Ayame - Mission #19: The Importance of Truth

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Description: Sometimes, the best way to make a point is by demonstration. Ayame's visit to Zach Glen forces uncomfortable truths to the surface as the miko of the Meian Jinja finally reveals what she knows concerning the conspiratorial world he lives within.

King of Fighters was officially over for the Twilight Star team. Zach Glenn, as Rhydderch, had to return to work for at least a little while. Unfortunately, that meant something Zach dreaded more than the most vile monster or most hated villain. Zach Glenn, leader of Torchlight Securities' special operations team, had that darkest of foes to face.


Zach is ensconced in his samurai mansion in Yokohama, in a room set aside as an office. There are two stacks on his desk, one looming impossilby large and the other not nearly as tall as he would like. Occassionally, he will pull a paper or form from the taller stack, read it over, and then sign it and place it on the finished pile or set it aside to look over something else.

The samurai house is largely quiet, aside from the occassional *donk!* from the deer scare in the back yard. The place is minimally staffed at the moment, without an active job in the works at the moment.

As tedious as the work may be, at least it's quiet. Maybe it's even an appreciated break from the media blitz madness going on around the world regarding the King of Fighters tournament and the now celebrity level status earned by the teams that made it into the quarter finales and beyond. Burning the midnight oil to get through paperwork is one way to get ahead of the never ending stack of obligations, reports, reviews, and budgetary approvals that no doubt populate the young man's desk. Tomorrow will be another day, with new surprises and new work.

It would be nice if he could be afforded the time and peace to knock out as much of that work as possible, but it seems things don't always go so smoothly for the master of the estate. The old property is rich with history, tokens of wealth and affluence gathered throughout the centuries it has stood. Wandering from room to room, one can bask in the mystery of ancient history or enjoy the creature comforts of modern convenience.

That dull if productive peace he's hardly enjoyed thus far might come to an abrupt end, however, at the sound of movement in the adjacent room. The library room - common in homes of this size. In bygone times, it would have undoubtedly been stocked with countless books, scrolls, tomes, and tapestries of legends, myths, and scholarly works from all ages. But that was before. Under new management, its inventory has yet to have the time to be built up, its shelves and cubby holes largely empty, begging to be occupied by a new generation of collected works. The creak of floor mats would be easily heard in the quiet of the night, the scrape of a wood door slid open, the sound of something heavy thumping against wood.

It would be up to him to decide if someone else should figure out who's made themselves at home, but considering his line of business, is that really so wise?

Zach's head snaps up at the sound of the door. Checking the time and casting his mind out to take in the area, he realizes what's amiss. One too many presences on the premises. He can't quite pin down who it would be. After kicking himself for not noticing sooner, Zach grins a bit at the almost welcome distraction from the sheer tedium of the work in front of him. He reaches under the center drawer of the desk, and withdraws a K-Bar fighting knife. He silently pulls it free from the sheath, checking the blade's condition, before slipping out of the office.

He slides down the hallway, silent as a ghost, as he homes in on the new presence in the library. He eases up to the door, and peeks in, seeing a smallish woman looking over things. He frowns and glides into the room, the knife low and ready as he closes within striking distance.

Something pings on Zach's subconcious. Maybe it's the woman's posture, or that nagging familiarity of her psychic presences. Regardless of what it is Zach does not immediately drive the knife into the woman's spine, against pretty much every bit of training from his military career and current occupation of stalking Darkstalkers.

"I suggest turning around slowly," Zach warns in a tone that suggests that he won't brook any nonsense. "And then maybe we can discuss why you are trespassing on my home."

"Oh please," comes the immediate response, "That is hardly the way to receive someone bearing gifts." She turns to face him, indifferent to the threat of the blade he bears, her expression suggesting that for whatever reason, she never considered its use the slightest possibility. The room is illuminated by two large candles lit in ornate candle stands dating back to the eighteen century. The furnishings are simple - shelves and cubby holes lining the walls. A low table toward the back of the room, perfect for kneeling over some book or other. A small ladder can be moved about to reach some of the higher shelves, but given the current state of affairs, there's not much use to that.

Ayame smirks at Zach. Her attire is formal, reserved, a white long sleeved button blouse worn beneath a black blazer that is allowed to hang open. A red necktie tied into a moderate bow dangles at her throat. As always, a crimson hair ribbon decorates her strawberry-blonde tresses, tied into a large bow at the crown of her head. A crimson pleated skirt reaches to her knees, and white stockings in black buckled shoes are on her feet.

