Description: A cold night in Illyria. Clio St. Jeanne and the One-Eyed Twin Lotus, Jubei, discuss the results of Clio's work in Illyria and where her future is going to take her. Together, they share stories of the past and know that ahead of them may very well be the things both of them have left behind in one way, shape or form.
An empty town in the wilds of Illyria. A place where the journeying Gears and Darkstalkers have yet to find and settle for themselves. It has been Clio St. Jeanne's base of operations since she had taken to living outside of Castle Illyria. Though even she would admit she goes back toward the castle for the sake of supplies and to check in on the goings on of a nascent nation. The quiet, one road little town is vacant, and dark in the night. The lack of light pollution allowing a wide swath of stars across the sky; dappled as if a painter flicked their brush to a blue-black canvas. Lanterns are light by one of the homes, small and single room, it's Clio's primary working place. And she is within, so conjured flames give the light.
Clio is within, on the old rustic table, barely still standing, a long series of paper sheets taken from differing sources lays out, taped together here and there to form one giant hodgepodge of a sheet. Writing and marks cover the sheets. Configurations of Hermetic math, runic channels, a handful of doodles and cross outs, and more than a few coffee stains. Altogether it makes for a long and complex series of magic formulae.
Looking over the sheet is the author herself, Clio. She looks satisfied, smiling to herself as she reads over the final work. It's taken a great deal of study and insight into her old chain, into the works of the Gears, and into the remnant power of the Telluric Complex itself for her to make the final design for what she's been needing for some time; a replacement chain of her own design, for her, by her.
With that look of satisfaction, she turns and pulls her hood up, two leather ears pointing upward in a mimic of her teacher's. She steps outside, taking a cup of cold tea she had made hours ago and forgot to drink. But now she can relax, look at the stars, and think about what needs to be done. She has decided, and in finally choosing, she feels all the better for it. There only remains the task of informing those close to her of the next part of her plan.
The town is abandoned, and yet there is a plume of smoke wafting upward from a neighboring rooftop. In this case, though, the smoke rises not from the mouth of a chimney, but from the spout of a long smoking pipe. And that pipe is held by none other than the itinerant samurai master, the so-called One-Eyed Twin Lotus.
The orange-smocked cat had been here for at least a few minutes, as the bowl propped upon his lap wobbles a bit too easily to be full of burnable material. Smoke trickles from the steel tip of the kiseru, though he hardly seems to be paying any mind. He seems to be staring past the cloud-obscured moonlight, perhaps admiring the view of Illyrian mountains. Regardless, from his detached expression, and the fact that it persists for several seconds after Clio's door opens and shuts, it becomes clear that the samurai is lost in thought.
The sight of motion in his periphery, though, shakes him out of his reverie. Nose and whiskers twitch. Twinned tails stir into a steady swish-swish motion. And Jubei finds himself turning down to the hooded researcher with an amiable smile.
In a smooth motion, the bowl finds its way back into the voluminous robe, secreted away for later use. The pipe remains perched between feline fingers for the moment -- even as he vaults down from the rooftop with unparalleled grace.
Paws touch down on the pavement. Folds of orange fabric swish in front of him, describing the rapidity of the motion even as the samurai cat stands still enough to make one question whether he'd even moved to begin with. The one-eyed cat keeps the tip of the pipe turned away; even if Clio doesn't mind the smell of catnip, it'd be rude to force it upon her.
"Evenin', Clio. Another beautiful night for stargazin', mm?"
The tang of smoke is clear as a bell in the crisp mountain air of Illyria. The scent precedes Jubei, but by now is has grown familiar to Clio. It usually means this drop in by her teacher won't come with claws and combat. And for a rare moment, Clio is fine with this turn of peacefulness; usually she is all too eager for a confrontation to push her limits. Lately, however, she has been finding the limitation to herself is in her lack of a chain. The weapon was burned into her being, and not having it has left her feeling the lack. Sparring with Mai proving all too much how better she was with it than without.
"Out here is always good for the stars," she tells Jubei, her hands resting in the pocket of her hoodie. Her fingers play on the length of the rune scarred spike hidden within. "I want to remember these stars. It's been peaceful out here. I've felt better about myself than I have since Japan. Thank you for accepting me." She is quiet, composed and polite.
It does not take a great deal of empathy and knowledge of Clio St. Jeanne to tell how much of a shift in her demeanor she is showcasing. There is something weighing on her mind, and in a tired, weak smile that she gives Jubei, a distinct finality to the young woman.
