Description: The first time you start a conversation with someone you've never met, and they seem to know everything about you, it's a fluke. The second time, it's frustrating. The third, though... it's time to get some answers.
"Uchouten", the latest single from the B'z, can be heard playing throughout the rooms of the Kani Doraku this evening. The crab restaurant is famous world-wide for the huge animated crab over the main entrance, but inside it's actually pretty austere: hardwood floors, hardwood tables, screens between each booth, and an abundance of overhead lighting. Clearly, the staff here wants customers to be able to enjoy the freshness of the catch more than the date-night ambience.
"... Gah. It's way brighter than I thought it would be in here..." laments Honoka Kawamoto, as she slides into a booth for two. "I'd gotten the impression this'd be one of those places with a couples room or something, from the bridge outside."
Tapping her chin, she looks back up at Zach. The Twilight Star performer does look completely different, for at least two reasons. The first, of course, is that she's not in the darkened space of the big top, and she's not trying to impress a -crowd-, so she carries herself a bit differently. Sassier, for sure, and more self-assured. The second is her clothing: a little black dress, shoulderless but tasteful, with a purple scarf wrapped loosely about her neck. She picked out two star-shaped stud earrings as well, which catch the light every so often as she turns her head.
"It's supposed to be really good food though, besides."
Zach Glenn grins a bit at this. Zach looks different, but not completely so. His choice is outfit is pretty simple. He's wearing a black suit jacket decorated with a gold US Marine Corps lapel pin, a white shirt, a deep red tie, black slacks and leather shoes. Which is a far cry from the street clothes that Honoka's normally seen him in. What's the same is that same bedrock determination and discipline that is part and parcel to a Marine. He is also self-assured, confident.
He was somewhat dumbstruck that Amerika-mura was even a thing, but got into the concept fairly quickly. He's not in /total/ tourist mode, but he is definitely taking in the sights. The place is pretty novel to him as a whole.
He sits across from Honoka, just taking in the sight of her. After ordering drinks, a hot sake for him and whatever she would prefer, Zach sits back in his seat. "So," he says amicably, "I believe I owed you an answer still."
Amerika-mura is a mere ten-minute walk from this restaurant at a Marine's pace; unless one likes McDonald's, there's not many good restaurants to choose from. Which is why Honoka settled on showing Zach a photo brochure of Amerika-mura on the train ride over -- their eventual destination for the night.
This night out on the town was a condition of Zach winning the Twilight Star Challenge bout against Honoka. The question to which Zach would have to answer truthfully... that was the condition of Honoka winning. She really does have to admit, Captain Glenn can be quite attractive himself: his interest in her is hardly one-way.
His mention of an 'answer' takes a moment to register. Honoka hadn't even reached for the menu yet; once her wide eyes return to normal, that's her first order of business. She remains tactfully silent, gathering her thoughts for a few moments, turning about three pages into the menu.
Honoka doesn't like to be rushed.
She lowers the menu, just enough to show her eyes as she peers over the top of the menu. "I... think so too."
A kimono-clad waitress comes by to take the drink orders. She nods back, asking for some hot green tea and a cup of water. But to Zach... she leans forward upon her elbows, giving him a rather intense look.
"You're serious about this? I'm not asking if you're not going to give me an honest answer, or waffle out on technicalities."
Zach Glenn grins a bit at this as he leans in, locking eyes on Honoka, mimicing her posture. "I'm going to assume that's not the question," Zach says teasingly. "I'm good for my word. One question, one honest answer."
People watching might, from the way the two are sitting and looking at each other, get the wrong idea about what is going on.
- Weeks ago -
"You never know in this world... so many people can focus more on how weakness in others can benefit themselves... taking advantage... exploiting... manipulating..." The shrine maiden smiled excessively. If the poison is odorless and tasteless, there is no need to mask it with saccharine. And yet... "I am so happy that you are completely unlike that."
