Description: The Masked Man of the Twilight Star Circus Team has a message for Ken Masters. The delivery of the message does not go unnotced, however.
The first official round of the King of Fighters is underway. The Twilight Star team, despite Las Vegas odds to the contrary, gave an excellent showing against Team USA. Things were slowing down a bit, the stage and seating area being cleaned up and closed down while both teams prepare to depart. Team USA is waiting to find out who their next opponent will be while the Twilight Star crew is heading back to Japan.
The man known as Rhydderch had managed to get through Ken's security detail mostly by asking, but occassionally through a bit of stealth. There were people he did /not/ want hearing about this meeting if it could be helped. There is a knock on the door of Ken Masters' dressing room. "Mister Masters?" inquires the security person, "There is a... Rhydderch, here to see you? He's a member of the Twilight Star team, and he says it's important that you speak to him."
Ken's dressing room is actually one of those multi-million dollar RVs, partway to a bus, albeit converted for posh comfort. Ken's security detail isn't particularly fierce: most anything that wants to threaten Ken Masters is going to rip guards to shit, and that's just not his ideal situation. Plus, he's only very rarely been reminded he might /need/ extra muscle. It also helps that when Rhydderch -does- make contact, he's basically rushed right to that luxury ride; for some reason or another the staff seem pretty sure Ken will want to see not-Zach.
After the polite check to see if Mr. Masters is actually inclined to accept company right this minute, not-Zach is shown into the sleekly futuristic motor coach, revealing an interior dominated by white leather and dark, smoothly finished cherrywood accents, with a floor of finely grained granite below the lounge and the small sparring circle Zach's led through to get there. Pouring himself a drink from a bottle of well-aged single malt whiskey with a label entirely in kanji, Ken's first greeting to his new guest is to lift that bottle up and display it with a jaunty little shake, a universal signal for 'Want a drink?!'
Regardless whether said guest partakes or not, the next step is the same: Masters plugs the bottle and sets it back on the well-appointed bar at the lounge's edge, and wanders to the couch, dropping in with a leisurely grace and draping one arm over the back as he first gestures for the other fighter to have a seat wherever he likes, and then sips. "Hell of a show your partners put on. You should all be proud." The good sportsmanship is something he apparently keeps up off camera, which is always a plus. In fact, it's the first thing out of his mouth-- a priority.
Ryhdderch takes in the scenery with a glance, and Ken may or may not recognize the tell-tale signs of tension in man, as well as signs that he is tightly controlling said tension. He smiles a bit, genuinely, and nods once to the offer of alcohol. Taking a seat at the bar and sliding his glass in front of him, the man takes a centering breath, and holds the glass up to him in a gesture reminscent of a salute.
"Thank you," he says. "We worked hard for this tournament." Rhydderch takes a short sip, and pauses before taking another. "Your partner did well for herself, as well. I think she'll go far with a good teacher." Another sip, and a decision point formulating. "And thank you for seeing me," he adds. "There's something I needed to talk to you about, and there isn't a lot of time."
Returning the salute easily, there's as much an absence of noteworthy tension in Ken's form as it's present in Rhydderch's. There is a subtle glitch to his movement here or there as he avoids straining the (very) sore parts, though. The wound on his face has been cleaned up and bandaged only a little, held together with an adhesive bow-- he's not the easiest patient. Masters is more than happy to drink to the Twilight Star, and working hard for the King of Fighters. ... at least once he realized it was happening.
The fine liquor is more flavorful than the norm, but also smooth... urging one to savor the flavor, instead of wincing and getting past it. Granted, the cheap stuff 'works' just as well. "Hell of a show." Ken reiterates, this time directing the sentiment towards agreement regarding his teammate. He nods in firm affirmation, considering not-Zach's other words a moment, "Maybe when she's ready." A touch of Gouken's lessons trickling through in Ken's perspective.
