Description: The Mishima Zaibatsu are approached by a hand of the Illuminati baring a gift; a single killer to assist Heihachi Mishima in his goals for Southtown. A deal between devils is made.
A walk in the woods. A very particular set of woods. A very particular set of woods being walked in by a man with a very particular way off making his appearance in the woods seem almost painfully accidental. Tired eyes and a slouching, noisy, shuffle-bump stride that looks half a limp and half too lazy to lift, the blonde American smoke a cigarette and meanders. Dressed in a suit a size too large and a deal more rumpled than regular wear would suggest, it nevertheless is odd in its cleanliness as well as its tasteless powder blue shirt and brown blazer scheme.
The man is Whitney Saulder, killer, and the impeccable nature of his disaffected appearance is a finely honed act. He hums to himself tunelessly, another way to make it clear and apparent that he is stalking through the Mishima's wooded estate. And though he meanders, he always seems to be making a distinct arc toward the compound. The unconcerned might not notice him, the judgmental could easily disregard him as some potentially drunken nothing, the discerning could see the all too obvious a "deception" for what it is.
"Up the close and down the stair," he mutters to himself, flicking ash to the side while he pauses for a moment to stretch. And then the cigarette is back in. Tired eyes keep close watch for the watchmen of the woods, and his fingers play at the buttons on his sleeves. He cannot bring himself to wonder if they'll make for demonstrations, but he doesn't much care either. The recent rumblings of the Zaibatsu's leader throwing hats into sociopolitical rings has drawn the attention of the Illuminati's actuary.
And he wants to see just how interesting this Heihachi Mishima may yet be.
It isn't very long before the American finds one of those watchmen approaching him -- or trying to, anyway. Ikeno didn't mind being a Crow. The pay was still good and not much were expected out of them. And after meeting Heihachi, Ikeno had decided long ago that anyone trying to kill the man would have their work cut out for them, with or without his help. Being assigned mansion duty was the cushiest job a mercenary could ask for. Still, despite how easy the job was, if he didn't do it, he might get fired, or worse.
So when he sees the rumpled American wandering the woods drunkenly, he decides to be the one to actually figure out what was going on.
The Tekken Force wore riot gear, and high-tech helmets hid their faces. It made them typically more menacing to the layman, but Whitney was anything but. Not that anyone could really guess by looking at him. Ikeno approaches him with his rifle shouldered, a hand lifting in an effort to stop the blonde from getting any closer to the compound.
"You lost, sir?"
Ikeno's English is pretty good -- the accent's even American, too.
A stop. Whitney's hands go into his pockets and he looks up to the sky and trees above. Sent out the armed ones. Riot gear. Intimidation is the goal. Clear off wanderer. Almost pleasant in the world of criminals. A degree of class for the Zaibatsu. Obviously dangerous but not bothering with the veneer of civility that a suit and sunglasses has.
"Whose woods these are, I think I know. . ." He mutters to himself, cigarette bobbing as he speaks as he keeps looking to the sky. After a time, he speaks directly to Ikeno. "You ask a difficult question."
He turns, slow and languid. He pinches the cigarette in an overhand, obscuring grip before exhaling in a slow roll of smoke. "Literally, which you aren't asking; no." He flicks the ash and takes a long, exhausted breathy sigh. "Metaphorically, that would depend on your definition of lost." The cigarette goes back between his lips and his dead blue eyes look hard through Ikeno. "But I think you're asking rhetorically. In which case, you know the answer."
Fingers fidget at his sleeves. Buttoning, unbuttoning, rolling and unrolling. Subtle and quick movements meant to distract and catch attention. A test, along with his long drawling questions and bad faith delays, to test the nerve and mettle of Ikeno. "I don't blame you; English is a painfully inexact language."
The moment comes with a suddenly steady and direct explanation. "I'm here to speak with Mishima Heihachi. Business."
Ikeno's English might be practically fluent, but he has a hard time for a moment following the verbal gymnastics that the American is performing. If it wasn't for the helmet that covers his face, Whitney would be able to see the befuddled expression, but to his credit the Crow holds his ground, watching the man facelessly. Whether he passes or fails the blond man's test is probably decided with his single-worded reply of:
Ikeno quickly recovers, though. Because what is relevant is that final moment, those final words the American has spoken, and it puts Ikeno right back on task. The Crow isn't that bright, sure, but this situation got a little more complicated.
"...Right. Keep your hands where I can see them," Ikeno instructs, moving to unshoulder his rifle with one hand while the other moves to the radio that's strapped to his collar. "Crow Three here. I have a gaijin here saying he wants to speak to Tiger." He speaks in Japanese when on the radio, and there's a long moment's pause before an emotionless woman's voice replies, also in Japanese.