The conversation concerned a young man, apparently struck with some form of amnesia. And yet, her supposedly simple visit to ask a request for an exorcism of some kind was met with such concealed venom that it was impossible for the young psion to ignore. One false move from the viper revealed a card by accident.
And the inside jokes at Honoka's expense began to make sense.
- Now -
Bridging her chin across her fingertips, she averts her eyes for a moment. This -could- be construed as flirting. It's hard to -not- be at least a little coquettish, given the current circumstances. But Honoka manages to bring her eyes back up to Zach. "Alright, then," she resumes, drawing in her breath for a moment.
"You've been cagey about this in the past. Evasive. But I have to know. Do your dreams describe an alternate reality in which you see many people you know, in twisted, alternate forms -- including a version of me who extorts and manipulates others into doing my bidding?"
It's a loaded question, perhaps the -most- loaded question that Honoka has ever asked. But it is the product of weeks of fevered study and writing.
Zach's grin fades slightly. "Yeah," he says quietly as he leans back in his side of the booth. "I thought that might be it." He takes a deep breath, collecting his thoughts as the waitress brings the drinks. Zach pours himself a cup, and bolts it back. He closes his eyes once, and then opens them slowly. He's looking past Honoka's shoulder, but unfocused.
"You're making a mistake. When you call them dreams, I mean," he says quietly. "It's nothing so fleeting as that. I mean, I have dreams. But it's the usual stuff. Showing up to work in my underwear, falling and waking up before I hit the ground, that kind of thing." He takes a deep breath. "What you are asking for," he finally says, "Is memory."
Honoka leans back as well, pouring herself a cup of tea. Blows on the steamy liquid, but does not imbibe. She has much to consider before speaking again.
The other Zach, he had told her, had tried to help people. The other Honoka was someone he had wanted to help, but couldn't. Honoka had originally played that off as the passing fancies of an obsessed fan, but the conversation wormed its way into her brain. Plagued her for the rest of the night. And she had written it down.
"Dreams, hm. Come to think of it, you'd called them visions, then." She wraps her hands about the warm cup, sitting back in her seat. "But memory is a clearer word. And it makes... much more sense. Are you willing to tell me about the... other us?"
"Yeah," he says quietly. "I gave my word." He organizes his thoughts. "Okay. Couple of ground rules. I'm going to be lazy with my pronouns. If I refer to me, I'm not referring to the guy who is sitting here in this booth with the pretty lady. And when I refer to you, I'm not talking about the pretty lady in the booth with the Marine. It'll be easier for me to share this story that way. The other rule is that you don't question what I say when I get into the meat of the story. It gets... pretty crazy in places. But everything I will tell you is true, as best as I can remember it."
He pours himself another cup, but only sips it. "Is that acceptable?"
Honoka arches an eyebrow at the straightforward explanation of the ground rules. Pulling the warm cup close, she gives it a small sip as she listens. It's cold outside, and the warmth of the tea is refreshing.
"Perfectly acceptable, yes." She may have lost some measure of her amicable nature in the asking of the question, but the smile returns, at this point. "I'll be a good girl."
"Good," he says with a nod. Honoka will learn that Zach's not about to weasel out of this, but the story is fairly wild. "The world seemed like it was about to end," he starts. "Mount Fuji had erupted, making a huge mess of Japan. Metro City had been basically flooded out in the wake of a series of increasingly worse storms. Everyone in Paris had simply disappeared. Noone knew how or why. The Gulf of Thailand had completely frozen over. The world was in a state of chaos." Zach takes a deep breath. This is not a chunk of memory he wants to be in, but he gave his word.
"You and I met first met in..." Zach lets out a rough chuckle at the irony of it. "In Osaka. There was a protest that was about to boil over into a riot. It might not have, but you had talents. You could, without even saying a word, give people ideas. It almost /did/ turn into a riot when you pushed a crowd into attacking some city councillor. They would have, but I put a stop to it. I... tried to confront you about it afterward. Because I thought I understood what you were trying to do, even if I didn't like your methods. We didn't actually fight about it, though."
