Description: As Dahlia continues rehabilitating her leg muscles, she receives a surprise guest from Shadaloo: Juri. As one can expect, it's all sunshine and rainbows.
The tall Akatsuki enforcer strokes his chin as he fixes a judgmental glare down at the leader of the Akatsuki-gumi yakuza clan. A towel is draped upon his shoulder. A gray t-shirt clings tightly to his well-muscled form, with black track pants hanging a bit more llosely.
Dahlia looks back up at him with an equally dour glare, reclined within a leg press machine. Like Sudo, she wears a t-shirt, though her yoga pants are bunched up tightly around her left thigh by the secure embrace of a neoprene and surgical steel brace. The Akatsuki leader presses back upon the sled, her left leg raising and lowering it with perfect, practiced rhythm.
She practically hisses at her companion in retaliation. "I swear, I'll melt your fuckin' brain, Sudo. My form is perfect! I'm not moving my hips at all, so get off my case!"
Sudo shakes his head, and sweeps his open hand toward the that Dahlia is lifting with her recovering leg. "I never took the weights off from -my- set," he insists. Sure enough, the sled bears an appropriate weight for the bodyguard, but it's way more weight than a patient recovering from femoral fracture ought to be subjecting herself to.
Dahlia grunts, extending her leg with a frown, locking her knee into place. As Sudo pops in the retaining pin, the telltale whisper of her psychokinetic pressure ruffles at Sudo's pant leg like a light breeze. With the weight secure, the shadowy manipulator lets her body relax.
"... I hate you. Arisa's so much better at this." she admits with a roll of her eyes.
Sudo slowly and carefully removes plates from the leg press machine. "... Don't kid yourself, she didn't take any shit from you either." A flicker of a smile dances across his face.
"Yeah, but at least she wasn't such an ass about it! Tch!" Dahlia glowers back at the man, though it would be obvious to almost anyone that this sort of bickering is just par for the course. If she'd -wanted- to melt his brain, she most likely could.
Sudo finishes adjusting the weights, and dabs his forehead with a towel. "... I'll get us some water. Take a break." Draping his towel back into place, he strides off towards the lobby. "You gotta let your -body- do the work here. If it ain't hurtin', it ain't helpin'."
Dahlia slumps back in the workout machine, allowing her left leg to fall limp. The psion lets her mind wander for a bit, her awareness fanning out across the vacant exercise room of this Western-style hotel. Here in Kushiro City, Hokkaido, she's far from the reach of the Syndicate, nestled safely within her own sphere of influence. Despite the obvious declaration of war, Duke's men wouldn't dare to attack her here -- he's got the rest of Honshu to clear out first.
Her hands fidget nervously along the handrests of the machine. She reminds herself that Akatsuki-gumi guards have secured the perimeter against traditional threats. Everything is situation normal -- not a single guard failing to report in. Pleased at the results of her light sensory sweep, she shifts focus to slowing her breathing, to calming herself. After all, Sudo is right down the hall.
Absolutely nothing to worry about -- the same lie she forces herself to admit on a regular basis.
It's the same sort of lie that everyone tells themselves when under intense pressure. Nothing can wrong. Everything is under control. All possibilities have been accounted for. It's a universal lie, but a necessary one. Regardless of how powerful a person becomes they never seem to free themselves from the burden of the shadows cast by their own mind. Those that do are few and in most cases continuing to call them human starts to become a questionable decision.
Ofcourse, that sense of paranoia has long been a mechanism for survival. The feeling that something is lurking in the dark, the cold prickle on the back of one's neck that fills them with the certainty that there are unseen eyes watching, those silent brief moments of terror when finding oneself all alone and the mind starts to play out a horror show of gruesome imagination dreged up from the primitive fears buried deep in the subconscious. All of those sensations are warning signs meant to keep the mind alert and wary.
Dahlia would likely find herself beset by just such a sensation as the doors to the gym swing quietly open a second time. Less than a minute has passed since her subordinate took his leave, far too little time for him to have completed the task he set off to accomplish, unless he's set some kind of new record for sprinting. The soft sound of bare feet padding across the smooth floor adds yet another clue that her hulking bodyguard is likely not the one responsible for this unexpected arrival, as is the sudden pressure on her psychic senses, as if a miniature sun composed entirely out of barely restrained violence has just blossomed to life behind her.
"So... this is the famed 'Dahlia' that everyone's been talking about. Leader of a band of rough and tumble gangsters, deadly mastermind that's put the entire Syndicate on it's ass... I even hear you run your own gang of school kiddies."
