Honoka - Facing the Past

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Description: Once again, a prized trophy has been wrenched from Salem's grip. Once again, Scarlet Dahlia swoops in with honeyed words of affirmation and offers of assistance. Each party has something to gain from the other. But while Salem has her sights set on the future, it seems Dahlia may be looking towards the past...

One advantage of working with the Akatsuki is that their response time can generally be counted in mere minutes -- so long as one is within their sphere of influence. It's a good thing that the Battle-Fan of Meisho was within the Akatsuki sphere of influence.

Another advantage is that, due to the unsavory nature of the yakuza clan's typical activities, medical staff are -almost- as easy to reach as the bruisers and enforcers. Suffice to say, in just under half an hour, Salem would already be escorted into a warehouse near the outskirts of town, lifted up onto a wheeled bed, and rolled into a makeshift isolation chamber, walled off with rolls of plastic sheeting. It still smells of bleach -- a necessary, if hasty, precaution for the concrete floor.

It may not be the -cleanest- operating room, but it should suffice. The doctor -- a middle-aged woman with a nametag reading 'Dr. Kimura' pinned to her scrubs -- doesn't seem particularly put out about the emergency surgery, or the time of night, or... pretty much anything, really.

Her instructions were crisp, clear, and to the point. Appropriate bedside manner for a doctor smart enough to not ask questions, really. And after stablilizing Salem to make sure she's not going to bleed out on the table, Dr. Kimura hustles out of her isolation chamber to work with her other patient -- the well-muscled bruiser who was assisting her.

So Salem might be forgiven for assuming the rustle in the plastic sheeting is the doctor, when in fact the psychic presence is -completely- different. Nigh impenetrable, even.

"So we meet again, Salem." The voice of Scarlet Dahlia is unmistakable, a low tone with hints of gravel. "I understand it's not the -best- time to talk. But Kimura tells me I won't be able to get answers from our mutual friend for a few hours."

The scarred crime boss pulls a metal chair into the room. But she avoids looking directly at Salem -- or her injured body, lit as it is by a bare overhead light -- in a show of respect. She places the back of her chair to Salem, facing away.

Her voice is clinically devoid of nuance. "What can you tell me...?" The anesthetics shouldn't be -too- overwhelming, at this point.

Waking in a strange place with a woman in scrubs over her hadn't been the best first experience on opening her eyes after what had happened. Thankfully the drugs that Salem had been given had worked ensured she didn't have a chance to try anything before events were explained with crisp professionalism. Salem supposed she was happy to not be dead. She was not happy to be in this position, and the words of the swordsman still plagued her tired mind. She had been relieved of her top to better get at the wounds though there was a sheet folded kindly over her chest to save some modesty. Salem's top and the blood soaked coat were folded neatly by her feet waiting her collection when the time came. Given all of this, it ensured that on her left forearm her tattoo was painfully visible. It was inked in black and of a mandala with a skull in the center of it. It stood out rather profoundly on pale skin. Especially given Salem had suffered bloodloss.

At first when the illusionist was once again joined by a second person in the room she didn't think much of it. In part due to the anesthetics and pain medication that she'd been given. They did have the unfortunate side effect of dulling her mental abilities down so she tended to not use strong pain killers unless absolutely necessary. It wasn't until Dahlia spoke that she realized just who had come in to see her. Salem looked in the woman's direction and quietly appreciated that the other faced away from her prone figure.

"That I'm sick of random fucking sages appearing out of nowhere for one." Salem muttered, lifting a hand to rub at her face which was blessedly still masked. "Takahashi Kenshi. . .That's the name he gave me anyway after slicing me open. He took the fan too. Apparently it has a demon inside of it."

Takahashi Kenshi -- owner of the sword that Dahlia used to behead the Champion of Outworld. An enigmatic individual, and one whose damning judgment of her irritates her to this day.

There will be a moment in which Dahlia's curled fist trembles against her lap -- a moment in which she's glad to already be facing -away- from Salem.

Her voice drops a full octave. "Yeah, well. He has a penchant for the -dramatic-, to say the least..." She expels a sigh from her lips, reaching int the lapel of her coat, extracting a fountain pen. One satisfying flick of her thumb sends the pen flipping about her index and middle fingers.

It takes another moment before the Akatsuki leader can find the voice she wishes to project -- one of mutual disdain for Salem's own condition. "Why -is- it that sages are attracted to you, anyway? Blind luck? What god have -you- pissed off this year?"

The raven-haired crime boss pivots her head back -- not far enough to make eye contact, but enough so that her voice can reach without causing quite so many echoes in the small chamber.