Honoka listens intently, hinging on every word. Her memory for things like this is generally pretty good.
But when knowledge of the end of the world is conveyed... well, her mental notes may prove unreliable over time. These are some pretty crazy circumstances, but she gets the gist of it: the world was going to hell in a handbasket: Japan, France, Thailand, the USA... she can read the straightforward expression, she can tell it was bad times.
The mention of the first meeting does draw a bit more personal interest. There are two things keeping her from questioning the Captain. One -- she'd had several hours to steel herself, to enforce control over her emotions so as not to leave an obvious tell to a man clearly capable of doing something with it.
The second, of course, was Zach's simple request to not question what's being said. She may, later... but she's being a good girl, like she said. Nodding slowly, she acknowledges, "... I see," her face displaying a more-or-less neutral expression. Smiling here would just be creepy.
Zach had, on the surface, answered Honoka's question. He could stop right there. But he had resolved from the outset to tell the story. The first shot of sake was to brace himself a bit; he knows how the story ends, and doesn't like to revisit it.
"Some time later, some things had happened. You, with the help of an insanely dangerous group of mercenaries, took over Japan. Violently. Basically, you had every member of every section of government killed, along with the... royal family? Or is it imperial family in Japan?" Zach shakes his own question off. "Doesn't matter. Your first two acts were... fairly significant. The first was that you ordered everyone who wasn't Japanese out of the country. The second was to rename the country to the Republic of Ezo. To back it all up, you had somehow acquired nuclear weapons, and used them to keep people from trying to overthrow you." Zach takes a deep breath. "During that time, Metro City somehow... you couldn't call it a miracle. The place was turned into a hellscape. I was on my way back to investigate. I had a hunch that whatever was causing all of the disasters was behind this."
"We met for the second time at the airport, when I was leaving the country. We had another conversation. I had worried, at the time, that you had gotten in over your head despite the sheer bravado you were displaying during the whole thing."
Honoka frowns. She had been excited beyond belief that Zach confirmed her crazy theory -- and had hid that. She'd restrained herself from expressing any particular emotion when it came to the other Honoka's abilities. But it's prudent to express dismay at the atrocious acts that are being related. Allying with mercenaries. Assassination. Mass murder. Nuclear weapons. The product of a megalomaniac with world-reigning aspirations in the wake of a global crisis. It's appropriate to frown.
"I'll have the Asahi crab kaiseki," she says. It might seem disjointed, but Honoka had actually turned to look up at the waitress who slides in from behind Zach, at this point of the story. Curt, to the point -- this isn't something for casual eavesdroppers to overhear, clearly.
After the waitress takes Zach's order and moves along, she returns her eyes to Zach. "And this is where you wanted to help...?" she prompts, that frown still tugging at the corners of her lips.
Zach snaps back into the now with the sound of an order being placed. "Crab sushi, please," he says quietly. The waitress leaves, and Zach goes back into story mode. "Sort of. I went to Metro City. I'm not telling you what happened there. It's not important to this story," he says in a tone that says he really does not want to revisit that memory, and that Honoka's not about to get it out of him. "I was on my way back to Japan. Everything was coming to a head, and it was happening there. At the Ise Grand Shrine, in fact. The idea was to put an end to what was trying to tear the world apart, and then figure out a way to get you out of the situation you had found yourself in. There were plenty of people still in Japan that were more than capable of taking you down, and some of them didn't care if you lived or died."
Zach takes a deep breath. "I... by the time I was in a position to return, you had been killed. I... didn't really learn the details." Zach honestly seems saddened by this; he's in the memory right now. "The people who ended up in charge after that had your... co-conspirators... members of your circus... well in hand. When I landed in Japan, I met Reika. You had..." Zach scowls at this. "She had told me that you had used her as a body double, and that you had taken a certain amount of mental control of everyone in that group. People who were, for all intents and purposes, your friends. Your family."
"I didn't want you dead," he says quietly.
