The Bell Tolls - TBT Act 3 - Mission Complete

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Description: Aranha completes the final delivery for his mission with Scarlet Dahlia, as plans for the future are made.

The Eventide is a nice, quiet place for those in middle-to-high society. There are no black tie or fancy dress rules or anything like that -- but the quiet, muted lighting and tasteful surroundings are clear signals that one should mind their manners when setting foot in this establishment.

Honoka Kawamoto normally wouldn't be caught dead in a place -this- ritzy. And yet, there she is, seated alone at a quiet table off to the side, with a small cocktail glass filled with some pink concoction. Her highlighted hair is tied into a high ponytail, with long forelocks framing a perfect countenance, with only the lightest dusting of cosmetics. She wears a dark purple camisole top, with capri pants of a shade of lavender -- though both would be tinted by the restaurant's bluish lighting. With her smoke-tinted jacket propped up at the coat check, the creamy skin of her bare shoulders catch the light a bit more than she might have desired.

A menu is propped up on the table, while she takes her time repeatedly cutting a deck of cards. She's... been waiting for a bit, it would seem.

Hopefully this meeting is a bit simpler than the last.

When Aranha is escorted to the table, it's in a black button down shirt, black trousers, black dress boots. The bandana that he's known to wear is conspicuously absent showing his hair cut in a short fade showing off the waves on top. While it wasn't a black tie establishment, he felt that he couldn't come through with his usual style. As for his eyes, the shades are there to stay considering it was practically a requirement now. In his hand is a brief case that he slides under the table as he sits down.

"I'm glad we're able to have this meeting face to face."

As someone who has a fondness for card games his eyes are instantly drawn to the deck of cards as he studies her card cutting technique as if he were trying to identify a sleight of hand technique or determine if the dealer was attempting to cheat at cards. It was the type of thing that was done as a habit rather than because of any active suspicion on his part.

Dahlia -- Honoka in this case, really -- turns her eyes towards Aranha as he enters. Traces of amber glow in her irises -- perhaps it's a trick of the light, but more likely not. She nods in acknowledgement of the 'face to face' statement, her deft hands continuing to cut through the cards. It's true -- she had, in fact, been attempting to practice some slight of hand, sorting a few cards into a different order than one might have expected from such a simple maneuver. The things a juggler does to practice motor control...

"The situation's different now, yes." The juggler smiles, setting down the deck to permit a hand gesture towards the empty seat. "Just a meeting between long-time friends, of course." She gives a warm smile, folding both hands atop the deck of cards with an easygoing grin.

"Or rivals, of a sort. You with the Neo League, me with the Belts... But that's neither here nor there."

Her gaze drops towards the briefcase, as a sly smile crosses her face. In a quieter tone, she asks, "How'd it go?"

"I think you might be a little too far ahead of me for me to /currently/ consider myself your rival. I suppose friends would work."

He manages to externally contain the cringe at the mention of the League. The internal is more of an open book to the woman sitting across from him. His finals wasn't exactly a great showing considering he did about as well in that fight as he did in the fight that these two had participated, in the throne room of Shang Tsung.

As the conversation moves to the mission that he went on, he relaxes slightly.

"It is often said that 'no plan survives first contact with the enemy.' My plans went to hell in a handbasket but in my plan's failure arose a better position than you had probably had hoped for. The requested items had been obtained along with some extra items you'd probably be interested in."

He pulls out a cellphone. A burner for the express purpose of its disposability and lack of any connection to his actual phone. He places it on the table and then continues, "A copy of the images are also on a thumb drive in the briefcase."

What are those images, anyway? The first once is a picture of all six collars of Duke's St. Bernards laid out side by side, the next is a picture of an unconscious Hyena wrapped in a blanket and cradled in the arms of the Nagase statue in Southtown Park, the final picture is one of all dogs without their collars and taken near one of Duke's art pieces so it can be confirmed that he was in Duke's home.

Honoka shakes her head with a warm smile. She won't really say he's -wrong-, but it's clear from her expression that she doesn't entirely agree with his self-assessment either. Well, aside from being friends. She's cool with that part, of course!

It wouldn't be difficult to surmise his mood; few would consider getting placed against the rampaging boxer M. Bison to be a good thing. He was a tough opponent, and all things considered, Honoka feels Aranha did a good job against the crazy buffalo.

