Description: Sometimes, in order to find solutions, it helps to find a different perspective on the problem. A random encounter in Metro City between a wolf and a cat may have lasting impact on the world at large...
Metro City Park used to be such a nice place to take the family. Wide, scenic pathways winding in and out of the shade, offering a broad palette of colorful flora. A perfect and comfortable respite from the soul-crushing labyrinth of Metro City's stark postmodern landscape.
Now, there is almost none of that. Some years back, Metro City was translocated to the hellscape of Majigen. In the few savage weeks, unholy purple vines began to creep into the soil. The lack of sunlight caused the green foliage to rot away, leaving little more than poisoned soil and desiccated husks of the once-mighty goliaths. And even after the city returned to normal space -- the land was cursed.
Jubei, the One-Eyed Twin Lotus, is clearly unhappy with the current state of the park. His long, voluminous sleeves trail along behind him as he trudges along a damaged pathway. At one point, the master warrior nearly trips over a furrow in the path, two furred arms flying out of his bright orange smock as he regains his balance. The furrow itself is one of many peculiar remnants of interdimensional translocation, a twisting stress fracture that tore one section of path a half-foot to the right of the path preceding it.
No, this section of park is a barren wasteland. Jubei offers a low-pitched grunt of disappoval, his whiskers twitching as he looks off towards a roughly square patch of land that had been dug up, poorly. A wheelbarrow of soil rests off to one side, empty. And despite the considerable effort of months past, the soil remains fallow and devoid of life.
Jubei closes his ruby eye, drawing in his breath. He is not sleeping; far from it. He's reaching out with his senses.
-Nothing- about this park feels correct, any more. In any way.
'How many homes. . .'
The young woman, Bulleta, the hunter that burned his home and hunted him as prey. The hunter whose throat he tore out. The hunter that tracked him to France and spoke with him of fears and needs for insight and self-reflection. The young woman that slept with him watching over. The one that called him 'sifu'. She had spoken of the new Majigen tower. She warned him and told him of dangerous Darkstalkers, of more hunters, of more trouble. Of bandits and gangsters aligning themselves with horrors. And all of it was in Southtown.
The young student and huntress told Jon Talbain to go to Southtown. Gallon did not go.
Metro City, United States. The last time the Majigen took to arriving in the world of mortality, they rent a great city asunder. They took it for theirs and dragged it through realities eldritch. That such a threat looms over Southtown is disheartening enough. That such a threat may approach with open arms and diplomatic ties is disheartening moreso. Gallon is beast, Jon Talbain is a cynical man. The two sides of the man agree that things are not so simple as humanity suddenly opening to the idea of grand second chances.
So he has touched on American soil in search of answers to questions yet entirely formed. Ghosts of suspicions and dire considerations. Unable to take a human form, he has snuck and hidden with shadows and moved with the protection afforded by darkness. His movements through the populated streets high and low, fast as a streak of shadow in the night. And he has come to the park, a place that still bears scars and marks of the Makai. A place of natural beauty warped. A sign of both the past, and perhaps things yet to come. And maybe, just maybe, answers.
Gallon stalks the quiet furrows and pathways. He sees in the night, smells the taint of the makai's shades. He listens and hears the sounds of what might lurk, but finds mostly silence. A wavering blue shadow in the black night, Gallon studies the torn plants and sundered streets. He searches. The son of the werewolf lord, child of a makai noble murdered by Jedah himself, his past and potential hangs from him. Controlled fury, motivated by purpose, held back by the iron walls of will.
Many were overjoyed to see the city return to its proper place. But then again, many of these same people found reason to move elsewhere within months of the return. Things just weren't the same. Plants wouldn't grow properly. Buildings were misaligned, their infrastructure sometimes warped and distorted beyond use. For lack of a better term, the feng shui was all off.
And that's what Jubei has been struggling to piece together: how to move -forward- from such devastation. How to heal the land, to make it anew.
The cat who walks like humans opens his eye again, his billowy hood fluttering as he shakes his head from side to side. He wanders slowly over to the wheelbarrow, tucking feline paws back into their proper sleeves. He surveys the equipment, affirming that the creaky tools have been there for not just days, but -months-.
