Bulleta - Hunters In Darkness

[Toggle Names]

Description: Bulleta tracks the werewolf known as Gallon to an abandoned chateau outside of Paris. Stalking him through its moonlit hallways, she seeks to... warn him that if - when - others come to hunt him, they may come seeking more than TV ratings or fine pelts. She also seeks his training in the art of combat and manages to earn his trust by demonstrating her resolve to learn.

A chilled December evening on the outskirts of the City of Lights. A grand chateau, dead but reborn in the wake of World War 2. Since the fight between Gallon and the strange President of Earth few tourists have made it to the Chateau. Particularly once the people were chased away by the snarlings and howlings of a British Loup-Garou.

The wolfman had remained there in the walls and grounds of the Chateau, and even now watches out from the grand windows on higher floors to the sea of light and life that is Paris. His lupine face drawn in a stern resignation. His discomfort is psychological and philosophical, but it is felt nonetheless.

With a long claw, he scratches at his neck and chin before turning from the window to descend the stairs, down to the great portrait hall and the foyer he has been using to practice his form and to ruminate on his thoughts, and to meditate in order to hold the beast at bay.

There was something here. There was something to this building, or to its past, or to something that set of the strangeness in that man G's mind. That much Gallon felt. Though it did also help to remind Gallon there is something to enjoy about the comforts of more human living. Despite his ascetic preferences.

In the dark foyer, under the shadows and light cast by tall windows, Gallon sits in a butterfly posture. He closes his eyes and opens his other senses, breathing slowly and steadily. Calming the howling storm that ever roils in his heart.

Bulleta was born the night when a nine year old girl found a wolf/man hunched over the remains of the woman she loved most in the world, draped in tatters of the woman's clothes. She's found - and killed, or captured - many wolves/people since, and while she'd only call herself a specialist if she figured she could squeeze a higher pay rate out of the classification, she knows a few critical details about them. For example: she /knows/ that stalking a wolf(man) through his home territory is fraught, that the beasts' senses are keener than anything she can imagine. That even the most savage among them retain enough of their humanity to turn familiar ground into a nightmare of ambushes and deep cover.

She knows these things, but thanks to the Guild's gendarmerie contact coming through with juicy intel about a wolf /still/ claiming a Parisian chateau as his own after a televised fight... she's still got her bare feet poised against the chateau's wall while she climbs the grapple line extending from her basket to an upper floor window. She's still wearing a midnight black cloak over a black button-down and black/grey pinstriped slacks, to blend a little better in case the wolf prefers darkness. Still meticulously scrubbed clean of scents beyond those picked up from the chateau and its envirions.

Because Gallon isn't like any wolf or man she's ever encountered. She's still unsure of where the border between the two lies, which way his instincts really run; it's a test for /both/ of them, really. Is there still enough of the Wolf in the Man to see through the more practical half of her craft, the way the Man managed to see through the rest?

Is there still enough of the Hunter in the Woman to track that which shouldn't be, on the other side of months spent crawling from the wreckage of her shattered self?

At the top of the rope, a deftly wielded geometry compass removes just enough glass for the deceptively small Bulleta to haul herself inside. After gently setting the glass disc upon a black tile, she gives the interior a quick scan, then commences creeping over marble in search of her quarry. The basket dangles from her right hand; her left is tucked just beneath the cloak, near her hip.

The man once called Jon Talbain would correct that the Chateau still rightfully belongs to the Colde family. He would relinquish the home in total to any one of them should they return. It is just that in the meantime he considers his claim no less than any other and he would enforce his sanctuary with his own claws and teeth.

He breathes slowly, his ears twitch to the changes in wind flowing through the cracks and crannies of the old chateau. He is making little attempts to set or track or prevent intrusion into the Chateau. He has far more important inner attentions to keep to. To question the beast and the man.

His eyes snap open. His lip curls, showing the long tearing fangs he bears. He pushes up to a stand and lifts his head to sniff the air. "Bah," he grumbles and turns, stalking toward the great staircase.

He pauses at the top of the stair to look up at the giant portrait of Lady of the House. He growls to himself and shakes his head. A grudging, gritted growl comes from his throat. A simple lament of "Damn it all" as he stands in the shadows of the Maison's past and of the shadows in his own mind. There is little care or concern for him to look for the silent, cunning tracker that is so close at hand.

Gallon paces and climbs. Bulleta finds a bedroom to briskly turn into when she hears claws scraping over marble and doesn't dare to breathe.

She waits.

He growls... and then he laments.

She exhales... and shares a smile with herself in a vanity mirror.

Then she emerges, hunched low and stalking through shadows. There's a little more air flowing through the chateau thanks to a compromised window, a far subtler tell than even the muffled rhythm of bare soles on black and white or gently rustling cloth. Certainly subtler than the gentled patter of a young, vital heart, than the nearly stilled breaths that manage to escape tiny nostrils. She's much less interested in the art than he is, but if she catches him looking at the Lady, Bulleta'll spare a glance for her too, curious to see what kind of art's managed to capture the attention of the semi-savage beat.

Just a glance, though, because she's here for Gallon. Here to get as close to the wolfman's back as she can manage-- as close as she /dares/-- before coming to a halt.

Even a low, whispered, "Cheers, mate~," ought to stand out like a shot with ears like his.

Whatever's tucked against her hip stays put, for now, and the basket remains at her side. If she's here for violence, then she's approaching it rather more patiently than she did when she ran bloody and crying through the forest she ultimately set on fire.

Nostrils flare. A twitch of the ear. The ruff of hair on Gallon's exposed back raises. A new growl, low and focused outward, comes from deep within his chest. At his sides, his hands open, fingers stretch, heavy claws bared and ready. Soft words, heartbeats, the sound and scent of life and blood. His senses are raw and he can moreover feel her power.

"Americans," he mutters at the soft whisper's choice of phrasing. He lifts his head to look over his shoulder. To see the skulking figure with her basket. He recognizes her and that recognition curls his lip. "Have you come to burn another home to the ground?"

The question rhetorical, he turns around to face her, she hasn't acted, he hasn't acted. All the same, the tension about him is high. He is tired of the incursions and the harrying on his life recently. And to be visited by the same wastrel that already tried to kill him once and sent him fleeing to France of all places has him heated.

But whether it is the Beast or the Man within him that is doing more of the holding back is something that Gallon does not know. His own curiosity and consideration deep. But whatever is doing the holding does so enough for him to ask the girl. "Why have you come here?" he asks. Immediately following up with a noticed curiosity, "And why haven't you any shoes? It's cold."

Bulleta gives the Beast and the Man a broad smile with a flash of white and decides to test their resolve. Silent steps bring her forward--

-- a hand capable of exerting monstrous amounts of strength extends--

-- and she tries to trace slender fingers gently along the furry edge of a pointed ear.

