Description: Mitsuru and Steve escape into the back woods outside of Southtown, to sneak their way to her mansion home. But when a freak storm strikes, they hide away into a temple, where they encounter a mysterious monk who knows far more than he lets on.
Mitsuru wasn't quite on the right path to her family's mansion.
She had the sense of the shortcuts. She knew about the forests and trails behind her house. It linked to Mishima Manor, it linked to Daddy's mansion. These forests along the mountainside were free of the common people; some people liked having neighbors. The Tokugawa family could afford not to have them. Mitsuru had explored these trails when she was younger. Far younger than she had hoped. Mitsuru was reasonable about it, at least in her own mind. Avoid the crowd, avoid people, and go to the back trails. It was easy, and they could make it back to the mansion without scaring people. They wouldn't have to worry about being weird.
And now she was at a torii, and it was getting late.
"Steve." Mitsuru says with a hint of misery in her voice as she stands out in front of the broad shinto gate before a stairway, leading up to a shrine. "I don't think my shortcuts are working." She admits, as she emerges from the clearing. She was still dressed in the kimono, though she had found a way to loosen it up. Hiking the hem of the lower part up, she loosened the top. It wasn't warm, and it was far too loose on the top as well. But she didn't have the build to make that risky. There was a part torn off too; she used it to wrap her feet so the sticks and stones wouldn't hurt so much. "We're still on the trails though, we just- we just need to find a place to stay the night." THere is a loud grumbling sound from her stomach, the hunger gnawing at it. Mitsuru lets out a strained groan of her own. "Ugh, why didn't you make that mouse get us food!" Mitsuru complains loudly, her composure turning into pompous whining befitting a Tokugawa princess. She would stomp her foot again.
But the exhaustion was really crawling up.
".....The mouse did get us Food, Mitsuru. You just didn't eat any of it."
Steve had been following the Girl around for a while now, frustrated about having to traverse this wilderness without pants OR proper shoes. "It's fine. I just wish that we'd taken a little more time to prepare. Getting some rest, however, does not seem like a bad idea. Both of us are getting tired." Steve rests his eyes on the gate, and stairway. "Perhaps there is shelter up ahead? The stairs seem to indicate so. Anything with a roof would do, really."
He sighs, deeply in annoyance. "We do not exactly have the luxury of pickiness."
"Well it was the wrong kind of food!"
Mitsuru rebukes Steve's accurate point with building frustration. Part of it was at herself, and she couldn't hide it away from herself. "It could have poisoned, or worse! Maybe that freak of nature was brainwashing you or something." The teenager justifies. Looking up the stairs, she squints her eyes. The details of the temple were a bit blurred with the darkness of the clouds mixed with the building twilight. There was a light though, she could clearly see it. She didn't like it. She didn't want people. Still, she remembered Malin. Temple Shrines usually kept weirdos, yeah, but they were usually neutral weirdos. Right? "And I think we can be picky. Look, there's a light. I don't want to deal with people; you look really weird and suspicious, and people might think you're an escaped prisoner or some-"
Mitsuru is interrupted by a crack of thunder.
The teenager looks up, as the pitter patter of rain begins. The first few droplets come, cool and wet, and Mitsuru pouts severely. "Why is everyone picking on me now..." Mitsuru growls under her breath. She stomps towards the stairs, hands balled into fists. "Fine. We're going up there, under a roof, for shelter, and I guess we won't have the luxury of being picky. I just hope it's a normal shrine, and not one of those with those weirdos. I heard there's shrines out here that have foxgirls running them, who seduce men and steal their hearts... and livers!" Mitsuru almost sounded like she was making a joke.
The surge of energy around her, along with the quickening pace, made it clear she was very serious about man-stealing monsters that lived in shrines.
Steve simply shakes is head. Looking equal parts bemused at Mitsuru, and Impressed at the Shrine. Glancing up towards the sky as thunder and droplets start coming down. "And that is why we should have gotten some normal clothes, but you just /had/ to be stubborn about it." He picks up the pace, walking up next to Mitsuru as they climb the stairs. "Fox... Girls? I thought places like these were maintained more by priests and other religious folk. Shinto, was it?"