Honoka listens, making careful note of each small emotional response. To read a story is one thing -- to experience the telling of a story is something entirely different. Honoka may have lost some connection to the Ainu ways, but they are nonetheless a people whose vast historical record is preserved through song and performance; she's learned to appreciate the small nuances as much as the words spoken.
So when Zach dismisses the events of Metro City, she makes a note to avoid the topic in the future. And when Zach scowls...
Honoka shuts her eyes, lowers her head, sifts her fingertips through the violet highlights in her hair. She expected to be told she died. But to hear it -- even without the gory details -- well, she knows Zach isn't lying when he says that.
The Twilight Star performer reaches for a napkin, dabs it at the corners of her eyes. Makeup is good at concealing things, but it's the opposite when it comes to tears. "I... I see. It sounds like a really bad situation."
Drawing in her breath -- a difficult process at the moment -- she nods afterwards. "I'm sorry, I... I didn't mean to interrupt..."
Zach shakes his head, his eyes closed as he forces his own tears back. "So, to answer your question. Yes. There was another version of you that manipulated people into doing what you wanted. I couldn't answer about extortion, though." He rubs a palm across both eyes, dashing away the moisture there. "It /was/ a bad situation, all around." He takes a deep breath.
"I remember two more fights after that. Bad ones. One of them against... I think he might have been a god. I won, with some help." Zach shrugs. "After that, there was a song... and that's the end of those memories."
The people seated around have been good about not being obvious about their eavesdropping. But when what looked like a first date turns into mutual crying, well, the other conversations seem to have fallen silent.
Honoka gives a small, quiet nod. There were some tears, but not many -- it's hard to really be -too- broken up over a person named Honoka that is not her. "... I can see why it was hard for you to come out and tell a story like that."
Her expression falls, just slightly, with that admission. A slight frown, melancholy at wanting to know more, but it doesn't seem that she's sure how to phrase it.
Luckily, this is when the food arrives; she musters a brief and polite smile to the waitress and her helper as they set the table. Chopsticks are slid out from their napkin -- no disposable pull-apart chopsticks at -this- fine a restaurant -- and she announces, "Itadakimasu~" with a small degree of enthusiasm. It smells delicious, despite the distaste of the preceding subject matter.
Zach nods. "Yeah," he says, with a faint grin. "Man, this looks good." He reaches for his sushi, selecting a small piece. He studies it for a moment before shoving the whole thing in his mouth. He chews deliberately, considering the taste of the thing as he does so.
It doesn't take long for Honoka to dig into her meal. Crab isn't something she enjoys often -- reminders of home are a nice sentiment from time to time, but can be a bit distracting when there are other goals on the mind. "How's yours? It's been forever since I've had crab. Real crab, I mean, not that imitiation stuff that ends up in California rolls..." She muses, "... Hanasaki crab is great but you can only really get that in September..."
But she may be getting a bit off topic. "... Well, were you two dating?" She blinks, rephrasing. "'You' and 'me,' I mean."
At this, Zach almost chokes on the bite of sushi had just started to swallow, his face turning red partly from the blush and partly from the lack of oxygen. He finally gets the food down the right pipe, and washes it down with a healthy swig of water.
"No," he croaks out, "There... It's not like there really time for anything to develop." Zach considers. "And I think we had very different ways of approaching things."
Honoka covers her mouth to keep from being -too- unladylike as she giggles at Zach's response. "I... I'm just teasing, anyway. It's... well, I was going to say it's not true, but I suppose it'd be easier to say it's come and gone, hm?"
With a mirthful smile still across her features, she lowers her hands and partakes of a bite of her sushi. It's quite enjoyable, and... well. Seeing Zach's flustered reaction seems to have improved her mood considerably.
"I do have one more question, but of course you're under no obligation to answer it."
Zach wipes his hands clean. "Sometimes I think he was a furiously lonely man, anyways. Refused to let people get close to him," he says quietly. He considers Honoka curiously as he takes a sip of sake, before taking another piece of his sushi and deciding to experiment with the sauces.
