Description: Guided by strange visions and the hunt for her red-cloaked hero, Emma heads into the fighting at Southtown, certain that if her brave rescuer can be found anywhere then it is probably in the thick of a fight against evil. Unfortunately, her naivety leads to inevitable trouble as she finds herself accosted by one of the gangsters unleashed on the city by the Dragon's antics.
Southtown is a city full of bad guys.
It's a broad blanket statement that generally holds true even on the best of days, but with the chaos unleashed by the Dragon, it's more true than usual - and also much more obvious, like a rock turned over to reveal all of the bugs crawling underneath. So obvious are the monsters, both darkstalker and human alike, that even a child-like mind, even one with a tenuous grasp on reality, can see what's going on.
Southtown is full of bad guys, and where there are bad guys, good guys always show up to save the day.
That's what brings Emma Hartzler here - not the job of saving the day; she's just a regular girl, after all.
Her quest is to find her Prince.
And her Prince is a good guy - which means that he'll probably show up to save the city anytime now.
The petite blue-eyed blonde teenager is dressed in a zipped red and white hoodie and blue jeans, the drawstrings pulled tight on her hood to try and keep warm, hands tucked away inside her sleeves. She walks carefully along the sidewalk, taking care not to step on any cracks along the way. Coming to an overturned car that's lying across her path, she carefully hops onto it with a 'hup!' before picking her way over the inverted chassis and sliding off the other side.
"I wish there was ice cream," she complains to no one in particular as she wraps her arms around herself and shivers.
"Hey, kid," the call comes not from Emma's Prince. This man lacks the grace and authority of any royal. No, the man approaching sits somewhere between "well-muscled" and "lanky," lean and hungry like a wild animal. He looks to be Japanese, with dark hair streaked with silver and swept back with a liberal application of styling gel.
He's wearing a tight-fitting t-shirt that says "FAK U" on it in big green letters as well as a pair of acid-washed jeans. Over his shirt is an open red dress shirt, untucked and unbuttoned. White, bandage-like handwraps are tied around both of his hands, but they're presently stuck into his pockets with his thumbs poking out. Each step carries with it a certain arrogant swagger as he walks.
"Girlies like you shouldn't be out in a place like this, y'know? There's lots of bad characters around these parts. Maybe some monsters still running about too." The man smiles, pulling a pack of cigarettes from his shirt pocket and smacking one out to where he can pull it between his fingers.
"Why don't you let me walk you someplace safer, eh?"
Emma stops up as she hears the voice of the lanky man, turning an apprehensive look over her shoulder before facing the fellow fully. Her blue eyes look him up and down innocently, a touch of fear in her features - until the man smiles. This seems to disarm the teen, though she quirks her lips as he takes out the cigarette.
"You shouldn't have that! It's bad for you, and against the rules!"
She looks a little embarrassed for what she's blurted out a second later, cupping a hand briefly over her mouth.
"S-sorry. I didn't mean to be bossy. I'm Emma."
She fishes into the inside of her sweater and pulls out a folded piece of paper, thrusting it up at the muscled man's face.
"I don't want to go someplace safer yet! I want to find this man. He'll protect me if there's bad guys."
The picture is surprisingly well-drawn; it's a coloured pencil sketching of a black-haired man with a prominent chin, with a red and black military-style cap on his head. The man's features appear harsh, but the overall effect is subverted by a bunch of butterflies and hearts that have been drawn in the empty space around the man's face.
"Maybe you can help me find him? He's a superhero, with a cape! He's probably flying around here somewhere but I didn't see him yet."
"Well ain't you precious," the man sneers, taking his cigarette between his index and middle finger. His smile is arrogant, a gold tooth flickering when the light catches it just so. He breathes out a heavy cloud of smoke, filling the air with scented tobacco. He returns the cigarette to his mouth, rolling it with his tongue so that it dangles precariously.
"I was gonna say," the man says, hands sliding back into his pockets. "Is that some way to talk to a guy asking to help you out? Now let's see this hero you're talking about."
The man leans in, pulling the cigarette away from the picture and sprinkling the ashes to the side. He squints for a long moment, looking very carefully.
"Uh huh, uh huh."
The tobacco smoke causes the blonde teen to flutter her eyelashes and pull a frown as her blue eyes start to water, and she covers her mouth with one of the fleece sleeves of her sweater before coughing into it. Even after she recovers from the fit, she's still squinting to be able to see.
