Description: Having narrowly escaped the jaws of reptilian doom, Alma and Menat return to the safe haven of their mentor's apartment to rest, recooperate, and plan for the future.
Alma Towazu may be a psychic, but this was not how he envisioned his next reunion with his teacher Rose.
Though the two of them are frequently in contact, Alma and Rose's paths have not crossed in a little while. The two of them are international travelers, he as a painter and she as a fortune teller. Moreover, with the Psycho Soldiers not participating in this year's King of Fighters after winning the previous, Alma has spent more time with the Sacred Order, wielding his Soul Power in their clandestine efforts to keep the peace in the mortal realm, and with his teammates on Team Balance than with his fellow psychics. The days of Alma's intensive training, when he was still awakening the abilities that allow him to paint so sensitively and richly and fight so skillfully and intensely, have passed. But he still eagerly looks forward to every encounter with his mysterious and generous mentor, knowing that he has much to learn and far to grow.
This is, however, the first time he has met his teacher while in the nude and bloodied, and cradling in his arms Menat, also nude and bloodied.
For you see, after escaping the deadly talons of Riptor and her cybernetically-enhanced companion, and thus the second attempt on Alma's life within the same hotel, the young man had to act quickly. Menat's life was in danger due to her serious wounds and he lacked the power of the gem she had used to heal him. The hotel was in chaos and it was unclear how many enemies, from the Illuminati or from whatever organization sent Riptor, remained. And Alma, seemingly left for dead, realized that it could be dangerous to reveal that he yet lived by going straight to a hospital. If the United Nations itself has turned against him, even in Japan as an enemy nation, it's not clear where might be safe except for one place: Rose's apartment.
And that is why Alma now sits in a borrowed bathrobe, his expression perhaps a little too calm as he awaits for Menat to emerge from the room where she is resting. He had found a First Aid kit before fleeing the hotel and did his best to bandage her, but he might have gone a little overboard. Little touches like that reveal the depth of a concern for his ally that does not easily display itself upon his fey features.
As for why he ran through Southtown completely naked--
"I suppose it didn't seem relevant," he explains, bemused at the question.
It's alright. Around this time a nuclear bomb will be blowing up Mt. Fuji, and everyone will forget about it and put it down to radiation-induced hallucination ... or something.
Several hours pass before the door to the bedroom where Rose's newest disciple has been resting finally creaks open, swinging slowly outwards guided by a small hand. The figure that stands in the doorway looks like something out of an old B-budget horror movie, her body wrapped haphazardly in thick layers of gauze. Large portions of the bandaging is soaked through with dull red stains, particularly around her midsection where the damage was the most grevious, but there's plenty of lesser patches of dried blood dotting the rest of her to mark the ferocity of the mauling she got in her attempt to deflect the killer robo-saurs from taking a bite out of Alma's backside.
Menat staggers into the room wearing nothing but those dirty bandages, her face gaunt, eyes rimmed with a mixture of the dark eyeliner she had been wearing and rings of sleepiness. The young woman lets out a soft moan, a hand covering half her face to shield her eyes from the light while the other paws at the air, clutching at some ephemeral object that seems to just elude her grasp with each halting step forward, her path vaguely moving towards Rose's kitchen
"Ooooh.... need... c-coffee..."
The open window (not, conveniently, facing Mt. Fuji's genral direction) lets the wind in, making gauzy curtains billow.
The bathroom stereo system is playing some kind of mix tape. 2017, and what's the mood? Bonnie Raitt, and a total eclipse... of the heart.
Rose is in the exact same bathrobe as Alma. Let's rephrase that: They were clearly a set. It sits better on Rose, but it also has a plunging neckline that's more of a navel line. Rufus would be proud, though of course he would pity Rose's distinct lack of the pleasure of the treasure trail.
She also has high heels on.
Rose reaches over with a wooden spoon and rests it against Menat's forehead. It is humid with the heat of water. "You," she tells her, "sit. It's getting ready. Just over there. My God," Rose then says, turning back to the pot of potato gnocchi she was cooking. "Mysterious AND generous. He's really a flatterer, Menat. You'll have to be careful around him."
"So, tell me more of this... Riptor. I'll start the sausages in a moment. That should be good for you both, hm?"
There IS coffee already preparing, but the pot is still burbling. Soon. SOON.