And then, after a moment of introspection, he stops. Ears pop up, their fabric coverings swiveling to match the movement beneath. His whiskers twitch, his nose wrinkling.
And in a moment, he turns his head. One ruby eye, scanning the darkness, the quiet furrows and pathways. He looks towards Talbain, but not with certainty or accuracy.
The wizened cat speaks into the air, his Kansai-accented voice managing to sound sagacious and cocky in the same breath.
"If one does not know what one searches for, it would be difficult to find it."
The cat offers an amiable, satisfied smile afterwards. Has he -seen- the form, sneaking about the shadows? Or is he no more than an aged, hallucinating madman, merely stabbing wildly into the darkness?
One may never step in the same river twice. Something taken through such means, even returned, will never be what it once was. The people know this. The land knows this. It's time spent have changed it irrevocably. Gallon can feel that here in this place. The stagnation. Death, destruction, loss and grief hang in the geometry here. It lingers and festers. It holds little life, but a great deal of fury.
He closes his eyes. He can feel the Makai. He can feel, in some distant way, the power of Baraba Kreutz. He doesn't know the name. He doesn't hold a memory for the wolf lord, his father, but this place seethes of the eldritch makai. And it speaks to him.
Gallon's nose wrinkles. His ear turns. He stands, tall, man-like, long arms hang low, claws rake slowly at the air. Another, speaking to him, a single ruby eye.
"I know why I hunt, that is all that is needed until the prey shows itself," he speaks, accent proper, English though rough with his throat. He watches the hooded creature, he can smell it, and he can feel it. Sight is one thing, but a wolf has many better senses to rely on.
"Are you to harangue me as well? It would seem more than a few have desire to throw themselves on my claws."
The term 'darkstalker' carries a negative connotation, but the fact remains that it is ill-defined. Certainly, it is used to refer to sentient life that wouldn't fit into the bucket of 'human,' but beyond that, there are fine points of distinction that people disagree upon. Is Jon Talbain, or Gallon, a darkstalker? Is he a darkstalker only when he bears the characteristics of a werewolf?
Perhaps more appropriately -- is -Jubei- a darkstalker? He's... not even atypical. He's a cat. A housecat. Just one who happened to learn how to walk upright, to speak human languages, to master the ancient arts of the samurai.
And if a housecat were to face a wolf in an empty field, the housecat would qualify for another term as well.
And yet, Jubei is unshaken by Gallon's gruff response. His stance is just as open, aloof, and casual as before. Twin tails rise in straight diagonals, showing his alertness and total lack of hostility.
"Ah, you're a hunter? Last I heard, the humans put up -rules- against that sort of business within city limits."
The ruby eye twinkles with amusement, as the wide sleeves of the orange frock tuck behind the cat's back. Whether that is timidness, or simple humility, remains to be seen.
"Besides... It's only a harangue if you think you're the one being criticized, rather than the doddering fool who spoke. But yer lettin' me get ahead o'myself."
The sleeves drop to the feline's sides, as he lowers his shoulders for a proper Japanese bow.
"Please forgive my impropriety. You seem nice enough." There is a slight pause, as if acknowledging the dissonance of misinterpreting a veiled threat as a sign of politeness. "Call me Jubei, if y'like."
A Darkstalker is a Darkstalker. To Gallon, it means inhumanity, though he may approach the term stripped of its connotations. Humanity defines the term, it is their word. To quibble over whether or not he feels himself a Darkstalker is immaterial in the face of hunter's who have decided for him.
And so, to Gallon, the feline creature before him is a Darkstalker. That does not mean alliances are so easily determined. Humanity is fractious, so to are Darkstalkers. This cat may be Jedah's, or he may simply be alone. But fear cannot be part of Gallon's evening. Speculation matters not. Only the moment.
He closes his eyes, inhales the night air and it's quietude. He will not underestimate this cat, but neither will he consider danger. "Humanity hunts," he answers, "Do not be fooled into thinking otherwise." A point of the claw to the blades on Jubei's back, "Or are those decoration?"
The point transitions to a dismissing wave. "You are forgiven." He turns to look into the night, searching the shadows, listening deeply, following the scars of this place and absorbing its atmosphere. "I am called Gallon, but you are mistaken if you consider me 'nice'" He states, falling into a crouch, scratching a long claw against what used to be footpath.