"I dunno if I'm precious. Isn't that more like what people say when they want to keep something?" she wheezes, her voice a little weak - it seems that the teen is certainly not a smoker. Her patience seems to be fairly anemic as well, as she probes the stranger further: "So, have you seen him?? It's really important for me to find him. He's very precious, too! I mean... I think he is, anyway."
Letting the man hold the picture, she laces her fingers behind her back and scuffs at the ground girlishly with one of her sneakers.
The man glances up from the photo when Emma coughs, rolls his eyes, then extinguishes his cigarette between his bandage-wrapped fingers. He turns it over and stuffs it into another shirt pocket, saving the rest for later.
"Yeah," the man says, "I ain't seen him. You sure you should be looking for some guy like this in these parts? This is a dangerous place, y'know. Shouldn't you be holed up with the NOL or the cops or something?"
The fair-haired female seems taken aback by something in the man's words as he speaks, and she takes a step away, raising both her hands in their respective sleeves to her mouth in a fearful expression. She shakes her head thrice.
"No! I don't want to be put in a hole. You can't make me! You can't tell the cops! I haven't been bad!"
The rising tension in the girl's voice escalates as she notices that she's left the picture with the stranger.
"Give me my picture back! I'll find the Prince by myself!" she shouts, stepping back toward the man and reaching out one of her small hands to try and snatch back the precious piece of art out of his.
The man takes a step back at Emma's sudden outburst. In fact, he almost loses his balance with surprise before shoring up, glancing back at the picture, then looking at Emma. A small creeps across his face.
"Oh no, holed up like--y'know, taking shelter. Whoa, whoa!" The man holds the picture just out of reach so Emma doesn't grab it--perhaps for the best depending on how determined her grabbing is.
"Just hold on a second, little lady. I'll give you your picture back. I can tell it's important!" He gets a predatory smile.
"But you gotta do me a little favor, too. It ain't a big deal."
Emma's frantic fingers find nothing but air as the stranger steps back with her picture in his hand. She starts to lunge for it again as he steps back out of reach, stumbling and stopping only when the man tells her that she'll get her picture back. Even then, she seems anxious, like a child whose security blanket is being held hostage.
"What do you mean?" she asks the man as she shifts from one foot to the other, her fingers dancing nervously against her palms as her blue eyes linger yearningly on the picture. Her upper teeth press against her lower lip; she seems to be paying the man himself fairly little attention at this point.
"I just got one question, that's all," he says, readjusting his grip on the picture so he can hand it back. His other hand slides through his hair, digging his fingers in to scratch his head.
"How come a cute, nice girl like you is so worried about cops, huh? I mean, I ain't gonna tell, you can trust me, but that seems a little odd, don't you think?"
"'Cause... if they find out about my friend, they might try to put me away again," Emma shares, her voice low and quavering as she looks around to see if anyone might be listening in on the conversation. Then, she looks straight into the man's eyes, her lips tightening more firmly as she steadies her nerves, then adds: "And I stole some cotton candy too."
"Oh man, a hardened criminal, huh? I don't think nobody's gonna throw you in the pen for some stolen cotton candy," the man says, once again moving the picture in his hands. "Then again, they might threaten ya with it if there's something they can get out it!" The man laughs at his own joke, but moves the picture back toward Emma--though not quite in reach. Perhaps he enjoys making her work for it.
"But what's the deal with your friend? Put your away again? This ain't one of those friends only you can see, is it?"
Emma makes another pass at the picture, only to be frustrated again by the unsavoury street thug. She clenches her hands into fists and holds them trembling against her sides as her expression turns into a scowl.
"No! He's not a friend that only I can see! The big blue giant could see him too!! And if you don't give me back my picture right now then he's gonna beat you up and make you give it back!" she shouts threateningly.
Her prophesied avenger is, of course, unseen for the moment.
The thug squints at this new revelation. "A big blue giant too, huh? Well, if he could see him, I guess he's the real deal." The thug hands the paper to Emma, apparently having decided that picking on a girl that sees invisible avengers and big, blue giants is a bridge too far even for him.
"Here's your picture, but uh," the thug sticks his hands back in his pockets. "You sure you don't have someone you should be with instead of wandering around out here?"
As the cherished portrait is returned to her possession, Emma cradles it against the front of her sweater for a moment, breathing a relieved sigh. She looks up at the man's face, tilting her head and raising an eyebrow curiously. "There is someone I should be with, but I have to find him first, like I said! My friend is here with me instead, for now, though. See?"
The short-ish blonde tilts her head up, looking past the street tough that she's been accosted by. As if on cue, an eight-foot-tall holographic pinkish-purple projection of a powerfully-built man in military garb that bears the distinct likeness of the person in the portrait flickers into existence behind the Japanese fellow, arms folded across its ethereal chest and cape billowing dramatically in spite of the absence of wind.