"I agree," assents the scarred samurai with an amiable nod. "Enough of a sense of 'home,' but without all those so-called 'quality of life' changes." His nose crinkles with the scent of catnip and herbs, whiskers bristling with contentment.
And -- yes. Whenever one starts waxing about how good life is here, it can mean a number of things. It could be simple, romantic nostalgia -- though the nostalgic people tend to express that on a more regular basis. Perhaps it's anxiety -- a response to a change, present or near future. That would go along with the motions going on within the young woman's hoodie pockets, barely evidenced through the thick fabric, but not missed by the feline's good eye. ... Any number of things, though, really.
Perhaps it's best to just ask.
His gaze snaps to the teacup's stilled surface.
His nose wrinkles again, as his crimson eye casts upward.
"Your tea's grown cold, Clio. Something weighing on your mind?"
As with many samurai, the direct route is often best.
The tea is good and cold. Long cold. Clio has been busy. She has been lost in a great deal of thought. And it takes the direct asking of her master to finally own up to the thoughts that are on her mind. "I need to get out of Illyria," she says, words falling with a cold realization.
"Makoto found me. Mai knows I'm here. They're on my side." Words spoken more to her than the feline beside her. "I always knew they would, but hearing them and seeing them say that, it means a lot to me. But that also means the NOL are one step closer."
Quickly her hand darts up to intercept a remark she sees coming. "I'm not still on that. I know they're strong and together we're stronger. I'm not afraid and I don't need to shoulder everything myself. What I mean is, I need to be at my best again. And that means I need a weapon. I need a chain."
She turns and drinks from the tin of tea. Her face screws up at the bitter and cold brew, coughing before she can wave a hand toward the cat and sputtering up a less than dignified "C'mon."
"This is it. This is the formulaic series I've put together from what I've learned. Part of it is my old series, but I found faults, flaws in the work that was done before. Don't think it's intentional, just that my own understanding of magic is different from the arcanists that made my fire chain." The explanation comes with Clio showing off the long chain of paper all taped in a line. She puts her index and small finger at the edge of the symbols and whispers, her other hand curling a circle and whorl into the air. At once the length of paper flares to a fiery light. A crackling shade and azure and indigo, almost a negative of fire. And yet the paper doesn't burn.
"I don't quite know how I'll do it, but I'm going back to Metro City. I've been looking into things here, but, honestly I just want something from home. I don't need anything fancy and I never have. Just something sturdy, metal and heavy." She pulls her hand from the paper and the fight fades off into rippling and then into nothingness. "I also need a few rail spikes and there ain't shit here for that," she adds in a more off hand way.
The black and white cat flashes a tranquil smile in response. As if he had wanted to suggest such a thing for quite some time, but preferred to hold his tongue. The old cat certainly hadn't expected the adventurous girl to spend any great length of time anchored to a fixed location, and yet... well. Considering all she'd been through, some time for recuperation was necessary. And, well... she's been hard at work with her plans for her life post-NOL.
Jubei's mouth parts as the NOL is mentioned, but his objection isn't given a chance to find its voice. It's a testament to how well the two know each other, that Clio knows -when- he's about to speak. Again, the tranquil smile occurs. There's... really no -need- for him to interrupt -- just to show his interest, and his willingness to stand by her. To fill the father role for one young woman, if not the one he -should- have been present for.
When bidden, he steps inside. He's long since ceased being amazed by Clio's mastery of the arcane arts -- but he's not really any closer to understanding the formulae she's drafted out. The diagrams mean little to him without explanation. NOL's filled Clio's head full of arcane symbology, shorthand that continually eludes the grizzled old cat. It's almost as if the people running the nefarious librarium didn't -want- him to understand. He'd need to study the symbols for hours just to follow along, but... well, it's like showing sheet music to a musical prodigy who'd never learned how to read it.
"I never much got along with book learnin', myself."
And yet, as Clio traces the lines...
That is when Jubei can hear the rhythm, feel the beat.
The wavefronts pull at his fur, sending his whiskers a-flutter.
There is no need for him to study what has manifested before him.
Blue light flickers in his eye as he nods with appreciation. "Now -that's- somethin I can help with." Despite the suggestion, there's no worry of interference; his paws will remain as they are, folded behind his back, unless Clio makes a direct request. That's just the way the Twin Lotus operates.