Juri's silky voice pours out like poisoned honey, managing at once to be both sultry and sarcastic. The teen stalks boldly into the room, moving past the machine where Dahlia lies prone and in a less than tactically advantageous position, stepping into the older woman's field of view.
She's dressed to impress today, wearing her signature 'Spider' outfit, her hair bound up into the twin devilish horns for which she is so well known. However, there seems to be one extra bit of accessory that has been added to her wardrobe which looks rather out of place. Her left arm is bound from wrist to elbow in a thick cast, a souvenier of her encounter the morning before. A light purple in color, the plaster is decorated with all sorts of childish doodles, most of which are some sort of cartoony spider, though there is one image near the top that bares a rather striking resemblance to a man with a very familiar hat and chin getting kicked in the face.
Juri turns to glance at the yakuza boss over her shoulder, her hands resting casually on her hips. She gives Dahlia a long look through half-lidded eyes then shrugs, snorting derisively as her expression shifts to something that practically screams 'not impressed'.
"Hmph. What a disappointment."
Dahlia frowns. For she can feel the sensation of someone -quite- unlike Sudo, even before the door opens. And yet -- she realizes that while she could move to escape, that might only tilt the playfield even further from her favor -- placing her in a corner as opposed to the center of the room in which she now reclines.
The interloper approaches further. The sound of rubberized flooring adhering to and pulling away from flesh tickles at her eardrums -- a sound all too familiar to the circus-trained acrobat. And yet, the Korean taekwondoka's presence is the equal of at least a dozen of her coworkers' souls -- vibrant, and dripping with fearsome potential.
Not... unlike Vega himself, really. Enough to draw beads of sweat to the surface of Dahlia's skin.
And yet -- despite the physical signs, she can put on a poker face for situations like this. Her eyes dance along the taekwondoka's bare shoulders, the garment that defies description as a 'shirt' in almost every form. The voluminous pants that... don't seem to have decided whether to cling snugly to their wearer's shapely form or to hang loosely upon it. And then, the childishly decorated plaster cast that completely ruins the Busan nightclub-hopper aesthetic.
Dahlia remains where she is upon the machine, content to lie in wait of whatever Juri has planned. Resting upon the machine is the safest place she can think of at the moment -- a platform upon which she can spring backward with her good foot, if push were to come to shove. And what's more, it's a perfect viewpoint from which to size up her opponent.
"The one and only," she responds with uncharacteristic terseness. Her gaze tiptoes its way up Juri's backside, her lips curling by degrees into an amused half-smile.
"Ah, it's a shame, isn't it? That we won't be able to 'play' with one another..."
Dahlia draws up her right leg, crossing it over top of its damaged twin. Her heart rate accelerates -- even in a position of implied repose, the psion still has a number of fallback options should the conversation turn south.
"I halfway expected to see one of the Dolls instead, instead of someone so far up the chain. But, instead..."
Dahlia chooses not to finish the sentence, but rather to let the implication hang there like a foreboding wisp in the air.
Her lips curl into a more even smile -- full of saccharine. "So... it's 'Juri,' right? Shall we reminisce about our time on Shang Tsung's island..." Again, she lets the implication drift about for a moment, before cutting short the silence with a grin. "Or shall we skip ahead to where I ask, 'To what do I owe this honor?'"
Juri's lips twist into a faint grimace at the mention of the Dolls alongside her own presence here. Such a menial task would most certainly have been better suited to one of those brainless bimbos but, ofcourse, that's precisely why it has been given to her - to humilate and punish her for opposing Vega's will. If she wants to look at it more positively, it could be reasoned that he sent her here to broadcast a very clear and unmistakable message. Judging by the Dahlia's reaction, it's working.
While she might not be as talented at the art of wielding her powers to read minds or influence them, the apprehension in the older woman is practically radiating off her like a heady perfume. Juri has seen fear enough to know its subtle touches. The soft edge of worry in her voice, the slight tense in her muscles as if preparing to flee at the slightest hint of danger, the faint gloss of sweat staining her skin - all of them are taken in by the predatory gaze of the world's most dangerous teenager in a matter of moments.
Under normal circumstances, she might have enjoyed that a bit. Women tended to bore her - weak, mewling, creatures by nature, they rarely managed to measure up to the standard of skill necessary to engage her on any meaningful level. Dahlia has earned herself enough of a reputation that it might have been fun to put her to the test, though judging by how Juri's mere presence is making her react, she doubts such a show would have amounted to much. No, this woman isn't strong, she merely pretends to be.
