Description: There are a number of people interested in Honoka Kawamoto's run for Mayor of Southtown. Just over a dozen of them -- the Raven Guard -- descend upon her campaign headquarters for a visit.
A large banner hung on the front facade on the top of the nondescript two-story building describes it as the "Honoka Kawamoto For Mayor - 2020 Headquarters." At ground level, the windows of the former office building have been plastered over with posters advertising the candidate's "Love and Unity" campaign.
Southtown is in still in turmoil, with citizens urged to shelter in place. Darkstalker attacks are on the decline, and many say the "shield" over the contentious casino has fallen. Out here in the western outskirts, the conflict is just barely in sight on the edge of the horizon, with some citizens questioning whether it might actually be safe to come out of hiding. Six armed guards have positioned themselves around the front perimeter of the campaign headquarters to discourage thoughts of intrusion.
Inside, though, there is a bit of a fuss going on. For the candidate herself has just arrived for her daily status update. Her jet black hair and hot pink highlights have been styled into twin forelocks, just like her classic look during circus PR sessions. Most -unlike- her circus look, though, is the white pantsuit -- way more formal than the Hokkaido native would ever have wanted. And yet, she seems perfectly at home as volunteers -- former admin staff for the Twilight Star Circus -- natter on about polling results and outreach initiatives. She wears a perpetual smile, nodding enthusiastically as each new report is offered -- happy above all else to bask in the sunlight of a brand new day in Southtown.
The woman couldn't escape her profile.
Short of the bite scarring around her neck, she was ultimately a foreigner in the campaign headquarters. The short, red-haired woman with the black eyes couldn't escape how off she was, as she moves so gracefully through the front door. She was doing her best to dress 'normal'. Normal, in this case, was a sundress, a wide-brimmed hat, and a silk ribbon around her waist. And yet, she was still having to hold a basket of flowers. The only thing that might be low profile is her psionic signature; it much, much more subtle than all the others, almost fading into the noise. But she had a mission.
And she would do anything for her Patriarch.
"Excuse me." She would ask the first campaign official she could catch the attention of. It was English, and accented. She was hoping for the best. "I need to give a message to Honoka Kawamoto, and give her a gift on behalf of my employer. It's very important. Honoka Kawamoto. Gift. Message." She was smiling, and she was calm. Very calm. Detached calm. She holds up the flowers. If they needed to inspect them, that would be fine. Everything was fine. This wasn't her special mission.
She didn't even have her needles right now.
She stands out, that much is sure. Darkstalkers are viewed with no small amount of suspicion here in Southtown, especially considering the wholesale slaughterfest that had been going on until only recently. Even still, with the forces deployed keeping them at bay, there's no small amount of fear in the eyes of Southtown's citizens at the foreigner's arrival.
Orders, however, are orders. And though the fear in the eyes of the campaign workers is tangible, their mortified reactions are only temporary. Nods are given, gestures are made. And from the front welcome room, more than one worker glances back to the young candidate herself having a meeting in a windowed office just a little ways to the back.
Honoka herself looks up from her meeting. She greets the new arrival with a cheerful wave. And then she turns back to her meeting.
Orders are orders. The young intern with pale, clammy skin, looks back at the foreigner, and her offering of flowers. He bows crisply and respectfully. "Right... A message. What... what is the message?"
And just after he asks, Honoka leans her head out of the "fishbowl" office. "Oh, hello! Did you want to see me? I can see you in just one more moment, is that okay?" The radiant candidate seems to be offering a welcoming smile in every minute expression of her body language.
Sending a Darkstalker into a fray like this would be akin to suicide.
But that's what the Patriarch wanted. Demanded. Their distrustful eyes were only the glowing of sweet success by the Patriarch. Their hatred was a pleasant warmth. But it wasn't strong enough. That's what the Patriarch needed to assure. She couldn't laugh though. She wouldn't laugh though. When the young intern approaches her, she is smiling. It's fake. But it's real enough. It's what the Patriarch needed. But when Honoka pops out, the woman averts her eyes slightly. She wasn't supposed to talk to her directly. If she did, it was okay, she was supposed to deliver the message directly. But avoid it. She had to avoid it. She was blushing now, as the giggles started. maybe she was... flirting with the intern? But she suddenly speaks.
That's the message. It's an awfully suspicious message, one that probably would, under normal circumstances, result in the entire building to be evacuated. And yet, she pushes the flowers into the interns hands. It's not any heavier than usual. He could inspect it freely. But the woman wasn't going to leave until he acknowledged that he would give it. everything within the girl wanted to escape. But she was told not to. The Patriarch demanded it. And whatever he demanded, she would obey. Because the Patriarch did not want to make a scene. The intern would find the contents of the basket are quite straight forward:
A dozen dahlias, each a variety of red, carefully arranged with their faces cheekily up.
Perhaps under normal circumstances, with a normal candidate, with normal political aims. But Honoka Kawamoto runs her office a little differently. A little more... efficiently.
The intern accepts the dahlias, albeit with a note of nervousness. He looks at the flowers, then back to the messenger, then to the flowers, then to the messenger again.
"Rooftop, then. I... I don't understand. Is... is that the message?"
There would be almost no way for the messenger's words, or the intern's confusion, to be communicated from across the campaign headquarters's front office, all the way through and/or around the glass panes of the fishbowl office, to Honoka's ears. And yet, as soon as the word 'Rooftop' is heard, there is nonetheless a shudder in Honoka's posture. It could have been completely coincidental, of course -- that maybe she was simply reacting to something said within the confines of the fishbowl, rather than to the lone statement, or the confusion that erupts.
But that wouldn't explain why the rooftop door opens up about fifteen seconds later, or why a half-dozen guards spill out in single file, in search of whatever might be construed as a threat.
From within the fishbowl, Honoka strokes her cheek thoughtfully, responding to whatever it is her staff are telling her. Though she's giving plenty of cues to her staff that she seems to be happy with their work and yet -really- needs to cut the meeting short.
The intern laughs awkwardly, not sure what to make of this laughing, blushing, criminally beautiful if also considerably creepy messenger. "She's almost done, ma'am, would you want to speak to her?"
They would find a threat.
There wasn't anything to stop a two-way communication, at least, from Honoka's own personal style. And still reporting, when the threat endures. Seven men. All raven masked. Moving. Flanking. Flying? Diving. All sides, how did they get behind them. Disabling. And their leader, impossible to see. Cannot breath. And then, it would be static. Immobile. Alive. Gagged. Radio silence. That would be enough. But that's not the problem. The problem is that it they needed eyes up there to see them. If they had a psionic signature, though. It was low profile. Falling into the background. And when she focuses... it would be a familiar one.
The same as the woman with the red hair, with the basket.