"Ask," he says with a smile, "And maybe I'll answer."
Honoka drowns one of her prawn tempura into the dipping sauce. Takes a bite... savors the flavor for a moment. An exquisite taste, if the delighted expression on her face is any indication.
Once the tender morsel has successfully traversed to her stomach, she raises the detached bit of tail. "The phrase roudou-shakaikyuu -- roughly translated to 'the working class.' Does it hold any particular significance to you? Or... the other you?" It's delivered with complete innocence, the vaguest hints of a smile. For Zach to know the answer, it might mean the unraveling of another mystery. But... nothing ventured, nothing gained.
"Woah, hey," Zach says jokingly. "Aim that thing else where. It's loaded." He pops his sushi piece into his mouth, considers. He swallows with a slight grimace. Maybe a different sauce.
"Specifically?" he asks almost rhetorically, "Or historically? Or culturally? I think it'd mean different things to an American than it would to a Japanese." He considers for a moment. "I know that I'm more lower management, orginazationally speaking."
Honoka smiles warmly. The banter... yes. That, of course, was the main -good- memory she'd had of the good Captain -- his quick-witted responses, his successful dodges. Infuriating when she was trying to get legitimate information out of him, but in light of his recent revelations, welcomed.
"In the context of someone who loves speeches, perhaps. An ardent idealist, fighting for the working class and the 'will of history'."
She reaches for a second piece of prawn tempura, but takes caution to avoid pointing the bitten-off end at Zach this time. "If it's not ringing a bell, don't worry. It's not keeping me up late at night." Not any more, anyway.
Sometimes, it's a blessing not to know. He takes another bite of sushi, with a different sauce this time. He's honestly considering this angle, along with the food.
"Certainly not the same as judgement from man," he mutters almost to himself when he stops, mid-chew. His eyes narrow at the subconscious connection. He swallows firmly, looking at Honoka strangely for a moment. "Huh," he says. "There's a thought," he says philosophically.
"What brought that question about, if I might be so bold?"
"Mmm... I suppose it does seem a bit unusual of a question," she admits, spending as much time considering her next move on the table as she does her next few words.
Thankfully, it's not much time before she decides, capturing another piece of sushi with her chopsticks. "A young man named Seishirou."
Perhaps a less circumspect route would give her the answer she desires.
And sometimes honesty really /is/ the best policy.
Zach's reaction could not be more shocked if Honoka had thrown her drink at him. He schools himself quickly, going back to a cheerful expression. But the mask slipped just then. "Shit," he says barely above a whisper. He thinks for a moment. That... that would explain a whole /hell/ of a lot.
"Okay, yeah. That's a familiar name," he admits. "Not... this time around, I mean."
Honoka raises an eyebrow.
Honoka eats her sushi, looking faintly amused.
"This sounds like another interesting story," she concludes, chewing gingerly for a moment. "... Could you pass the low-salt soy sauce?"
"Two stories, actually," Zach agrees, "They are," he says as he pushes the requested sauce toward her. "But not for today," he finally says. He takes another sip of the sake, grabs another bite of the sushi. "I've had enough of old stories for today," he says in a strange tone of voice. Sometimes it's good to air things out, sometimes you feel better about it when it's done. Sometimes, though, it's still just a bit painful.
"I'd like to make some new stories," he says before dipping his food in a third sauce and popping the morsel in his mouth.
Honoka smiles warmly, nodding in agreement. It ought to be pretty clear from her reaction to his -most- ungentlemanly reaction that the Twilight Star is keeping pace with him.
She looks over at her tea cup, half-empty, and refills it. She lifts it towards Zach, awaiting him half-way with an amused smile.
"To new stories."
Zach refills his own cup, and raises it in acknowledgment. "New stories," he says in agreement.
Log created on 01:11:30 02/01/2015 by Honoka, and last modified on 21:21:51 02/01/2015.