Illyria - Illyria Act 2 - Seventh Seal

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Description: What happens when a battleship of a man and a wandering shounen hero run into each other at a magic/technology facility deep under the earth in the Albanian countryside that once was home to an ancient and wise kingdom? Honestly, mostly banter. But it's GOOD banter.

'Save this world. Save our home.'

Those had been Raquel Alucard's last words to Naoto, spoken with the voice of another, on borrowed time. There had been other things involved -- something called Susano'o, someone named Hades Izanami -- but in the end, that had been the important thing. And after that, Naoto Kurogane knew that he wasn't likely to hear her voice again until he accomplishes what she'd asked. But... well.

His lift home had left him in a Starbucks bathroom and he hadn't heard from her again since.

The result had been travel, and lots of it. Now that the crisis he appeared in had resolved itself, or something of that nature anyway, that travel became a possibility which before it had not. And besides, this world is so very similar to Naoto's own... and yet, so very, very different.

Paying his way wasn't hard; the discovery that professional fighting was an actual career here, one that could keep his monetary needs met with a skillset he'd already developed, was a welcome one. And so from country to country he hopped like a knight-errant, wandering, researching, and looking into anything strange or occult. In many cases -- most, really -- the things he found were benign; peaceful Darkstalkers misunderstood by common humans, for example. Others were uncomplicated deceptions by greedy humans, using the mystique of the occult to hide rather more normal schemes and plots. And there were a few genuine monsters in the dark he'd dealt with before moving on.

But 'Susano'o' and 'Hades Izanami' -- now THERE'S a name -- eluded him.

That is how Naoto found his way to the Albanian Alps and the current goings on: not by signing on with the Order or the Librarium, but simply by following tips and stories and rumors from everyday folks in towns across eastern Europe. At first, he thought of joining the 'crusade,' but even a cursory glance at its roster made him change his mind. No, it was probably better to steer clear of such idiosyncratic types (read: WEIRDOS) and do his own thing.

Right now, his 'own thing' involves following a tip from an elderly pair of farmers he saved from one of the beasties wandering the countryside: apparently, below a castle dating to the ancient kingdom of Illyria, there were rumors of lots of things: treasure, a cave that led straight to the netherworld, and all sorts of other goodies. And so, Naoto set out to explore those options. What he found was... well.

"What in the heck is all THIS?" he demands of basically no one, looking out over one of the energy 'wells' set into the walls. "I mean, I expect a moldy dungeon, not a magical Death Star."

Iron Tager of Sector Seven benefits from a bit more guidance than the reality-hopping Naoto. Barring extraordinary circumstances and the occasional bout of interference, the towering operative has a lifeline with the one who saved his life, who charges him with purpose. And her voice has instructed him to be her eyes and ears in Illyria, the land of mystery.

As a nearly eight-foot tall giant, it takes some effort to blend in with his environment. On the plus side, a chance encounter with Commander Leo Whitefang provided him with the Sacred Order's backing to be here. On the minus side, well... the NOL didn't really have signoff approval on that, so he's been effectively skirting the perimeter of area of operations, keeping himself off the radar as much as possible.

It's likely that even if he -did- have permission from the NOL, it would not have extended to the passages within which he now stands. He stares at the energy wells set into the wall, brushing his fingers along the wall -- gauging temperature as best he can without disturbing the flows he can detect within.

"( Kokonoe. Some interesting energy signatures here. )"
The red giant speaks in as quiet a voice as he can muster -- not to be heard, but to be transmitted.
"( Runes carved into intricately forged metal. Sending some images for you... )"

Tager snaps a few shots of the rift nearest him -- but then he tilts his head slightly to the side. Somehow -- he is picking up a voice.

"( Someone else is here. )" He starts to move away from the rift and its welling light source... but the behemoth knows he won't be able to hide. "( Encounter is inevitable. ... The voice does sound -familiar- though... )"

There's a short period of silence before Tager receives a response. A burst of static distorts the first few words but the familiar voice of Sector Seven's lead scientist is unmistakable once it clears the interference.