"Such bloody big /ears/ you've got," she begins to explain mid-reach. The accent lingers, but in the space of seconds it's lost its undercurrent of mockery, and-- from the girl who claimed her 'British' was hit or miss the first time they met, it becomes something rather more natural. There's a lack of refinement, but it's the ostensible product of environment, now, rather than a side-effect of a desire to get under his skin.

"Got a mean demo game," she'll add if she gets the chance to. "If I'd wanted to /burn/ you, you'd have /heard/ it. No. I came to /visit/; how are we?"

"Had an intersting few months," follows after a down-up flick of blue eyes, "haven't we? Met a President and /everything/."

Gallon's lip curls when the girl approaches. But he holds his ground. Her quiet footsteps carry her close, but her reach gets a gentle dissuasion by way of a long, sharp talon held forward toward her belly. "After our last meeting, do not expect any share of trust on my accord," he warns her. "You've wronged me once already, and the damned accent may account for a second time."

He huffs at the girl and backs from her. One, two heavy steps to put pace between them. "Why do you press me, hunter? Was the forest not enough? Yes, I have pushed those humans that were robbing this home of it's dignity, but they drove me here. Once more goading me to perform. Even if that man provef a uniquely minded opponent."

The wolfman stands up in full, long arms hanging toward his knees, talons longer. "What reason do you have to 'visit' someone like me? Can you not allow me to train in peace? It makes me wonder what good seeking my humanity will do me if what I have seen of the world is all that awaits."

Bulleta stops.

Her fingers try to graze over that gentle dissuasion on their way to her side, but she stops.

"I'd like to know who you are," she replies, still entirely too buoyant for a girl facing down a wolf. Mercifully, she sheds the accent; she does /not/ stop smiling, however. At least her hand's remaining in sight.

"It really wasn't personal, y'know: I didn't /ask/ to be sent to that forest. I got a tape, in the mail, from the SNF, so I went with it."

A shrug as her empty snaps up from her side

"I wanted to train."

and catches the edge of her hood, nudging it down off of a dirty blonde ponytail that disappears into the cloak.

"And I wanted to get paid," she tacks on-- admits, the way someone else might admit to her friend that she bought a few extra lives to beat an extra-hard level of Combat Crush Saga. A few more pearly whites briefly glint in the darkness.

"But it wasn't about /you/." Blue eyes deliberately fall and her head shakes as they rise. The basket shifts to dangle in front of her from both hands. "Pretty sure you wouldn't be worth it, if it wasn't for the purse. No offense! Just means you aren't a menace to society," she says. And that the risks of hunting him wildly outstrip the going rates for werewolves, she doesn't.

"/I'm/ not your problem. The SNF's organizers aren't even really your problem; they're just doing what the bottom line tells 'em to. People are scared of you - general 'you', not you-you - but they're fascinated, too. You were fireside stories, urban legends; now you're nightly news, and world's a little stranger, more dangerous for everyone else. Watching you fight... it gives 'em a safe outlet for the fear. Lets 'em feel like you can't - /won't/ - hurt 'em, because you're all the way over /there/ getting shot up for their amusement. And maybe you /won't/ hurt 'em... but that won't make 'em wanna control you any less. Doesn't make you any less scary, because all they really wanna see is fur, and claws, and violence."

Bulleta takes a slow step forward.

"We /both/ have problems, and I think we could help each other solve them."

Gallon knows that the hunter is no ordinary girl. No mere child that could or should be scared off by the growling of the big bad wolf. He does, however, hope she has the intelligence to refrain from provocation. And, it would seem, that hope bears out when Bulleta stops her approach.

"Personal or not, my home burned, hunter," he tells her in cold and certain tones. His claw pulls away slowly. He watches her carefully. Though his brow does quirk on her stating she wanted to train, he doesn't speak on it.

"The SNF, they are the ones that have hounded me from England to France for their asinine contests." He speaks through bared teeth. He turns from her now, alighting to the top of the grand stairs with the same speed he showed in his fight with Bulleta deep in the forest. He stops to look toward the grand window opposite the portrait, looking out into the night where Paris lay in the close distance.

"People are terrified of a great many things," he judges, "Fear is a terrible justification. It shows a lack of self control" He looks back toward Bulleta, over his shoulder, his hands closing and opening, flexing tense muscle under the thick pelt of fur. "I will not suffer the indignity of losing myself to my worse natures."

"What sort of problems do you have, hunter, that you come to me without an intent to kill?" his question is simple, spoken directly though not harshly.

"You /are/ kinda the expert, aren't you?" Bulleta interjects when self-control is mentioned, low and wry.

She approaches the stairs, measured and fixed on Gallon.

"I got /other/ people to kill," she offers at a more conversational volume. "Other things, /actually/ dangerous ones. And I'm not bad," even if Gallon nearly killed her while the forest burned, "but I could be /better/."

Her eyes finally fall from rather than along him as hesitation creeps in and steals her smile away. The fire was-- is-- a problem, of course. It may not have been /intentional/, but it probably could've been avoided.

She probably could've stopped herself from laughing through it, at a minimum.

It's easy to maintain bravado when it isn't being tested. A snarling wolf/man - even an apex example of the species like Gallon - isn't much of one to an experienced Hunter, but contrition for going overboard?

Asking for help, quid pro quo or no, with a sin hanging between them?

She gives it a few ticks before managing to lift her eyes back to him and murmur, "And I thought that you could help me. We-- we /both/ went overboard, that night." One of her hands leaves the basket long enough to graze across her throat. Three fingers; one to trace each slash.

"Didn't we?"

The corners of her mouth lift a little.

"I know I... /hurt/ you, but honestly...? Your days there were probably numbered all along. They /sent/ me to you. That means that they knew where to /look/... and if /they/ knew, who /else/ did? Who else /could/, given enough time and interest? SNF wanted ratings, and I wanted a payday... but there're people out there who'd want /you/, if they could have you. People looking for warm, demihuman bodies to throw at /their/ problems... people who'd do a whole lot worse than set your home on fire."

Softly, she offers, "I just think we could learn a lot from each other, if we could figure out a way past how we met."

Gallon's eyes close. "Expert? Learned, yes, but I still have far to walk." inhales deeply, exhales same. His eyes open and he looks down the stairs, down to the girl below. The hunter fixed on his position.

"We could all be better," he states, agreeing, watching and wary. He doesn't trust her, not one iota, but he also presumes he could, if pressed, survive a second confrontation with her. There is a distant calmness to having some idea of the capabilities of the one who has wanted to kill you.

She makes excuses, he can hear them in her voice, but she strikes him as making an effort. And Gallon, beast that he is, is not as the saying goes 'inhuman'. He holds up his claw, the one that rent the lines in Bulleta's throat. "An inch is all the distance between life and death," he muses, "That's why I control myself."

