Clio - Down on the Boardwalk

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Description: In the aftermath of an eventful day of fun in the sun with the Golden Angel Tournament, Clio St. Jeanne decides to sneak a visit to the Boardwalk near the Dream Amusement Park. She intends to do a little exploring, but when her explorations are joined by local high school student, Miko Kobayashi, the explorations take a turn away from the physical to the emotional.

The Golden Angel Waterpark was a fun day outing -- and for certain people with waaaaay too much on their mind, a necessary release valve.

All good things must come to an end. And for the trio of Gedo troublemakers, that end is at the Boardwalk -- the blasted out mess left behind in the wake of a troublesome conflict. Sure -- come spring it will be back to its usual tourist trap self, but right now the boards are riddled with craters, splintering badly in the cold and ice. Caution tape and temporary barricades have been set at numerous locations. And worst of all, the cold and perpetually overcast weather seems predestined to drive as many people to the artificial summer of the Waterpark as possible. A drag for the city, but a boon for capitalism!

Miko waves a hand to her blue-haired and red-haired friends as they go on about their way. Touji runs off in the direction of the harbor, his dusty school uniform having seen better days. Saya's Gedo seifuku is in somewhat better condition, which will probably serve her better as she's headed towards one of the local bookstores. But Miko's attire -- a gray sailor uniform of her own, with black leggings and a boy's uniform coat draped over her shoulders -- is the cleanest and most pristine of all.

Left alone once again, she stuffs her hands in the pockets of the gakuran coat, wilting slightly upon further exposure to the chill air. Her right hand digs around in the pocket for a moment before withdrawing a slender pen. Within moments, she has the pen dancing about between carefully-timed and -placed flicks of her fingers as she walks, uniform loafers clonking lightly against the less damaged of the boardwalk planks.

Her destination soon becomes clear -- as she stops by an entrepreneur's food truck.
The pen's flicking stops.
For now... Miko has something else to focus on: the warm aroma rising from a piping-hot cup of tea.

The day at the waterpark was okay. Mostly. It wasn't terrible at least for Clio St. Jeanne. Just a day in a pseudo-Summer wonderpark in a good created swimsuit that, when she thought on it, was actually pretty easy to wear. But the fun in the fake sun has past and that's left Clio St. Jeanne to potentially enjoy some of her time to herself. After all, there were some things and people of interest.

She's slipped back into her street clothes. Not her NOL uniform, but her hooded ankh sweatshirt, long to nearly her knees. A pair of warmer leggings than her usual shorts. The boots and her chain and oversized collar were ever present. Comfortable, warm enough clothing that she can poke around in some of the cordoned areas around the park. Much to explore and poke around in. The crumbling underbelly hidden away behind the facade of the bright and sunny Golden Angel Tournament.

She clinks and thumps, moving across the tops of booths formerly hawking food and gachapon machines. Dropping down to the boardwalk, clambering back up. She stops and perches at one point to watch a pair of younger people making breaks for it. She hums to herself, watching them, pulling her hood up against a gust of sea wind. Two of the contestants? She remembers them from the park even. She also remembers there was a third.

Sliding down to the creaking and cracking floorboards, Clio skips around frost heaved wood and sea water worn walkways. A lamentable condition after the near war. It's pitiable in its way, but this part of town probably isn't carrying the usual sentimentals that she normally catalogues on her explorations.

There she is, contestant number three. Clio grins to herself as she approaches. Looking to fall back behind the young woman when she sees the food truck. Could go for a bit of something to eat and meeting the.

Clio notices the blazer and the uniform. Damn, she's a high school kid. Too late to abort, already too close. The NOL Lieutenant sniffs and falls in near Honoka, waiting to get something from the truck. At least she can get some kind of coffee or tea and to find out a bit about her potential opponents in the tournament.

Assumptions are easy to make -- they provide a shorthand for categorizing people into low-risk and high-risk categories. And the woman standing by the cart is happy to encourage said assumptions, by blending in the crowd... Or not, as the case may be.

It wasn't hard to take note of Clio's approach. Sure, there are a handful of people heading to and from the waterpark, but... not many of them possess the skill, balance, or even interest needed to bound from the top of one booth to the next. And the juggler has enough situational awareness to realize that -- even with the distance of the sounds -- the bounding is heading in her general direction.

With her bare fingertips wrapped around the warm cup of tea, the so-called high school student turns around as if to leave.
And finds herself face-to-face with Clio St. Jeanne in the process.
A pleasant surprise... one briefly put on pause as Miko Kobayashi deliberately glances down, visually summing up the young woman in front of her in but an instant.

With an amused smirk, and a curiously lifted eyebrow, she speaks as soon as her steel blue eyes make contact with Clio's.

"Fancy seeing you again. I might almost think you were stalking me."

She pauses, amusement lighting in her eyes.
And then she steps to the side -- allowing Clio to continue her transaction if she chooses, without giving any of the usual markers that might suggest willingness to flee the impromptu conversation.

Assumptions are quick to make and gut reactions save lives. Longer form investigation helps for other things. For Clio St. Jeanne, being on the relatively small side, young and dressed the way she is, it's not terribly hard to miss what her actual job is. Though the presence of her at the Golden Angel tournament might be enough to give some greater inkling to capability.

