Description: Dahlia seeks to lure Aranha out of his so-called "retirement" from the catburglary field for just one more job. This being Dahlia, though, the script would necessarily have a few wrinkled pages...
It was about a half an hour after the hard Neo League fight between Aranha and Rashid and the capoeirista had a table full of food placed in front of him. Before his changes, Aranha had a fairly high metabolism mostly due to his lifestyle and training methods. Afterwards, he had to eat significantly more to not only keep up with his existing lifestyle but to also address the energy required for what amounts to rebuilding his body to be both more resilient and recovering from injury faster.
Aranha goes from burger to pizza to tacos to rice dishes as he feeds his face. He works on his food quickly but he's not sloppy about it. As he does so, bruises fade from his body at an almost superhuman rate now that his body is at rest and his breathing is significantly easier now after grueling fight.
While mostly focused on his food, there's an awareness of anyone approaching him. There are some habits from his cat burglar days that he is not interested in losing. Especially after what happened to Bastion Village and now that NOL has an increased presence.
As luck would have it, Aranha will notice someone approaching him. And it will not be anyone he's met before: a young Japanese woman, approximately his age and height, with a silky blouse and a long skirt, all done up in a royal blue with gold trim. She looks like she's all dressed up for a night on the town -- not a far stretch, considering the Southtown night life.
The young woman enters the Pao Pao Cafe without any real fanfare or tumult. For all intents and purposes, she could pass as an average customer... right until she denies the opportunity to be seated by the Pao Pao host. She chooses her own seat -- at the table to Aranha's right.
She rests her fingertips lightly on the capoeirista's table, tilting her head towards him to flash an alluring smile.
"Hey, handsome. I'd like a few moments of your time. When you're finished eating, anyway -- don't rush on my account."
With that same alluring smile lingering upon her lips, the young woman slides into a seat facing the same direction Aranha's is. She rests her handbag in her lap, and her hands upon the table. This way -- if both want to mind their own business for a time, they can do so without feeling the need to force conversation. There will be no eye contact until Aranha attempts to make it -- presumably, once conversation begins, she'd be ready to join him at his table. As it is now, she prefers to leave Aranha with his meal.
"I'll just be waiting here."
By the time the capoeirista hears the light foot falls of this new patron, Aranha has dispatched the tacos, and is finishing the last bites of his last slice of pizza. He's about to move on to the rice dish when he hears the steps taking this new person to his table right next to him he stops and turns towards them.
He remains quiet as the woman speaks, as questions form in his mind. Groupies, at least judging from his experience in Metro City, were usually not so aggressive in their approach. Either the culture is vastly different or something else is going.
The capoeirista finishes his rice dish and for now leaves the burger alone before he says, "How may I help you?" It's at that moment Aranha makes eye contact. One thing that he learned playing capoeira was that often thoughts were given away by the eyes before the rest of the body can give it away.
As Aranha dispatches his rice dish, the woman in blue continues staring blankly at the back wall. She's... certainly attractive, and could definitely -be- a groupie of his, though there's little chance that he'd have ever encountered this particular person before. The attitude might be different, surely, but the face... never. Just another face in the crowd.
When Aranha turns to face her, there is a moment of idle silence before the woman turns to match his gaze. And at that very moment, there is the warmth of a smile, as if she's pleased to make Aranha's acquaintance for the very first time. Openness, but... vapid, doe-eyed confusion.
And then the expression falters. Her head slips sideways a few centimeters. Her hands clasp the edge of the table, bracing for support. Her body hangs -- as if she were a marionette, and her shoulder strings had been drooped for a moment.
The confusion is only momentary. And afterwards, the look on the doll's face is completely different. Her gaze is as sharp as a tack, scanning each of Aranha's features. And then there's that glimmer of recognition, as the face settles into a semblance of a familiar half-smile.
The young woman's eyes cast down to her left leg. A thumb brushes across the silken fabric, pressing into the flesh. The woman sighs contentedly -- and then slithers out of her seat and into the one beside Aranha. Intimate, and casual.
"I apologize for meeting like this. Certain... problems prevent me from meeting you in person."
