Mortal Kombat - MK: The Return

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Description: The Mortal Kombat tournament winds to an end with the island of Shang Tsung's palace sinking into the sea. The long boat ride home sounds like as good a time as any to take stock of what's happened, and what's to happen in the future.

When the galleon christened "Abandoned Hope" first got underway, it was located within a mystical realm juxtaposed halfway between Outworld and Earthrealm. In some senses, it was always present, but in many others, the realm was a constructed reality, carved out of the mystic leylines and shaped according to the will of its makers. In a matter of hours, the giant ship will have transited across the boundary to Earthrealm.

Maybe then, the sky will be a brighter shade of blue. Maybe the stench of death and decay won't be as prevalent. Would it even be recognizable?

Among the galleon's passengers, the Scarlet Dahlia enjoys a position of relative privilege. She lounges upon a makeshift throne -- generally reserved for persons of high social standing -- which had been erected slightly higher and aftward of the captain's wheel. A perfect view of the smoky, perilous seascape stretching outwards in all directions. A perfect view of every crew station above deck. A perfect view of anyone who might dare to approach Earthrealm's Champion without permission.

Beside her -- one on each side -- are two Ainu guests. One male, one female, the two time-displaced visitors are bedecked in simple frocklike garments not unlike those of the ship's sorcerous navigator. Their hair has been neatly styled, and, in contrast to the masses of weary and restless people upon the boat, they seem to be the very portraits of well-rested indivduals. Their eyes are alight with wonder as they marvel at the ship upon its journey. Anyone else -- in fact, everyone else -- is quite bored with the exact same sights and sounds, so something's clearly not right with these two...

The Dahlia herself, though, had been taking a brief catnap. Her chin cradled by an upraised hand, propped firmly in place upon the right armrest of the upholstered throne. Her eyes closed, her lips curled in blissful repose. She is attired in a simple robe of rough, untinted silk, not unlike those provided to monks or acolytes upon the island.

Thirty minutes' nap is about all she seemed to require, though. As she blinks back to a state of wakefulness, she glances around the ship and its oceanic environs, murmuring quietly in Ainu to her female companion. Upon receiving a response, she nods quietly and sits up properly, a self-assured smile slipping onto its face.

She coughs lightly into a raised fist. Her voice raises to be heard over the mild wind. "At the risk of sounding impatient, my good Captain... can you provide an update to our estimated time till arrival?"

The weathered captain looks back over his shoulder, calling out, "Should be another... eleven hours, milady."

The Dahlia brushes salt off her silken robes, nodding quietly. "Thank you for the update."

Zach Glenn had picked a spot just foreward of the Dahlia's throne. She would not readily see him, his own position below the raised platform that houses the Captain's wheel and the throne, but she would certainly know that he is there. He is sitting, leaning up against the bulkhead, his back to the throne and the new companions. He had appeared somewhat shaken when he had first seen them, having quickly sussed out who they were and how they came to arrive with the Dahlia.

He stares off at the horizon, not really fixing his gaze on any one thing for very long, though his eyes frequently drop to his now bared right wrist before looking to something else.

As the Dahlia returns to wakefulness, she feels... invigorated. Just a half hour of sleep after well over a week without it has been tremendously refreshing. She looks forward to a much longer sleep later, but until she's safely at home with an army of guards, the lowered guard of true deep sleep is a luxury she will not allow herself. Naps... are all she's going to get for now.

And with awareness comes the sensations of those among the ship. That, too, is invigorating in its own sense. Upon the island, all she had felt was darker, selfish emotions: fear, dread, vengeance. The mood aboard the ship now is much different: relief and hope. Oh, and boredom, and maybe a bit of seasickness: not everyone is as accustomed to the seafaring vessel's gentle rocking and rolling like she is.

One particular psychic signature stands out, though. One familiar to her, and yet... different. Changed.

"<If you will excuse me for a few moments...>" she states to her acquaintances. They are not quite strangers -- she has spoken with them for weeks in one form or another. But neither are they exactly 'friends' so much as companions of circumstance. She rises, bowing her head in greeting, and begins descending the ladder from the raised quarterdeck.

"Scary, isn't it?" The Dahlia's smile is faint and beguiling as she takes her first few steps on the main deck. There's no question who she's talking to -- she's looking squarely at Zach.

