Description: An elected politician is capable of heralding great changes to the world, but Whitney Saulder and Scarlet Dahlia have their own ideas on that.
Ryuichi Fujimoto had never before considered how difficult it would be to keep hold of a handgun while his hand was inside his jacket pocket. He catches sight of himself in the mirror as he's zipping up his polyester, and confirms to himself: yep, it looks super awkward.
Discretion is key. He needs to make it to the target point without getting stopped, without getting question. He has already brought enough dishonor to his country, his constituents, his family. The Fujimoto name must be restored -- and it will only take one bullet.
- - -
A woman in a trenchcoat walks alone on a late Saturday afternoon, seemingly paying more attention to the cellphone in her hand than the sidewalk in front of her. Her eyes are glazed, out of focus -- and yet she places each step with confidence. To an observer, it would seem that she is the perfect portrait of the "sleepwalking" cellphone user -- only barely receptive to the storefronts and houses along a less frequented area of western Southtown.
Even with her eyes pointed towards the phone, she doesn't miss the opportunity to turn onto a side street. Most likely, the app on her smartphone is keyed into navigational data. But would she even notice if someone were to sneak up on her...?
Both of Ryuichi's fingers are stuffed into his jacket pockets. He fingers the barrel of the handgun, feeling the cold steel even through layers of synthetic fabric. An implement of death, capable of untold amounts of destruction. The Diet representative has still not fully acclimated to the weapon after receiving it a week prior. But after this job... he won't need to worry about it again.
A few months ago, Fujimoto was one of the multitude of voices arguing in favor of the Japanese bureaucracy. He fought vehemently in favor of ejecting the UN entirely -- in rejecting globalism. Time and time again he voted in favor of nationalistic ideals. In favor of keeping Japan just the way it was. And, most audaciously, he was in favor of throwing protesters in prison for daring to speak out in favor of marginalized people such as the Ryukyuan and Ainu cultures. Japan is about unity, he had argued -- a unified culture. Protest is treason -- and it didn't make one whit of difference to him if the protesters were children. Protest is discord -- and discord cannot be tolerated.
The country went mad.
And he couldn't allow it to go on any longer.
The woman walks, further and further from the security of the commons. The further she walks along the side street, the more sparse the buildings. A private walled-off residence here, a small Shinto shrine there. This block would make a beautiful place for a leisure drive -- a rare island of quiet solitude in the midst of a chaotic and noisy city. And yet, the woman's pace slows as she approaches a Baptist church. She glances up. For the first time in several minutes, she takes a good look at her surroundings, taking note of the peaceful atmosphere, the smell of flowers fighting to bloom in the wake of a harsh winter chill. And she looks to her right at the church. The following morning, the pews would be filled to a third of their rated occupancy. But none of the parishioners appear to go out of their way to keep the place clean -- going through the motions without pride or passion.
The half-Ainu woman leans against a telephone pole, her attention returning to the electronic playground in her little hands.
Mere dozens of feet away, Ryuichi Fujimoto unlocks the side door of the church.
He is careful to close the doors quietly behind him.
He is now safe within the sacred walls of the church.
He unzips his jacket, wrapping his hand around the grip of his handgun.
Ryuichi lifts the barrel to his nostrils.
He breathes in the scent of cleaning oil.
And he breathes a prayer for what he is about to do next.
Enter a destabilized region. Discover the flashpoints of tension between the various factions, power blocs, and motivated individuals. Foment anger and grievances. Push the dominos until they can be set back up again in the interest of the power bloc of your choice. Appear to approach as savior, as helper, as the hand up to a fallen populace. Oligarchy can come later, revolutions need populism. It did not take much to knock gods off their thrones.
And it was 100% corn-fed, grade a bullshit.
Great man theory at its most trite. Put the right great man in the right place and people will follow. It wasn't true. It was just a fun story that humanity told itself when in reality the dance of entropy meant things would always move and the underlying human nature to survive as animals would keep on ticking. Maybe not individually, but as a species.
The only true way to effectively change anything was a controlled burn. That's what Gill had suggested. Everything to be reset and built up. Enforcing the great man theory as an underpinning rather than a prime example of correlation not meaning causation.
Whitney Saulder still didn't believe it was possible. What he did believe was that Gill was the best option and most likely person to make such an interesting thought experiment play out on a proper stage.
An American in Japan. And one from the organization that was currently instilled deep within a wounded-but-not-killed United Nations. Whitney Saulder felt a general amusement at the situations around him. Ambulance chasers like the NOL and the Sacred Order seeking to slip in where the Japanese Defense Forces can't keep up. Political factions scrabbling to peck at each other. Corporate interests clashing with social and national angled ideologies. Each one quick to use the invasion as the raison d'etre for their aggression.