"He got hostile with you, though? I would expect a self-proclaimed hero like him to have better manners..."

"Believe me I'd like to know too." Salem commented. "At least the people the Syndicate decided to pay me a visit with weren't quite as much of a challenge." She added off handedly. She really didn't like being drugged up. It made her looser and less focused. At the same point she couldn't say she missed the pain of the wounds she'd been gifted from the sword Kenshi carried. The voices which echoed within it had been something she hadn't experienced before. A lot of things from that fight had been something she hadn't experienced before.

"I think I might've gotten him a little upset. I /do/ tend to have that effect on people. Damn does he like to talk down to a person though." She said, breathing out a heavy sigh. The illusionist briefly considered sitting up to better have this conversation, but in the end remained on her back. Worst case scenario Dahlia decided to slit her throat. Admittedly Salem had had far better nights than this one.

"The Syndicate, too?" From the sound of Dahlia's voice, this seems to be much more of a surprise than the evening's events. "Glad that you made it out okay from that. Did you catch a name, or description...?"

Dahlia detests drugs as well -- for similar reasons. She's not above the occasional drink here and there, but she'd -much- rather have a local anesthetic than something that robs her of control. That, and any medically-induced sleep tends to last -way- longer than the night owl would like...

The Akatsuki leader smiles faintly -- yes, Salem -does- tend to rattle the nerves a bit. But at least that's another thing the two ladies have in common. Kenshi, though...

"Yeah, no shit..." Dahlia refrains from continuing, preferring instead to channel her anger into making the pen spin faster.

"We have a... history. Which it doesn't take a mind reader to figure out. Pisses me right off to know his condescending, self-righteous ass is right up in my business again, I thought I was -done- with him." Grumbling, she seems a bit calmer -- the pen's not spinning as fast, at least.

But she can also note that Salem seems to be a bit uncomfortable on the bed. Not a surprise, really.

"Mm. Kimura had plenty of opportunity to get a good look at you. She can be trusted. But I can also imagine the drugs might be... making conversation more difficult than usual."

The pen stops for a moment, grasped between Dahlia's thumb and index finger.

"If you're not ready for me to see your face, there's no pressure." And from the level, controlled sound of her voice, it seems she's sincere.

"Mhmm. What was that guy's name. . .fuck. . . Okuno that was it. Said the dagger I stole was apparently Geese Howard's property so the man personally sent his little leg breaker out. Oops." The sarcasm that could be packed into a single word was incredible sometimes. "I don't think they've got any idea I was gonna sell it to you. Just trying to send a message is all."

She's less concerned about the syndicate though. She doubted that they were that serious in going after her. That or they were and she was offended by what they thought of her power. Regardless she still had more drive to go after Noboru. Kenshi was something that she could wait on. His words needed thought on and the fight itself needed reflection.

The comment of her face, however, brought the young woman out of her musing. Her gaze returned to Dahlia's back and considered the apparent sincerity there. The illusionist wished she could get a better read on the other's emotions right about now. In the end she decided it wouldn't hurt too much. Probably. The mask she wore was only one layer to the lengths she'd gone to conceal herself. Besides, at this point if Dahlia really wanted to dig into her past and look she might be able to find it anyway. Besides, she had the perfect opportunity to dig them out of her mind if she was truly so motivated. It frustrated her and it didn't sit well with her in the slightest, but it was the truth.

"Fine, you can look." Salem said, shifting to pull the signature mask from her face. Perhaps surprisingly the face of the woman beneath lacks scars. There are no blemishes that the mind might initially speculate to be present when encountering someone who would hide their face. Her hair is a mess. Damp from sweat and ruffled from the fighting. It's brown but at the roots there is the slightest hint of pure white. Her eyes are blue and her features sharp. Running a hand through her hair she at least took comfort in being able to breathe easier without the mask on.

"Okuno." Dahlia repeats the name without any real recognition. She sure doesn't have as strong a reaction to that name as she had with Kenshi's. "Figures. The Syndicate has a tendency to underestimate who they're dealing with." She seems to be pleased that the connection hasn't -quite- been drawn to Dahlia's nefarious yakuza clan -- that should improve Salem's odds of survival.

While Dahlia is certainly concerned about Kenshi, the tiny little details about just -who- Salem is have been worrying her. And since she's gone to the trouble of footing the ascendant crime lord's medical bills... she feels like maybe it would be time to get a better look. She can certainly appreciate wanting to hide behind a mask -- after all, Dahlia herself uses a number of identities.

