Description: Dreams are where the memories that matter most circulate through the subconscious, are sort themselves into neat little compartments, and integrate themselves into one's personality. So what better time to see what -really- makes a person tick...?
The dinner date with Honoka was... intense, to put it lightly. The food was good, and while the conversation was rocky it got itself worked out. After dinner? Well... There was both a lot to say, and not much to say at all. The food, the wine, the rest of the evening put Zach down hard.
The dreams were back. But not the same.
There was still fire and blood. Still a broken sword in his hand, bloodied from use. But he wasn't standing over a body this time. Instead, he was standing next to someone. Atheltic, but definitely feminine, and Zach could not readily identify her. The thing that sticks out to the psion is his position relative to her: slightly behind and slightly to the left of her. Like Marines, and other American soldiers, are trained to follow a ranking officer.
"This is different," he thinks.
The figure begins to step forward, into the flames. A casual, almost dismissive of her hand is enough to blast a path through said flames.
But Zach will be able to feel the pressure, pulling him forward, as she does it. It's not a chi blast -- but a pressure wave manifested entirely of psychic pressure.
This is a dream -- and yet, it feels vivid, real, the heat from the fire just as crisp and dangerous as a real flame.
The figure strides into the gap formerly occupied by flames just a moment before. Another press of her hand, and with the sound of stone, bark, and dirt crumbling aside, the path before her becomes even longer.
The figure does not turn back, but merely hesitates, turning her head so that the voice carries. The judgment in her voice is palpable.
"I can't do this alone."
Zach considers for a moment, glancing at the sword, then at the flames. He hesitates for a moment. He lets the sword fall. Shattered as it is, plus the fact that it is a sword, it would be useless here. Zach brings both hands towards the flames, pointing index and middle fingers at the fire, before alternating blasts from each hand.
"Then I'll help," is all he says. He's not sure what else /to/ say.
The section of wall gives way, crumbling. At some point there must have been trees involved in this facility, whatever it is, because rotten wood also is involved in the wreckage, tree rings plainly visible as the bursts quell flames and widen the path.
"Yes, it's all new," insists the 'leader' plainly, as she advances forward. Zach is putting forth way more effort into this motion than she: her gestures are casual, calm, and practiced. It's clear she -didn't- need the help to make as much of an opening, but that's something to think further on. The path clearing continues for a few more moments... until there is simply no more wall to clear.
Where there was once a three-foot-thick boundary wall, there is now a clear path, eight feet across.
And on the other side, a bunch of crouching figures. Some with mottled skin, some with clear skin. Some with stripes, and some with fur. But all of them have eyes -- very human eyes. And one stands up.
Her face is... hazy. Blurred, like someone didn't clean the camera lens in that spot before taking the picture. But the outfit she's wearing is a deep crimson. And her legs are -amazing-.
The only thing about the woman that isn't beautiful by some definition might be the four spidery legs sprouting from her back.
The 'leader' figure before Zach strides past the kneeling figures and the spider-legged woman. "We have much to do. And time is short."
Zach focuses on the spider-legged woman. She... Zach feels like he should know her from... where? His right hand drops to one side, flexes open, then closed as if holding something. He follows the leader, but he turns to walk backwards so that he can keep his eyes on the group of... strange people.
This is all happening kind of fast, and this leader is using a bit of pressure tactics to keep Zach moving, but...
"Of course," are the words that come out of his mouth. He frowns, thinking for a moment. "What is it we have to do?"
It feels like he should already know. But he doesn't.
The flames have been more or less contained by the wall -- there is a small chance that the flames themselves will overtake the path they've just made, but with the powers at their disposal, it's unlikely that it's of much concern to the leader.
She heard the question, but holds up one slender finger, as if suggesting the man silence himself.
Still the pair walks, into foggy darkness. The pair's footsteps are always distinct, as if lit from overhead, even without the need for a torch. But to see anything that hasn't been touched or treaded upon, or anything further than ten feet away from the pair, is impossible.
If Zach looks behind, he will see the spider-legged figure behind him. As well as the curvy young woman with long white hair. And the stocky man with wild black hair. And a number of performers with a mix of Korean, Japanese, and Ainu lineage. Their faces are all clearer than those of the spider-legged woman, and yet... unfamiliar, just the same.
Ten, fifteen... twenty seconds of walking. And then there is another wall.
The leader points up. And the sinuous woman with white hair throws up a grappling hook -- using it to pull up a wide sheet of netting.
