Description: Home. It's where your family and friends are: a safe place. But when that sanctity is threatened...
The Twilight Star Circus has been making a lazy circuit around the eastern Japan. In years past the circus has focused on an exhibition of human talent, but since springtime the troupe has introduced a storyline-driven format, threading all of the acts together into a cohesive whole. It has been a bit of a challenge to the cast and crew, but after months of performing, it's safe to say that the experimental shift in format has been a success -- audience attendance numbers have never been higher.
The upsurge in business has also been an effective smokescreen for the side job that some of the circus members have: keeping tabs on Yakuza activity. The Syndicate has lured some of the more productive members away from what has long been a traditional Japanese institution, and in recent years the ranking Yakuza clans have been undergoing a factional dispute of sorts. Through a series of links which she's kept deliberately opaque and indirect, the woman named Honoka Kawamoto is the driving force behind the rift in the Yakuza clans.
It wouldn't be easy to draw the connection between the criminal network and the lycra-suited juggler as she walks through the circus ground; almost every below-board conversation has been shrouded in misdirection and doublespeak. And even when she is in need of making a personal visit with one of the gangs, she presents herself as an elite henchman, never the person directly in charge. Her face is different, younger: not the made-up disguise that makes her look ten years older. Her hair is highlighted with pink and allowed to hang freely, rather than jet black and pulled up into a bun. And her eyes are a natural shade of brown, rather than the icy blue of a foreigner.
But one thing is the same, and unchanging: the same overpowering psychic aura that animates the thoughts of anyone near her. It's not something she can shut off easily -- a song that plays, unceasingly. With enough exposure to the psion, people will begin to think as she thinks, and act as she acts. It's a large part of why she surrounds herself with so many people -- shelter.
And it is this shelter that allows her to stride with confidence through the darkened circus grounds, an hour after a performance, with no fear of her surroundings. The audience has gone home, and the few cast and crew members who are still awake are nestled safely in their own trailer. In Honoka's estimation, her own talents will be enough to subdue anyone gutsy enough to break through the security perimeter established by the dozen guards roaming about. She hums a song quietly to herself as twists a yo-yo through lazy, idle circuits with her right hand, her left toting a Igloo cooler full of fish as she returns to her trailer.
The moment the young juggler's hand touches the door to her trailer, something begins to change. At first it's barely unnoticable, but all the other noises across the circus's grounds begin to slowly trail away, as if being carried off with a breeze. Then the air begins to feel heavy and close, as if right before a storm.
It's all slow enough that it might even go unnoticed before the circus's secret lead manages to get inside, but the moment her feet are within the door, that all changes.
To a normal mind, what comes next would simply be the sensation of unease walking alone through dark streets or the weighty, tense sensation after eating something unpleasant. To the psionic mind, it is being shrouded within a menacing darkness. A darkness that feels not predatory, but gleefully sadistic.
And then the very world tears assunder within the trailer as darkness twists outward from a singular point, drawing back and away as reality itself bends to a greater will until the back of the trailer vanishes behind this dark rift.
All of this is mere preamble to the entrance of Lord Vega. The Warlord that sits atop Shadaloo's throne, the man that rides the saddle of the world, floats out of the darkness, thick arms crossed before his chest, and his cape lightly blowing in some impossible breeze.
With a metallic clink, his feet touch the floor and the moment is broken with the words of a god. "So this is what that insect claims as shelter in the face of overwhelming power." Blank, white eyes somehow stare directly through the juggler as the dictator's lips twist into the most unpleasant smile imaginable. "You should be grateful to receive such a guest."
The puppetmaster knows well before entering the trailer that something is wrong: her forehead knits in confusion, her knuckles turn white as they grip the handle of the cooler, her heart races. But the trailer is a place of respite, a shelter from the cold chill that tickles the bones of her spine.
Except when it's not, and the shelter is ripped in twain by the looming darkness. Not only is the American she'd expected to find in her trailer not there... but instead, malevolent and all-consuming despair.
Honoka steels herself, her breath blossoming into a cloud of ice crystals as she exhales slowly. The yo-yo snaps out again in one crisp motion, before entering a slow, ponderous orbit as the juggler finds herself easing against the nearest wall. It's a small, inadequate measure of security -- but grounding herself to the real may be the only way to brace herself against the unknown.
The young psion's control over her physical state is not ironclad though: her skin grows cold and clammy, and breathing becomes difficult as her throat becomes tense. Through narrowed eyes, she makes out the form presented before her. She questions the clues presented to her as reality -- but understands that full resistance will exhaust her before long.
So she accepts it as presented, nodding her head as the yo-yo circles about. Save for the uncontrollable signals of fear, the juggler presents as confident a facade as she's capable.