He turns, moves toward Bulleta. He glides like a predator, loping, using his hand as easily as a leg to propel himself swiftly toward her, only to stand up again when he's near. "You keep saying we may learn from each other, but you are not saying what," he points out. "Speak, hunter, it will hurt you less to air it than to drag it on longer."

Bulleta is putting quite a bit of effort indeed into giving Gallon not just an apology, but an apology that feels real. She could throw herself on the ground, wail, and beg, and the tears might even be affecting... but it wouldn't be /real/, would it?

It wouldn't be 'her'.

"I need a sifu. You need to stop hiding, if you want all that learning you've been doing to be good for something... if you want people to stop /hunting/ you."

Though she's rather more subdued by now, there's still a little lightness in her tone to balance his brusque and wary demeanor. There's no shrinking from his proximity, but it makes her crane her neck some to actually meet his eyes.

"You need to know about the people who're probably gonna come looking for you next. You ever hear of the Southtown Syndicate, before you went off-grid?"

Nostrils flare, a heavy exhalation. Slow, steady scenting the air around Bulleta. Close, his jaws twitch with restrain fury. The Beast doubting the hunter, demanding safety from the predatory human. Safety, or domination. The Man rages for vengeance. But both are held back on their chains. Both are restrained so close to the small blonde girl.

She doesn't shrink, she doesn't back down, and Gallon reads of that from her. And he's still held tight and bound by suspicion and rage. "Do not presume to know what motivates me," he warns her, his tongue drags over his teeth, lip curling in a growling sneer before he leans back away from Bulleta.

He thinks on the name, he isn't familiar with it. He has been gone away from humanity for decades. He is a deal older than he appears. "I don't know them, some enemy of yours you would like to sic the dogs upon?" he asks, still ever doubtful of the Hunter's intention.

Bathed in warmth and distinctively primal scents, Bulleta's smile grows a little. There are only so /many/ presumptions wrapped up in her pitch, she figures; the rest is just good old fashioned listening.

"Some enemy of mine," she lowly agrees while letting him see her eyes briefly avert, "ever since they developed a nasty 'stalker trafficking addiction. They're the biggest group of Yakuza in Japan-- in the /world/, by default." A beat. "Like a mafia," she then murmurs, just in case. "A big, exploitative mafia with its fingers in /every/ kinda crime you could think of... including turning people like /you/ into weapons."

'People' like him. Not 'things'. Not 'creatures'. 'People', without a lick of hesitation.

"They've been in a gang war since this past summer, and that's where it /started/. It's only getting worse; they're only getting /bolder/. They're got a supplier, but /you/... she doesn't have /anyone/, any/thing/ like /you/. And like I said: they would /want/ you, bad; you're a fighter. On /top/ of everything else, you're a real-ass, trained-in-a-kwoon-or-wherever /warrior/; you'd go through through rivals like a fuckin' /thresher/ once they were done breaking you down. And I..."

Another aversion as Bulleta's smile takes on a self-conscious cast.

"... /assume/ that that's not something you want for yourself." Slowly, the Huntress reaches to touch a couple fingertips to the back of his hand.

"I know /I'd/ prefer it if you stayed... /you/, whoever that is," she softly offers. "You'd be a /nightmare/, like that; like /this/... you're one of a kind. Still enough of a man to keep the wolf in check; still enough of a wolf to do what the man can't." Her eyes look for his again after a brisk exhale.

"They're /our/ enemy, whether you buy it or not. They have more than enough reach; enough money to hire a hunter who isn't /me/, for that matter. Someone who wouldn't give a shit about how much faster the blood'd flow from those fangs, those /talons/... it's only a matter of how long before Duke Burkoff sees the right tapes and gets all the wrong ideas."

Gallon listens of his own accord. His eyes stare, reflecting the dim light of the night outward. A glow as the eyes burn with the beast held back. Threats. Coercions. Clever words. A snarling tone in the back of his mind says the take the girl, gut her, and see if any of these so called threats ever come home to roost. To call a bluff in the most direct and violent manner possible.

And his hand opens, the long lengths of his claws stroke slow cuts in the air while he listens, never relaxing, always at the ready to strike.

But there's no strike. Not when she feeds him compliments, or at least what he assumes passes for compliments in her eyes. Nor when she reaches to touch the back of his hand. Though her eyes meet the narrowed and scrutinizing look he has for her when she does look for them.

He bares his fangs, closing toward her, his snout inches from Bulleta's face. "Why this concern?" he asks, then quickly thinks, "Nevermind. Your enemies, should they be this way, will make themselves shown. Now I know of them. So be it. But I do not need to harry anyone simply because a girl asks me to."

He licks his fangs and points to a spot where the moonlight casts light through the great windows. "You claim you need a teacher? Go there, stand in the light, tell me what you wish to learn."

"How many more homes do you wanna be chased out of?"

Nose to nose with the wolf/man, Bulleta tenses without faltering. Fearlessness is one thing, but only a fool would forego basic readiness in the face of an alpha predator.

"Burkoff's got a deal going with Jedah Dohma. There's an... ... embassy," her lips curl as if the word were made of jellied eel, "in Southtown." Turning from him, she begins to pace towards the spotlight. "If he doesn't hunt you for sheer tactical value... he'll do it for favor, sooner or later. He'll do it to bring one of Dohma's... well. /He/, I'm sure, would say you're his 'subject', just waiting to be brought 'home'. Harass 'em or not, it's your call... but you might wanna consider at least looking into 'em." Moonlight washes over her and she stops. "For /your/ sake. Doesn't matter where you hide; they'll hunt you regardless."

Her head turns so she can cast a glance and a small, playful smile over her shoulder.

"Maybe you don't trust /me/... but you can trust your own senses, can't you? If I'm full'a shit, Japan's got plenty of forests to hide in too; if I'm not..."

Bulleta doesn't fill in the blank. She just turns; she can't presume to know what motivates him, after all.

"My hand-to-hand needs help," she then says once she's facing him fully. It's a soft, self-conscious admission from a young woman who often runs on confidence and audacity. "My control... my /restraint/. They need /help/. I need to find a better balance between fighting and-- hm." A soft chuckle and a flash of white as her eyes briefly fall. "'Working'," she decides to call the dance of masks and deception that tends to run parallel with her fights. "You've already seen me fight-- and you've seen me /lose/, because I lost control. Because I couldn't find the right balance between fighting you, and just... /playing/. /Trying/ to play you. So: I don't need 'a' teacher; I need-- I /want/-- /you/."

Gallon is distant, but he's been close enough to hear the tell of a rise in Darkstalkers, and of a rising tide in Japan recently. And the girl is making a point. And so he listens, and when she listens to him and walks toward the light of the moon, he follows at a distance and begins to circle her while she talks.

