Description: Sometimes, a bear is just a bear.
The night had started out fun. Zach Glenn had returned to Japan from America after a tangle with an internationally wanted Darkstalker, and had gone on a date with his girlfriend Honoka Kawamoto. Clubbing, dancing, a little drinking, the usual for young and energetic adults.
Then things got... interesting. The couple had somehow stumbled onto the scene of a mass murder (by Zach's way of thinking) and met a Darkstalker. Against Zach's better judgement, the couple then helped this young woman flee the scene. There was a healthy dinner/breakfast session at Denny's a little later, after which Zach and Honoka returned to the circus and left Shira to fend for herself.
Honoka had proven to be... particularly ardently passionate that night, and for the most part Zach had reciprocated. The two were asleep for the time being.
That's when Zach's nightmare began. It was the same one he had been having since that Lightning Spangles debacle: Fire and blood everywhere, with Zach standing over a body with a broken and bloodied sword in hand. He could never identify the body, save that it was athletic and feminine. The sword would fall from his hands, and then Zach would wake up.
Once again, tonight would prove interesting.
Smoke chokes the lungs, the embers of charred wood filtering through the air. It should be tough to breathe, and yet there's something strange about that...
But then the wind picks up. The clouds of smoke begin to drift lazily off to Zach's right... or is that the left? After a few moments, the fluctuating breeze seems to take on a different sense entirely.
<< Where do you go from here, now that you've destroyed... everything? What do you do... first? >>
The presence does not appear to Zach's left. It has always -been- to Zach's left, a passive and unmoving observer, right up until the voice speaks directly into his mind. The skin is dark and the long alabaster hair is light -- a photographic negative of someone he should know, and yet, does not know at all. The outfit is a smoky, charcoal grey with a shimmering, ever-changing pattern upon it -- fully unnatural.
And behind the figure is a bear. How can you have missed the -bear- standing there, its cold black eyes focused upon Zach, its form shuddering with each breath.
The negative figure is unreadable. But the bear is dying. Of sickness? Of old age? It's hard to tell.
The sword rings out against stones at Zach's feet, clattering to rest. He coughs once, then twice, before pulling himself completely upright. He turns, slowly, to regard the woman. And the freaking bear. Strangely, the bear doesn't seem to be cause for concern. Or flight. Or fighting. Glenn blinks once, then twice.
"Guess it depends," Zach says slowly, somewhat numbly. Thinking straight... is proving to be a challenge here. This dream usually doesn't progress this far; it most certainly does not involve a bear. "On why I did it."
Zach's eyes narrow as he regards the bear. "What's wrong with you, big guy?"
The Ussuri brown bear winces, its ears folding back as the sword is dropped. It's not particularly in favor of loud sounds, but, being a bear, it's not particularly prone to -jumping- at said annoyances, either. It simply watches Zach, gauging his reactions.
And neither does the aloof figure, its negative eyes regarding Zach with a mixture of curiosity and superiority.
<< Why -did- you...? Is the need to prove yourself the victor more important to you than doing the right thing? >>
The figure takes two languid steps forward, keeping its dark-welled eyes locked upon Zach in the process. The figure -- only slightly more feminine than masculine -- answers for the bear.
<< The bear god is dying. There is little we can do for him now. >>
The hamster in Zach's brain is finally starting to get the wheel spinning, if slowly. He doesn't retreat from the woman, nor the bear. He splits his attention between the woman and the bear.
"Don't know the 'why' of it here," Zach answers after a long moment. "It's a moment in a vacuum. There's no context to define it. To suggest the next course of action." Zach frowns, with concern. "It'd probably help if I knew who the person was. But I don't."
Zach looks back to the bear. "Why is he dying?"
The figure stops. Its eyes focus intently upon Zach's face, scruitinizing his tone, his expression, his emotions. And his motivations, most of all.
<< You killed the person because that was your job. You are an assassin: a weapon of your betters. You are a keen blade, a perfect instrument of death and destruction. >>
The bear's mouth opens. But it speaks with the voice of the figure -- who is also moving her mouth at the same time.
<< And does that not bother you, Zach Glenn...? It clearly does not bother the people of this island nation you call... 'home.' >>
It is no mistake that the question on Zach's mind is, again, not answered. And yet, it was not ignored.