The primary objet of interest might be the thick, ancient looking book she's hugging in her two arms however, its cover crafted from thick, aged leather, with strong straps wrapping around it. Each of the two thick straps are locked, sealing the book closed against casual perusal. "Besides, if you stab me now, you will never find out how to open this thing, and," she lifts her right hand away from the book to wave it absently at the library, "It seems to me that you are in need of some additional light reading material."

A step back is taken, then the book is dropped onto the wooden desk at her side where it lands with a resounding thud. "So!" Her voice is cheery, always a bad sign. Her right hand, now relieved of toting the heavy tome, goes to her right hip. "I really must ask. What /DO/ you do with all the bodies, anyway?" Her head cants to the side, her smirk fading to something better resembling a bemused smile, "There are only so many options, but you have to stay off the radar about it too, right? For some reason, police just are not all that convinced by the 'Officer, I swear she was a demon' excuse."

She glances around again, "Though... with a place like this, there must be spots a plenty to dispose of them. Do you have a compost pit or something?"

Zach frowns deeply as he realizes who it is. He doesn't set the knife down, either, flipping it around in is grip so that the blade rests along his forearm and out of sight. He eyes the book, then Ayame. Zach's wearing a loose-fitting t-shirt, jeans, and white tube socks that stop just north of the ankles. It's comfortable and casual. He clearly was not expecting guests.

He does not want to answer the question; he knows she's looking for a place to slip the proverbial knife. He knows Ayame, but he trusts her in exactly the manner one trusts a cat. The cat will do what it wants, when it wants, and where it wants without any particular regard for anyone else around them. "You're right," he says, "Stabbing someone is a horrible way to show gratitude." He walks over to one of the reading chairs. "May I offer you a seat, Miss Ichijo?"

Her expression doesn't falter as he avoids the question, the girl slipping over to the nearest chair as the offer is extended, "You may." Brushing her hands from behind to smooth her skirt, she nudges the seat over with her foot then settles down into it. Eyes glance toward the book she dropped onto the desk. Its dark brown, leather cover bears no title, no inscription to identify its nature. Dust swirls up around it from the impact of being dropped - clearly it comes from some ancient collection.

Eyes flick back toward Zach, "So is it true? A big scary monster hunter now, are you? With your eyes open to the true threats of the world, I could not help myself but to find out how that is working out for you." She cants her head to the side, her hands shifting to clasp in her lap as she leans forward with a certain intense interest blended with her persistent vague smirk.

"I do not get to speak to many steeped in the trade. We could share tips, tricks, and wiki guides to demon slaying, you know. Unless!" she sits up then, her expression shifting, eyes blinking as if a thought suddenly hit her that she hadn't considered before. "Unless... you are just a pretender?" She frowns a little, right hand lifting from her lap, pointing finger and middle finger tapping at her chin. "Saa... I hope not. This would be a complete waste of time if it were."

Zach waits for Ayame to sit before taking a chair of his own. He sits down, setting the knife on a small end table next to him. The tip of the blade still does not point at Ayame, but the grip of the weapon is placed to allow Zach fast and easy access to it. Zach leans forward in his chiar, elbows on his knees. "I do the work," Zach says calmly. "I can't say that it has been an easy adjustment. The rules of engagement are very different. It seems like a lot of it has to be learned on the job."

Zach leans back, shrugging slightly. "But yes," he says, spreading his arms, "Have magic sword, will travel. Demons slain and monsters vanquished." He regards Ayame. "Why do you do it," he asks.

"Sometimes," Ayame allows with a faint shrug, "There is research to be had." A slight nod of her head to her side where the book still rests, closer to her than him. "I brought one of my favorites. You can't find all the answers ahead of time - there are too may variables, too many permutations on the same threats. But you can at least avoid going in like a blind idiot or you'll end up losing your head."

After he leans back slightly and continues, she listens to him, one narrow eyebrow raising slightly, "Magic sword? Cute. So you have slain demons then?" She leans forward, looking curious but skeptical, her tone shifting slightly "How many? How much demon blood is on your hands?" She leans back again, "I remember that you'd already killed people before, in your..." she waves her right hand absently before returning it to her lap, "Line of work."