"One major chip on her shoulder, not like it's hard to understand, though. Grow up fighting in Metro, seeing the violence there? Don't think she had a chance at the fundamentals, really." And that, at the least, he can give her-- even while training himself, those world-class trainers and facilities have been available to Scratch. It's one leg up a very rough climb, granted. Ken stops waxing philosophical after only a moment (it's possible he had a drink or two before Rhydderch got here), and instead upnods to his guest in prompting, "Shoot."
Ryhdderch nods in agreement; Ken's assessment of Scratch's capabilities is pretty much in line with his own. There's a slight frown when Metro City comes up. It's likely that city will always be a source of potent memories for the masked fighter. He takes a deep-breath and continues on.
"The mayor of Thunderfoot Pueblo," he says finally, carefully, "Has taken an interest in you. I would advise you to take extreme caution around the man. He is working for a very dangerous person."
If Ken notices the frown, the tension, the very serious demeanor exhibited by his guest who has apparently come to discuss very serious business? It doesn't really reflect on Masters, though that isn't to say the Blonde Battler isn't paying attention. "Really?" There's more than a trace of incredulity in the tone-- if Ken were more attuned to the malevolent forces instead of the positive spirituality of the world, if he weren't so tapped in to the fervor of the crowd at the time, maybe he would have noticed something sinister about the mayor.
If he had just accepted the invitation to speak with the man, it's also likely that would have creeped the young champion out. Hearing it first from another warrior's lips, though, it just seems odd and unexpected. Ken pauses a moment, then adds, "Maybe I shouldn't blow him off after all, then." Concerned, tense stranger: That man who wants to meet with you is dangerous, and linked to even more dangerous people. Ken: Oh well I should probably go there then!
... it's not a cowardly lifestyle, at least? "Who is this 'person'?"
Rhydderch takes another swig of the whiskey, appreciating it as it goes down. "His name is Vega," Rhydderch says carefully. "He runs an international organization called Shadaloo. They specialize in pretty much any criminal enterprise you can think of. He wants to rule the world. He claims he is doing this to protect the world from things like what happened to Metro City, but that's a lie he's trying to sell."
Zach takes a moment to collect his thoughts. "Have you heard from your friend Ryu lately?" he asks simply.
"An international criminal organization, you say?" It's not the sort of thing one normally echoes unless out of concern, but it doesn't seem to be sudden hesitation that's coloring Ken's curiousity. It's more a sense of deja vu. Last year, a woman named Chun-Li came to him seeking information on the known alias of the fighter actually called Cammy-- it's a little hazy, he may or may not have been indulging a bit heavily that day. Not the pinnacle of moderation that he is, now.
"More generalists, then. You can't specialize in /everything/." Ken observes, apropros of nothing, savoring a sip of the fine not-scotch before shaking his head, a little sadly, "Not for awhile." Too long. "Figured he was off punching waterfalls." It's a little metaphorical, a little bit literal, and just a touch of the melody filters into the close lyrical match.
Honoka had been resting. Rhydderch had already done what he could to stabilize both the Ainu woman and their half-Korean teammate, but now...
Now she was awake again, sitting up in the trailer rented for their use here in Pueblo Thunderfoot.
And Rhydderch was nowhere to be found.
He may be able to sense that she's awake. But she listens for a while without saying anything. Whenever a lull in conversation occurs:
<< ... Zach? Where... where are you...? >>
"You can if you have enough of the right people. He does. If he can't do something himself, he'll get someone who can, and he has ways of making people see things his way," Rhydderch says. Then Ken says not only that he has not heard from Ryu, but that this is not an uncommon thing.
"Then I might be jumping at shadows," the masked man says. "But I can tell you that Ryu got into a fight with Vega recently." He pauses for a moment, as if thinking about something.
<< I'm talking to Ken Masters. >>
Ken doesn't bother contesting a point that he was only contesting rather tangentially in the first place, instead staying on the more serious topic at hand. "Like, threats? Blackmail?" That part doesn't concern Ken so much. At least, not as it related to Ryu; no one can intimidate Ryu. "Or... ?" Masters isn't exactly well versed in the myriad of forces at play in the world, and the myriad beings that wield them-- but he knows they're out there. He saw a demon in human form, brother's form, cut down his teacher with unfathomable power, for one thing-- a man doesn't forget that.