(...ceived. I've seen stuff like this before. It looks like magical ...gils designed to direct the flow of energy, probably some sort of telluric distr...ion center or power node. Ancient civiliza-... built them from time to ti... to draw the energy of the leylines into concentrat... locations. Probably for ritual or religious purposes.)

Kokonoe makes no effort to keep her voice low, speaking into the internal audio relays within Tager's cybernetically altered mind. Only he can hear the wisdom that she passes on for the moment, allowing her to bring him up to speed without compromising his presence.

Under normal circumstances, the genius scientist would have simply used her talents to hack into a local security network, commandeering the cameras and sensors to be her eyes. Unfortunately, the joint NOL/SO operation is going down somewhere in the middle of Nowhere, Thirdworldsville, which leaves her preciously little in the way to technological devices to jack into. Naturally, she'd piggybacked on the NOL's field gear but that could only really let her monitor communications and a handful of security cameras within the camp itself.

In the world of programming, and several other places besides, it is said that there are three important factors to determining one's approach to a problem: Time, Cost, and Quality. The general rule of thumb is that you can pick any two while sacrificing the third. A quick, cheap solution isn't going to be very good. Prioritizing quality and time is exhorbitantly expensive. And anything that is both affordable and well-made takes a lot of time.

In her case, the need for operational effectiveness followed similar rules, replacing cost with subtley. She needs to know what is going on in Illyria and while she posseses several methods by which that information can be aquired, only one of them is possible without drawing a great deal of attention to her meddling. Despite his unusual size, Tager knows how to be discreet and his information is second in reliability only to her own senses.

That's not going to stop her from going over everything he does with a fine-toothed comb, however. It's not a trust issue or even one of control - she simple has the expertise that he does not. Her loyal minion is a soldier, and while he is certainly more well-read and intelligent than the average grunt, there's only so much information he can possess. With her access to the vast digital libraries that she's compiled and her own incredible intellect, she's far more suited to interpreting the data that his superior field skills acquire.

(...areful in there. The energy readings look high. Your cybernetics should shield from the worst of it but... any chances.)

At the mention of another presence, the scientist sits up in her chair, legs unfolding from a lazy lotus position. She taps a few fingers on the keyboard to her computer and brings up another pair of holographic displays, each showing Tager's viewpoint from opposite angles. While she can't risk using her Observation equipment to spy on the operation wholescale, monitoring Tager in this fashion shouldn't draw much attention, particularly with all of the magical interference nearby.

(Alright. Approach with caut... be watching.)

The blood-manipulating hunter himself is not a user of magic... that he knows of, anyway. But his time as Raquel's 'servant' means he got a good basic education on its workings, and it's clear that whatever it is that's going on here, it's got something to do with powerful magic. The runes that Tager's observing trap the flow energy here like dams with a reservoir, but as far as Naoto can see, the flow of energy isn't being used. It's just... stored. He brings his hand up, rubbing his chin thoughtfully for a moment...

And then shrugs. "Not like I know what it's for," he says at last. He's not shouting, but Naoto feels no real need to be 'quiet' about things. After all, it's not like the Order or the Librarium have any more 'legitimate' reasons to be here than Naoto does.

He tugs on the glove on his left hand for a second, rolling his head on his neck with a faint *crk!*. "No sense hanging around here, I guess," he says, clearly disappointed. It probably was too much to hope that he'd find a big box marked CLUE TO THE LOCATION OF THE SUSANO'O hiding in a basement down here, but as it is, he didn't find any more obscure clues either. "I can probably do more good topside keeping werewolves off people's property or whatever." And with that, he turns to go, looking toward the nearest hallway...

Well, there's some problems.
1.) Like most super science magic things, there's a LOT of light sources here.
2.) Tager is 8 feet tall.

The result is that the Sector Seven field operative's shadow is cast ahead of him. WAY ahead of him, given the shape of the hallways. Instinctively, Naoto freezes, turning toward the obscured part of the hall where that shadow could be cast from. For now, he's just going to watch... but his right hand, on the long-sleeved arm... his fingers curl in and out, anxiously.

