Mortal Kombat - MK: To Forge A Champion

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Description: In the wake of her battle with Nakoruru, the Scarlet Dahlia receives a message from a swordsman very interested in meeting with her. Not all goes according to plan, however...

The Scarlet Dahlia had a lot to think about. Here she was, in the middle of the palace of her antagonist, surrounded by hundreds -- perhaps thousands -- of enemies. And yet, she has carved out a niche in the midst of this fortress of polished marble that she can consider relatively safe. A sanctuary.

For one who speaks with spirits more easily than people, the best place on the island is one surrounded by those who are still bound to a flesh-and-blood body. Ghosts are noisy, always vocal about lamenting the past; the living are quiet by comparison. Here in the heart of the palace, her close allies provide safety in the form of there mere presence -- any alarms raised will be sensed instantly in a rapid shift of emotional turbulence.

As such, the regal Dahlia is seated within a small sitting room -- connected invisibly with the informally-named 'Scarlet Guard' positioned in adjacent chambers. The marble walls are adorned with carvings per the eccentric Tyrant Sorcerer's liking -- particularly the fork-toothed dragon emblem that embellishes the rest of the palace. Aside from the reliefs on the wall and the mahogany desk and chairs, the rectangular room is devoid of decoration.

A seat stands empty before the desk, while the Dahlia is seated behind the desk. A parchment and pen rest upon the table; inscribed upon the parchment are a list of names and annotations. The Dahlia would seem to be lost in concentration -- though upon the advent of a visitor, she would undoubtedly greet him with an attentive smile.

After all, company is expected.

When one is expected, the time and method of arrival are crucial to establishing a balance of power. Who is able to make the other wait? Who's car is the shiniest? Who's retinue can throw out the most important-sounding techno babble. These tricks are the tricks of power, acting as a thousand tiny blades to undercut the opponent's confidence. So when they are ignored, it tends to indicate one of two things. either vast, incomprehensible power, or near fatal ignorance.
At precisely 2 PM, or at least the nearest Shang Tsung time to 2 PM, a sudden pulse of psychic might blossoms within Honoka's office. It can first be felt as a roiling maelstrom, a swirling whirlwind of unleashed souls chasing one another in a tight spiral. The spirits of pure, selfless warrior crash against an army of malicious entities wanting only pain and revenge. And out of that collision, a stronger presence surfaces to take control, pulling the armies apart and funneling them down, down into some sort of containment.
In the visible world of flesh and blood, this psychic anomaly manifests as a swirling vortex of misty purple energy that springs into being not 10 feet in front of where Honoka currently sits. The force grows rapidly from one to nearly 4 feet wide, before coiling into itself and whipping away into the figure of a man.
The newly arrived warrior is tall, sporting the rangy leanness of a fighter practiced in decisive speed just as much as brute force. He has slightly messy black hair and a short but ragged beard, both of which are flecked with grey. But, most notably of all, even more so than his samurai-inspired tactical armor or his tattered coat of crimson, is the blindfold that hides his eyes, and the simple katana sheathed on his back that blazes with psychic power.
"The Scarlet Dahlia." Kenshi muses, expressive lips quirking up at one corner in a wry little grin, "What an honor." It is difficult to tell if he is mocking her or not. There is certainly room for it in his tone, but perhaps that is only his faint accent, adding inflection where none is needed. Still, there is a lightness and loosely relaxed friendliness in his posture.
Though the brutal surge of power that brought him here has faded, small tendrils of psychic awareness remain. The web-like filaments stretch throughout the room, conveying information back to the swordsman as he steps carefully forward to lay one gloved hand on the back of the offered chair. Unlike some psychics, Kenshi does not wall off his mind. The surface remains open and casually alert. But deeper within there are hidden alleys and dead ends. Traps and locked doors. His mind is not a walled fortress, but a maze of traps.