Zach is still frowning at this. "If it was my job, then the person was a threat to those around them. People who could not have protected themselves." Zach folds his arms across his chest, regarding the bear more than the figure. "It's a job that needs doing, and it's a job I can do. In terms of capability, I'm not even all that special in Japan given how many fighters and martial artists there are in this country."
Zach points at the bear. "So why is he dying?"
The figure's teeth are bared in response to Zach. She's leering... smiling. And, unlike the rest of the photographic negative, the teeth are ghostly and pale. << You are not special at all. I agree wholeheartedly in this. You do what anyone would do, given the time, the power, and the resources to do so. >>
The figure steps forward, looks down at the unknowable figure at its feet, its stark white hair fluttering in the breeze.
The bear speaks in the same voice, its mouth moving yet again. << Everything dies. And everything is reborn anew, as the sun rises anew each day. Do not trouble yourself with the here... and now... for everything will be reborn anew. >>
"And yet," Zach counters, "I was here. Your hypothetical anyone is not. There has to be a will to do it, too. Do us both a favor and spare me the superiority complex, lady." Zach's brain is getting back on-line apparently.
Zach then points at the bear, some frustration evident in both the gesture and the tone of his next statement. "And that goes for you, big guy. You're here, now, in my headspace. And you're dying. I'm even willing to bet that those facts are all related. Why. Are. You. Dying?" Thrice he ask and done? Probably not, but something about the bear's presence and status as a dying god(?) are somehow important to this whole scenario.
The figure's eyebrows knit together. The eyes grow darker -- and denser. More substantial, at any rate. The spine curls, the very -form- tenses up at the bristling arrogance of this... human.
The smoke cannot be sensed any more. The soot is no longer in the air -- it has been banished from the general vicinity of Zach. And for one fleeting moment, a glimmer of purple can be sensed in the midst of the raging orange and brown of the fires burning all around.
But one moment only.
"You insist on asking questions which don't need to be answered." The words no longer come into Zach's mind -- the figure attains a more stark resolution. The fires... no longer rage, as the winds still.
The bear speaks, in a distinctly different voice -- a much more baritone rumble. "You really need this spelled out for you...? I am a concept. A way of life. And I am dying, because every way of life extinguishes. Would you fight for a -concept- the same way you fight for a human?" The bear shakes its head slowly, the fleshy skin of its neck sloshing around in the process. "No one does. And others shall take my place."
The bear stares at Zach for a good, long moment. The figure does as well -- nudging its foot forward.
The landscape changes entirely. And the deceased body on the ground is gone -- as are the fires -- replaced utterly by a mountain lake, the water crisp and serene on a dim grey overcast day.
And the figure becomes more recognizable with that backdrop. No longer negative-colored, but the features are in the same place. She looks... like the woman Zach may have called Pirka.
"It's nice," Zach replies, steel sliding into his voice and stance as the scenery changes. "To be able to get straight answers from people who insist on approaching me in this venue. People fight for concepts all the time. History's rife with examples, and new fights for concepts both old and new happen every day."
Zach blinks twice at the woman in front of him, but fights the surprise of faint recognition back down as he takes a single step forward. "If the concept is something I /can/ fight for, I would," Zach finally says. He gestures at the woman. "I don't know if those ways are /my/ concept. Honestly, it doesn't resonate with me as much as it does with others I know. Those ways are not the ways I was raised in."
Zach maintains a wary stance, keeping both figures in his awareness. "But I think that in protecting some of the concepts I /do/ believe in, that I would be protecting those ways as well."
"It's nice," repeats the figure who resembles Pirka. "Nice to receive information which fits nicely into a little cubbyhole for you to tuck away, and ignore." The figure walks to the bear, running her hand along it, sifting her fingers through its fur. "It does not change the fact that the question need not be answered."
The bear speaks once again. "You always fight on the behalf of others, Zach Glenn. But do these people appreciate... your efforts? Do these people ask your help?"
"I'm all for worshipping and believing whatever you like, so long as it doesn't call for you to harm other people when you do it," Zach says quietly to the woman. He's not subdued, not denying anything uncomfortable. It's just that Zach believes in the concepts of life, liberty, and the persuit of happiness. These are concepts he can, has, and will continue to fight for. There is faith like bedrock in the statement.