His knife is ignored, her attention appears to be on him and only him. "So it must have come easier then, right? To kill them? Of course it's justified. It is a war, after all. Something you're already familiar with." She inhales and leans back against her chair, stretching her arms out at her sides before adjusting her jacket with a tug to slip it back into proper place. "It's so nice to speak with someone who understands this stuff for once."

Her smirk returns, "Might end up having to keep score, you know. Nothing like healthy competition."

"Three confirmed," he answers carefully. "Two more that I wounded severly. Tessitore's since shown up again, and that guy with the silver chain escaped before I could finish the job. None of it has been easy. The second it becomes easy is the second I retire. But in the meantime, it has to be done."

Zach holds out his left hand, as if gripping something, mentally aligning his thoughts. A shaft of what could easily be described as sunlight erupts in the waiting hand before resolving into a claymore with a white hilt. His hand drops slightly under the sudden weight of the weapon. "Magic sword," he says by way of explaination. "Also not what I was asking. I meant, why is this the fight you've chosen? You could have set yourself up for literally anything you could have imagined." Zach leans the sheathed Drynwyn against the bookcase next to his chair. "But you live in a remote temple without a whole lot in the way of convenience or comfort to do a job that most people neither understand or appreciate."

She lets him speak without interruption, the fellow monster hunter delving into the ramifications of his work. There is interest in her eyes, as if getting a body count out of him was one of the more core reasons for this discourse in the first place. Her vague smile, bordering on a smirk at times, other times just coming across faintly bemused, lingers still as she sits up straight, crossing her legs beneath her skirt so that she can rest her hands atop her right knee.

"Of course, it's good to keep your head about you. Some hunters get lost in the bloodlust of our work." she states, her tone almost supportive in a way. Her head leans to the side as he demonstrates his ability to produce a clearly potent weapon seemingly on demand. "Convenient." she assesses, smile becoming a grin.

But then he turns the questions back on her, forcing the one she had appeared to completely ignore without a second thought. Eyes blink slowly, back held straight, smile fading as she gives him a somewhat distant look. "Set myself up?" Her right hand lifts, knuckle of her pointing finger resting on her chin again, "Why whatever do you mean? I was born to this life. I fight for the same reason any solider does - it's a job that must be done and I have the skills to do it. I wouldn't do it for empty accolades or pointless appreciation. All around the world there are places where people can sleep secure at night because of the blood and sacrifices of unsung, unknown heroes. Why should my path be any different?"

Her smirk returns, both arms lifted now into a half-shrug as she leans her head to the side, "Besides, it's also fun, exhilarating, and better than being drown in a life of menial tasks, paperwork, and idle, unfulfilling entertainment, right? I mean, you do it too. I can't imagine having strongly different motives."

Her right hand waves, the girl closing her eyes, "My family's home is not the most convenient of locations, it's true, but it is where I've known all my life." Brown eyes open to focus on him once more. "The big city, urban experience just isn't for me," she finishes with a wink.

Zach regards Ayame carefully. She was /always/ difficult for Zach to read. "Admittedly," Zach says, "There's a certain rush to be had from the work. But I can relate to being born into it, in the broader strokes." Zach's gaze is steady as he considers other things. Most of the major actors, for lack of better term, in that other Zach's life have since shown up in his life. The exceptions, though, were fairly notable. Of those, there was only one that Ayame had connections with.

"Have you run into Ryouhara yet?" Zach asks carefully.

She sits calmly, almost smug in her impossibleness, her expressions never veering into unfriendly territory, and the tone of her voice varying between cordial to overly familiar. She is quiet different from the cold, reserved, oft times scathing Ayame Ichijo of the Meian Jinja he met with on his trip to the shrine. From head to toe, she is the same girl, clearly, even her presence would ring MOSTLY familiar, for as little of it as she allows to slip through. But her behavior is different - there exist traces of another time, another life, different struggles, different destiny.

A nod is offered as he seems to accept her answer well enough. Sighing, she reaches over the side to grab hold of the edges of the heavy tome as if getting ready to bring the subject back around to it. But then he poses the question and Ayame freezes, fingers slipping away from the book to sit back up straight and stare at Zach directly. "How do you know that name?" She studies him as if with suspicion, hesitating for a moment, before finally continuing. "Seishirou Ryouhara. I have never met the man. Yet, I have also recently been warned that he's very likely to attack me at any moment. And now, here we sit, not even a few days later, and you bring up that name..."