"Does the visitor have a name?"
And Ikeno's speaking English again, the man clearly assuming Whitney doesn't understand the other language. "Your name?"
Whitney Saulder grows bored. Hands in his pockets, he looks through the Crow. The man may well as cease to hold meaningful existence in that moment. Even to kill him would mean nothing in the grand scheme of the universe. A waste of energy and a dirtied suit to not even discover something meaningful about a man's existence. Whitney could tell that this man would just breathe out a last and not even have the temerity to hold onto defiance.
Another long drag and low exhale of tobacco smoke. "Whitney Saulder," he says with an almost pained tone at having to speak up. He's beginning to feel irritated, but he finds nothing to show for it as he simply removes the cigarette from his mouth so he can pinch off the end of it to preserve behind his ear. His name is not unknown. A hitter for years. He has worked very well at being a near bog average killer for hire.
A roll of his hand. "You're speaking to someone," he says, still fidgeting, still making meaningless distracting motions with his hands. "I can be more direct if you'd like. But you wouldn't like it. And your superior would have to explain a lot. You don't want to do that, make things difficult for them?"
Poor Ikeno has no idea how dangerous Whitney is, and he stares back at the blond -- or at least, the helmet presents the illusion he's staring at him. His eyes are on thos distracting hands -- he can't help himself, this is a very, very strange encounter, but at the question, his head shakes. He clears his throat -- a sign of nerves after the threat, and clicks on his radio again.
"Whitney Saulder," he reports. The Crow himself is too low-ranking to actually know Whitney's name, but the rather quick response from the woman on the other end makes it clear she does.
"Show him in," her voice reports back. Ikeno liked this job, but he hated having to go near the mansion. Heihachi has a reputation for hurting his henchmen when he's annoyed and angry, and has a reputation for worse when they fail him. In fact, it's even in the employee manual that you're statisically less likely to get hurt based on your proximity to the man. Still, a job's a job, and he exhales shakily.
"My apologies, Mister Saulder. Please follow me," he requests, turning to lead the man closer and closer to the compound.
Whitney sees those suits and sunglasses types when they get there -- or at least just the one. Fujimura doesn't wear sunglasses, and it's a skirtsuit she's in, but Whitney might be able to recognize another trained killer when he sees one. Her features are completely blank -- she's pretty, but there's a worn out quality to her. She bows, but when she speaks, she doesn't bother switching to English. "Whitney-sama. I am Fujimura," she introduces herself mechanically. "If you could follow me." Her eyes flick to poor Ikeno. "You're dismissed."
Ikeno's relieved. After the threat, he's a little more wary of Whitney, and he's glad to get away from him and her both. "Owl," he replies, and then he's gone, out of Whitney's life for now.
A sniff. For what apologies are worth, Whitney doesn't have much use of social currency. He does follow, though, it's the path of least resistance. He ambles behind Ikeno, stepping close, just at the heel. To badger and annoy. "They arm you," he says, "But still expect you to call in." And then nothing more, just the statement left to the air before arriving for the handoff.
There are the suits. Always with the suits. The appearances must be made. The dance must be danced. How trite. But the woman. The woman may be interesting. She doesn't bother with English. And so he doesn't bother with Japanese. Both understand the other, and Whitney sees that neither feels pressured to bother adjusting otherwise.
And as Whitney leaves Ikeno, the man's life expectancy gets considerably longer.
"I took the road less traveled by," Whitney speaks off hand, looking around with languid, half lidded eyes. "And it has made all the difference."
Ikeno's tone with Fujimura did seem a little agitated -- Whitney's words had settled in like an infection, crawling to all parts of his brain. But the paycheck is more important to the Crow, and it's fortunate for him that he gets as far away from Whitney specifically as possible. Fujimura, on her part, had no reaction to Ikeno's attitude with her. In fact, she has no reaction to Whitney's words either, simply turning on a heel and leading him deeper into the compound, which is far nicer on the inside than it is on the outside. There's very little security in here, save for a single suit (another one) who stands in front of one of the paper doors that leads to Heihachi's current sanctum.
He's not like Fujimura, this suit. He regards both her and Whitney with bloodshot eyes, and when he sees Whitney, his swallow is audible. Perhaps he knows who the man is too. He steps aside, sliding the door open for them both.
It's an indoor garden. Heihachi doesn't tend it -- someone else does. He's not that stereotypical of an old man. But he is seated on a platform in the center, a small table in front of him, wearing traditional Japanese garb while sipping tea. It's almost a cliche.