Clio's already done her appraisings of Miko, so she can make for a more casual stance with her hands stuck in the pocket of her hooded sweatshirt. She tilts her head when she's appraised by this other girl. At least it's one she can look eye to eye, and she rocks back on her heels.

"If it weren't for the big clinking chain, I'd probably be sneakier at it," she responds with a half lidded smile, rattling the metal around her waist with a little bounce. "But my terribly unfortunate prey is actually that food truck right there," she adds with a small point.

She orders a pressed coffee, wanting the greater pep from another caffeine dose, and as she waits, takes another look at Miko. Not moving, not leaving. Somewhat watching with a bit of comfortable distance. Clio smiles back.

"So, the douchey guy getting railgunned into the popcorn butter," she says with a small chuckle, cupping her coffee cup in both hands and breathing in the steam. "I almost thought it was going to be boring."

Miko's sipping at her tea when Clio mentions her clinking chain -- her primary response there is a small incline of her head. But the sip ends just as Clio declares her true target to be the food truck.

"Luckily for you, those do not startle easily."
She tilts her head towards the food truck as she steps back, leeching every bit of warmth out of the helpless cup of tea.

The shadow manipulator looks away in a show of polite indifference -- though of course it wouldn't be hard to overhear Clio's order. Though, naturally, she turns back with a smile here and there, appearing quite grateful to have a warm conversation on a cold day like this.

"Yes -- I'm glad he got what he deserved." She pauses for a moment, and adds with a faint smile, "It certainly wasn't boring -after- that, either. I'm sure the paparazzi are delightedly sifting through gigs of photos by now."

She pauses for another sip of tea, before noting with a more sober expression, "... I'm not so brave, to wager my decency against the whims of an unruly crowd. Much more amusing to watch how everyone else falls over each other reaching for the trophy."

The smile returns.
"I am certainly glad to see that other people -did- embrace the magical chemical, though. Quite the ... show."

"Food trucks have indeed grown fat and indolent with their success," Clio says with her eyes closed and a deeply solemn nod. An expression that slicks to a grin and a sideways look when she takes up a standing place near Miko. She doesn't, as some do, stand to face her, rather stand more or less alongside her to look out at other things than the person she converses with.

The cup is raised and the first actual sip is taken. Hot, she lowers it to blow on the steam again. Sucking on her pained tongue from the mistake of overeagerness. "So, I'll be real, I fell asleep through most of it. Snuck out when I had my chance." She laughs lightly and pulls down her hood, shaking her hair and straightening the longer bangs with a free hand.

"Trophies are nice and all, but they aren't the end all, be all," Clio says. "There's a lot here that the fighters could gain, if just from the exposure. And not that kind of exposure. A win here, a notch in the belt, and that's the start of a career."

She looks out over the destroyed and cordoned area of the boardwalk and her eyes take on a pained distance. "I just like a bit of competition. See how I stack up against others. Keep my skills sharp."

Her eyes close and she sips her coffee, longer now, taking the heat of the brew. She has her own job ahead of her. The damage here. The troubles that something like the Golden Angel tournament was made to put behind. She's got more than a career in a swimsuit or fighting for prize money and accolades ahead of her. Not that she would have it any other way.

Miko sips her tea. She does so enjoy this new person, and not only because her fashion sense aligns so well with those of the other members of the Gedo Historical Club.

"Mm. So perhaps it was not so un-boring after all. ... Though, to be fair, the prospect of a nap under the radiant almost-sunlight was quite enticing. " She pauses for a moment, as the steam from her tea tickles her nose. "It was a nice distraction."

Miko pauses to slip the pen back into her pocket, nodding attentively as Clio discusses the rationale for her being at the waterpark. It ... wasn't for the spectacle? And it wasn't for the prize, or so she is told. Miko nods quietly, taking stock of each of the statements before piecing them together into a tapestry of knowledge about this young woman before her, who likes to leap from buildings and doesn't mind the jangle of a length of chain.

"Competition is good, yes. The Golden Angel Tournament is certainly... something this town needs. To lift spirits. To remind people of what can be accomplished. And to provide exposure, as you say. In the short time we are blessed to be here on Earth, -any- exposure is good exposure. For it reminds the world, by shouting from the rooftops as the tired saying goes -- 'I am here. I have worth, and by damn, you better remember me.'"

She draws the teacup close to her body, steam clouds wafting past the goldenrod scarf of her uniform. Her third-year lapel pin catches the light just so as her shoulders rock side to side.

Miko makes a guess.
"It's a good opportunity for you," she notes with a smile. "I had wished Touji and Saya would enter -- they're doing so much better in Saikyo-ryu, learning how to harness their skills. Exposure would... do them good."

And then she realizes, she speaks of others before even introducing herself. Bowing, in a hasty and apparently embarassed rush, she states, "Mm -- Miko Kobayashi. Third year student, Gedo High. And Saya and Touji are friends of mine from school. A pleasure to meet someone so like-minded as yourself."

"I'm not really a 'day-person'," Clio says. "Sun comes out and my pasty rear end gets sleepy. I prefer it when it everything else goes dark." She sips her coffee. "I'm about seventy-five percent caffeine right now. But I can do better."

She looks toward the broken boardwalk, but tilts her head to consider Miko when the woman continues. She nods along, not saying something, agreeing silently for a moment and processing the conviction or prattle that might be coming from the girl's mouth. But this is a girl that's already used the phrasing 'whims of an unruly crowd', so she's apt to guess the words ring more true than they might otherwise.