The other followers begin to climb up it. The leader points upwards. "Lead, that's your assignment, we've explained it before. I've got my own work to do."
And then the leader walks into the darkness.
The woman says climb. He looks over the other followers, then back the way the woman left. He feels conflicted for a long moment. Part of him wants to follow her anyway. But that's not what she wants him to do.
The net. The top of the wall. The darkness. Zach's eyes flick between these three things two or three more times. Another decision point.
Nothing really for it. Orders are orders.
Zach climbs the netting with the ease of practice. But... Glenn shakes the thought off. /Climb/.
As Zach begins to climb up the netting, still more people begin to climb with him. Not the merry band of darkstalkers he'd seen first, not the merry band of people he's met and yet can't recall the names of at the moment. No. People he's -worked- with. In some cases, family. Derrick Kincaid. A local Japanese cook. His cousin, Takehiro. They're climbing up behind him, their faces are clearly visible.
And the leader, she's nowhere to be found.
The netting continues upwards. The fortress they're barging into was built with the intention of warding off people with spears and ladders -- the walls stretch upwards only a mere fifteen, twenty feet or so. It's an easy climb, especially with the not-quite-vertical rise.
And the other climbers wait at the top, not wanting to crest the top of the wall. That's Zach's job.
There is but one guard on duty. He cannot be seen. But he can be sensed.
He is oblivious, and twenty feet away. Approaching on a standard patrol sweep.
Zach waits, and slips up onto the wall once the guard has passed. He silently creeps up behind the man, and applies a sleeper hold. Zach bears the guard quietly to the floor as he knocks the person out. Three zip-ties later, and the unconscious sentry is effectively hog-tied.
Zach scans the area, and then waves the others up.
Somehow, Zach's acquaintances are the first to clear the wall on his mark, despite being the last to climb onto the net. It's not really making sense, but how much of this -does?-
The wide walkway of the fortress is more than spacious enough to accomodate the small militia that Zach is bringing along. But, one thing is changing slightly -- the further the team approaches the door, the less it looks like a Japanese castle, and more closely resembles a Western-style castle. The stone work becomes a bit more... accurate. Weathered, and yet, less-meticulously kept.
Screaming is heard from behind Zach -- on the floor below. The screaming of someone having their throat ripped out.
But more -directly- behind Zach is an almost -identical- sound: the spider-woman rending a hole through the throat of the unconscious guard. It wasn't necessary to kill him, was it...?
Wait. Yes. That -was- the mission.
The door stands before Zach. It's heavy and wooden, well-worn, with hinges painted black. Entry should not pose an issue, as it was never meant to withstand any more than the elements.
Less and less is starting to make sense.
Zach whirls on the spider woman, a very large handgun in his hand and a severely angry expression on his face. There was no /point/ in killing the man. Nothing personal, just a guy doing a job. The screams would get attention, which would be bad for the /rest/ of the mission.
The gun is pointed directly at the spider woman's head. This part of the mission was given to /him/ to lead. /His/ decision to kill the guard or to not kill the guard, not hers. He thumbs the hammer of the handgun back, and jams the barrel into the spider woman's head. A moment passes, and Zach brings the weapon away. That is the only warning the spider woman will get.
He walks up to the door, looking it over. Something... An installation this lightly guarded, with no locks? Would not really require a force of this size. Hell. Zach could probably have managed this on his own. Why the large gang?
The spider woman stands her ground, glaring back at Zach. The eyes are a dense red, cutting through the fog that surrounds her facial features, even now. But she listens to the authority -- respects it. She does not shy away from it -- because pulling away does not show the proper deference to said authority. The decision to kill -her- is, equally, his, after all.
While Zach stands before the door, pondering exactly what to do with it, the doorknob begins to turn suddenly.
And then Zach's sister Mare pushes open the door. Younger, more innocent -- fiery red hair, pulled back into a braid. And in one hand is clutched a Lightning Spangles doll.
The young woman laughs, and tilts her head up at Zach, her simple face just begging for him to express affection.
But right that moment, he should feel his leader stride behind him, walking down the pathway. "The mission." That door... it -was- the only door before, but now there are three more.
The leader is stepping past Zach, and she will not hesitate to open the second doorknob.
Zach frowns as he ruffles Mare's hair a bit. This... There is no /way/ Zach would have approved of bringing her along for something like this. He smiles briefly. "Kincaid," he says quietly. The large Englishman steps forward, and Zach nods towards his little sister, telling Kincaid to look out for her as the leader... /his/ leader enters the picture.