Ryu might be able to handle a remarkable amount of trouble, but he's also willing to bite off a good chunk more than that, so there's a substantial dark storm brewing on Ken's face when he asks, "Do you know where? ... or how it ended?" There's a lot of questions, just then-- Ken tries to limit it. "Who saw it happen?"
<< Really. >> There is a definite pause, and a downturn to her mood - an urgency that Rhydderch would be able to pick up on. << Leave. Company's coming your way right now. >>
She doesn't think she needs to explain further.
Rhydderch tenses up a second before Ken starts asking questions, before bolting down the remainder of whiskey in his glass. He then stands up abruptly, his gaze firmly on the door. "I need to leave," he says quickly. "Right now."
Thinking quickly, Rhydderch reaches into a pocket inside his vest, pulling out a business card to hand to Ken. "We can finish this talk later."
With that, Rhydderch heads out the door quickly, unless Ken does something physical to stop him.
<< Heading out now. >>
Ken takes the card and squints at it, then up at Rhydderch-- for a moment, Masters' frame tenses and it looks like he might indeed intercede to keep the Twilight Star fighter around for some answers. He definitely considers it. Something stalls his hand, though, deciding as much on impulse as stopping the guy would be, to trust the stranger. "Better believe we will."
It's a rather unusual turn to the day, and suddenly Ken is worried about his vagabond battle brother. The door to the RV hasn't even shut behind not-Zach before Ken's flipped a handset into his grasp and started a text to his assistant to schedule a sitdown with the mayor of this podunk town, after all. Politics, sigh-- the things he does for love.
Rhydderch makes his way back to the Twilight Star lodgings with a quickness suggestive of purpose. It does not take long for the masked man to arrive at Honoka's quarters, and he does not hesitate to knock on the door. Zach Glenn would have just walked in on his girlfriend, Rhydderch observes some forms of courtesy to his team captain and nominal employer.
Honoka will no doubt pick up on the man steeling himself. He knew that what he was doing could cause some trouble, but he also knew he could not /not/ have done something on the matter. And Zach had told Honoka that such situations might arise.
There may have been someone approaching the area set aside for Ken Masters, but if there was, it would have posed no navigational complexity for Rhydderch. All the same, back inside the travel trailer set aside for the Twilight Star juggler, Honoka is reclined on a fold-out cot, allowing her joints and bones to recover from the buffet of injuries she was treated to in the recent battle.
Her eyes had been closed when the kncok on the door was heard. They are not now.
"Come in," answers Honoka, knowing exactly who it is. "And close the door behind you."
She is not happy. "Ken. Masters." She lets the proper names hang in the air for a moment, before following up with mild frustrating in her voice, tempered by both the need to remain civil and by copious dosage of painkillers. "Seems an... odd choice for you to go visit...?"
Ryhdderch enters, closes the door, checks the lock, then removes his mask. He looks at it for a long, almost contemplative, moment before setting it on an end table. He looks at Honoka, more than a bit tired, and a just a bit flushed. "Ken Masters," he affirms, not ready to back down just yet.
"You were in the fight," he says after a moment, as if needing that moment to put the thought together properly. "You weren't watching it. The mayor's Vega's man, and he only had eyes for Masters. The only thing I did was warn the man, I offered no help." He pauses for a moment. "I didn't even offer him the sword." This is said partly seriously, partly as maybe some kind of joke if one knew the story of Rhydderch.
"If I could have, I would have offered to stay in Japan after the venue was announced. But that would have been noticed, and it would have broken character." No trace of anything in that last statement. No scorn, no anger, no regret. Just facts.
Honoka looks back at the mask. She knows what it signifies -- that it will help him present his true face, not just literally but also figuratively.
Honoka, for her part, hasn't really changed from when she was communicating psychically with her boyfriend a few minutes ago. She's kind of ticked. And... scared. "Look, I don't care if the mayor's got a thing for Ken, or -what-. He's a handsome guy, and I'm not judgin'!"