"What was it like, having him along...? Was it like... having someone looking over your shoulder all the time?"

She could have been selfish, and just let him continue on in relative silence. But it's not really her style to let issues like this continue to grow unchecked.

Zach's eyes snap up to Honoka's regaining focus. "Scary?" he replies, before glancing back down at his wrist. "Only at first. During that fight with Aranha. When he..." Zach shudders. "When he did what he did. After that, after I had made my terms clear, it wasn't so bad."

The former Marine tugs the sleeve of his coat over his wrist before looking back up at Honoka. "After that, it was probably like how things were with you. Someone to talk to, work with. Maybe someone to learn from." He considers for a moment. "It was kind of like having a very involved older brother, I think."

%He looks thoughtful for a moment, not quite smiling. "Never had one of those."

He looks thoughtful for a moment, not quite smiling. "Never had one of those."

"So he wasn't ever this... obvious before, then. Interesting..." The Dahlia nods back with a knowing expression -- not really agreeing or disagreeing, just sorting things into place for herself.

"I can imagine. For... for a -while- at the orphanage, I had the distinct impression that there were people who wanted to be my older brothers and sisters." Her smile reaches a brief uptick, before she presses her lips into more of an even line. "It wasn't for me."

Eyes widen for a moment, before she looks to the fore of the ship again, exhaling with the realization of her unexpected allusion to the circumstances of her departure from the orphanage. (i.e. it being set on fire) "... And... do you miss him now? Feel like he's... not ever coming back?"

"No," he answers quickly, "From what I could tell, he wasn't really involved with me at all until..." He jerks his chin back towards the aft of the boat, as if to indicate the sunken island. He goes quiet for a moment, seemingly lost in thought as he tamps down on unwelcome memories. He frowns slightly.

"I think that I might," he says quietly. "I mean it's too soon to..." He frowns again. "You... you did a lot, risked a lot, to bring me back. But I think it might not have succeeded without his help. If he hadn't had my back until you showed up."

Zach heaves a sigh, and stands up slowly. "As for coming back," he finally says, "I don't know. I got the impression that he's got a really specific 'beat' that he works, and the scale of it is kind of... well... I think he would not get involved if, say, Vega were trying to conquer the world. Scale's too small for him to get involved in."

The Dahlia's hair has been pulled into a loose bun for the ocean voyage. As such, in some measures she resembles the criminal boss persona she had kept on mainland. In other details -- particularly the loose silken robes and the gently-glowing soulstone dangling from the chain on her neck -- the Champion of Earthrealm looks much as she had upon the island. The dissonance may be concerning, but to anyone familiar with both aspects of her personality, it will be a perfectly natural look for her.

If nothing else though -- the rest helped. While she may have let some pieces of information slipped, her quasi-regal bearing remains intact. After all, she can never be sure exactly -who- is watching -- though she's fairly sure that no one can -hear- the conversation over the ocean breeze.

An eyebrow arches; a mild smirk pulls up one side of her lips. "Vega plundering the world is too -small- a scale? I'd hate to see what he considers to be 'worth it.'"

The Dahlia briefly turns her gaze towards the distant, hazy horizon once again. Avoiding Zach's eyes, she mentions, "... You got along without his direct intervention before. It might take a while, but you'll be fine."

She looks back at him, with a sidelong glance. "Next few months are going to be busy, after all. Plenty of things to keep us from worrying about this island's utter nonsense."

Honoka's comment about scale gets a short, but genuine, laugh out of Zach. "I know, right," he says. "And I did. And will," he says after a moment. He is silent for a moment. Then she mentions being busy. He frowns a bit at that. "Is... are things..." The frown deepens a bit more. "You think people are going to take advantage of your absense." Something about the tone suggests he's not talking about the circus.

The Dahlia shakes her head slowly. "No... but I'm not as concerned with that now. My priorities have changed. We stand in the doorway of an occurrence that has -never- happened before in all of history. The resurgence -- the resurrection -- of people who have been gone and missing for two centuries, at a time when their presence is most dearly needed. The Ainu people -- our days have been numbered. Our culture, our language, our history -- lost to the winds of change and indifference."