"Yes!" The girl repeats, blinking her black eyes. She was getting nervous. There were things going into her. She was touching her ribbon, nervously. She was beginning to look more and more anxious. She looks towards the fishbowl. Something was going wrong. "I am not supposed to talk to her, I have to go!" She repeats, as she was told to repeat. She begins to steps away, staring at the intern, at his throat...
And her demeanor changes.
"Oh... oh yes! Yes! I should speak to her! Oh no..." Her eyes go wide, as she smiles. She doesn't walk away. "I am thirsty!" She repeats, giggling slightly as she takes a sudden edge of command at the intern. "Oh, could you please give me some water to drink. It's very exciting here, especially with all this election energy..." She gives a wink, as she shifts back into a more submissive expression. The smile fades, as she looks towards the fishbowl. She might be dying soon. But it was okay.
IT was the will of the Patriarch.
Honoka can feel her guardsmen being harried, flanked, and disabled, one after another. Her wary precautionary measure amounting to little more than a systematic takedown. For now, the carpet beneath her heel will absorb the bulk of Honoka's wrath, trapped as she is between charismatic workers eager to please her, and the most peciliar redhead waiting to speak to her -- or not, as her capricious whims demand.
"O-of course, ma'am!" The intern stammers, unversed in the protocols for dealing with someone seemingly unable to make up their own mind, and falling back on the answer of following at least the -latest- request.
As he rushes off to fetch a cup of water, Honoka bows her head in thanks to her hardworking staff in the fishbowl, and steps out. Waving cheerily at the red-haired woman, Honoka jogs over to make her acquaintance.
"Hi! I'm Honoka, but you probably knew that, right?" She clasps her hands together before her, bowing diminutively as a matter of course. "It's a pleasure to meet you, Miss...?" She pauses, expectantly, in hopes of maybe obtaining some sort of name.
As she rises, soberly, she gestures around to the dozens of campaign volunteers around her. "It's a bit rough-an-tumble down here, I'm afraid -- would you mind if we talked upstairs? Or maybe even on the rooftop? It's such a gorgeous day out!"
Under worse circumstances, it might have very well been Kira herself. Or Duke. Or a number of enemies that Honoka had made over the years. It could have even been that miserable ex-Interpol slimeball that she had extinguished in the Mortal Kombat tournament. But it was stable at least. Stability. Nobody had died yet. Which made it all the more likely it was that zoot suited freak. But as she gets closer to the stranger, things become a little more clear. The closer Honoka was, the more powerful and concrete the emotions, the mind was. And the girl who had come, the strange Darkstalker with the flowers, was about to detonate. Her emotions were strapped under lock and key, but it was so clear how unstable she was now. And Honoka certainly had experience with unstable people. Was she about to attack her? Attack the room? No, the hostility drops as Honoka approaches. She wasn't close to being as calm as she looked now.
But relief was impossible to miss.
"Hello Honoka!" The red haired woman said, her black eyes wide, her cheeks blushing. She seems to have completely forgotten about the water. "I am Zsa Zsa!" That wasn't an alias. She was being forthright, at least, despite her instability. She clasps her hands before her, lowering her head. "It's very important I talk to you, and it's more important by the second, its-" But then, Honoka goes straight for the throat. It was rough and rumble down here. She wanted to talk upstairs. To the rooftop even! Oh how wonderful. Things were going to deescalate hopefully! Zsa Zsa bows her head; it was not merely polite deference. "The rooftop would be a wonderful place to talk." She lifts her head, as she begins to walk towards the stairs. Which was strange, because this would have been her first time here, right? Maybe it was just luck. And yet, her emotions were a tempest in a teacup, barely kept under the pressure. She gasps out. "Yes, yes. The flowers, the message..."
"It's like you read my mind!"
Hospitality is everything in Japan -- the mark of an organization that earnestly desires for their guests to return. And that same hospitality is what leads the intern to struggle with filling a cup with water without actually setting the flowers down. This is why one of his coworkers helps with taking the flowers off his hands, turning and presenting them to Honoka -- who smiles and bows her head in thanks for the offering.
The meaning of the odorless flower and its hue is, of course, not lost upon the woman who first chose the flower as a namesake. Her own emotional state is guarded -- a clear sign to any beings with supernatural awareness that the cheerful face she wears is only that: a facade. And yet, she continues going through the motions. For as Zsa Zsa -- or her heretofore unseen Patriarch -- would likely know, alarming the masses would prelude losing control of the situation.
The candidate for Mayor of Southtown is all smiles and cheeriness as she gestures towards the stairs -- even as it becomes clear the other knows the path. "Yes. I'm sure we have much to talk about!"
And since Zsa Zsa seems to know the way, Honoka is quite willing to allow the mysterious redhead to go first up the stairs. While silently giving her underlings a strong suggestion to keep the front doors closed.
"This is quite an unusual way of making a campaign contribution," notes Honoka, as she reassesses the state of her six guards. There are more, of course, on that second floor -- but she's overplayed her hand at the moment. And she's eager to see -what- this mysterious visit is really about before making any further deployment orders.
Up and up the stairs.
Zsa Zsa's mood was shifting. From fear, to elation. Madness. The guards were... immobile. Most of them were distressed, hurt, immobile, and upset. Except one. He also was distressed, hurt, and immobile. But he wasn't upset. "Everything is safe. Everything is okay." Zsa Zsa answers, as alternates between hastily going up the stairs, to stopping to make sure Honoka was keeping up, to rushing again. They reach the top; the final doorway. This was where an ambush would happen. There was faint emotions outside, that was clearer now being so close. But the number of them... was hazy. Zsa Zsa doesn't seem to notice any danger though. She rushes the doorway. She opens it, and steps clear, beckoning the canidate. And it's clear that everything is safe.
But everything was not okay.
There were seven in total. Six were spread out across the roof top. These were dressed in crimson-black armored body-suits, mingled with bangles and bracers. Each wore a gasmask, modeled in the style of a raven mask. One was right above Zsa Zsa and Honoka as they enter, crouched and ready to pounce; the moment they clear the doorway its emotions are so clear. One of them were laying down on the tar paper, their bodysuit half off; his pale skin lacks color, as bruises splotch his torso and chest. With him, two of the masked men were inspecting and treating him, mewling in an alien tongue. The remaining two were with the six captured guards, and they were captured indeed. They were lined up side by side. Each one was bound and tied in a variety of fashions; arms and legs and wrists and ankles and chests and necks and knees and elbows, each one restrained in their own unique ways by thin black cords. And each one gagged; mild injuries from the struggle. It looks like the other guardsmen got it worse. The two were still adding to the knots, going past the normal restrainment on a sixth guard. The one that was not upset. When they enter, all of them suddenly move... before relaxing. Everything is safe. Everything is okay.
That only left the seventh.