"Were you here when this occurred?" he questions, head tilting to look toward the cat.
Jubei grins widely enough to bare his fangs. "Heh. The way I see it, Gallon, the fact that you see fit to warn me speaks more to your character than your denial does." He shrugs his shoulders, the point being a tacit acknowledgement of the deadly artifacts slung about his back. "Point taken. If I had nothin' but positive experiences with humanity I sure's heck wouldn't be spendin' so much time in a wasteland like this."
As for the question... he shakes his head slowly, a more somber expression replacing his genial smile. "Nah. When this was goin' on, I was halfway across the world, wandering through a similar mess, just outside Genoa, Italy. Same circumstances -- city just up an' vanished one mornin'." He expels a sigh, right sleeve falling to the ground as his feline paw scratches at a cheek. "Place seemed like it was a test run for -this- city. Didn't give me any clues about fixin' it though."
He pads over to the 'new' soil -- soil that had been there months by this point, and still hasn't grown so much as a weed. His claws unfurl, raking through the soil like tillers. "Worse, though. The people never came back to that town."
He looks up from the soil, over to Gallon. "What about you, Gallon?"
Gallon drags his claws along the misshapen paving stones, the light scraping loud in the quiet night. Scratch. Scratch. Scratch. He looks forward, focused, considering things. This isn't a hunt for information, he is finding that neither facts not figures will do much to help in this situation. The realization squeezes a heavy exhaling sigh from the lycanthrope.
"There may yet be another," Gallon says. "A tower in Japan and they have forged dark alliances. I wanted to see what lay in their wake."
He stands, head high, looking to the light of the moon in a sea of stars wiped black by the power of humanity's incandescence. "Does it look like they've returned here?" he questions, gesturing around himself. "I've lost homes to humanity. I've seen what they will do to flush out their prey." He shakes his head and snarls, teeth sharp, slavering, hungry. "Yet I refuse to inflict that so wantonly upon them. I will not stoop to their level, and I despise that it appears those they would call my own will do so readily."
The one-eyed cat scrapes at the soil, leaning over to one side so that he can reach down and pluck a clump of soil from his toe claws. Turning it around in his paw, he gives it a tentative sniff.
"Yeah, I heard about that tower. Sounds like bad news, but... placing it right there in the proverbial backyard of pretty much every powerful fighter? There's somethin' -different- about their game in that place, for sure."
Jubei's eye narrows slightly as he sniffs at the soil again, and the air. He seems... ambivalent towards the portrait of humanity Gallon seems to be painting. And yet, he can respect it all the same.
"An' you say you're not nice." He answers with a lopsided grin. "There's currently more o' them than there are us, I think. So there's an argument that it could be pragmatism more than hopin' for the best in people -- I get that."
The cat lets the soil fall away through his fingers, sprinkling back into the plot of fallow land. "At some point though, studyin' the problem stops giving you any new answers, yeah? How do you wake up seven billion people to what's goin' on under their own noses?"
"You know that it's different from here or Genoa?" Gallon asks, head inclined. "What sort of insight do you have. I can feel your power, you are not one to be trifled with, Jubei." He studies the coated cat, the swords, that eye. He could smell the blood.
Gallon is not a fan of humanity, he does not mince his words. He has walked on both sides and for his cynical loathing, he still desires the potential. There is begrudging pain to his tones. "I am not a nice man. I simply refuse to harbor weakness. To burn their home when they have taken mine, it is nothing but pettiness. I can move on. I yet live and train."
He closes his eyes. He thinks of her words. He snarls at himself. "I do not do this for humanity's sake, nor for the Darkstalkers capable of controlling themselves. I simply seek to push my limits, and if they are so keen on displaying their strength, then who am I to deny testing myself against them?"
"It ain't magic, or some special leap of intuition, Gallon. It -is- different." Jubei rests his elbow in one paw, reaching up to stroke his cheek with the other. "Y'see, this place, and Italy, they happened without warning. He didn't ask permission, he didn't get zoning permits, and he sure's heck didn't plant a big whoppin' spire down."