Tager has long gotten acclimated to Kokonoe's acerbic tone -- words that could easily infuriate a lesser man pose no particular threat to the cybernetically enhanced giant. Without a specific reason to refute Kokonoe, he knows better than to interrupt the scientist's stream-of-consciousness rambling. In all actuality, her presence keeps him company wherever he goes, allowing him to stay true to his mission even when embarking on otherwise solitary journeys of discovery.

The corridor's trickling energy are certainly having an effect on Tager, cybernetics or otherwise. "( It is certainly not unnoticeable -- though I'm at a loss for how to describe it, other than a little light-headedness. Even if I were blind, I would be able to feel this power. )"

But then there is another. Tager looks to the corridor ahead -- and sure enough, his shadow falls upon the figure of a man. From beneath his orange goggles, his eyes narrow. And his tusked mouth tenses.
"( ... Identity match with Bloodedge exceeds 85% threshold. Engaging target. )"

The gap between Tager and Naoto shrinks, as the eight-foot-tall behemoth begins to stride towards him.

"This is a restricted area," announces Tager in a calm, but level voice. If someone didn't recognize the Sector Seven attire, or the uniform of an NOL officer, it might be easy to assume he -does- have a right to be here.

"The concentration of energies here is much too high for an unprotected civilian. Would you allow me to escort you back outside?"

It'd be difficult to presume that the striding giant might accept 'no' for an answer.

Kokonoe sits bolt upright, knocking several stacks of loose reports and half-eaten snacks over as her tails lash back and forth with sudden severity. Her fingers dance across the keyboard in a blur as she adjusts the view points of her Observation, drawing up several more screens that spew streams of data faster than most people could hope to read, much less interpret.

(...ou say, Bloodedge? Hey, Tager! Con...)

Her voice cuts out as a heavy burst of interference renders whatever words she was about to shout at him into an equally grating stream of buzzing white noise. A few more seconds of this irritation persist before it dies out. However, Kokonoe's voice does not reach out to him through the communicator immediately. Apparently the energy flows in here are playing hell with his equipment.

Back in her lab, the scientist raises her voice as she repeats herself a few times. When she receives no answer, she flops back into her chair, making a wordless sound of annoyance.

"Tch. Figures. The feed has gone all grainy too. What the hell would Bloodedge be doing in a place like that though?"

Well... that's a surprise. Not every day you see a giant red-skinned dude walk out of the shadows. And even at the best of times, Naoto Kurogane does not exactly have the world's most perfect poker face. As maybe 1/3 of Tager rounds the bend, one eyebrow goes up in curious surprise. Once the entirety of the S.S. Tager emerges from the deep, the *other* eyebrow also goes up, and Naoto emits a low whistle. His posture actually *relaxes* somewhat when he sees it's a gigantic red guy, for whatever reason... possibly because there were a bunch of things that COULD have made that shadow, and Tager doesn't seem as immediate an impending doom as they would be.

Still... the fingers on that gloved hand curl in and out erratically, the hunter's body still poised and tense.

Plus, when Tager actually *speaks*, he's... well, he sounds nice, actually. Not at all like you'd expect a 'red devil' to sound. At the idea that this is a restricted area, Naoto gives a little 'heh'. "Yeah, no kidding? Burying something like this underground and nobody knowing a damn thing about it seems pretty restricted to me," Naoto says, quirking a smile.

It's at this point the hunter really gives Tager a good once over, visually, and it takes a little of the wind out of his blithe sails. This guy is upright, talking, moving, and he's definitely not a robot, so why would...

Ah. Well, that complicates things, doesn't it?

"Real nice of ya to offer me an escort," Naoto says, and while he still sounds perfectly conversational, there is a guarded edge to his tone, an obvious wariness. His body language isn't much different; he looks poised to move in the event that something goes wrong with this situation. "But I can find my own way out, thanks. Besides, I'm sure you got plenty to do down here yourself? Don't want to ta--"

And then it's impossible for him NOT to stop talking, because the energy in the room suddenly *spikes*. The glow from the stored power intensifies, and the runes on the steel walls begin to luminesce, some brighter than others, forming patterns and channels of light in the energy wells and on the walls. There's a telltale sound of rock coming loose, and a shaking of the entire complex... nothing violent enough to displace people standing on the floor, but enough to make it clear that whatever's happening, it's happening *everywhere* down here.