"Hah! You sure know how to talk big for someone who hides behind walls and guards like a frightened mouse."
The girl's lips twist up into a sadistic smirk as she pirouettes on one heel, bending forward at the waist to look the yakuza leader in the face. Her left eye gleams with a spark of unnatural inner light, her tongue flicking out to trace a slow path across her lightly colored lips.
"Not that they'd do you any good. I practically waltzed right past those losers."
Pulling herself up straight, Juri saunters over to one of the other exercise machines and flops down on the bench. Reclining like it's some fancy sofa in a luxury resort, she stares off at the far wall, seemingly bored by the entire conversation. Diplomacy isn't her forte and with orders to keep things 'civil' there's not a lot of opportunity here for her to have much fun. Right to the point then.
"Fortunately for you, the big guy isn't interested in squashing you like a bug. Guess he thinks you'll make a decent pet. See, it seems he's grown tired of entertaining this little 'Shadow Council' of yours."
Her hands lift up into the air, fingers clenching into fists and then opening as if to mimick an explosion.
"So that's it - party over. You may officially consider yourself demoted back down to henchman. Lucky you. I'd have just killed you, personally."
A message was transmitted, though it's not entirely clear if Dahlia's taken the same meaning as intended. For one -- Juri's grimace seems to suggest that Dahlia's wild guess was accurate -- that her messenger duty was meant as a form of penance. And what's more -- that it was sent by someone more powerful than either Juri or the Dolls -- suggesting that either Shadaloo's dear leader was brought back from the dead, or someone more powerful had risen to assume his mantle. That's... a bit concerning, but still within the acceptable bounds of Dahlia's planning.
Dahlia smiles back as Juri bends at the waist to look her in the eye. So close -- and so beautiful, in that charmingly yandere way. "Why would my guards attack a trusted ally? They're only there to keep the riff-raff out. Anyone worth their salt knows how to get to me anyway, hmm...?"
As Juri makes herself comfortable, Dahlia sits a bit more upright, allowing her feet to slip to the floor as she rests an arm on the machine's edge. "And... talking big? Juri, I've never been anything but realistic about my talents. After all, while you and Lord Vega were out there punching way above your respective weight classes, I was making friends and eliminating obstacles. And I think we all know how well -that- worked out, considering we're not up to our noses in Outworlders right now."
Dahlia seems pleased that the Shadaloo taekwondoka seems to have backed away -- it lends further credence to her assumption that the teen's on a tight leash, and warned -not- to indulge her sadistic desires. Something to mull over, at least until the next bombshell of information is dropped onto the field.
Eyebrows raise. And a warm, sincere smile emerges, as Dahlia's earlier assumptions are confirmed. "I had a feeling you two would drag your way back from Hell sooner or later. It's funny that you insist the Shadow Council is my idea though -- as it was Lord Vega who impressed upon us the need to 'work together.'" The Ainu woman crosses her arms across her chest, allowing herself a moment of smug satisfaction -- she needn't repeat her success a -second- time in as many minutes.
But then the true import of Juri's final words sets in. Dahlia's success isn't being rewarded, so much as... a demotion? The shadow manipulator narrows her eyes in exasperation.
"Now, it... it can't be =that= easy, can it? There's got to be procedures to follow. I mean, I'm guessing I gotta swear allegiance or something before I get issued stupid-looking headgear and a slutty uniform, right?"
Her expression softens into one of mild indifference, as she glances away from Juri, as if this were beginning to become a waste of her time. "Besides, I already pledged to work with Shadaloo, with Marz. I literally made a housecall about this nonsense, whereupon I was griped at for not taking it to email. Did -that- not get reported?" Her gaze snaps back to Juri, her eyebrows leveling out. "So in case you're out of the loop, Duke Burkoff is the one who broke my leg. And he and the Syndicate couldn't give two shits about Shadaloo, or Vega's return. I've -been- in line with you guys, he's the one breaking ranks. Why aren't you bustin' -his- balls?"
"Realistic, huh. That's a cute way of saying you know you couldn't fight your way out of a paper bag. Suppose that's why you cozy up to everyone you meet. Must be nice to always have someone handy to do the dirty work."