"I can't remember the last time I saw a train, it's true," he offers with a laugh. "It'd be good for you to go back to the old neighborhoods, I'm sure."
The genial cat's whiskers light up with interest as Clio mentions how she might not know -how- to get back there. "That's the fun of travelin', though, ain't it? Not really -knowing-. So many variables are out of your control. So there's less need to worry about 'em, right?" He chuckles, drawing close. Sure, -he- might not be worried. He hardly seems concerned about -anything- after the tumultuous change in Illyria, after all. But he doesn't mean to impress his worldview on her, by any stretch.
"'course, there's ways to get around. Sacred Order's probably a good place to start. And from there, well... If you need help with tickets, I'm told I'm a natural at this inter-web-net stuff."
The genial cat's whiskers twitch yet again, as his eye twinkles with amusement. "You goin' alone, or would you feel better with some company from a grumpy ol' cat?"
"Before I went to the academy, I would've said the same thing about books," Clio says, her voice rings distant, held in thought. Has it really only been a few short years? So much of who she was, who she is, what she's doing has changed so quickly that she hadn't had much time to take that kind of reality in. And in the moment she shares with Jubei, it weighs on her like lead.
But the more things and situations change, the more they stay the same. She knows she is her, and her ultimate goals and her values haven't changed. Not in the least. If anything, they've been strengthened by what she's gone through. And that's why she needs to return home. She needs to see how that place has changed in her absence.
It's times like this, when she thinks about herself, that she gets a dose of wisdom from her feline teacher. She looks down at him, his single eye and the twitching whisker. "Not knowing? Yeah, yeah, I guess it is. I got bored at desks and officer shit in Metro City. So I went to Japan for more action. Found more than I ever thought. It's been hell, but I can't say it's been boring." She parts from Jubei on one point, however. "Not that I don't want to worry about things, yaknow? If I wanted to not worry, I'd just have stayed with the NOL. Kept on going. I'm doing this because I worry. I want better things for the people and things I love. I like fighting, I like to feel the heat, that hurt, but it can't be why I do what I do."
She turns the spike in her hand, looking at it, at the faint embers of fire flickering along the carefully etched sigils it bares. "Any help I can get I'm going to take. I don't want to drag you off on my thing, but yeah, I ain't turning around one of the strongest people I've ever seen fight."
She pockets her spike and looks back down to Jubei. "And I'll do whatever I can for your wife. What they did to her can't be forgiven."
'Living without mistakes is truly impossible. But this is something that people who live by cleverness have no inclination to think about.' - Tsunetomo Yamamoto, /Hagakure/
Jubei has lived a life full of regrets. And yet, his wisdom comes not in being perfect, but by leaving those regrets behind him, and never before him. Changing the past is impossible -- preventing its reoccurence is different. And that is, of course, a large reason for sticking by Clio's side as much as he can. For she -- unlike many of her tender age -- has a similarly holistic point of view. She asks and answers questions few would have even thought to ask.
The parallels to his daughter are so very, very striking. And maybe, one day...
'Above all, the Way of the Samurai should be in being aware that you do not know what is going to happen next, and in querying every item day and night.' - Tsunetomo Yamamoto, /Hagakure/
Jubei responds with a knowing nod. Routine is the bane of existence -- it leads to sloppy thinking, and sloppier decisions. "One must... continually challenge themselves, if one should ever hope to grow. The respite has been... fulfilling, perhaps. But a return to Metro City would serve you well."
The Master Cat is onboard with the idea of accompanying Clio. From the glimmer in his eye, he might have even entertained the idea of shadowing the former NOL officer, whether she knew it or not. "Sure. Could be fun, travelin' with a friend for a change." Which is harder to find, a hotel that accepts pets, or a hotel that accepts bipedal cats that tote swords?
His aloof smile, though, is interrupted by the reminder of his wife. He looks down, at first, with a melancholy expression. But then his eye lifts back to Clio; his expression tightens. "I appreciate that, Clio -- I do. I don't rightly know that we -can- do anythin' for her. But your chain's gonna have to come first. Commit to that, and I'll be happy to help however I can."
The clouds covering the moon part for a moment, the night growing bright in its shades of blue and gray. Clio looks out of the window of the small, half fallen down medieval hut of an equally destroyed town held together by habitual inertia. She sees a refuge for a time. A place to find herself and center. A place to have died and learned from that death and walk through the other side.