Should the man touch the projection, he would find that despite its translucent appearance, it is quite tangible.
Emma smiles and waves amicably up at her 'friend.'
The ganger shakes his head as Emma gets the picture back, cradles it, treasures it like her most prized possession. "Look, lady, I don't know what you're--"
He turns slowly, looking upon the sudden, towering psychic projection. He loses color, stumbles back, and nearly falls over Emma trying to hop away.
"What the--look, I don't know what's going on," the ganger says, "but I don't want no trouble."
The small blonde teen's fleece sweater at least provides a soft landing for the gangster as she catches his fall. The towering projection, meanwhile, relaxes his arms and raises one hand up to doff his military cap genially to the bewildered thug as the intangible breeze seems to leave its cape.
"You're kinda heavy," Emma remarks blithely as she tries to prop the man back up onto his feet properly. She seems to struggle a little with the effort, though as much for the awkwardness of her size as for lack of brute strength. There's a little rumbling from the girl's stomach.
"Hey, do you know where we can get some ice cream around here?"
The gangster seems genuinely confused by this newest development, though perhaps not as confused as he was by the appearance of the towering apparition in a dapper hat. It takes her to comment that he's heavy for him to realize that she's holding him up at the moment.
"Uh, sorry," he blinks. "Yeah, I--" the man seems dumbfounded. Awestruck. It takes him several moments to gather his thoughts enough to even speak properly.
"Uh," another pause follows, "I think the freezers are gonna be out on most things. No power around here." He rubs the back of his neck.
"Though I think maybe there's a shop on 3rd Street with a generator? It's not much, but they might have some stuff." His eyes move toward the "ghost" again, apparently nervous about suddenly getting his soul swallowed or something equally horrible.
Emma's face lights up brilliantly at the thug's revelation. "Great!" she replies, clapping her hands together. The apparition mimics the move and expression uncannily before winking back out of existence, leaving the girl alone with the gangster again. Surely the fact that the manifestation appeared completely undetected by the thug the first time won't leave any lingering sense of paranoia.
"Come on, let's go," she insists as she starts to trot off with a determined expression - before coming up to a halt and looking around uncertainly. "Umm... where is Third Street?" she asks, turning around to look quizzically at the gangster.
"By the way, you never told me your name!"
With an enthusiastic goal in mind, Emma has likely already set on her course with her guardian seconding her excitement. By the time she turns around for affirmation, the ganger has started to creep away.
Or, more accurately, sprint away.
"Just call me Takehara!" he calls back, coming to a sudden stop. He shuffles like a child who was caught drawing on the wall, lifting one foot, then the other. He turns, looking over his shoulder and trying hard to be cool. It seems as natural as astroturf.
"Uh, third street, right, right," he says, reaching up and running a hand through his hair without looking around. "Up two blocks, turn left at the red light. Though uh, it's probably out right now. Should be a pachinko parlor on the right, go past it and keep going that way."
"Oh, thanks," Emma replies to Takehara with a slightly hesitant smile, raising a hand to tug at a bit of her blonde locks and tuck them behind her ear. Her own stance shifts a little, feet scuffing against the sidewalk one after the other.
"Are you, uhh, coming with me? For ice cream? Or do you have to wait till after dinner or something?"
"Sorry, Lady," Takehara says, still awkwardly shuffling. It's almost like watching a painfully awkward teenager waiting for his friends to pick him up from a party he only went to to impress his friends.
"I gotta run some errands for my ma," he gestures. "You gonna be okay? I mean, you got your ... you know, your guy, to protect you, right?"
The blonde girl flashes a smile at Takehara.
"Oh, that's okay, then! We'll be fine, yeah! I mean, I don't know if he likes ice cream, but he's good at remembering directions, so at least we'll be able to find it. Have fun with your erran's!"
With that, Emma turns and starts heading down the street, carefully dancing around the cracks in the pavement. "Right, right, up two blocks, two blocks, red light, left, chinko parlor, keep going..."
But Takehara has already hit the ground running. The man may have framed himself as a tough gangster, but the world has been an increasingly strange place. Watching one's hometown be besieged by Darkstalkers, gangsters, and mercenaries over the past few weeks can make one wary of strange girls with even stranger friends.
He does not wait for Emma to find her way to the convenience store.
"Good luck with your ice cream, Lady!"
Log created on 15:39:24 06/06/2020 by Amandine, and last modified on 08:52:47 06/17/2020.