"Uhoh," Naoto says, looking around, his gaze jumping from point to point swiftly. "I think someone woke it up."

Tager is unfazed when the communications from Kokonoe abruptly cut out, leaving him in involuntary radio silence yet again. Not even a state-of-the-art communications network like Sector Seven's is above a freak electrical storm, or... worse, whatever eldritch powers are coursing through this ancient complex.

But as he looks at the figure his sensors identify as the Bloodedge -- and the conflicting visual of a man with decidedly not-white hair... he cannot countermand his earlier directives. Tusks withdraw slightly, as he draws in his breath at the young man's insistence that he can walk himself out. Higher levels of assertiveness may be required...

And then all hell begins to break loose. Rocks are dislodged from the less-fortified walls. Clouds of dust begin to spill outward from deeper within the cavern. The light from the rifts glows with intensity.

And Tager shows a remarkable amount of restraint in the face of certain doom, mildly reaching into a pocket and retrieving a device the size of a large phone. With a thumb nearly as large as said phone, he prods the face of the device.

"Indeed. ... But considering the circumstances, one reading should suffice. I will only be a moment." The device grasped within the goliath's forged gauntlets responds with a plaintive mewling of acknowledgment, and as Tager looks across to Naoto, he gives a nod.

"I suggest you make your way to the exit. I will be right behind you."

His high collar and dark-colored robes may give off the -look- of a researcher, but the military-grade bulk of his gauntlets and the gauge of metal of his skirt-like tassets really don't seem all that scholarly. And yet -- all the same -- Tager leans back against the wall, making way for the slimmer Naoto to slip by him if he so chooses to let the Red Devil go second.

A hand comes up, rubbing the back of Naoto's neck. It's a slightly more relaxed gesture than one might expect from the combined scenario of 'big red dangerous-looking guy' and 'oh hey, the weird magic-science complex underground that was apparently in sleep mode suddenly turned on and way more aggressively than someone's computer coming off a screen saver'. Maybe he knows something that Tager doesn't? Or maybe he's just a moron.

Honestly if he's being confused for Ragna the Bloodedge, it could be either.

He has no reason NOT to believe that Tager isn't with the Order or the Librarium, really; it's not that the Red Devil's 'disguise' isn't inttact. Rather, it's more that Naoto might not care all that much who the person in front of him is 'with' right now. If anything, the words that come out of his mouth next suggest it might be MORE reason for him to stay. "Like I said... thanks but no. As long as we're chating like polite pals here, why don't you tell me what *y'all* are doing down here?" Naoto asks, lowering his head a bit and fixing his eye on Tager, who'd called him an 'unprotected civilian'. "After all, pretty sure all this stored-up power is dangerous, and I don't want to sound paranoid or anything, but it was sleeping along just fine, and then you show up and suddenly start lookin' to show me to the exits and pulling out your little... whatever-o-meter and taking readings, and the place goes nuts?"

And now, well... he doesn't really WANT to fight Tager, but it's impossible for Naoto's body NOT to slide naturally into a defensive posture. Because he expects what he's about to say isn't gonna go over very well in the United States of Tager. "Lotta innocent folks up there that might get hurt if the big glowy magic thing under their feet starts to get rowdy, so how's about you give me some reassurance you're not down here to blow up the country?"

Tager has a number of fearsome attacks at his disposal.
Here, the cyborg chooses to deploy one of them.
He smiles.

As the caverns shudder with a number of aftershocks, surely the work of a complex cascade of interlocked variables of which almost -none- are apparent from this cavernous corridor, the towering scientist-agent raises an eyebrow. "Research," he answers plainly, as if that one word could sufficiently weather the accusation.

"I'm certain that if I had the power to make the world tremble, I would have found a way to do so from the safety of my own laboratory. But as I do *not*, field work is occasionally necess--"

Tager's nostrils flare. And the towering colossus clears his throat, stepping forward, his tassets clanking together in the process.

A section of the wall gives way -- and rock slams into his iron gauntlets, forcing his mighty arm downward a few centimeters. A shower of smaller stones erupts from the point of impact, tumbling down his cylindrical gauntlets. With a grunt of distress, he tilts his head towards the exit.