And along the way reaffirm the bond of her friends and punch a fairy in a nice dress.
She sips the tea in her hands and shivers, tongue sticking out as she remembers the tea is far past its due for drinking. "I could use a friend that isn't supposed to be hunting me. Or is a king," she tells the wandering samurai cat. A pause, and a sharp grin, "Fuck. I have strange choices in friends, even for my life."
"But I do want to do whatever it is we can for your wife. Even if it's just hitting whoever did the necromantic shit to her. Just out of some kind of justice." Clio sighs and looks back outside, leaning her elbows on the wall where a windowsill should have been. "And I know the chain comes first. I'll be better able to do anything once I have it.
She hums a faint tune, half remembered and half in key. "What was she like?" she asks, leaning out the window to the night air. "Before she was trying to kill you with a shitload of fire."
Jubei seems... amused at Clio's repeated trials with that cold cup of tea. "Is... that teacup givin' you problems? My people have a simple remedy for that." He lazily raises his mechanical paw, continuing, "It starts by you leaving it on the end of a table, then..." He takes a horizontal swipe at the air with his paw, flashing a closed-mouth grin.
A moment later, his sober 'adult' voice takes the reins again. "But... said people tend to ... take a dim view of -my- friends as well. So you're in good company, there." His tails dart back and forth; there's more he -could- say about Kaka Village, but perhaps another time.
His ears droop, when his wife is invoked again. He trusts Clio in combat, that much is sure -- but as one of the Legendary Heroes, he has an unbiased view on the combat potential of fighters that exceedingly few of the population would.
His whiskers wilt, his hooded ears sag, his tails sweep low to the floor. "... We'd need more help to 'hit' them. The Phantom of Nine was enough of a challenge for me and you. To -free- her would involve a clash with Yuuki Terumi, and whatever other allies he brings to the fold. Two Legendary Heroes -- of which I am but one. We'd need another for me to be comfortable enough to involve you in the risk of Failure... chaining -our- souls to the same indomitable will as Nine is now."
His robes settle, as his eye closes. As Clio hums, he seems to be momentarily lost in thought.
The followup question, though? It brings about a more positive upswing to his mood. It's not a dire question, but one he could speak volumes about.
He smiles -- clearly pleased to receive the prompt.
"She's wonderful." Present tense -- because of her always being on his mind. He wanders out from the shadow of the building's frame, light spilling across his orange hood. The disc of the moon reflects in his eye as he looks upon it. His tails swish back and forth, accelerating in tune with his heartbeat.
"She's got two moods: laughing, and hard at work. She plays hard, and she works hard. Pretty much yer definition of a Type A personality."
His sleeves lower, the 'knuckles' of his mechanical paws scraping the floor as he takes a long, languid puff on his pipe.
"If y'ever get in trouble, she's the one you want by your side. S'long as you don't give her reason to pop you. Hell hath no fury an' all that."
The One-Eyed Twin Lotus thinks for a moment, the pipe dangling from his feline paw.
"And she's always right."
Jubei laughs, baring his teeth.
"And she loved Kokonoe so much. I hoped that meeting her would... break whatever enchantment was on her. But..."
Those tails swish back and forth.
"She's in there, all the same, though. Every fiery bit o' her."
Clio reaches out the window, dumping the cold tea outside. She shakes her head while walking back toward her work table and puts the cup down so it cannot be used against her again. She listens to the man talk about his wife. The love there is clear and rings true. It makes her smile to hear about Nine, and that clear commitment is why Clio is willing and wanting to give a chance to what otherwise would be something to simply kill and move on. Well, not simply kill, Nine is far far too strong for that, but the sentiment is there.
She closes her eyes and grunts, a quick flick and she knocks the tea cup off the table. It clatters on the ground with a metallic 'tink'. "We'll just have to get her on our side then. Whatever you did, well, didn't work once but that doesn't mean it didn't work. How many things have you beaten that went down on the first swing?" she asks Jubei, turning around and leaning her weight against the rickety old table. Eyes cast down to the side and the cup on the floor of the hovel, she drums her fingers on the old wooden table and has a little laugh. "So, what's your kid like? She called it 'baby'. I take it the kid isn't a kid anymore, is she?" she asks, "We gonna ever see her?"