Zach moves quickly, placing his hand over hers. He shakes his head, and opens the door himself. He enters before she does; if there is something dangerous behind it, he'll bear the brunt before she will
Mare wasn't brought along on the mission. It wasn't a matter of approval. It wasn't a matter of something Zach wanted at all.
The leader frowns; the expression is barely visible, as the chin scarcely moves towards Zach. The leader is unfazed by the physical contact, but there's a distinct sense that this might not be the time for it.
The door opens. And Ayame is standing in the middle of a room, in her miko garb. Oddly, the entire room in which she is standing looks spartan, clean -- like a room transported from the Meian Jinja into the midst of the castle. And her staff...
It's extended towards Zach. On recognition of the features, the miko narrows her eyes and starts striding purposefully towards Zach. And the leader beside him.
"Get out of the way. My quarrel's not with you." The tone is crisp and clear, and brooks no disagreement.
But she is the mission target. And the leader of the mission is right beside Zach, having her hand held.
<< Zach, -complete- the -mission- >>
Zach steps forward, a gun and sword in his hand. Not a claymore, but a oddly style wakazashi. Soul fire races down the blade as Zach frowns at the young woman in front of him, and then at the young woman behind him. The gun is a Colt M45A1 Close Quarters Battle Pistol. A symbol of his new life, and a symbol of the life Ayame allowed him to remember.
Zach frowns, a tumult of conflicting emotions surrounding all of this. The scenery starts to vibrate on an almost mental level.
"I'm sure it's not," Zach says slowly, stepping between Ayame and the leader. "But I'm not going to let you hurt her, either," he informs as he raises the gun towards the miko.
The room shudders... and grows larger in the process. The door had been a simple entryway, but it's now large enough for the leader to stride in alongside Zach.
The crisp image of Ayame falters somewhat, her sharp features becoming more dreamlike and dissonant as she pivots the tip of the staff towards the mission leader. "Don't worry, Miss Ichijyo. You'll be taken care of."
A false smile flickers across the miko's face. "I'm sure my safety is your-"
With a flash of light, the bo is knocked aside out of the miko's hands. Another flash of light follows, and the miko takes a defensive step backwards, raising her wide-sleeved arms up before her face.
The third strike does not come with an accompanying flash, but Zach should be able to sense the surge of psychic power all the same, as it slams into the miko's stomach like the stock of a rifle. The dreamlike Ayame crumples, staggering backwards -- and the leader strides forward, grabbing her by the strawberry-blonde bangs, and lifting her face up.
The leader stands beside Ayame, holding her face up so that Zach can see. "You either take action, or you do not. You avoid the punishment, but not the crime."
Ayame's face falters -- though it's not in any recognizable sort of way. It's more like the face is -melting- in agony, as the wave of psychic oppression sweeps through the room. The leader's force... is unquestionable.
And yet her next command is crystal clear. "Derrick. Over the edge."
Mare's shriek is loud at first, but doppler-shifts as she's hurled over the edge of the castle parapets.
The force put out by the leader, it nearly drives Zach to his knees. It's enough to drive a man to surrender. To just give up.
The scream, that is what galvanizes Zach into action. It's not Ayame's scream that does it, but Mare's. Zach steps forward, swinging the pistol around and putting a round in each of the leader's legs. He strides forward, and drives the fist holding the short sword into the leader's face to seperate the leader from the miko.
A sharp kick to the stomach follows, and the leader finds Zach's pistol in her face. "Game's over," he says, and the scenery blurs.
Suddenly, the pair are in a stone room. No doors, no windows. No lights, but neither party has trouble seeing at all. Zach's face is a mask of rage. "Why?" Zach demands.
And yet, Ayame never left.
She's pacing around behind Zach, her staff tapping along the stone floor to punctuate each of her movements.
*clonk*The playing field has shifted, after all -- and the leader is the one on the defensive, the miko on the side of Zach.
"You -damned idiot-..." curses the leader, as blood begins to pool on the floor beneath her.
She resists looking up -- not until the barrel of the gun is such that it -forces- her to look up.
Honoka's face looks up pleadingly at Zach's, tears streaming from her eyes, staining the light makeup she'd put on for the special encounter. The face is distinct, and perfectly clear -- a memory from mere hours before. "It's not the -same- this time, I swear..."