She frowns slightly, sitting up stiffly, "Just how do you think such a remarkable coincidence looks from my perspective?"

Zach blinks once in surprise. He really had expected her to play the thing off. "I don't know that name, I /remember/ that name," Zach says carefully, but with complete honesty. "I've not once in my entire life met the person. But I know who he is." Zach pauses, frowning thoughtfully. "Or was, at any rate. I remember a whole lifetime that I did not life. Most people would call them dreams, but they are too... /persistent/ for that word to fit. He figures in to some of them. You, or someone like you, too."

Zach leans backs, his posture and body language trying to put the young woman at ease. Non-threatening, non-aggressive. "And you'd have every right to be concerned. Look, I'm giving you pretty much everything, information-wise. If someone is planning to do you harm, I'm not a part of it. If you want some help, though, I'd be happy to help. Maybe I'll learn something."

The girl seated across from him doesn't let down her guard, her back stiff, her hands resting atop her crossed knee as she stares back at him, taking in his explanation without so much as batting an eye. Her mouth is neutral at first, betraying no reaction to his comments regarding another lifetime, dreams, impressions. Inhaling, she lifts her right hand to rest over her eyes for a moment before wiping down and releasing a sigh. "Fine, fine. You seem the honest type, who am I to question such earnestness."

Her hand goes back to her knee, eyes blinking slowly as she levels her attention at him, her smile returning slowly. "Still going on about that other life, are you. Well, I hope you keep that kind of stuff to yourself - you sound like a crazy person, you know." She waves her right hand again, dismissing the topic as not meriting further exploration, "Seishirou Ryouhara has been described to me as a man driven insane with grief, driven to acts of random violence and uttering the ramblings of a crazy man."

She uncrosses her legs, hands settling in her lap, "I saw what he did to another man already - someone who looked to be quite tough on his own - if you come across this madman, you need to be careful. And..." she pauses, frowning faintly, "I would hope that you let me know."

Zach's mouth is a firm line as he watches Ayame's response. "It's not something I talk about all that often," he finally answers. "For exactly that reason. If our paths cross, I'll deal with it." That conversation thread is not going anyway. He glances over at the book.

"So tell me about the book," he finally asks.

"I'm sure that you will," Ayame answers his assertion that he will deal with Seishirou should their paths cross. She seems content to let the matter slide for now, her own warning already having been offered. He brings up the book again and the girl in white, black, and crimson glances to the side at where it rests. "Ah, yes, of course! The whole point of this visit in the first place. Not like there would be any other reason for me to be out this way."

She leans over to the side, hands coming to rest on the sides of the old tome, only to pause once more. "You know," she speaks up after only a moment of silence, fingers sliding away from the locked book, as she looks back toward Zach, "I'm surprised, and a little disappointed, I guess, that you didn't participate in the King of Fighters. A big tournament like that... you know how those things go - almost always something going on behind the scenes and there's no better excuse to be snooping around than to jump right in the middle of it all."

She shakes her head, "Given your expertise, I'd have thought you would be all over that. I gave it a try myself, it was..." She rolls her eyes toward the ceiling, hand lifting to tap at the side of the head where she got clobbered so hard she was never able to recover in the brief, violent match. "Educational." she allows.

"What happened? Couldn't find any friends to sign up with? Surely, there should have been someone! Just think, we could have made one hell of a demon hunter team, yeah?" she grins broadly, eyes sparkling no doubt at the thought of tormenting Zach relentless if they were forced to work together on a team like that.

"That would have been an interesting team," he agrees, "If it could have been made to work." He carefully doesn't add anything else. "But I was on another job, back in the States. Some kind of incubus was building himself a harem, wasn't exactly being indiscriminatory about it. It kept me from getting in on the tournament." Nothing about the statement was untrue, specifically. He leans over to examine the tightly bound book a little more closely.

It certainly has his curiousity at the moment.

And yet Ayame continues to ignore the book, perhaps to an exasperating degree, crossing her legs again, hands going back to plant over her knee. "Ah..." She nods, a level of understanding there, an acknowledgement that one's duties can get in the way of an exciting adventure. But what choice would he have when life or death was on the line but to miss out entirely on the massive Team Tournament extravaganza? "Well, it's been quite the show. I wish my team had managed to go a little further. I bet someone of your caliber would have excelled. But... well, if you can't be there as part of a team, you can't be there. It's how it goes."