The dust begins to clear, and Tager fixes his eyes back upon the defensively-oriented Bloodedge. He spends another moment looking at the device in his hand, before stowing it. "Ahem. As I was saying, I'd much rather be back in my lab... Unless there are more accusations you would like to avoid mischaracterizing as paranoia. I will be more than happy to explain en route, when the ceiling is not on the verge of collapse."

He didn't exactly -answer- those accusations yet, nor did he provide the requested assurance. But the Sector Seven operative can be quite stubborn when he sets his mind to such a thing.

Wholly-sleeved arm crosses over half-sleeved one, as Naoto considers these latest developments. He has no reason to trust this person and the inverse is almost certainly true as well. Neither one really knows what the other is doing, or what the other one wants. Staying here is probably dangerous; getting into a fight here might be actively suicidal. And Naoto doesn't even need the Eye to know that Tager is almost certainly dangerous himself, though what it tells him just makes that all the more certain.

What does one actually do in this situation?

"Scientist, huh... well, that scans." He doesn't say anything more on that front, and he doesn't blink an eye at Tager's display (intentional or not) of strength either. "Though I gotta tell you, if you were trying to convince me that everything here was hunky-dory, I'm not sure 'sometimes you can't blow up a city from your lab so you have to get outside an do it' was the best sell."

A pause follows, Naoto's eyes occasionally flickering to the runes on the wall. The energy isn't flowing downward; gauging by the pattern of the runes that flare and then dim as energy moves along them, it's heading *upward*. Meaning whatever the hell this place is doing, it's doing either aboveground or on a higher floor. So, Naoto makes a decision.

"Alright. How about you escort me outside, then? Nice and easy-like, and I'll be right behind you the whole way. I hope you don't mind if I'm honest and tell ya, I'd like to keep you were I can see ya until we're both clear."

Asymmetry: not Tager's cup of tea.

Tager knows why -he- wants to talk with Naoto. And he can tell from the way in which the young(?) man looks him over that he's not exactly in the mood to buy his story. Especially when he throws his dismissal of the dismissal back up for review.

Tager brings his magnanimous smile to bear yet again.
"Well, aren't you a tough customer? I can only tell you -- as a -scientist- -- that I had nothing to do with what just happened. Whether you accept that or not is your own prerogative."

The smile fades back to neutrality as he passes another glance to the pulsating rift, to the runes flaring and dimming to suggest the migration of energy. And in mid-thought, Naoto offers his counter-proposal.

A warm cousin of that earlier smile returns to his tusked mouth.
"I accept this proposal."
Tager is on high alert. And while he certainly has respect for the considerable power of the one called 'Bloodedge,' he also fancies himself to be a fairly good judge of character.

The iron behemoth begins striding out back the way he came, even as conduits crackle with life, and another rockslide can be heard collapsing an adjacent corridor. For now -- walking in front of Bloodedge is preferable to leaving empty-handed. Perhaps by the time the pair makes it out, communications with Sector Seven HQ may be reestablished.

Huh. Well then.

ager's probably either confident that Naoto won't stab him in the back (proverbially anyway, as he's unarmed), can't stab him in the back hard enough for it to matter either way, or (likely third option) both. But if it means not staying here for either a fight, a rockslide, or (likely third option) both, then Naoto's for it. So when the Red Devil gets moving, so does he, casually keeping pace... and perhaps, as a gesture of goodwill, keeping his hands where Tager can see them, if he bothers to look.

But Naoto's still on high alert, anyway. There could be all sorts of places Tager is leading him that *aren't* the surface, like a trap.

After a few moments of walking, the hunter takes a big, obvious breath, and then starts talking. "This is gonna be an awkward walk, isn't it?" he ventures, continuing before Tager really has a chance to answer. "I mean, I want to know what you're doing here, and I bet you want to know what *I'm* doing here, and I don't trust you, and you don't trust me, so it's not like we're gonna suddenly start chatting it up about that, is it?"

When in doubt, try the truth.