"I'm was, I am, and I will be?" Clio asks, a slight play at her lips. "I guess, if you're that type of person." She sips her coffee. She notes the names of the friends for later, and she laughs lightly. "Opportunity? Oh, yeah, for competition. It is. Lot you can see about what's going on. And all it takes it punching. Surprisingly good way of communication."

She actually breaks into a laugh when the rushed and hasty bowing happens. Her hands go up in defense. "It's okay. It's just a name. And I'm Clio. Good to meet you." She takes a step away and sips her coffee, walking closer to the edge of the boardwalk for a better view. "If you don't need to catch up with your friends, I want to go see a few things past the barricades. You're welcome to come with, Miko Kobyashi, third year student at Gedo High, friend of Saya and Touji." A light hearted poke at the long form of introduction, accompanied with a grin and a challenging look from Clio's well-eyelinered gaze.Sp "I'm not really a 'day-person'," Clio says. "Sun comes out and my pasty rear end gets sleepy. I prefer it when it everything else goes dark." She sips her coffee. "I'm about seventy-five percent caffeine right now. But I can do better."

She looks toward the broken boardwalk, but tilts her head to consider Miko when the woman continues. She nods along, not saying something, agreeing silently for a moment and processing the conviction or prattle that might be coming from the girl's mouth. But this is a girl that's already used the phrasing 'whims of an unruly crowd', so she's apt to guess the words ring more true than they might otherwise.

"I'm was, I am, and I will be?" Clio asks, a slight play at her lips. "I guess, if you're that type of person." She sips her coffee. She notes the names of the friends for later, and she laughs lightly. "Opportunity? Oh, yeah, for competition. It is. Lot you can see about what's going on. And all it takes it punching. Surprisingly good way of communication."

She actually breaks into a laugh when the rushed and hasty bowing happens. Her hands go up in defense. "It's okay. It's just a name. And I'm Clio. Good to meet you." She takes a step away and sips her coffee, walking closer to the edge of the boardwalk for a better view. "If you don't need to catch up with your friends, I want to go see a few things past the barricades. You're welcome to come with, Miko Kobyashi, third year student at Gedo High, friend of Saya and Touji." A light hearted poke at the long form of introduction, accompanied with a grin and a challenging look from Clio's well-eyelinered gaze.

Miko shows no lack of surprise when Clio self-describes herself as a night person -- though that could just be simple politeness at work. Her own makeup is scarcely noticeable, though further inspection would reveal a light dusting of blush on her cheeks and light purple accenting the corners of her eyes.
Lifting up her tea cup, she notes quietly, "I'm glad you get mileage out of it. Caffeine doesn't really have much effect on me, I'm afraid -- I'm using it more for the heat than anything else."

Punching is, indeed, quite direct. It tends to be Touji and Saya's preferred mode of communication as well -- a thought which Miko addresses with a brief but enthusiastic smile..

"Clio," she echoes, committing the syllables to memory. "Such a pretty name," she muses aloud, walking alongside Clio as she moves towards the boardwalk. But then she hears her own words repeated back to her, and feels compelled to clarify: ".. 'Miko' is fine," with a wry smile. "The rest is my legal name."

As Clio walks, Miko keeps pace -- "Thank you for the invitation. I would like to walk with you for a time, yes." Occasionally, she takes a sip from her tea, idly glancing off to the nearly-devastated Dream Amusement Park as she walks past, staying mindful of the state of disrepaired boards.

"... And if you feel the need to indulge in some more parkour, I assure you I can keep up."
A competitive smile crosses her face at that.
"I am glad to talk with you, all the same. The past few weeks have been trying -- and what the people of Southtown need most right now is hope for a brighter future. It seems a bit odd to glorify sport fighting after a time of such tragic war, but... that's the world we live in, I guess."

A long draw is taken on her tea, as she considers Clio's response. Less philosophy, perhaps.
"So you're... starting a career in fighting, here... is that it? Is that what excites you most?"

"The simple problem is you're clearly just not drinking enough," Clio says in a matter-of-fact way. She leads on, passing the tape and slipping into the zone that shouldn't be entered. Though, in Clio's defense, anyone that would actually stop her could be dissuaded with a bit of knowledge as to her position. But that doesn't need to get bandied around all over the place just yet. Some things are best kept quiet for the time being.

She chuckles under her breath, amused a bit with the girl's correction to her name. The formality in this girl and her way of speaking. This was definitely someone that had a high opinion of themselves. Still, it as more cute than annoying so far.

The wrecked amusement park. The site of devastation, of fights, and most importantly, a haunted house. The haunted house is where Clio is heading, skipping along easily past the broken pieces and the tattered planks. She wants to find the initial site, the place where the major trackchange in her life had happened and done so entirely without her. Where the Gear went and hid.

Given her dress and demeanor, it may just be that sneaking into a haunted house in an abandoned amusement park would just be her thing, rather than the emotionally important curiosity it is.

"Is it that strange?" Clio asks, stopping to poke at a loose railing with her boot. She peppers her trekking with a few idle poking and proddings, so she doesn't seem so focused. Though, she is just enjoying the exploration for its own sake. It's a fun place to be regardless of its history.