The Patriarch of the House of Podiebrad leans in repose on top of the exhaust vent. At his side, is a basket of peaches. He is a man with white hair, his face is cut sharp, long and stony with a distant, aloof facade. He wears a headdress of black feathers around his hair, and has hazel eyes that almost seem to change color in the light. His hair is stylized in bangs in the front, with a long ponytail behind him over his cloak. He is deathly pale, and is on the shorter and skinnier side. He kicks his legs idly, a pair of stiletto heeled gold-plated purple boots swinging up and down. Garbed in ornate robes of purple and rose, his raised collar meets with purple and red striped pauldrons sit upon his shoulders, setting a mantle for his flowing purple cloak that pooled around his wide hips. A ornamental plate of gold-pressed leaf is set over his robes, setting against his legs, arms, and abdomen. Each section is embossed with the feathered scale pattern, common in the lower ranked soldiers of the Raven Guard. Silver earrings, bracelets, bangles, and a ring for each finger adorn him, with not a single gemstone amongst his jewelry. A silver circlet sits upon his forehead, above his eyes. His hands are exposed, and his long fingernails are painted beetle shell gold and silver, shining with every movement.
He was not wearing a mask.
He was busy staring into a golden mirror, with a silvered reflection to gaze at his fine features. "Are you the one?" He asks with distant bemusement, as he plucks out a peach from the basket. "Or has my miserable servant failed me once again." Zsa Zsa's emotions spike into a certain degree of hot passion. It's not anger. It's definitely not anger. But the emotions are the only thing that could make her different. The same with the other guards; outside of their emotions, their psionic signature were all the same, as if one person was split between eight. Zsa Zsa curtsies, as she lowers her head. She doesn't respond. It was not her place to respond. The Patriarch willed it. They had taken control from the woman by their arrival.
It was time to let her seize it back.
The Ainu tusukur has long correlated an unorthodox psychic signature with danger, and this situation is hardly an exception. She already has a hazy picture of what she's going to find before she ascends the stairs -- and with such in mind, she gives Zsa Zsa only a blank expression to go on, far from the ebullient cheer she'd demonstrated in front of her staff. After all, she's also associated constant reassurances of okayness with marked not-okayness. And Zsa Zsa is, until receiving reassurance otherwise, part of the problem. "Mm."
Six men upset. One not. Six opposing guards present. And one... not. Honoka expels a sigh just before turning to make her way up the stairs. On with the friendly face again, she resolves.
She stops by each of her guards, brushing fingers past each shoulder. A tepid reassurance that she recognizes their respective sacrifices, of comfort and stability, in accordance with her estimation of danger. She was right, of course, in thinking that there -was- danger. It was, and still is, the correct course of action. It's just... well.
Bright light assaults her eyes, before the view of an injured Raven Guardsman asserts itself. Her men acquitted themselves -- giving as much if not more than what they got. But she secrets her vengeful pleasure behind that neutral mask. She aims an index finger up at the Guardsman who might have chosen to jump down upon her at the moment she walks by -- tacit acknowledgement of the risk, combined with a healthy appreciation for what isn't now going to take place.
The question. Is she the one? Honoka takes a few long moments to observe the man asking the question. The ostentatious trappings. The glorious excess. The show of laziness -- not because he's tired, but because he -can- luxuriate on top of a sun-bleached exhaust vent atop a weather-worn rooftop. It's ... pleasant, but only because of the breeze -- giving Honoka cause to sweep one of her long highlighted forelocks out of her eyes.
"I am." She pauses deliberately, continuing only to make clear that she has not chosen to yield her time. With a quick shake of her head, she clarifies, "The message was delivered. And no one seems to be hurt..." A brief, proper smile to show her appreciation. "... Badly, anyway."
She regards Zsa Zsa with a smile. A more honest one, this time. For better or worse, Zsa Zsa wasn't the one who delivered a physical response to her welcoming committee.
Honoka turns back to the Patriarch. "And you -- thank you for seeing me in person. The flowers were a nice... touch." Her nose wriggles -- though that might be at the aroma of fresh peach wafting past. "To what -- and to whom -- do I owe this honor?"
"And what an honor it is, to be graced with my magnificent presence."
The Patriarch gazes deep in the mirror, letting the whole of the flattery wash over him. Zsa Zsa was bouncing now, like an excited puppy, as Honoka looks at her. She was only giving glances back; Zsa Zsa's own gaze was drawn straight to her Patriarch. She was moving towards him, standing by the vent before turning her back to him, and bowing her head in submissive display. Bela gives no notice, as he continues to praise himself. "It was stunning genius. But I am too modest to accept the complete mantle of cleverness. For you see." He holds up the peach towards Honoka a moment, not breaking away from the sea of his own beauty. "Peaches, in Japanese, is Momo." The Patriarch declares, as he bring it back towards him. He gives a thin bite to the fruit, his painted lips curled back as his delicately tears past the soft skin to the juicy flesh underneath. He chews seven times the small morsel, and swallows. "It is not Honoka, despite the idiocy of an unnamed soldier who has watched far too many poorly translated cartoons. The Japanese language is so subtle, so confounding, so... symbolic, in its writing. Even a name like Honoka can have so many different meanings in the nuance of what characters it use. But it was I, who made the final connection, the ultimate choice. Dahlia. Flower. The connection is strained, but it functioned, as your presence clearly demonstrates." He humphs, as he swings his legs around.
"With how miserable my intelligence is, I almost half expected you to be a man."
He tosses the peach to Zsa Zsa, who hungerly begins to devour it, starting from the bite that the Patriarch began. Lightly bouncing off the vent, he doesn't break his gaze from the mirror as he lands on both heeled feet. He was slightly shorter than the Ainu tusukur... with the heels included. He gives a light kiss on the mirror, and finally pulls it away, lowering it to his side as he levels his gaze upon Honoka. "I am Bela von Podiebrad, the Patriarch of the House of Podiebrad, and High Commander of the Ravens Guard." He rests his wrists upon his swaying hips, as he almost glides towards Honoka. "I have questions, you have answers; and already you have questions, with which I too have answers and the vast world has such relentless mystery, that only together, can we find suitable meaning." He traces his nailed fingers on his lips, wiping away just a trickle of peace juice. "I do not want to keep you long from your... democracy. Really, it is a miracle I thought to meet you up here. All those eyes on you, my envy would be unbearable!" He shakes his head, his hair rustling as he loosens his outrage from within. Zsa Zsa was squatting down as she continues to devour the fruit. Bela stops a good 3 meters away, pecking his heel down as he covers his left cheek with the back of his hand. "I will make one question at a time, and I invite you the same to me. Use riddles or direct answers, whatever is suitable for your purposes. I enjoy a challenge." He clears his throat, as he puffs out his chest. "The Shadow Council."
"What was its purpose?"
Honoka Kawamoto has never shied away from the opportunity to butter up a man's ego. Especially one as overinflated as this diminutive Patriarch seems to be. Especially one who she's -heard- about before -- from the tales related by her latest pet project, Koto Mukai.