Only Parliament is allowed to interrupt Heihachi's tea. It's fortunate for Fujimura she's one of them. "Heihachi-sama. You have a visitor. Whitney Saulder, contract killer. Current affiliations unknown."
The old man's eyes open and he looks upon both her and Whitney with a glare -- he's not angry at either of them, really. It's just that scowl that permanently mars his face -- he rises to his full height, which isn't really substantial, but even the baggy hakama, kimono and robe he wears does little to hide his powerful physique. "Do you drink tea, Saulder?" Heihachi speaks Japanese, too, but he doesn't bother with any honorifics.
No response. That doesn't mean Fujimura is like him. Whitney Saulder learned long ago there was a gulf of difference between people like himself and people that have been made to mimic his condition. It was a tiresome mockery in some regards, insulting in a lot of ways, but mostly he regarded it as a tacit admission to his experience. There were always places in the world for people who did not fall to the deception that was emotion.
But it does mean that Saulder doesn't feel the need to manipulate. He walks with a steady stride along with Fujimura, no more shuffling. He fills the suit he wears, though his hands remain in the pockets. Unfolding to his full height from his back twisting slouch, his form filling with the adjusting walk. The forward, predatory mass of a man with dead blue eyes as calm and lethal as the ocean.
It's this Saulder that walks into the room where Heihachi sits. And there the lack of pretense is acceptable. Not a man of lies and delusions. Not a man ruled by fears and preconceptions. A man who knows what he is, who knows where he is, and who lives as directly as anyone should. He could almost be as impressive as the head of the Illuminati himself. But while Heihachi Mishima is pure and honest to a refreshing degree, Whitney Saulder finds the ambitions to be lacking interesting outcomes.
"I do," Saulder says, this time bothering to use Japanese as fluently as English. "We can talk over it. Because I've heard through my channels that you're seeing to the matters of the game being played for Southtown. You're an unsuspected, but welcome factor. For that my employers thank you."
"Hmph." It's a good word, if it can be called that. 'Hmph.' It's universal in all human language. Heihachi's eyes flick to Fujimura, and she bows stiffly to him before leaving the garden, the door sliding shut behind her.
"Your employers," Heihachi then repeats back to Saulder, glare returning to him. He doesn't bother actually voicing a question to their identity -- the man will either reveal them or he won't, and a cursory glance over the killer is enough for Heihachi to know he won't be able to torture the information out of him. Heihachi nods towards the low-seated table -- there are three tea-cups and a pot there, which is still steaming. The old man doesn't sit unless Saulder does, and if and when the man does, he begins to pour them each a cup.
A bestial roar of a creature that isn't readily identifiable is heard from behind one of the walls, but Heihachi ignores it. "I wonder -- were your employers present at all during the Gears Wars? I was seeing to a similar situation there, and men such as you were nowhere to be seen. Why do they approach me now?"
He sees Saulder as an extension of them, rather than an individual at the moment.
It takes time for Saulder to sit. And when he does he does so with an exacting study to showcase the pantomime he puts on for the moment. The man still has a bent and burnt cigarette behind his ear, after all. But he takes the tea and studies it, spinning the liquid and waiting for his other to drink first.
"If you saw anything of my employers, then that would speak poorly of their abilities, wouldn't it?" Saulder asks, blue eyes looking upwards. He knows he is an extension, a hand of the unseen political machinations of an unseen society. Being obvious to those whom can appreciate it, and who can do nothing about it, in equal measure.
"In my estimation, efforts were not necessary. Any expenditure of resources on the Gear situation would not have mattered given the outcome that was reached. And in turn, we all know much more about the threat and utility of the Gears." He puts the tea down. It's a simple statement, off hand with the ease that he gives it. No more difficult a recitation than the poetry he quotes.
"The board has changed, however. I won't insult your intelligence by drawing it out of you. The Librarium's presence had impacted things to an untenable degree."
Saulder wasn't wrong in Heihachi's eyes. Fujimura was the one who noticed the change in Heihachi's demeanor after he met Katarina, the woman in charge of NOL's response to the Darkstalker crisis that had thrown Southtown into chaos. The old man had never been put under a spell like that before, and the last few weeks of meditation was his attempt at training his mind so it would never happen again. It gave him clarity to reflect on the conversation he had with her -- she really spoke to him like she was his better, like NOL had more a right to be in Southtown than his Zaibatsu did.
NOL had to pay for that insult alone, but with everything else the Zaibatsu was up to, the situation required a scalpel rather than Heihachi's hammer of a fantasy: ripping her limb from limb with his bare hands.