Punctuality is very much appreciated by the manipulative mastermind; her schedule is often packed to the gills with one task or another. Her time on the island has not been spent poorly; even as the Scarlet Guard dwindles, the fact that its ranks still number more than a dozen is a testament to her forward thinking and meticulous planning. But, as her visitor is punctual, she has no urgent need to rearrange her schedule based on that alone.

However, the method of arrival itself may give cause for concern, for she is no longer the only psychic in the room. Glassy eyes are cast upon the whirlwind of purple energy that appears before her, but she does not devote the full bandwidth of her attention to the visual spectrum -- instead, she peers at the twirling mass of souls which has deigned to make such a dramatic entrance.

As the principal soul resolves himself into human form, so too does the Dahlia's gaze grow more pointed and intent. Eyes lift upwards to meet the...
... blindfold. Despite her faint, detached smile remaining constant, it is nonetheless fairly easy to tell the precise moment at which she realizes the function of the thin piece of cloth -- a slight hitch in her shoulders, followed by a tinge of embarassment.

This much is communicated plainly -- for the psion's defenses are manifold. Despite appearing as a simple businesswoman, she is far more complex than that. While the defenses of others may take on the form of fortresses, the Dahlia is significantly more complex -- a bewildering array of villagers, standing before a humble backdrop of an Ainu village of thatched-roof huts and buildings encircled by understated wooden fences. Each of the villagers is hazy and indistinct to sense, but surges with a vitality ensuring any one of them could take on the role of speaker. Embarassment is handled by one such personage -- a younger girl in a summer 'attush' robe, her glimmering form outshining the rest as the particular mood is countenanced by the Dahlia, only to fade back into indistinctness a moment later.

When she speaks, though, it is with the conviction of a different presence.
The Dahlia rises from her seat. And bows, humbly, in accordance with tradition.
"The honor is mine, Takahashi Kenshi."
Her tone is crisp and controlled, the tone of a native Japanese speaker -- which, of course, should come as no surprise.

"Thank you for coming to speak with me on this fine day. I have much to thank you for, if my friends' tales are correct: the end of the Black Lotus is your work, I presume?"
Though her words are tentative, that is more of a product of the language than her station. She has many more important matters to broach than the simple trading of anecdotes about the trials of the Mortal Kombat tournament, after all...
But she seems to be allowing Kenshi to introduce the topic for himself.

"Ah," Kenshi replies with idle amiability, his voice a light baritone dusted around the edges with a sort of coarse roughness. "If there had been another way." Such seems to be all he has to say about the fait of the Black Lotus. He certainly doesn't seem torn up about her death, which by all accounts was brutal to a ridiculous degree.
Taking a half step forward, Kenshi braces his right arm atop the chair and leans comfortably against it. That slight, amused quirk of his lips does not fade as he feels the shifting landscape of Honoka's mind. The sensation is not unlike watching a card shark shuffle her deck. More organic, perhaps. More rounded edges, but with that same clever twist of one doing something you can't quite keep up with. In his mind he can see the crowd. See the girl as she steps forward. it is only in the world of flesh that he is blind.
"I regret," the ronin murmurs while studying that near faceless crowd, "That I did not come sooner. What you are doing is very interesting." Whether he is referring to the mental trick, organizing the Crimson Guard, or perhaps something altogether different is not clear. "But there is no more time. Earthrealm will soon require us to unite behind a single champion. Through the mind of Zach Glenn I have seen your ambition, but I have not seen your soul. I have no doubt in your skill, but the trial ahead will require more than power."
Tilting his face to one side, the swordsman cocks an ear toward the Scarlet Dahlia as if preparing to listen. What he expects to hear is anyone's guess. His posture is relaxed. His tone has remained light. That faint little grin hasn't even faded from his face. Even his surface thoughts remain amiable, focused and curious, sure, but amiable none-the-less.

The Ainu Advisor nods in agreement at the necessity of Lotus' death. It was a bit less... questionable than the death she herself was involved with -- that of ending the life of Sergei Dragunov, who by all marks -could- have been an ardent defender of Earthrealm, homicidal tendencies aside.