"None of this is any different from any other human," he tells her. "What's one when another will take their place in hunting me. I've accepted what is my lot. I can better myself, but I cannot change the weaknesses and frailties of all mankind."

He stops when she's standing, and facing him. He nods. He growls and he sighs. A pointed claw directed at the hunter. "You are not without point," he tells her. "And I will not act on your behest. But if you wish to learn, and you wish to better yourself, you have much to prove to me of your intent."

He stalks closer to her. "Your lessons will begin tonight, whelp," he growls at her. "Put aside your weaponry, you will not need them. I want to see your determination."

A low, forceful note hangs in the air for several seconds after the basket is released to crash upon marble.

"Little different," Bulleta suggests while reaching for her neck. "Most humans, they'd just kill you, use you for parts... /these/ assholes, though?"

The cloak falls and she tosses her head a bit as it does to make sure the ponytail is properly freed. The knife sheath at her hip is a handmade, crimson leather affair. The black curves and spirals inscribed all down its surface collectively form a tree with full branches. After a little unfastening, it hits the ground too.

"They'll let you live... you just wouldn't be quite so /you/, anymore."

One of her hands disappears behind her back. Black silk subtly rustles, then she crouches so a wood-inlaid .45 can be set gently atop the basket. Once she's upright again, she shows her his palms and gives a slow turn.

"No frisking," she states, abruptly devoid of even a hint of play. "You're gonna have t-- oh!"

She pauses with most of her back to him and coughs into her hand. Razor steel glints in the moonlight when a blade's flicked over her shoulder to land on the cloak.

"You're gonna have to trust me," she concludes.

Wherever he is - poised at the edge of the moonlight or circling it once more - she turns to let him see the steel in her eyes and the taut, mirthless line of her lips.

The wolfman waits. He paces, but not quite circles. He listens of these threats and these enemies. He has comments, but for now he keeps them to himself. There are other things to focus on. The girl in black that wished to learn. He would teach. Not because he felt she could learn, but that he could learn or affirm more of himself through attempting. At best, humanity will surprise him, at worst it will confirm his distaste.

Once more the question rises to his mind; what will it mean to retake his humanity? Is there even any worth to that goal?

"I don't need to trust," he tells her, "Just know that you aren't proving anything through deception. And the strike to your honor is your own to carry." As he speaks, he takes a half crouched position. He drags his claws against the floor of the chateau. He sways slowly back and forth, ready to dart, ready to move like water to strike. But nothing comes yet.

"Restrain yourself, we are in another's home, your strength will be in how little of it you can harm while putting all of yourself into your fighting," he instructs and then he adds, with what might be a coy smile of his own, "You will have to trust that I won't cut you again."

Blue steel is partially sheathed as Bulleta listens to the warnings, the challenges-- /taunts/, almost. The Huntress' body slackens, slightly, and her breathing slows-- grows mindfully rhythmic. The spark hidden in the depths of her spirit shudders in time, gradually shifting frequencies as it flows through realigning chakras. She has practiced this: with Dahlia's soldiers, with her uncles, her fellow Hunters... there are techniques for harnessing one's personal puissance to better survive the horrors of the world, and she knows her share. So making allowances for meeting the Wolf's natural advantages without the help of her handy basket isn't so bad, even if it takes a little time.

The question of how effective they'll be if his claws come into play lingers. She'll just have to trust the Man, won't she? Or find a way to pass the test this time, if she can't.

Pearly white flutters excitedly into view for a beat before she remembers: restraint. After one more exhale, she shifts her footing and-- drops her hands. Tension's evident in her-- stance? But her hands are down while her eyes scan thoughtfully over lean muscle.

"You won't~" she lightly taunts. Her eyes snap to his.

The strike that follows is direct and fearless, a lunging palm strike aimed squarely at his sternum. If she were coming for a stack of boards or bricks, there's little doubt that they'd crack for her... but bricks and boards are neither Men nor Wolves. They can't dodge; they can't fight back.

And they aren't /nearly/ as tough.

COMBATSYS: Bulleta has started a fight here.

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Bulleta          0/-------/-======|

COMBATSYS: Gallon has joined the fight here.

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////////]
Bulleta          0/-------/-======|=------\-------\0           Gallon

COMBATSYS: Gallon blocks Bulleta's Power Strike.

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////////// ]
Bulleta          0/-------/=======|==-----\-------\0           Gallon

Humans, darkstalkers, beasts, himself, Gallon has fought and trained for many a year. Past what his outward appearances suggest. The Darkstalker blood within him is too strong by half, but though he doesn't know it, Gallon's lupine father was a gallant warrior in his own right. His mother, cut down young by minions Gallon would never know. The nature he at times tries to run from and change is the very thing keeping his mind.

And that energy is palpable, he feels it in himself, and he feels the thread of connection that combat creates between him and the hunter. It readies him. He will be ready for her.

The strike comes, Gallon swiftly curls about the strike and pushes back with the force of the blow and a heavy wuffing grunt from his chest.

"Good," he tells her. "But you extended."

He lashes forward, his lean body almost melts to the floor. His tail flags as he spins, a fluff of fur that almost obscures the very human fighting method of a heavy legged sweep for Bulleta's ankles.

COMBATSYS: Bulleta blocks Gallon's Medium Kick.

[  \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////////// ]
Bulleta          0/-------/=======|===----\-------\0           Gallon

'Almost' obscures.

Bulleta steps into a snap kick that leaves her shin against his. The rest of her leg shudders instantly, a painful fuse inevitably leading to a grimace as nerves are set alight.

"I meant to," she offers, matter-of-fact as she hops free. "/Neither/ of us knows what, exactly, the other can do... so I gotta read you."

/Now/ her hands are up; /now/ her feet are set and spread for a balance of stability and speed. Right palm forward, left held back in a readied edge; knees bent, shoulders squared.

It's a perfectly serviceable stance. It's also the prelude to a lie.

As she darts towards him this time, her leg draws back for a kick-- which never comes, because she drops into a slide at the last minute. Instead, her extended leg reaches for and attempts to hook his knee, seeking some purchase to help her get both limbs coiled around his so she can wrench him to the ground.

COMBATSYS: Gallon dodges Bulleta's Power Throw.

[  \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////////// ]
Bulleta          1/-------/=======|===----\-------\0           Gallon

A strike against a block. And an explanation. "Fighting as Man does," he remarks. "Use your instinct, use your senses, girl."

The running feint, the slide, Gallon leaps over her in a rolling arc. He lands on the other side of her on all fours. It was a good kick, a good attempt, but when faced with any number of strikes low, Gallon's instinct took him upward.

He does't turn to face her, not this time. He wants to give her something to read, to judge without knowing the eyeline of her opponent. He digs his forelimbs down and thrust kicks backwards. A double-footed mulekick up and back at Bulleta. His face getting just a glimmer of enjoyment from a fight that doesn't beg for his partaking, nor does it carry the stench of blood and hatred.

