Description: I-No returns to where she stashed Ramlethal to recover from her fight with Akuma, only to find that Ramlethal has acquired a rapidly militarizing police standoff due to Jack-O'-related disturbances. The witch attempts to evacuate the Valentine to another location while half-answering all the usual questions about origin story, character motivations, and whether she's been stabbed half the death recently. Ramlethal argues for anime.
THE VERY NEXT DAY
Welcome to the AirBnB 'room "yamato" in Guesthouse Kotone', which as it used to declare, wass a single room in a manor-house 8 hours by bus from Tokyo.
The guesthouse had been evacuated after Maskrandom Rainbowdoom, Command Gear, n'er-do-well, and Incredibly Anime Girl had had a chance encounter with her Big Onee-nakama, Straightmurder Sharkface. The chance encounter involved levelling the large shared japanese-style washroom and the surviving surfaces having been soiled permanently by Biteslob 3: The Wake of Bathslosh. The police had been called. The police had found wanted criminal, Ramlethal Valentine, and had established a loose perimiter and began observing her, having adopted a wait-and-see strategy with special forces on speed dial and a request for American attack jets.
And, since the F-22's weren't being scrambled forthwith, probably due to the Americans needing to confirm with their own intelligence agencies, Ramlethal had been free to blithely retire to her AirBnB room, missing a facing wall, to watch more television (trash anime and bad j-dramas and soap operas) and engage in making Biteslob into Brushslob.
Eight hour bus rides. Dog water. Police barricades. I-No does not do these things. I-No very, very much does not do these things.
And so she skips them all. Instead, Ramlethal is intruded upon by the red witch of time and space kicking down the closet door and stomping out as if there was a way to enter places from completely sealed-off rooms. There is, of course, but only because there isn't. Witches specialize in doing things that don't happen.
"Rammy motherfuckin' Lethal are you watching some goddamn magical girl bullshit while the shit-juggling United Nations military is stacking up outside?!"
I-No crosses the room in a straight and aggressive line, kicking aside debris in the process. She's on a mission. She has embarked upon this mission wearing a red string bikini top, a number of bandages wrapped around her midsection and torso, a bomber jacket with 2084 ORIGINAL written on the back with some weird design, and a pair of red-and-gold track shorts with bright white tennis shoes. Her sunglasses are black and opaque this time.
"I leave you alone for a few goddamn evenings and you explode the place. Didja see an aggressive cockroach that needed termination? Fuck! The fuck are you watching."
I-No hesitates in front of the television. The scene plays out before her, reflected twice in her sunglasses: A young heroine struggles to lift her magical implement. With a defiant cry, she hoists it upward, summoning an explosion of heart symbols that disintegrate the evil forces that surround her. I-No's mouth pulls in an ugly direction. Even her voice has a snarl in it when she speaks next.
"Shit'll rot your brain. Pack your things."
I-No grabs hold of the TV at the top of the screen and yanks it forward. The power cable yanks out of the wall as it tumbles down.
I-No arrives, vengeant and purposeful power-walking, from fuckin' Narnia.
That's where you come from, when you exit the closet. It's always Narnia. Aslan is very disappointed in you, I-No. Renounce your wytchcraft, your loose living, and your sexual depravity and come into Aslan's land! Or, you know, don't, and keep being the Witch among Lions and Wardrobes.
Ramlethal's eyes make one rapid blink every minute or so (actually, every minute on the minute) as she watches the story unfold on the magical girl show that had been on. It was very poignant, and emotional. Ramlethal had assigned all three of her Emotional Investment Points on it. She was into it!
As I-No storms, Ramlethal adjusts her sitting position to dump Brushslob into her lap and watch 'the space where the TV was'.
"Jack-O' was here. Only the surfectant damage and stains to the tub area are 'my' fault. Also, you said cleanup was not your concern. I was acting in accodance with that directive."
ASLAN CAN EAT A BOWL FULL OF DEEP MAGIC DICKS
Meanwhile, back in the realm of things happening, I-No is immediately off in another direction to step through the rubble that was formerly a wall and look up and down the exposed hallway. She stops, one foot in the room and one foot out, and slowly turns to look over her shoulder at Ramlethal.
"Wait. Jack-O. Resident candy fetishist Jack-O."