"...And even if we would, I would not let it turn into another Lyraelle situation. I've learned my lesson, don't you worry." the Englishman starts to shiver somewhat, as the rain begins to permeate through and drenches his Hospital gown. "It is a beautiful building. I wish I would've had more time to appreciate Japanese culture. Blast, my trip to this country really has been extended, huh? Close to a year by now, I'd reckon." he follows that statement up with a smile towards Mitsuru. "T'was for a good cause, however. No regrets here." Steve chuckles softly as they approach the Shinto Shrine's entrance.
Branches scrape and leaves rustle as the gathering wind tugs at the forest bordering the shrine, their rustling groans joining the soft patter of rain and distant grumble of thunder. Beyond the large stone arch of the Torii, the steps leading up to the path are old and warn, bordered on both sides by dense tangles of overgrown grass and bushes. It is beautiful, primal and hauntingly lonely in the way of abandoned things. However, despite the untamed state of the garden the shrine building itself looms out of the dimness whole and unbowed, its stone walls covered in crawling ivy, wooden poles hanging long tendrils of green vines. Stubborn flowers with broad white pedals have anchored themselves into cracks in the Komainu that flank the open entrance, through which the flickering orange light of a fire can be seen.
A warm breath of air escapes the open arch, carrying with it the scent of burning wood and cinnamon. To follow it inside would reveal a single room of medium size with a tall ceiling laced with beams, the stone walls bare and unadorned. Here and there drips of water plop through cracks in the roof and run along grooves in the floor, exiting out into the gathering storm through little tunnels in the walls. In the center of the building burns a cheerily crackling campfire, a stack of wood piled to one side and a squat black pot on the other, smoldering coals resting atop its lid and fragrant steam rising through a crack left for that purpose. Beyond the fire, built against the back wall, is a low stone altar with a long silver staff resting across it, orange firelight playing across its glimmering length.
But most interesting, or perhaps most concerning, of all are the three bamboo mats arranged around the fire. Two on the left set close together and empty, while across the fire the one on the right is occupied by a cross-legged figure in a loose grey robe, the entirety of his face save for his chin hidden in the shadow cast by a broad straw harvester's hat. Long white hair spills down his back and around his shoulders, though the hands that rest palm up on his knees are free of wrinkles, firm and strong.
"Be welcome in this place, travelers." comes the quiet voice of the figure, softly crackling in a way subtly different from the flames. Though his attention remains focused into the flames, he adds in a much less mysterious tone undercut with the slightest hint of wry amusement, "You appear to have had a rough day."
Mitsuru states feebly, trying to sound tough and teasing but... between the fatigue and the trauma, she didn't -want- to think about challenges, or monsters, or dangerous strangers. But when talking about the religion, well, Mitsuru wasn't all that spiritual. Most she knew about it was from stories. She didn't want to describe in great detail about -those- foxgirl stories. Especially when she thought more and more about them, it was putting her in more of a belligerent mood. "Daddy always talked about how much better Japan used to be before they ditched the Shogunate. Before Admiral Perry ruined everything. I don't know, though-"
She stops as she sees the shrine.
It wasn't that it was simply beautiful. Beautiful is subjective. But as the smell rolls in, the heat, the warmth, that's what stunned her. She's been here before. She never... never remembered this. It scared her. Well, as much as she would let herself be scared. As she approaches, almost like a dream, she knows what she sees. Its an invitation. The rain continues to fall around them, as the thunder threatened with a roar. She picks up the pace, almost unthinking as she comes in. And there, she is greeted by the host.
Mitsuru squints at the figure.
Narrowing both eyes, shes studies him carefully. Turning her head one way, before turning it the other, like a hawk surveying prey. The mats. The fire. She moves herself to keep herself between the stranger and Steve, instinctively being protective. Glowering, she tries to decide what to do. Fight? Flight? She tries hard to think about the consequences of her actions. She could feel... something here. Something dangerous. But not hostile. She couldn't -feel- hostility.
And that's what makes her decide what to do.