"Not saying you're wrong, but think about it. Sport fighting. Willing to hit and let be hit. No intent on killing. Put yourself out there and be hurt but still holding back. If all you're doing is smiling and being sweetness and light, that's when daggers are being pulled out. But if you and the other guy are standing face to face and taking swings, you know there's no one going to stab you in the back." She isn't beyond philosophy, and wraps up her point a little more succinctly, "Sometimes things are most subtle when they don't look it. World isn't black and white, peace and war."

She knocks over the railing to the down below and watches it fall. "Oh, I have a job. I just like thrill of the moment."

tIt's true -- Miko certainly -does- think highly of herself. As she vaults over the barricades, every motion is one of sheer elegance. As she contorts herself to slide under the taller hazards, each motion is engineered to keep that overly long gakuran coat from getting dirty. She does not move with economy, she moves with /grace/, a perfection of form one would be more likely to see from national performing stars, rather than average ho-hum high school students. Every step her foot makes is calculated to keep the dirt and mud accumulation to a minimum, so as not to betray her personal standards of excellence.

So yes, she thinks highly of herself. To do any less would be a betrayal of expectations -- would counteract the working assumptions.

Is it that strange?
Miko's rebuttal is instant, offered with a patient smile.
"Of course not."

She withdraws her sunglasses, as she catches up with Clio, blue-tinted gaze drifting down to the railing as she speaks. It's dangerous -- and yet, to call attention to it while Clio is speaking would be rude, and a similar betrayal of the cultured Miko persona.

She smiles in a warm fashion.
"I suppose I'd never thought of it that way."
And yet, she has. She -has- to have thought of it that way before.
For she doesn't even blink as the railing gives way -- her attention is locked onto Clio.
And she's in full agreement.

"And this is... thrilling to you?"
Her amused look is likely to carry through into her tone, as well.
"I suppose it might, if you consider walking around an abandoned amusement park with a total stranger, never knowing if she'll be pulling a knife, or if she's killed before.... If you consider -that- to be thrilling."

Sarcasm. It's how the kids talk these days, right?

She stands upright, without a hint of malice in her stance, or poise. Just idle amusement, as she tilts her chin downward, lower lip curling in a mock pout. Blue eyes twinkle in the relative darkness of the run-down haunted house.

"Is that all I am to you, Miss Clio? Cheap, disposable thrill, before you move on to the next total stranger?"

The pout fades.
The saccharine smile returns.
"... I think I understand why you fell asleep, now. Not enough of a thrill."

Fluidity, leaping, jumping. Elegant grace and a high opinion. The nature of this woman is strange. Terribly so. However, she isn't in a way that is altogether too alien to Clio St. Jeanne. The tonal gear changes, the questions, the word choice and the method of movement and presence around something like Golden Angel. It was all terribly familiar and reminded her of a certain type of person. Or, more accurately, a certain person.


Clio looks back at Honoka, she's not smiling. She does, in that moment, look like a woman who has gone through the Military Academy. She looks like a woman that has spent her youth bleeding, fighting, skipping through dark places to find dark people and to show them that dark things aren't always on their side. She has the distant flatness of someone that knows the depths of what organizational ennui and directives mean. She is someone that has believed in the greatest of ideals and has had them tested. She looks like someone that has seen the dead dragged to life and used as a puppet to kill those they once loved. And she knows that she works with those kinds of people.

"I'm going to that haunted house. I'm looking at things." Her words are flat, toneless, her eyes much the same.

She turns on her foot and starts making a more direct walk to the haunted house. "We're all strangers, Miko. And I'm going to be honest, you wouldn't even be the first person I've chatted up who has tried to kill me."

She sighs as she walks off to look for the damage the fight has left behind. Thinking of what happened in this spot. Whether or not this was where Hazama and Ragna the Bloodedge were involved. And just why did the command gear run to a haunted house. And why did that gear act so different than Jack-O. There were questions here. And the fact that her erstwhile companion reminds Lt. St. Jeanne so much of the Intelligence Captain has soured her mood a little.

Inside the haunted house, among the still remaining sculptures and jumpscares, Clio unclips the rail-spike end of her chain. She whispers over it, the markings etched into the metal glow before bursting into a violet flame. The spike itself seems to hold in the air just above her palm. Not necessary for her to make. The magical formula already carved into the metal just contains the woman's natural capabilities like an extension of herself. Also, it's a lot easier than carrying a lantern.

"Too dark?"
Miko withdraws her hands from her pockets -- no knives to be shown, no murderous intent to be displayed.

It's not hard for the psychic to understand that she's pushed the girl too far, possibly too fast. And yet, pushing too far is how she learns the -true- character of a person, how she learns what their personal limits are.
For that saccharine smile hasn't left her face.

"Too dark," she concludes.
"My bad."
An afterthought.

How -intriguing- a reaction that was, though. To see the mood shift to suddenly and abruptly from a position of adolescent certainty to one of world-weary ennui. And perhaps... Miko doesn't like that either.

She says nothing when Clio clarifies her intent -- only nods her head slowly, with that insincere smile slowly transitioning back to neutrality.

And when Clio announces that Miko -wouldn't- be the first to kill her?
Well -- that is when the switch flips right back to brutal sincerity.
"That's kind of... disappointing, really. That someone so young as you would be exposed to such darkness."

She draws in her breath, audibly, as she adopts a similar walking style to the leader of this little expedition.
"... Listen. The way you were talking? I have heard it before. The people sold on the glitz and glamour -- the people who insist that stepping into the ring is any different than fighting for your life in the streets."