I-No hangs her head. She reaches up to clutch the bridge of her nose, her hand briefly bumping up her sunglasses to do so. Her eyes are squeezed shut, denying the kaleidoscope show via second layer defense.
"Fine. Yeah, sure. When. When was she here. Where did she go."
I-No makes a circular gesture with her free hand.
"Come on, gimme the W-question answers. And stop pulling this Star Trek act and get up, you sure as fuck know that assault rifles outside is a lil' fuckin' bit outside the sweep it under a rug category."
Aslan loves you and your bowl of deep magic dicks, I-No. Aslan is like Shrek, and just wants you to let him into your heart.
I-No stops mid-powerwalk to crrrrreak her head to the side, her eyes tracking. Ramlethal still stares at the wall where the TV used to be, with her every-minute-on-the-minute blinking. The corners of her mouth tug into the smilest fond upturn. "She had very specific instructions on what to tell you. She said: That she was never here. That it was her evil twin, that she is dead, and you should not follow her any more. Finally, that she is not going to Southtown next, and that the last place you should look for her is Southtown."
Ramlethal finally, upon reciting that message off like a very murdery answering machine, slides onto her knees and then shoves up to her feet, Brushslob rolling off her knees like a particularly stupid zucchini and landing on its back with a pathetic flailing of all four limbs in the air.
"We are nakama now. She recommended that I catch the Super Galactic Heroine marathon when she left." Ramlethal explains, before squinting, as if processing something complex or trying to see something quite far away. "I... think? Unclear."
Jack-O' has that kind of effect on people, even 'people' like Ramlethal.
I-No remains in her nose-pinching poise for the duration of Ramlethal's explanation. Her guard is only broken when Ramlethal says the word 'nakama,' at which point I-No drops her hand (sunglasses falling back into place), spreads her arms wide, and briefly interjects "Seriously?!"
The witch stomps off down the hall, disappearing briefly into the semi-destroyed bathing area. A few moments later, she comes stomping back.
"What am I fuckin' doing. You don't have belongings except that four-legged bubonic plague over there."
I-No swoops by Ramlethal, grabbing her by the shoulder and steering her toward the closet. Biteslob, if he is truly Ramlethal's Petslob, has a chance to follow them.
"C'mon, we're making the entire rainbow cry and getting back into the closet. Now I gotta stash your ass in an entirely different city until the heat dies down."
Rammy has had a very strange week. It stands out, much like a week-or-so in the past. "I-No, before we go in the closet." She's guided, by shoulder, towards the tall wooden portal to the nether(s)-dimension.
"There is something that has bothered me. An error. Anomalous."
Inexorably moved towards the terror of being drawn into the closet with I-No, Ramlethal continues, putting up little actual resistance to being guided. "Your existance, and first interaction with me. Then, again in Central America. You were familiar with me. Impossible. Then, again, we had 'gone through this before'. Jack-O' speaks similarly. That there are many states, and that she is uncertain. Elphelt never spoke like this."
"What is your goal?"
Ramlethal places gripping hand on the side of the closet, hanging onto it like an anchor. Tension draws tiny furrows in the wood, though not as bad as the craterous skid-marks of Dorpos the ball-and-chain within eyeshot. "Why me, I-No? Why Jack-O'? Are you collecting the Command Gears, like the Illyrians?"
Petslob rolls onto its side, barking once before trotting along in the two women's wake.
I-No continues pushing. Even when Ramlethal says something implying that she wants an answer before closet time, I-No doesn't feel resistance, so off they go. They're right in front of the closet door when those magical words are spoken. No, not error, or anomalous, though those are important modifiers.
The witch stops Ramlethal in front of the threshold. Standing behind the Command Gear as she is, her expression cannot be seen. It is left as an exercise for Ramlethal's imagination. This probably means that there's a big blank spot that reads <UNKNOWN FACIAL EXPRESSION VARIABLE>, but oh well.
Ramlethal braces against the closet for insurance. Behind her, I-No, of all possible responses, chuckles. It is a cold noise coming from her cruel contralto.
"So you wanna do this now. Metaphysics when a commando team can come crashing in any moment and try to rip your guts out through your throat. You know Sol didn't kill Justice alone, right? The Ikari Warriors fuckin' helped him."