Whitney didn't really care what the ideologies were that had people paying him to kill other people. But he did enjoy the "why" of their opinions. Most were amusingly pedestrian. Many were soft and safe lies of nobility and safety. Conveniently enough, the safest and most moral path people argued for also tended to be the same path that gave the arguer the most power and wealth.
People were, Whitney considered, just needy beasts in the end. At least that made them somewhat understandable.
He walks along now in a shuffle-bump manner. A languid, limping stride that doesn't make much use of the length of his legs or the strength he has hidden in his slouch and motion. He's sightseeing, looking at things, occasionally looking at his phone. Walking near a Baptist Church. He wants to see it. Mostly because it's a curiosity to him. How much a symbol of imperial cultural infusion can be clung to even in a time where nationalism runs rampant.
As for the others waiting in the wings. He frankly doesn't much care at the moment.
Ryuichi Fujimoto had a lot to think about.
He came here with a specific purpose in mind.
Everything was clear to him.
And then, suddenly, it wasn't.
The barrel lowers -- and doubt begins to set in.
The well-to-do woman with an expensive-looking cellphone looks up at the new arrival. Her trenchcoat is a dark black; it hangs open in front, mostly obscuring a silky white dress, slit to the hip and held in check by a wide black belt. But rather than fancy shoes, she wears a pair of black knee-high boots, with nearly flat heels.
Her eyes -- barely obscured by a pair of designer eyewear -- lose their glossy, marble-like appearance, irises narrowing to focus upon the American with the limping stride. At first, she'd sensed him peripherally, like a casual zephyr nipping at the fringes of her consciousness. But as he gets closer, his presence becomes impossible to ignore. And her lips curl slightly, into an asymmetrical snarl.
She looks back down to her cellphone. Her thumbs fly across the surface -- frustrated, and irritable. And the longer she looks at the screen, the more distant her look becomes, as her eyes assume their earlier marble-like gloss.
The woman's window of opportunity is closing. Perhaps she feels threatened by Whitney's intrusion. Perhaps he's looking for the same Pokemon she is.
But for Ryuichi Fujimoto, there is no longer any uncertainty.
The pistol is fired.
One single shot rings out, echoing through the cavernous halls of the sacred sanctuary.
The shot will be perfectly audible in the peacefulness of the late afternoon.
Less audible, though, will be the sound of Fujimoto's knees hitting the floor -- and then the rest of his body.
The church doors remain unlocked.
And the Scarlet Dahlia did not look up from the very obvious handgun report.
Perhaps she was... particularly focused on her game.
But would that be a proper explanation for why she's biting her lip -- or why her eyes are still vacant and distant?
There was no purpose in the here and now. Being in Japan, that had a purpose for Whitney Saulder. He had things to do in the general and specific senses that required him to be in Japan. But to be walking by a particular Baptist church at the particular time he is had no purpose or reason other than that is just where he happened to be walking when things happened.
But humanity and the world so loved to see greater purpose where there was none. That was the biggest lie of them all.
Whitney sniffs, stops his walking and is checking his phone when the report goes off. He lifts his head, hand and phone slipping into the pockets of his rumpled too-large dress slacks, and considers the sound. Most people, he thinks, mistake the sound of gunshots for fireworks. Television and fiction having conditioned most people into expecting a certain whizbang sound effect, when in actuality it's just a distant pop. Whitney is a little more used to the sound of guns going off. And a gun in Japan at that.
It would seem the day has gotten to be more interesting. He walks toward the church, still keeping that shuffle-bump of a gait. He looks at the woman, sees her. He keeps to himself, he's a stranger in a strange land and doesn't care to make it clear he's imposing on the respectable distance of the natives.
Just be an American heading into a Westerner's church. He skips up the step and doesn't check the door. He opens it as if he's supposed to be there. Confidence and assuredness was usually enough to cow people into believing whatever they were seeing was supposed to be happening.
And when the doors close behind him, he sees what's laid out before him. Whitney Saulder hums. This is a curious incident. With the detachment of the young child holding a magnifying glass over an anthill, Whitney steps into the crime scene with a casual stride.
He looks down at the deceased. He looks up and around at his surroundings. He hums.
Whitney Saulder begins to get ideas.
The late afternoon sun bathes the nave in kaleidoscopic light. Long shadows carve the edges of each pew into sharp relief. A thin sheen of dust lies along the pews in the rear; the three frontmost rows are considerably less dusty, showing the prior presence of fingers both young and old. The carpet could use a vacuuming.