The handbag is rested in her lap once more. And her fingers lace together neatly upon the table, as the young woman whispers, "I haven't seen you since we left Shang Tsung's island. I trust 'Dr. Hack and Slash,' as you called her, has, erm... reappeared... though I have heard that Agent Little -has- returned."
The young woman leans back in her seat, crossing her legs. She presses her thumbs together in an altogether familiar fashion.
"It's Dahlia. I'm... seated outside, not far from here. And I have a job for you, if you're interested. A few simple items to acquire."
And what the eyes give away at first is confusing but then become offputting as he observes the whole display of the body slumps over and the shoulder drops for just a moment before lucidity returns along with a change of behavior and tendencies that he was used to seeing in another person.
As a person who values his personal freedom, seeing a body get jacked like that is something that deeply disturbs him, especially when he puts himself in a similar position. So much so that he practically forgets his ability to maintain a poker face or even the ability to broadcast false tells. In a moment of unfiltered honesty, Aranha's body goes into a full body shudder before he regains control of himself.
He takes a deep breath and shifts his outward appearance to one of calmness. He's pretty sure he's not fooling Dahlia but he has to put on appearances, considering that he just won a fight earlier in this establishment.
"I haven't heard anything about Dr. Hack and Slash but unsurprised about Little. You killed him and he still found a way to come back to life to go after me. As for what I have been doing, I had been laying low after a Village that was near and dear to both my heart and Kamui Kanna's got destroyed."
He glances over at the woman with an unfamiliar face who was taking on very familiar quirks, fighting through his desire to edge away. This was the woman who saved the world and insured that his little sister would have a world to live in. That had earned her something more than most people would get out of an approach like this.
"If it was almost anyone else, I would've told them I retired and walked out. With you, on the other hand, I'm at least willing to listen to the details."
Aranha's hesitation and discomfort is reflected in the Dahlia surrogate's glassy-eyed stare. She understands that the method of communication may be a bit... unsettling. But considering the last time she dove into Aranha's dreams, this... might be a step up, perhaps?
At any rate, the young woman's half-smile dims by a few degrees, but returns as Aranha answers her question. "A regrettable turn of events, to be sure. And we are, sadly, still looking to bring to justice the creators of the Gears that led to such a calamity." The voice may be different -- a higher register, perhaps -- but there's no doubting that she speaks with Dahlia's unique affectations and rhythms.
She unlaces her fingers, rooting about in the handbag until she finds a pen. And once she does so, the pen is flicked about the middle finger of her right arm -- the Dahlia always needs -something- to be in motion when she's concentrating, after all.
"Thank you for listening, Aranha. I appreciate your not storming out on me. The... recent situation has left me with fewer allies than I'd like. I need people I can trust for this task. Because if it's played wrong, things can get quite ugly for Southtown."
"The Agent has been out of my hair for a while now. Perhaps he will interfere again -- but we'll have to deal with that when the time comes. I've got a new... opponent now, and he just happens to think he has full sway over everything that happens in this country." The pen spins about, migrating to the ring finger and then the pinky -- a feat of dexterity that occupies only the barest amount of mental concentration from the young woman. Or, perhaps more correctly, from her puppetmaster seated outside.
"It's fine if he thinks that... this week." The smile grows to full intensity, even as her words scarcely rise above the volume of an intimate whisper.
"Aranha, what are your thoughts on Duke Burkoff...?"
Her smile fades, as her left hand slips below the table, where it absently begins to stroke at the silk of her left thigh.
Her eyes dim in intensity for a moment, as she's lost in thought. But then her gaze narrows, her lips pressing into a line. "And travel. My... plan would need you to fly to Metro City. All expenses paid, naturally..."
The difference, as far as the Dancing Spider was concerned, between the dive into his subconscious and this was that while the Dahlia was in his head, his freewill was still intact. This was an out and out removal of freewill. But he's at least willing to hold his tongue on that at least for now.
"According to eye witness accounts she was trying to fight off invaders when it happened. She, like the rest of the community, whether they were Gear, Darkstalker, or Human wanted to be left alone with the exception of those who were focused on fighting off the type of stuff we found ourselves facing in the Mortal Kombat tournament."