The mayoral candidate smiles, nodding along with all his self-praise. She begins to speak a couple times, but it doesn't take a psychic to know that the Raven Guard commander loves the sound of his own voice. When she finally gets a moment, she continues her praise.
"It -is- an honor, High Commander. ... Did I pick the right title? I'm just not used to people being as discreet like you've been. To be truthful, let me apologize for the guards -- it's just that I can barely keep the campaign goin' without gettin' hassled by the rabblerousers who don't think I got a chance standing up against the Diet."
Fingers lacing together before her, she nods demurely, aware that at any moment, those seven of his could be ordered to strike. And the second wave of her own guards would be at least twelve seconds away.
She's also careful not to rub in the sarcasm at someone who pieced 'pretty flower' together with a dahlia. For a moment, she wonders if he -intentionally- picked a scarlet dahlia or not. And then... he asks his question, removing all doubt. She acknowledges with a hardened look -- one more akin to the criminal alias.
"Well, since we're keeping this simple. The mission of the Shadow Council was to dispense with bickering and infighting, so that the dominant powers could focus on preventing Earthrealm from bein' overrun by the forces of Makai, Majigen, and Outworld." She understands that some, such as the NOL, likely declined the invite. But that's not her problem, nor is it one she's willing to bring up.
She presses her thumbs together. Her chin lifts, as she draws in her breath. "One question, then. What is your stake..." She pauses, tilting her head towards the east. "... in Pacific High?"
You didn't have to be psychic to see Bela's reaction, either.
"Oh, it sounds so much more deferral when it comes from an outsider." Bela coos, awash in the deliberate satisfication of his enormous ego. "It's a misery of democracy, however. When anybody can be a King, anybody can be an usurper. Elections are so tedious, and crude! The lowest form of goverence..." Bela purrs, as she presses on Pacific High. "It's a contract from the NOL, nothing more."
Just as dismissive as Zsa Zsa to the intern. "We have been assisting them with security in the city. Keeping children safe and sound. We are not bound by the same rules as the NOL, nor the same standards. If an angry mother has complained to you about us, well." His expression shifts, hardening. He falls too one knee.
And he bows to Honoka.
The rest of them bow too. Except, of course, the injured Guardsman, who is shoved down with a moan by his caretakers. Bela humbles himself, as his tone goes grim at the utmost serious. "I formally apologize any inconvenience we, the House of Podiebrad, have brought upon you and the citizens you represent. If you must demonize us, then know that will hold no recourse or revenge against you; our punishment is deserved, and your wrath, justified." He raises his head, leveling out his mirror. "We have no interest in Southtown, outside our tireless efforts to eradicate the Darkstalker plague infesting this beautiful city. Which is why I just say, to your answer of the Shadow Council." As his voice lifts, into a high pitched trill.
He swings his mirror, circling in place, as the others unbow. "Absurd. Ridiculous! Are you telling me the Shadow Council was to keep out those wretched creatures? Preposterous. Duke Burkoff. Lee Chaolan. And maybe you have heard of Kira Volkov? I have evidence that they are consorting with the foulest fiends, mingling with deplorable, diabolic demons! You know what I mean, for you too have been seen!" His voice drops to a growl, soft and mewling.
Having finished her bow and her peach, Zsa Zsa was on her knees, watching Bela with rapt attention. Bela's tone continues to keep dark, as indigo light begins to burn across his jewelry. "And I too have heard about your own relationship with Duke Burkoff. Oh how you hate him! And he too is another traitor to humanity. He too has been a puppet of Jedah, the Vampire Savior. One that will be dealt with soon enough." The Podiebrad's tone shifts, nearly hissing the name as murderous contempt washes over him. Not from his own, no. Howling spirits rattle within him, within the other Podiebrads, even within Zsa Zsa. A shared hatred, carried through ancestral entities. "And with Lee Chaolan's returned, we have reason to believe he too has interest in those wretched creatures. It almost seems as the whole of the Shadow Council is a mutual effort to betray the likes of the Earth, for enemies to battle each other, to divide and conquer! How can your answer be nothing less than a farce? Tell me." Bela thrusts the mirror at Honoka's direction, eyes narrowed in skeptical fury.
"What proof do you have of your own loyalty to humanity?"
"Attaining the throne may be easy, yes... but -keeping- it involves a good deal of work, mm?"
As it turns out -- Honoka's had the opportunity to look into the "House of Podie-something" online. And she was far from impressed with the bacchal reputation of the once-noble house. She's already begun seeing evidence of the same sort of lackadaisical tendencies lurking beneath the high society veneer the Patriarch of Podiebrad puts forth. She puts on a placid front of her own, taking Bela's words in good measure.
Right up until his shrill voice forces her to break her linked hands, to jam two of those fingers into her own ears. Her eyes narrow, her nose wrinkles, her lips turn into a frown at the complete turnabout of decorum. The conversation began with an amiable enough atmosphere -- clashing of the guard circumstances aside -- but now it's veered towards more hostile waters.
She has no idea who -might- be listening. Or who -might- be recording the admission which follows a shrill cry literally shouted from the rooftop.
With the noise abated, Honoka's hands drift to massage at her temples. Her expression returns to one of cold indifference. She remains cognizant that anything she says -could- be used as a soundbite against her candidacy.
"Oh, good," she states, downplaying an otherwise vociferous rebuttal, "so you understand how defying the Shadow Council's core principles could lead to its dissolution. Selling out humanity for personal profit speaks to the exact -nature- of the people you are talking about."
Fingers splay out to her right. "Whereas every vendor -I- deal with is ethically sourced. Your proof is in our books, made public via constitutional and legislative mandates, High Commander." Her lips press into a solid line. The distinction is made -- she knows -of- the Shadow Council, but tenously avoids mentioning her membership -within- it. She's adamant about portraying Honoka Kawamoto as a celebrity candidate with uncanny understanding of underworld politics, regardless of whichever third parties may be listening in.
Sniffing, she rests her hands on her hips. "My question, then? You've made the trip out here, so I can only assume you're able to stomach a little bit of this 'democracy' experiment. So, you've been to a great deal of trouble getting this meeting set up. How are you proposing to aid in my campaign for Mayor?"
Bela takes a cruel light in his eye, the moment Honoka makes her first response.