When Clio dumped out the tea, Jubei had scratched the back of his head. It's a shame, getting rid of something that brings you joy, but if it's not doing what you need... When she actually knocks the tea cup off the table, the cat proves unable to keep a chuckle from escaping.
"Swingin' my sword only works against things that bleed. Remember what I said about Nine always bein' right?" His nostrils flare, as his eye casts downward. And... well.
With a moment's sigh, he rubs the back of his head again. It takes some effort, but he reminds himself that he's talking with someone who -doesn't- have every instant of the moment of Nine's death branded into their mind. And... he -does- have the opportunity to change the future, here -- and he offers an apologetic smile. "Sorry, Clio. Some regrets don't go away. You do have a point, I just... gotta be sure I'm bringin' the right weapon to the right fight. Charm and corny pick-up lines don't marry up too well with the point of a sword."
Then there is the question about the -other- woman in his life, who no longer is. "She ain't a kid, no. Kokonoe's more of what you'd call a 'mad scientist' type -- turned about as cold an' bitter as that tea, I figger -- much like you'd esspect of someone who grew up without a workin' set of parents. We ain't kin to her any more -- just lab rats for her to run through a maze."
Propping the pipe in his teeth, he digs around in his voluminous sleeves -- and soon produces a file photo. It's rough around the edges, faded, and it's clear he's shared it often. "Here's the kitten. She'd like to kill me for callin' her that now, o' course. I told you, didn't I, about where I took the Phantom after our fight?" On this, he seems generally unsure -- =did= he talk to her about it?
She got him to laugh. That's really what she wanted out of flicking the tin cup away. To see something of real amusement out of him, rather than the sardonics. Clio likes sardonic people, just that she knows her own habits cover up insecurity. And sometimes she needs to see the real thing in order to feel comfortable.
"Depends on who swings that sword. I mean, have you met Makoto Nanaya?" Clio asks, and for a brief moment she gets a little red in the face when she thinks about the several fist to fist confrontations she's had with her good friend. And for a moment there's a cold feeling in her chest when she thinks about the danger Mako and herself are in all the time. She groans and dismisses the thoughts while rubbing her forehead, pulling back her eared hood.
Thankfully, Jubei brings up a topic different and familiar to her. "Hey, you know I never knew my father? I don't know one thing about him, my mother never told me. My mother, mind you, that still has ties with the NOL as a researcher. And who was surprisingly okay with her ten year old girl sneaking out and picking fights with adult gang members."
The words come a little snappish, sharp edged as her spike, but Clio bites back and shakes her head. "Just saying, you can't blame yourself for your kid. I had pretty fucked up parents, too."
She leans to look at the photo, hesitant to touch it, but wanting to look. "I don't know, no. I didn't think I should pry. I just knew that The Phantom came back at some point. So that's her?" Clio's mouth quirks. "She's a cute kid."
"Can't say that I have. Reputation precedes her though." He doesn't need to know much about the Nanaya girl beyond the simple fact that Clio gets along well with her. How much he actually would trust her is limited to an unknown and finite value considering her employer, of course. His smile wanes, ever so slightly. There is a time for him to tell the tale of Nine's passing, and his guilt for it -- but not now. Not with his young companion so eager to make him smile.
"I think your mother did just fine, considerin'. The fact you had to sneak out tells me she at least made an effort."
The photo... is held out for a moment. He looks at it for a moment, frowning. "... Wish'd I'd gotten somethin' more current. As it is, though... "
The One-Eyed Twin Lotus looks around the area, pulling over a crate that can serve his needs. Hopping atop it, he props the cane in his lap. Twin tails swish along behind him, jaunting about with a perky rhythm as he speaks.
"So Nine's restrained. In my bedding, you recall, as I didn't have nothin' else what could hold her. And we got into a cab together in the back seat. Far from romantic in my intentions, lemme assure you." The pipe bobs about on his lap. "And I used my elite skills to get myself flagged by whatever arcane inter-web-net tracking system Kokonoe runs. Once she took over my phone -- I suggested it was time for a family meeting."
Jubei raises the pipe to his mouth, closing his eye and taking a good long draw. After a moment, he turns his head away, expelling the breath he was holding. "She'd led us to an abandoned farmhouse. And there she was." Turning back to Clio, he holds up the photo one more time before tucking it into his pocket. "Taller. You can tell she frowns more these days, it's plastered on her face."
Jubei wriggles his nose, his whiskers fluttering. His tails puff out with the memory.