The pen comes out and she sends into motion with yet another mannerism that he observed from the Dahlia in the last days on the island. If there was any doubt left in spite of the reference to the note, it was removed at that moment. He's quiet as she describes the dangers of the task going wrong as well as the personality tendencies of the potential mark. It's when the Dahlia in a puppet's body mentions the name that Dahlia will get a sense of something different. Aranha himself, no change in emotion is discernible. Dahlia however gets a sense of anger radiating from the object being worn on the (ex?)cat burglar that in a way feels similar to the cat burglar himself.
"Duke? I don't know him that well. 'He' on the other hand is familiar with him and doesn't like him one bit. But he ain't sharing why with me."
"... Ah. You were close to someone in Bastion Village then, I see. I'm just glad they got off better than Nibutani." The young woman's eyes cast downward for a moment, at that. "... The trouble with staying in one place is that it paints a larger target, regrettably." The puppet glances up, a somber frown upon her face. "Did you lose anyone?" She doesn't mean to mock -- rather, she just expresses an ignorance of just how many souls -were- lost at that village. There were other priorities on the tusukur's mind at the time.
As the sense of anger flares up, though, the puppet woman looks upon the traceur's prized heirloom -- the symbol of connection to his past. A light twinkles in her eye for a moment, her expression growing neutral.
"He broke my femur. Shattered it into a hundred pieces. And declared war upon my foot soldiers. All in the name of 'business.'"
With one hand, she withdraws a post-it-note from the bag. She twirls the pen about, flinging it into the air. The puppet reaches up to snatch the implement out of the air, swiftly dropping her hand to drop its tip down onto the post-it note -- and writes a number down upon it.
"I've been reminded to keep this... all about business. And I want to remind Mr Burkoff of the -lives- that are at stake. So I want you to target four of his own."
The pen is rested upon the table, as she pats the handbag.
"Inside here are five hypodermic needles. Within each is enough tranquilizing compound to put one large dog down for no less than a half hour. I want you to retrieve the collars of four St Bernard dogs, owned by Mr Burkoff. They are taken on a walk around Metro City Park at regular times. Their expected route and schedules are printed out inside this bag. And the mutts will be accompanied by a ridiculous-looking man who goes by the name Hyena."
She slides the note -- and its sum -- across the table to Aranha. "Half now. The rest on delivery of the collars -- presuming no one gets badly hurt. Including the dogs. There's also a 15% bonus if you're not identified."
She tilts her head to the side, the slightest of grins on her face. "Up for it?"
"Most of the ones who lived were the ones who were part of the retreat while other forces engaged the Mishima and the Tekken Force. I feel for the kids that lost their parents though and scared for the future. How many of those kids who were made orphans will find Jedah appealing because of this?"
While the burger remains untouched since their conversation he still reaches for the glass with a soft drink in it. A sip is taken before Aranha places it back on the table. A frown forms on his lips. "I think our problem was hubris. The village was extremely difficult to detect while the wards were up. Justice's attack disrupted the wards and painted that huge target on the village."
He watches the display. Whether as a circus performer, or as the Dahlia, or even as a puppeteer(he inwardly shudders), the person was a consumate performer and he had to respect that. Meanwhile, he's absorbing the information about why she wants him to take on the job, as he looks at her, can't detect any lies but this a person who was remote controlling a person to have this conversation. His ability to read tells don't quite apply here. It does, however, match up with things he's heard out on the street so he's not dismissing outright.
Through it all, Aranha is even silent when she lays down the job. Nothing of huge value being stolen, just more of a message sent and it actually presented a challenge that was out of his wheelhouse. Even while he was 'retired' that was a job he didn't mind taking.
"I may be retired, I think I can agree to do this one. In order to pull this one off I may have to ask some weird questions though."
The young woman continues to frown, nodding with a furrowed brow. "... Mishima and Tekken Force are next. But for now..." The Japanese woman's hands clasp into fists. "Senseless loss of life, in order to bring together abominations to nature. And they have the nerve to posture as if they have the best interests of the Japanese people in their hearts. Disgusting."