I-No releases Ramlethal with a firmness that borders on a push. The witch steps backward, her mouth set in a hard line. She scratches briefly and absently at the bandages that wind around her torso.
"And don't compare me to those goddamn cultist Illyrians. It's not even them. It's their king idiot thinking with his dick." I-No gestures broadly, starting to pick up steam and aggression. "How's that make you feel? While you're listening for magical songs, Dizzy's fixin' to learn about love courtesy of the royal dong. Kiske doesn't think much fuckin' further than that!"
Braced upon the threshold between the closet to Elsewhyre and the reality of the JSDF sitting tight and observing while waiting for the Ikari Warriors to roll in to exterminate (or, worse, capture) her, Ramlethal still physically insists on her embargo.
Shoved with a frustrated finality, for the moment, she turns, crossing her arms.
I-No... sssorta does.
Ramlethal's blink is slow and uncomprehending. She requires a visible, tangible amount of time to process this Dong Kisuke revelation. I-No truly is a revelator of the acts of guilty Gears.
"Dizzy... Unexpected. Elphelt would have been more likely." Her resistant furrow releases as she floats back to air-sit half-into the closet. "I do not feel anything, still. I have not seen Dizzy in a while, but..." There's a rueful shrug in her flat tone, if not in actuality. A soft sigh slipping forth from her nose. "But tactically profitable. She will be safe, if that is the extent of their interaction. The king will care, and the nation will move to shield them. If you were making collecting all of the Valentines an objective, you could convince Elphelt and corral Jack-O', you could plead with Dizzy, but what would you do to me?"
Ramlethal cocks her head, inquisitive. "You cannot fight me." It's stated as a fact, but there's no malice or expectation. "So I think it is something else."
"It's always the quiet ones," I-No interjects with a humorless smile on the topic of Dizzy expectations.
The witch crosses her arms with clear impatience as Ramlethal works through the rest of the topic. She taps her foot, stops, purses her lips, exhales in annoyance, and otherwise fidgets until the Command Gear reaches the head of her ponderings. I-No slows the tiny movements of her body -- the twitches of her fingers, the swaying of her weight from one foot to the other -- until she is all but frozen. Though her aviators are hiding a significant portion of her expression tells, the movement of her forehead hints at the severity of her furrowed brow.
"I /can't/ fight you?" she says, seemingly genuine in her bafflement the first time. The familiar edge of anger and mania enters her tone shortly after, as she leans forward, gesturing her words with animate hands.
"I can't? Oh, that's fuckin' rich, Rammy! That's Xiang force-feeding me chocolate cake while calling me a dirty girl!"
I-No reaches up and snatches off her sunglasses, turning to pace a few steps away. She doesn't get very far until she turns back, gaze snapping to Ramlethal. Eyes wide, irises shifting wildly between colors as she moves.
"I've seen a lot of shit, Rammy. I've seen you ripped apart in every way a body can burst by every combination of asshole street fighters I can think of. I've lost track how many times /I've/ killed you. They may have fed you a real fuckin' nutritious slurry of combat data this time, but let's not forget you got humbled by a perky forest girl and her animal friends. /No one/ can't get got."
I-No stares at Ramlethal for a tense, silent moment. But, finally, she straightens her posture and jams the sunglasses back on her face. "You want some brain candy, fine. Get in the closet and we'll talk after. The fuckin' stench of pigs is giving me a headache."
If there is one thing that Ramlethal is almost brutally efficient at, it's letting other people's reactions play out until their conclusion. So I-No taps her foot, stops, taps her foot some more, and then has her moment. It's understandable.
Ramlethal even expected something like this, but it was also surprising to hear. She was not unaware of interrogation techniques, of learning by poking at variables.
Still, were she a more egotistical sort of Gear, she would be brought low by the knowledge that she loses in all those realities. That the power that she wielded was so far short of absolute.
Defective. That's what she thinks of, though she doesn't speak it. Her mouth purses to breathe it, at the end of I-No's 'seen a lot of shit' line.
Without further resistance, she scooches aside, to let I-No into the closet, extending her hand out to be held - or dragged, as the Witch's desire.
"I did not mean that. You can 'fight' me. You can make the choice to do so, and even have a strong chance of prevailing. But you will not. Thus, you cannot."