Jubei sighs, the paw reaching up to his right temple, kneading slightly. "The first two times, he just up and took the cities. This time, in Southtown... he didn't -take-. He -asked-. Like, he wants friends, or a big fight. Somethin' different."
Jubei hears the compliments that follows, but for the moment, his only acknowledgement is a lowered gaze, a humble nod. Trifling... isn't his game, it's true.
Jubei has dedicated his life to self-betterment. To improving the state of the -world- for those he cares for. And even if Gallon walks a different path, he can tell that the destination might not be all that different. He nods, with understanding. "That's beginnin' to make a bit more sense for me now, thanks. I always try and get to know who I'm talkin' with, Gallon. Keeps me from ramblin' on aimlessly."
Jubei looks up. His crimson gaze chooses the nearest of Gallon's eyes to fixate upon. "I gotta ask though. You sure there ain't more to it than simply 'pushin' yer limits?' 'Cause there's better ways to do that than pitchin' a solo fight with the biggest bully on the block."
A diplomatic approach after two failed attempts to simply steal a land away. Gallon crosses his arms, his long claws hang over his elbows. He looks off to somewhere in the middle distance, thinking, doubting, and concerned.
"As you said, Southtown is home to many a champion. Darkstalkers need not be bestial, but they may yet be predatory." He closes his eyes and clearly bites down on the bitter fury of his kind. "Humanity and Makai are not so different from one another." He is an equal opportunity grump.
But there are questions of him, and feeling the potential of the one eyed, cat, he understands that he may be in a position Bulleta was with himself in the French De Colde manse.
"Are you going to just say there are better ways? Or will you prove them?" he asks, head inclining. He will meet this feline on the matter of philosophy, but he will not take a deferent role in being lead by clever statements.
Jubei nods in slow, begrudging acknowledgement that Humanity and Makai are not so different. He might not use the word 'Makai' much, but that's not to say he's unaware of the demonic realm.
And then Gallon asks a simple question in a simple matter -- which just happens to tweak a nerve of Jubei's. "Boy..." The world-weary feline draws out the syllable for effect, intending to make it clear that he's -not- amused by the attempt to turn his logic around on itself. "You wanna ask a one-eyed cat if he thinks there was a better way to solve a problem? Pfffeh! Listen up, pup. The moment you conclude that there's just no other way, that's the moment you trap yourself in a dead-end alley. There's -always- another way, it's just that reality doesn't always give you enough time to suss it out proper."
Paws dig into the folds of his smock, as the elder cat searches around for something or other. "Whatever the Dark Lord of Brooding has up his sleeves, it's not a quick solution -- he needs time. If he didn't, he'd've taken the whole city away and we'd be talking to a crater like the last two times."
His head inclines in an angle congruent to Gallon's. "It halfway sounds like you wanna just charge up to their front door and bust some heads. Which, gotta say, that's synonymous with 'suicide' to this ol' cat. You wanna dig into somethin', it's better to find the source of it. Figure out -why- he buddied with the people he worked with. Figure out what -they- can do for him. Or why."
Finally, it seems like the cat has figured out what he was looking for. In one paw, he brings out a wrinkled, tattered piece of notepad paper with names scribbled on it.
"There it is. When he took Metro City, he held a tournament. Wanted -champions- to take his side. And these were the people who came closest to winnin'. Maybe they might've seen more of this operation than we have, yeah?"
Eyes closed, head high, proud. The cat was powerful, that much was clear. But he had a great degree of doubt. "There is never another way, only the path you choose. But you do not need to remain on it," he states, taking the cat on his own philosophical merits. "Every moment I feel the hunt and the hunger in me. The beast and the rage and the mindlessness of what I appear to be."
He holds out a hand, palm up, claws exposed, "I have torn the throat out of young hunters, felt their blood upon my claws. And I cannot say that it is wrong of me to do so."
His attention directs at Jubei. "The drive inside of me does not allow me to consider any way but my own. The way of my training and control is what it must be, only through pushing past those limits will I get what I have been searching for."
He turns from Jubei, crouches low and looks almost bestial in his hunched posture. "If I wished to simply rush in as a beast, I would already be dead. It would do you well to not presume every person you meet is in need of some form of sage advice."