"Indeed, the reach of Outworld spans far beyond the iron throne."

The woman does not deign to sit so long as Kenshi remains standing. As with punctuality, the art of negotiation is one that involves a number of subtle interactions. Ceding ground by taking one's seat first is one of many. The lady dressed in a red Chinese cheongsam remains standing, neatly-trimmed (if not particularly long) fingernails tapping down upon the mahogany desk as a surrogate form of grounding.

She tilts her head, her soft-soled shoes squeaking gently upon the marble floor as she shifts her weight ever so slightly. For the wise, words act as weapons, and Kenshi is wise to keep his arsenal hidden, unveiling only those tools needed to further his own cause.

And one phrase in particular receives a response akin to throwing a gauntlet onto the floor.

She listens, quietly, until the swordsman cocks his ear towards her. He might not be able to appreciate the rigid control the Akatsuki Advisor exercises over her facial expression, but, surely, he could appreciate the effect of a third presence emerging from the bounds of her consciousness?

"If you truly have peered into one mind expecting to find a second, then forgive me for not being surprised at the results."
A light, mirthless sigh is offered to punctuate the thinly-barbed statement.

"I agree. Power alone... has ultimately been proven insufficient. With only a few exceptions, the mightiest have fallen -- it stands to reason that you and I may be two of the few remaining. What sets us apart is guile and strategy."

The villagers do not take any further advance -- if anything, the current speaker seems to be doing a good enough job of representing the community.

"To that end, I take it you wouldn't be here if you did not already have a particular tactic to suggest. Time is, as you've said, short, so let me be direct -- do -you- claim to be that champion?"

For just a moment, Kenshi's wry little half grin grows into a genuinely full smile of amusement. The barbs in Dahlia's words do not seem to find flesh. In fact, the response is eerily similar to one that a certain other powerful psychic might show toward someone attempting to stand up to him. A smile. A broad, white display of teeth. Though there is no sign of crazed madness in Kenshi's grin, the response is uncanny.
Then the smile fades, and the swordsman lets out a soft breath. With the careful motions of a blind man, he straightens and steps around the chair, reaching down to briefly touch the seat before sinking down in a long-limbed sprawl.
"If plundering Zach's mind had been my goal, I was in a position to do this." The ronin's tone has softened now, gloved hands folding against his stomach as he takes his ease before her, "Instead, I healed him. This speaks well of my character, yes? You will distrust what I have done. it is in your nature. But look long enough and you will learn that my manipulations are grounded in honesty. I do not have so many faces as you." Those last words are followed by a brief little grin, combining with his tone to take the bite out of words that could otherwise seem insulting. He seems, unbothered by her antics.
"Am I the champion of Earthrealm?" Kenshi voices the question allowed himself. His tone is not quite musing, but there is a note of uncertainty there, a taste of possibility. "I could claim that title. Shang Tsung is the man who blinded me. He has stolen many of the souls of my ancestors. I know him perhaps best of any warrior here. Even the elder gods themselves granted me my shard in such a way that it was clear they knew my heart. I have lived many years of my life driven only by the desire to slay the sorcerer who rules this island."
Pausing, Kenshi presses his lips into a line, his tone having remained neutrally conversational, if not friendly. As he does, the Dahlia can feel a pressure in her mind, as of a giant hand pressed against a window separating her quaint little village from the world outside. The touch lingers for only a moment, the psychic swordsman sprawled in the chair seeming abruptly more threatening.
"The path of Vengeance would demand I take what could be mine, and scatter to the four winds all who stand before me. Maybe I could do this. I may even win."
Letting out a soft breath, Kenshi drops the mental pressure and seems to relax even further into his seat. Once more he is only a blind man with a sword, nothing more. Whatever ominous presence that lurks within him has retreated, pulling back into the shifting landscape of his thoughts.
"We must not ask if I think I am Earth's champion. We must ask if you are worthy to be. There is only darkness ahead of me. But you. There is yet potential to forge you into something greater."
It seems the wanderer thinks rather highly of himself and his opinion. Is it possible he could be justified? Who is this man? Who could be so brazen as to walk into the office of the Scarlet Dahlia herself and suggest changing her, as if such were in his power.