And in the center of the sanctuary -- just in front of the pastor's lectern -- is the collapsed body of Ryuichi Fujimoto, lying in a pool of his own blood. His jaw is intact, leaving dental evidence as a viable means of identification, for the gaping crater has mangled the blood-soaked face far beyond the point of recognition.
A fair distance away is the weapon of his own suicide - a medium-caliber pistol, thrown from his hand by the recoil of the shot. His hand lies strewn away, at a limp distance from his center mass. With no fingerprints on the weapon but the man's own, there is little doubt that the man killed himself -- a pristine crime scene, as it were.
The door is unlatched.
A trenchcoated shadow is cast onto the floor.
And moments later, the door will shut again behind her.
Dahlia dresses as someone in her late twenties -- artful use of makeup, her hair pulled back into a severe, unabiding bun. THe polychromatic light scintillates off the edges of her glasses as she strides into the church -- as if she, too, had every right to be here.
"I heard a sound," she calls out, her voice echoing throughout the cavernous halls.
Her eyes squint, adjusting to the light.
"What is go--" she starts.
But then her eyes fall upon the stilled body of Fujimoto.
It is a pointed look -- meant to draw Whitney's eye.
The cellphone is raised up, the lens of its camera catching the light, as the replicated 'click' of a camera shutter is heard.
"This is -terrible- -- have you called 119 yet?"
A dead man, a quiet scene, all in all a curious one. Whitney Saulder takes a seat in one of the pews to consider his varied ideas on how, in his own way, he can make the situation a more interesting one. While he does, he flips through one of the bibles tucked in the back of the pew in front of him.
He skims the book, flipping through the pages and considering various passages. Something in regards to invasion perhaps. That could be useful. Something to shake up the blood should anyone be considerate enough to report salacious details.
And then the door opens again. Whitney smiles to himself and raises his head, looking forward toward the front of the chapel.
"I'm afraid not," he says, voice steady, calm, sedate. Her reaction subdued, her choice to take a photo before reacting, a sign of youth these days? Hardly. Whitney Saulder isn't so unfair as to blind himself to suspicious behavior. After all, he's the man simply sitting a pew.
"I'm not terribly familiar with the standard numbers here. If you'd like, you could probably get a better photograph from in front of the lectern."
Having found the passage he wants, he tears the page from the Bible and stands up. His walk slow and paced toward the body, along the way, hurling the book with a sudden violent flourish toward the wall.
Dahlia sees Whitney seated in the pews, flipping through pages of the Bible. At first, she doesn't think anything of it -- she's got the evidence she needs stored away in her camera, a freeze-frame of the scene as she entered it. A timestamped record of the occurrence, before she even moves further inside.
But then the psychic finds herself curious as to the motives. The man before her is remarkably calm -- yet, considering his proximity to such a macabre sight, that seems highly suspect.
"-- Yeah, right. I'm not getting any closer until the police officers get to document this crime scene for--"
Dahlia entered this crime scene just to make sure that it wasn't disturbed. But she stops talking abruptly as soon as she hears the sound of torn paper. Narrowing her eyes, she clamps her jaw shut, watching as the man walks towards the body.
The book hits the wall with a thud.
And the psychic quietly stows her phone in her trenchcoat pocket, taking long and purposeful strides towards the corpse.
"You may be new here, but I'm pretty sure tampering with a fuckin' crime scene is a crime in just about any country."
Her trenchcoat and dress billowing behind her from the haste of her movements. Her hands flare out to either side, beginning to glow with a faint purple aura.
"I'm gonna have to ask you to step back!"
A perfect page straight from Leviticus. That particular book has proven to be useful to Whitney's needs over the years. He walks, still shuffle-bump as he scrapes along in a languid way. The girl's conveniently enough taken a still that should keep things pretty clear and crystal. The book is out of shot, the paper too small to see. All works out.
And then the girl makes for the body. Whitney stops and almost can't keep himself from laughing. "Well now," he purrs, "Seems you like to lie to yourself."
He holds up the passage in his hand. "Leviticus 20:23. You shall not follow the customs of the nations which I will drive out before you," he says, smiling. "Fitting irony, don't you think?"
He looks down to her hands, the glowing, and now he truly laughs.
"I want to ask you a question, I need you to consider it, because it is about you and your priorities." He flicks the paper in his hands to point toward the girl's glowing aura. "Just how important is an untampered crime scene to you? And just how untampered will it be should violence break out in this place? Why, should you stop me, would you not be guilty of the same?"