She stares back at Zach as he explains what he did, and why he was over there. "You warned him of -what-, per se? You see, you're already putting us at risk. Not just me, not just you, but -both- our families. Everyone in the circus, everyone back in Chez Glenn depends on us not giving a megalomaniacal dictator reason to think that we're putting one over on him. Like you said -- I -wasn't- watching him. I can't watch everyone. And =you= weren't watching him when you were in the room with Ken."
She pauses. "Getting =sloshed= with Ken. How much did you tell him about the other Ken? The other Vega? 'cause, remember -- that's what Mister Chin's scared about, Zach..."
Her words fly out quickly, without reservation. Rapid-fire, and heartfelt. Her heart is racing, and it has very little to do with the actual combat she was just involved in.
"I may have underestimated the one drink that I had," Zach admits. His speech is still fine, and he's still in control of his volume. It seems more like the alcohol is just now hitting him. "I probably could have handled it if my stomach weren't completely empty after patching up two people."
Zach frowns a bit. "I don't exactly go talking to anyone and everyone about that other set of memories. I didn't tell him anything about that," he says in a way that suggests that Honoka should already be aware of that fact. "I told him the mayor works for a dangerous person." Zach frowns as he mentally plays that conversation back. "And I think he already /knew/ about Vega, from the way he reacted to the name," he finally says with some certainty.
Zach takes another deep breath, and heads to grab a glass of water. "He and Ryu were practically brothers, and that didn't change," he says. There is a jumble of emotions there. "If something had happened to Mare, I'd want to know about it," he says in a low tone before taking a large gulp of the water.
Honoka stares back at Zach. Nostrils flaring, the Twilight Star juggler is showing a heightened sense of agitation -- and it's only by observing Zach's cooled responses that she even really -notices- that.
"Okay. Look. =I'm= a little ticked off right now, but like... Vega is looking for a reason. I've met him, I've stood in his presence, and every single cell in my body is paranoid that he is just going to obliterate us. And everyone we care for."
She closes her eyes -- not that it means that she's any less able to sense what's going on in the room. "I... trust you, Zach." Her tone becomes calmer, more controlled -- though her body is still as tense as ever. "It's not that I don't. It's that I don't trust -Vega- to take you at face value when he decides to wreck every last one of us."
She opens her eyes again, focusing intently upon Zach's. "You felt something there. Something about Ken and Ryu? Or something about Mare..."
Zach sets his glass down carefully. He's not looking for a fight, and he's not giving one, either. He thinks about what has been said, and what was asked. "I felt a /lot/ of somethings there," he finally says. "Empathy for Ken. Frustration at this whole situation. Fear for what I might have set in motion. Concern for what Chin McButtface might want with Ken, given that Ryu has already faced Vega, and noone seems to know what happened to Ryu after that. Regret for what I am putting you through right now. All of that mixed with a general discomfort at what my life is right now." Which might explain why he wanted the mask and the costume for the tournament.
Zach's stomach lets out a fairly ferocious grumble. He blinks in surprise at that. "Being as hungry as I am probably doesn't help any of it," he admits, the flush deepening with embarrassment.
Honoka listens carefully to Zach. While he is wearing a mask, she knows that he can't turn his alternate identity on and off like a switch. Not as well as the performer with years of experience can, anyway.
She bridges the two topics. "And as long as you're playing a persona, it's easier to focus on the here and now, without having to concern yourself with everything else." She nods quietly, with a smidge more compassion in her faint smile than she had been expressing moments prior.
"Look, I know you've got to be starving. I would've figured you'd -eaten- by now though. She reaches for the phone near the cot, holding it up as a suggestion. "I can order something. Or we can go... get something, I guess...?" Honoka probably -does- need to lie down for a moment, but the thought of trying to continue a conversation with Zach while he's hungry is... well, she doesn't expect much good to come from it.
