Description: Life moves along at a steady, unrelenting pace. One day, Dahlia had planned a casual get-together with her Akatsuki flunkies, while Zach Glenn had been conducting a routine search-and-rescue mission. Things got progressively more complicated from there -- and what's destroyed is gone forever. No sense mulling about the past: these two set plans into motion to deal with the future.
Without a doubt, the best hospitals in all of Japan are located in Southtown. As the fight capital of the world, the coastal city attracts the best doctors and features the most advanced technological marvels. And what's more, fighters tend to have the fattest checkbooks.
But there are reasons to stay away from Japan's mightiest metropolis, especially when one has as infamous a reputation as Scarlet Dahlia. The patient's room is located in the heart of the VIP wing, with controlled access doors preventing anyone without properly authorized identification from entering. Four Akatsuki guards patrol the floor nearest her room, with two more guards seated just inside the room. Tables are lined with flowers, offered from well over a dozen different well-wishers from the organization.
The clipboard hung from the front of her bed reads: KOBAYASHI, Miko. And it suggests she was inducted with severely comminuted fracture of the right femur and knee, second degree burns all along the front of her body, minor fracture in left arm, minor bruising on shoulder and arms, minor scarring in lung tissue. The word 'concussion' was written at one point but it has been scribbled out, and marked with a doctor's stamp. She's been here in the recovery area for two days; thankfully she didn't need to spend very much time at all in the trauma ward.
It'd be easy to guess the extent of her injuries from sheer looks alone, though. Her right leg is entombed within a plaster cast. Her skin is covered with bandages, from the bridge her nose down to the tips of her toes. Pick lines trail from her arms, and an oxygen tube is tucked into her nose. The disarray of her shoulder-length, raven-black indicates she's been here way longer than she wants to be. And on top of her injuries, the worst insult of all is the sterile green hospital gown that is the complete opposite of her favorite color.
For the moment, her eyes are closed. The only sounds that can be heard are the quiet tunes of a rock ballad and the gentle wheeze-hiss of a respirator. Her heart monitor is silent, with nothing abnormal to report.
Zach Glenn was in Montevideo in Uruguay when the call had arrived that the Scarlet Dahlia (aka Honoka Kawamoto) had been hospitalized for what could only be described as a severe beating. If one wanted to use understatement.
He had been called in by the Catholic Church to hunt down and deal with what had turned out to be an Incubus in priest's clothing. Zach and his team had tracked the Darkstalker down to an abandoned club, and were discussing courses of action. Zach was with Chavez, who was armed with a large sniper rifle, as the pair watched the incubus lord over a small harem of mixed genders. His phone buzzed, and Zach pulled it out. "Go for Glenn," he said. Chavez regarded the psion; Zach had pulled out what he jokingly referred to as 'The Batphone.' That number was restricted to a tight pool of people, most of whom knew what Zach was up to. Must be important... scratch that, very important, the sniper thinks as he sees his boss go pale just above the mask. "Okay," Zach answers. "48 hours." A pause. "I'm in Uruguay," he explains, then hangs up without waiting for a response. Glenn stares through the window for a moment as he stows the phone.
A slither of light heralds the appearance of Dyrnwyn, which Zach shoulders. Chevez goes back to his scope just in time to hear the =whumph= of air rushing to fill a vacuum. He sees Zach suddenly /appear/ behind the incubus, who has very little warning before the family blade arcs, and removes the Darkstalker's head from his shoulders. The priest drops like a stone, as two men who could only be described as acolytes by their clothing turn to charge Zach with drawn knives. Zach calmly draws his Colt 1911, and fires four times. Four bullets all hit, striking two heads. The bodies hit the floor over the team's radios, as Zach calls in.
"Target down," he says in a stony voice. "Ten guests," Zach fires four more times, two more bodies can be heard hitting the floor. "Zero support staff. Bennet, Ceallach, bring the vans around. Chavez, Hibiki. I want stakes, wafers, fire, and water." Chevez blinks behind the scope; Zach was calling for the incubus (along with his 'followers') to be staked to the the floor through the neck, hands, and feet with silver stakes. The silver had been melted down from crosses blessed at Saint Patrick's cathedral in Dublin. From there, sacred wafers (from the same cathedral) would be jammed into mouths before the bodies were doused by holy water carried in via five gallon jugs. Jet fuel would follow, which would then be ignited, effectively cremating the remains.