A few more steps, Naoto surveying his surroundings as the pair make their way out (presumably, anyway). "'Course, in manga, doesn't that usually mean one of us goes 'but I guess I'll make the first move' and spill their guts? Then we get to be friends 'cause of it, or maybe you're the anti-hero rival for the rest of the story. Ha, maybe *I'm* the anti-hero rival. Something about you doesn't say 'anti-hero' to me."

One similarity between Tager and Naoto is that both men are more than they appear to be on the outside. Much as Naoto bears a power the likes of which Tager does not know, the resurrected cyborg walking ahead of him is able to observe him in ways that a mere human cannot. So that even if Naoto -were- to attack Tager, anything short of a knockout blow to the back of the head would be met with equal and measured retaliation. And good luck to the height-disadvantaged Kurogane on that front.

Still. There is a chance that something would escape the notice of the half-automated man -- though he certainly has -sensors- on him, he does not in fact have eyes in the back of his head.

It will be a long few seconds before Naoto breaches the silence. As talkative as Tager may have been, it would seem his mood is spring-latched to return to the 'stoic' setting. In fact -- even as much as Naoto continues to muse about the comparative relationship of himself and the Sector Seven agent, Tager barely even musters a grunt of comprehension -- and that, only to ensure that Naoto continues talking.

Tager's orange goggles take in the pulsing, the shuddering through the cavernous corridor. His gauntleted hands remain low by his sides -- as casual as one can be carrying several hundred pounds of metal.

But when Tager is called an anti-hero... or not?
First, there is silence.
And then, at the tail end of the gap of space where Tager's response might have defaulted to silence for another round, the bass voice speaks.

"Didn't I already make the first move?"

An impenetrable half-smile spreads upon his face as he turns a curve, as the tunnel begins to grow brighter, from fluorescent lighting.

That response gets a bit of silence and then, maybe unexpectedly, a peal of laughter from Naoto, who shakes his head as he walks. "Man, you are confident, aren'tcha?" he asks, giving Tager a bit of a grin. They walk a few more steps before he speaks again, needing to chew that over in his head. "Sorry to say, 'I didn't immediately punch you in the head' isn't really trust, it's common courtesy." Big words coming from someone with a background like Naoto's, but the hunter would argue with an utterly straight face that anyone he punched first and asked questions of later probably had it coming.

It's the sort of thing that can happen when you work for a vampire.

He wants to ask Tager a lot of questions, it's true. But why would the red hulk answer any of them? He has no reason to. But if it's that or silence, Naoto reasons, he's going to ask. Plus the truth is, if it's going to end up a fight anyway, they might as well get it out of the way now.

"Outta idle curiosity there, Professor, let me ask you a question," the hunter says, casually, but keeping his eyes firmly locked on Iron Tager. "You ever hear of something called 'Susano'o'?" A seemingly inocuous question. After all, a smartphone and Wikipedia access would provide a totally acceptable answer without much trouble. But perhaps the very fact that he's asking it implies he knows, that Tager knows, that Naoto's not asking about any random Japanese mythological figure.

Tager doesn't seem to have a whole lot to say in regards to his confidence -- because yes, yes he is.

"Trust isn't a binary. Even from your questionably hostile actions, I trust you more than I trust a great many people."

Truth be told, Tager's not even looked back once. Sensors be damned.

He is more than happy to continue walking in silence -- Naoto's lack of questions doesn't really bother him any more than the questions themselves. The point of the matter is, if this Bloodedge is anything like the SS-Class Bounty he's actually searching for, getting him -away- from the site of an uncontained cascade reaction is probably for the betterment of society anyway.

But then, there is a question.
And the only sign that Tager might have even heard of Susano'o is the tensing of his jaw, the shifting of his tusks.

It will be a few seconds before he responds.
"The name sounds vaguely familiar. But it has been a very long time since I have heard it."

Tager's tassets continue to clink against one another as he walks. The soles of his boots are thick, and make much less noise than one would expect -- a point which can only truly be appreciated now that the rippling surges of energy seem to be lessening in severity. The exit is nigh.

And still no word from Kokonoe...

"... I would be happy to inform you if I encounter something by that name." The Red Devil is cautious to use the same wording that Naoto had. "... If there is a number I could reach you at."

Let's see how far this so-called 'trust' goes, eh?