Dahlia sneers with distaste.
She thinks on what he means -- and realizes he's not talking about his own ignorance of emergency numbers, or about disturbing a crime scene, but rather, the gun lying on the floor, its barrel still smoking.
"... I suppose you think that's clever...?" She shrugs her shoulders, slowing her approach to the body as she gets close.
Dahlia wraps her left hand around her wrist, extending her right palm out to him as if it were a loaded shotgun. Golden light weeps off of her eyelashes as she narrows her eyes at the man.
She does not answer the question.
"It's called respect for the dead, asshole. But go ahead!"
She smirks, angling her head to the side.
Her right hand flares brighter. And when next she speaks, the words will close upon his eardrums before she even parts her lips -- only for the actual words to echo a fraction of a second afterwards.
Whitney crumples the passage up and flicks it back toward the body. "An angry, conflicted man enters a place of worship. He's at odds with himself. Secretly, or not, the 'authorities' will decide that."
He slips his hands into his pants pockets and tilts his head up and back, looking at the woman and her loaded arm with a look of practiced and near beatific understanding. It's a mockery of the actual amused and distant disdain he has for the world around him. "A Western church. A belief system of the invaders and oppressors. Yet, maybe it calls to him. He reads the book. Finds a passage. Tears it out in a fit of pique. Hurls the book aside, destroys the offending passage about the invaders his people just drove out. The same ones whose beliefs he feels compelled by. And bang. He ends it all. See the toxic influence of Western ideals?"
The man smiles and starts to walk toward the exit, and toward Honoka. "A plausible story from the scene laid out before us, isn't it?" he asks. "A reasonable situation for reasonable people to reasonably follow."
How wonderfully curious for a woman with this kind of power to show up here. And it makes for something so very interesting. "Why do you respect the dead?"
The scene's already been disturbed -- a book flung away, the passage torn up. Clues that would be found by any researcher worth their salt -- clues that might not have a negative impact on Dahlia's agenda.
But, then again, they -might-.
It's not the story the man was meant to tell.
Dahlia sets her jaw as she listens. She -does- want answers from this foreigner, this man who wants to put his own spin on the grim suicide.
Her smirk turns back towards disgust.
"... And once the reasonable people disseminate the story, then all the unreasonable nationalists can get worked up about it..."
Dahlia backs up as Whitney approaches her -- aiming her palm up towards his neck. She's fine with letting him think that his added 10 inches of height is intimidating her.
"I respect the dead because every life is valuable, meaningful. You're disrespecting him to set a personal agenda in play -- to watch the world burn."
Not that Dahlia isn't -also- motivated for similar ends. But this one change would throw... certain elements into question.
She can sense Whitney's overbearing attitude -- his calm, calculating attention to detail. And yet --
"So let me ask -you- something... You're fine with your fingerprints being everywhere his -aren't?-"
She backs for the door -- glaring at Whitney's beatific expression all the while.
Whitney Saulder doesn't care for her agenda. He doesn't care for the situations others want to foment and froth. He doesn't want to set the world ablaze, but he's more than happy to play the tune that causes these people to tear themselves apart. He is, in his mind, just allowing others to expose the frailties in their thinking. To show what they wouldn't admit.
If it caused Japan to overreach and falter, and open up to allow the Illuminati room to sidle up, then gee, that would just work wonderfully.
He tilts his head wen Dahlia aims up at his chin. He's much larger than her. That's not his intimidation tactic. He presumes, with her hand glowing the way it is, she knows a deal about fighting. His intimidation is in the open willingness to sacrifice his reach advantage on a smaller, powered opponent. Disregard for himself as apparent as his overbearing nature.
"Is it so wrong for a wandering Westerner to feel homesick? To come to the familiar walls of God's House? To read through a cherished book of morality. Isaiah 32:2, Each one will be like a shelter from the wind and a refuge from the storm. With all that has gone on. It seems reasonable that a Westerner will seek out such comforts as a familiar church." He nods down to Dahlia's hand. "Life, as you say, has value and meaning. I ask you to explain to me how and why," he says, "Further, even in your most philosophical you cannot say that the corpse behind me is in any way representative of life."
Dahlia grits her teeth -- more quoting of Scripture. She allows Whitney to continue pressing her backwards, refusing to allow him to fully intrude upon her bubble of personal space with her outstretched hand, even as psychic energy continues to bleed outward from her hands, to shine outward from her eyes.
"How convenient, you've memorized your Holy Book. I'm sure your pastor will be proud!"