"When that's done, and the guests are sheltered," Zach's voice cutting off the sniper's reverie, "Hibiki. I want this place levelled. No collateral damage, but I want a message sent." Chavez responds with "What's the message, boss?"
"Don't try this again," Zach answers. "Or we'll be back."
Zach arrived two days later, and was seen in to the hospital quickly. Sudo, the Dahlia's right hand man, had seen to that. Zach was wearing a nice suit and his usual grey longcoat. He stopped when he saw the woman in her bed, his face going pale. He leans in, and scoops up the clipboard.
-Huh,- Zach thinks to himself as he reads the rest of the chart, -Didn't take her for a Jean Reno fan.- The frown grows, and Zach returns the board to the peg, taking several deep breaths to try to find his center again.
The guards nod in reply to the white-haired visitor. Each of the guards in the hall steps aside to allow him passage. And once he's in the room, each of the guards snaps him a quick, attentive salute before averting their eyes elsewhere.
As soon as Zach makes his silent observation, Dahlia's chest rises with a sudden intake of breath. The heart monitor brightens out of its dimmed state to better highlight its patient's accelerating heartbeat. Her response is, slow, disjointed, and only half-formed.
-he's fuckin' handsome, though...-
Dahlia's hand lifts, tugging a cable clipped to her finger. Frustrated, she parts her eyes slightly, squinting as her eyes adjust to the dim light.
-... shit, i'm still...-
And Dahlia's eyes open just a bit wider, her gaze lifting towards Zach.
Breath is exhaled, finally, through lips framed with sterile adhesive tape and bandages.
-why is he here?-
She winces, narrowing her eyes a bit -- out of frustration more than anything else.
-i mean, you... found out. and. how?-
-He is, at that,- he agrees, not actaully uttering the words as he plays off the question. -I'd... have been here sooner, but Uruguay's a bit of a hike even with a good jet.- He takes a seat next to the love of his life, trying to keep a smile on his face. The Dahia would know it for the bluff that it was.
-Sudo called me,- he finally answers. -I could take a guess as to why,- he supplies as he nods toward the chart, -But they'd only be guesses...- He takes a deep breath, narrowing his eyes to keep himself contained. -And I... I can't help you yet.- Another breath. There is grief and terror at Dahlia's condition, as Zach takes the woman's hand gently in his own after wiping them self-consciously against the legs of his pants. They tremble slightly as he continues. -Not until the doctors can get your leg back together. Your...- A long exhale. -Your body doesn't know /how/ to fix bones so badly broken.-
This isn't the first time the Ainu woman has been subjected to a rapid-fire stream of information while still groggy from a drug-clouded haze. And yet -- she finds Zach's voice to be a comfort all the same.
-Uruguay?- she repeats, the barest hint of a smile flickering across her face. But Zach would also feel a very peculiar side effect to that motion: pain, shooting through every nerve ending on her face. She quickly resolves to avoid smiling in the near future.
- Sorry. I didn't... didn't know he called. Settled... now?-
She's asking questions she knows the answers to.
-Ah... yeah. I'm kinda fucked up right now. And... I'm... -
Defenseless, and scrambling for words. /None/ of the normal barricades are up, and Zach will be able to sense the fragments of half-formed words tumbling about in her head as she tries to think of the right thing to say.
-They used a word,- she decides, finally. -For my leg. Bullshit way of saying there's nothing there. They're gonna try metal stick. Metal rod. Hope the rest of the bone bonds to it.-
Her eyes shut painfully. And tears begin to well out.
-It was Duke, Zach. He threatened me, he threatened everyone. And I snapped.-
Which may explain why the woman is being kept in Hokkaido University Hospital, rather than right under the grip of the Southtown Syndicate.
The guards shift uncomfortably, struggling to maintain their gaze straight ahead.
For one thing is very different about this conversation.
They can 'hear' it, too.
Their souls fluctuate slightly, wincing with each of Dahlia's difficult turns of phrase.
Zach picks up on the discomfort of the men, and it doesn't take him very long to figure out what's causing it. That this is the first thing he reacts to is more of a statement that he has not allowed himself to react to the cause of Dahlia's injuries. He glances back and forth, and open his mouth to speak to the men.