But once she's received permission, she does not hesitate to rise to her feet, pivoting around. Understandably, her gaze tracks along the pale alabaster flesh of her arm -- and the dark well of ink she finds there. She finds herself squinting at the skull first -- and from the purse of her lips, it seems like she appreciates the artist's attention to detail.

Then Dahlia's eyes track up to the young woman's scar-free face. Certainly, the mask was in place for quite some time, but... Hrm.

Dahlia steps forward to take a closer look. After pressing her lips together in a reserved look, she soon forges a broad, and sincere smile. "Thank you for sharing. You're -quite- attractive... it's a shame you feel the need to hide it so." Her eyes twinkle, with traces of amber, as she steps closer. Her free hand -- the one without the pen -- lifts as if she might even entertain the thought of brushing fingers through her hair, but she decides to brush it through her -own- hair instead.

"Wearing a mask for so long must be stifling." But as the moment passes, she shakes her head gently. "The proud face of a -leader-," she proclaims, moving to bridge the pen between her two hands.

"Has anyone tried to remove your mask by force? Either Takahashi, or Miyama, or... anyone else?"

It's different being without the mask. Salem had gotten used to speaking to people with it and how she didn't have to focus so much on facial expressions. That certainly is different now and of all times probably not the one in which she has the most focus to actually dedicate to the act. The compliment is well received at the very least, but it wasn't a secret that Salem was a very prideful person. The comment about her being a leader was a little one the nose though that just got a brief tightening of her jaw as memories flashed across her mind of a different time in her life. Younger. High on power and doing well on herself until it came crashing down around her.

"You get used to it if you wear one long enough. It wasn't too fun in the beginning." Salem admitted as she kept blue eyes focused on the other. "Nobody's tried to take it off. Both of them /could/ have, but they made it a point to respect I was wearing it." Kenshi certainly could have sliced straight through the mask which would have been unfortunate. She'd have replaced it, but it would have been a pain to do so.

"Speaking of Miyama," Salem added, eyes narrowing slightly. "I'm still planning on going after him and dragging his ass back. Just maybe /not/ with some mystical artifact this time I don't want some other sage showing up. That information you mentioned on the. . . what was it. . .the robo tech or whatever? I can use that. Shouldn't draw anybody else out this time."

After all the setbacks she was more determined than ever to finally get what she wanted from Noboru. Especially because she couldn't exactly consider going after Kenshi after he'd outclassed her as badly as he had. He'd just have to serve as a surrogate on top of how much Salem wanted him already for breaking in and stealing the dagger.

"Thank you. I don't mean to make you uncomfortable," concludes Dahlia with a small smile. "Everyone has their reasons." Her left hand releases the pen, as her index moves to stroke along her scarred chin. "And it's far from me to criticize the desire to place one's preferred face forward."

In other words, it's unlikely that Dahlia will be too put out if Salem feels the need to replace the mask. But that could also result in less of Dahlia staring back at those baby blue eyes.

"Respect... is an interesting thing to receive in exchange for theft and sanctimonious lecturing. ... Considering that, the word -respect- isn't one I'd use for it."

Dahlia chuckles softly, shaking her head. She still remains close to the bed, but not so much that it's smothering. "Yes... my leads on priceless artifacts are starting to dry up. So perhaps a shift of focus may be appropriate."

Dahlia slides the pen back into her lapel pocket, moving to withdraw a long, thin cellphone instead. "The neat thing about data is that you can often make copies of it. And while -many- of the servers containing data from the King of Fighters matches have been destroyed..." Dahlia taps the side of her phone. "There's a few that haven't. You see, the big -problem- with the UN's purchase of combat data is that some of it was already transferred to the customer. To wit -- I have reason to believe that at least -one- facility housing confidential combat data would be in the basement of the UN Headquarters. Specifically, a branch of foreign intelligence devoted to keeping tabs on the world's best fighters."

Her smile grows fractionally larger. "The thing is, -you- don't need to be the one infiltrating the facility first, hmm? Just spread the word... and watch the flies flock to the honey."

Salem considered the other woman's words thoughtfully. It'd be easy enough to spread information about that. Go through the right channels and whisper in the right people's ears and then just sit back and wait for the fun to start. From there it was just a matter of time and some more effort. She'd worked this hard to get Noboru she wasn't afraid to put more effort in yet.

"Should be easy enough to get that ball rolling," Salem commented. After a moment she forced herself to sit up despite the pained wince it caused her. She swung her legs over the side of the table though didn't dare try standing. The illusionist didn't exactly feel like face planting into the floor because she tried to stand, but she didn't want to be having the rest of this conversation on her back. One hand reached up to at least attempt to keep the sheet in place though she wasn't that fussed about it.