As Kenshi seats himself in the chair, the Scarlet Dahlia takes her seat as well, pulling it up to the desk. Her palms rest along the edge of the desk as she finds herself gazing into an imperious, condescending smile bearing more resemblance to a certain someone than she'd care to admit.
On the one hand, she had alluded to that certain someone's demise just a few moments prior. Anyone can fall from grace to the hell below.

On the other -- she had an agreement with that certain someone. For good reason.

She listens as the blindfolded man speaks with only a gently arched eyebrow. He obviously already knows of the connection between her and Zach Glenn. And from the sound of it, he has a high opinion of his own abilities; the Dahlia does not know enough about the man to know whether such a vaulted opinion is justified. But... if he was truly a kind and magnanimous soul, would he really need to be explaining this in such a fashion?

The tone of her reply is appropriately frigid.
"It is my nature to be apprehensive of the lesser-known, yes. You appeared out of nowhere, and your claims are difficult to substantiate or refute."
It does not take a grand leap of imagination to understand that she does not share in the man's grin.

It would seem that the man has endured more than her share of trials at the hands of Shang Tsung. She wonders to herself if undergoing similar experiences would turn her into a sort of person like Kenshi...
She does not have long to wonder, though, before her defenses are tested from all around, the tendril-like creeper vines crushing inward. Eyebrows lower, as she sets her jaw. Her hands slip away from the table, palms pressing against its lip. Pressuring her brings along a number of significant drawbacks -- as the spiritual villagers of her psychic defenses scramble for battle stations.

Almost as soon as it began, the test concludes amidst a discussion of the path of vengeance. But the fellow psychic would be able to notice a palpable change in the demeanor and bearing of his conversational partner.
A flared temper.

"It sounds like you know so much about me -- like we have been friends for ages already. And yet, you ask a question which appears self-evident -- I am one of a dozen in line to become the next Champion. If you insist on testing my resolve, the Accords lay out the manner in which this shall be done."

It is only then that the Dahlia realizes the whiteness of her knuckles, the intensity with which she had held onto the table.
And she releases her grip, as well as a breath she didn't know she was holding in reserve.

Her tone eases, anger sloughing off of her in waves.
"That said, I am not so foolish as to think I am at the peak of my ability. You select your words with a purpose in mind, Takahashi-san -- please, share it with me."
While the statement may have begun with a tone of impatience, by the time she concludes, the psion has managed to calm herself, rearranging her manifold aspects into the orderly array from before -- with just a hint of curiosity.

"It is your nature," Kenshi replies in a tone that is almost gentle, "to deceive. The many masks of your mind tell a story far greater than anything that could be gleaned from Zach. I do not need to dig deep. I need only watch. You play this game of faces masterfully. At times an angry woman of high business. At others a knife smiled hostess. I do not believe you have yet found the right face to match me, but given time you will. You will match it to my taste, and I will think I have come to know you. Maybe that is what it means to know you."
In stark contrast to the Dahlia's ever changing moods, the blind man before her seems remarkably even keeled. But, he has been the aggressor in this verbal bout. Every step of the way he has pushed and nudged her, choosing his words with care. Twice she has called him on it, but still he refuses to submit control to her. At most, she has gotten only a smile.
Shifting in his seat, Kenshi appears to study the woman across the desk from him with hidden eyes. His expression is contemplative, matched well by the loose slump of his posture and folded hands. He seems, if anything, undecided.
"If I wished to test your resolve, there would be better ways than kombat. If we fight today, I will kill you and take my place as champion." There is no real malice in the ronin's tone as he says this. Instead, there is a note of tired finality, reflected in his thoughts. He is resigned to accept the burden, but only when and if it is absolutely necessary. That much rings clear in him. At the core of this man's soul he is responsible. "I do not care about your resolve. There was another who tested this before me, and though we have met only once, fleetingly, she remains pure in a way you are not. I will trust her decision to allow you to pass."
Leaning forward, Kenshi unfolds his hands and rests them on the arms of his chair. His posture, once lazy, grows intent as he focuses the full weight of his personality upon the Scarlet Dahlia, no hint of a smile anywhere on his bearded face.
"Show me who you are. Prove you are worthy of the trust of our entire realm. If I wished power, I would seek out the master of the fist. If I wished resolve, I would do this myself. But we are weapons already made, cast too hard and inflexible. Show me who you are, and perhaps we may have a chance. Let us see if a face remains beneath your many masks."