She pauses, closing her eyes and exhaling softly as if thinking of something else but for a long, tired moment. Her eyes flutter open a couple seconds later, right hand lifted as she snaps her fingers, "That's right! The book." Ayame leans to the side, hands pressing over it again, "Anyway, as I was saying, this is a favorite of mine, but as it focuses on Japanese supernatural threats, I might just be a bit biased. Then again, /you're/ living here too, yeah? So it should be useful to you too."

She starts to lift it up, applying pressure to the sides, only to stop and let it thump right back down. "Oh!" she sits back up straight again, "I meant to ask - this demon hunting business..." She sweeps her left hand out toward the rest of the mansion vaguely, "You clearly aren't in it alone. Do you have other hunters you work with? I'm just..." She glances back toward the book she's left sitting there again, "Well, I like to have an idea of how widely spread my secrets would get if I give you this."

Her right hand lifts to tap at her chin, "Obviously you can't possibly be working with Agent Little..." She huffs, rolling her eyes, "On account of clearly divergent opinions about the whole monster hunting thing. But is there anyone else?"

"Sometimes I have a team," Zach answers honestly. "Six or seven people, generally, when I need some help. They are people I have come to trust. My cousin, Takehiro, lives here. He works on the gear." He looks at Ayame again. "If you don't want me to share it out, I won't. I can work with information without sharing it out."

He frowns a bit. "Agent Little has very firm opinions about our line of work. It does not help at all that Tessitore has at least a psychological lever on him."

"Ah..." Ayame answers, seeming to pause and consider his description of his alliances in his grim but necessary work. "Well." She reaches over to her side, gripping the book once more, "You can share the knowledge with your cousin, but this book is solely for you. If he crafts your gear, some of these details will be... of particular importance." She hefts it, hands and forearms flexing as she brings the heavy tome to her lap with a grunt. By the time it's landed there, he mentions something of that contrary agent and a new name, Tessitore? Psychological lever?

"He is being manipulated?" Brown eyes blink, focus flicking to the side as if digesting that kernel of information. "Well. This is good to know." She offers a caring, concerned smile though the expression rings false somehow. "Maybe he isn't a lost cause after all."

Inhaling, she glances down at the book on her lap, "These straps seal here," she gestures to the locks over the 'paper' side of the book. "Of course, you could force them, but that would trigger the ward beneath the cover." She pats the top of the book with her left hand, "By the time you finished prying your way in, there... would be precious little to read, believe me."

Her hands close over the heavy tome again, grunting as she lifts it up. "But I can show you the trick to opening it." The gesture is done slowly but deliberately enough, as the Ichijo scion hefts the book underhanded across the space between Zach and her. For all her expression of caring for the tome, the gesture is casual, as if trusting him to catch it himself.

And should he catch it, he will find the weight of it to be far beyond what one would expect just by looking at it. As thick as two large phone books, it weighs at least four times as much when actually held!

Zach's catch is, in fact, smooth. His arms give under the surprising weight, before settling it carefully on his own lap. He lifts the book up again, as if testing the wieght. He lets out a low whistle in appreciation for the sheer heft of the thing. He sets the tome back down in his lap, his fingers tracing the straps and the clasps. He looks up again at Ayame.

"Show me," he asks simply.

His uninvited house guest leans forward as he explores the book she's delivered him, brown eyes watching every move he makes very carefully. At the request that she give him the instructions she's withheld thus far, the strawberry-blonde nods her head, grinning with amusement, eyes continuing to glimmer as if laughing at a joke known only to herself. "Right, of course. It's not too hard, it's one of those puzzles that is easy once you know the gist of it."

She waves her left hand out, "First, flip it so you can look at the bindings, there are small metal tabs sticking out of the binding on both ends. You'll need to press those inward at the same time until they click into place. That's the first step."

She would wait for him to start following her instructions, eyes glancing over to the knife he's left sitting on the table, handle pointed her way. "You did not trust me when we first sat down," she states, her tone losing a touch of its spark. "You were guarded, cautious. But now you trust me enough to handle a deceptively heavy object delivered by me that you know precious little about."

Her demeanor shifts, some of the overtly teasing cheer melting from her voice, the twinkle of humor at another's expense fading from her eyes. Physically, she is the same as when he first found her, the clothing is the same, but as she sits up slowly, entire body tensing, eyes narrowing, it would start to feel like he's dealing with another person all together.