With a breath, he steels himself and turns back toward Jubei, low down, taking the paper. "This will do a greater deal for my purposes," he says, taking a look at the paper, he knows who will get a great deal of help from this information. He nods and snorts. His eyes go up from the paper to the cat. "I will leave the speculation to my student. What I have is a list of names. If they help, they will help. I cannot rely on wishful thinking."
For as much as the old cat loves to talk -- he's also quite capable of listening. And he can tell that the parables he has offered as wisdom might not be as well-received by Gallon as with others he has spoken with.
He may have bristled last time his viewpoints on the Dark Messiah was challenged by Gallon. But this time, when chastened for his own presumptions? Jubei gives a smile and a knowing nod -- little more. Perhaps humble, from one point of view, but to each their own. "It's not easy, keeping the beast in check with some notion of civility. But it sure sounds like you got yourself sorted out, Gallon."
A younger cub might've been tempted to challenge Gallon's assertions further. To fight back, and clarify. But Jubei has trained a number of headstrong hotshots. He knows the pattern -- and in some small way, he understands the choices that brought Gallon to make the statements he has.
The old cat's paws slide into the folds of his smock. Moments later, the heavy metal claws swing into motion, proving that yes, the old cat -does- have the strength to lift such burdensome weapons. "Hope that list helps you then. /Wishful thinking/ has gotten me this far, no sense in ruining a good thing."
Jubei pivots his shoulders back towards the little plot of land, and the wheelbarrow beside it. He still keeps watching Gallon, of course -- but he seems to be signalling with a more closed, withdrawn stance. "Your student far from here, then? Mine... gets into her own fair share of trouble -- but she's a good kit, good head on her shoulders an' all."
Gallon has spent little time around people. He has moved on from place to privacy over the decades he has spent locked in his lycanthropic state for losing himself to the beast. A result of him giving into the ease, of existing within his limits. He allowed himself to take the wrong path then.
He's gentle with the paper, folding it carefully before tucking the paper into the sash at his waist. He sees philosophy as fighting, allow them to parry, strike and go for the kill if necessary. He treats it with the seriousness that he feels all things deserve. But for his steely force, he is not untouched by the hope in the cat's words. Even if he does find the old feline arrogant in his power.
"Mine is a killer. A violent young woman as much a beast as I am, who would use me to kill her enemies if she felt she could manipulate me to." He rests his claw over the paper fold hidden away. "I suspect she very much would like to believe she is manipulating me," he shakes his head. "But her methods and intent do not change the fact she is in need of help."
Jubei has spent a great amount of time with humans -- enough to know their strengths and weaknesses, and enough to contrast them with those of other species. He knows all too well what the -beast- entails. And while he has spent a great deal of time controlling his own bestial wrath -- he knows all too well the value in giving that wrath free rein as situations permit.
'As much a beast as I am' is a double-edged sword. Cognizance of one's state in the middle ground between beast and man is an important element of control. And perhaps, in his initial assessment of Gallon's state of mind, he was hasty to judge. But... as long as he's willing to talk, Jubei is more than willing to listen. Attentively, at that, nodding back with each word.
Jubei pivots back, facing Gallon more directly once more. Tails rise up, their tips hooking downward to resemble candy canes. "Manipulation does tend to lose its power once it is brought into the light. Still... tell me more about this student. What's she like? And... how do you seek to help her?"
"You ask a lot of questions," Gallon points out, frown coming to him. He's not commonly with people, conversing like this is bristling, off-putting. He does not appreciate the unwanted 'lessons' from the feline. It jabs at his solitude earned pride. The kind one earns when they spend so much of their lives alone.
"My student hunts Darkstalkers. I have torn her throat out. Smelled her blood. And yet already I have greater attachment to her than I do to you," he says, stood tall, talking toward the shorter Jubei. His eyes are narrow and judgmental. He considers.
"I don't trust you," he tells Jubei, "With information about my student. Not without you offering first. What does your. . .kit, learn from someone like yourself?"
Jubei grins when Gallon mentions that he asks a lot of questions. The grin is offered in lieu of verbalizing his answer right away. The nekomata listens carefully, his twin tails swishing back and forth in a slow shuttle.
And when Gallon approaches, he holds his ground, simply craning his neck to keep the wereman in perfect focus. And his grin grows wider when Gallon makes clear his doubt.