For every query made by the inquisitor, a portion of his soul is revealed as well. The man claims to have the noblest of intentions, mere breaths after admitting that he had plumbed the depths of Zach's soul to glean information that would likely have been shared by a simple question. Perhaps that was a calculated lie -- but it is in the Dahlia's nature to distrust.

"Some would consider it poor form to peer into the inner recesses of another's mind. An invasion of privacy, even. But to come out and -admit- it...?"
The Scarlet Dahlia's smile is made audible with a light puff of air from her nostrils.

"Do you believe that your knowledge of my nature gives you some sort of advantage over me?"

The village may continue to find different spokespersons as the conversation proceeds, never dwindling upon one for long. Though, if Kenshi stares into the abyssal village long enough, he will understand that they all share the same conscious awareness -- and the same voice, though it may be coming from different people entirely. The Dahlia is...

It becomes a bit more clear when Kenshi makes another statement that causes her pause. Every one of the villagers, each aspect of her personality tenses up. One chokes -- the aspect on the verge of tears. Another howls with a primal cry. Another lets out a throaty chant in a long-forgotten dialect, tribal and loaded with heartfelt emotion.
One villager makes herself obvious, her voice cutting through above the rest into the physical realm.

"I may have known little about you before, but I see now that you are a man used to getting his way."
The Dahlia leans against the back of her chair, casually dismissive of the resignation -- the condescension wafting off of her guest. Fingers lace together, as she arches one eyebrow.
"A man who relies on diplomacy, when it is called for, and intimidation... when it is not."
The hint of a smile creeps upon her face.
"Are we not... simply talking here?"

She gets her answer in the sudden disappearance of Kenshi's smile. Some of her aspects shudder, but the portion of her soul currently acting as speaker does not falter in the slightest.

"When a photographer demands a smile, only a dishonest expression can be captured on film."
Her thumbs press together, the joints popping lightly as she rocks them back and forth.
"Takahashi-san, you will have to make due with the 'me' you can sense before you. In all honesty, I'm afraid that I have been the 'real' me for as long as I have been on this island. There is no need for me to put on airs before those possessed of true vision and steadfast devotion. There is no mask I can don that would improve my outlook on life."

The chair creaks as the Dahlia leans forward, planting her elbows on the table, and bridging her chin with her laced fingertips.

"My people, the Ainu, are all but dead, Takahashi-san. To my people, it does not matter whether Earthrealm or Outworld succeeds -- for the death certificates have already been signed, to the rhythmic beat of modern culture."

The Dahlia closes her eyes. She does not need them -- she has a connection to Kenshi, after all. Her sense of sight will give her no particular advantage over her sense of -soul-.

The villagers' voices speak out in chorus -- singing out as one.
"You ask me who I am. And I can only tell you that you are looking at her. The dreamer of lost souls, the hopeless romantic who clings to the foolish notion that this world of ours is worth saving."

The Dahlia has no need to send out feelers, no need for walls. She is cognizant of the challenge posed by Kenshi -- and defiant against it. A village of unarmed women, defying the might of a shogun's ocean of katanas.

"If I smile, it is not because you ask it of me."
She is, for the record, still smiling.