"If I'd known you were coming, I would have prepared a welcoming party." With a tight smile, she forces herself into a bow, knowing full well that obeisance may be the only way to really and -truly- find out what this sinister interloper may have to offer.
"You do me great honor, indeed. How can a humble performer such as myself be of interest to the... mighty... Lord Vega?"
She's seen him in Zach's dreams. There's no point in hiding things from a man who can clearly impose his presence wherever he damn well pleases.
The manner in which Lord Vega stands is a clear display of power; his body is built with the musculature of of a body-builder. Something about it almost screams "sculpted," were it not for the fact it seems built for obscene strength rather than any sort of artistic beauty. Somehow the dictator's bright red uniform manages to both cling to his muscles like a second skin.
And the warlord himself stands in the midst of this place of now defiled sanctuary as if there were not a single threat to him anywhere in this world. This is the posturing of a man who knows that he is like a god amongst mere insects, and takes some measure of twisted pleasure out of futile defiance... right up until it is obliterated for daring to nip at him.
"So, you are blessed enough to know the name of God. Given the despair that clutched at that worm's soul as he looked upon me, I had wondered if he would try to hide it all away once he was free." Still that unnatural smile pulls at Vega's face as his words fill the trailer. Pulled up to his full height, he closes in on performer to practically tower over her.
"Now I must simply know how much he has dared to tell you. The secrets her so desparately tried to hide away from me, shrouded in the cloak of self-delusion, praying his mind to be nestled here in this pathetic hideaway. Did he tell you only of me, or do you know about his other life?"
If it weren't for her captor's overpowering influence, the fluctuations in Honoka's aura would have the entire circus descending upon her trailer in aid. Her spirit is strong, the music of her soul a determined call to action -- a call that remains unanswered in the imprisoning confines of her defiled trailer.
And yet, she fixes her gaze steadfastly upon the hollow eyes of her jailer, her hand flicking the yo-yo about through its seemingly idle paces. She gains some measure of solace in the rhythmic motion; if reality were to fluctuate in any way, shape, or form, the motion of the juggling prop would likely reflect the shift, allowing her to gauge her responses accordingly. And, failing that, she still gains benefit from the reassuring motion -- one she's fallen back on many times in the past.
Honoka can sense that her knowledge seems to hold some intrinsic value to Vega. The fact that he's even bothering to speak tells that much -- is it simple politeness that makes him use crude words to ask the question, or does he have some -other- reason he doesn't just forcibly invade her mind as easily as he invaded her privacy?
Her shrewd reply: "Once I figured out that there -was- another life... yes." A faint smile. "He told me enough."
The juggler adds, after a moment of pause: "Our... counterparts, I suppose you could say, were not the most pleasant of people."
A moment is spared as she considers the Igloo cooler at her hand. Perhaps she should have set it down sooner. But there's some pretty good fish in there.
The great problem in dealing with those who are psionicly gifted is that it is a great deal more challenging to overwhelm a soul that is "awake" than it is one that sits unaware. It is why some of the warlord's desired toys have proven to be less than hoped for, and it is why Vega bothered to simply release Zach as part of a pathetic "escape" rather than render every scrap of the man's soul to find its truths.
Against the full power of Vega's Psycho Power, there is nothing that can stand, but the rigid will crumble rather than bend.
"Good," Vega notes as he looks down upon the lesser soul. "I offer you a rare kindess, a mercy beneath me. As insignificant as you are, you are still blessed enough that you can tell the measure of power that stands before you now. Your boy was crushed by the mere fraction of my power gifted to my minions, but if he dares to dream of interfering in my business, he will face me directly. If you wish to protect him, then all you must do is tell me what you know."
The dictator looms, standing as an insurmountable wall. "Are there others sent from this other world? Why did he come here?"
As the yo-yo swings around in lazy circles, its orbit changes suddenly, as the juggler's deft fingers interpose themselves in the path of its string. Coiling about her finger in a half-measure, the yo-yo finds a new path, as Honoka diverts it into a more interesting circuit: something to pose as interesting a challenge to her fingers as Vega is posing to her mental faculties.
To wit: Honoka can tell that the dictator is playing nice, and allowing her to maintain the illusion of sovereignty. The young puppetmaster is reminded of the difference between a request and a demand each and every time she speaks with an underling -- and the key to -keeping- underlings is to only rarely make a demand -seem- like such. If she'd had no value to Vega, there would be no use in playing this game of niceties, no use in offering this... 'mercy.'
Honoka finds it intriguing that he preambles his request for information with a threat towards Zach's life. Mercy, indeed -- and played in another direction, serendipity.
