Brandon - Being the Gun or the Bullet

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Description: Brandon once again finds himself seeking out the counsel of his mentor in dealing with Metro City Park's current condition. In addition, he gives the mentor a heads up as to impending situation heading in Southtown's direction.

Despite the comfortable homey atmosphere a gloomy pall hangs over one of the tables near the rear of the cafe. At the centre of the ill-feeling -- two innately untrustworthy looking men with emaciated looking features, dark circles under their sunken eyes seated with their backs toward the exit. Wearing cultish dark heavy robes, though with the hoods pulled back they're polishing off what remains of their meal.

The sunflower yellow and golden woman also occupying the table broadcasts such a positive aura of sunny well-being and energy it brings the two into contrast all the more. One of the men sports a few nasty facial scars, obviously from knife fights and a few threatening facial tattoos that hint at less than savoury achievements in a gangland setting. He's lovingly cradling a woven wickerwork container the size of a large letterbox in his lap.

Trish gesticulates with her fork, speaking with the men quite casually and relatedly, when she finishes a points they two usually share a troubled look with one another or nod in agreement. Upon closer inspection the other fellow has a seam travelling around the circumference of his head and stitches ala a Frankenstein's monster, with a solitary thick tuft of hair atop his head.

The remnants of a large meal, crumbs of sandwiches and a piece of cake each, a large pot of tea in the centre of the table and used cups and saucers. A meal quite over and done with. Beside each of the table's occupants there was also a stack of travel brochures and a camera resting atop Franks pile.

And then there's a slight draft as a man wearing his signature white fedora with a black band, black button down shirt, white vest, white tie, white dress slacks, immaculately pressed. (Cantrips can save a lot on dry cleaning bills) A moment is spared to glance at the various patrons in the cafe. Almost instantly, the patron he's here to speak to is spotted and he waves to her before he grabs a seat outside of eavesdropping range.

He then pulls out a tiny hardcover notebook and studies it. He pages through it as he makes his own notes on his cellphone. Occasionally there's pages he stops for a few moments before moving to the next.

After a while he glances over to the woman as a check on her status before ordering something for himself and then returning to his studies of that small notebook.

Trish glances over as Brandon makes his entrance closing her eyes and smiling ever so sweetly in his direction. It takes a few minutes for some pleasantries to be exchanged where it's clear the meeting was coming to an end. Uncharacteristically Trish picks up the bill and hand waives away obvious and feeble protests being made by the two men. When they do all stand she hugs Frank and lowers herself to the level of the wickerwork basket and pats the top of the cage gently. The Pomeranian inside pokes his nose out and barks cutely at the stimulation and acknowledgement.

Frank picks up all their combined leaflets and brochures and hangs the came around his neck like a typical tourist, the other man now carrying the wickerwork cage by a handle atop it the two of them start to leave, long baggy sleeves of their cultist robes bumping together as the two of them walk out of the cafe, hand in hand.

Trish, smiling like a cherub thorough-out the conversations is finally free to aggro onto a new target.


The squeaal of delight accompanied by an all engulfing embrace from behind that has a very real danger of engulfing Brandon's head and shoulders in a sea of cleavage all plumped up by her hugging arms.

"It's been awhile!"

Drawing envious looks form the few remaining male patrons and a look of horror from both the waitress and the only other female diner. It was nearly impossible to compete with Trish in appearances as a woman. Trish was after all, a formidable and terrible cheat.

Trish's approach was not a surprise. The way Trish executes her approach was. The hug practically sends his hat flying to a nearby table as what little of his face can peek out from the embrace takes on a slightly redder tone.

"Lena! It's good to see you again."

He then disengages from the hug just enough to stand up so he can return the hug in kind with a smile on his face.

"May I use you as a sounding board once again?"

Trish relents and allows an escape when Brandon starts to move, her eyes having drifting to the open book and critically examining what page he was reading at the time. A strappy sunflower yellow sundress with minute pleats at the hem she hardly looks to be an authority anyone would ask much of. She looked more like an airhead heiress that was born into money.

Hardly how anyone would expect a hermit witch to act and look.

She allows the hug though in this intimate an embrace she actually stiffens up a little, a subtle reminder that a lot of what she did was a part of the act and she wasn't actually very comfortable being touched. That faint if mocking smile on her face is an acknowledgement, she did that to him just now, he got her back in return.