She -is- glad to see him in a better mood, though. Her hands pull away from the cards as she settles against her seatback, nodding quietly as the items are explained, and placed in front of her. "Oh, good, I love photos."

The phone is plucked off the table gingerly, and the juggler eagerly pages through the image gallery. Her lips curl into a smile that grows larger with each successive picture. But the coup de grace -- Hyena cradled in the statue's arms -- requires her to raise one hand to her mouth to stifle a round of snickering.

"Yeah," she admits after a moment to compose herself, "This was worth the trip. Ahhh, these are fantastic..." The juggler is practically glowing with laughter as she rests her elbows on the table, propping up the phone before her. "Were the... dogs any trouble?"

Her eyes briefly flicker with traces of amber. She's not ignorant of Aranha's mood, and she's curious whether her enthusiasm is contagious or not. "Come to think of it, were there any other complications or expenses that I should know about?"

Aranha remains quiet as Honoka goes through the pictures. As Honoka smiles, the Dancing Spider smiles. When Honoka starts snickering, Aranha begins to wear a smug grin on his face. He knew exactly which picture it was without having to look at her phone.

Then those two questions come about how difficult the dogs were and if there any additional complications. Both questions are more easily addressed in an after actions report.

"It would probably be easier if I told you how everything panned out. I had arranged for that location to be treated with a scent so the dogs would consistently stop there for their walks. The day came for me to engage and so I approached and tried to knock Hyena out non-violently but unfortunately I didn't plan on Hyena's nose being so huge that it would make it impossible to apply a sedative treated cloth to his face. He decided he wanted to talk trash and fight. At some point in the middle of it, the dogs tried to hand me their leash. Which led to him accusing me of dognapping. After a while, I got tired of hearing him yap so I kept kicking him in the mouth and jaw to exclusion of everything else. He refused to take the hint and so in that I probably failed your mission parameters. He probably had an expensive hospital stay to rewire his jaw and a nasty dental bill as well. In hindsight, I probably should've went with a ball gag instead of the blanket."

He takes on a contemplative look as he studies Honoka for her reaction to the story so far. Hopefully she won't react too badly that part. He takes a sip of water to continue.

"So with the fight over, one of the dogs attempts to hand me the leash once more. I ended up finishing the walk and then broke into his house to return the dogs and took off with the collars as my trophies. The reason I took that picture of all of the dogs was to confirm that I had been in his home and I figured the fact that someone broke in to /return/ the dogs could send a really strong message."

He looks down at the glass of water in his hand and then back up to Honoka before continuing once more. "I had originally bought dog clown costumes so that once I sedated Hyena and then the dogs, I would take pictures of those dogs in that costume but Hyena's face was too strange for that and it didn't feel right dressing the dogs like that when they were clearly that desperate to get away from him. So I'm eating the costs of that and the blanket which I bought after the fight with Hyena forced a change of plans. The tranquilizers you gave me weren't required so those you will get back. So that's about it."

Oh, a complete summary would be fine, too: Honoka answers the assertion with an toothy, enthusiastic grin. She flicks back through the other pictures with some amusement as Aranha paints the landscape for her. Plenty of time to reconnoiter and assess -- she definitely seems to approve of the measures taken, even -aside- from the better-than-expected results.

She does wrinkle her nose a bit, once Hyena's is explained to have been a logistical difficulty.

"... That's... quite all right," she explains in a soft voice. "I was only concerned about you hurting anyone worth a damn... Sorry you had to put up with his nasally rambling." She offers a subdued smile by way of apology, there.

She does seem a bit perplexed at -both- mentions of the dogs offering their collars to Aranha. Honoka's had few good experiences with dogs, so for him to explain that the dogs -wanted- a stranger to look after their best interests is... enough to draw a raised eyebrow and a perplexed expression.

With a look of mild disgust at the situation -- not Aranha of course -- she nods slowly. "... Ugh. I'm not sure whether that means you're a dog whisperer, or Hyena is just a wretched dogsitter." Her expression and tone take an upswing though. "But... either way, you've done a fantastic job and I'll be more than happy to make use of these photos."

She sets the phone down alongside her deck of cards. Keeping her eyes in contact with Aranha's, she cuts the deck into two equal stacks. She places her hand on the right-hand stack, starting to slide it towards the left hand-stack. And Aranha would be able to hear and feel a weight moving across the floor. The weight would rock against the briefcase in perfect sync with the right-hand stack of cards abutting against the left-hand.