Hands shove into coat pockets, as Miko loses any semblance of the saccharine disposition from earlier. What's left -- is cold, cynical gangster mentality.

"And part of me thought you needed a reality check. But you've already -gotten- one. Your soul already shows the scars of trauma -- of someone who's already taken the test I was about to give."

She snorts, mirthlessly.
"So good for you. Your rose-colored glasses are smashed, tossed in a dumpster somewhere. Congratulations -- you're an adult now!"

She doesn't activate any special powers -- for, combined with Clio's own light, her innate psychic sensitivity is enough to protect her from the creepy crawlies of the darkened house.

If Clio looks back, she'll find something more out of place on Miko's face.
An -honest- smile.
"This world sucks. But it's our generation that's gonna change it."

Clio actually laughs at the 'my bad' from Miko. She's using the light to look at an old wolfman mask, and flicks its nose. "It's not too dark," she says, sighing and pinching the bridge of her nose.

"I'm sorry if I snapped," she says, looking back over her shoulder to the girl that's following her around. "You're just trying way too hard. You're jumping around. It's like you can't figure out how you want to talk but you want to because you're trying to find out about me."

She has no qualms about bringing the violet fire out, it's already known she's a contestant in the tournament. It should be easy to presume she's capable of more than most normal people. And it's the light from above her hand that casts the shadows that flicker on her face when she listens to Miko talk.

And Clio laughs again. "There it is again," she says. "You're bouncing." She shakes her head and looks at Miko with an honest, caring smile. "I'm not going to push it. I'm sure whatever has you the way you are is a good reason. So I won't give a whole thing about it." She turns back to the werewolf mask and leans around it. For the moment, thinking about work slips from her attention.

"Come here and help me get this thing off, will you?" she asks. "And it's funny you laugh about the glasses thing." She looks behind the mask, trying to undo the old ties to the ancient rubber mask. "That whole 'we're the generation that's changing it' is pretty fucking rosy if you ask me. But," she leans back around from the old and worn out jump scare werewolf torso, "Sometimes people need that kind of rosy or shit's never getting better."

Miko frowns, cold steel eyes glaring back at Clio. Apologies? Mockery? She's making no headway at all...
And all of a sudden, Honoka feels like the odd one out again. Picked last in gym class. Made fun of for expressing her Ainu heritage. Mocked for thinking differently.
This was supposed to be a vacation. And through no fault of her own...

And now, her own honesty, thrown right back in her face. And mocked -again- for changing her tune.
This kid is good -- and yet, Honoka knows so little about the young woman that she has no idea whether the kid is older than her or younger.

Miko is about to snap back. How -dare- you. The irritation bubbles up, even through her mask of control.

And somewhere behind Clio -- somewhere Miko could never reach if she tried -- an ancient floorboard snaps, crumbling to pieces.
Miko's glare is unyielding -- and yet, she doesn't even flinch at the sound of wood crumbling to dust.

And without another word, she steps closer to the wolfman, lifting her hand from her pockets.
Purple light will gleam off the edge of a dagger, its sharpened point extended to the back of the tie to the rubber mask.
One cut will loosen it. And unless the partner-in-crime dissents, Miko will make the removal task considerably easy for Clio by snipping the string without another thought.

When one lies so well, it becomes hard to not. And sometimes that comes out as someone seeing everything you do as a potential lie. Though, not everyone who is taking your all with grains of salt does so out of malice.

Clio looks over at the sound of breaking. "Place is falling apart," she says. "Would suck to lose all this." She wipes her hand down and steps back when Miko snips the strings and frees the mask. She doesn't have a complaint at all.

If anything, she's impressed by the sound she makes. She holds up the spike wreathed in a violet fire. "Nice color," she says, reaching over to peel off the mask.

She offers it toward Miko. "Here, it's your claim. You want it? A souvenir you can't buy. With the water damage and sitting like this, they'll just throw it out anyways. But you can take that and remember your trip out here. And what it looked like before it was fixed up again." She looks at the insides of the pop up wolf's mechanics and makes a curious hum.

"These things are way creepier without the masks," she says. She feels, in a way, bad for this high school kid. That something's probably made her a bit more of a social chameleon.So Clio does what she does. She just tries to include her in doing something offbeat and harmless crimes. And hells if she would poke fun at a girl for being an oddball. She was out trying to whack gang members with a chain before she hit puberty she was so up on the stories her mother fed her about heroes and monsters. Though, questionable was the fact her mother /let/ her.

Miko starts to protest. It was Clio who wanted to pull off the mask. It was -Clio- who even wanted to be in this haunted house in the first place. It was...

The haze of anger lifts. The silence... allowed Clio to keep speaking in -her- voice. And everything starts to make sense again.

"... Sure."
Miko reaches up to accept the mask with one hand, quietly stashing the knife again with her other.
Her voice is soft and subdued -- the voice of a teenager looking up to a big sister.
"Yeah, it's pretty nice holding a piece of history like this."
Miko holds up the mask, stretching out its garishly lit smile as a gaudy mirror of the giddy smile on her own face.

"Have you ever run into people while making a visit like this, Clio?"

Part of Honoka wants to scream.
And the other... just finds it easier to bury the rage, and simply -be- a simpler person.

It was Clio that wanted the mask. It was her that went to the haunted house in the first place. Clio didn't even ask for Miko to come along. Miko followed. Miko asked questions. Miko was the one trying to find a way in.