He holds up a finger, as Honoka goes through her response. Then two fingers. And finally, three. Rolling them in place, he titters as lets it wash over him. That laughter ends swiftly, as a scowl of disgust washes through his cheeks. "Ethical vendors, paper trail, books!. Feh! Don't you think those traitorous thieves build up the same deceptions and lies with the letter of the law. Why, if words were mere Mutsuki whores it would be a forint to spit, and three to swallow." He keeps even a moment, parsing the words as he holds those three fingers up. "But I will answer your... three questions." He gives himself a smug grin, as he looks to his soldiers. All of them nod in sycophantic support, with Zsa Zsa the most eager in showing how truly brilliant Bela is in finding three questions. The Patriarch clears his throat. "Ahem. One.' Yes. Keeping the throne does require a great deal of work." He trails his fingernails on his lips. "Two. Mo ho ho ho!" He takes a moment to sputter laughter, unable to control his merriment at his sheer, unyielding brilliance.
"Yes, it is your question then!"
"And that- sorry, it is just so amusing- and that gives me the third question." He clears his throat, before he sweeps his arms out, showing the full glory of his form. "How I intend to aid you is with flowers and being blessed with my glorious presence, the most grand of presents to offer!" He covers his mouth with the mirror, as he lets out a titter. "Tra La La, my, your greed truly has no limit! I expected payment for my services!" He narrows his eyes, the mirth fading swiftly into ruthless cunning. Services rendered, of course, is something the House of Podiebrad is most apt at:"
He swings his mirror around, shaking his hip bump da bump as he places a hand on it. "I am sure Heihachi and Duke Burkoff have their fingers in many politicians. It would be fortunate if they were so exposed, that it would ruin your opposition. And it would be dreadful if their fall took down innocents with them." He fans himself with the mirror, the tool... seemingly to grow flatter as he flatters himself. "And I well intend to perform one service or another, how delightful!"
A threat of blackmail, or a promise of election?
The others applaud him, as he takes in their adoration. "Your campaign will be served by me, as long as you remain honest, forthright, and keep your precious noses clean. And let the lord be your witness, that you will be blessed with the good fortune of the suffering faithful!" He makes a cross on his chest, as the other of the guard does the same. Zsa Zsa, tellingly, does not. Indulged on his own spirituality, Bela continues, holding up the three fingers. "And all I ask for payment is three questions; after all, you have given your three. And all I will ask is a simple request:" He sways in at Honoka's side, the mirror face now turned towards her.
"What are... actionable suspicions of Duke Burkoff, Kira, and Heihachi that you know of?"
Honoka was quite willing to go along with the silly little man and his silly little band at first. But the more he natters on, imploring her to keep her queries limited -- which she did -- while then proceeding to twist her words into more and more nebulous responses, the more her own interest begins to fade.
Scholars of Honoka Kawamoto's behavior would already know what's coming next: the purple yo-yo. It gets brought out around the time he twists her rhetorical buildup into qualifying as a Cerberus. And while he gets propped up by his minions, she's casting the yo-yo 'round the world. It's a meditative aid. Really.
As Bela speaks, the yo-yo even begins to mimic his actions. The shake finds its mate in a wavering oscillation of the yo-yo string. The cross is met by interposition of her fingers, causing the yo-yo to move in a cross pattern, and so forth. And when Bela veers close with the mirror, Honoka merely arches an eyebrow.
Her voice is cold, distant. "I didn't ask three." The yo-yo sails upward, cresting before she continues, "I asked -one-."
She exhales, catching the yo-yo string on her finger, slinging it around in a horizontal circle. "And you hardly even answered -that-, spinning off into tangents upon tangents." The spin changes to a vertical circle, spun clockwise to follow her verbal suggestion. "Time is money, High Commander, and the clock is ticking." The yo-yo reaches 12 o'clock in its spin, and a subtle tug on the string pulls it straight downward, thumping the toy into her hand.
She squares her shoulders to face Bela directly. Long fingers prod into the palm holding her yo-yo. "Kira isn't running for office, she's digging her own grave. Duke Burkoff is an outright lunatic who's done his own fair share of killing innocents. And Heihachi? I have nothing tangible on him that hasn't already made its own headlines -- his companies are guilty of arms profiteering, starting the Gears War under false pretenses, and triggering a situation which led to the deaths of hundreds in Biratori."
Honoka's eyes stay narrowed. "If you want me to remain honest and forthright, I can't very well be trafficking in mistruths and rumors, can I?" She closes her eyes, drawing in a breath -- and when she opens her eyes again, her earlier, more cheerful demeanor is restored.
"So my... -one- question for you now is: Are we done here? Because I'd hate to run afoul of any -laws- by speaking with you further."
The words come with a surge of indigo light, though his tone doesn't raise up by a margin. But the Patriarch's tolerance for the nuances of Honoka was well getting under his porcelain skin. Her deft rebuttal and taunting seems to have well drawn the Patriarch's ire, even as he listens to the questions. He stamps his heel. "I know your type, you miserable flower girl." The venomous tongue of the Patriarch was slithering out now. "Twisting words and logic like knots and wires to suit your purpose. A sword, and shield, and an escape all in one. Do not treat me as some mere syncopath or rival. I am out to destroy lives and save the world, something -you- should be familiar with." Familiar? One of the guards was nodding his head excitedly. He was rummaging around for something within his bodysuit very subtle like.
Oh god what was he going to pull out.
Bela recoils a bit, his smirk returning. His mood easing. Withdrawing. "But, yes. I do talk to much. Blather, really. I will concede against wasting your time. Let me be blunt, then. Duke Burkoff is associated with a criminal organization called the Southtown Syndicate. Where would he be headquartered? And who would be... most pleased if some misfortunate came his way? You can play with your yo-yo while you think best to answer that, it doesn't bother me at all" He chortles, as he gazes back within his mirror to satisfy himself upon his reflection.
"It's bemusing how some people rely on their little toys to cope with their insecurities."
Honoka actually seems rather proud of the characterization Bela presents her with, folding her arms and flashing him a smug smile. "You just defined a politician, yes. Which I am, now." And with a click of her tongue against the back of her teeth, she adds -- with no small amount of smugness: "And it's 'sycophant,' the word is pronounced 'sy-co-phant' -- and I can understand how you might think yourself above such a crude title."
With her career as a juggler, Honoka was conditioned to take note of all moving objects. And one of them would just happen to be the guard -- the sycophant -- who's making a show about not making a show about something. She's well aware of the potential that the guard could be intentionally non-distracting as a means of distracting from someone out of her peripheral vision, but... she just chooses to concern herself with the danger she knows over the ones she doesn't. The yo-yo shimmies downward, its string defining the shape of a cone as she sends it about into a lazy orbit. An object in gentle motion, providing the acrobat with a more tactile read on her environment than her sight and sound might suggest.
"First one's easy," she states, eyes narrowing. She's more than happy to needle on the tiny details if Bela wants to continue pointing them out. "Metro City. Il Paradiso Opera House. Second question: Scuttlebutt tells me he's gone and pissed off the folks above his paygrade with all his warmongering. I can't imagine stripping shirts off innocent citizens to see their tattoos really works well for people who might otherwise work -with- the Syndicate. So back to the first, if he's got something local, I can't see him being welcome in the Tower. Maybe he's shacked up with some of Dohma's people, if that ninja nerd-girl isn't putting out." She shrugs her shoulders indifferently, continuing to swing the yo-yo around.