Petslob scrabbles up the wood into the closet during this, getting lost in the coats. Perhaps he'll meet that bitch Mister Tumnus and give him an infection.
"It does not align with your objectives."
"Not that I know them. Which is why I ask."
Into the closet I-No goes. She marches in, turns around, and is about to level an opaque glare at Ramlethal when Petslob comes trotting in and glances off her ankle on his way to... let's be honest and say nowhere.
"Ugh," I-No breathes. She reaches out and takes Ramlethal's hand, dragging her in. "Curious inexperienced women in closets. Normally this gets me hot."
The witch reaches out past Ramlethal and pulls the door shut. At the sound of wood hitting wood, the world goes dark, and then light -- too light, too light to see -- and then dark again. I-No pushes the door open and strolls out into a carpeted room that holds the precise mixture of chill and dry air that is peculiar to hotels.
It's nothing spacious. There's a queen bed, a desk set, a sitting chair and endtable, and a dresser that doubles as a TV stand. Fairly typical business traveler schlock. I-No rounds the bed and gets to the window, where she reaches up to grab the wand for the blinds right up until she runs into the wall of cold murder that is the nearby AC unit.
"Ah, fuck," she hisses, clutching at her bandage and stepping back. She gives the unit a short kick, and then leans forward to reach to open the blinds from a safer distance. City skyline. They're stories up.
The transition is jarring, swift, and inexplicable.
Exactly as expected with I-No's particular brand of aggressive hard rock lunacy.
Ramlethal practically sweats questionmarks from the period that I-No engages in OH NO TOO DIRECT, the doors of the closet close, and the pair find themselves in... A nondescript hotel room.
She surveils the room once she's released, floats herself over to the bed, and sits on the corner not unlike a child claiming their part of the hotel room upon arrival.
"Are you wounded? That is..."
I-No spares a glance over her shoulder at Ramlethal. From this very specific angle, it's possible to see a hint of her eyes cutting sideways from behind her sunglasses.
"Spare me the probability analysis, doc," she says, her tone flat.
The witch turns away and grabs the rolling chair from the desk, pulling it out as she walks by. She pushes it forward, making it gain a few feet of lead on her so that she can transition from walking to turning and falling back into it. If she's wounded, this is probably the worst way to sit in a chair. She makes no noise indicating it hurt.
"Okay. Objectives. Figure'd you get restless and want marching orders eventually. Jack-O' ain't a Valentine like you or Ms. Big Bap Bunny Bride. Everyone may think she is, but she ain't. She's got some anime disease so I'm trying to grab her so she can be treated because, as you may have noticed, she's goddamn cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs and will probably die in a gutter somewhere if left on her own."
I-No is holding a pen now. The pen was previously on the desk. She did not bring it with her when she took the chair, but there it is all the same. She turns it over in her hands while she wordlessly studies Ramlethal from behind those opaque shades. She moves it into both hands, using her thumbs to test how much strength it takes to bend it how far.
"You, though... you're a special project. An I-No original. You're welcome."
>Spare me the probability analysis, doc.
"Understood." Ramlethal assents, without getting into the cliche 'but I'm not a doctor' schtick. She is capable of learning, and taking everything I-No says entirely seriously . There were rabbits to chase down holes and rabbits to let be, hole or otherwise, especially with the amount of Fucking Magic I-No was.
"Her power is diffused in more ways than one. Elphelt is one way, I am another, and Dizzy is another still, but Jack-O'..."
Ramlethal flops back across the bed, sprawling out with her legs hooking over the end as I-No slides stylishly into her rolling chair. She spends a moment arranging herself, cocking her head up on her palm, elbow bent as she reclines. "Anime is not a disease."
"And she is a Valentine. But she is more like you, than me."
"Is that why? Why I am your project? Jack-O'?"
Ramlethal defends anime. I-No leans far back into the chair, pursing her lips. The chair creaks generously.
"I can't tell if you're being literal or an otaku."
I-No rears her arm back and hurls the pen across the room. It gets buried halfway into the wall, a puff of punctured drywall dusting the air. The witch claps her hands together.
"Yes, she is a Valentine. But not like /you./ Have you ever considered why you're called Valentines, anyway? Do you think the UN decided to call all their Command Gears Valentines for some reason? If they did, why do they say Command Gear at all and not just Valentine? It's a weirdly sentimental name to have come from a bunch of suits with flagpoles up their asses, anyway. Think on that one a while, kid."