COMBATSYS: Bulleta full-parries Gallon's Strong Kick!!

[  \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////////]
Bulleta          1/-----==/=======|===----\-------\0           Gallon

The missed grapple turns into a roll; the roll, a back handspring once she can't tilt her head any farther to follow his trajectory. He's /fast/. /Still/ fast; the reminder is worth his weight in gold.

Claws clatter and scrape over marble. Winter air shifts before lupine might and ripples the hem of her blouse.

She allows a tight smile,
and tries to demonstrate that they're on the same page with a sharp pivot and forearms swinging to catch the edge of his attack.

She keeps twisting afterwards until she's peeled herself from the angle of that crushing kick, then lunges forward so hands knit into a tiny hammer can take an upward swing towards his snout. The lie /is/ her instinct, but a natural sense for violence still lurks behind blue eyes alight with the thrill of a hunt that just might pay off.

"Better?" she wonders mid-strike, buoyant but without a trace of sarcasm. Dyed brows curiously arch.

Notes can be a very valuable resource, even - /especially/ - in the heat of combat.

COMBATSYS: Gallon blocks Bulleta's Crushing Strike EX.

[  \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////////////////  ]
Bulleta          1/----===/=======|====---\-------\0           Gallon

Moving swiftly. Leaping, pivoting, striking, a dance of stick and move between two partners in a synch that stands in contrast to their connection. She has learned, she is cleverer and clearer headed now than in the forest. Something, Gallon thinks, has knocked her far greater than a simple defeat. There is a marked change from the girl that fought him in the dark forests.

His kick meets nothing but air. The force propels him backward and back to his feet with the clicking of claws on flooring stones. He knows he has to be quick and ready, she was keen, a worthwhile opponent.

"Better," Gallon affirms as the hunter's small fist claps fully against his wide palm. Slapped down, the force stinging. "But not quite."

Gallon lurches downward and rolls back. Stopping in a crouch, he howls and takes to the air, a turn in the dark moonlit sky, he rushes downward with a striking heel kick.

COMBATSYS: Bulleta blocks Gallon's Diving Kick.

[     \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////////////////  ]
Bulleta          1/----===/=======|=====--\-------\0           Gallon

Bare feet slide backwards over marble for several feet as Gallon's talons dig against the Huntress' crossed forearms. As the movement begins to slow, she hops sideways to free of his inertia and takes a beat to try and shake off some of the sting already settling into her bones.

"I'll take it. For no--"

Blue eyes flick left, towards the hand now hovering near her hip. The sheath is gone; certain instincts, not so much.

Bulleta flashes a brief smirk at herself before deciding to accept the mistake and roll with it.

Dashing towards Gallon, she waits 'til she's a step or two shy of her range to abruptly pitch forward, practically /hurling/ herself towards him at an erratic angle-- almost as if she tripped. The edge of her left hand slices towards his rib-cage on her way in, intent on sneaking through his guard while he's - hopefully - trying to figure out how to adjust for the angle.

Of all the lessons she's learned since Gallon first met - and spared - her, wrenching some kind of success from failure has been among the hardest.

COMBATSYS: Gallon interrupts Medium Strike from Bulleta with Fierce Combo.

[            \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////////   ]
Bulleta          1/--=====/=======|=====--\-------\0           Gallon

Gallon, crouched low and at the ready after his kick, nods approvingly at that little glimmer of self-deprecation smirking that the hunter seems to show. Her ego, it seems, is sturdy enough to accept small mistakes of her own muscle memory. But her reliance on her weaponry shows much.

She comes for him, a quick strike, one for Gallon to once more roll over. But no, it's a feint, a last second shift of her weight, a fall but a controlled one. And one that turns, when Bulleta's knifing chop strikes his midsection, that Gallon turns into a helpful catching elbow lock.

"You know that there are others stronger than you. Perhaps faster. Your style seems Drunken," he surmises, twisting the elbow tighter and tighter in his clawed grip.

"But don't despair your tools and weapons," Gallon tells Bulleta. "Trust your body, hone it, and you will always be armed. Put your everything behind it." And with his lesson her strikes square for her chest with a sharp palm strike. With it, his foot sweeps to pick out Bulleta's ankle. All to send her crashing to the marble floor.

It works a little better with a real knife, Bulleta silently notes.

"AaaAAAUURR--!" she cries out.

Another valuable lesson, but it's going to cost her.

"-- RRRrrgh--" Trying to twist free just makes it worse; so does shifting to try and /force/ him to free her. A burning blue glare whips towards him and scours for something-- /any/ point of weakness in his powerful frame. A /very/ valuable lesson, but she'll have to /listen/ to it-- to writhe and ache while judgment boils in her ears and vengeance seethes between them.

She'll have to suffer being captured by a show of superior skill, unless she can conjure some remedy from within...

... or unless he decides to release her.

The air rushes from her lungs when he does, but despite her breathlessness-- despite her aching elbow and spine, despite tilting equilibrium... she /surges/ back to her feet shortly afterwards, still glaring. "I /am/ always--" she begins to spit while she pants and weaves from foot to foot. This, too, might seem Drunken.

Her teeth find her bottom lip. Restraint. Control.

She /asked/ to be taught, and hard lessons are the most valuable of all.

"My style's whatever it needs to be," she tersely says instead as the glare is gradually dialed back to 'determined'. "Whatever works for the target..."

Which is 'nothing', so far, tonight. He's strong and fast, tough and skillful; versatile, routinely surprising. What works for a target like him, for the perfect blend of the creatures she grew up hunting and the fighters who regularly elude her game?

Fearlessly standing before him while she worked to plant a seed of camaraderie got her this far; speed and instinct saved her from being launched into a wall by his feet. Uncle Arthur was a two time boxing champ when he was in the service.

One of these facts would not belong if not for the ducking rush she carves towards the wolf/man. Her fists remain curled near her nose until she's close enough to unload a series of rapid-fire jabs ostensibly meant to pepper his entire body with violence, but - realistically - are just to keep him busy and establish a rhythm. The lunging twist to hook her knuckles towards towards his gut - an abrupt shift in that rhythm, a solitary 16th note of sheer violence - however... /that/ might be a cause for some concern.

COMBATSYS: Bulleta successfully hits Gallon with Fierce Strike.

[           \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////////          ]
Bulleta          2/<<<<<<</<<<<<<<|=======\-------\0           Gallon

Lessons and taught and lessons learned. Pain in a controlled situation may mean living in an uncontrolled one. But Gallon was being complimentary. He didn't think the girl had any real technique to draw from. Even if amateur and self invented, what she had was close enough to a real practice to be considerable.

