Description: The Twilight Star Circus has a new headliner, Mizuho -- and she's not happy about her "co-star's" ongoing relations with the blonde American. But Zach's not exactly there on -her- behalf, anyway.
Zach Glenn was good to his word to Honoka. For better or worse (and there were plenty of red flags raised in Zach's head for doing this) he had gone back to the barracks, packed, and called it a night. The next day, he had returned to the circus.
The Marine was wearing a black leather trench coat, black slacks, and dark green longsleeve shirt. Over one shoulder were a pair of military-style dufflebags. One of them is stuffed to full with clothes. The other appears to be heavier, despite not being as full, and is somewhat secured with a padlock.
Zach looks around with interest and is allowed admission by the staff, who seem to know he was coming. He takes a long, almost meandering route to Honoka's trailer. Even if he didn't know where to find her, Honoka's presence was a beacon of sorts in Zach's mind. He wanted to get the lay of the land, as it were.
Zach's been to the circus before, and many of the faces and feelings will undoubtedly be familiar. But Mizuho is not one of them. A 5'1" girl with chestnut-brown hair, the young woman carries herself with confidence -- someone who really and truly believes herself to be completely indestructable. And after her virtuoso performances the past few weeks, she's received plenty of positive reinforcement for that belief.
But then there's a man who she's not seen before, and nonetheless, seems to know everything about. A blonde American, clearly recognized as a military man through his gait and poise, even before she can get a glance at the olive drab duffels. The indestructable starlet marches right up to him.
She starts marching over to Zach, fists lightly balled. Even as one of the stagehands even runs up to warn her off. She keeps marching, with purpose, ignoring the helpful advice. She's a freaking -star-, she can do whatever she likes. "You're not supposed to be here," she leads off. She knows damn well he's gotten a free pass before. But she stops ten feet away, folding her arms before her chest as she looks defiantly up at the Marine. She's not unattractive, but she's barely out of high school, if that much. She wears a pair of stylish jeans, and a denim hoodie pulled over a loose v-necked t-shirt.
Zach Glenn looks down at the young woman without looking down on her. The height difference pretty much requires it. He tilts his head to one side with an almost amused curiousity. He's certainly not /worried/, as he shrugs both bags to sit a little more comfortably on his shoulder.
"And you're the new performer," Zach replies easily. There is a very slight emphasis on the word 'new'. Zach doesn't walk around like he owns the place; he /knows/ he doesn't. However, he /does/ knows he's a guest of someone in charge. "Enjoying the circus?" Zach is polite, non-confrontational. It's just how he is.
Mizuho bristles at the way she's being treated with kid gloves. She knows damn well Zach hasn't done anything wrong, and he sure isn't giving her any ammunition to work with -- aside from his no-nonsense attitude. So the fact her charge was blunted isn't the only thing bothering her -- it's the lack of material.
"I'm the new star, yes," she corrects, "And we have an -image- to maintain her. I see you walking around and I see folks just waving you by -- this isn't just a -job-, Mr Glenn, it's a -career- for some people here. And I won't just stand idly by while you completely -disrupt- our routine ag-"
She bites back the last word, frowning. She wasn't around for the last disruption -- and the hesitation betrays her lack of firsthand knowledge. She sets her jaw, not wanting to give up any more information. Haughtily, she stamps her foot into the soft Hokkaido dirt. " --- Anyway, not -everyone- gets guests that can just waltz around here, you know."
Zach makes an understanding face at the correction without looking apologetic about it. His word choice was somewhat intentional, but when she starts her tirade and addresses him by name when he is pretty sure he hasn't had the pleasure of an introduction, Zach's eyes narrow ever so slightly. His posture also shifts ever so slightly, not so much to be threatening but as if to indicate to anyone paying attention that Mizuho now has his full and undivided attention. A fleeting surge of irritation flits through him; he doesn't really want to deal with someone who either doesn't know what is going on or doesn't seem to care.
"Well," Zach answers thoughtfully. Zach bets he knows the /only/ person who gets that kind of stroke. "You /are/ right about that," he continues as he slowly walks up to Mizuho. His right hand still grips the pair of shoulder straps, and his left hand is in his coat pocket. He leans in a little bit, so as to deliver his next sentence in a more conversational tone. "If I've done something wrong, then I will apologize to Kawamoto-san for that," he states evenly.
Zach abruptly straightens up, blinking once. "I'm sorry," he says politely, almost cheerfully. "We obviously know who the other person is, but I don't think we've been properly introduced to one another. I'm Zach Glenn. It's nice to meet you." The change in demeanor is sudden, almost light-switch quick. The abruptness of it is likely the only thing that is frightening about it, as Zach clamps down on the irritation.