A brief silence. I-No begins to visibly dig her tongue against one of her incisors. Maybe that's thoughtfulness.
Then: "Killing you never changes anything. You wandering off and falling into someone's pocket never changes anything. You're a stray dog without a genocide to carry out. So I figured..."
I-No smiles. It is a pretty smile, white teeth and red lipstick. Most people would find it disarming on first meeting. After having known I-No this long, maybe not so much.
"Maybe you just need the right mistress."
"It helps me understand." Ramlethal exhales. "Before Justice fell I fought a Psycho-Soldier. Athena. The price of her loss was a compact, a mission. A new purpose." Shoving off with her elbow, she rights herself on the bed, drawing her legs up to sit cross-legged. Flashes of green energy roll along her hand, forming a sphere that hovers over her upturned palm. And then, like a crystal ball - or I-No's eyes, it starts to change color, like a mood sphere. "Emotions. Feelings. Heat. Warm light. I thought I would gain them if I observed them. I could add them to my repertoire. Just extra programming. Missing bits of code. Elphelt had them, so I thought I could 'fix' myself."
She closes her hand around the ball of energy and it becomes so much colorful smoke. "Love. Worth. Struggle. I don't understand. The shows add bits of context."
I-No 'explains' the Valentines, and Ramlethal dutifully shakes her head, her bangs swanging in the air as she does. To her, it was just a designation, but it could be worthwhile to learn. Another scrap of information.
It's I-No's pretty smile that draws a genuine frown out of the Valentine. "I do not know if I ... want one."
Ramletha's demonstrative energy orb gains a reflection in the inky black depths of I-No's cheap sunglasses. The witch watches without comment. The multifaceted hue, reflected in both lenses, serves as a fanciful replacement for her hidden irises.
"'Want.' Wasn't a contraction, but I'm fuckin' counting it. Look at you getting a personality beyond murder."
I-No leans forward out of the chair and onto her feet. She pushes it out of the way, walking toward the short hallway leading to the bathroom and exit. I-No disappears inside the former, leaving the door open. The sound of the sink comes on immediately.
"What did Jack-O' say to you exactly? That nakama bullshit? She wants to big sis at you, too. Fuck, think about that idiot dog who I'm pretty sure is still trying to figure out how to walk outta fuckin' closet. You sure took no time in adopting him. The pathetic thing about humans making artificial life is that they just make it exactly like them. Hierarchies and that whole fuckin' scam. You already got that part down."
The water turns off. There's a clatter of plastic on countertop. I-No mutters a few indiscernible curses.
"It doesn't matter what you want. Humanity's a bitch and the only way you're gonna learn about anything is from someone else, and they're gonna pass along all their stupid fuckin' ideas and emotional damage on to you. May as well be me for a change. /I'm/ a goddamn lady. You know what it looks like when King Gearfucker gets a hold of you? Let's just the dude woulda shipped Dizzy off to a nunnery if he didn't have a fetish for Disney princesses who come equipped with their own orgy."
The Valentine shrugs at I-No catching her in word choice. It was true, and denial was just asking for more hounding after it. Her shoulders rise and fall with her breath, and she laces her fingers together in her lap, while I-No goes into the bathroom to wash up.
Closetslob can be heard bouncing off the inside walls of his wooden prison, pawing at the sides with a little 'skrr-skrr-skitch' sound of small nails on the cheap hotel wood. I-No is extremely correct about the disposition of Ramlethal's stupid dog.
"She thought she was my big sister. I corrected her. She spoke about being uncertain, of being certain in her uncertainty. I heard a whistle, when she was there. Like the buckling under pressure. That she was flying apart."
"I corrected her. I told her that I was her big sister, and would be her stable point."
Her tone is matter-of-fact, clinical, analytical. A rattling off of aspects and data-points, rendeirng the conversation down into its most barest elements as observed by the weapon-girl. And leaving out all the extraneous things - which, knowing Jack-O', would be most of it.
"It does matter what I want." Ramlethal murmurs, quieter than her explanation of the Maniac Pixie Dream Princess. Her voice rises to continue. "What are you, then? More than human? The creation of Humanity? What do you need a Valentine for?"