Dahlia casts an eye towards Fujimoto's corpse, just for an instant, before looking back up to meet Saulder's gaze.
And she smiles -- knowing a few secrets the imposing figure marching against her might not.
"You're in no position to judge that. You can't hear him -- I can! I can -feel- his soul rising from his corpse, even now. Wondering... why two people are having such a -pleasant- discussion about him. Gawking in confusion as to why he's never seen either of us before. Trying to make sense of the body lying on the ground -- and wondering just who that might be..."
Her backward gait is prevented, as her back thumps against one of the double doors. Her hand lowers -- extended now towards Saulder's abdomen, rather than his neck.
And yet, as she looks up at Whitney, she seems more comfortable than before -- the prey, with a counterstrike against the predator looming above.
"The dead can outlast the living -- for they have no clocks to follow."
Press. Press. Walking to the door. Simply walking to the door. He looks down at the woman and all her power roiling and growing about her hand and the shine in her eyes. The building and burgeoning psychic lash in front of him and yet the man seemingly has no care. He simply has a look of calm and collected care. A careful mask of a face that, at times, lets slip some of the cat-caught-the-canary amusement.
"Oh, certainly," he purrs, simply absorbing any intended snark like a sponge. Even nodding his head to her. But this time letting her take the floor and to talk. It was an enlightening experience.
"Ah, I see, I see," Saulder says, nodding along to the Dahlia's words. "There is a convenience to being the only one that can talk to invisible figures. Yaoyorozu no kami, is it?" he asks. "Or a more simple medium?"
He pulls his hand from his pocket and gestures to the door. "Shall I open the door for you, you seem to be occupied," he offers. "If you wish to continue to talk theology, I'm more than welcome to it. I look forward to hearing you talk of the ghosts that follow me." There's a distinct condescension in his tone.
"I'm more than a little curious how, if you can see the dead, that you can at see anything at all but a world choked with figures. Far more have died than have lived, after all." And moreover, Whitney has become bored with the church. He's done what he's needed and conversation can be interesting, but not so when the surroundings are some church and he supposes a body. Potential spectral audience notwithstanding.
Dahlia narrows her eyes as the man talks of the Shinto statement of "eight million gods." As an Ainu with a firm rooting in history, she has ample reason to believe that the concept was based on one from her own Ainu culture -- a belief that the kamui lurk around every corner, in every home's hearth, in every living creature. A belief so rooted that the Japanese word 'kami' even descends from the Ainu truth.
The flares of energy around Dahlia's eyes begins to dissipate, as her narrowed eyes widen somewhat. "Oh, that's sweet of you to make that assumption. It -almost- met its mark."
As Whitney gestures to the door, Dahlia shrugs mildly. The energy radiating from her hands dispels with a whiff, like a snuffed candle. He wasn't intimidated -- and perhaps never was -- and that bothers the heck out of the half-Ainu woman. But pressing the point will only make her seem even more immature.
Her hand, instead, gestures to the door as well. "By all means..."
But while Whitney is troubling himself with the door, she's fishing out the phone from her pockets.
A flash of irritation flickers across her features -- the man's condescension certainly is not lost upon her -- but she stands with renewed resolve when her belief system is questioned.
"... Just the ones who haven't found resolution. The ones who haven't been ushered into Heaven or Hell." She nods her head towards the corpse -- "When the man killed himself, he was absolutely sure it was the right thing to do. But then you had to go dicking around with bibles and foreign nations and now he's not sure what to think. He had closure. Now he's got doubt."
If the door is opened -- Dahlia would follow him outside. Like Saulder, she's not crazy about debating theology within earshot of the recently departed.
Dahlia grinds her teeth.
"I suppose your next smartass statement is gonna be 'So why don't you fix it?'"
The doors are opened wide. The sunshine let inside. Whitney Saulder holds his arms out at the side as he walks out into the sunshine with a pleased sigh. "Spring is coming," he says, smiling as he walks out into the world and looks back behind him toward the woman.
"Now that's impolite," he says, waggling his finger at the phone she has. "If you're talking with someone, isn't it good form to focus your attention on them rather than busying yourself with electronics?" He doesn't care. If anything he'd prefer a response that implies people are capable of doing more than one thing. But he does like playing and preying on propriety.
His hands go back into his pockets and he resumes his slouching posture for his limping stride. "So you aim to convince me that you can understand and see spirits. That you have seen and understood a dead man's tale. And that, somehow, they are both troubled by the situation around their death and yet unable to tell that they are actually dead?" he asks, rubbing his chin in mock-thought. "Frankly, what you may or may not be able to fix is none of my concern. If you can do something, you will. If you can't, you won't. I'm more concerned with the strange dichotomy currently existing in the thought patterns of those without brain activity." Technically, Whitney is partially taking a dig at Honoka here. Since he considers the opinions of the dead man and the woman's to be essentially one in the same.