"Heh. Why'd you bring 'er up then?"
A playful jab at a fearsome predator. But the One-Eyed Twin Lotus is confident he has nothing to fear from the stoic sensei before him.
"It's a fair point though. And I got nothin' to lose by tellin' you. My student, my daughter, my departed wife... they all share a love of magic. Somethin' I was never good at, m'self."
One mechanical paw rises, and he sweeps it off to the side in an open gesture. "Y'see, they have the power to change the world. To reshape it in ways that aren't the way it used to be. When you got that kinda power... it's easy to lose sight of what matters. What -grounds- you."
He brings both paws close to him, closing their metal grip just before his heart. "So... what she gets from me is my experience. Someone to bounce ideas off'a."
As he talks, more and more, Jubei's grin seems to be borne of pride, rather than simple confidence. Pride for his student, his daughter, and his wife.
"When I ask a question, I already know the answer I'd give; that answer don't help me none. That's why I gotta step outside myself, an' see what someone else thinks."
He smiles, shrugging his tiny shoulders lightly.
"So let's move on, then, hm? What do you hope to gain from me, Gallon? What questions can I answer for -you?-"
Gallon listens, his thumbs rest tight in his sash, near the paper tucked within. He looks to the city just outside of this park, the mass of humanity that has left this place to rot and lay fallow. He has reasons for bringing them up, but he answers not when the question comes. At least the cat has enough good manners, or pride in his student, that he's willing to give and take.
He exhales deeply, but there is the slightest upturn of his jaw, an approval. He could not remain isolated and still push his limits, still exceed what he was and in turn hope to reclaim something about humanity. But as he looks around, he finds himself with greater questions.
"Do you suppose that they," he gestures to the cityscape in the distance, "Will at all find any place for us? To accept what isn't them? Do we have room in this world?"
"What is it that you see in them?"
Jubei listens patiently, holding his ground. And when Gallon asks his questions? He nods -- turning his eye downward as he considers his answers, poignantly.
"Of course they will accept us." A mischievous glint appears in his eye as he turns back up to address Gallon. "Whether it's in our lifetimes or not, now, -that's- the real challenge."
"There's always room for coexistence. Populations ebb and thrive, their numbers rising and falling in synch with the available food source. But, more to the point... wWhat do I see in humanity? I see... uncertainty. And hope.
The cat's ears fold back as he draws in a breath. His tone grows less hopeful, despite his claims otherwise.
"It's not so simple for humans as for us. Predators live for the kill. Live in the -moment-. Humans... forget that. They insist they've moved -past- killing, past the need for leaders and followers, building up these magnificent ivory towers around themselves, and yet they backstab one another on the climb to the summit. They insist that -they- bring civility to an untamed world, while only the champions prosper.
He hops up, sitting atop the wheelbarrow's bucket, and folding his legs beneath him. "What do I see in humanity? I see interesting /challenges/, Gallon. And just as with my student, I see them with the power to change the world -- and hope that our experiences, and those of others before us, will be of benefit."
His expression grows more stern, as the mechanical claws retract. The pads of his artificial paws press together in contemplation. "And of course, when some power inevitably rises, offering some grand solution to every crisis... I'll be there to needle him with persistent questions, as well. For when wishful thinking fails, you see."
His eye twinkles lightly. "You have doubts, though. Completely understandable. You seem like someone who needs... proof, to confide in, yes?"
Quiet contemplation. A question laid out to learn more. Just as the old cat is asking him, he seeks to find answers beyond the question itself. Answers for him, and about the cat.
He lowers his arms, his legs tense, claws dig into the bits of earth and shattered paving stone, hard claws scraping. He has energy, much of it, and the night is still young. His frustrations continue. But he is holding the beast, or perhaps holding the man. There are times when his cynicism raises doubt over which is which.
The cat's answers bring much to Gallon's mind. He looks to Jubei, and he shakes his head. "I am better solitary," he answers. "But if you must know, I don't speak of humanity from a point of ignorance. There was a time I was one. But that was long ago."
He licks his teeth, long and sharp. "I have lost that human form for taking the path of violence, for giving to the cruel recoup that I thought was justice. For decades I have sought to train myself, to control, so that I could walk without fear of slaughter."