He turns his attention back to the bear. "I don't know. The line of work I'm in... it's not really good to people who are in it for the 'thank yous'." Zach frowns at the second question.
"Maybe not me, specifically," he finally answers, that frown still in place. In some ways, the answer to that question matters far more than the first. "And everyone wants or needs help at some point."
The figure smiles. The bear, however, is the one who speaks, its deep voice devoid of judgment or emotion.
"What beliefs did the person who lay dead at your feet have?"
"Again, I don't know," Zach answers. "It's a situation in a vacuum. I don't know what leads up to that particular moment at all. The dream starts with me standing over the body, and ends before the sword hits the ground. Any answer I give would be informed by me reading into it, and what I read into it may not be accurate. It'd certainly be biased, given the situation."
Zach turns to the woman for once. He asks knowing full well that any answer she gives is going to be sassy at a minimum, certainly vague, and more than likely misdirecting. "You're the lady from that other dream. The one with the temple fire. Why is this," Zach gestures at the environment, "The only way you approach me at all?"
The woman is the one who speaks this time. "Again, with the silly questions. Listen to yourself: this is your headspace. This is your dream."
The bear's mouth opens wide, but it is not out of communication -- but rather a yawn, as it slowly closes its eyes.
The figure speaks again. "Let's say I am the person from the temple fire. The one you had slain. You preach the superiority of your upbringing, the magnanimity of your religion. And yet, you have slain the person you do not understand simply because she was doing something you -did- understand -- and found objectionable. Why not... talk? Why not listen? Why not learn, instead of simply acting on reflex?"
The bear recovers from its partial narcolepsy, head jerking up with a grunt. Drowsily, he looks over at Zach again with dull, glazed-over eyes.
Zach thinks about this. She's right about one thing: this is /his/ headspace. The scenery shifts before turning into a lounge, complete with large sofas, chairs, a stocked bar and more than enough room for a bear. Zach takes a seat on a bar stool as he thinks this over.
"Religion's not really the right word for it. I don't really think there's a 'Church of America' or anything like that," Zach mutters as he leans against the bar and waves towards the seating arrangements, "Have a seat if you want." Zach thinks some more.
"Well, if my actions in recent events are any indicator of behavioral pattern, the odds are good that I tried exactly that. Talk, I mean. Not one-hundred percent, not every time," The situation with Shira comes to mind. Lots of dead bodies, and a lone Darkstalker. Conclusions /had/ been jumped to. "But at least as often as I don't. Most of the situations that I /do/ skip straight to the fighting, it's because someone's already hurt or dead. Hell," he snorts, "I tried to /negotiate/ with Tessitore, and she had already killed one person, was in the process of killing someone else, and her people were trying to kidnap several more. If they /had/ let those people go, I'd have let them walk away."
The Ainu woman's appearance changes with the scenery. She looks down to find herself in a pinstriped pantsuit, with a blazer jacket and a bright purple scarf about her neck. Her complexion is clearer, her hair styled back... and her style now altogether resembles that of an American.
She frowns, slightly, at that. But takes a seat anyway.
"And yet, you keep reliving the scene of you killing a woman for burning down a temple. Guilt weighs heavily upon you despite doing the thing that everyone -- myself, and my ursine friend included -- considers to be the 'right thing' to do."
The woman looks at the glass that slides her way. The liquid is gray -- or rather, the color is not clearly defined. "What would you suggest for a drink, Zach Glenn...?"
The bear seems to have a Uncle Sam top hat on. He doesn't seem perturbed by it, but he does stand up on his massive hind legs, and lean upon the bar. In front of the bear, as well, is a colorless drink.
"Are you saying you're the woman I keep finding dead at my feet," Zach asks. "Because that doesn't fit either." The bear gets water. Zach gets a glass rum and coke, while the woman's cup wavers from glass to painted wood and filled with sake. There are sticks on a tray on the bar in front of the woman.