"Sure, as long as it's not company secrets or something I have to charge for I'm happy to help."

Trish was absolutely cut-throat and mercenary... but at least there was a closeness of sorts between them. She'd warn Brandon if it was going to cost him at this point. He was a good lad with a history of paying his dues so she liked him enough to extend the courteously.

He releases the hug freeing the pair from their mutual captivity. He pulls out a chair for her and then when she is seated he sits down in turn. That is when he closes the notebook and slides it to the side as he moves to pocket his cellphone. It wouldn't do to be distracted playing with his cellphone. It was just rude and bad for his reputation. He had enough difficulty dealing with him trying to damage his rep and didn't need to wreck it on his own as well.

"I'm sure you know how Metro City got pulled into a different realm. Well... I've recently taken on a bit of a pet project. Metro City Park hasn't grown any plant life since it returned. I'm trying to fix that."

He looks her in the eye and studies how she'd react to his project.

"After studying the various rotting plant life and the barren ground, I'm at a loss for how to restore it."

Trish takes the offered seat graciously, smoothing hands over the back of her thighs as she takes a seat. She's still drawing loads of attention and surreptitious glances but the look in her eyes is thoughtful, chasing different avenues of diagnosis with a finger raised and poised against her lips. Physically keeping her from voicing her own thoughts until she'd collected her thoughts. Her voice kept low and soft.

"It could happen in any number of ways. Since it was you I'm willing to rule out necromancy since you'd likely had detected that. A curse could likely achieve something similar. If somewhere nearby is drawing all the vital energies away, or using that area for a dumping ground..."

At this point she's raising fingers on her other hand, gold lacquered nails with a glittering clear stone embedded in the coat. Raising a finger for each new theorem and tapping that finger with the finger she had pressed to her lips.

"I suppose since there's elements of that... other place to consider. Beyond magic means there's also Parasite or Infection to rule out as cause."

It was a pleasurable mental exercise. One where she wasn't sure what means or causes he'd already ruled out. Without samples or seeing it herself there wasn't a huge amount she could do. And odds are Brandon was doing this as a charity case or pro bono. Not many parks departments thought to bring in a mage.

"Unless... have you started doing lab word and examining gravels, grasses and exactly how things are decaying. Did you take samples?"

She places an elbow on the table and lays her cheek into the cradle of her open palm. She was somewhat impressed by the nature of the case. She was teasing, naturally. But also curious if he had taken this event that seriously.

As Trish lists the potential causes for the affliction that has struck the Metro City park, he also goes over all of the details he's kept in his head about the particulars of this pet project. With each one she eliminats or notes, he continues nod.

"I had my doubts about necromancy even without attempting to sense it. Reaching out with my senses only confirmed it. Rather than unlife there was a lack of life. A sort of void. Wildlife just seemed to avoid that area."

He stroked his chin as he rolled around her thoughts in his head. Curse was possibly still on the table. He rests his hands on the table, finger tips curling and straightening as a tick to keep his hands occupied when all he wanted to do was shuffle his deck for a bit.

"While curse may still be on the table, I think there's also the possibility that it got corrupted by either ending up in that location or by process required to pull it into that other realm."

With the mention of lab work he nods in the affirmative. He was that thorough in his everyday job and saw no reason not to be on this project even if he wasn't being paid for it.

"Am I that predictable? I did take samples. Bark, twigs, dirt. Grass was nowhere to be found but I'd occasionally find leaf samples."

Nodding alongside Brandon's reasoning and elimination of one potential cause, clever clever brandon, an important diagnosis point. Her eyebrows furrow and she begins to scowl at a mention that even animals were avoiding the area. That much death and decay, it usually bred life. The insects drawn to rot, the animals that preyed upon them.

Swamp witches were huge advocates of the cycle of decay and how the living gave back to the cycle through dying and decay. Bogs also made for pretty killer security measures. That animals were avoiding this spot was an ominous sign.

"It's good that you took samples so you could study them in isolation. If they got better to slowed in decay when removed from the environment.. how they break down. It's a something I could easily be wrong about, without seeing the samples for myself! All I can think to ask--"

she paused and very slowly and deliberately asks."I. don't. suppose. That they broke down into a nice healthy mulch, like a fertilizer... or was it more of a dust?"