Mizuho certainly notices the irritation -- if Zach -wasn't- irritated, she obviously wasn't trying hard enough. Fingertips sift through her slightly wavy hair, sorting the tresses back into their proper positions as Zach shifts his weight about. There's an unmistakable sense of delight at that, hidden behind the starlet's calculated veneer. She's a good actress, in that sense.
And then he stops fidgeting, and her mood shifts into mild panic. Something -wrong?- It's not...
And then the abrupt change into cheerfulness is enough to force Mizuho to take a couple steps backwards. "I... y-... Mizuho." She looks down at the Marine's hand, as if she'd expected it to emerge from his pocket with a gun. Or worse: a prompt for a handshake. Filthy Americans! She offers a protracted bow, stammering out the rote reply, "It-it's a p-pleasure to meet you." She, too, switched moods on a dime -- but it's clear the girl in the denim hoodie is no longer on the offensive.
%She's not as good as an actress as she thinks she is. Especially not when threatened by a man over 20cm taller than her wearing all black in the middle of night. The Osaka native bows once more, before stepping back away. She fluffs up, offering the best bluster she can manage: "J-just watch yourself... I've got my eyes on you!"
And then turns to walk away, hoping the man can't see her cheeks flush a dark crimson.
Honoka wanders out from her trailer, idly flicking a yo-yo around. She doesn't seem to be paying much mind to anything at all.
Zach bows slightly in reply, and watches the young woman flee, but not with any kind of satisfaction. Barely two weeks ago, he was bitten nearly in half. Young starlets aren't all that intimidating. A second later, Zach turns his attention to Honoka, and walks over to her, looking a little sheepish.
"She's got her eyes on me," Zach states with a small amount of amusement before glancing at Honoka a bit more soberly. "But she /did/ point out to me that I may owe you an apology for something," Zach continues. "Even if I'm not sure exactly what."
Honoka pretends to look startled. "B-buh!?" It could almost work: she's dressed similarly to Mizuho, just with a cloth hoodie, yoga pants and a cami top. But it's a poor act, since the yo-yo never stops moving. She doesn't even try to look like a great actress: on stage, she puts her juggling talents on display instead of her acting. She doesn't hold the 'surprised' act for very long though, "Oh, hey Zach! I... oh, who, um, Mizuho? ... An apology?" Blink. "I don't even know. She just started full-time like a month ago. Early graduation, I think." Not -everyone- has the luxury of running away to join the circus...
She realizes, though, that she's babbling. And she also realizes that Zach's standing very close to her trailer. With an impish look, she palms the yo-yo, and begins approaching Zach with a mischievous look in her eyes.
And she aims to pin the Marine against the outer wall of her trailer, one hand on his chest, the other hooked along his belt. Looking up intently into those green eyes of Zach's, she has only one thing to say.
"Something about a distur-", Zach kind of rolls with the movement, shifting slightly so that the heavier of the two bags doesn't smash into the trailer. The Marine is certain that the claymore would win that confrontation, and Zach doesn't want to damage the closest thing Honoka has to a home. He grins lopsidedly, looking almost as intently but definitely as amused into those dark brown eyes of Honoka.
Honoka breathes in the new scents Zach brought back with him, peacefully. Mizuho may have had her 'eyes' on Zach, but Honoka's hold is a little stronger -- and less confrontational, given the half-giddy smile.
"Been thinkin' about you all day. But not everyone gets a Marine all to herself, hmm?" She lingers in close contact with the officer, relishing the close proximity for just a moment longer, before peeling back away, taking a step for the trailer door. "Got some hot water ready, if you want another cup of that tea...?"
The grin is decidely less lopsided, more open, now as he takes in the sights and sounds of Honoka. "Looking forward to this myself," Zach replies as he makes no effort to seperate, instead moving to follow Honoka. "But tea sounds grand," he answers.
As Honoka's trailer opens up, it's quite clear that she's been preparing. It was cleaned out the night before, but it's completely spic-and-span now: every surface shined to perfection. And neatly stacked upon the couch are a comforter, sheets and two extra-fluffy pillows. Never accuse Honoka of failing to think ahead.
By the time the door clicks shut, she's already got the tea bag open, dipping it into a cup for Zach. "Did Mizuho give you a hard time? She's... she's really serious about this circus thing." She looks over to Zach as she brings the piping-hot teacup over to him. "She practically -begged- our program manager for the role. She can be pretty convincing when she wants t'be."