"Besides, I can't tell if it's a temple in the recurring dream. It might be a government building or an arena or any number of things. The only things I take from the scenery are blood and fire." Zach takes a pull of his drink. "I don't /like/ killing. Not for any reason. It's a very /final/ thing to take a life, for everyone involved. The guilt thing makes no sense either. I have killed people before, but those were both men. In both of those situations, I regret having to do it, but I'd do it again if given a chance."
The Ainu woman shakes her head. "... You're confusing yourself, I said nothing of the sort." She looks down at the sake, nodding in approval, and takes a sip. Swishing it about in her mouth, she gives another approving nod, and then swallows.
The bear frowns at his water, knocking it over. The clear liquid splashes all across the bar, but stays on the bar due to the lip running around its edge.
"You say the guilt thing doesn't make sense, and yet, you're here having a drink with me... funny how that works."
She raises her cup, peering over at it. "Call it a stretch, but I think you're looking for approval. But who do you want to approve of your actions? Who are you trying to impress...?" She gives a small smirk, at that.
"You're a guest, albiet an uninvited one. Or part of my own mind," Zach returns. "Either way, I've got a certain responsibilty to not be a jerk. Actually, more of one in the second case." Zach regards the bear with a frown. A variety of drinks, ranging from non alcoholic fruit juices to milk to sake served in the same way as the woman's appears in front of the bear. The fact that the bear rejected the water at all suggest that the big guy is not a native part of Zach's mind.
"It was easier," Zach says quietly to the woman, "When I was still in the Corps. Follow orders. Accomplish the mission. So long as my orders weren't to, say, assassinate the President or massacre a ton of civilians, then there wasn't a problem." Another swig of the drink. "Now, though? I'm operating extra-legally. Sometimes, I have to do things that are against the law. At the end of the day, I'm still trying to do the right thing... but the lines get a little blurry sometimes."
As the bear reaches for the sake, taking a sip, the woman continues, "No one's stopping you from being a jerk but you. Because being a jerk is the wrong thing to do, you already know that. That line, that's not blurry. It's crystal clear, like this glass... was, a moment ago."
She shakes her head. "You're fine when someone else calls the shot. You can sleep nice and easy then. But now...? Now that you're all on your own, a free agent of an organization with a less hierarchial structure... it's tough, isn't it?"
The Ainu woman smiles, a light laugh to her voice. "But now, you're on your own -- a leader. And yet... you still answer to someone...?" She sounds unsure. The bear sure doesn't know. "But anyway, you call the shots. You're -fine- saying that... people are free to believe whatever they like. But when it comes down to it... -You- decide whether people live..."
Without any real warning, the figure raises her hand to Zach's head with what seems to be two fingers extended. But when he shifts his focus to stare at those two fingers, he will find that it is a Colt M45A1 Close Quarters Battle Pistol.
The bear's head is lolling about. It is unlikely to be of any particular assistance in this sudden dilemma. Way to get the bear drunk, Zach.
Which happens to be Zach's favorite type of pistol. The woman is not a part of Zach's mind; she would have known about which part of what hierarchy Zach is a member of. The problem with /this/ particular pistol is that it's aimed at his head.
"Not something I am comfortable with," Zach says as much about the supposed authority as about the pistol aimed at his head. He /knows/, instinctively, that the weapon is loaded. That it could literally kill him. He acts, decisively.
"Conversation's over," he finally says, and with an effort of will, kicks both the woman and the bear out of his mind as he wakes up. He doesn't sit up, not right away. It takes a moment to get his bearings.
It won't take Zach long at all to get his bearings.... because one of Honoka's stuffed animals fell on top of him during his dream. The nose of the bear, in particular, is right by his cheek. Before he fell asleep, the bear was on a small shelf over his head.
Deep asleep beside him, Honoka seems perfectly content to have both her arms wrapped about one of his. If there's any conversation going on, it's between him and the stuffed animal.
Zach takes the bear with his free hand. "Some help /you/ were," Zach mutters quietly before putting the bear back on its shelf. He looks over at Honoka with concern, and decides to let it go. There's nothing he can put his finger on, nothing factual to place at anyone's feet. Just a feeling.
Ah well. Nothing for it but to go back to sleep. Hopefully it will be dreamless.
Log created on 22:13:32 01/16/2016 by Honoka, and last modified on 02:55:26 01/17/2016.