"Did I say 'mysterious and generous' aloud, or...?"
Or does it even matter with this crew? Alma lowers his eyes with uncharacteristic bashfulness at Rose's teasing, which gives rise in him to a self-consciousness that their alluring appearances do not evoke. The physical world pales in its splendor to that of the emotional, rendered in full color by psychic aura sight. But precisely because of that, unexpected intimacy or vulnerability -- when loved ones know him better than he knows himself -- touches him to the quick. Wait. Is she reading this too? Like, including the 'alluring appearances' part? Uh, l-let's stop narrating and get back to the scene.
"Menat!" Alma exclaims, rising from his chair at the sight of her, lacking his usual composure. Though they have known each other less than a day, their connection was instantaneous, and battle proved it. "Ah..." He lowers his voice, seeing her distress. "I'm glad you're up and walking again. Thank you ... for putting so much on the line to save me." He hesitates a moment, before delicately adding: "Are the bandages ... okay?"
This may be one of those dating sim flag-setting questions.
"I've never seen such a beast even among the Darkstalkers," Alma dutifully replies to his teacher, settling back into the chair and turning his gaze to Rose as she fends off Menat's caffeine cravings. "The man who defeated me came, I know, from the Illuminati, one of the Sacred Order's constant foes. They ever seek to exploit the supernatural for their own shallow gain. But this creature--" Where had he heard the name Riptor? Blaring from the radio on a fallen, gored man. Perhaps Riptor's handler originally, but he had not the time to investigate with Menat's life potentially on the line. "--it was supremely intelligent and profoundly adaptable, designed to be a killing machine. I do not think the Illuminati's research aims toward the design of such beings, not from what I know." He pauses, the weight of his concerns evident in his furrowing brow. "My guess is that ... whomever I interfered with in Appalachia, when that monster was destroyed, is targeting me for those actions. It may be a coincidence, but as things are now, I suspect that the Illuminati has allies in manipulating the United Nations, and the Sacred Order poses a threat to all of them."
When Alma's gaze lowers again, it is imbued with determination, and the severity that the otherwise mild-mannered psychic reserves for cruel injustice.
"I must protect them. The world's peace is at stake."
The spoon to the forehead stops lumbering girl cold as if it were somehow projecting an invisible barrier that she cannot cross. Menat squints her eyes shut and makes a distressed face like a child that has been told it can't have a cookie before dinner, flailing rapidly at the air in front of her, but after a couple moments she mutters a barely comprehensible "Yes, master..." and complies with the order. Wheeling around slowly, she twists in place like a tank before ambling off in a shuffle towards the first seat that crosses her vision, plopping down into a comfy armchair.
It's actually quite remarkable that the little fortune teller is able to move around at all considering the sort of injuries she sustained. Some of that can be attributed to dumb luck, Riptor's deadly tail having missed her vital organs and just made something of a big sticky mess instead of disemboweling her. The rest is thanks to those many hours that have passed since their return, all of which have been spent in a deep psychic trance during which she had devoted her concentration to some intense mind-over-matter trickery in order to try and patch up what she could. It wasn't particularly effective, healing isn't really her forte, and the effort had left her sorely drained but it was enough for her to be conscious and mobile, even if she did look like death warmed over.
And ofcourse, Alma helped too by carting her half-dead and fully naked body back to Rose's apartment, his concern for her well-being so great that he couldn't even stop find a towel. Or a leaf.
Upon collapsing into the chair, Menat opens her eyes just wide enough to squint at her fellow disciple. She takes note of the robe, which is rather familiar, her gaze shifting over to Rose where she finds its twin. Her cheeks regain a little bit of color as they turn a faint shade of pink. That was the robe she had bought for herself after Rose had taken her on as a disciple, intentionally picked out to match that of her beloved Master. The timing of her reaction is such that Alma might mistake it as one brought about by his query towards her current state of attire, but shyness has never been something that she's struggled with, though this is certainly the first instance that nudity has factored into the equation so much in so short a span of time.
"I just did what Master would have done," she offers after a few seconds, smiling brightly. "Though... obviously not nearly as skillfully."
"If your wounds are any indication, 'Riptor' is not an ironic name. It sounds like a creature of Outworld," Rose says, stirring the pot. She frowns as she weighs Alma's revelations, with their thick and turgid promise of more suffering.