Zach takes the cup with a murmured thanks, and takes a deep whiff of the tea, relaxing almost visibly. He sets the two duffle bags down gently by the couch, and then sits on the couch. "She /is/ very serious about this circus thing," Zach agrees, before taking a small sip of the drink. "But..." Zach thinks about it before continuing quietly. "I was nearly killed a few times last month. She didn't really make the list of people or things that can give me trouble me at this point." It's not bravado in Zach's voice, nor it is that tone of voice that calmly delivers threats as statements of fact that Zach occassionally uses when he's out to intimidate someone. There is more than a little weariness in his voice, something heavy.
Honoka prepares a cup for herself, listening quietly as Zach responds. She doesn't have to rely on the sound of his voice, she can tell from the way he carries himself, judge from his subtle body language, and that's not even counting her innate psychic talents of course.
And yet, she still feels the need to say the words. "Tell me about it." It's less of a statement of commisseration, and more that she really does want to know more about what's going on.
She does not seem like she's going anywhere either, as she plants herself right beside Zach on the couch, cupping her warm teacup between both hands as she looks up at him. There's a faint scent of lilac -- though it's probably not from the tea.
"I mean, I'm curious what could've left those terrible gashes on your back." She felt bandages before -- it's a reasonable guess.
Zach gives Honoka a sideways glance, wieghing things in his mind. "Teeth," Zach finally answers. "This big... dinosaur thing nearly had me for lunch, right before I came back." Zach is silent for a moment. "Put myself back together through sheer force of will. None of which was the scariest part about the whole encounter."
"... Dinosaur." Honoka was ready to hear about souls, death, destruction... that sort of thing. But not creatures from the Jurassic.
She takes one sip of her tea, then claps her hand lightly upon Zach's knee. "... Maaaaaaybe you should start from the beginning." It's her turn for a lopsided grin, now.
"It... wasn't really a dinosaur," Zach says a little sheepishly. "You know there are things that could be considered monster. Some people refer to them as Darkstalkers, the various military organizations around the world call them aberrants. Whatever they are, some of them are insanely powerful. The events that happened to Metro City were caused by someone who calls themself Jedah Dohma. He probably caused those events in that small Italian village a few weeks before that. Same methods, anyway. Sucked the city into this... place between worlds."
Zach takes a moment to center himself, takig a sip of the tea, taking in the scent of lilac. "Anyway, plenty of the classic monster types there, and a few I didn't see coming. One of them was this big... dinosaur thing." Zach pauses, takes a deep breath, holds it in, then lets it out. "It... it was a collective of souls, I think. Angry souls, seeking retribution against Dohma for what he'd done. It was making a mess of the place, attacking anything and anyone in its path."
It's a dinosaur... but it isn't. Honoka nods slowly -- if it was easy to make sense of, Zach wouldn't be having such a tough time explaining it right now. So she listens. "Darkstalkers, aberrants... like the Butcher, yeah." She listens carefully, having forgotten about the connection to the Italian town once all the news kicked into high gear about Metro City this, Metro City that. "Oh, I see..."
She listens to the story, taking a bit more interest at the mention of souls. A great -mass- of souls, all... somewhat unified in their hatred for a man who has destroyed their city, their livelihood.
"Hmm. And they -bit- you, so you were surrounded... walled in..." Her lips press together into a frown as she considers what that must feel like.
"So many voices, shouting at once. No wonder..." Honoka sets her cup of tea down, sliding her arm about Zach's waist, pressing her cheek against his chest for a one-armed hug. "That's... that's a lot to take in at once."
"And that happened about five seconds after I felt hundreds of people dying all at once," Zach says, with an almost passing attempt at forced cheer. It sounds pretty depressing, actually. "I..." Zach frowns into his tea, leaning into Honoka slightly, "If this is how things are going to be going forward... I'm not sure..."
Zach takes a sip of the tea, and mumbles into the cup, "I don't know if I can keep doing this." There is a little fear, a little depression, with an undercurrent of shame that highlights the other two emotions.
Honoka'd had time to come to grips with the idea that Zach was trapped within a construct of several hundred, possibly several -thousand- souls. And she'd assumed that there was... some kind of connection between the 'dinosaur' and the opera house that he'd mentioned earlier -- but in his recanting of the story just now, the opera house didn't figure in. It's still not a strictly linear story, yet.
Especially not with this new bit of information that saps the very rigidity from Zach's spine, slowly turning him into putty in Honoka's tender embrace.
Honoka can be the bedrock upon which he leans -- she's perfectly okay with that, for now. She remains silent for a good few moments, appreciative of his attempt at levity -- if not for the somber path that he leads afterwards. She stays quiet partially out of consideration, partially out of searching for the comforting words to say... but mostly to be a good listener.