Dahlia doesn't seem to mind much about the casual observation that what she's doing is rude. She told him who she'd be calling -- and it's obvious when she hears a voice on the other end, and responds accordingly.
"Yes -- I'd like to report that a man has shot himself, here at the Baptist church about a kilometer north of the Shanghai Sports Bar. ... Yes, a firearm is present. No, that's all, thank you."
The phone is silenced, and stowed back into her pocket. "What a tired old way of thinking that is! You could just make up Biblical passages and I'd just have to nod like a bobblehead and accept anything you say as fact. But no, this way you can make up Bible verses and a non-believer just has to take you at your word."
Dahlia follows along behind -- and takes a moment to examine the stride a bit more thoroughly. As tall as the man is, she wouldn't expect a limping gait like that to be the norm. And she is ... curious about how sincere it is.
And Dahlia's tactic for dealing with the questioning is probably expected: Evasion. "Well, I'll be honest, it's real hard to listen to the dead when people are ripping pages out of books and throwing them all over the room. It's not like I got a chance to actually -talk- with him."
Dahlia continues walking at a set pace -- if Saulder slows down, she'd be happy to walk beside him, but she's not going to speed up beyond the limping pace he's set on the exit of the building. If that means she talks to his back, so be it...
"Heck, me... I'm kinda wondering how this fits into a typical workday for a tall foreigner. Why you decided to go out of your way and start shit. I mean, does that pay well, being a professional shit-stirrer? What're the prerequisities, I mean, do you have to be a political commentator first or what?"
There is a reason for him being here -- and although he's commented as much, the fact that he hasn't told her to go away outright is the opportunity she needs. Because when -else- would the shadowy manipulator get to talk to such a person?
Calling in the report. How polite. How expedient. The woman is a curious one, and to Whitney she's already played her hand in revealing that energy around her, well, hand. And in her general reactions. The woman is a mystery of sorts, a curiosity for the moment. One that he doesn't feel the need to look deeper on but for now is welcoming of the notions that she's different than others.
That she also can acknowledge and make comment on the flaws in society's weak concern with veneers of politeness is a breath of fresh air. And while it's hard for him to admit to liking a person in a general sense, he doesn't quite loathe this curious woman.
He even slows to let her match his shuffling stride.
"You did and you do," he says. "But you're opting for me. Which I appreciate, but don't lie and think you have no chance to commune with your spirits. You've just taken a better route."
He walks along, and now has little to no reason to go anywhere with his brief flurry of activity done. He pulls out his own phone to look for possible places of interest around. Maybe an actual shrine or one of the larger shopping districts.
"I'm a contractor," he says, leaving the definition he's using as nebulous as possible. "As far as professional shit-stirring, as you put it, take a look at the world we live in and ask yourself if that question has already been answered?"
Normally, Dahlia wouldn't bother with this small talk -- she'd just try to brute-force her way into the mind of someone bothering her. But this man is different -- not only is he resistant to her tricks, but he's able to keep pace with her misdirections and cons, and he's able to both shrug off her intimidation tactics and raise the ante himself. Worthy of study.
Plus, he doesn't mind the rambling sort of conversation she happens to enjoy -- even to the point of slowing down so that she can catch up.
She may be fascinated, but the woman is still going to hold a number of secrets close to her, hiding them all behind the veneer of a disaffected smirk.
"'Don't lie,' he says with trustworthy tone and iron conviction." The smirk shifts into more of an amused, self-aware smile. Professional shit-stirring isn't just the avocation she impresses onto Whitney, after all.
"I suppose that's true. The Internet is the great equalizer, allowing every self-appointed asshole to share the grand stage with the fourth estate. It almost makes one long for the blissful ignorance of a totalitarian regime."
Now that Saulder is walking alongside her, she rocks her shoulders forward, leaning to look up at his face. His true feelings may be locked away within that tall fortress, but she's eager to get a better look at his face without the polychrome light of a stained-glass window cast upon it.
"A contractor, though, hmm? Now -that's- a minefield, especially around here with all the players trying to get in on the ground floor of this vast reconstruction."
She glances in front of her, taking her sweet time walking.
And she smiles broadly.
"Though... some people have to try harder than others."
She lets the thought hang in the air for a moment, her coat and dress swaying in the light breeze.
"Do you plan on staying in this area for very long...?"