Juri narrows her eyes at the way the other woman talks back at her, a dangerous gleam behind them. Under any other circumstances she'd have already started the process of smashing every single one of Dahlia's bones, one at a time, just to see what sort of noise she made with each successive snap. It would seem that the woman has managed to grasp the circumstances of why someone like her might be sent on an errand like this and believes herself to be safe, thus explaining her poor judgement in choosing her words.
The teenager is on top of Dahlia so fast that there's hardly time to realize she's moved. One moment she's lying flat on her back, peering like a brooding dragon across the gap between them and the next she's hovering over the woman, one leg half embedded in the now mangled exercise machine, the other planted squarely on her chest.
"I'm sorry, you mind repeating all that? I don't think I heard you properly!"
All trace of amusement has bled out of Juri's face, now mere inches away, her expression one of barely controlled rage and disgust. A cold purple fire burns in her left eye, the entire socket consumed by the neon flare of psychotic power. Like hell she's going to sit here and take this shit from some bitch with a big mouth. Vega's orders be damned, no one disrespects her in this fashion, not after the humilation she suffered at his hands.
"You think you're so smart, huh? Think you can mouth off because you're useful?"
Dahlia now finds herself the proxy for a whirlwind of outrage born out of wounded pride and repressed anger. Unable to defeat her nemesis yet again and sporting her own broken bones for the effort, this display of insubordination has let the genie out of the bottle and it's as mean and ugly as the girl's blackened soul.
The girl leans forward, shifting more of her weight onto the foot on Dahlia's chest, grinding the heel into the soft flesh and bones like a chisel. Yet even in her rage the pressure is measured, designed to bring pain rather than cause harm, as if the very act of torture was second nature to the wild teenager.
"Let's get this straight, bitch. I don't care what you think you've accomplished or what orders he gives. You ever talk to me like that again and I'll grind you /and/ all those worthless worms you surround yourself with into fish bait! You got that?!"
Dahlia is curious to know how well Juri would have fared against the inaugural World Warrior, when someone who couldn't fight her way out of a paper bag had eked out a win. She doesn't voice this concern when it's brought up -- she just shrugs with smug satisfaction.
As Lee Chaolan pointed out not so long ago, it's been Dahlia's mind that's set her apart from the rank and file. She must remain true to herself -- to battle with words, rather than the raw aggression others wield. And when her words continue to raise Juri's hackles...?
Oh, Dahlia received warning of the impending buildup of pressure. Juri is certainly fast, and undoubtedly faster than the Akatsuki leader -- and yet, the leader can sense the powderkeg trembling before it explodes. She's able to slide sideways, away from the breaking point of the machine that might otherwise threaten to fill her -good- leg full of twisted powder-coated shrapnel.
But, through five percent choice and the rest in reflexes, she's soon forced to savor the twin delicacies of Juri's barely-fettered rage and the exquisite sensation of pain pressing against her own ribcage, impeding the flow of blood through her own heart. Everyone has a limit, a threshold -- and Dahlia just found Juri's.
Part of her has to laugh. But it's not the face part, for, as with Juri, all trace of amusement has vanished. Her jaw sets, her face contorts into an agonized rictus mask.
She fixes a silent, glassy-eyed stare back at Juri, her racing heartbeat pounding back against the bare foot planted upon her. There's questions, but riding so close to the line between life and death, the shadow manipulator knows better than to provide an answer. With a barely-functional leg... the outcome of a fight with such a powerful foe would be nigh predetermined.
As Juri leans forward, the fair-skinned Ainu grows even more pale -- everywhere except for her cheeks. Skirting the line between pleasure and pain to a degree she's never felt before, she finds herself unable to break free of the sadist's spell; the mind can not quell the peculiar desires of the flesh. Her heart beats faster, urgently.
Another question is asked -- and with the pounding in her ears, it sounds so distant. And yet, the message is received."
Dahlia gulps in a breath -- having momentarily forgotten about this most essential of autonomic processes. Clarity returns to her eyes, as she meets the gaze with the barest level of defiance. She holds her head high with dignity -- and provides a quiet, obeisant answer.
"I hear you. Loud and clear."
She blinks back mutely, holding her ground even as her heart pounds like a jackhammer beneath Juri's bare foot.
Rather than quell the angry girl's rage, Dahlia's composed response seems to drive her into a deeper fury. Juri's lips peel back in a snarl, her eyes wide and nostrils flaring. The pressure on the injured woman's chest continues to grow until it seems like her heart might burst under the strain, her ribs practically creaking out loud.