And even when her yo-yo behavior is called out, she cracks a broad smile. Bemusing? "Heh, you got that right." She flashes a knowing wink back at Bela. Two can play.
But not long afterward, a finger is raised, though that doesn't seem to disturb the yo-yo's movement in the slightest. "Next question. What is your connection to the Librarium?" She gets a bit more adventurous with the path of the yo-yo, swinging it up and about in a motion which might even be considered... teasing? flirtatious? At least, coupled with the sly smile she gives off next. "If that seems like it came out of left field, it's because I've been reading up on your... 'Raven Guard,' High Commander."
"How dare you!"
Bela's outrage comes short of collapsing into laughter. BUt he pulls away from his mirror, to scold Honoka. "Words are not a science, but an art. I mean exactly what I mean when I use a word absolutely perfunctionally" Metro City. The Il Paradiso Opera House. This meeting has proven itself more than invaluable. As for the second answer, it gives him the second barrel to eliminate the Syndicate crime boss. He would be content to needle and toy, to taunt and annoy.
But the flirting was made.
RThe Patriarch gives his hm-hm, and invisible personal barriers of space are promptly cut in half. The Patriarch coils in, now on Honoka's opposite. The mirror was gone. It had disappeared. A magic trick? Perhaps up a sleeve, or in the cloak. "I don't blame you for taking such a personal interest in our house." Bela smoothly praises, the arrogance suddenly disappearing to ease the information into Honoka, as she might enjoy it. "The NOL are somewhere between kissing cousins and our diabolical little brat of a baby. We, of the House of Podiebrad, are one of twelve founding noble houses that originally organized the NOL. It was a kind of means of combining resources across houses, while minimizing the results of intrahouse conflict. It's become it's own thing, and we are close. But not dominated by it; we maintain our independance with pride. Our exchanges with the NOL are... polite, assertive, and discrete." Bela tilts his head, unconsciously mimicking the pull of the yo-yo up and down, a certain synchrocity taking place. The Raven Guards seem to suddenly lose the interest in Bela and Honoka. Even the one now clutching a stack of something in his clawed hands. Everyone seemed to want to give a kind of privacy to the two.
Except Zsa Zsa.
Zsa Zsa was no longer radiating pleasant emotions, as she stares with green eyed hostility towards the duo. "I have one more question, of course." Continues Bela, his eyes gaze towards Honoka, tone soft. "I will share it in a moment. But there are many other features of the Raven Guard, and the Podiebrad Manor. Our arena is unmatched, our historical monuments reach deep into antiquity, and our love of theater, of dancing, is unrivaled. And our thermal baths would put even those in Hokkaido to shame. Of course, I don't recommend those..." Zsa Zsa begins to clench a peach pit tighter and tighter, as she stares at her Patriarch continue to speak with Honoka. Bela pulls away softly, wincing.
"A politician like yourself has no need for scandal~"
Language as an art -- the very thought of the idea forces a shudder down Honoka's spine. As someone without a formal high school education, the Ainu has learned to appreciate the succinct beauty of using the right word for the job -- particularly in such cases that she's been less than successful at the task.
Still. Inasmuch as she's imparted good intel to Bela, she feels that she will be able to bring similarly good intel back to Shadaloo with this conversation. At this point the yo-yo is serving more as a hypnotist's pendulum, or perhaps a metronome for the lilting tones of Bela's condescension towards the NOL. "Fascinating. The Librarium has always acted as a guardian of the peace, and yet it can be so damn difficult to find out anything about its inner workings..."
Zsa Zsa's shift of demeanor has not escaped Honoka's notice. Indeed, the psychic is -quite- cognizant of the delicious sense of frustration emanating from Zsa Zsa as she keeps her mahogany-hued eyes locked upon the Podiebrad patriarch. She draws in her breath, grinning at the suggestion of thermal baths -- and similarly sighing as Bela draws back. The yo-yo, for its part, continues its sinuous advances. "Regrettably, yes. Though I'm... afraid I won't have -much- time for vacationing with all the campaign activities calling for my attention here."
Only then, does she break eye contact with Bela, turning to look askance at Zsa Zsa. "You have quite the command, here. These warriors act as if they'd stand alongside you through both heaven and hell." Obliquely -- partially to Zsa Zsa, but also to the rest of the assembled Guard, she asks: "Could you tell me a little more about yourselves?"
Zsa Zsa's fuming was tasted by Bela as well.
When Honoka looks to her, she avert her eyes tellingly. Bela covers his own painted lips with the back of his hand, watching the chemistry boil and seeth. And yet, the answer comes. "Our loss." He sighs. "As for the NOL, don't, accept them as the guardians of peace, if you care to guard your own peace. If you pry too deep into the inner workings" The Patriarch states drly.
"You may find your fate is to be laid upon the Puppeteer's Altar."
Bela forgets to hide his disgust, and thus quickly goes to answer, intercepting the question from Zsa Zsa and his escorts. "Of course they would tell about themselves.. We are the House of Podiebrad." All of them raise their hand, and bring a clawed gauntlet across their chest. Bela eases closer to Honoka, swaying as he seems to dance to a hollow tune in the air."These are all my brothers, sisters, cousins, in-laws, and. We are one blood, one family. Each one keeping a gift like your own; a special attunement to the spiritual world, to the soul power. Each one an extension me I, and I an extension of each one." Applause comes from them, with the only one with restraint being Zsa Zsa herself. Bela turns his back to her, to focus more on Honoka, To keep close to her, to keep that swaying dance in rhythm to the yo-yo. "Of course, dear Zsa Zsa is family too, but of a different class."
"You see, Zsa Zsa is a Bastard."
The words come effortlessly out. Zsa Zsa goes blank. Stoic bulwarks rise up, emotions shield. The term and title comes. And Zsa Zsa almost instantly becomes detached from her own jealous fury. But the fury remains, as Bela circles Honoka, keeping his attention far from the girl. "An illegitimate child within the family; one of many that my father regrettably sired in his many moments of weakness. Aurel von Podiebrad, the former Patriarch. Bastards find their way in the ranks of our Guard, but sweet Zsa Zsa works in the Manor itself, cooking and cleaning as a good servant. It is part of her right." The Patriarch raises his voice back to the black-eyed woman, who now had her emotions locked down tight. "And what is the right of the bastard, sweet Zsa Zsa?" The woman raises her voice. Calm. Restrained. Formal. Polite. ANd submissive.
"To be useful, or to be dead."
Bela smiles softly, his painted lips curling up as he casts his eyes up at Honoka, his posture stooped."
"Zsa Zsa is very useful, don't you agree?."