An eyebrow is raised as she considers the role the Majigen leader might play into all of this. "... Part of my... goal is to unify people, Aranha. To help people understand that there are those who sympathize with their causes. To remind them that it is not -people- who make bad decisions, but -leaders-. It is the onus of leadership to act with responsibility. And these... champions of industry think not with their hearts, but follow -profit-. This is why... Duke is first. For he is among the most heartless of all..."
As she delivers her business proposition, she takes careful note of just -how- the traceur looks at her. And how... long he takes to answer. "... There will be time for questions, yes. But... I can't help but notice that you're staring at me in ways you'd never really stared at Dahlia." She pauses deliberately for that statement to set in, leaning back in her seat. She casts her eyes downward, lips pursing into a frown. Her voice trembles -- scarcely a whisper. "I need you to understand that this is the safest way for us to be talking. Duke burned me beyond belief. I can assure you, I look like I lost a fight with a forest fire. It isn't something I can hide with makeup yet, not until the scar tissue gets carved away."
She takes a deep breath, closing her eyes for a moment as she searches for her voice again. "... Talking with me -marks- you, Aranha. That's why you're talking with Kimiko right now." She places both hands over her heart, eyes casting back up to Aranha as her chin remains drooped. "She's one of my employees, and she agreed to this. You can even ask her how she feels about this once we're done."
Finally, 'Kimiko' looks up, reaching for the pen once more, and flipping it deftly about her index finger. "... I'm glad you're on board. I don't know anyone better suited for the job than you. My folks may be good at sticking to the shadows, but actually carrying out an act this delicate is beyond them."
The pen winds its way around her thumb. "I need someone who can step without leaving a trace. If you have to judo chop that Hyena guy, I don't think anyone'll care, I just don't want him to rack up an extended hospital stay. Though, from what I hear, the dogs themselves aren't fond of him and they probably induced their own injuries."
The pen stops flicking in one orbit, before flitting back in the opposite direction. She offers a faint, curious smile. "That said... What sort of 'weird' questions do you have for me, Aranha?"
Aside from the 'abominations to nature' part, the capoeirista likes what he is hearing. In a way, irresponsible leadership was what put Aranha on the path of thievery in the first place. He had thought he had to steal to extract himself and his sister from an abusive home. A home where the leadership was not looking out for their best interests. And Mishima and the Tekken force being next puts a smile on his face.
Aranha, through the explanation of remains quiet believing that he was given two ears and one mouth because he should probably be doing two times more listening than speaking. The reasoning behind using a go between and the fact that 'Kimiko' was doing this willingly does a lot to address his concerns.
"With all of this, that one strange question became two strange questions with one of them having a subquestion attached. One, will Kimiko remember this conversation we're having? Two, do you happen to know what gender the dogs are and whether or not they've been spayed or neutered? I have an idea that will only leave a trace meaningful only to the dogs."
With Kimiko as the lens, Dahlia isn't able to read Aranha's emotions quite as clearly as if she were in person. She knows full well that when the traceur is listening, he's considering his words carefully. Each and every word from the ex-catburglar is as well-placed as his footsteps upon a building facade -- a planned, deliberate rhythm with little margin for error. The smile? That's... as good a tell as Dahlia needs.
The pen-flicking takes a slightly different turn as 'Kimiko' hyperextends her fingers, allowing the pen to spin freely upon the mound of her right palm. Her left hand raises, tucking a curtain of silky black hair behind her ear -- the better to hear her associate.
Kimiko smiles pleasantly at the question. It might be an... unconventional topic, but one in which Dahlia can speak at length on. "One -- I'm fairly sure she will, at least for a week or so. It will feel like a dream, or something she'd watched on television. Memories are retained best when the mind has an active role in creating them, after all."
The pen drifts to a stop on her palm; in the blink of an eye, Kimiko 'snaps' her fingers and hurls the pen into motion again. "Two -- I don't happen to know the answer to either question, sadly. I've included a USB drive with a few video files of the dogs in question, though, if that would help."
The woman tilts her head, with a concerned look. "... What sort of idea? And why would them being neutered affect anything?"