Zach looks up at Honoka with more than a bit of concern for her, in the immediate sense. "Order out," he says quickly as he grabs the mask to put it in easy reach. "You still need to rest. Patching both you and Oboro up was a stretch for me," he admits. "I couldn't help the both of you as well as I could if it were just one of you, but..." Zach glances at the door. "I didn't want the medical staff here having anything to do with you two, so I didn't have much of an option."
See? Who said Zach could not exercise paranoia?
"Well, it's good that we had Scratch and Ken as opponents, compared with some of the other KOF battles, heh..." There are more than enough Twilight Star crew members helping the team run logistics, even as the team venture seems to be winding down after the close finish didn't end in their favor.
Honoka taps out a quick text to one of her crew members, and explains helpfully, "I asked Chie to get a whoooole lot of food, heh. Guessing it'll be on the way ASAP."
She eases herself up along the cot, propping herself up with her elbows. "You did a great job, though -- I can tell it won't be long before I'm out flipping around again. You're my favoritest nurse ever." She winks back with a broad smile.
Humming softly, she asks, "So... how's the persona working out for you? I mean, does it -let- you separate things more easily in your mind?"
Zach grabs both the mask and the glass of water, before grabbing a chair next to Honoka. He sips at the water, while looking at the mask thoughtfully. "A bit," he admits. "I mean, with this, it's nothing but the fight in front of me." He glances at Honoka.
"Do you know the story of Rhydderch?" he asks.
Honoka shakes her head slowly. "I... no. You might've told me at some point, but I don't remember my search really. He's like... some old king, was it?"
"He was a king," Zach says with a faint smile, his eyes returning to the mask. "He was also one of the people who carried Drynwyn. He's probably the most famous one, actually. The legends say he offered the sword to anyone who asked for it, but everyone knew the sword would judge the worthiness of the person holding it. So not too many people asked, fearing what they would learn." Zach lets out a quiet snort of breath.
"I wonder if he didn't want the job either, sometimes," he says after a moment.
"I should hope so," admits Honoka with a world-weary smile. "Bad kings enjoy the power and prestige. The best and most beloved kings of all question themselves with each decision, as they carry the heaviest burdens."
Honoka turns onto one elbow, stretching out her body all the way down to her toes for a few moments. Pain creases her forehead for a moment, but the psion beside her ought to know it was a pain she inflicted upon herself, willfully.
She brings one hand up, sweeping her long bangs out of her eyes. "So he's a good choice for you. I mean, to wield a sword like..." Her voice falters for a moment, as she vocalizes the name clearly: "/Dyrnwyn/, without facing judgment, that proves his character is strong. But by virtue of it being a sword and not a scepter, that suggests that he acts confidently and decisively, relying on his intuition to tell him the right course of action. His regrets... minimal, because he acts entirely on sound and practiced intent."
She laughs afterwards. "Maybe I'm reading a bit too much into it, though...?"
Zach sideglances at Honoka. "More into it than I did at first," he admits. "The story had me pretty much at the part where he was said to offer the sword to those who asked. It... kind of spoke to me." He looks back to the mask before setting it down almost reverently. Then he drains his glass of water.
"The job is a hard one," he says finally. "It's one that I think I am good at, most of the time. And it definitely needs doing." He takes a deep breath. "Sometimes it's just... It's hard to tell where the lines are sometimes, or where I am in relation to those lines. This was a good break from that."
"I think it should be more than just a break."
Honoka doesn't flinch when she says this, nor does she give any of the softening gestures or inflections that would accompany a joke. "You are good at it, and when you're serious, and dedicated to your task, you are nigh unstoppable. It might give you a bit ... less time to think, sure, but in its own way, isn't it a little conceited to think that you're the only one who can bear the weight of the whole world on your shoulders? Some times you just have to bear the weight of your own house, or your own nation."
Honoka sifts her fingers through her hair again. As soon as the hand passes, she's wearing a faint smile. Perhaps a layperson would take this as a sign that she was joking. It'd be tougher for a psion to come to the same conclusion, as her mood has not changed in the slightest.