"You were right to be wary." Her left hand lifts, slipping slowly into her jacket, fingers no doubt in search of something hidden from sight. "That has always been your weakness - so honest, so trusting, so naive." She sounds much more like the Ayame he met at the Meian Jinja now.

Her expression continues to shift, the smile that just a moment ago reflected amusement now portrays malice. Was she just waiting for the moment for him to be weighed down by the fifty pound tome to act all along?

Zach was reaching for the clasps, his thumbs finding the latches, when Ayame starts her movement. The knife, and the sword, are still in easy reach. Something's... /off/. It most /certainly/ gets his attention. He sets his hands down atop the tome once more. The look in his eyes, the expression on his face might as well be made of stone.

"Bring that hand out slowly, please," he says in a tone of absolute authority that can only come from having commanded people in combat situations. He drums the fingers of his left hand across the cover of the book, each digit tossing up a faint and brief spray of golden sparks as they do so in a not-so-subtle reminder that he's /always/ capable of violence if he gets a chance to react. His own talents make it very /difficult/ for other people get the drop on him.

"Do not confuse my confidence for naiveté," he warns.

The girl continues to stare back at Zach, her lips frozen in that false smile, eyes sharp, attentive. She observes the display of power, the threat of armaments within arm's reach, the way he's once again guarded, aware of where her left hand rests inside her jacket. She maintains the expression, her hand frozen in place, eyes on his face only to glance down to the tapping of his fingers on occasion.

Slowly, her smile fades, replaced by a hint of a frown, "I am not the one experiencing confusion here." She draws her left hand out as instructed, pausing at the last moment where only her fingers are hidden from view - he has seen her fight, her paper talismans packing prepared chi formula, each designed to solve a different problem. What problem would she be aiming to solve now?

After the moment's hesitation, she finishes pulling out her hand. Tucked between her two fingers are two familiar objects. Even from across the way, they appear to be photographs. The girl's left arm bends then flicks backward, sending the two photos sliding across the table toward the side Zach is seated on.

"But you should be familiar with the sensation - confusion, that is. You must be living it every day of your idiot life." She spits the words, demonstrating a certain raw exasperation with the young man. "If I wanted to hurt you, do you think I would give you even the slightest warning? That is exactly the problem, you see. You are sensitive to the danger you can see, but blind where it really matters."

The two photos would be obvious to him. One is from a long while ago - a famous incident still referenced by columnists throughout the United States - the fall of Lightning Spangles as an icon. The picture is captured from video - a singular moment in time: Zach Glenn standing, evidence of profound grief just witnessed evident in his uncovered eye. Hugging against him, her forehead pressed against his shoulder seeking comfort, the black hair with pink highlights would be immediately familiar.

The second is far more recent. A screen shot of footage from King of Fighters, the qualifying rounds, the mysterious masked Rhydderch on the stage before all the world as a representative of the Twilight Circus team.

Ayame's mouth is pressed into a thin line, the girl sitting up straight, her body now relaxed - all pretense of being about to spring an attack on him completely gone from sight. "You know to distrust me and you should. Yet here I find you clinging to one of the most dangerous individuals alive." She smiles faintly - it's an unfriendly expression, even pained in a way, "Is that concern I see? Love?" Her hands clench in her lap, "Zach Glenn, are you the biggest idiot that has ever walked the earth?"

Ayame grits her teeth then, tensing up but not with a desire to attack, "Do you think I am the only person that can deceive you, deceive others? Donning and shedding personalities as it suites me?" She breaths in deeply, closing her eyes for a moment, before slowly exhaling, as if forcing herself to reign in her rising temper, a rare glimpse of the fiery spark she wore so freely in a time long ago.

Zach looks at the photos, his face still a mask as he regards them carefully. He sets the book down carefully on the table, taking a deep breath to school the roil of emotion running through him. It takes him a while but he regains control of the storm inside of him. "It might be all of that," he says carefully. He leans forward, elbows back on his knees, his eyes closed and head bowed. "It..." Zach lets a long sigh out through his nose. "I was making a gamble," he says after a long moment of contemplation. "Over the long term. I thought that maybe I could stop her, get her to turn aside from her path. Or at least the one I knew she could take. But I also knew that talk is cheap."