He nods at her remembering this conversation. The conversation might be an indirectly traceable if someone knows where to look and then interrogate that being said, the only real hint to Dahlia and Aranha having any type of working relationship was on Shang Tsung Island and perhaps the only one who might be privy to that is Shang Tsung himself.
As for the second, that information can be found out later but having that information would let him know right away if he either needed to take a different tactic or modify it. Video files of the dogs probably would help in gaining the needed information.
"I was thinking about using a scent at a point of engagement of my choosing. That information would help me in picking the right scent for the job."
Dahlia treats each member of the Akatsuki as one of her own family. ... Except for the ones who exhibited a chronic pattern of disappointing behavior, and those lucky saps were left to die in Tokorozawa. Oops.
Kimiko, though, she's good people. It's merely a bonus that her dress size is the same as Dahlia's.
Her left index finger follows the curve of her cheek, tapping lightly. "Oh, that's some good thinking there, I hadn't even considered that." Kimiko smiles warmly, with a light bob of her head. The pen spinning on her finger twirls to a halt, and she allows it to settle in her palm. "I would have figured like... a nice fresh steak or something, but I can certainly see the appeal of a scent humans wouldn't also respond to."
The pen is rested upon the table, as Kimiko slides the handbag closer to Aranha. "... Well, it sounds we have a deal, then?" Her right hand is extended, in a gesture of cooperation -- a handshake being more or less the expected way to seal the deal.
Once more, Kimiko's left hand rises to sweep the curtain of raven-black hair behind her ear. "I certainly wouldn't want to keep you from that delicious morsel any longer." Fresh beef might not be the Ainu's favorite choice, but she does feel a slight twinge of guilt for having basically interrupted a meal all the same.
He can see the Dahlia, via her bunraku, mulling his idea. Sure, he gave away a lot by mentioning that, but he was hired for his ability to apply a light touch to the enterprise. Something, she admitted her people had difficulty with. And if a spectacularly heavy handed, yet not quite crossing into the bounds of violence message was required, he could possibly handle that as well.
The pen is rested on the table, the handbag slid to him and all that was left was to shake on it which he was willing to do. Money and a cause he was willing to work with. He felt he needed to remind Dahlia of one last thing that had been mentioned in passing.
"Careful about the abominations to nature part. I kinda resemble that remark every since my fight with the Mad Scientist in Prada."
To further demonstrate the point, he lowers his shades revealing blue glowing eyes. It might bring to mind the boat ride to retrieve the Ainu spirits where Aranha was careful to wear shades and just as careful to close his eyes when he wiped the water off of them.
Kimiko is unlikely to share this advice with anyone else. And while much of Southtown is unapologetically monitored by the Southtown Syndicate, Dahlia is certain that recent developments have made electronic surveillance of their quiet dinner conversation difficult at best.
Kimiko delivers a firm handshake. She bows her head with a pleased expression before disengaging. Retrieving her pen from the table, she starts to back her seat from the table... Until receiving the addendum.
An apologetic half-smile and a dip of her chin acknowledge the easily-misinterpreted statement. Kimiko's dark brown eyes momentarily lose themselves within the surreal glow of Aranha's eyes. Oh, if he were to have revealed these earlier...! "O-of course. No offense was meant, naturally. The crime has never been in existing, but in forcing that change upon others."
Kimiko's hair is really, -really- smooth, and it just keeps sliding forward of her ear with each subtle movement. "I wish you luck, Aranha. We'll be in touch." Once again, she raises her hand to sweep the curtain aside...
Only for her to list sideways with a momentary bout of dizziness, her eyes fluttering shut.
When she opens her eyes again, the sharp, intense gaze of Dahlia has been replaced by the simpler, coquettish doe eyes of what can only assume is Kimiko's true self. Her lips pursed, she droops her head and shoulders in a shy, apologetic half-bow. And then, after scooting her chair backwards to stand, she offers a second and more traditionally Japanese bow.
"Thank you for listening," she adds at a more conversant volume, the bubbly tone making it more clearly obvious that Dahlia has left the building.
Log created on 09:59:15 06/14/2018 by Honoka, and last modified on 15:39:48 06/15/2018.