It's a bit like fencing, really, which given the physique of one person in this conversation, and the personality of the other, is about as inappropriate as one could possibly imagine. But despite himself, the banter brings a smile to Naoto's face. There's something about Tager's demeanor that, despite the subtle but detectable attempts to get through Naoto's wariness, is endearing... and more to the point, genuine? It's hard not to like the deep-voiced professional, even if he does look kind of a lot like he should be standing guard outside Enma's throne room in the afterlife.

"Sure. It's +81 3 I Don't Think So," Naoto responds, cracking a shit-eating grin. "Does that line work with girls? I admit, it's pretty impressive." He wonders for a moment if the Red Devil actually picks up girls, feels his inner monologue start to wonder about the impact of cyborg parts, and quickly discards the entire affair. Keep your eyes on the here and now, buddy.

Naoto doesn't have Tager's multitude of sophisticated sensing equipment and upgrades, but he doesn't really need them to confirm that they're nearing the surface. The feeling of unbearable pressure that was saturating the air down in the lowest levels is greatly lightened, here... and the runes marking the walls are sparse, if not entirely absent. "Whatever they're doing with this place -- and whoever 'they' are -- I guess they're getting what they wanted," he observes aloud. No sense in hiding that information from Tager, who has almost certainly come to the same conclusion.

"You know, you seem like a decent enough guy," Naoto observes at last. "I wish we'd run into each other in a different way. And for the record you can usually find me in Tok... in Southtown." He grimaces a little at the mistake that he can't stop making, no matter how hard he tries.

Tager doesn't especially -expect- someone as admittedly paranoid as Naoto to give up his number -- a fact which he admits with a smile. "It was worth a shot."

As the corridor approaches something reasonably resembling civilization, it begins to widen -- allowing the cyborg to slow his pace and possibly even see the aforementioned shit-eating grin without looking down past his formidable shoulder.

As for whether the trick -works-, well. "Though, I cannot say it's been successful in the past." He doesn't -lack- a sense of humor, but it's more that he tends to keep from showing it in his body language, aside from the trustworthy smile. Well, it would be trustworthy if he weren't an eight-feet-tall guy with red skin.

"It remains to be seen whether such people are capable of handling it. But alas -- another time perhaps."

Tager's initial response to the 'decent enough guy' comment is a small nod of his head. Not to say that he approves or disapproves of the compliment -- but rather that he doesn't express his emotions very strongly. This is -- after all -- a relationship built upon mutually assured distrust.

"Agreed, and... same. If I find any more information on this Susano'o, I shall attempt to find you."

It's hard to quantify whether he's telling the truth on that, but of course, that's a two-way street the two ought to be well familiar with.

"Seems like you should be safe to proceed without escort, now."

His eyes may not be all that clear. But he does seem to be favoring Naoto with a faint smile.

"My name is Tager. Glad to make your acquaintance."

The sky's visible from where they are, and there isn't an overflowing wave of earthly energy saturating the air like gunpowder. And Tager says 'seems like you should be safe to proceed without escort'. As has been the norm in this conversation, that gets a little laugh from Naoto. "Yeah. I probably am."

For a second, he looks back at the Red Devil, considering him in a new light... almost literally a new light, since the imposing Sector Seven operative is still quite impressive in the light of day. But mostly, Naoto is thinking about the man's behavior. He COULD have done a lot of things. He could have tried to take out the hunter one way or the other. He could have had people lying in wait. Hell, all those cyborg parts, he probably had a radio. There coulda been a squad of... Stormtroopers or whatever waiting at the exit.

And there weren't.

Turning toward Tager, he gives a nod of acknowledgement. "Naoto Kurogane. I'd shake your hand, but I kinda like my metacarpals intact, thanks all the same." A bit of a joke... well, maybe 70% joke, 30% serious. Those gauntlets do not look handshake friendly.

Giving a little wave, Naoto makes to get on his way. "You might not believe me, but it was interesting meeting you, Tager. Take care of yourself. There's stuff more dangerous than me prowling around this part of the world right now. And believe it or not, I'm pretty dangerous."

Log created on 14:39:26 04/07/2018 by Naoto, and last modified on 23:58:04 04/08/2018.