"Yare yare daze." Mitsuru growls, grumbling at the kindness. "We're okay." The teenager musters as a lie. Squirming uncomfortably as her paranoia drives at her, she just barely spits out before the white-haired stranger. "But thank you for your hospitality." It's like the young girl is pulling out her own teeth. She didn't like strangers a lot, more so now than ever. "I am Mitsuru Tokogawa, and this is my friend Steve. We are trying to get to my home, but we got lost, and the rain came." It was dangerous to use names, but Mitsuru wasn't thinking in that way. She felt bad about being so rude to Moondyne, and she felt bad about making things worse for Steve. She looks back to the boxer, stepping aside a bit so he can come on up.
Waiting for him to add to it.
Steve nods towards the stranger with a friendly smile. "Good evening, sir. Mitsuru sums it up well, I am Steve Fox." the Boxer can't help but cast a worried glare towards the girl, as her discomfort is obvious. "We would be most grateful if you were to allow us to stay the night. A rough day, well."
Steve rubs the back of his head stepping slightly closer to the figure. "Is putting it rather lightly, If i'm being honest." he occasionally glances back towards Mitsuru, while keeping his attention on the robed man. "Then, what is your name, Kind Stranger?"
"Aah," the figure breathes out as he is scrutinized, a brief flash of white teeth showing through the gloom beneath his hat as he lifts his attention away from the flames to take in the bedraggled nature of his guests. Despite the warm light of the fire the shadow beneath his hat remains nearly impenetrable, only the faintest suggestion of lips visible through the gloom. "I am afraid the journey home may be longer than you expect. Treasure these moments of peace, as they can be few and far between. Come, sit. You have my word that no harm will befall you in this place."
The promise made up of words, noises in the air that should mean nothing at all. People break their promises all the time. And yet, there is a finality that can be felt as distinctly as the quiet power slumbering within the creature before them.
Attention shifting slightly toward Steve, the figure idly turns his hands palm down and braces them against his knees, shifting his posture upon the mat. "Hmm." he muses, tossing the question around with the faintest note of amusement. "You may call me Péng You. But my hospitality is not free. If you wish to enjoy my food and fire, you must pay me with a story." Lifting a hand he gestures to one of the mats across from him, another flash of teeth cutting through the gloom. "How you came to be wandering the forest in a hospital gown would be a good start."
There wasn't hostility here.
Mitsuru sensed some kid of deception here. But what it was, wasn't clear what it was. As he gives his warning, it only made her more suspicious. Treasure these moments of peace? As the rain murmurs outside, she didn't feel like it was the kind of peace she liked. And yet, when the offer is made, she lifts her kimono slightly and adjusts it, moving into a crouching sitting position on the mat. Growling, she repeats the name, trying to find meaning in it. "Peng Yu." Mitsuru repeats back, hissing between her teeth slightly as the 'payment' is up front. A story. Mitsuru liked stories She lived most of her life in stories. But her story? She didn't like her story anymore.
But it was better than any other payment now.
"We've escaped." Mitsuru states bitterly. "Grandpa Mishima, you know the Mishimas? They kidnapped me. Kidnapped us both, we just got away. And we are trying to get home, I need to find my father, Grandpa Mishima took us because, because, I've-" Mitsuru trailed off, her mind and emotions suddenly rushing around her as just taking this moment to rest forced the reflection. Shuddering, she keeps focused. Story, tell the story.
But where was her story now?
She could feel it now, the pressure from Miss Sakamoto. The Pressure from her father, the pressure of everyone. Don't mess up Mitsuru. Don't make a mistake, or else everything will be taken away. She remembered the illusion of it, she remember how unreal it was. It was a lie, a horrible lie. But it felt so real. Pressure from the demoness, from Peng Yu, from- from Steve? She looks at Steve pleadingly. "I'm not good at stories, probably."
"How did the story begin, Steve?"
Steve follow Mitsuru with his eyes as she makes the decision to stay, before similairly sitting cross-legged on the third mat. He listens to Mitsuru, as she makes a start- Rambly as it may be. He perks up at Mitsuru's question, and he thinks for a moment as he rubs his chin.
"Our story began with a fight. A fight between Mitsuru and me, in the dark and decrepit alleys of Southtown's Chinatown. We found ourselves facing off in a shady fighting arena. I, I was looking for strong opponents. She delivered on that front, but I also met a fantastic person." the Englishman started, ending his sentence with a smile. "It was a close fight, but she defeated me. Quite spectacularly, might I add."