His recollection is delivered slowly, with an even voice. "It was a trap. Kokonoe wasn't actually there -- some illusion. A hologram, yeah? She never planned to help us. Zapped Nine with some sort of... fancy ray gun. Enraged her, broke her free from her bonds. Our dear daughter was about to watch her exhausted parents tear into each other for Round Two, from the safety of her desk."
Both feline paws curl around the pipe -- though he doesn't puff from it immediately.
"And then I did what I'm best at. Ran -- for there won't no way I was gonna fight with the chance of getting captured."
He laughs, softly, afterwards. "S'pose I could elbow into Leo a bit, though. Apparently the Sacred Order's got an intelligence sharing agreement with Sector Seven -- which'd put them in cooperation with Kokonoe, somehow."
There will be a time for sharing stories like the death of Konoe Mercury. Tonight is a cold night in the dead of winter, but it's the long cold night before the days grow longer again. It's a time of coming dawns and new beginnings, of being close with those you care about and who care about you. Sometimes, those people are too far away to be with, but sometimes life allows a person to be with at least one that they can call their own.
With Clio St. Jeanne, longest night and thereabouts is usually her favorite time of the year. She's always preferred the dark and the light of the moon and stars and the neon glow of cities to guide her. This is her time, and she's awake, caring and attentive as the old man cat brags about breaking into his adult daughter room.
But the amusing images and story turn sour fast. And Clio looks down, dark and dour when the reality hits home. Trapped by his own daughter. Set up to fight for what? The sake of it? Clio shakes her head as the thoughts run in her mind. She clicks her tongue and pushes off from the worktable, which threatens to tip the whole rickety mess over. It's to the window again, to lean out of it and look up to the night sky. And there she leans for a while, collecting her opinions and rolling them into a ball.
A more tired Clio would snap or snark. A daytime Clio would've made a crack. A Clio with most of the world that isn't Jubei would have said something with a degree of levity. But tonight she can only find two words for Jubei's story. "I'm sorry."
Quiet as she is, motes of shade and fire play when her fingers begin to trace lines on the window frame. "Leo's got a lot on his plate. I would've been bugging him more but he's given me enough. I know I was invited, told to come, to be here. I was offered a spot within the Sacred Order but I don't know if I'll ever really be like them." She looks back over her shoulder, just a moment to look at the cat. "I know it's my name, but I'm no Joan of Arc. I'm not a holy warrior. I'm just a soldier. And a witch. Gay. A list of sins. I think you get the point."
She rambles. She talks quickly not to cover or obfuscate, but to move the topic away from Jubei's dual betrayals and onto something else. To find a thing for him to help at. And the old cat seemed to love giving advice.
The long nights really just make the old cat sleepy. Which can be fun in its own way -- but the lethargy gets to him.
"I 'ppreciate it, Clio." A heartfelt acknowledgement of one of the few people who he feels like actually, honestly, -sharing- his sad tales with. A sigh escapes him. "If anythin', it's me who should be apologizin' to you. Whenever I stay in one place too long I just get moody and cranky."
Regardless of whether he notices that Clio is attempting to steer him out of such a funk, it's true that the cat -does- appreciate the company. Enough so that he can dole out a portion of the snark Clio left on the table.
"And I'm a walkin', talkin' cat wanted dead or alive by the NOL. You keep -lousy- company, Clio. Consortin' with vagabonds and thieves? That makes you like... darn near any -other- interesting person I've run across in my travels." Mischievousness, thy name is cat.
With Clio watching him, he rests his pipe on the work table, balancing it just so that it won't roll over. He's old as dirt, and thus a professional at such a thing. And then... he leaps onto the adjoining windowframe; something he can only do by allowing those baggy, weapon-laden sleeves to dangle off the edge. Here in the moonlit darkness, he looks like what he actually -is-, a larger-than-average housecat with black and white fur, half Clio's size. One crimson eye looks back at the former NOL officer.
"In my experience, a lotta people who join the Church tend to have somethin' worth atonin' for." Crystals form in the chilled air as he snorts. "Lots of 'em even join the sainthood. I mean, think about it, Jesus died for those sins. It's a pretty sweet deal, Christianity. Why not take advantage of it?"
The cat's jocular tone is matched with playful swishing of his tails. It's an odd tack for him to take, pitching for a religion he doesn't necessarily believe in, but at the same time, he understands that the Sacred Order is full of good people. And unlike the NOL, it's got good -leadership- as well.