"Dust. Leaves ended up breaking down into a dust. Not only that, external soil that was brought in to fix it would go inert within a couple of days."

A frown forms on his face at having to give that piece of information. For even external sources of nutrients for the plant life to do nothing for the land, something extraordinary had to have happened to this land. Something beyond awful.

"Another possibility is that the process either blocked some of the energy that was supposed to go through the park creating an energy void within the grounds of the park or too much energy from the leylines are being pumped through and it's leaving a scar."

Trish instinctively moves her wrist up in front of her face, if she had a sleeve at the time she'd be guardedly covering both her mouth and nose.

"Damnu air! (shit!) You don't have any of those samples with you?"

She spits the words out as a vehement but soft curse. Reaching across the table for Brandon's hand and stands immediately as if they need to hurriedly leave. She'd been awfully neglectful and was by no means qualified to be any kind of educator; Barely a mentor at her best and not one of much note. She was angry with herself but outwardly showing more signs she was deeply concerned or worried, and notably paling.

"It might be nothing."

Her eyes drift over the other occupants of the room in a sweep that covers even unoccupied tables and walls. Mostly to make sure there was no-one she knew personally or any familiars of note in the room.

"We can talk somewhere outside with better airflow."

It was at that point the two danishes, one lemon, one cherry, arrive stacked on a small plate along with a cup of tea. He glances at the newly arrived food before returning his gaze towards Trish. He can see the color just drain from her face. Yes, he was concerned before but seeing her react like that, gave him reason to pause.

As she immediately stands up the meaning is easily conveyed and he likewise stands immediately. A trait that has endeared him to her now works against her. The need to make sure his debts are paid. He reaches into wallet and pulls out some money and leaves it on the table. His finger brushes the cup of tea allowing him to cool the tea enough to not burn his mouth and he chugs the tea quickly and grabs the two danishes off the plate before he allows himself to be led out of the door.

"Unfortunately, no. TSA made it a pain just getting even a small dirt sample out of the United States."

Trish glances back while she powers out of the cafe, heels clicking a staccato rhythm while moving quickly with a purposeful stride. The bill she'd picked up off her lunch date lying forgotten and sitting on the table abandoned.

"There are some things in this world that are especially dangerous to magicians. Typically only because we expose ourselves to it more often."

Seithr didn't discriminate much, it just gravitated towards living things. She turns into an alleyway between the cafe and the next shop over and leans against the wall, arms crossed behind and pressed to the wall.

"First of all. I'm sorry. I kind of neglected telling you about this stuff. Just one of many risks."

She openly examines Brandon top to tail, still very healthy looking and had an appetite for sweets apparently which was a better than average sign.

"How dangerous is this particular one? If you can recall your time spent there and then mentally add a Geiger counter noise that's clicking away the entire time..."

Her smile was weak, an attempt at being reassuring. But the analogy held pretty true, she wanted to give him time for that to sink in.

"Even if it IS. It could be as mild as a few extra days of sunshine, or bad enough to cause horrendous mutations and increased aggression -- or even death."

As Trish powers her way out of the cafe, Brandon follows with a raised eyebrow. The various patrons can only watch the strange behavior. As the pair suddenly veer off into the alleyway, if not for the concerned look on her face, he'd wonder how the other male patrons would react to being in this location with this woman. Instead, worry is the only thing written on his face.

When she speaks, he remains silent when she speaks. Especially dangerous to magicians? Expose ourselves to it more often? She hasn't said it specifically but he's capable enough to add two and two together to reason that she's talking about seithr.

"If you are talking about seithr, I know about that. Thankfully, it was something my uncle covered when he laid down the basics. If it's something else, let me know so we can address that."

He tries to give her a reassuring smile but some of her worry seeps into his smile.

The blonde exhales relievedly, one hand pressed to her breastbone she was just glad he was educated on the subject matter. If not how worrying the stuff was to someone who studied white magic.

"Nothing else I know of /slowly/ turns material to a dust. Disintegration is pretty much the only other method and it's much more flashy and noticeable, also quick!"

She raises a finger as if she was going to lecture.