And the anger she shows when he snaps her to the ground, leaves her in pain, is all too familiar. If he didn't know any better, he would have expected a tail and ears to pop out from her fine clothing.

That would have at least explained why she neglected to wear shoes.

"Pragmatic," he admits, "But one's style should reflect themselves." He muses and she charges. Tap tap drills commence. Fists in, blocks low. Steady and repetitive. And clever enough to allow Bulleta to slip her knuckle in and against the werewolf's gut.

Gallon cinches, huffs a yowling sound, and leaps to the side to give some distance. He huffs and he puffs and he resumes the rolling, ever moving, coiled tension stance he calls his own.

"Good girl," he commends her, like a puppy, of course. "Maybe your style reflects more of you than I noticed."

He lunges forward, claws scratching the floor. Close in, he spins like a top, a sharply rotating back knuckle that rains down toward Bulleta's shoulder and neck. His own version, of a sorts, of what she just pulled. A respectable tit for tat.

COMBATSYS: Bulleta dodges Gallon's Fierce Punch.

[           \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////////////////         ]
Bulleta          2/<<<<<<</<<<<<<<|=======\-------\0           Gallon

"It does," Bulleta agrees, even and low. The commendation - and she's sure it was one, after a tense moment of thought - sent annoyance rippling over her for a beat before she was able to rein it in. It /was/ a compliment.

The word choice says more about /him/ than it does /her/. Probably.

"The weapons are /kind/ of a big part of it, though: you use whatever's handy, comfortable, and effective when you're hunting."

Her head and neck sharply descend as she bends herself to the ground, getting low and flat. His fist barely sails overhead and sets her ponytail briefly, gently aflutter while she continues the mirror-pattern by launching her coiled frame forward. She doesn't quite crawl or roll the way he does, though: that initial burst of inertia plus strong fingers deftly poised and drawn along marble seek to slide her beneath-- /past/-- him so that when she clasps her hands together and hammers towards his ribs, she's doing it from an unexpected angle. Rather than follow all the way through if it lands, she'll try for a sharp turn in the opposite direction, then another to buy herself some space to pick a /new/ angle.

COMBATSYS: Bulleta successfully hits Gallon with Evasive Strike.

[           \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////////////              ]
Bulleta          2/<<<<<<</<<<<<<<|=======\=------\1           Gallon

Swift and certain. The girl is impressive. Moreso than she may know, when the chips are down. Gallon doesn't comment on her piece. He's too busy cutting the air with his backfist. And shortly, the bellows blow to his own ribs that forces him back and away to rethink his approaches.

Simple minded striking will not work so well here. And she is catching on to the base application of brute force.

He remains low, quiet, and stoic in the face of the bruising. It will heal, he knows, it always heals. The pain already ebbing away from the struck sites.

The pause is temporary. Enough for a huffing breath of composure and followed with his own bestial approach. A zig-zagging strike pattern. One for quick a quick striking chop toward the broad of her back as he gives chase, only to follow up with a wild leaping aside.

COMBATSYS: Gallon successfully hits Bulleta with Aggressive Strike.

[               \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////            ]
Bulleta          2/<<<<<<</<<<<<<<|=======\==-----\1           Gallon

It only takes a moment for things to go sideways. Technically, Gallon was moving sideways a /lot/ in the moments preceding the one that matters, but Bulleta managed to track him with twitching eyes and rapid shuffling until-- she didn't.

Until he slipped behind her and pounced.

"Fuck--!" is squeezed through clenched teeth as the blow drives her to her knees, then her hands, and leaves her grimacing and panting. Gears turn. Her body begins to go slack, her features soften--


She's here because the balance between her skillsets is out of whack-- because once the masks crack and she's wrung the last ounce of sympathy/arrogance out of her audience, things get uncertain. Her ability to control the situation all but flies out the window and unless her quarry's roughly handled... she's down to sheer improvisation at that point.

And as important a part of a young actress' toolkit as improvisation is, it's become abundantly clear that Men are much less willing to 'yes, and' her choices than Beasts are.

So after a sharp breath escapes her nostrils, she curls a hand, glares down at the marble checkerboard, then rolls to her feet and sprints towards his landing point. With her fingers curled around an invisible basket, she veers abruptly right as she pulls into range, intent on leaping and spinning into a backfisted strike of her own, across his snout-- then landing and darting perpendicular to her angle of approach. A drive-by shooting while her .45 gleams tantalizingly in the moonlight.

COMBATSYS: Bulleta successfully hits Gallon with Quick Strike.

[               \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////                ]
Bulleta          2/<<<<<<</<<<<<<<|=======\====---\1           Gallon

Excellent! The wolf should not hold pride for this hunter. But her efforts so far, and her keeping her end of an unspoken bargain in her training, has endeared her in the way of competitors. It shows him that the girl is capable, even if she is unknowing, of being 'human' in a strange sense of the term.

It quells the beast, and satisfies the man to see her putting herself to task here. And when she strikes him, he seethes with a burst of self-protective fury, but also with a heated pride.

Spittle flies from his snout, he sneezes, stars in the eyes at the sudden strike to a sensitive area. But he laughs, rough and animalistic, but a laugh. "Good girl," he once more says. And this time, his response is fast and bestial. A single heavily weighted blow. A swipe toward the girl's back with the strength and aim of a lunging predator. But held, to the point, of being something of play to the weight he bears down.

COMBATSYS: Bulleta full-parries Gallon's Strong Punch!!

[               \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////               ]
Bulleta          2/<<<<<<</<<<<<<<|=======\====---\1           Gallon

Bulleta's rarely had cause to question her humanity because it's the thing - the one steady, stable piece of herself - that feeds whatever else she is.

What's more human than greed? Than using deception to get one's way? Than rage and frustration at plans gone awry?

Than stubbornly throwing oneself at a wall until it cracks, just to prove that it's possible?

"Not a puppy!" she snaps off in reply.

What, if anything, could possibly be more human than pride?

Fast, bestial reciprocation meets calculated instinct when he comes at her the way a Wolf might. Spinning /into/ his swipe, she lunges right back at him a short ways and /slams/ her forearm into his, forcing his arm aside. There's a grimace afterwards; even with the right angle for repulsion, his sheer, primal might leaves her nervous system with a dimly stinging souvenir. That arm immediately falls to her side as the other snaps forward, seeking Gallon's throat as she goes for another leaping strike. There aren't any claws - or even nails, as neat as she keeps them - for him to worry about; just the risk of having his breath stolen by a sharp blow to his windpipe.

"But thank you," she tensely allows before leaving her feet.

COMBATSYS: Gallon dodges Bulleta's Intercepting Strike EX.

[               \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////               ]
Bulleta          2/<<<<<<</<<<<<<<|=======\====---\1           Gallon

Vengeance. Anger. Exploitation. There are many things that Gallon might think are as or more human than not. But there is also one more thing, one greater thing that Gallon clings to as a reason to want to walk among humanity again. Perhaps the one thing that he already possesses in spades if he would only look inward. The desire to better oneself. Even if for pride or any other myriad selfish reasons, to better oneself betters all around.