And then a faintly smiling Honoka reaches over to take the left hand stack in her right hand, cutting and replacing the stack with practiced ease.

Cards are worked around at right-angles to one another, before working themselves back into a solid stack. Honoka then clasps both hands around the raised stack of cards, nodding with a warm smile. "I had a feeling you'd find a way to up the ante. There's a little extra in there for you. I do wonder, though... have you reconsidered your retirement? It seems far too early for someone of your skill to hang it up..."

There's a sound and he can feel an item moving about near his feet on the floor. He can't help but smile at his little payday. The items stolen were easily replaced and it was more about the message than the actual items. That was a job he could actually get behind.

The (ex?) cat burglar is shaken out of his thoughts. Would he reconsider his retirement? At this point, he doesn't have to worry about money due to his winnings and his activity on the fight circuit. Kelly has been making enough money from her own fighting he doesn't have to worry about supporting her and her college fund. So most of his reasons for becoming a thief have pretty much vanished into thin air.

"There's one job I want to take on before I truly retire and I'm not quite ready for it yet."

They have spoken about this particular target. Aranha still has a bone to pick with the Mishima Zaibatsu for what Heihachi Mishima himself had done to Bastion Village. Considering he had a standing army and bleeding edge tech at his disposal, Aranha would require a bit more in the way of his skillsets before he could say with confidence he could pull it off.

"I do like the idea of using my skills to either send messages or to troll others, though. So redirecting my skills in that direction would still give me the chance to challenge myself."

The enterprising manipulator flashes a sunny smile as it becomes clear that Aranha's on the same page as her. Many are motivated by greed. Many are motivated by justice. In the end, it doesn't matter -what- Aranha's motivations are, so long as they align with her peculiar and subversive interests.

It's true, she was never interested in -injuring- the dogs -- it's not -their- fault their master is a ruthless, unrepentant bastard with abysmal people skills. All the Ainu tusukur wanted to do was send a message -- that at any time, his treasures could be taken away from him, crushed beneath her heel just as easily as her leg was beneath his. And that, by the time all was said and done, there would be a reckoning. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, in however asymmetric a fashion as she can manage.

Honoka plucks up both stacks of cards. The strata of cards slide effortlessly past one another, arraying back into a single stack with no apparent regard for order. She's thinking, nodding along as Aranha speaks. Her smile grows bittersweet with the reminder of the one job he -really- wants to take on -- and at the nearest opportunity, she offers a crisp nod. "I haven't forgotten." She'd said that the Mishima Zaibatsu and Tekken Force were next. "Plans are in constant motion. An opportunity will surely present itself soon." With an enigmatic smile, Honoka pulls the cards into two stacks once again, prodding a few choice stacks of cards apart with the tips of her fingernails, and sifting them back together again.

She glances down at the cards -- having noted earlier her associate's attention upon them. Pressing the cards together, she slides them across the table towards Aranha. "Been a while since I played cards, really. No one at the circus wants to take their chances with me."

She sits back from the table, expelling a light sigh of remorse. The circus... was a much simpler time in her life. But she does forge into a hopeful smile, afterward. "Really, this would sure would be a lifeless rock, if people blessed with gifts such as you and I were not able and willing to put our gifts to good use."

Scooting towards the edge of her seat as if to leave, she hesitates, leaning back across the table, and adopting a quieter tone again. "Sadly -- it might be a while before I know exactly what -form- opportunity will take. Especially now, with the loss of some rather... key individuals." Her lips press together firmly, at that. "... Keep in touch, though, mm? If you need anything..." She taps the top card on the deck, punctuating with a pursed-lip smile. "... don't hesitate to call."

Once again, he watches as the juggler manipulates the cards. Too much thought and care went into the manipulation for it to be meaningless. His theory is confirmed when his associate taps on the top card.

After taking a few moments to look around, he begins lifting the cards, one after the next until reaches the Joker and then he goes a few cards past that before placing the cards back on the stack. He nods to indicate the message was understood before taking another sip of his water.

"And I'll keep working on getting ready for when that opportunity comes. You have been very generous and I appreciate it. Thank you."

Aranha rises from the table, picking up a similar briefcase to the one he had entered with and then turning to leave.

Log created on 11:29:32 10/04/2018 by Honoka, and last modified on 09:21:39 10/05/2018.