"The trouble with having power, the way we do... " She tightens her grip on Zach, pulling him close. "It makes us feel like we need to use it all the time. To win a battle that can't be won alone."
She falls silent again, arm nestled snugly about Zach's waist, but her mind is active. More importantly, her heart is active: there are no words, just warm, uplifting feelings. Compassion. Trust. Goodwill. All the things which the Twilight Star Circus aims to promote, a sense of empowerment, the actualization of the human spirit.
Honoka is but one performer, but how many people can she actually -inspire- to greatness?
Zach leans back slowly and rests his back on the couch so that he can stare at the cieling for a moment, the tea cup sitting in his lap. "And as if all the mind-numbing insanity of fighting monsters in another world were not enough," Zach says in a slightly exasperated tone, before easing himself out of Honoka's embrace and leans forward, "I've got something else that's really starting to bug me."
Zach sets the tea down on the coffee table, and fishes a simple key out of his pocket. He reaches for the not-so-full duffle bag, and undoes the lock. He opens the flaps, and eases out five and a half feet of sheathed sword from the bag.
"I've got /this/ to figure out." The sword, a claymore, looks a /lot/ like the wooden one Zach had brought to the circus before. "I mean, if this is what I think it is...," Zach says with very real, very evident concern in his voice. "Then I don't know if I can /stop/ doing this either."
The Fire Dancer frowns somewhat as the window of complete vulnerability passes, replaced by the perplexed sight of someone with... an interesting weapon. One that isn't quite like the one she'd seen before.
"An ipetam," states Honoka, forehead creasing in consternation. She can tell that it is positively -dripping- with Zach's lifeforce, swelling and pulsing within dimensions wholly different than the physical.
Honoka pales somewhat, the hopefulness and good emotions fading away as quickly as her skin chills. "You're... feeding it, Zach. It's growing stronger, but..."
Honoka shakes her head, quietly scooting away from the sword. "In... Ainu legends, these... soul-devouring swords were both the weapon of a god-blessed warrior... and the weapons of their foes." She closes her eyes, forcing control over herself. "The only difference was the convictions of the wielder. And the intensity of their beliefs."
The sword did not bother her as much before her studies. But now that she's reconnected with her family legacy...
Zach takes that in with narrowed eyes. He thinks for a moment. "Did I ever tell you about my grandfather?" Zach asks. "He was a Marine, too. Fought in World War Two. Pacific theater. His abilities run along the same lines as mine. He only really taught me one technique." Zach frowns. "He made a sword, out of energy. It looked a lot..." Zach pauses. "No, it looked /exactly/ like this one," he gestures at the weapon.
"I've... there are family pictures. From Scotland. A couple of them had this sword in it," he states. "The odds of there being a lot of these that all look exactly the same?" Zach shakes his head in irritation. "Which means that this weapon is some kind of family heirloom. And Dad sent it to me. And I have no idea /why/. And he still won't explain why."
Honoka's answer this time comes quickly. "Maybe he doesn't know, and he hopes you do."
She stares at the sword with the trepidation of someone fearful it might turn into a snake and bite her. "... It's obviously a family heirloom, yes. But... I'm... I don't want to drag you back into a dark place, Zach, but does this have to do with that... sadness?"
Zach stares at the sword for a long moment. Then he shakes his head. "No. It was still encased in wood when I took it to that other place. Dad was insistent that I keep it with me no matter what," he answers. "The wood came off during a fight. Shattered. I... used Grandpa's technique while I was using the sword in a fight with an aberrant. It..." Zach frowns.
"Before..." Zach's frown deepens, "I need a term for those old memories." He thinks for a moment. "Beforetimes works, I think. In the beforetimes, I had a sword. A wakazashi. I had never used a sword before. No training with one. But using it was easy. Natural. Almost right. Like I had been using that specific sword my entire life. I knew who made that sword. He made it for me, if not me in specific, then someone with my abilities." Zach glances at Honoka, as if to be sure she is following. "I know there are significant differences between claymores and wakazashis, but... using this thing feels /exactly/ the same way. Natural."
Honoka dislikes that she's stuck in the 'nowtimes', and all these cool people get to share thoughts about 'beforetimes'. But, sad as it may be, that's the reality of the situation, and she has to deal with that.
So yes. She follows, as best she can. He talks of swords, he talks of the wood... coming off. As if it never really needed the wood at all.
And she has a simple request. "Okay," she states first, exhaling slowly with her eyes closed. "But I need you to put it away. Right now."
Zach nods once, shoving the sword roughly back into the bag, closing it up and relocking it. "Sorry," he says. "I didn't mean to..." Zach thinks. "I don't think the sword was the cause of how I'm feeling. I was around a lot of people being hurt. Being killed. These things were happening on my watch, so to speak."