Swish, swish. The yo-yo dances its little dance, with encouraging smiles here and there by the candidate herself. Her earlier skepticism seems to have subsided, or at the very least concealed by the iron curtain that cordons off her true emotional state from casual inspection.
It may have to do with the candidate receiving actionable intel, of course. "The Puppeteer's Altar? That sounds... unusually specific." She offers a bemused laugh. "So the general idea is, don't trust them, but don't risk a life looking into 'em. Got it." With an affable smirk, she folds her arms, still managing to lash the yo-yo about -- in higher arcs -- despite her relaxed poise. "As long as you're my representative, I shouldn't need to interact with anyone there directly though, hmm?"
The good cheer seems to fade as Zsa Zsa's story is conveyed, however. The yo-yo's next dance is not quite as sprightly, nor as energetic -- but still every bit as graceful. For, to Honoka -- whose selling point to the yakuza was to free them of an oppressive and unforgiving caste system -- the idea of someone being trapped within the conditions of their own birth is antiquated at best, a deadly sin at worst.
She smiles faintly, looking not at Bela, but at Zsa Zsa herself.
"I do. She's been quite useful."
The gears are in motion. And this... conflict might not be one that she will abide for long. But there is a risk in engaging now. And there is time and place for everything, and she knows too little about the setting or the players to make a move just yet.
She nods to Zsa Zsa, her yo-yo continuing to sweep about in broad, suggestive circuits. Honoka considers asking any number of additional questions -- about Zsa Zsa, about why Bela won't let his henchmen answer for themselves... but... there is already much to think on. So she asks the pertinent question, turning to address Bela directly.
"I think I'm satisfied for now. You said you had one more question?"
"Satisfied so soon... delightful."
These sort of exchanges were always give and take; as brief as they might be, it was never a time to look back with regret. Of course, he sees no reaction to Zsa Zsa's miserable existence. He touches his painted nails on his painted lips, almost surprised. Almost suspicious. Another time. The question is made.
He doesn't answer it just yet.
"Oh believe me. Ignorance is a blessing in this regard. But if you want my protection from them, then let me vow." He brings his hand off his lips, and snaps his fingers. There is sudden movement, a flick of the wrist. A razor knife flies through the air, straight for Bela's back. Smoothly, deceptively smoothly to almost conceal the fact he was moving much too fast for eyes to see, he plucks the blade out from behind him, half turning to secure it. Rolling his fingers, he lets the even blade dance from his two tips all the way around to where the handle is fixed securely in his palm. "You have proven yourself a valuable asset." He raises up his opposite hand, placing the blade on his palm. "If the the NOL gives you any trouble, I will protect you from their ire, as valuable people must be protected." He drags the blade across his palm, clenching it tightly as the blood oozes freely without so much a flinch. "This is my Oath, as a Patriarch." The air gets a mite cooler, as spiritual essence swirls and flows unseen. Hand still in a fist, he relaxes, as he tosses the blade over his shoulder. In synchronous unity, the Raven Guard snatches it from the air, as Bela holds out the bloodied palm.
Almost immediately, Zsa Zsa is there, to clean his hand with the hem of her dress.
"Southtown has experienced a great deal of infrastructural damage in the last few years." The Patriarch begins, transitioning away from oaths and vows as easily as lying. "Most strikingly in my tour of the city is the destruction of cultural sites. Temples, theaters, monuments. Southtown's identity is a blend of the rich Japanese culture that is the foundation of the city, mingled with a vast international influence within and without. A foundation that has been ripped from its roots. It's a wonderful opportunity for new, modern cultural growth embracing the outside world; but it will come at the cost of the old." Zsa Zsa finishes dabbing the wound in the palm, as Bela inspects the laceration, almost indifferent to the topic at hand. "Will you be seeking the preserve the traditional identity of Southtown by rebuilding those sites back to where they were, or will you be embracing the multicultural tapestry in modern, foreign arts, and introducing more relevant pieces?"
There are no invisible tells on what Bela considers the right answer.
One moment, Honoka was listening intently, her yo-yo gliding through its delightful dance. The next, the yo-yo's string suddenly snaps taut, twanging at its master suddenly unfolding her arms. Her hand begins to reach out for Bela's, the suggestion of a move to push him out of the way --
An instant later, she consciously acknowledges that Bela -summoned- the danger, stopping her hand short of actually touching him. Instead, her eyes lock down onto his, allowing her peripheral senses to track the rest of the motion. And when he raises the knife -- presenting it, even -- she steps back, clasping both hands together as an affirmation that she won't interfere. Pensive, she lowers her chin, still watching Bela as he goes through the motions.
She gulps for air. She wasn't ready for a blood vow. But she is, to say the least, listening to every word, watching every motion she can.
And only the words themselves seem to have any chance of calming her down. The sober, breathless recounting of Southtown's recent past. And a simple question -- one that merits many moments of thought.
Honoka nods, pensively. The question was heard -- and thought is being given to the matter. After six seconds, she has an answer.
"As a country that has stood for millenia, Japan is no stranger to the cycles of history. A capital is raised high, a fire transforms it into ash, and a new capital springs forth. Temples are the first to go -- and those who worship the gods know of their mercy and understanding, making haste to rebuild them in a new, more perfected form, in harmony with the ever-changing world."
The yo-yo is tucked away in her sleeve. She presses her two palms together firmly.
"Southtown is unique within Japan as a town of bold, visionary ideas. Here, it's understood that the past is inextricably linked with the present and future. Theatres will come and go as society evolves. Some temples will endure, and may be reborn anew, while others may decide to merge with foreign influences into newer, grander structures. History cannot die unless we -let- it be forgotten." For a moment, her eyes glimmer with a golden light. "In short, I prefer the construct of a 'multicultural tapestry' to maintaining the false hope of an undying past."
- edit note - missing a quote after "ever-changing world."
Bela waits as the blood in his hand dries.
When she finally begins, only does he start his slow reaction. He consumes the answer, swaying at every word, letting the thoughts and language swirl in his head. He dances, waltzing with unseen figures as Zsa Zsa stares hungrily at the motions. Only to avert her eyes once more, as he turns in his direction. He traces his finger tip in the air, conducting the ending. Until finally, the conclusion comes. He claws at the air furiously, lips curled in rage. "Feh!" Dismisses Bela, brushing his hand away in the air. "Spoken like a true politician." He turns back towards Honoka, face calm again, but his tone poisonous. Caustic.