She raises one palm, stretching it outward to the horizon. "When we return to Hokkaido -- not only will we have the Stormbringer of legend. Not only will we have a small army of people who have actually borne witness to the Kamui Kanna. But we will have the wisdom and shared experiences of individuals who kept culture alive in their hearts and memories. Not pretenders, like my aunt Pirka, going through the motions for an hour at a time for the fake applause and adulation of others. But true believers, true adherents, true =Ainu=."

Her smile is warm, and radiant -- even without the aid of the honey-hued soulstone at her chest.

"One nameless island sinks -- and the reborn Ainu nation rises from it... Isn't it a glorious irony?"

Zach listens patiently. He ignores the surface jab; that strictly speaking Zach is not Ainu except that he is in fact human. He's not sure /how/ to approach that just yet, so he doesn't. "I've got no idea how to approach that," he admits. "It's pretty big. But I have a small idea about how much it means to you. I'd like to help, but I have no clue how." He looks over at the Dahlia, a faint smile on his own face. "Destruction and creation are linked."

Zach considers his next words. It's entirely possible that she plans to get out of the whole Yakuza thing. He's not sure how /likely/ it is, though. "I literally owe you my life," he finally says. "Thank you, for that."

"It's not like I have this all mapped out from start to finish, either," admits the Dahlia, turning away from the horizon to flash a self-aware smile back at her longtime companion. "We'll... figure something out. But honestly, I'll need to sleep off his whole mess for a while before I'll entrust myself with anything concrete. This... isn't something that can afford to be done wrong."

As to whether she will be abandoning her yakuza ties... well. They may be essential to her plan, or they may be completely irrelevant. Until she is able to see how the world has changed in the absence of the world's greatest fighters, she cannot commit to any sort of plan.

But... it would seem there is another matter which occupies Zach's mind even moreso than before. She smiles warmly -- if a bit more vapidly than usual for the calculating Dahlia personage. "... You're welcome. I don't think any of this would have been possible without -your- help, to be fair. So thank -you- as well."

Zach shrugs a bit at the thanks, as if he's not sure how to take it. "Sleep sounds good," he admits. "So does food." But when /doesn't/ food sound good to Zach? He stares out at the horizon for a long moment. He frowns a bit.

"I can only guess at how much back log I am going to have to work through," he finally says. "And I'm not even sure if..." Zach pauses, and Honoka can all but hear the mess of concepts and emotions whirling through Zach's mind as he approaches the next thing he says.

"We were not at all prepared for this," Zach finally says. "Not for the scope, not for the stakes. Not for any of it." Zach looks down at Honoka, then back at the horizon. "My job seems really /small/ in the face of that. In theory, there is time until this all happens again, but the Sorcerer was willing to game the rules at least once. It nearly ended us."

He looks back to Honoka again, steel in his voice and expression. "I plan to make us ready. Or at least get it started. I don't think it will be a clean, or pretty thing, either. I may have to borrow a few pages from Ryouhara's playbook."

"... Food." The Dahlia smiles at that. It'd be nice to have a good home-cooked meal. Or heck, even a store-bought meal.

"This tournament certainly had a way of placing the rest of life into perspective. Fate of the world... and then everything else."

Her expression grows a bit more... defensive as he says 'we were not at all prepared for this.' Her own thoughts wander -- for one thing, -she- was prepared. She knew from day one just how serious this would be. And even if she had reason to question motivations, five minutes' conversation with any of the time-lost Ainu warriors was enough to convince even the most ardent denier that Mortal Kombat Is Mortal.

So no, she does not agree that 'we' were not prepared. "... I will agree that Earthrealm could have stood to learn more from history than they did. Which is part of why I have chosen to allow the long-gone generations to speak for themselves. To =open= the door to the past, that we might have an easier time in the future."

But when the name of Ryouhara is invoked, the Dahlia's mood darkens considerably. "... Ryouhara? You mean... Seishirou? I've not really considered the connection until now -- what do you mean, exactly?"

"Which is what I was getting at," Zach says in a mollifying tone. "That we as a world had not learned enough, prepared enough, for this. If it were not for you, there'd be an invasion going on, not a trip home." Zach takes a deep breath before continuing.