The striking, stinging blow comes. The human girl goes for the throat. Gallon leans back, stopping just past the edge of the hunter's reach. He puts up his hands. "That's enough for tonight," he tells her, "You've traveled far to find me. Rest here until morning."

He lowers his guard and steps away from Bulleta. "What should I call you?" he asks, looking the girl over, already feeling the pain of his injuries whisk away in the moonlight as he takes a cross-legged sit on the cold floor of the Chateau.

COMBATSYS: Gallon has left the fight here.

[               \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Bulleta          2/<<<<<<</<<<<<<<|

Bulleta's already cocking a fist back as she hits the ground. It's no slight against Gallon that she doesn't drop it until he starts to sit; the opposite, if anything.

Some habits are just harder to moderate than others.

Slow, increasingly shuddering breaths accompany an equally deliberate descent into kneeling-- which quickly becomes laying back on cold marble so her poor spine can finally get a little break. They pushed each /other/; warriors are allowed to share moments of vulnerability when they're mutual, aren't they? Adrenaline courses and the rhythm she seeks to draw her breathing into bounces chaotically; Gallon might feel her spirit jittering its way back to the form and frequency it first held.

He invites her to stay.

He asks for her /name/.

Shuddering breaths bubble into laughter cut with intermitten gasps; the need for valuable O2 can't be denied, no matter how ridiculous things get. Grimaces sneak in here or there too, but she perseveres through them just fine until an unfortunate shift leads to spasming and brings a hand down to knead badly bruised muscle.

"Bulleta," she eventually offers while turning her head and a taut grin towards Gallon. "You can call me Bulleta. What about you?"

The grin grows, just a bit, to accomodate a playful edge. That accent - coarse, carefully observed - slips in:

"'Sifu Wolf''d be a bit impersonal, wouldn't it?"

COMBATSYS: Bulleta has ended the fight here.

The fighting as ended. Now for recuperation. He can sense the tenseness in the young woman's body. He can feel the quivering rage and survival instinct. How strong it is, how potent and driving it is in this girl. And then she kneels, and then she lays back. A short chuckle thrums in Gallon's chest while she lays.

She isn't so terrible when she isn't smugly burning down his home. The bravado she showed, and the challenging rage he had in him that night. The threats, the violence, the blood. The beast was furious, it howled to rip her apart. But maybe that had more to do with her approach than her herself.

After all, Gallon reflected, he had been alone so long, when was the last time he was simply approached for conversation?

His light amusement fades to a steady calm and inward consideration when she asks him what to call him, and moreover, makes a joke. He frowns deeply. He had been called Gallon, perhaps a mishearing of some French, but that was long ago. His name when he wore a human skin even longer. However. . .

"Jon," he says, "That will do."

A subdued beat.

"... Sifu Jon, then," Bulleta murmurs while studying the ceiling. No accent, no grin.

The name means she's a little closer than she was when they were kind of, sort of trying to kill each other for the Midnight Channel. She arrived tonight the same way she did then: with a story, an agenda, and a set of tools to support them. The name tells her that even if the jury's still out on how effective the story really was, she may at least be on her way to checking /something/ off of her agenda: the trust she burned that night might yet be able to be reseeded, even harvested to satisfy the curiosity he left her with as she nearly bled out.

But 'Jon' is not a /Wolf's/ name.

"Nice to meet you~" she appends, airy and ironic.

'Jon' is a step removed from the mystery that drew her to him to begin with. 'Jon' is a solitary hunter who just wants to be left alone. 'Jon' is an uncompromising and fair sparring partner.

'Jon' is a Man, and Men present a much more complicated game than Wolves do. She /hopes/ the story sticks... but if she can manage to leave France with a teacher who's more than swift and strong enough, /clever/ enough to challenge her to be better... it'll be enough. For now.

"How'd you end up like..."

Her untorqued arm stretches towards and lazily gestures around him.


The title will do. Gallon's eyes close. His breathing steadies. With each breath in he considers the situation. The girl tried to kill him. She was defeated. Something happened in between that time he left her bleeding out on the forest floor and her arrival here.

He releases the breath. She is violent. She is struggling with control. She appears not entirely as she is. She is more beast than she may know or care to admit. But bestial is not inherently bad, simply a fact of life that must be controlled and directed. She is here, she is presenting herself as learning. To what extent that is truth remains to be seen, but to deny her would be to allow himself refuge in a solitude that has so far proven ineffective in his pursuit of betterment.

Inhale. She questions him. Curiosity, or researching quarry, neither option matters. If she seeks information, he will give when he can and wills it. "Always," he tells her. "It has always been a part of me." He doesn't know the details of his birth, but he knows there was always something to set him apart.

"If you mean when did the wolf come to show? My master, the one who taught me to control myself, was killed by men for nothing but petty greed. I released myself. I killed them. I have not seen the man I was since then."

He opens his eyes and looks toward her. "As for yourself?"

"My grandma got murdered by a werewolf when I was nine," Bulleta deadpans, "so I killed him."

She lets it linger for a few moments and gives Gallon room to decide whether she's just screwing with him or not.

"I have family in the business, so they taught me what I needed to know." A brief pause, then she cracks a slight, prideful smile. "/Most/ of what I needed to know," she corrects. "We try to stick to the /dangerous/ marks, if it, y'know. /Helps/." The operative word as she rolls her head and vision towards him is 'try', but: "Way more consistent returns. The wallets /really/ fly open once the blood starts flowing, or the livestock starts going missing," might genuinely mitigate things a little.

A /little/. Maybe it's a test of /his/ control.

"Criminals, too. Real easy to get a bounty hunting license, nowadays."

There's some sympathy writ across her features now that she's looking at him again; respect, too. He didn't choose to be this way, and it wasn't even chosen /for/ him, in the way it so often is. He wasn't cursed as a cosmic punishment for ignoring warnings and wandering in the darkness of the forest; his only sin was being /born/. A distinctly unusual twist on a story as old as memory, even if the tragic twist is a little more familiar.

"You're close /enough/, still," she offers. "To the man, I mean, not the other thing. Maybe it's because you've been away for so long, that you haven't really had to /test/ it... but even still, you've been /away/, for a /while/, and you're still..."

A moment after trailing off to let him fill the blank, she flashes a grin and adds: "Trust me: I'm /kind of/ an expert."

Quiet there in the chill of the night air. The settling of the old manse, the wind in the high ceilings. The whistle of a hole cut into the window, and the myriad holes left by time and wear. And the slow, sedate, steady breath of the wolfman sat in a butterfly position. He listens to her story. He listens to her prideful explanation mixed deeply with justifications. A complicated entanglement of emotions or a desperate cover.