Again, he looks with plaintive eyes to the city in the distance. "But I've seen them, I have watched from my isolation and seen what they do, I have learned how they comport themselves. And at times I wonder what is it that I am seeking? And what of it is worth anything?" He speaks openly with this cat. Directly. Another who has no doubt walked and seen and gives opinions that are not so simply the approach of a Darkstalker, or that of a human. He found the common ground with Bulleta in much the same way. Perhaps the cat can offer something beyond a question for his thoughts.
Part of Jubei is tempted to interrupt, to preach about his own views on mortality, on self-fulfillment. But another part of him wants to take a bath, to compulsively brush that poisoned soil out of his claws.
The old cat splits the difference by focusing wholeheartedly upon Gallon's words. His tail twitches, ever so slightly, as Gallon licks his teeth -- nature is a difficult thing to keep bottled up, even for a master samurai such as he. And... nodding proves to be all that's necessary -- there is no need to pass judgement on Gallon. After all -- while their paths may have been different, is the goal not similar?
"I have hope, Gallon... because I see humanity improve each decade. Slowly, but surely, the lower classes gain rights and statuses previously granted only to the upper classes. And yet, every day, I also see evidence to the contrary -- injuries, murders. Hateful acts, visited upon those of their own species, who ... bear only a different upbringing, or a different skin color."
Jubei's eye closes, as the claws clink, with no gap at all between them. "How can I believe in humans accepting -us-, you might ask, when they cannot even accept themselves fully?"
Jubei lets the question hang in the night air, as a light breeze wafts through. The fur of his tails, the fur of his cheeks flutters in the wind.
His eyelid creeps upward, his crimson eye reflecting the night sky. "It takes... -faith-, Gallon. Faith, to look past the worst examples of humanity. Faith, to see the best in people trying their best -- just as you try your best -- to make sense of a naturally chaotic world."
Jubei starts to draw in his breath, but abbreviates that as a secondary thought surfaces. "Understand, of course -- that I make no excuses for past behavior. What's done is, of course, -done-. And should not be forgotten, or necessarily forgiven."
He resumes his breath, considering a few moments before continuing.
"If you can forgive the aphorism -- nothing easy is worth having, and nothing worth having is easy. And faith -- -any- faith, mind you -- can provide the focus to guide one through the effort required."
Hope. A word so often used for aimless positivity. In the wake of a night in France, and a young woman that had gone from attempting to kill him to wanting his teaching. Though she may yet be trying to send him to his death, she still allowed herself the vulnerability of sleeping while he was near. Maybe, somehow, that notion was enough for hope.
"Continue to hold that," he tells Jubei. "I might not be so kind to the world, but there needs to be someone who does."
He taps a long claw against his sash. "I will take this list, I will give it to my student. She may make use of it. Thank you for your assistance."
He turns to look toward the city. "I hold little faith in anything but myself, and there are times where even that is doubtful. But I have a task laid out for me. There is yet a chance I may retake human form, and I find that I will not know whether or not that is best for me until I have it."
"I did not truly expect to find answers in America," he admits, "But you've proven me wrong. Perhaps there is hope you will prove me wrong again."
Cat snouts are good at expressing smiles, when the cats deign to actually share such a sunny expression. As Jubei does, in this case.
"Will do! As long as the net mood averages out to somewhere above 'bleak despondency,' I think we'll be alright."
The cat rocks forward, leaping out from his wheelbarrow seat. A small dustcloud rises from the diminutive landing.
"Believe in yourself, Gallon, and great things are bound to happen. Heck, I just met you, and I believe in you."
The hooded cat looks up, pressing both sleeves to his side and bowing properly. "Can't say I -want- to prove you wrong, but I'm more than happy to help. Was nice meetin' you, Gallon. Hope we can meet somewhere with a better view, and a better -scent-, next time."
The cat bares his teeth for a wholehearted smile. "... Me, I'm stuck here for a lil' bit longer, I fear. Think I might scare up some good plantin' soil, see if I can get something good to grow here."
Log created on 15:06:07 03/31/2019 by Jubei, and last modified on 10:54:13 04/03/2019.