As Saulder speaks, Heihachi sips at his tea, watching Saulder with the Iron Scowl. "I respect you more than I respect your employers," he then growls. "The difference between them and men like us is we do not cower in the shadows. Your employers manipulate you to do their bidding, and now they have come to do the same to me."
A muscle in his jaw twitches as he grinds his teeth in thought, before setting his own cup down.
"I would hear how they wish to use me, at the very least."
Saulder had played a hand at manipulating the NOL and the Sacred Order. He was familiar with ambitious fools like Katarina. The officers were obvious to a painful degree, but their goals and public image were the kinds of order that panicked and pained people would follow. Order that made it difficult for his employer's to work at.
"I am under no delusion of propriety," Saulder admits, "And money is a very good way to ensure my skills are put to a person's use. So long as society is embroiled in its self-deceptions, my employers will exploit it." Saulder doesn't feel the need to explain the end-game of Gill's plans. That's only for some people. Though maybe Mishima would succeed where Kawamoto failed. It was a stray thought. But one that may yet need to be brought up to Kolin.
The American turns his hands out toward Heihachi. "By offering my services."
Even with Heihachi's criticism of the world's puppeteers, the old man can appreciate this sudden twist. The organization offering Saulder's services is enough to whet Heihachi's appetite for intrigue for now. Alas, he's as ambitious as anyone, and historically foolish at the worst of times. However, if Saulder's employees are willing to use Heihachi, he's surely willing to use Saulder as well. The old man is silent for a moment, the gears of his broken psyche turning and clicking, searching for an idea.
Still, he has to ask.
"Fujimura calls you a contract killer -- the more I think of your name, the more I remember hearing of your... efficiency. Your employers want NOL removed -- or at the very least, discredited. Their performance as of late leaves much to be desired."
So does the Tekken Force's. Heihachi was glad Asano was dead -- if Volkov or her cronies didn't kill him, he was going to.
"You would make a good deniable asset." That's the businessman in Heihachi speaking. "Katarina Shimotsuki is in charge of NOL's efforts in Southtown. Killing her would bring too much attention to both the Zaibatsu and you. However, she has a number of officers underneath her. Their deaths might cause NOL to rethink their position in Southtown -- and might have her superiors rethink her use to them."
It would also help Kira Volkov and the chaos she's ignited, and the old man does wonder if she's one of Saulder's coworkers, whether either of them know it or not. He files that away for now.
"For every one that dies in the coming month, you will paid. If you are caught and reveal my name, I will deny any involvement with you."
He'll also try to have Saulder killed, though the old man doesn't know that likely would fail spectacularly.
Intrigue. Goals. Who plays whom and why is it all played at all. It should be amusing to Whitney Saulder, but he doesn't find anything terribly amusing about the banal exercise put forth by Mishima. But the man was always a blunt instrument. There was something respectable about knowing that when you're a hammer, you best make all problems nails. Or some tortured metaphor to that effect.
Saulder runs his finger around the rim of the teacup, looking into its still water. "Despite their propaganda machine," he leads, "The Duodecim, and the Librarium, do not hold much more than a tacit allowance to look into arcane matters. Their standing in Europe is strained due to the Illyrian conflict, and the Americas are indifferent. Let alone the politics at play in greater Asia and Africa."
He dips the tip of his finger, disrupting the water. "My suggestions is to begin with Darkstalkers," he says. "Disrupt the veneer of protection the NOL offers." The Blonde's eyes look past Heihachi. "The noise from earlier. After the first round of deceased by my hand, use whatever made that noise to eliminate choice human NOL agents. Develop the perception of retaliatory strikes even if they do not happen."
Saulder looks at the drip of water that hangs from his finger. It falls down to the wavering waters of the tea. "Then witness how it reacts. From there, ascertain it's goals. When you have them, find an opponent you have and point."
Project Ogre wasn't ready yet. And Heihachi did need to keep a number of the Darkstalkers he had experiments begun on for NT01. However, the old man did have a penchant for discarding the broken Darkstalkers -- as well as the failed experiments, the freakish abominations that had military applications but he was unwilling to deploy. He had a bad habit of killing them when they tried to escape or when their use to him has ran out. Saulder's suggestion is something the megalomaniac had never considered -- while his body remained in solid condition, it was evident that Heihachi's sanity was somewhat in question.
Still, he hasn't lost his mind completely yet.
"I care nothing for the weak," the old man remarks. The statement might not hold relevance initially, but he wasn't finished. "The chaos that Volkov has caused has been nothing short of lucrative for my enterprise. An almost endless supply of test subjects for genetic augmentation." Heihachi's goal of becoming the perfect being wasn't too far from some of the DNA modifications Saulder's employers patroned. "Regardless, Japan is my home. This chaos cannot be permanent. We will remove NOL, but my work will not end with them. Southtown will have to be brought to heel eventually."