The boxer looks towards Mitsuru, his facing turning somber and pale- not wanting to tell Peng Yu about Mitsuru's suffering himself. To give her the opportunity to omit details as she sees fit.
As the travelers settle themselves across the fire, Peng Yu leans forward to stack two more branches atop the fire. Beyond their shelter the rain has begun to fall in earnest, wind kicking up to carry the odd droplet through the open arch and onto the stone floor within. The air is alive with contrasting sensations, the cold fresh wet of the storm pushed back by the heat and smoke of the fire, the steam of the pot warm and complex. Throughout the room, the leaky drips from the ceiling now flow continuously, creating miniature waterfalls that glitter orange and gold in the firelight, splashing down into their pools before flowing in winding grooves and escaping to join the storm beyond. The noise of it could be overwhelming, but every word seems to be echoed and amplified by the surrounding stones, cutting easily through the sprinkling chatter of the falls.
A quiet "Hmm." escapes their robed host as the story is passed between the pair, one beginning from the middle, the other from the start. Finished arranging the wood, he relaxes back upright and returns his hands to his knees, stoic and contemplative in the face of their very different tones. In fact, as he listens he returns his hidden gaze to the flickering dance of the flames, barely seeming to notice the presence of his guests across from him.
Mitsuru gets a faraway look as Steve starts the journey down the very, very dark hole.
She instinctively touches on her chest, touching her kimono where the the scars underneath are only just mostly healed. The air was shifting, changing. The wind building up, the storm growing stronger. It was beautiful. But Mitsuru didn't feel like being amongst beauty and majesty. "I was kidnapped by the Southtown Syndicate. I was trying to fight my way out, and this man, John Crawley, he fought me, and I- and I got hurt. He slammed me through a thing, and it pierced my chest, and- and they had to get me to a doctor I think. So they did, a Syndicate doctor at a prison. And they... they put me back together enough. Steve and Bob saved me." She looks at Steve, a sadness over her face. "They rescued me, because, well, my parents. I ran away from my butler, I ran away and did the fight I wasn't supposed to, for a tournament, and they hired Bob and I guess Bob got help from Steve trying to find what happened to me, and they took me back to my butler. I wasn't awake, but... But..."
Mitsuru shudders as the weight of everything comes back.
"Hachiko was my butler. He was- told Steve and Bob that everything was a trick, a scheme arranged by my family to teach me a lesson. To teach me about what happens to young ladies who pretend they are fighters." Mitsuru was gripping her kimono tight now. "And while getting damaged wasn't part of the plan, well, it was okay. He asked for Steve and Bob to hand me over. And they wouldn't. They- they kidnapped me to save me from my family." Mitsuru relaxes her grip a bit. "To save me from... from all the humiliation. I heard the recording on the phone, and- and then they became outlaws. The Syndicate wanted their heads, my family wanted them arrested, and- and they did all that because- because it was wrong to let me come back? There wasn't any reason why they had to do that. But they did. There are good people in the world. Bob and Steve are good people who saved me."
Mitsuru goes quiet a moment, as she reflects on the weight of the first betrayal from her own family.
Steve listens to Mitsuru, a pained look on his face. Waiting for her to finish that side of their tale. Once Mitsuru falls quiet, Steve nods and takes over the telling.
"I felt that, if I decided to return her to her family, I would simply be throwing her from one deep pit to another. The syndicate was horrible, and so was her family. Hachiko, the butler, his words still plague me. I think of them frequently." he sighs deeply, looking into the crackling, inviting fire. "So me and Bob, the detective, decided to keep her away from them. To stop them from forcing Mitsuru into being their Ideal daughter. It was rough for all of us, but especially for Mitsuru. The horrible wound inflicted on her was very much festering."
His face further furrows up in sadness and anger, recalling all the moments. "For a little bit, we took shelter in an abandoned shrine, not unlike this one, come to think of it. But It was not long until me moved hideouts once again, this time to a establishment owned by one Velvet Blue, a Darkstalker. I like him well enough, but coming there might have been a Mistake." He glances over at Mitsuru.