The yo-yo's path stutters. Fear alights across Honoka's features as her eyes go wide. "Y...you wouldn't," she stammers, lowering her eyes and taking a gulp of air. Her aura flickers with intensified fear. "He's... he told me what he thinks I need. He told me to... to be cautious of you." Her eyes flick away down to Vega's chest before snapping back up to those hollow eyes -- not wanting to leave him unobserved for more than just that one moment of indiscretion.
The yo-yo resumes its earlier course, stabilized anew. "Th-there are others who know. But it... it's not so much that they were -sent-. It's that it's just... "
The juggler interposes her fingers in the path once again, forming a cats cradle with the string as the yo-yo is snapped away -- then hangs limp. "Parallel timelines. What happens in one may be similar. He couldn't explain much."
Another moment passes, and the juggler nibbles upon her lower lip. "We... we trust one another." Something in her voice -- and indeed, in her aura -- suggests that 'trust' may be an inadequate term -- that perhaps she's downplaying the strength of the bond between herself and Zach.
Another timeline... perhaps all of it has something to do with whatever power that machine that Ultratech had toyed with was tapping into. At the very least it begins to sound to Vega as if it is unrelated to those other interlopers working for the would-be-conquere known to him as Shao Khan. The fool's agents had gone silent, perhaps showing that the other had wisely taken heed of Vega's warnings to stay away from the Warlord's world.
As it stood, many of Vega's rivals had seen fit to vanish rather than risk his power, and the Lord of Shadaloo was more than content to accept these circumstances. While he enjoyed demolishing pretenders, they had not offered him anything that might put him on the path to finding a body worthy of his Psycho Power, and thus they were merely distractions.
"So be it, if this other timeline wishes to invade further, then I may well enjoy testing my Power against another version of myself." There were no others as powerful as Lord Vega, he knew that well, so the thought of seeing where he stood against himself did fill him with some sick enjoyment.
But that distraction does not last long before the warlord's attention is refocused wholy on the young woman before him. "I have no illusion that you have bared the complete truth to me, but your willingness has proven satisfactory, and so I give you one last offer..."
"Swear fealty to me, and you will be gifted by my power. I don't care your reasons for interfering in the criminal dealings of some minor organizations, but with my organization they could be shattered completely." The offer lingers momentarily before Vega continues. "All I would demand of you is that you use whatever tools you have to prevent that meddlesome worm from interfering with me further. He is an annoyance, and I don't care to waste my time swatting insects."
Once again he focuses that inhuman smile down at the juggler. "I am overwhelming generous in this offer; you shall benefit from my power and get to keep your boy in the world of the living."
Honoka can sense that Vega is... concerned about the possibility of invasion. For anyone else she would ascribe the emotion to 'fear', but she doesn't believe that her warden has ever experienced that emotion before; at the very least he'd be too conceited to admit it. But at any rate, it'd be foolish to dissuade him from fear, or concern, of invasion from this other timeline -- one that she believes is set in stone, inaccessible and no longer of relevance; Honoka's true concerns lie only in the present and future of the realm she lives in.
So, instead, she allows herself to echo Vega's concern, pressing her lips together and nodding mutely.
Until he doubles down his attentions upon her. Her shoulders press against the thin wall of the trailer, the thin material sheathing her seeming woefully inadequate against the might of the Shadaloo dictator. She would gladly stammer out that a woman's feelings are not something to be so easily crystallized into words -- but it doesn't seem like Vega is much interested in excuses. Which means she has less lies to be caught within.
Demands of fealty. She'd known this day would come eventually, from the first time she'd ever fought Satsuki. She'd had nightmares about it, for a short time -- to think that with all she's accomplished in the world, that there would be one man -greater- than her at it. Even delving far into her family's history, Honoka had not found record of anyone as... impressive in the realms of psionic ability as Vega.
It's a tempting offer.
Tears form at the corners of her eyes at the thought of Zach getting 'swatted' "N-no. That's... it -is- generous... Just... don't hurt him, I'll..."
The memory of her fight with Satsuki is stabbing her in the temples right now. Or maybe that's just an aftereffect of Vega's interference, it's hard to be sure. "It's an offer, and I want to accept, but... I'm afraid." The yo-yos snap upwards, and as Honoka laces her fingers together, the string wraps around her pinkies, dangling the yo-yo freely beneath them.
"I kind of... 'broke' one of your Dolls. Like... like the one Zach faced, but Japanese." Honoka's eyes plead with Vega's as she continues: "... It... it was -easy-. I could read her like a book." Moistening her lips, she adds, "If... this is what it means to partake of your -power-, I'm not sure I would be of much use to you that way. Everything I do is..."
The yo-yo springs to life again, as Honoka brings her hands to her heart. "It... it might sound silly, and beneath you, but my will... my -everything-... comes from the heart. And this is why I fight. To keep me... and the people I love... safe."