"Just stay away from that stuff. If you absorb too much of it then there's nothing I or anyone else could do to heal you. If you got a limb cut off and were thinking to reattach it.. that'd be a little difficult when it starts crumbing away to dust in front of you."

If there were an issue of clean-up, there was just one method she knew of. Chances were he wasn't going to like hearing who had a bogart on the only known method and science behind cleaning up or containing Seithr outbreaks.

"If you've puzzled out that much already what did you need my advice on my clever boy?"

She was being patronizing quite deliberately, giving off a faint sense she was part teasing part wondering if he even needed the consult. She wasn't by any means at ease. She lifts a hand toward Brandon's cheek, an intimate looking gesture and the hand obfuscated by his body the visibly framework of her mantle appears as mana traces down the circuit lines to reveal a complex framework and scrollwork of formulae on and around her hand.

A soft hum, gentler still than a brush with flowing water, more ticklish than unpleasant or lasting damp it samples the residual aura radiating from his body and outermost layers of skin.

He notes the look of relief on her face and his own body releases the tension he was subconsciously holding in him and receives the advice to stay away from the stuff. Easily done and he has no problem with that. When he talked with Clio, he said if there was nothing that he could do about it, or if he felt he would be doing more harm than good, he would back off. He was entirely prepared to do so.

When she asks that question. What did he need her advice for? Delivered in a patronizing manner. He restrains himself from responding immediately. He needed to carefully think about his response.

"Because, while I'm familiar with seithr, I've never /seen/ anything like what happened to Metro City park. It is unfamiliar ground for me. I'm willing to acknowledge that I don't know everything and when it comes to something on the scale of what happened there I'd rather bounce things off of someone else before I make a foolish mistake that endangers the many."

He pauses as he stares at her dead in her eyes as her hand goes to his face. A slightly tingly sensation goes through him as she gets her readings off of him.

"Perhaps if Lee Chaolan was asking the right people the right questions, we wouldn't have had a pissed off Thunder God ready to end humanity."

Lisening throughout Trish eventually retracts the hand and glances at the inside of her wrist, a gold bangle shaken loose she studies it briefly enough she might have been checking the time.

"I fear it's still a case of that damage being done. Some mages have long gone into hiding for various reasons. The urge is quite strong amongst our kind to take risks or shortcuts on the paths to power. Steal what power and knowledge frim one-another. With the advent of a device that steals chi. It's only a matter of time until it becomes an uncommon commodity. No matter who holds the patents the design will leak out and the wealthy will be able to buy the health and wellbeing of the poor, or someone ambitious or evil enough could take it for themselves."

The magic community had never quite faced a crisis like this. Not since the greatest of sorcerers learned to steal souls to increase his power and knowledge had there been such an upheaval in order, with so much isolation and fear.

"Well, at least there are systems involved for such things as a seithr outbreak. But I'm afraid the ONLY group that does anything related to clean up or containment are the N-O-L. "

She mouths the letters especially quietly, liking speaking them aloud might conjured up some of the blue cloaked fascists. Arm folding across her torso she leans back against the wall once again, and folded across her torso and plumping the exposed flesh there and straining the dress to a ridiculous degree.

"They periodically have to deal with large outbreaks and they're somewhat the authority on the subject. That Ars Magus variant of magic they use tends to actually use seithr in their casting. It's part of the reason they can fill their ranks so easily that they use such a standardized and formulaic variation of casting. It's only responsibility really. They use it, so they also have to clean up the messes. Some of their facilities are positively steeped in the stuff. "

She thought she could recall somewhere dimly that they used crystals to gradually nullify the stuff in a small area. Probably it'd cause a long-time clean up or massive investment of materials.

Brandon can only nod ruefully at Trish's statement. Pandora's box has been open and while especially dangerous to the magic community there was still a danger to the community at large. It was unfortunate that his team couldn't get their hands on the schematics to destroy it.

A hard frown on his face appears on his face when the NOL is brought up as well as a shudder going through his body perceivable if one was paying extremely close attention. He wasn't exactly on NOL's radar and ideally, he'd keep it that way. The problem was, if he wanted any hope of restoring the park, he might have to put himself on their radar.

There was another matter that Brandon wanted to bring up which while encountered in Metro City, it was poised to hit closer to home for Trish.