"Don't worry so much 'bout fitting in. It's overrated. One day you're here workin' on your chain, but before you know it you'll find yourself signed up for fancy parties where you're supposed to -behave- and stuff." His paw circles around his head, as he looks back through the window. Breath fogs against the window, but it's not like he wasn't already aware of the surrounding scenery by now anyway.
"Besides, heck. Joan of Arc wasn't even Joan of Arc. She did what she thought was right, even if -- at first -- no one else around her thought so. An' people followed along behind her as she carved her own path. Wonder how much charm school played into that, huh?"
The playful tone begins to falter, as he brushes his fur against the fogged window.
"What you do as a kitten's got no bearing on the steps you take now, Clio. What's done is done, and that person you were is gone now. You're -you- now. People're either gonna curse you, follow you, or shut up and get out of the way -- and that's gonna be true no matter what happens."
A furred paw brushes against his face, flicking the droplets of condensation away from himself, dammit.
He lets silence hang in the air for a good moment, before adding, "... They say petting a cat can lower your blood pressure. Do you buy into that?"
Clio laughs. "I do keep bad company. Kings, tragic heroes, a squirrel. I'm just a girl from Metro City. I beat up gang members like I'm that windmill guy. I think I'm way outta my league sometimes." She may mean it, may not, it's hard to say with the way she fobs off with a cracked grin and a shrug.
"I'm not one of them, though. I don't even think I want to be right by a god. Makes it all seem like it's worth less. Like I ain't doing it for good reasons if I'm trying to get in with some big sky guy." She shrugs, reaches out to tap at the end of the flicking tails. Just listening, talking, being in a moment and thinking about the things in front of her. It's a wide world, and the night is young. And there's a lot of it.
"People already curse me," she says, "And I wouldn't have it any other way." She laughs, stretching out until her back pops and then bending forward to touch the ground. Limbered, she returns to the cat with his subtle offer and her hand reaches to flick that condensation from Jubei's fuzzy face, and to get in a patting at the feline's jawline. Couldn't hurt to keep blood pressure low, after all.
"Dispatched in mankind's darkest hour, we are the knights of the blue flame," Clio says. "Nothing in that oath says anything about an Imperator. It's mankind's darkest hour, not one person's. I guess I just got to be that fire myself for a little while."
Windmill guy. As a traveler the world over, Jubei's certainly come across his fair share of legends and quasi-legends. Recognition glimmers in his eye as he nods back in response.
When it comes to religion, and doing it all for recognition by a god? Jubei simply smiles. "Eh -- I think a lot of religious types get it wrong. Sacred texts and sanctimonious priests are only there as cheat sheets. Shortcuts to salvation." The Lotus' twin tails flick past Clio's finger, managing to 'point' at the work on the table in the meantime. "Just like you -understand- this... magic stuff, -inherently-... well, you don't need the texts any more. Y'ain't doing it to get a grade, right?"
Jubei may be one of the Legendary Heroes, but more than that -- he's a cat. And he does not shy away from craning his neck upwards, closing his eye as she pats his jawline. The wanted criminal won't bare his neck to just anyone -- least of all a former NOL officer. But Clio? That's the power of trust.
Once he's afforded the opportunity to answer, he states, "True enough." Easiest way to get power is to convince the people that it's in their best interest. ... Doesn't mean the mission statement ain't right, just that the -motivations- might not be."
A mirthful chuckle escapes him, as his eye parts open again. "One of my favorite bits of old-man wisdom, here: 'If you're ever totally sure about somethin', yer probably wrong.' It's funny, 'cause... it only works if you only stand partway behind the statement. If you completely buy it, well, you're wrong, yeah?"
Jubei's whiskers twitch for a moment, as his eye fixates back on Clio's. And he nods, sagaciously. "It's important to think about the words. Just not -too- much. You don't wanna sound like that white-haired kitten from the Southtown branch, yeah?"
And before allowing Clio to think too much about -that- statement, he dashes his left cheek against her palm, a low purr escaping his throat. He seems to share the philosophy of living in the moment.
"I inherently can do it, I think, I get it, but I had to learn all of that. And a lot of that is stuff I figured out here," Clio explains, looking back at the work. "Some of it I had to unlearn. But yeah, not for a grade, I don't need their approval on things.