"And I had hope that the death of 'That Man' would be the end of things." 'That Man,' of course, being Vega. Alma and Menat would know such things for sure, even if Rose rarely speaks of him aloud.
After this she dishes the gnocchi up. Two plates. (She probably ate earlier.) As she sets them on the table, she asks Menat, "If you feel up to it -"
Coffee gets poured too. This, Rose appreciates, as she takes her own seat. Menat has a cup poured for her, as does Alma, but that seems to drain the pot. Then again, it is borderline espresso.
"Tell us how you yourself came to get such nasty wounds. Though I must admire how well you've studied; wounds like that would be a week's bed rest, normally. I forbid you, by the way," and Rose's tone is general enough to include Alma, "to immediately leap back into battle until you've had a good night's sleep."
She's looking at Alma there, perhaps with anticipation of eagerness.
Alma blinks at Menat's unexpectedly intent scrutiny. Something seems to have flustered her slightly. Glancing down at himself, he briefly runs his hands over the low-cut robe, presumably his teacher's spare, to smooth it out. It's very comfortable, he reflects, particularly when wearing nothing underneath.
"Your technique was extraordinary," he enthuses despite her humility. A spark comes to Alma's eye, the eagerness of encountering a kindred spirit. "When you intercepted our enemies to protect me and countered them with two shields at once-- I was in awe. You've learned so well from our teacher. I--"
He hesitates then, only to be conveniently interrupted by a plate of delectable gnocchi. "Thank you, Sensei." But his features retain a trace of puzzlement, unsure about what he was going to say. He did not study his teacher's reflection technique. He focused on self-expression, on searching inward, seeking to understand his still-mysterious flashbacks, awakening the power to see the spirits of others but focusing on the control of his own.
So he looks within, and sees what truly troubles him: Urien, the opponent from the Illuminati who defeated Alma, possessed the ability to reflect the energies of others as well. Could Alma have been complacent in his training? No, it doesn't matter now. The strength and skill he gained were never only for fighting. He needed to protect himself because it was likely that dark forces would come for him with his talent. But anything further--
His interjection will come once Menat has finished speaking as much as she wishes. He knows that Rose is right, that he cannot leap back into the fray right away. And he also shouldn't reveal his presence to the Illuminati, who likely believe him dead, carelessly. He will need time to plan as well as to rest.
He cannot recall ever asking to learn a particular fighting technique. He studiously learned what Rose saw fit to teach him, what suited his natural talents. Every expansion of his mind brought with it power. The training was arduous, but strength came almost incidentally with wisdom.
"Please teach me the fundamentals of the art of reflection."
Now, as he looks to Rose with resolve, with concern, with the weight of his chosen responsibilities and the hope of what good they can accomplish, all that must change.
He probably could've waited until the meal was over, though.
The smell of that heavenly brew is enough to give Menat the strength to push herself back to her feet and flop down into one of the chairs at the table. She cradles the cup against her cheek like an old lover until the heat seeps through the ceramic of the mug strongly enough to start being painful, causing her to wince and mutter some wordless noises of pain. Her approach is a little more careful when she moves to consume the beverage, blowing on hot liquid steadily for a bit before taking an experimental taste. Apparently her ability to read the future doesn't extend to avoiding a burnt tongue.
The infusion of caffinated nectar seems to bring the girl back to life, sip by sip. Menat sits up a little straighter in her seat and starts to munch on the fresh dumplings happily, tossing them into her mouth with her bandaged fingers like pieces of popcorn. Her appetite proves to be rather voracious once she starts in and the plate quickly becomes devoid of everything but a few grease stains. Meditation is hungry work, apparently.
Alma's recollection of her daring intervention proves to be the final bit of wind she needed in her sails to regain her composure. The girl rises to her feet and stretches, hoisting both of her arms up high over her head, her back arching. The move does interesting things to the bandages wrapped tightly about her lithe form. She lets out a satisfied sigh after squeaks several soft pops from her joints and rests her hands on her hips, smiling like a flower in sunshine.
"Aww... you're going to make me blush! But, it was pretty cool right?!" She turns her attention to Rose, beaming brightly at her praise, puffing up her chest like a peacock. "You should have seen it, Master! I would have made you proud! Alma was in deep trouble, surrounded on all sides! So I pushed him out of the way and deflected both attacks, like pow! Zap! It was amazing!"