The sassy smirk has momentarily disappeared.
For the moment, her tone and expression are devoid of the markers which might indicate a particular emotion.
To hold fascination. To hold any real enjoyment. None of those things really happen to Whitney. A bare plot with little in the way of pathos is the way Whitney Saulder lives his life. A best, a glimmer of interest as something is different or a situation presents itself where he can poke at and hopefully see what it is that makes the humanity around him tick.
However, though he doesn't find joy in things, he also finds some things not as bothersome as more stable-minded humanity does. That includes a meandering conversation.
"Really? Internet nuisance worth supporting the lie of the terrified and the desperate?" he asks. "Perhaps. Humanity as a whole seems to have an obsession with order. Allow for anything to maintain the lie, even if you must pervert the lie." His agreement comes with a nod.
He doesn't looks toward honoka as he talks, nor do his hands leave his pockets. He is, on the whole an unremarkable man with unremarkable features save for the distinct shade of blue his eyes have. Eyes that look down his face toward Honoka when she leans to look at him.
"A lot has been destroyed. Things need rebuilding, don't they? The only way to return to normalcy?" he speaks with lingering condescension, as well as once more leaving it vague what sort of contracting he does. The building kind, or something else.
"I don't plan on much," he says. "If I am, then I am. Who I am with come tonight, if anyone, will be as it is."
Dahlia edges her glasses up along the bridge of her nose as she turns toward the street. Not that she needs them -- the lenses provide no magnification whatsoever. She pauses for a moment as she reaches the sidewalk, listening as if the dutiful police officers were about to roll right on up. They're not -that- punctual yet, though.
"Order is an illusion anyway -- a pretty show put on for people who literally don't know any better. The real action happens behind the scenes, by the people whose view of the big picture allows them to orchestrate the situation to their benefit."
Dahlia turns back to Whitney, an amused smirk lifting one side of her lips.
The smirk grows into a symmetrical smile, as she pointedly looks past Whitney, down the vacant street.
"You're a dangerous man, whoever the hell you are. I know I'd rather work with you than against you."
Paused at the sidewalk -- it would seem that Whitney has the next move.
Response times are always an issue. At least for people that rely on the police to do their jobs. And with a body there was always more to handle. Sometimes, Whitney Saulder has found, a body in one place is the best distraction for a chance at a real target.
He finally looks at the Dahlia when she talks. "What you talk about is still order. Order of a shadowy cabal is no different than the normal order. Ultimately, those webs and those plans will fall to entropy in whatever form it may take.
He looks away from the woman and paces himself on, stopping when she mentions working with him and not against him. "I take most forms of payment," he tells her quite openly. "But I would like to know why you would care to work a person like myself. What reasons could you possibly have, I wonder."
In Dahlia's experience, meandering conversations reveal more about a person's character than a focused interrogation. Lie detectors can be faked; it's not hard to gear up defenses for the peculiar format of question. But when one speaks about highly diverse topics, it's possible for them to provide a snapshot of their generalized thought processes. And it's -that- that seems to be most valuable to the manipulator.
"I agree completely," she says, to the notion that an illusive order is still order all the same.
As for the question of why he might want to work with her?
She raises a finger, wagging it in a condescending manner, because two can play that game. "Ah, ah... That's breaking the rules now, isn't it? For all I know you could be working against me, playing both sides of the field, hmm?"
She shifts her weight onto one foot, lifting her palm to one side, splaying out her fingers.
"Why, how could I share such private thoughts with a man I've only just met, when I don't even have his name?"
Humanity is obsessed with inscrutibility. At least, that is what Whitney Saulders has determined over time. Explain their methods, their patterns, the script that most all individuals follow in their decision making and the people of the world will collectively shout no. They will deride and sneer. They will presume a man arrogant and a lying fool if they are told so much that they can be predicted.
And yet those same people will go to lengths to develop game theory. A field of study that, more than the religious notations he's memorized, he has found a greater frustration despite his knowledge.
"Everyone is solely working for their own interest," he tells the Dahlia. "In that way, we are always working against the other. We have to accept this to survive as a species."
He looks down the street, and then down to what he guesses is the woman's attempt at a cute puse. "Are you a woman of means?" he asks.
Everyone is solely working for their own interest, he says.
It's enough to bring Dahlia's smirk back.
The statement may be true for other organizations, but not hers.
But that smirk is about as far as it gets, there.
"The short answer to that is: yes. If it's money you want, the negotiating table is open. The Akatsuki-gumi shines its light on all of eastern Japan -- and presents a number of opportunities to those willing to work within our interests."