With a sudden growl, the heel is withdrawn. The teenager pushes away from the wrecked machine, staring down at Dahlia like she wants to stomp on her until she's nothing more than red smear, fists shaking tightly at her side as if fighting with herself to keep from lashing out.
She knows precisely what is going on in this moment. While she might be young and impetuous, Juri's never been stupid. The woman she's come to see is well known for being a manipulator, atleast within the circles Juri walks in. And even if Dahlia isn't deliberately trying to goad her into doing something foolish, and simply failed to realize how short tempered and violent her visitor is, to violate the orders given to her so soon after being crushed would invite more trouble than she is in a position to deal with. Infuriating as it is, she can't simply kill this woman.
"You aren't worth the trouble!"
Juri turns away, taking a long deep breath as she rests her hands on her hips. It takes a surprisingly short period of time for the girl to return to normal, almost as if her rage has some sort of on/off switch, atleast on the surface. However, to someone with Dahlia's talents it would not be difficult to feel the rage still bubbling away just beneath the surface, ready and eager to be unleashed again if the need arises.
"Well then... Now that we have that sorted... where was I? Oh right..."
Twisting her torso halfway around so that she can peer back at Dahlia again, Juri offers another of her sultry smirks, her voice dripping with false allure once more.
"Your organization belongs to Lord Vega now. Serve him faithfully and you'll profit. I guess I don't need to explain what happens if you try anything funny or get in his way." She chuckles darkly, taking pleasure in the thought of getting the chance to show rather than tell. "But I kinda hope you do."
There, message delivered. With her task completed, there isn't much left for Juri to do here. Her hands are tied in regards to dealing with Dahlia. Already she's probably gone a little further than Vega wanted but that's really his fault for sending someone like Juri on a diplomatic errand.
The teen makes her way towards the doors at a good clip, though she slows about halfway across the room, tilting her head to the side to call out to Dahlia over her shoulder.
"Oh and you don't need to worry about Duke. He's about to get attitude adjustment of his own. Real soon."
Even as Juri threatens to crush the life right out of her chest, Dahlia is not in an unwinnable situation. Certainly, if the taekwondoka were to twist her foot the wrong way, and a fractured rib pierced her heart, that would be capital-B Bad(tm). But Juri hadn't delivered the sort of beatdown to her that Duke Burkoff had. Her hands might not have ample leverage to defeat the long-legged teenager's mechanical advantage. But her psychokinetic abilities... Those get played even closer to her chest than Juri's foot is.
Dahlia suffers the strain. And that last push is undoubtedly beyond the threshold of pain, enough to force the manipulator's iron resolve to crack, a wheezing half-cough escaping her as she finally screws her eyes shut, buckling. Three more seconds of that... two....
All of a sudden, she can breathe again. And does so -- doubling forward and catching herself upon the machine as her lungs frantically draw in air, her heart coursing lifeblood through parched arteries and veins.
Not worth the trouble...
Dahlia breathes more than just -one- sigh of relief, as her skin erupts into goosebumps.
Is... Juri back to normal now? One hand goes to her heaving chest, while the other remains propped against the machine, as her lungs wheeze with each heaving breath. The smirk... It's tough to not smirk back in return, but the Akatsuki boss manages to swallow her pride.
Never forget yourself -- Perhaps the best advice she'd ever been given.
Dahlia nods back, mutely. While she'd -love- to bait Juri even further, the words from Lee Chaolan resound in her head. Defiance now would just be misplaced, and ineffective -- for -that- is playing into the sadist's strategy. And in her injured state, neither Dahlia or -- on a long enough timeframe, Juri -- would come out ahead.
No. Silence suits her at the moment.
The teenage intruder is already making her way out before Dahlia's able to recover the strength to rise back to her feet. As one might expect, she puts the lion's share of her weight upon her uninjured right leg, resting one hand on the now-useless weight machine - one of very few in the hotel gym that would do her good at the moment.
When Juri's addendum rings out, Dahlia nods mutely in reply.
It isn't until Juri leaves the room that the Ainu woman turns away, fingers prodding at the twisted metal remains of the machine. A finger is pricked, drawing a gasp from her. Crimson bubbles up from the sudden puncture, as her eyes cross to focus upon it.
And Dahlia's scarred face contorts into a faint smile. Some might call this meeting a failure. And yet, the information she's gained is practically worth its weight in gold. Keep one's friends close... and one's enemies closer.
Log created on 09:59:38 06/14/2018 by Honoka, and last modified on 10:09:59 06/15/2018.