"And at that point, Those blasted feral beasts streamed through Southtown, and they Invaded Velvet's Lounge. I fought them off, but not without consequences...."
Mitsuru was listening to Steve, as she goes through the events again.
Every event plays through her head, as the story continues. By the time they reached the cabaret though? She shifts her position. Falling on her bottom, she brings her knees up. And she stares. Already, the emotional presence was radiating off of her. The pain. The fear. The infection. The Ideal Daughter. So much suffering was all because she didn't want to be an ideal daughter. The thought flickers in her head, as for a moment, she relives everything that had happened so many months ago.
That everything would have better if she had just been that Ideal Daughter.
When Steve look to her, she doesn't lose that thousand yard stare. "Velvet Blue, the owner, was going to forgive me." Mitsuru begins, hugging her knees. "I did the fire, I- I had tried to burn them out, to stop them from getting us. I remember the Darkstalkers in the Gears War, I remember- I remember when they got into the bunker, and- we were trapped then, we were trapped like before. He was going to forgive me though, for the fire, the damage." Mitsuru was trembling as everything plays out before her. The outfit that was showed to her. The touch of the Darkstalker, as he explained just how reasonable the request was. "I just had to do a little favor, a little... a little repayment. Where I had to dress up in a little dress, and parade around like-" There is a flash of pain, a surge of rage. Mitsuru's tone gets sharper, harsher, as she practically hisses out repressed disgust. "One of those stupid painted sluts, where I would be humiliated, and humiliated, and humiliated." Mitsuru blinks a bit, her eyes getting wet. She wipes her face, her eyes.
"I am sorry Steve, I am sorry."
She grieves, digging her face into her knees. "I should have done it. After all we've been through, I should have just done it. We ran away, we ran away and escaped and I tried to get us to daddy. I was done being a run away. I didn't want to die. I didn't want to die. I hate Darkstalkers, I hate them. They are horrible monsters, and. And we ran away." She doesn't lift her head, but the tone was shifting. "And then we met... then we met her."
"The demon lady."
"Stop it, Mitsuru."
"Stop apologizing. You shouldn't- Must not apologize. For nothing." Steve says, sharply with tears in his eyes. "Velvet? He was way out of line. He didn't understand the seriousness of what he was asking. You were right to follow your gut and run." with serious expression, he continues and picks up on this 'Demon Lady' with noticable anger saying her name. "Lyraelle. Lyraelle darkheart." he shakes his head. "I still can't apologize enough for the gullible idiot I was, Mitsuru." he turns back to the mysterious stranger to elaborate the tale. "That.... Demoness, that Succubus. She intercepted us on the way to Mitsuru's home. She acted all friendly, got me comfortable into believing her. Mitsuru caught onto her wickedness and rightfully lashed out. And..."
"I punched you. I punched Mitsuru like a bloody idiot. I betrayed you."
He uses the sleeve of his gown, wiping the tears away. "I realized my Mistake when you started running, I had failed Mitsuru Tokugawa. But by then, It was too late....."
Mitsuru realizes she didn't feel bad about when Steve hit her.
It was a strange thought, a strange feeling. She didn't feel betrayed by Steve, not like her family. Sometimes the people who you love needed to hurt you, or could hurt you, because it was just a side effect of them showing their true selves. But other times? It was just to hurt you. Mitsuru had been hurt plenty times by not only people who cared about her, but people who pretended to care about her. But when she thought about when Steve attacked her, and why? She didn't feel mad at Steve.
And that was making her heart race a bit.
"Thank you, Steve." She says softly from behind her knees. "I know you care about me, I know you don't want me to be angry. But I did mess up. I did mess up a lot, and I did hurt you, and me. I- somebody has to say it. Thats how people care sometimes. Sometimes, thats the only way people care, when they tell you how badly you screwed up, or how badly you messed up your life, or how you are disappointing everyone who cares about you. That's how you know they care! Because of they don't care, they say nothing. You hear nothing, see nothing, until you make them care."