And Miko was allowed in. She was taken along. She was the one given the prize for sneaking in and getting something to remember the moment by. Clio didn't really need the help taking the mask off, she just let the girl be included in something. This was Clio's thing and Clio St. Jeanne wasn't going to keep her out from it.

Clio looks back at Honoka and nods, but it's tempered with a sigh. "I have," she says. "Scrappers, a lot of the time. The people that come in and strip the copper pipes and wiring. This place will be rebuilt, but a lot of the times, when something's left alone and ignored it gets too bad to bother with and it's up for grabs." Clio wasn't always fight hungry when she went out, sometimes she just did it to see the places people ignored, maybe she could find out why they were.

"Sometimes you get people without any other place to go. Or just people that don't want to be with the usual crowd. They can be dangerous, they can be fun, but they're just people. Thing is, a lot of them are the kinds of people the real monstrous ones go after."

Clio looks around, walking deeper into the haunted house. "Not everything dark is evil or bad. But I think you know that. And sometimes those things need a light in that dark to help them out if they need it." She laughs at herself. "Corny, I know. Rose-colored glasses. But it's true. And see, now you got me going on about things."

Even while Miko is busy playing pretend -- the game she's usually so good at -- she is listening. Sensing. And taking stock of every single emotion she can make a mental note of. And Clio...
In many ways, Clio -is- doing things the psychic circus star had never done before. She has the emotional durability in the face of danger. She has the mental fortitude to dig in her heels and call out to what Miko can, in retrospect, declare to be a lack of consistency.

And that doesn't just come... out of nowhere.

She listens -- her brow knitting in concern as Clio explains what sort of people -live- in places like this. People that the Dahlia would use -- no, people that -anyone- would take advantage of, if they could. And Clio's been here, right in the seamy underside of society. And she's become stronger because of it.

"Nah, it's... it's all good stuff. I appreciate you talkin' to me about this stuff, it's... always kinda worried me. But..."

The mask is rolled up, kept curled in one hand.
And Miko looks down, shuffling her feet across the disused floorboards.

"You... said someone tried to kill you? Was it one of these... scrappers? Someone you stumbled on?"

Clio St. Jeanne can still remember the first beating she took. A mugger. Someone that now wouldn't be worth much her time. But when you're barely in double digits and hopped up on the notion that you could be like the people your mother spoke about. Like the people you were named after; the girl that, by her late teens, was capturing cities and freeing France. That she could be that strong. Well, you sometimes get panic kicked in the face and have to go home with a lip twice the size of what it should be and a concussion.

But she went out again. And thankfully for Clio she was always a bit stubborn and ready for it. No. Clio St. Jeanne's fortitude didn't come from nowhere. It came from the same fire that burns above her hand. The same joy that comes from fighting and knowing that even that dark part that likes the pain and likes to hurt and feels a bit more awake at night and throwing a weight of chain around can be used to help people. That there is still a call to guard those that need it.

She smiles and shakes her head, hand resting on her hip as she looks up to the crumbling ceiling. "Yes? I mean, a few times. Muggers. Darkstalkers that didn't get the hint they can't just rip a throat out. But, the one that could've been nice. The one that could've been a good time. Her name was Jack-O. It was a few neighborhoods over. A coffee shop that was open late. She showed up and we talked. It was a good time. Turns out she was one of those command gears. We fought."

Clio goes quiet and the fire burns with a deep intensity. Honoka doesn't quite need her psionic empathy to tell things are intense, and it's a regret. A strong regret that's melted into resolve. "She was stronger than me. I got away. But that shop. Those people's livelihood. We talked about choice and she had the option of doing something better, if just for that night. She was just too damn certain that she was nothing more than a weapon."

The actress finally found the correct script for her role.
Miko looks back up to Clio, finding the young NOL officer's smile to be contagious -- though there is still the latent hint that somewhere, somehow, the young student's question might be rooted in a darker past. Her grip on the rolled-up mask loosens considerably -- owing more to her relaxation than anything else.

"Darkstalkers, oooh.." she comments, steel blue eyes fixating onto Clio's. There's no malice in Miko's expression, just an earnest fascination.

That changes, though -- once Clio mentions a shop a few neighborhoods over.
Doubly so, when the words 'Command Gear' are spoken.
The smile drops. And her eyebrows knit together in concern.
She listens to the story -- and can feel every bit of regret emanating from the casually-dressed officer.

This... woman... was able to negotiate with a Command Gear. The very job that Miko Kobayashi could not manage to do with an entire high school army at her back.

And yet, Clio did not finish the job either.
Well, that makes her feel a -tiny- bit better.

The actress is tempted once again to waver off-script.
She resists the urge, this time.

"That's... that's terrible. So many people... just to..."

The mask is wrapped tightly in her hands.

She said a few neighborhoods down -- somewhere in Southtown, and not the island of Kyushu she remembers from her intel reports. But even knowing it was in Southtown, the devastation was so widespread it'd be nearly impossible to know -which- of the devastated coffee shops Clio is talking about without prodding further.
She resists the urge.

"Sometimes people don't do what they should. You shouldn't feel bad about it -- you tried your best."
More of the rose-colored glasses nonsense.