"While I was collecting samples in Metro City, I encountered an eco terrorist who was sowing the earth with salt so that nothing may grow in that park ever again. I confronted him about it. He swung on me and fighting ensued. While we were fighting, he said what he was doing in Metro City was just a warm up and that he was going to participate in a big event here. I wanted to make sure I gave you a heads up so you would be ready when chaos breaks out."

"Don't make a face dear, you just have to drop in an anonomous tip and send them them a sample from the site, they're sure to investigate. ...Are-are you sure he was an eco-terrorist?"

It was positively SCANDALOUS that an eco-terrorist would actually destroy viable land like that. If the land was damaged beyond a capacity to be a park then they'd just develop over it, make it a damn parking lot.

"I just, have no words! Only questions that I would want to ask about his thinking."

What the hell was with this A-Team villain/captain planet baddie level thinking. Poisoning land so that it was only fit to develop over absolutely infuriated Trish in a manner she'd never shown before. She'd been afraid of the earlier mentioned mad God: Raiden and his flunkies trying to purge a city, but some group of sillies with a few bags of salt was killing off what little nature and parks were left in a city.

"Brandon. If you have cause to kick their ass most seriously, or root these crazies out then I'll offer some assistance. There's got to be some people I know who live locally and would be willing to help out."

If this nut-bar was planning on taking such stupidity international then she was definitely going to have to nip it in the bud. If a detective megamind like Brandon could expose the identity or whereabouts of the group she'd call in whatever favours she had to. Planet forsaken assholes!

"He was laying down salt because he sees the park as a piece of the city. And he looks at cities themselves as an affront to nature."

He pauses. The world may never know if that pause was for her to let that sink in or for him to reason through the nutcase's logic. Even still, he raises his shoulders in a shrug.

"I'm not sure if he's acting in concert with a group of people or if he's just using the event as a smoke screen to further his agenda. There's only so much information you can obtain while some guy in a dreaded mohawk is playing power chords on a guitar sending sonic energy and shards of broken earth flying towards you."

The detective pulls out his cellphone and shows a picture of a brown skinned man with red dreadlocks shaved into a mohawk, ragged black jeans, green vest, with a rusted, dinged up electric guitar strapped to his back. Being well versed in illusion magic does have its benefits. In this case, it's better than a police sketch artist's rendering of the perpetrator.

Trish touches a finger to the bottom edge of the cellphone angled toward her, leaning minutely closer and studying the guy in closer detail. Her eyes narrowing and lips pressed together firmly she's all but glaring daggers at the image. Though she calmed somewhat when told his motives so they seemed a little less crazy.

"That still absolutely insane."

Misguided in the very least. Trish leans away. If the guy pictured kept that outfit in his downtime then he'd likely be easy to spot, or hear coming. One arm folded across her abdomen Trish rests her elbow against her wrist, in her upturned hand held in the air she curls and rolls her fingers in the air absent mindedly.

"In the very least, you could throw that image together along with what goes to 'them.' If a militant and nosey organization starts looking into what his connection is to this incident it'll undoubtedly put some pressure on him."

NOL did love their PR. Taking care of a terrorist of any calibre would be a coup for them but it also meant they were easier to lead by the nose so long as they went after what you wanted them to.

"Earth user, and this is his go-to chosen method of fighting the system."

It felt like that HURT her on some level. It was punk as fuck, but also just as stupid as Punk could be.

After seeing the conduct of NOL officers during the King of Fighters tournament, he didn't trust them and didn't want to have any contact with them in any form. Even the mere thought of leaving an anonymous tip leaves a bad taste in his mouth as he imagines people like Hazama and Relius being sent to deal with either the Metro City park scar or the Crock individual. He doesn't quite manage to keep the look of distaste from appearing on his face.

While he did have to admit that Trish, or Lena as he was accustomed to calling her did have a point. But in the back of his mind, there was still that feeling of unease with the 'enemy of my enemy is my friend' doctrine in this particular case. He wasn't sure he wanted the NOL gaining a foothold into the US let alone Metro City through his action like they did in Southtown.

Instead he decides to focus on the picture he took of the illusory rendering of Crock and her response.

"I'd lean more towards sound user. He just seems to be able utilize it to rend the ground. Entirely possible he can utilize both. That being said, even if you don't encounter him specifically, be careful around here."

