does it change anything?" she echoes. "You'd know better than I."
She blinks as the kitten finally demands food, and the Frenchman caves immediately. Smiles again, this time with a little more warmth. "Of course. I will leave you to your new cat." The height difference doesn't seem to bother her at all, but then again, at her height, maybe she's used to it. She stands up, adjusts her umbrella, takes a couple steps backwards down the stairs without missing a step, bows, formally. "Thank you once again for taking on this cute and smelly burden." Her words, while stylized in tone, are utterly serious. With that, she turns away, and starts down the steps.
At the question, she looks back over her shoulder.
"Je suis Miki Murakami."
This time, when she smiles carefully back at him and utters that word once more, it sounds like she might just mean it.
Log created on 17:11:52 01/12/2015 by Ash, and last modified on 18:26:54 01/16/2015.