Zach takes another deep breath. "Action, though. That's much more concrete. I wanted to... /still/ want to show her a better path. I couldn't just talk about it, I had to show it. Walk the walk, as the saying goes." Zach's eyes flick to the photos again. "She's smart, and capable, and /competent/," he says, "And that... That's what I go for."

Zach sits upright, rubbing a forearm fiercely across his eyes as he looks at Ayame. "You and I," he says firmly. "When we started out, our interactions were about as violent as it gets without getting fatal. But we are capable of working together now. Things /changed/ between us. I'm not sure how that happened, but it did."

He stands up, pacing back and forth. "I have to hope that things be changed again," he says after slowly stopping. "The alternative pretty much sucks."

She stays seated and quiet, the struggle against her own emotions evident on her face at first, but fading fast as the rational mind seeks to identify, compartmentalize, and contain the unnecessary temperaments. Eyes glance toward the book as it is left on the table, before her focus goes back to him, offering no console, no words of comfort as he works his way through the roller coaster of emotions she provoked. Maybe she flat out anticipated he'd attack her at one point - that maybe she had pushed hard enough into a vulnerable area of emotion that he would erupt as perhaps he would have in their endless misadventures of the past.

She listens to his rationalizations, his thought process exposed. She should have known it was with good intentions that it all started - that's exactly how she would have played him herself. So many people can be lured down that path when given the misleading promise that they can help. The judgmental miko inhales then exhales slowly, mouth pursued into a conflicted expression as he points out that their own histories intersected in strange, violent, and antagonistic ways before a possible strained but viable working relationship could evolve. She looks like she'd rather not fess up to as much, and as such stays quiet.

"And... just how is that working out so far?" she asks slowly, her voice controlled, her tone not even as sarcastic as it could be. Lifting her right hand she rests her fingers against her forehead as if staving off a headache. "There is one more thing." She pauses, waiting to make sure she has his attention. "Seishirou Ryouhara. She has met him before - she came to me trying to find an answer to what ailed his fevered mind. It is perhaps the only mistake she has ever made." The girl closes her eyes in thought, lowering her right hand to join her left in clasping over her legs.

"You should ask her about him." Her eyes open, locking on Zach directly then. "I cannot deny that I would love to know the answer you get from her, but I also understand if it never comes to that. But maybe then, the scales can start to be shed from your eyes and you will see things as they really are." She snorts softly, shaking her head as if disregarding an unspoken thought, "Whatever you do, be careful. I somehow doubt... her ambitions are any smaller this time. You may think you are steering her down a better path... but are you sure you are not just furthering her goals? Perhaps... guiding her along a safer but no less dangerous course?"

The girl grunts, lifting her right hand to wave it again, "Whatever. I know I have garnered her attention - I could feel it in my fight at the Rumble tournament against the witch of the Twilight Circus. But I cannot say what that means for me."

The strawberry-blonde cants her head to the side, "I do not suppose you are willing to betray what you know, what you have seen, hm? Any... interesting people hanging around? Say..." Ayame rolls her eyes up, pointing finger tapping at her chin, "Like members of the Southtown mafias? Any Darkstalkers?" Is she guessing or testing her reach? "Anyone suspicious at all? Or... is she simply an innocent circus owner and manager, hm?"

Zach slumps into his chair again, face buried in his hands. Thoughts are colliding with memories crashing against dreams and feelings. "I don't know that it is," he finally admits. "There's... a lot of things she doesn't share with me. On the face of it, that's kind of fair. I don't share much about my work with her. It's... I'm good at it, and it needs to be done, but it's not something I like to share or dwell on." Something's nagging at the back of Zach's mind. Seishirou lays at the middle of this muddled thread at the moment. He looks up at Ayame, tired. Almost at war with himself.

"She knows the name," he says quietly. "From the conversation we had at the time, it'd be safe to bet that they had actually talked at least once. The term 'the will of history' came up, as did 'roudou-shakaikyuu.'" He looks looks away from Ayame, staring off in the middle distance.

"She has one or two working for the circus. Darkstalkers, I mean. They know what I do for a living, and we... have an understanding. They don't go out hurting people, I don't go hurting them." Zach looks back at the floor.

"Agent Little suspects she is up to some bad business," he says finally. "But it'd be hard to get him to tell me why, given our relationship."