She stands free from the wall again, clutching her hands before her. "I will do exactly as you ask and keep him from interfering with you."
The juggler draws in her breath, doing her best to keep from collapsing into a puddle of shattered emotions in front of the malevolent, creepy-smiling dictator.
Just one of the Dolls? Vega had already known full well about the difficulty Satsuki had faced, so this was merely a confirmation of what had happened. Besides all of that, there was no way that he was going to bother wasting his time attempting the Doll process on somebody whose Psycho Power potential had already manifested; he'd had enough of the failures following the initial test with that Korean girl.
But enough of all of this, allowing some mere girl to attempt to manipulate him with crocodile tears; he was Lord Vega, the most powerful being on the planet. His Psycho Power was so great that not even his own body, crafted in an attempt at perfection, would be able to survive if he unleased his full potential. An amateur could not sway his soul!
If the entrance of the dictator had been like being submerged in a waiting darkness, the sudden glow of violent Psycho Power around Vega's hand now was like the very core of one's soul being torn at, just being in its presence. With a surge of motion beyond belief for a body as bulky as the dictator's, Vega snares the juggler's toy out of midair, clenching it tightly in his glowing hand until licking flames of power vaporize the thread until just shy of Honoka's fingers. When his hand draws away, there is no sign that anything had existed there at all.
"I tire of your games, worm, you insult me with the mere idea that your power could hold any sway against true, pure Psycho Power!" His voice rattles the trailer, the smile vanishing into a look of pure viciousness. This is the man that could destroy an entire village for a minor insult, the man who sees murder as an inconvenience only because it is one fewer soul to worship at his greatness.
"I will grant you one last opportunity; either you will make good on your promises to restrain that insect's annoyance or all that you have built will vanish in the purity of my Psycho Power. You will see all that you care for demolished by perfection, and then you will be given the honor of joining them in annihilation!"
Once more the warlord's arms fold across his chest as his feet lift off from the trailer's floor. The madman's blank eyes remain locked on the juggler as his chest heaves with the laughter that will fill the Earth as it lays crushed beneath the boothill of power.
As he vanishes back through the portal from which he emerged, the essence of his purity lingers like clinging tendrils. It is a purity that makes the soul retch.
There are times where Honoka allows her body to do the talking for her -- the pure, natural responses that come about from the base human sensations of fear, anxiety, and so forth. Allowing herself to become immobilized with fear -- the typical tendency for folks threatened by someone as powerful as Vega.
If anything, Honoka is guilty of misleading by omission; she could easily have -volunteered- more information, but that just puts her in a worse position. Better instead for Vega's narcissism to fill in the blanks she leaves unaddressed and move on from there.
Seems like a great plan, right up until he takes the bait she's offering, and snatches the yo-yo from her very hands. From this point, she's not acting out the fear, the fear has actually consumed her. The trailer is lit in violet hues from the sudden flare of energy, trembling from within.
Knocks begin to pepper incessantly at the door as the intensity increases. The handle jiggles, but the trailer door does not yield -- not that Honoka has much time to think on that, pressed once again against the wall by her debilitating terror. She scrabbles backwards, trying to press herself further and further back into the wall as her eyes remain locked upon Vega's white pearlescent orbs, petrified...
And then, almost as soon as he arrived, he is once again gone.
Honoka lets gravity pull herself down along the wall. Her costume, charred from the Psycho-Powered flames, will need to go back to the staff tailor for repair or replacement. She thinks on that... and on whether or not Vega is still -sensing- her in some form. And how she's going to tell Zach.
The door starts to open. It's no longer locked, but Honoka stretches her leg out to the side, pinning the door from opening further.
The head of security, Sudo, relents on his attempt to open the door and asks, "What the hell happ-"
Honoka cuts him off: "Everything's fine now, I'll explain in a minute."
And the door clicks shut once again.
As Honoka changes out of her damaged costume, she considers all that's transgressed.
Vega knows about her. He knows how to reach her. And, somehow, against all her defensive maneuvers... he knows about the criminal network. Sure, he's stated that he doesn't care, but... still.
For the time, though, there are fish to prepare. Pulling on a t-shirt and baggy sweatpants, she cracks the door open just far enough to flash a smile at Sudo...
Only to find that there are about a dozen more circus crew waiting behind him to find out what's going on. She shoos them off with a gesture, playing it off as if she'd only been watching a loud horror movie. "Hey, y'all go back to bed! I'm fine, okay?!"
Once Sudo steps inside, she pulls the door shut again. With unease finally setting back in upon her face, she motions for Sudo to take a seat. There is, after all... much to discuss.
Log created on 17:07:59 11/14/2015 by Honoka, and last modified on 00:52:36 11/15/2015.