Project Ogre is a gap in even Whitney's Illuminati based intelligence. Secret projects are a dime a dozen among the various organizations around the world, so while he may presume something, the details are scant and unknown. Though the rumors that Heihachi Mishima has a pet bear is the real basis for what brings Whitney to suggest the source of the growls be used to mimic Darkstalker retaliations.
Whitney looks through Heihachi as he runs his damp fingertips in small circles over his thumb. Idle motions to distract attentions. "You're a man capable of capitalizing on chaos. It's an appreciable skill. As it is, however, your Zaibatsu does not have the image the NOL does. Volkov's gambit will take care of itself. Enough actors are upset by her to put an end to things. As was in Mexico. As was with the Gears."
Saulder looks around, he nods at something within his own mind. "While the fires burn, and while the NOL has to deal with a spike in their employee turnover, I implore that you begin to rebuild for the people. Be the service Japan needs right now. You may care nothing for the weak, but enough rats will fell a tiger. It will pay to move faster than the NOL at capturing hearts."
Those same rumors even suggest Heihachi loves this bear more than his own children. Whitney's continued defilement of the tea doesn't go unnoticed, with Heihachi's glare moving down towards the rippling water, that muscle in his jaw twitching. He doesn't address it, however, his gaze instead falling on Saulder's face while he takes a sip of his own as the man speaks.
"I had already planned to use the Tekken Force to get the people on my side -- I did as much in the Gears Wars, although they tend to forget how I protected them." Still fresh in the old man's mind, his shoulders lift up eventually in a shrug that he himself doesn't notice. "More's the pity."
After a moment, Mishima rises to his bare feet, his tea left on the table. His words are words Saulder has no doubt heard before from other clients. "If you betray me, I will kill you." Heihachi means it, whether he could actually follow through with the threat or not.
Whitney Saulder looks at the tea. He does drink it. But to taunt and string out the gift is the goal of the moment in and of itself. He Lifts the cup up and brings it close to his lips. But then he puts it down again. Each moment, each delay, a planned action. A concerned one. And one that doesn't even bring amusement to Whitney. He just does it at this point in his life.
Much as he tends to political notions and stratagems. The approach of the Tekken Force is one direction. Pure as Mishima is, and as refreshing as it to find a man that doesn't labor under delusion, Whitney finds a degree of ignorance regarding the grand delusion of society. It makes he looks forward, and speak to himself. "While everything sneering, the night was already in my hand."
He drinks the tea. One quick, steady go.
"If it comes to that," Whitney Saulder monotones as he stands up. He slouches again, hands slipping into his blazer pockets. "I'm a contractor. I'm paid to do what I am good at doing. Trust my expertise."
Heihachi's short-sightedness due to his megalomania, old age, and selfish ambitions probably fills some of Japan's history books at this point. Regardless, the old man watches Saulder with the iron scowl plastered all over his face, and when the man rises and slouches again, Mishima's eyes narrow slightly, a degree of clarity coming over him. There's that universal language again. "Hmph."
"Nakatomi," he suddenly snaps, and the sliding door opens, the suit in the bloodshot eyes coming in. He regards both Heihachi and Whitney with resigned wariness, but to his credit, maintains his composure, bowing stiffly at the waist. "Heihachi-sama," he acknowledges.
"Show Saulder out. Give him your number and supply him with anything he needs."
Nakatomi's hand rises and slides through sweat-slick hair. "...Yes, Heihachi-sama," he croaks, and gives Whitney the stiff bow next. "Please follow me, Whitney-sama."
Some might call out many things regarding Heihachi Mishima as weaknesses. Negative thoughts on megalomania and selfishness. To Whitney Saulder, these things are just a discarding of annoying pretenses. A man that wants power and control for its own sake, rather than some self serving, mollifying lie of saving something or making the world a better place. As though there were ever a person to make the world a better place at the cost to themselves.
Whitney nods when Heihachi calls for the underling. While Nakatomi arrives, Whitney pulls the cigarette from behind his ear. "We shouldn't be in direct contact again anytime soon," he admits. "It's better for your goals, that way. Until then, Mishima Heihachi."
And then, with a punctuated finality, Whitney Saulder tucks the cigarette between his lips and turns to leave with Nakatomi. He has made the offer of his employer. And as such, the direction of the world is moved to pave the way for Gill's grand new tomorrow.
Log created on 23:41:21 06/23/2020 by Whitney, and last modified on 10:39:44 06/26/2020.