Having expended her brief surge of temper already, Ayame is calmer now. The last cards she had to play are already sitting there on the table, untouched but most definitely understood by Zach. He confesses the hazy world he lives in when dealing with the enigmatic Honoka and Ayame stays quiet, her hands again in her lap, her expression neutral. If she has any other ammunition loaded for this little get together, she shows no signs of using it right now. The separation between their two works is explained and the girl nods slightly, showing neither signs of surprise nor disappointment - it is largely as she expected.

He confesses to his insight regarding Ryouhara and it is there that Ayame tenses, the subject matter is a bit closer to what passes for her heart than everything else they've touched upon. "I hope you understand..." The girl's voice is calm, controlled, but beneath the surface exists an undercurrent of seething menace, "... if she has harmed even one hair on his head..." Her hands are clenched again, fingers digging into her palms as a tremor runs along her forearms. That she stays seated at all is a testament to her willpower if anything.

The moment passes, a hint of an unpleasant smile appearing at the corners of her mouth as her hands relax, revealing imprints in her palms. "Well." She closes her eyes, every effort made to wall in a lifetime of emotion rarely tapped by the dispassionate priestess. "Let us not dwell on that."

Eyes are upon Zach again as he mentions Darkstalkers, the girl frowning faintly as she finds herself presented with a conundrum. "Tch." An exasperated grunt follows a moment later, "Fine." A slow exhale as she works the words from her mouth, "I am not unreasonable. Out of regard for what you have shared, I will not pursue or investigate the Darkstalkers under your protection. For now. Tell me who they are and I will spare them." She pauses, a wry smile working its way into her expression, "Or maybe you should not - I did say not to trust me after all."

Mention of the detective is met with a quiet nod. She didn't suspect he would be entangled in this mess too. Just how many threads DOES he have his fingers in?

"That book," she nods toward the table. "Press the tabs indicated and the straps will unlock. The contents are legitimate, though you may want to remove the lead plates I wedged between the covers and some of the pages." She smiles faintly at that, "Those in fact serve no particular purpose. But the information it contains has proven useful in my own pursuits. If it saves you from even one close call with a youkai in this fine land of Japan, then perhaps delivering it to you will have been worth it."

Zach gets what feels like the first seriously honest emotions off of Ayame when Seishirou is discussed. He smiles faintly, concern for the young woman evident. He won't ask what they were to each other; he knows she won't give him anything approaching a straight answer. "I..." Zach chuckles. "I suspect that she's going to try to use him. Maybe to get to you. Maybe for other things. She's got a lot of anger at the way things are right now," he supplies. "And she honestly wants to change those things, even if she's not entirely honest with the why of it."

Zach finally stands up, and walks over to Ayame. "I think my family has some things I can send your way, in case you find yourself in Europe."

At Zach's warning, Ayame fixes him with a glare. "If you care even the slightest bit for that girl," her tone remains controlled, her voice steady, though it is clearly not without effort. "You will see to it that that does not happen." She rises to her feet then, hands brushing down the length of her skirt before coming to rest over each other. "She is playing with fire she cannot even possibly begin to control. And starting a war... that will change everything. Do not delude yourself that it is any other way."

She turns to the side then, her left shoulder toward him, glancing at him along it as she faces the door out of the library. His offer is not rejected, acknowledged with a nod of her head. "In this modern day, the fiends do not do us the favor of remaining localized anymore... Any aid for threats from Europe will be greatly appreciated."

A dip of her head, her left hand lifting to brush her hair back over her shoulder, then both hands occupied with adjusting her blazer, and then she exhales softly. A glance is cast over her shoulder toward where the book and two incriminating photos sit. "Burn those pictures. And hide the book. I do not think you will want to be asked where you got it."

Her attention is on him next, "Watch your steps. You are, by choice, living in a den of lions. I fear they are getting quite hungry."

She dips her head before looking away, "I know the way out."

The miko of the Meian Jinja would take her leave if not otherwise prevented.

Zach scoops up the book, a frown evident on his face. "Unless they can rip thoughts from my mind, noone will no about it," Zach says finally. Drynwyn shatters into an uncountable number of gold and violet motes of light. The K-Bar is still there. "Watch your back," Zach says finally. No threat from him, just a well-wishing of sorts for the young woman.

Log created on 15:05:41 07/10/2016 by Ayame, and last modified on 23:27:20 07/10/2016.