Either way, it didn't matter much.

"Did your vengeance satisfy you?" is his question to her, eyes opening to look at the girl. The one that might be, in some tiny way, attempting to compliment him in her own way.

He looks upward, catching the scent of the wind. "Does your money satisfy you?" he asks.

And then he turns his bright eyes once more to Bulleta. He considers her. He ponders her. He thinks about what she might be seeking, what she might be searching for that she may not know. And moreover, what of that is drawing himself. What has he lacked these many decades in isolation that denies him his humanity?

Gallon looks away from the girl, straight and forward, and his eyes close. "When you rest here tonight, whatever haunts you will not find you. I won't allow it." Simple words, chosen carefully. The wolf can poke for cracks in the pride as well.

"Ask me again when I'm done making it," Bulleta replies with a dreamy voice. There's /nothing/ produced about /that/, nor the pearly crescent it leaves behind. "It'll be a while."

After a moment's thought, the smile recedes a little.

"I grew up watching someone waste their life away doing, just, nothing - nothing /useful/, anyway - just to get by, when they could've been /thriving/," she carefully adds, growing quietly wistful. "That's not gonna be /me/. The money means I can live however I /want/, as long as I can keep making it." Her breathing's getting back under control now that they're just-- talking, again. Talking without the uncertainty that comes with the beginning of a hunt, even. Now and again, there are sharp exceptions as her spine, sternum, and elbow remind her to respect her opponents' strengths when figuring out how to leverage her own; she holds the grimaces back rather than playing them for maximum effect.

"I was nine," she then repeats, quieter still as she peers towards glowing eyes. "I just wanted my Grandma back." A slight pause. "And I thought it cool, how I could kill something that big, all by myself. But mostly... I just wished I could /tell/ her about it."

She scores his silent ponderings with quiet stories. He offers her safety and probes for cracks. Blonde brows arch and a sobered smile stretches into place.

He really /is/ clever.

"And if anyone's hunting /you/ tonight, they'll get a mouthful of lead," she pokes in turn. "The least I could do, for the hospitality. And the training."

"Thank you," she adds a moment later, even and warm. "It's been a real long year, but meeting you - /actually/ meeting you - really /has/ been helpful."

Gallon reflects. He sees himself in another time. A young man. A human man. Angry and violent. A beast in a man's skin. Training, believing in himself. And then it was taken away with a splash of blood. The iron tang and the scent of violence. And when it was over, a wolf remained.

"We have both raged for the dead. Turned out impotence against death to a cause for war. The only cost is humanity." He looks toward Bulleta. He knows how he appears, and he knows not all are so obvious in their losses.

He clears his throat, the sound loud enough to echo in the cavernous room. "If you find yourself in a moment surrounded by those weaker than you," he says, "Do not show you are strong through striking them. Defeating a weak opponent is of little value. If there is none stronger, then turn inward and defeat your worst self."

And now, though she had been touching at him since she had arrived, it is his turn. To reach, to gently place a broad, taloned hand on Bulleta's shoulder. And to grip just enough to be present. "When you are better than you are now, that will be thanks enough."

Bulleta has two friends: one is a terrier; one is a mob boss. This is by choice, ultimately, the logical end-point of a young life dedicated to a singular craft. How many other fifth graders knew how to break down a Remington 700 while blindfolded and freezing? What lunch table in the world wouldn't be cleared by a jubilant story about the way a beast gurgles when the life's being squeezed from its throat?

If there was ever a girl her age who knew enough to be /impressed/ rather than disgusted by the sight of a young vampire's freshly pulled fangs, Bulleta never got the chance to meet her.

Bulleta has two friends because she decided that the energy she could expend on bending herself into someone more suitable for her peers is better spent supporting her art. If she's going to bend, why do it for free? Why bother, when bland, gentle amiability offers enough camouflage to slide comfortably through the wilderness that is secondary education?

One lonesome hunter studies another and listens.

A Man in Wolf's clothes. A solemn martial artist wielding primal fury. An apex predator driven from the world by fear and rage-- the world's and his own, in varying measures. Whatever drove him /here/, to a French castle with portraits and moonlit corridors fit for brooding, it must run deeper than cackling and rockets, she reckons; what, after all, drove him to make /those/ woods his home?

How long could he have been able to hide from people like her?

How long did he manage to keep the Beast hidden from Man at large, before she tempted it with fire and death?

"Fear's got value," Bulleta quietly notes - reminds, surely - after taking a moment to absorb Jon's wisdom. "Psychological warfare's just part of the game... but I get your /point/: posturing and bullying doesn't do shit to make /me/ any better." Smug, leering smiles and mindless howls briefly encroach upon her psyche--

"If you've got it, you don't have to /tell/ people; they'll /know/," she murmurs once momentary tension is banished. In a sense, it's the philosophy her fighting style, such as it is, turns on: she certainly didn't /advertise/ before pulling uzis and missiles on him. The context, bound as it is to a larger lesson about restraint, is new, though.

She doesn't flinch or shift when he approaches and reaches and carefully grips. She just keeps her eyes trained on his and lightly touches the back of his hand. "I'm /going/ to be," she promises in reply. Rather than the shaky aspiration of a pupil, it carries the confident determination of a young woman who's spent years honing her craft, regardless of what it cost her in time or friends-- in humanity, whatever that really means.

Bulleta has two friends; she doesn't get to see either nearly as much as she'd like, because the job and its consequences dictate that she can't.

And she has one sifu, walking the line between violence and enlightenment in solitude. The job and its consequences dictate that she /must/ see him often if she wants to be the best she can be.

"Maybe we'll have to go with addressing your itsy-bitsy," pinched fingers are held up to his view, "agoraphobia instead," she playfully appends.

Gallon has always been alone. A babe when his mother was killed, he never knew the Lord of Wolves that was his father. His master cut down before his eyes. He cannot say with any conviction that he has ever has someone he could call a friend. And yet, he never found himself wanting. He never found himself craving anything but the solitude of his own place and meditation.

How then, he thought, could he consider himself better than he had been the night he slaughtered the murderers of his master? How much had he stagnated there in the woods. How much had he been lost there, in his own mind.

He may have beaten Bulleta that night, but more importantly she allowed him to kill the part of himself that was rotting alone and in isolation.

He still doubted humanity. He still doubted most. But he could see them. And he could swallow his pretensions to meet the world around him.

Gallon had not friends. He has a student. And that, for now, is what he needs.

And a cheeky one, at that. The wolfman growls lightly, waving a tutting claw at her. However, he admits with an expression that might be called satisfactorily cheerful. "We all have /something/ to better in ourselves."

Log created on 11:59:16 12/03/2018 by Bulleta, and last modified on 15:00:55 12/06/2018.