Zach will -feel- the clonk of the staff, as it prods him from behind. And he will then feel a series of finger-presses, rapidly expanding outward from the point of contact.
They are way too numerous to be finger presses -- and it will become obvious as the suckers of a half-dozen purple tentacles reach out to wrap around Zach from behind.
"We aren't the same people you remember." It's not clear whether Honoka said this, or the figure now behind him.
Zach's already angry. He's about to get right up in Honoka's face. She had, ever so casually, ordered his sister /killed/. How is this any different from before? He'd ask, but the tentacles have him. He lets out a roar of sheer /fury/ as purple energy fires to life around Zach's frame. He pulls and struggles against the grip of this alien creature, seemingly to no avail.
"YOU THINK I DON'T KNOW THAT?" he roars as the flames around him intensify. He pulls and strains. He screams from pain, from anger, from anguish. "DON'T YOU THINK THAT I'VE WANTED TO BELIEVE THAT? DO YOU THINK THAT I HADN'T HOPED AND PRAYED AND WORRIED ABOUT THIS EVERY MINUTE?" The sword in Zach's hand shimmers, shifts, and morphs into Drynwyn. A tangible example of how things are different.
Zach rips his sword arm free, and with a series of looping slashes, the psion is freed and in a low crouch. His clothing is tattered, his skin ripped and burned and oozing blood as he stands and he strides toward Honoka again, the pistol raised and ready.
"*WHY?*" he hisses, spraying blood and spittle as he spits out the question.
Honoka remains submissive, staying as commanded to on the floor. Her legs are bleeding -- the legs that every day would send her bounding from one elevated platform to the next. Her elbows and forearms are tied behind her back, because that's a thing that happens when someone is prisoner and retaliation isn't exactly encourages.
But as the gun pulls away from her, her head droops. Her eyes cast downward as the swordplay frees Zach from his tentacular prison, amidst the splorch and gush of internal fluids being spattered across her face and dress. She doesn't even seem to mind it... all that much. Because she can tell that Zach is upset.
The shadowy miko behind him seems taken aback -- raising her staff defensively, but not really moving to advance. Her face is lit, but the features are still murky...
"You made it happen, Zach..." states Honoka as she looks sullenly at the floor before her, and the remains of the demonic tentacles. "-You- did. I'm... I'm right here. This is your doing."
The miko stands behind Zach, posting paper seals into the empty space before her as if it were a bulletin board. Blue will-o-wisps begin winking into existence around the room in menacing silence.
And then Daniel Little's voice can be heard from a back corner of the room. Bullets are being loaded into a revolver -- it's a distinctive sound. "A'ight, scuzzy. Lemme tell you how this is gonna down, dig? You're gonna turn yourself in... nice and easy... or I'm gonna have plenty of reasons to haul you in. 'Resisting arrest' looks really justifiable on paper."
Honoka cries, quite audibly, as she hangs her head. "I... I had to, Zach... he was threatening my -family-, just like... just like he did to yours..."
That... that is a motivation that Zach can understand. Some of the anger drains from his face. Then Zach hears Daniel speak. The rage comes back in force, and Zach brings his own pistol up. Violet fire sweeps along Zach's arm and into the weapon. "I'll handle it," he swears.
Zach fires the weapon once at Daniel, the bullet augmentmented by his fury as it slams into Daniel's body. There... is not much left.
Zach wakes up, lurching upright and breathing heavily as he does so.
Honoka tends to sleep on her side when she's with Zach-- and it's that way now. Her arm had been twined around his, but his sudden motion causes it to slide away, making a soft landing on the sheets beside him.
The performer is fully asleep, her breathing rhythmic and seems to have been only slightly disturbed by the motion. Her hair glistens in the dim light of the room, concealing much of her face, but one thing is clear all the same: she's experiencing some degree of pain, possibly anxiety or frustration, as her brow is furrowed, her lips slightly curled.
But... after a few moments, the tense features subside. And the breathing continues, its rhythm uninterrupted.
Zach looks down to Honoka, frowning slightly. That dream was... /vivid/. Vivid enough that he takes his phone, and sends a quick text to his kid sister. He sets the phone down, and gently smoothes out Honoka's hair before kissing her softly on the forehead.
He makes the decision, again, to love her before going back to sleep.
Log created on 22:52:38 02/06/2016 by Nagase, and last modified on 19:32:16 02/07/2016.