"What do you need all the Valentines for?"
I-No does not immediately respond to Ramlethal's question. The silence stretches on. Unseen, in the bathroom, I-No stares at herself in the mirror. She looks for a long, searching moment.
Finally, it is banished when she slips her sunglasses back on, gets her jacket back onto her shoulders, and comes strolling out of the bathroom like what's up. A keen eye may notice that the positioning of her bandages has changed slightly. It is unthinkable that a person did such a quick change on such an extensive wrapping, but I-No's personhood is precisely what's being discussed right now.
"Me?" I-No grins wolfishly, all her pretty teeth lined up to devour. She reaches up to hold the corner of the wall at the end of the hall, leaning into the room. "Oh, I'm human. I'm only a musician. But one night, I'm gonna play at the biggest festival of them all..."
The witch clucks her tongue. This seems to signal a topic change. She pushes off the wall and takes a few meandering steps into the room proper.
"Jack-O' is all fucked up and she needs to return to ~*my master's*~ care. She's fuckin' around unnecessarily and opening herself to getting killed or captured too early, which will ruin what /she/ wants too. As for you--"
I-No snaps her fingers as she brings her hand up to point at Ramlethal.
"Like I said, special project. Off the books. The only fate you've got left is death, just like me. That frees you -- and lets me show you what humanity really is. All you gotta do is follow my lead and help me keep Jack-O' under control."
Ramlethal's patience for long empty stretches of time where nothing happens is unsurprisingly vast. Fully half or more of her life has been waiting for input or for states to change.
She doesn't shift, and her posture remains perfect. She had never need to be taught form.
'I'm Human'. Comes I-No's toothy prowl. Ramlethal's expression falls. 'Only a Musician', however, following after the previous admittance causes a bushy cream-white brow to raise.
She mirrors one fo I-No's sarcastic smirks, though it looks out of place on her face, and ends quickly. It is ungenuine, but mimicry is how children learn, at the end of the day.
"Your master... And a special project."
The room becomes stifling for a moment, as green 'fire' erupts around Ramlethal's shoulders, her toothy cape falling around her shoulders from elsewhyre, hidden by magic or dimensional trickery. She shutters her amber eyes and crosses her arms slowly, untangling her fingers as she does.
"I told you that I did not want a choice made for me."
"I still don't."
"But... For now, this is acceptable. Jack-O' requires... maintenance."
"But if the only fate I had was death, then I would have died two days past. A death absolute and unquestionable."
I-No makes an amused noise when Ramlethal mimics her smile, the kind of pleased hum that adults make around cute things currently engaging in cute behavior.
But she senses the change in the air. Even before the green fire comes, Ramlethal may notice the witch's left hand clenching as if holding the neck of an invisible guitar. The implicit standoff continues for moments longer as the Command Gear drapes herself in her combat poncho.
Yet it's only for dramatic talking. I-No's posture shifts as she crosses her arms and leans back against the nearby wall, watching Ramlethal go. Maybe the kid is learning more than she lets on if she's already graduated to aggressive magical outfit changes.
"Don't act like you're free and clear yet, Elsa. There's more shit coming your way. More shit coming all our way."
I-No reaches into her jacket pocket. She tosses a keycard across the room, making it slice through the air and land sharply into the comforter nearby Ramlethal.
"But acceptable is fine. Shit, I was a rebellious kid too. If you weren't acting like a moody little fuck then you wouldn't be learning right."
The witch pushes off the wall and turns to walk toward the front door. She raises her hand to gesture over her shoulder.
"I'm going out. We're in London so you'd better get a fuckin' Crunchyroll subscription or somethin' if you're gonna weeb out."
The door opens, and then I-No is gone.
Ramlethal tilts her head at 'Elsa', but files that away for later. She will have to do Research.
I-No leaves after dropping the mic (technically, and not actually, but she could have done it actually too), depositing the ROOM KEY with Ramlethal.
With a gesture she turns on the TV, because remotes are for Lesser Beings. "I do not see how a fried roll contributes to anything."
The door closes. I-No leaves her alternative cat daughter project to be socialized by the television once more.
Log created on 19:39:00 10/20/2018 by I-No, and last modified on 20:47:33 10/21/2018.