Bela's disgust radiates like a hot sun. "Absolutely miserable, elections really are the most tasteless form of consumerism. I am done here!" He idles, as he brings up the mirror again... which has reappeared. His jewelry has shifted; linking across his body, collecting in the critical joints. He looks into it only briefly. Reaching out with his other hand, he pinches the silver surface, pulling it out. Stretched it from the mirror, he draws it across his face, sculpting the outline of a raven mask. He lets it settle in place, as he begins to model the golden portion of the mirror, sculpting his mask in place. "You can do as you wish with her." He finishes, as he turns his back to Honoka. A call to attack? No. With the word of the Patriarch made, the injured guardsman is finally dressed up again. All are standing, even the one by the doorway to the stairs up. Zsa Zsa moves to collect up the basket of peaches; she is making sure the flowers are left behind. Her gaze is downward. Bela strides to the edge of the building, and leaps. In a flash, he is gone, launching to another rooftop at breakneck speeds. With a rustle, Zsa Zsa, and the other guards leap as well, moving as a flock in harmony after their Patriarch. Speed as one. All as one.
Well, not all.
All except the one guardsmen, who finally approaches Honoka. "Um. Hi." The short masked man says, as he holds out a pen. "I am real big fan of Heirs to Legend, and Twilight Stars, and I think you got robbed in the brackets. Could you sign this?" It was a printing of a stylized drawing of Honoka doing her 'Starlit Heaven' attack, as translated apparently overseas, in a collectible card format. He squirms uncomfortably, kicking his heel on the rooftop.
"Doesn't need to be out to anybody." He adds quietly.
Honoka is genuinely amused at Bela's response. The man promised an oath to help her -- and with the eloquent and flowery language he expressed, one would have to be mad to expect anything -less- from Honoka in exchange. She's amused not only for the way in which he prances around as if conducting an orchestra, but also for the way in which he suddenly, violently about-faces, writhing about as if awakened from a pleasant dream by a bucketful of water.
She -especially- liked that part, at least judging from the breadth of her smile.
Of course, she remains on guard. It just wouldn't be -her- if she'd allowed otherwise, especially around someone with such capricious whims. "It was a pleasure meeting you, High Commander. I hope our next meeting finds you well." Her body language may read as open, but she stands prepared to fall back if the situation demanded -- evidenced by her remaining in the exact same place, even as Bela insists that the guards do what they will. Or, as is proven, they choose not to.
And, just like that... only one remains. And Honoka, blinking, finally allows -some- measure of release as she sees one threat so obviously in the open -- armed not with a weapon, but a pen. And a drawing.
Her expression brightens as she reaches for the drawing, and the pen. The pen drums lightly in her hands, as she considers appropriate places to sign the drawing without ruining the artistic integrity of the work. "... Oh, I enjoyed myself. I got to throw down against some of the best martial artists on the planet, and some of my favorite people, to boot. It's worth it though, if I got to put on a good show for the fans." She starts to write -- but hesitates, craning her eyes to get a better look at the Raven Guardsman.
"Doesn't -need- to, maybe. But let's say I want to? What's your name?" She flashes a charming, heartfelt smile -- as if she hadn't been shrieked at in a burst of rage mere moments earlier.
"It's Sanyi, I guess Sanyi von Podiebrad."
He seemed nice. He was nervous though. Nervous. And the same signature, even as the others go away. There didn't seem to be any fading either; looks like the connection could go a long way. He passes over a few more pictures. For a brief moment, he shuffles pass a picture of Koto with the Raven Guardsmen. And then, one of Honoka, Zach, and Nakoruru. That team. "The Patriarch didn't mention this, because he's being nice." That was being nice. "But the house needs to know." He looks back over his shoulder, and lowers his head. Under the mask, it was very muffled.
"We talked to Zach." He states softly, as he goes to take the picture back. "Harom Squad found him lurking in the Villages. Nearly killed them. Guys nuts. But... he talked a lot about you." He hands over another card. This one was one of Howard Rust Jr; it was kind of plain, and had a phone number scribbled on it. "The Patriarch wants to stay neutral, but if you run into problems, you make a call. Don't tell the Patriarch. He wants to make friends with everyone." Sanyi's voice gets very low, as he looks off where the others went.
"But we don't like it when our sisters get threatened, yeah?"
"It's wonderful to meet you, Sanyi von Podiebrad. That's S-a-n... y-i?" She asks, marker poised to make a final indelible mark on the collectible on his affirmation, ensuring that the value of her signature remains firmly in the realm of sentiment rather than profit. There's no profit in derivative sales, after all; old habits die hard.
The performer in her takes the reins of this interaction, where smiles are her second nature. She leans closer, in an almost conspiratory sense, appearing to give Sanyi her full and undivided attention.
And then, that name. And her smile fades. Zach Glenn. How... conflicted her feeling are, on that one.
The smile returns, faintly, as Sanyi mentions that he'd talked about her. It's nice to be remembered, even if it's unlikely to be in a good way. Signature finished, she trades the pen and the card for the card of Howard Rust Jr, squinting at it. "I'll keep it in mind. Thanks for keeping me in mind, it means the world to me. Is Harom Squad okay now, do they need any help?"
With a dimpled smile, she then holds the card up, inquisitively: "... Oh, and is this your number, or someone else's?"
"It's a number."
Sanyi says distantly. He doesn't seem to like the questions. Why, though, he quickly admits. "We don't have mobile phones. So, I just got to trust the girl. She's family. So she's trustworthy. I've talked to people. Harom Squad's doing fine." He swallows hard under his mask. "Harom Squad wasn't supposed to talk to Zach. They couldn't help themselves." Help themselves with what. He gets his cards together, and nods, turning his back. "You just call that number if Zach is causing you problems. I'm not the only big fan either. Some of us will forgive Zach. Some of us will forgive you." Forgive her. He begins to walk to the edge of the building. "Be careful about the others. There are lines coming up between brothers and sisters. There is a right way for our future. Some think it's with the psychopath. Some think it's with you. Eh, I like you better." He leaps.
And in a flash he is gone, as he follows his family.
Her smile dims when she hears about Harom Squad, and... -whatever- it is that Zach did to them. Was it just... talking angrily, or something more?
Her smile returns as she shakes her head -- as if to say Zach won't be bothering her, as if it's not his style.
Her smile fades, just slightly, when she hears that some will forgive Zach, and some will forgive her. It'd be rude to smile too much.
It's all a preordained calculus, perfectly calibrated to show the correct response for each stimuli. To show that she's listening -- and encouraging Sanyi to continue. For every bit of additional information he can provide is information she wouldn't -- couldn't -- have gained in any other way.
And, incorrigible liar though she may be, Honoka is not incapable of telling the truth.
"I appreciate that."
She clasps her hands together before her, bowing in humility.
"Thank you, Sanyi -- I'm very glad you spoke with me. Be careful out there."
Her heart races.
Her emotions swell.
And Honoka Kawamoto finally feels like she's on the right path again.
. . .
And, from the stairwell, a half-dozen guards struggle against their bonds, praying that Honoka doesn't forget about them in the midst of her little epiphany.
Log created on 10:19:32 07/01/2020 by Honoka, and last modified on 13:59:54 07/14/2020.