Dahlia draws her hands together, steepling them before her.
"And as their strategic advisor, I have their ear."
She bows at the waist -- a stiff and formal gesture common to those of the archipelago.
"Scarlet Dahlia. A pleasure to meet you."
As she rises back to her full 5'5" height, she arches an eyebrow, her lips pursing.
"Working with me is certainly preferential to the alternative."
And like that, the mystery is lost. The cleverness. The unique potential. The glimmer of something curious in this little woman is deflating within Whitney's eyes. Yet another self-deluding power broker with a sales pitch.
Whitney sniffs and looks down at the smaller woman, shaking himself out of his slouch for the first time in a while, but then settling back into it like someone deciding it's not worth leaving the bed in the morning. The bow, the introduction. Japan was rife with its traditions. Traditions it always seemed to feel were the rules of the world.
"You seem certain of that," he says. "I take money. If you have the means you say you do, you can find who I am. If you do, I'll consider your offer. But I want to know why does Akatsuki-gumi shin its light over Japan? And why you feel the need for euphemistic metaphor?"
The markers of Whitney's fading interest are not lost upon the psion. She flashes a mock frown, pressing the tips of her steepled fingers against her chin. "Aww, I'm -losing- you, aren't I...? What a magnificent picture I was beginning to paint, of a woman with the liberty to mold a nation to her whims and desires, only to muddle it up by talking about the family needed to enact such sweeping changes..."
Her eyebrows lower, her lips flattening into a line.
And then she answers.
"Or maybe it wasn't that at all...? Let me chalkboard this out for you, then."
She widens her hands into a circle, eyebrows lifting as she adopts the cloying tone of a kindergarten teacher. "'Aka' means 'red,' and 'tsuki' means 'moon.' Moons shine light on little things like countries and men with more ego than they know what to do with."
Lowered eyebrows herald the return of cynicism to Dahlia's face. "And of course, the '-gumi' means our forces are legion, our eyes and ears everywhere."
Her hands tuck back into her pockets. As a pair of police cars begin to round the corner, so too does she turn her back to Whitney Saulder, quietly striding in the opposite direction.
"So it is only a matter of time before we know... everything... about you."
Whitney's interest is fading, fading and fading. Not exactly for the reasons that she seems to think. She and her family are simply proving to be another dull formality. Another group that gussied themselves up. Touting some king of family and order and all of it not looking to really do anything, just to leech onto extant systems and humanity's self-important lies.
That was the one place where Gill shone brighter than the others. He was weaving into them to burn them all down. New World Orders always seemed to forget just what New World meant.
The woman's explanation of the group's name does tell Whitney Saulder one very important piece of information; this supposed strategist is an idiot. "What and Why are often confusing concepts. I can see where you make mistakes," he says with a slow nod.
He turns and walks opposite the woman, shuffling along. He doesn't understand why stupid people keep using vague threats like the one this Dahlia slings at him in parting. After all, he has just told her he expects her to find him through her ways and means. He felt for a moment that perhaps she was smart enough to glean that he was testing her claims, but yet again he feels failed by a humanity that is so focused on their own lies and self-delusions of grandeur that they never really listen to a situation.
This is why Whitney Saulder seethes and rages under his unemotional facade. He finds himself in what he can only describe as a world of idiots that somehow understand without knowing. While he himself can nver fully understand these people, despite knowing them all too well.
He scratches at his jaw. The woman has made his teeth itch. Hopefully she will at least prove herself inasmuch as being able to pay money. She at least looked like the type to feel good about being able to hire killers.
Dahlia bristles ever so slightly at the demarkation between 'what' and 'why' being made so clearly in front of her. If she weren't already communicating irritability in her face, she certainly was at -that- mention.
"Trust sure is a bitch, ain't it? But what kind of idiot would share their grand, expansive plan with anyone who'd listen?"
She'd said her peace.
And as the police cruisers drive past, all they will see is two strangers walking along the street in opposite directions, as they screech to a halt in front of the church -- never the wiser to the evidence -either- of them had planted upon the corpse of Ryuichi Fujimoto.
A suicide note will be found in the man's jacket pocket. The words contain a calm, clearly handwritten deconstruction of Fujimoto's nationalist track record on voting. The words claim that he wishes he could have retracted every single vote he placed. The words claim the grief was too much to bear.
And yet, a torn, crumpled Bible passage will place the note in a different context. Perhaps one of a past life -- or one of the tumultuous last moments of the man's existence on earth.
Log created on 10:01:38 02/26/2018 by Honoka, and last modified on 14:53:48 03/03/2018.