Trish truly did not want to fight anyone who used an electric guitar as a weapon. Or who was loud and obnoxious, or had crazed reasoning, values that didn't align with hers, obnoxious coloured clothing, out of date or style... oh who was she kidding? She was basically a hermit anyway. He was people, not a friend, and thusly so she innately disliked him.

Trish pauses her rolling fingers as she just stares up at Brandon while he makes a 'that face' while she had been mentioning the NOL.

"It would make sense if he were. I'll be sure and try to avoid contact with anyone like that. I don't want that kind of association being assumed about me."

Yet she was comfortable in this position and being seen with Brandon, also with the two emaciated looking tourist cultists seen earlier.

"Remember what I said about our community and using powers that are not yours, or stealing them for yourselves. If you can direct them to the correct targets the NOL are a powerful asset that borders on being friendly. Only a true mastermind would ever be able to just.. assume the reins of an organization like that. Just a few little nudges towards things you want them to take an interest in though. All they care about is maintaining face, and magical artefacts. Never, ever, expose anything near one of them you want to keep. And if you want them off your trail, you know just what to bait them with."

Or-you throw someone else you know of under the bus in order to throw off pursuit. She'd seen plenty of mages do that to one another. A lab raided, mages of many descriptions disappeared with or without signs of a struggle.

"Keep your wits about you and never underestimate them. It's easier to roll over and play dumb as a concerned member of the public than it is to appear too smart and knowledgeable for one's own good."

The Blonde bombshell bursting out off a sunny yellow dress drew a different kind of attention than those cultists had. People might have been suspicious of her connection to them but they weren't likely to immediately be suspicious OF her.

Unless they were rather bright or insightful people.

She has a point. He can't deny it. It doesn't mean he has to like it though. He still had to acknowledge that fact or else he wouldn't be true to himself. If he couldn't do that, who could he be true to?

"I wonder how many people have said the same about me barring the maintaining face and artifacts parts."

He lets out a slight laugh of amusement with a touch of self deprecation. There have been times where he felt like he was being pointed at someone for the sake of someone else's agenda but the one he was supposed to go after was legitimately in the wrong. He couldn't say he was a fan of being the one holding the gun or the bullet.

With a gesture of his hand, few bills appear in his hand. When he flicks his hand out, the bills are gone. His eyes dart down to the bracelet she was wearing that she glanced at earlier. The bills are now located there.

"Thank you for counsel. It was quite valuable, Lena."

With that, he walks away. After all, the fact that she never has to harass him to pay his debts was one of his more endearing qualities.

"I'm sure a few people have tried using you. Wise in being able to see it, and heart in doing what you want to or resolve to do anyway."

Sometimes you served your enemies interest, sometimes you served you own. Other times you made the sacrifices or were selfish enough to hurt others in order to not lose. Or just perhaps, you simply paid with money. You cancelled out your debts and kept your freedom. The rich warm smile plays across her face and she falls back against the wall. She wouldn't fight being paid for her time and Brandon cancelling any debt he might have toward her.

He'd learned this lesson, perhaps innately or maybe he was aware of it. He was a free agent, completely free to move as he wanted or choose what causes he wanted to fight for.

She genuinely loved and was enamoured with some things about him.

The white scaled serpent with gleaming green eyes twists it's head to follow Brandon's exit. Intermeshed with her mantle the snake hides amongst the framework as though it were a tall grass perfectly suited to hide in, and likewise ambush prey. It doesn't twist so much that the rolling fingers leave contact with stroking the underside of its head and chin.

"He's a clever and wonderful boy, so full of civic notions and doing good with his power. I positively envy him."

The serpent turns its head back toward her while the blonde continues to fawn over the snake, for the rest of the world a vapid woman admiring her own nails and the way the light plays off the small sparkly stones. The snake eventually lifts its head and proceeds tightly to coil around her body and rest it's head against her left shoulder, watchful after Brandon.

Trish however has to head back inside and pay a bill before the anxious waitress and proprietor calls the authorities expecting she has dined and dashed. The clinic would probably kick up another stink if the 'owner' in name only was arrested or made another public display.

Log created on 19:07:13 03/22/2020 by Brandon, and last modified on 11:07:10 03/26/2020.