Zach's mindful of Honoka's words, actions, and (if not the intentions) then certainly the emotions behind them. He'd put money that she's not joking. And he honestly considers them for a while. "That..." Zach frowns a bit. "It's been recognized for a while that we're not entirely responsible for the whole world. At first it was because it was really hard to get anywhere outside of the United Kingdom. Then later because heck, the world's a big place." Zach then turns to look at Honoka. "But that never meant that the work shouldn't be done, or that we should wait for someone else to do it."
Zach leans back in his seat, his hands folded over his stomach. "But I think you're not wrong, either."
Zach's resistant. It's to be expected -- Honoka had welcomed him to the room with a tortilla of worry and concern mixed with more than a couple dashes of accusation. She listens all the same though, with tempered concern upon her face as she... nods at the inevitable conclusion.
"You thought it was the right thing to do, to warn Ken." It's stated for her own benefit as much as Zach's; a reminder of what brought this entire topic up. And perhaps give him food for thought.
Is that a twinge of jealousy, though -- that he chose informing someone who could be considered a perfect stranger, rather than continuing to protect her? Honoka finds her eyes casting downward. And after a moment, she slips back onto her back, folding her hands behind her head with something approaching resignation on her face. Perhaps she didn't want to talk about that any more.
"The mask worked out well for you, I think. Less... confusion. More focus."
(Editors Note: Formatting goes right out the window because someone forgot to restart the log.)
Zach takes a deep breath as he feels the pang of jealousy, wincing a bit as he does so. The decision to talk to Ken was not done coldly, not done out of callous consideration. The idea that he would stand by and protect Honoka and her people if anything came of this, while absolutely true, would also smack of rationalization after the fact. Zach knows it, and so would Honoka.
He looks down at his hands, which unconsciously flex open as if holding something. It may or may not remind Honoka of the mask that sits beside Zach. "Like I said," he says again, "There was only the fight in front of me. That's an easy thing to focus on."
Honoka can tell that Zach is aware of the ramifications of his decision -- really, telling him her viewpoint is all she had intended. She doesn't want an -apology- for leaving her alone, per se. (Though it might be appreciated). But... she is glad that he was more willing to take action, even if it wasn't exactly the action she wanted. It comes with the mask; she understands that.
She rolls onto her elbow, cradling her chin with her palm. "I /do/ adore how you pamper me and treat me like royalty outside of a fight, but seeing how you were in the ring, with that mask on -- when I -wasn't- getting beaten down -- was... something else entirely."
Her heartbeat accelerates with the memory -- Rhydderch moving faster and faster to complement the attacks of Howard Rust, Jr. It was... pretty invigorating, and it should have shown in her appearance on the camera shortly afterhe end of the fight.
"Like a wild beast unleashed -- primal and raw." Her cheeks turn a fair shade of pink as she smiles back at the blonde fighter, nodding quietly. "I may be frustrated with the choices you make sometime, but I -do- like the change. It suits you. There's plenty of room for a ferocious tiger who acts first and thinks second."
She continues with an enticing smile for a moment, before adding, "... Shame I'm under doctor's orders to take things easy for a bit, though."
Zach blushes a bit at Honoka's last statement. It has nothing to do with the alcohol, or the need for food. "I, uh," Zach says after a moment, unable to scrape together the right words. Instead, he stands up, and walks over to Honoka, before kissing her lightly on the forehead. "There's a balance that can be struck. I'm still looking to find it," he finally says.
He calmly reaches for the mask, putting it back on and checking the straps. A half second after he does so, there is a knock at the door. Rhydderch eases the door open slightly, his stance one of relaxed caution, before nodding once and murmuring a word of thanks. He then pulls the cart in, closes the door, and removes the mask again. Chie may know who is behind the mask, but there could have been others watching. He pulls the first lid off, revealing a salmon dish. He grins faintly, and then pulls his chair closer to Honoka, joining her with the plates of food.
"But that's a thought for another time," he says as he starts to ready one of the plates for Honoka. "Nurse says it's time to eat."
Log created on 12:32:01 06/21/2016 by Zach Glenn, and last modified on 11:44:31 06/27/2016.