She knows Jubei is trusting her, she's trusted him to treat her as a person, his power is at such a point beyond hers that she knows if he didn't trust that things would be far far different. But here she is, stroking a cat, one that can talk and swing swords and dispense old man talking points. Then again, she had feelings for a girl with a big poofy squirrel tail. Life was strange.
She's about to question, to comment on her devotion to the quote and to the NOL. But Jubei is quick to make it clear that he's more interested in the quiet contemplation and simple contact. She quiets, leans against the windowsill and scratches her mentor behind the ear. Yeah, life is strange. Very, very strange. But for Clio St. Jeanne, the wheel of fate is turning once more. Decisions made, destiny to live. There is a world out there to push through and she had people and places to go. Illyria has been safe haven, but St. Jeanne was never one to live with simply safety as her goal. The fires she made burned too hot for that. But for now, now she could enjoy the coolness of a soft, sacred night.
Jubei smiles faintly. He has a great many doubts. And he trusts Clio to be honest to him, and to herself, when she says she doesn't need anyone's approval.
And yet, her thoughts keep wandering back to NOL. The old cat is convinced she's concerned more with the people than the organization -- and rightly so, really. The discussions are well-trod, and the two are already quite set in their ways.
It'd be really tempting, to just sit here longer -- with Clio stroking his ear, eliciting purrs he doesn't really have any interest in suppressing. Lethargy isn't really... something anyone sets out to do, but it's a difficult siren call to ignore.
It's good, then, that cats are also known for changing their minds, and following their own course.
His eye cracks open again, the purrs ebbing away. "Well. You and I both like to travel at night. We keep on like this, we'll find ourselves spendin' another night in this comfortable hide-away."
He chuckles, pulling away and licking a paw. "So, then -- first round o' negotiatin'. I propose we get ready to leave in either five minutes, or in ten. I'm all packed and ready to go." Easy statement for the One-Eyed Twin Lotus to make, since he really only carries his swords and jacket. Tails swish around, wrapping around him in circular fashion. He asks with an aloof grin: "What do you say?"
The night is cold. The air is chilled. Breath hangs like clouds and crystals in the air. Clio St. Jeanne turns from the window. She turns from her teacher, a fugitive samurai, a cat, and heads toward her work. She overlooks the plans. Any chain will do, though a heavier, larger one will be more comfortable. Something with weight and heft to take the formula work. It's just a matter of getting a hold of it. And she wanted to check in on things in Metro.
As she looks back over her shoulder to Jubei, she has a spark in her eyes. "The night's young. Let's move before dawn," she tells him, starting to roll up the long sheet of loosely held together papers and design work. "I'll leave a message with the Order. I need to thank them, but I'll have to find some other way to do that than just living on their land. I'll get out of Mai's hair, too. She can handle herself, and I know she won't be working against me. Makoto's out doing her own thing, I can't just stand back here and wait for it all to work out."
Clio St. Jeanne, former Lieutenant of the NOL, steps out into the night with a long roll of paper over her shoulder, and a starry night to light her way. She always did love the constellations. Like a city inverted over the earth. They've lead countless before her to their destinations, and now they would lead her. "Carpe Noctem."
The air is... quite honestly, perfect. If the grizzled cat weren't afflicted with wanderlust, he'd likely stay here another night, another week. And it would be good.
But there is much work to do. Staying in one place too long -- particularly in a place the Phantom is aware of -- invites disaster. And the one-eyed cat wants to see more of the world. Clio needs her chain. And maybe he can introduce the young lady to his -other- student -- another person of interest branded as a bounty by her former employer.
Jubei props his forepaws on the windowsill, fur bristling out as he stretches his back.
"Sounds good." A moment later, he bounds from the windowsill to the worktable, balancing his weight properly so as to keep it from being knocked over. One paw scoops up the pipe, propping it back in his mouth.
Jubei nods quietly to each of Clio's action items. On one hand, these might be considered unnecessary -- and on the other, Clio has many more friends than the stoic samurai does. He smiles, with that realization. "They'll understand -- in time, if not immediately," he asserts with a faint smile.
A moment afterwards, Jubei strides out of the designated workshop... and calmly announces, "While you're off doin' that, I'll sweep around for another patrol. Wouldn't want any 'surprises' for us makin' our way down."
He grins back, snapping a brief salute with his mechanical paw. "Carpe Noctem, Clio."
Log created on 11:25:09 12/21/2018 by Clio, and last modified on 15:15:24 01/05/2019.