Her expression suddenly shifts to something more humble, a hand going down to rest on the large red stain spread throughout the bandages on her stomach. Even with all of her efforts to accelerate her healing, that one was still pretty nasty.
"Uuuuntil... I got shikebobed. That wasn't terribly impressive. Don't worry, I'm not particularly eager to attempt a repeat performance just yet."
Rose is already looking at Alma when he says her name.
"The fundamentals? Those are easy, in a sense. Or perhaps I should say, they are simple," Rose tells Alma. "But to take them into yourself will have some complications, Alma. It will be difficult for you to forget what it is that you have touched."
"I forget none of them," Rose says. "Even now." Her coffee is sipped. "But if you are committed to this path..."
She reaches over to rest a hand atop Alma's, though, before her attention returns to Menat. As Menat ruthlessly and joyfully takes to that coffee - thick, dark, and resolutely resistant to contrast or comparison to non-european skin tones - Rose waits. There is no impatience there. If anything she smiles at the popping of joints. "Don't strain your wounds just yet," she chides lightly, before she pivots herself.
"Pow AND zap... So it wasn't just energies flowing, then," Rose muses.
"That one can take a while to learn," Rose explains to Alma. "But as you know, all things are ultimately flows of energy."
Back to Menat, Rose says, "I do forbid you to become any kind of skewered meat. Do you know where you erred?"
Alma nods solemnly. He has an inkling of what his teacher means. When striking at Urien's will, the empath felt that man's towering ego and crippling insecurities passing into him, flowing through him. This experience, the remembrance of these sensations, must be where he begins to build the foundations of his own approach to the art of reflection.
Smiling at Rose as she lays a reassuring hand over his own, he turns to see Menat stretching with delight, showing off his bandage handiwork. "Pow ... zap ..." Alma murmurs, weighing Menat's words. "I see. These are distinct techniques." No, Alma, they'll bully you if you're like this. "Menat," her fellow student continues after her retelling, with an air of earnest sincerity. "I promise, whatever may come, that I will not allow your meat to be skewered again."
Satisfied with his declaration, he sets himself belatedly to eating and drinking. It's delicious as always.
Menat considers her mentor's question with a solemn expression, a finger going up to rest on her chin as she peers thoughtfully at the ceiling. Well, she was there between Riptor and her toothy friend, doing her thing, deflecting attacks like a boss. Then there was a whole lot of pain and a giant tail poking out of her stomach, which is a form of extreme body piercing she wasn't particularly keen on exploring, and the other raptor was chewing on her face. As for what she did wrong...?
"I... got... hit?"
She offers the response with a mixture of sheepish grinning and apologetic shrugging, rubbing the back of her head. Honestly, there wasn't a whole lot more that she could have done in her recollection. The creatures were just too fast for her to deal with two of them at once. She'd managed to suprise them a couple times because they were focused on Alma but once she had their attention... well, she's the one wearing the bandages and not him. Perhaps if she'd been a little more sensitive to the flows of fate she might have been able to see it coming in time. Maybe that's what Rose means, that she needs more training?
Alma's sudden declaration gives the girl pause, a fresh surge of pink rising into her tanned skin and she looks away quickly, covering her cheeks with her hands.
"Oh... um... that's very kind of you!"
Rose will only bully Alma in a light, curiously sensual way. That is her official training policy. You can put that in her newspaper ad.
Rose lets out a small chuckle at Alma's words. To Menat, she says, "It's true. But I see from your face, and the way that you're holding yourself, that you've already learned what there is to learn from such an experience. If you've forgotten, you need only remember."
The blush on Menat's dark cheeks makes Rose smile further yet.
"Well, whatever happens," she says, "both of you must rest. We will plan out our drills in the morning. I had no plans I cannot break, and I am sure the world will not explode in the meantime."
IN THE MORNING
Rose collects her copy of Dikitikitikideska, the multi-language tabloid newspaper that works for YOU as well as a major Japanese media conglomerate. Unfolding it, she sees the front page:
What This Means For Your Fujiyama Tour
Log created on 22:11:27 10/25/2017 by Menat, and last modified on 02:56:08 10/28/2017.