"It'd give me time to heal up too while people are doing the work for us. Always a plus." She added with a smirk quirking her lips. She drummed the fingers of her free hand on the table in thought.

"I probably won't be able to head out of Japan until I've gotten healed up better though. Damned sword." The last two words were muttered under Salem's breath and her smirk disappeared as her lips pulled into a scow. She certainly wasn't in a rush to encounter any other swordsman.

Dahlia smiles -- it wouldn't be hard to imagine the wheels turning in Salem's head. There's just so many ways to start a chain reaction with regard to information that -ought- to remain classified...

Dahlia's further thoughts on the matter are put on standby with the realization that Salem is about to sit up. Which is good a time as any to make sure that her amber-flecked eyes are pointed towards Salem's face, and not her wounds. Or the sheet.

"Healing is good, yes. We're out of harm's way here, safe from Syndicate snooping around. I've been making sure to give them obvious targets to prowl around for in other parts of the country. So you're safe to stick around here until you're well enough for another fight."

Dahlia casts her eyes over to the shirt and overcoat, folded neatly on the chair. Kimura is so thoughtful... And Dahlia is not above playing the part of a nursemaid, dutifully bringing the items of clothing over, setting them on the bed within easy reach.

"And no, I wouldn't worry overly much about Kenshi. No actual money is on the line there, I certainly wouldn't characterize my relationship with him to be a -vendetta- or any such thing. He'll turn up eventually somehow. Noboru, though... yes." She pivots aside for a moment, scrolling through the screens on her cellphone. "We'll need to close up that loose end."

Licking her lips, she breathes in a sigh of relief. "I'm glad you're still in one piece. Perils of the trade, sadly... everyone seems to want a piece of us."

"Right now I'm not really interested in going after Kenshi anyway. I like my limbs where they are thanks very much. Noboru I'm fully intending on getting to." Salem dropped the sheet and pulled on the shirt which, admittedly, didn't do much help given sections had been sliced through. It hurt to pull the shirt on thought the pain medication, which was starting to wear off, did numb the worst of it. She rolled her shoulders and considered her options. Wardrobe was going to be one of them, but that was besides the point.

"I've had worse. This hurts like a bitch but it's not going to keep me down." Salem shrugged a little, hand running through her hair once more before she grabbed the mask and pulled it on over her head. Part of her did hate that it was a comfort. She used to be loud and proud about showing her face around. Again Kenshi's words echoed through her mind about fear and power and her jaw tightened in response.

"Once I get Noboru here, what are you planning for him after all the information's gotten out of him?" Salem asked, cocking her head to the side curiously. Some people might just let him go once the dagger was secured. Other's might insist on a more permanent solution to ensure a lack of problems. Salem wasn't a stranger to either really.

"Worse, hmm? If you were in a better state I'd insist on watching you fight. As it is... I can take a raincheck on that." Dahlia laughs musically, continuing to tap buttons on her phone as she pointedly looks away, to provide a small sense of privacy in the midst of an uncomfortable room.

"Zen Buddhism insists that coveting property is a personal failing. To the samurai... the true state of enlightenment is one in which there are no attachments, material or otherwise, to the physical world."

Humming softly for a moment, she then flicks through another page on her phone. "And ninja, like Miyama, tend to be at odds with the samurai. Honor is not a big part of their lives. And material goods -- irreplacable objects?" She turns back to Salem, in order to show a broad smile. "I have a feeling he'll betray the location somehow or another. Attachment may be something the conscious mind can deny -- but the subconscious?" She flashes a sadistic grin. "And if not, who cares? I'm not one to pass up an opportunity for fun. He's been a thorn in my side for years now. I -do- hope he puts up a little bit of a fight."

Sound can be heard from the adjacent areas of the warehouse -- always the reminders that they're -not- alone, despite the isolated location. "Mm. Kimura-sensei should be finishing up. She'll probably insist that you stay for a bit longer, but..." She offers an amiable shrug. "She's used to dealing with stubborn patients."

Dahlia passes one more look over Salem's attire, her smile fading somewhat. It's... kinda cut up a bit more than she'd expected. "Do you need a ride somewhere? Or a runner, to hit up local stores on your behalf?"

Dahlia seems -exceedingly- friendly for an employer, it's true -- but as Salem's already fended off a Syndicate leg-breaker, it's not entirely unwarranted.

A bit of a laugh escapes Salem despite herself. "I could show off a bit when I'm feeling more up to it sure." She mused, thinking on the something like that happening before she nodded in response to the other woman's words. She was looking forward to getting Noboru. After everything she'd been doing to get to the man she was certain that revenge would feel particularly good. Clearly Dahlia is no stranger to holding grudges herself which should make it for an interesting conversation with the man once he was in their grasp.