"Excuse me," he says hoarsely. "Why don't you guys go get yourself a drink. I'll hold down the fort here." As if sensing concern, he speaks again. "Noone will get past me," he says evenly.
-They're hearing you,- Zach sends to Honoka. -It's... making them uncomfortable.- He waits to see what follows, but continues his conversation. -Comminuted is medical speak for pulverized, where bones are concerned.- A pause. -You're here, and alive. What happened to Duke?-
Honoka may pick up on gears turning in Zach's mind. Plans being drawn up, operations being laid out. They most likely involve blood and mayhem to varying degrees.
The two guards in the room both look questioningly towards Dahlia -- unwilling to leave her side on the word of someone -not- her.
Dahlia's eyes flick back and forth between the two men, understanding their reluctance, and considering the context. She might not want them to leave -- but she trusts the intuition of her fellow psychic.
Her voice is dry, hoarse, and weak. "It's... it's okay, guys. Simon says, 'Take five.'"
She looks back up to Zach, as the two men heed the advice, trotting their way out of the room. Nostrils flare as she draws in her breath. -Morphine's... a bitch. Was shouting earlier. Didn't even know it.-
Dahlia takes in the new information -- apparently her doctors were more focused on matters -other- than making sure that their morphine-addled patient was keeping track of the terminology. -Explains why it felt like jelly. Can't reset bones made out of jelly.-
As for Duke...
-The boys in black shot him till they didn't need to any more. Dumped concrete on him till they could collect the NOL bounty on his head.- She smiles -- enduring the pain from the expression. -Planned ahead.-
But then she senses the gears turning, and the smile fades.
-Don't you fuckin' dare goin' after him alone. Only one bed in this room and I'm a long way from jumpable.-
Her face may not show it, but the smirk is all but audible.
-... besides. I need a new leg. None of this shit's gonna take, Zach. Docs at Southtown Gen are way better.-
Zach scowls slightly at the reticence of the Dahlia's men; he gets it, but he has no patience for it at the moment. Then he returns to the conversation. When the woman addresses her displeasure at the idea of Zach trying to solo Duke, he chuckles slightly. -If the NOL have him, they are welcome to him,- he answers. -Why would I break him out from being experimented on? But if he /does/ broker some kind of deal,- Zach considers for a moment.
-Well,- he finally thinks, -I'd have no problem making sure he didn't have anything to come back to. I have a team that is... well... I've got a tactical operations team on speed dial. I could probably sell them on waging a small war on someone that the NOL had put out a bounty on.-
-Though I'm not so sure that the doctors in Southtown would do much better with leg jelly,- he considers thoughtfully, -And I don't know any miracle workers.-
Dahlia is more than a little upset at the current line of thinking -- enough to force her to close her eyes. Her hands clutch at the sheets, and the heart monitor shows her arteries working a little harder than they needed to just moments ago. The fires burn -- tongues of purple flame dancing up and down her arms -- and the anger builds. Until, finally, she's able to find the words she needs.
-ZACH. JUST FUCKIN' STOP.-
After her outburst, the purple firelight begins to flicker down.
-Just settle down. He hasn't connected the dots between Akatsuki and the Heirs to Legend. We only got one chance at this. And if you keep thinkin' with your balls I'm gonna end up smeared on the wall here.-
Dahlia shakes her head slowly, as her heart rate and blood pressure decrease. She looks up at Zach, eyebrows lowering in a mix of sorrow and frustration.
-... Hokkaido U is telling me I'll never walk again, Zach. They tell me 3-D printing won't work. And the way they look at me when I insist otherwise...-
Eyes narrow, as the anger returns.
-Not sure, but I almost want to kill doctors more than I do Duke right now.-
Zach stops, looking at the cast, then back to Dahlia. That is not a trick of the light, his eyes are wet with barely restrained tears. The walls of his will, his mind, falter. The rage that burns there is threatening to consume everything that Zach /is/. There is a spark of defiance, or maybe denial that nothing at all can be done. For crying out loud, Zach /knows/ a person with a pair of mechanical hands. Replacement parts are a possibility.
Just maybe not for someone who wants to be an acrobat. Or a fighter. Not without a lot of work and therapy, at any rate. He's not even sure if Minal Panesh could make a leg that could function at that level, or if Dahlia would even accept such a thing.