"Glen remembers Seishirou Ryouhara. The man was... he was directly responsible for a number of terrorist incidents. One of which was masquerading as a fighting tournament. Ryouhara also put on a tournament that quickly went to crap, and there would be good money that he facilitated that. The people who were invited to the tournament, though? All of them newer talent. Younger fighters. Glen was invited to the actual tournament, and then invited himself to another event." Zach looks down at the floor, then back out at the ocean. "Most of the fighters survived these things though. Gained strength from the events. I can't speak for others, but Ryouhara paid Glen a visit once between the two things. It... kind of felt like Glen was being appraised somehow."

Zach sighs. "Between that, and some other things," he finally says. "Glen, and later I, got the impression that the man was trying to... I don't know... raise up fighting talents in a very 'survival of the fittest' kind of way." He looks thoughtful.

"In fact," he says almost philosophically, "I would put large amounts of money that he was at least partly responsible for the people who remember Glen's world remembering anything of the sort. Ryouhara had... interesting techniques and strange tools."

The Dahlia listens quietly as Zach tells about Seishirou Ryouhara. This... isn't the -first- time she's heard the story, but she is committing very different details to memory this time. Masquerading as a fighting tourament. Improving skills. And most importantly -- appraising.

"That is an interesting... context. I had known about the terrorism, but that it could be idealistic to the point of -improving- humanity is... a different spin than I had expected."

Even after that, the insight which Zach brings about the memories of the former world... that's even more enlightening. Eyes widen for a moment, and then the Dahlia nods quietly. "... It would stand to reason, then. Ryouhara is mad. If he were -responsible- for the memories, then that would place him close to ground zero, and thus... most likely to be adversely affected by the proximity."

The Ainu shaman's right hand curls by her hip. She clearly seems to want something at hand, something she's used to having to help her focus, but it's just not there at the moment. Not in her current attire, anyway. Irritably, she lets the compulsion pass with a rough sigh.

"Ayame Ichijo was on the island, yet she was not competing, as far as I'm aware. Do you know what that was about? And what connection she might have had in this tournament Glen was in?"

Zach makes a slight gesture with his left hand, and he surreptitiously offers something to the Dahlia with a faint, but cocky, grin on his face. There is a yo-yo in his left hand. And then the information about Ayame is brought to light. He frowns, again. "I wasn't even aware she was on the island," he says with a sigh. "She is going to give me =so= much crap about this," he says with resignation in his tone.

"Glen knew that the two worked together on a number of things," Zach says, slipping into an almost military tone, as if he were delivering a briefing. Or maybe being debriefed. "I also know that out of everyone who remembers that I have talked to, her," Zach pauses to look for the right word, "Transfer, for lack of a better term, her's is the only one that worked exactly as it was meant to." Zach frowns a bit. "She loves Ryouhara," he says quietly, firmly. "And she will wage a war for him. We should leave him be. Ayame is a very capable, very /dangerous/ individual."

The Dahlia looks down at the object in Zach's hand.
She looks back to his face, his cocky, self-assured grin.
And then without breaking eye contact, she reaches forward and snags the yo-yo out of his hand. One of her own -- from her trailer.

... She doesn't really -do- anything with it, aside from just feel the object in her palm, the reassuring weight. The measure of -comfort-. She can't allow herself to be seen actually -flinging- the thing, but knowing that Zach's got her back... well.

It's the thought that counts, surely.

She had allowed herself a grateful expression, but only for a fleeting moment; she puts a bit more serious look for the debriefing. And... upon mention of Ayame not just admiring Ryouhara, not just looking up to him, but... loving?

She exhales, sharply. Pointedly looking past Zach -- off to the horizon, with glassy eyes.

She misread the two. It hits her like a hammer, in retrospect -- Ayame's emotional shift was so abrupt, so -pointed-. They weren't friends -- not like she'd imagined. They were much closer.

A moment of consideration, as she once more acquaints herself with the comforting weight in her hand.
What's done is done, she rationalizes.

Her focus returns to Zach, as she offers a mild, placated half-smile. "We'll see. It's obvious she has significant flaws in this incarnation, if her King of Fighters performance is any indication."

She turns away, biting her lower lip. "I'm... gonna need to think some things out for a bit, now that my head's a bit clearer. But, in the meantime... "

She places one hand on the ladder leading back up to the quarterdeck. As she begins to ascend, she states with a quiet tone: "Think about what you wanna do when we get home."

Log created on 18:00:26 04/02/2017 by Honoka, and last modified on 11:03:33 04/03/2017.