Mentions of her attire had the illusionist running her fingers over the cut portions of her top. If she was feeling stronger she could just craft an illusion in order to make sure that it looked fine. Given that she was exhausted that wasn't exactly something that would be possible. As much as Salem wasn't one to like leaning on people for help this particular circumstance she'd found herself in perhaps required a bit more leeway.

"I won't turn down a ride to get back to where I'm staying." Salem admitted. She'd be able to disguise her appearance with illusions for long enough to get up into her room and go from there. That wouldn't strain her beyond her means in this current state. Besides, then she could dress in her own clothes and see about resting up.

"Well, it isn't a huge deal. More I know about your skills, the better I can tailor the jobs for you. And right now I still don't know a whole lot about you, aside from sharing my dislike for creaky hospital beds." She flashes a knowing smirk -- there's snark, sure, but no venom in her words.

The Akatsuki boss would love for Salem to get a chance to join her in some well-deserved punishment -- but that, like the UN's share of the V-Tek data records, is a -want- rather than a -need-. She's already got plenty of data on hand for her own personal projects, distributed across a number of caches throughout Japan. The best way to hold onto information, after all, is to play it close to the chest -- and leak it out incrementally as needed to con -other- people into doing her dirty work for her.

She smiles faintly as Salem assents to the offer of a ride. "I'll have Takeshi pull the van around front then." She grins at the thought of Salem walking about on the streets with full face coverage and partial midriff coverage... but that's Salem's problem, not hers.

Dahlia holds up her cellphone -- the back of it, anyway. "Once I touch base with a few contacts, I can get you more info on where the data's stored so you can lay your trap. For now, though..."

Dahlia tilts her head towards the other isolation room -- "I'll need to check on our other patient."

Amber irises turn back towards Salem with a sly grin. "If there anything else you think you might need, do let me know, hmm?"

"Will do." Salem confirmed, pulling herself slowly up to her feet and testing her balance before deciding that she was safe when her knees didn't buckle immediately. Some bedrest sounded good. Especially in an actual bed not in a place run by the Akatsuki. Much as the woman before her had been forthcoming with help and resources Salem was waiting for the hammer to fall on a return favor.

"Let me know about that data and I'll get it spread around and ready to deal with." The illusionist confirmed with a bit of a nod. She wasn't going to have any mistakes this time. There wasn't going to be another random sage showing up this time and she'd drag in Noboru and have the matter dealt with. She was looking forward to it and the satisfaction it would bring her.

"See you later, Dahlia." With shared goodbyes, Salem walked to see about that ride. Her movements were stiffer than she'd like, but her body was still fresh from getting stitched up and the pain medication was most certainly wearing off. She ignored the stares of some of Dahlia's people in the warehouse that were focused on her given her current appearance and went outside. After climbing into the van she sat back and rubbed at her temples. Just an illusion and walking to her room once she arrived and that'd be all the energy she had left to offer for the night. She could deal with spreading information, reflecting on her fight with Kenshi, and the fact that Dahlia currently knew more about her than anyone else since she'd appeared in Metro seemingly from nowhere once she'd slept for a full twenty-four hours.

"See ya. Keep in touch..." The farewell greeting is business, sure. She harbors no illusions about Salem -- she can tell the masked assassin isn't as desperate for hand-holding and attention as Bonnie. No doubt part of that is due to the nature of their agreement -- Salem's behavior makes it clear she's savvy enough to keep a mental tab on her expenses.

But that's neither here nor there. Dahlia knows one has to spend money to make money. Business is business. And for now, cooperation with the woman is working in her favor.

Dahlia -has- to find out more, though. She's -normally- able to keep from looking at her cellphone in the midst of a conversation, but to be fair... it was either this little research project or the pen, and this particular issue had some teeth. It keeps her occupied even as she rounds the corner, ambling around to the other isolation chamber.

Metro City. A skull and mandala tattoo. White hair -- noticeable to someone who stays on the leading edge of hair dyeing technology. And a mask -- though due to the way Salem reacted when it was removed, Dahlia isn't ranking that high on her priority list.

The search terms have been input, and as soon as she rounds the corner...

She smiles at the results from her queries. Five potential marks. The first three get swiped away -- and with a smile, she realizes she doesn't need to see the fifth -- as a white-haired woman with a skull and mandala tattoo scrolls up on the screen.


Log created on 10:48:02 06/18/2019 by Honoka, and last modified on 17:49:52 06/19/2019.