He lets go of Dahlia's hand, and slowly stands. He dashes the nascent tears on a coat sleeve as he takes a deep breath. Control starts to reassert. "I can't /not/ be angry. Not about this." he says, out loud. "I don't know what to =do= with all of it." Another breath. "Not this much of it." Another breath as something other than anger shows up in his mind. He looks to the woman he loves. There's guilt there, in Zach's expression. In his mind. He needs to face this anger, to process it, but to try and do so here and now won't help him.
It definitely won't help her.
"I'm sorry," he says as he sits back down, keeping his hands in his lap. He seems to have mastered himself for the moment, but both people in that room know there will be more than a few broken practice dummies carted out of the manor in Yokohama before long.
-Don't kill the doctors,- he finally thinks, internal exhaustion evident, -You shouldn't blame them for things they cannot do.-
-Not gonna kill no one. Today.-
So he's channeling his rage. Dahlia feels regret wash over her, and sighs.
-I'm sorry. I've had time to think about this. I literally just hit you with it.-
She closes her eyes again, expanding her awareness beyond the room, to the floor without. She can feel the guards outside, and the general attitude of calm in the hospital. Even those in pain... are copacetic. And that reassures her, for the moment.
-He wants to kill all our guys. But he can't get that chance. He has to feel the fear -- looking over his shoulder, checking every single step. He's gonna know he pissed off the wrong woman.-
Her mood shifts to cool, calculating revenge.
-All in good time. But right now...-
Dahlia looks down at her feet -- her burned, bandaged toes. And while she can wiggle five of them, the other five remain numb to her.
-You wanna do somethin', talk to the orthopedic docs in Southtown. Find one who can get me a 3-D printed femur. One that can -flex-, not like the piece of shit rod they wanna place in me. You do that -- and I'll be on my feet in two months, and on my tiptoes in four.-
That Zach is considered by most to be a good person is more down to his choices than any abilities that he might have. Dahlia would know better than most /exactly/ what the hunter could be capable of... were he to choose differently. Zach chose kindness. Mercy. Empathy. Some might argue that his upbringing would lead to no other conclusion, but upbringing can only do so much... and Zach had been tested. Over and over again.
He lets out another breath. -All I knew, on the flights here, was that you were hurt. Badly. When the wheels went up, I had no idea whether you'd even be alive when they came back down. Sudo... didn't go into any more detail than that, other than the fact that you were here.- He glances at the woman's feet. -But I'll see to the doctors, if I can. And I think your timeline's a bit conservative. I think with the right help, we can cut those times down significantly.-
Zach's green eyes blaze like emeralds onto the Dahlia's blue eyes. -But you are not leaving me out of what follows.- Zach stands as he makes for the door. -I won't /allow/ you to.-
-Thanks. And... don't take this the wrong way, but I know damn well what I'm capable of. Pull the muscle too hard and it snaps -- and then I'm back to this fuckin' bed.'
Zach is a good person -- or at least, he was. Honoka is a good person. But Dahlia is not. And she can tell that he's only dialing back his frustration for her benefit. When his eyes blaze back at hers, she nods back in reply -- her own fire manifesting as a fresh conflagration of purple flame from her bandaged fingertips.
-I don't want you cut out. I want you in. Yoshida can get you a copy of the video. Don't watch it unless you've got something to break nearby.-
She smiles -- relishing in the pain shooting through her nerves. Her hands start to quiver from the intensity...
Just in time for a nurse to walk into the room. "Miss Kobayashi, I'm here to change the bandages on your face...?"
Dahlia nods back in reply to the nurse, and then looks back to Zach with that pained smile.
-Bottle up that rage, and keep it close to your heart.-
The bandages are slowly unwound, to reveal unsightly patches of seared, fire engine red flesh. A fractal pattern of burn damage mapped out across her cheeks and upper neck, striations glistening in the unflattering fluorescent light of the hospital room. There -will- be scarring of some kind, one can be absolutely sure.
-And when Duke fucks up again -- and he will -- you smash that bottle right into his swinging Russian ballsack. For me.-
Log created on 14:33:22 04/22/2018 by Honoka, and last modified on 15:29:06 04/22/2018.