But she won't let the irritation die down fully -- the irritation that Clio got to Jack-O' when she didn't.
She takes out the anger on the werewolf, giving it a quick kick in the... well, wherever's convenient. Whatever! And she whips out her knife again with a flourish, the blade singing in the violet-hued flames as she whips it up to the werewolf's flayed face.

"Lotta folks back at school were sayin' we should kill all the Command Gears."
She jams the point of the knife into the eye mechanism, denting the metal.

"Freaks o' nature, all of 'em. Like they shouldn't even be allowed to live."
The knife jams into the socket, harder. Metal dents -- begins to give way.

"Abominations! Poor souls... from God knows where... enslaved to do the bidding of some dumbass overlords or whatnot."
One more slam of the knife -- and springs and axles give way to tempered steel. The automaton's eye pops loose -- and with a blur of motion, Miko snaps it out of the air.

The schoolgirl turns to Clio with a feral grin, holding the detached eyeball out in an open palm.
"Want it? It's only fair you should take a memento, too."

"Yeah. Some are good, some aren't. There was this big ash demon the other day that wanted inside my head," Clio starts explaining a bit to the eager student. The girl's shown a dark streak underneath all of her tempestuous social chameleoning. It's the kind of thing that Clio can find a bit of kindredness to.

And then the tempest tosses the tides of Honoka's emotions. And the face changes. "Eh?" Clio grunts when Honoka starts to ramble and sway with her words. The staccato statements and the rose colored hopes about trying her best. Clio wouldn't agree. After all, she was off duty and wanted a coffee and a cute girl showed up so they struck up a conversation.

A moment not entirely unlike the one she is in now, now that Clio thinks on it. And especially so when Miko starts to violently assault the pop up werewolf.

Clio watches the attack. She listens to the words. Her head tilts just to the side a bit as she considers the situation playing out in front of her. That is not a good way to treat that knife, is the first and most professional level thought on her head. The deeper, more emotional levels that run undercurrent is sadness. A pity for a girl that is holding a lot of hurt underneath a facade. A lot of frustrations under someone that's been trying to control the conversation with her adaptability. Of course, Clio also thinks this could simply be another layer of a liar. Clio is, when you boiled down all the notions of magic touched with violence, a cop as a well as a soldier. Both city watch and knight rolled into one. She can't ever really be certain of a person. But that's half the fun of knowing people.

"More like freaks of the military industrial complex," Clio has to correct with a slight shrug. She sips her coffee and puts the empty cup on the ground. "So, are you all set?" she asks when standing back up to meet Miko and the offered eye.

Clio just smiles and takes the eye. "This is pretty cool, thanks, Miko." She turns the eyeball in her hand and gives it a quick toss up and down. "So, you were saying that people back at school think they should've all been killed? What about what you say?" she asks, pointing the eyeball back at Miko.

Miko seems fascinated with the talk about Darkstalkers -- but by the time she's able to form any particular responses, she's already been riled up about that Command Gear. Those two words just brought about such a violent turn -- and in her current role as "Gedo student" she's perfectly fine with unleashing barely-mitigated rage against the inanimate object.

She may be blunting the knife with her furious attacks, it's true. But even though the manner of her strikes is unhinged, her grip never falters -- and she never stabs a place where the blade's slippage could really go awry.

"I'm all set," she replies, carefully depositing the freed eyeball in Clio's hand. And when Clio asks the question, and said eyeball is directed at her?

Miko unfurls the mask, hiding her face behind it. And with the slightest lilting giggle, she answers,
"Me? I think we should put them out of their misery. If words won't reach them, they're just a danger to us. We can save the humanitarian wrist-slaps for the military industrial complex that created them."

The mask trembles, just slightly, as Miko takes a step back.
"What about you? Does your job lump Gears in together with Darkstalkers?"

Clio tosses the eye up again before pocketing it in her sweatshirt. She looks drawn, contemplative, considerate at the notions that Miko's presenting her. She looks at the light of her flame and then to the haunted house machines all around.

"Dangers have to be put down," she agrees, "But the creators are guilty, too. Slapping wrists won't help there. But that's a bigger problem." She walks away from Miko and looks up to a hole in the ceiling where the sky is exposed.

"Gears are manufactured. Darkstalkers are different. Now, if they're threats, dangerous to people, then that's a different story." She runs her fingertips along the length of chain that hangs between her waist and neck. "People can be just as bad going the other way. Looking and acting different from the norm ain't reason to cause problems."

Miko allows the mask to fall.
She's cognizant of the machines -- but it doesn't seem that she's altogether terrified of the darkness. It's doubtful the haunted house ever had much of an effect on the so-called highschooler.

"Then you believe we should have a meaningful punishment for the creators."
A beat.
Her eyebrows lower -- and perhaps a stricter punishment is what Miko was thinking all along.
"Which is good -- they need to be punished. And the world needs to see this punishment, so that no more abominations are created."

The knife flickers back into view, its blade catching the light as it spins in a circle around Miko's finger.

"But Gears have free will. As do Darkstalkers. Do you think they're going to agree with the logic when you're plunging the knife into their heart? Wouldn't a Gear fight just as hard as a Darkstalker for their right to survive? What's the difference, then...?"

Miko chuckles, looking away from Clio -- casting her eyes across the torchlit creations, flickering in purple. "Does it get difficult, killing?"

"That all depends on your definition of abomination," Clio says, looking at the fire in her hand. "There's more than a few people who would call me an abomination." She laughs lightly, without joy. Her eyes cut sidelong toward Miko.