The village of women stands before Kenshi in the landscape of their minds, each spouting their own form of defiance. Each proud. Some quaver, others remain strong. Some are full of wrath. They are as varied as they are plentiful, yet, the army they rage against remains silent.
The swordsman's stern mask breaks, crumpling into a look of haggard resignation. As his breath escapes him, he offers one final smile. More than any other before it, the slight flash of his white teeth conveys a sense of soul deep morning. Slowly, he sits back in his seat.
"You fail."
The words are nearly whispered, the aging man's head beginning to shake as his invisible gaze turns inward. Sitting there before her, hands resting on the arms of his chair and shoulders slumped, the Dahlia can see the realization of her failure hit him. By degrees, the weight of it settles upon him, bringing with it the understanding that he is in this alone. The certain knowledge that the only path away from darkness has closed to him. All that remains is blood and vengeance.
"I had hoped you would be more." Kenshi murmurs, slightly rough voice subdued, distracted by his own thoughts. He could take the time to explain, but. No. No. He might as well just show her.
Levering himself to his feet with the sound of creaking leather, the blind man directs his hidden gaze down toward the Dahlia, his bearded face calm and resigned. As he holds this posture in the physical realm, his mental presence crumbles away. The labyrinth of his mind simply dissolves, having been no more than a temporary construct summoned for the occasion. Beneath it can be felt, Kenshi. Not only the surface, but the man in his entirety. Every truth, every lie. His strengths and vulnerabilities.
The Dahlia can feel the brash young man he once was. Experience his lust for battle, and sense of entitlement. She can live the night he was tricked into opening his ancestor's tomb, dooming himself and many of their souls with him. After that follows many years of rage. Of hardship and training. And slowly, oh so slowly, the tempering of his hate. The maturing that allowed him to take his pain and wield it, rather than allowing it to wield him. To become the sort of man that would be accepted into the sword that has so patiently guided him.
She can feel the gradual shift from warrior to sage. The earnest effort he put into healing Zach, and the glances of the Dahlia he inadvertently absorbed in the process. The realization that she could be the one. A true champion. Someone he could trust to protect the realm, and perhaps give him the chance to lay down his burden of vengeance. And beneath it all, she can feel the mingled exhaustion and relief that she is not. Though part of him aches for freedom from this evil within him, too much of him was built upon it. He wants to kill the sorcerer. In his heart of hearts, he wants it more than anything, and he is ashamed.
"I did not want to control you." Kenshi states with quiet earnestness, "I wanted to empower you. But you are as lost as I." His soul remains open for a moment longer. In it can be felt his lingering doubts as to her motives. His impression of her soul, biting and coldly sarcastic behind an army of puppets. In it can be gauged the entirety of an aging man who has learned everything the hard way. Who truly does want the best for the world. But also a man who has a heart that yearns for violence, has killed without hesitation, and who has violated the minds of those who faced his justice. He could have become the worst of monsters, but somehow he has not.
In him can be felt his intention to give Sento and its many souls to her. To grant her a powerful tool in winning this fight for good.
She can feel that possibility die.
The ronin's soul folds shut, anchoring itself securely behind thick psychic walls. Still his surface thoughts remain open. His tendrils of awareness remain spread throughout the room. Everything else, however, is tucked safely away. This leaves the tall swordsman standing quietly before the Dahlia's desk, hidden eyes locked on her as if nothing at all has happened. And perhaps nothing has.
Without another word, Kenshi turns and begins walking slowly for the door. Though he teleported in, it seems he has no need for such flashy effects now. The test is over. His boots thump solidly against the floor with every careful step.
She failed.

It was not the first time she failed a test from a Japanese man. It would not be the last.

Moments before, the village council was unified in their delivery. Now, again, they are dissonant, varied. An outspoken woman is on the verge of lashing out, held back by a more reserved figure. One figure doubles over in anguish.
But well over half of the council stands firm, either in shock, or in defiance of the judgment passed down by the sightless stranger.