Zach sits back down, and takes his tea cup. He takes another sip. "It... was something of a new experience for me."
Honoka's wariness seems to fade away as the sword is concealed from her view. She can still feel it -- and differentiate it, now that she knows the thing that 'smells' like Zach is not actually him. But it's compartmentalized, and now that the sword is no longer visible to her, she can begin to relax again.
Rather, she could relax, if there weren't such sad matters to talk about. "... Right... Their lives... -everyone's- lives matter, I'm not trying to make light of that."
She places both hands on Zach's thigh as he reseats himself. "... You're doubting yourself... much like the Butcher made -me- doubt -myself-." She squeezes his thigh gently.
"And I'm with you now, Zach. Reminding you that underneath all this strength... you're still human."
"Yeah," Zach says in a dull tone. "I mean, I..." Zach then comes to a decision of sorts. "You're right. Thank you," he murmurs as he takes Honoka's hand, and kisses the backs of both hands before setting them back down. He takes a deep breath, and not quite forces a smile.
"I think I have some different kinds of training to do when I'm done with this trip, though," Zach says. "It's clear that there's a lot of things moving around out there that I don't know about."
The concerned look Honoka gives Zach shows she's not -entirely- ready to let the matter go just yet. "... Zach, don't let this drop just because you're afraid of hurting my feelings. Okay?" She says this, without breaking eye contact, as she wraps one of her hands over Zach's. Her skin is still a bit clammy from the earlier chill, but she more than makes up for it with the swell of compassionate energy emanating from her psyche.
"I hope we can find time to train together while you're -here-, though." With a warm smile, she seems like she might say more.
But some thoughts may be left unspoken. Even by those whispers which seem to have stilled as of late.
Zach smiles softly. "I've got to shrug off some of it," he quips, "If I'm going to carry any of it. So if I am understating, or it seems like I am letting something drop, it might be because it lets me deal with it in smaller bits." He gives a quiet snort of breath. "It's fairly clear I'll have a really hard time dealing with all of it at once."
He thinks for a moment, enjoys the last of the tea before giving Honoka a sly expression. This is not an abrupt change of demeanor or anything. If nothing else, it's a relatively slow build. "Just training, huh?" he asks, a slight teasing tone in his voice.
"Yeah... yeah. I'm sorry, I'm not trying to be a downer, just..." At a momentary loss for words, Honoka instead sifts her fingers through Zach's hair, starting at the tips before working her way down to the scalp, kneading quietly.
Though, when he calls attention to the turn of phrase she'd left hanging in the air for him, she can't help but flash a guilty smile, with slightly reddening cheeks. "Am I that transparent, now?"
Zach lets out a low rumble of a laugh. "In some things, you can be absolutely opaque," Zach replies. "This has never been one of those things," he finishes with an honest smile, "And I'm okay with that." Zach leans in close to try and sneak a kiss. "It rarely a bad thing to know where someone you're interested in stands on something..."
There is a weakness placed in plain sight, like hastily-misplaced grass signaling the poor concealment of a trap. It's not hard to spot those if one is wary, and it becomes child's play to avoid the trap you know is right there.
If Zach were of a clearer state of mind, he might be able to rationalize that where an obvious trap is, of course, obvious, there are a multitude of less-obvious traps waiting to ensnare the overconfident traveler.
Such it is that, when Honoka plays coquettish, she knows exactly what she's doing. And that one moment that Zach leans over to 'steal' a kiss, Honoka's ready. And she reaches up, pulling him by the collar of his shirt so that he can't escape.
And quietly pulls herself up -into- him. She weighs so comparatively little she couldn't really hope to actually pull him -down-, without his implicit cooperation, but suffice to say, it won't be as quick an interaction as he might have initially thought. Her free hand finds its way to the sensitive hairs at the base of his neck, pulling him closely to her.
She again proves that she doesn't need her lips to speak into his mind. /So, where do I stand?/
Zach lets out a pleased growl, and shifts his wieght slightly, allowing him to not so much resist the pull, but to sort of assist it. Bringing Honoka up a bit so that he can bring her back down onto the couch, holding the kiss the entire time. Only when weights are settled on the couch, does Zach pull back, a pleased smile on his face.
"We're done standing," he rumbles, a certain hunger evident in the tone of voice.
Certainly, Honoka could say more, but there hardly seems to be a need for anything beyond an alluring smile. So long as the Marine doesn't wish to cause himself injury, the Fire Dancer is content to follow his lead.
Log created on 20:20:17 05/11/2015 by Honoka, and last modified on 19:46:51 05/13/2015.