"What matters is choice," Clio says. "I gave Jack-O a choice that night. The Shadow man made a choice. The demon too. We all choose. Sometimes that choice is difficult. Sometimes there's compulsions that makes things a little too real." She turns now, and she stares at Miko. The fire underlighting her face. The reality of her job, what she has to do, what she enjoys doing, all of it is a complex Gordian Knot of emotions. She has a noble resolve, tempered by reality, and doggedly focused on doing what's right. She's come to it because she knows she enjoys the fight. She savors the moment when she's facing down something big and cruel and vicious. She knows in every way that her fighting nature is one that is probably 'bad' in some objective sense. At the same time she knows and has seen that sometimes the good ones need that. Because without it, people who twist and bend things to consume the unwary, those monsters are too good at working within the norms.

To Clio, that is what she means that darkness hides monsters, but it can also hide a lot more than that.

"They can and they do fight. And sometimes you have to hurt, even kill, because if you don't they will do a whole lot more of it. If a gear came to me, and all it wanted to do was live. It wanted the same thing as so many others? Who would I be to say no? The gears don't always think they have free will. A lot of them have it in them they're nothing but weapons. So they act it. I wish it were easier to just ask them to cool their shit."

Clio shakes her head and looks back up to the roof. "Most people ask if it gets easier. That's because they default to thinking it's hard. But not you." She looks back down toward Miko. "What do you think, Miko?"

"If you're an abomination, then so is practically every fighter who throws down in front of a camera -- I don't use that definition."

Clio's mirthless laugh is answered with a faint smirk.

"To me... an abomination is something -humanity- created. A robot, or a homunculus -- whether it has a human soul or otherwise. If it acts on its own -- and it -can- be taught to think and kill on its own... That's an abomination, to me."

As Clio muses, the path of the spinning blade takes a few more interesting turns. The blade spins left, right... in a figure eight. It's nothing more than a toy for the Gedo highschooler -- a toy she's doubtless practiced with for several years. And not once does she appear to be at a loss for controlling the weapon.

What does Miko think, though?

"Well.. for one, I think you and I are actually on the same wavelength."
That the murderous should be put down before they can kill again.
That abominations can fight their programming -- and choose their own path.

The knife act stops, as Miko deftly catches the handle. The blade vanishes in the darkness, banished to the netherrealms of Miko's coat pocket.

"And for two...."
Miko angles her head to the side a slight degree.
"You've given me lots to think about, Clio. But I should probably be making my way back."

A grin, a quiet laugh. "Not necessarily talking about fighting," Clio says, "But appreciated all the same."

She nods and listens. "Interesting," she says. "I've always thought of monsters, abominations, whatever as the things that eat. Not always literally. They use people, take them and anything they want from others, then dump them like shit when they're done. Sometimes it is literal. Sometimes it's the money in their pockets. Sometimes it's their mind and soul." Clio's had to add that last part in the past few weeks, having seen what's happened to Jubei's wife and the Noble Demon's attempt to press into her own head.

Clio unclips the chain from her collar and the whole of the metal sparks to a violet life. The chain itself starts to wind into a metal sleeve about her arm, as Clio reattaches the spiked end. "Maybe we are, Miko. Maybe we are." She's pensive, though, and somewhat of a cipher mentally as she's focused more on the hole above her.

"Can you make your way back alone?" she asks. "I think I need to stay here a little longer. Not quite done what I need to do." She wants to ruminate, not just on the moments tonight, but on the fight against Dizzy that occured here. On the actions of those she knows are doing ill for good, or even what that all means anymore. And some on this girl, who she is and her strangeness. But those are questions for other days.

With a whirl of her arm, the chain lances upward, magical formula written in hermetic sigils glowing as there's a small 'thunk' from above, and the chain is taut, held at the length of Clio's arm. "See you around sometime, Miko Kobayashi," she says, holding the eye for a visual pun before she twists her arm and pulls herself upward in a rolling twirl. Pulled by the craft on the chain empowered through Clio's own talents.

Being a teenager is pretty tough -- no one wants to really listen to anything you have to say. A teenager's body of work is small compared to the treasure-trove possessed by those just a few short years older. So sometimes it's hard to get a word in edgewise.

Why would Honoka -- two decades old, a champion of a cross-realm tournament, and a reasonably powerful fighter in her own right -- pretend to be a high-schooler? Why would she want to be talked down to -- comforted that the world isn't about to be destroyed, reassured that not all people in the world are despicable monsters?

Because sometimes it's okay to not have all the answers. Sometimes it's okay to stop inflicting her will onto other people. Sometimes it's okay to simply nod in mute understanding, as with Clio explaining how the food chain works in terms of supernatural and artificial beings.

"That's a good way to think about it," agrees Miko, as her fingers press firmly into the handle of the knife in her pocket. Her eyes reflect the violet light, as her mouth parts in an expression of barely-repressed awe, as the kusari-fundo is unleashed -- glowing with a power Miko can only appreciate from a distance.

"Yeah, no problem. Good luck in the Golden Angel Tournament, Clio."
Miko watches as Clio ascends like an angel into the upper reaches of the haunted house, before turning away and walking quietly out of the building.

Sometimes, it's just easier to just put on a mask, and let people draw their own assumptions.

Log created on 15:08:46 01/14/2018 by Clio, and last modified on 20:09:42 01/15/2018.