As the constructied artifice tumbles away, Kenshi will feel a slight change in the charged presences in the room -- the sphere of influence of the Ainu woman pressing against his, filling the void. Perhaps it is her intention that forces the spirit boundary forward, a thin membrane advancing against any pore left in the swordsman's defenses. Perhaps there is a less insidious reason -- an autonomic response, rather than a conscious decision. But the reality of the situation is that there is no practical delay between Kenshi's withdrawal and the expansion of the Dahlia's envelope of awareness, tickling at the periphery of his consciousness.

The villagers silence themselves, dispersing more liberally around the newly expanded territory. Hands and arms stretch out to either side as the council watches in mute fascination at the tale so obviously shared with them. Defiance, rage, and anguish are replaced with solemn understanding.
One of the village council remains motionless, wary for the well-being of the dispersed flock.

She glimpses the treasured sword -- and the number off souls stored within it. She also sees the scabbard locked down, kept turned away from her in a metaphorical sense, if not entirely a physical one.
The test may be over, but the woman and her village council are not immune to the ongoing judgment of the Japanese stranger. Leaping for the bait is not the wisest course of action.

The villagers withdraw, as the enveloping influence is pushed back. The boundary is realigned back to its proper state by the solidarity of Kenshi's assembled army.
The Dahlia's lips settle into a thin line, devoid of emotion, as she rises to her feet. Hands remain folded loosely, though they fall to waist-level.

After a moment, she speaks, finally.
"The Ainu legends make mention of an 'ipetam' -- a soul-devouring sword to be wielded by the greatest of champions. So great is the hunger for souls that, once unsheathed, an ipetam can never be returned to its source. Such a weapon will continue to empower its wielder with destructive, soul-devouring force -- unstoppable, undeniable."

Her voice grows solemn -- even bearing a hint of remorse. The honey-hued stone affixed to the right side of her sash begins to pulse, and glow. Within beat the souls of seven more -- warriors who -have- risen to fight. Warriors who waited patiently through the conversation, holding their tongue -- but now, their awarenesses join the Scarlet Dahlia's. The village gains seven new figures: male, adorned in armor drenched in the blood of kombat.

"Many a village fell to the power of these mystical weapons -- not only out of their destructive force, but out of a mistaken belief that their salvation lied in an external solution, rather than their own selves. That they could wield a legendary weapon as if they had held it all their lives, practiced with it from the age of maturity."

The yellow stone pulses and ebbs, even as the Dahlia holds position.
"I have but one question for you, Takahashi-san."
Her voice loses the somber tone. Another villager takes the speaker's role.
"As someone who bears the experience of both the rash fearlessness of youth and the reserved wisdom of age -- which do you believe is necessary to win this war?"

The Ainu tusukur holds her position.
The village council stands, awaiting a response, their seven guardians from two tournaments past standing in a loose semicirlce around them.

There is no flinching back, no defensive maneuver from the tall swordsman as the Dahlia begins to consolidate her power behind him. His slow, considerate steps continue, thought already having shifted away from the woman and on to his next task. Gathering souls. Convincing those who remain to support him. Becoming the champion of Earthrealm in truth.
Reaching the door, the ronin reaches down to curl his fingers lightly around the latch. Pausing there, he cocks his head to the side, dragging his thoughts back to the present. For perhaps five seconds he considers his reply. No move is made to explain the difference in his sword to the ones mentioned by the Ainu. He does not even care enough to confront her on the issue of external vs internal power. But he does consider her final question with care.
"This fight does not hinge on that question. Both the wise, and the brash have fallen to Shang Tsung. Reckless energy and rage can be unpredictable, while wisdom breeds dangerous strategy. What is needed in both cases is purity of spirit. This is something neither of us have. We have purity of intention.That will have to do."
Having offered the Scarlet Dahlia all the wisdom he is willing to, the ronin unlatches the door with a quiet click and begins to step through, boots treading lightly across the stone floor outside her chamber. With offhanded politeness the swordsman pauses just briefly outside to gently close the door, then turns, and begins to move away along the corridor.
He has much yet to do.

Log created on 12:07:19 11/22/2016 by Honoka, and last modified on 20:17:03 11/23/2016.