Mitsuru looks out from her knees, face red in a scowl. "It's not your fault Steve, what Lyraelle did. She's a horrible manipulating demon lady who lies and twists your hopes and loves and wants so she can hurt you. She savaged Steve, and- and I fought her off, barely. I should have let you hit me harder. Maybe she wouldn't have done what she did. I should have done it better! But I beat her, and made her regret it. I made her regret it so much, and then I took Steve to a checkpoint, a cordon place. The Tekken Force was there. I remembered them helping me during the Gears War. And they did help us. At first." She drops her knees, during her legs to the side. Her expression falls into an intense glower into space, as she gnaws on her anger.
"That's when I was taken to Grandpa Mishima."
"He isn't really my grandpa, but he was very close to the Tokugawa family. He would sometimes play Santa. I thought he was going to rescue us. But it wasn't a rescue. He kidnapped me, to blackmail me against my father. He hit me so hard, he dislocated my shoulder, and he locked me at the bottom of the bunker. And Steve..." Mitsuru never actually asked what happened to Steve. In her pity and self-loathing, she just dawns that she didn't even ask about it to the person who she claimed she cared so much about. Her voice softens, the rage being stuffed away.
"What happened to you, Steve?"
"....I suppose you're right, Mitsuru. I suppose that only blaming myself is, In a way, selfish."
"Heihachi." He says the name with disdain. "You had No idea, Mitsuru. And I didn't, and still don't know the full story either. But apparently, I was raised in the Mishima Zaibatsu laboratory. Created from- from some special gene."
"The Devil Gene. Such a stupid name." he looks down, at the half-rotten wooden planking of the shrine. "The memories were tucked away so very deep. I am only recently recalling fragments. Namely, a Woman. Emma. She took care of me, and eventually managed to break me free from the facility. God, I hope she is still alive." he a thunderbolt ringing through the air lets Steve snap back to the present, as he raises his head towards the flames. "Anyhow, Heihachi had his Experiment back, NT01, as he called me. He wanted to know what effects his special gene had on me. I was... Sedated, most of the time. So I have little recollection of what was done to me specifically.
"I just remember... Fighting. Fighting all manner of Heihachi's prisoners, experiments, and goons. Darkstalkers, Robots, Martial artists. I won some, and lost others."
"That was my life, until Moondyne came along, and saved us."
"I would like to return the question, Mitsuru. The answer will undoubtedly anger me, but- What did they do to you?"
The Devil Gene.
Mitsuru thought about Lyraelle, and Steve, and devils. She had ideas, but. But she remembered what Steve talked about before, and now- now the idea that he was going under horrible experiments? She hated Grandpa Mishima more than ever. She wanted to rip apart Heihachi, and everyone who worked for him. She wanted to fight. But what would she fight? The questions go back to her, and Mitsuru continues.
"I didn't deserve what they did to me."
Mitsuru mimes punches, including a surge for a Wind God Punch. It was pretty good form, all things considered from a seated position. "It started with routines. Training, fighting, waiting, studying. I ignored most of them. Defied them. Let him threaten me. Daddy was going to come any day, Daddy wouldn't be letting this happen. Daddy was going to be ripping apart Heihachi once he found out where I was. He was going to save me, and Steve, and everything was going to okay. And then- and then-"
"ANd that's when I met Miss Sakomoto."
"I thought she was going to be my teacher. I thought she was going to be my friend. Everything was looking... looking so hopeful. I was used to teachers who just pretended to like you. Who just pushed you around. But Miss Sakamoto worked with me. Worked for me. I even got to see a CYS concert, I- I was happy. I just needed to focus on my work. And she was going to work it out so I could get out. And get you out Steve. Everything was going to work out. It took 3 months, but I finally did everything right. Everything was working. Everything was fine. She was taking such good care of me. That's why I'm in this kimono, I was doing my tea ceremony exam. I couldn't believe it, I was doing it, and I was doing it better. And... And then Daddy showed up. That was the final test. Doing the ceremony for him. I did so well. I impressed him so much. He loved me, he was inspired by my strength. I had never felt so real and so believed in. After all that time in the bunker, in all my life, I had never felt so wonderful."
"And then he started choking."
"And it turned out, the candy was poisoned. He was dying. Dying in my arms, and Miss Sakamoto was laughing on the television. I had murdered my father. I had killed him. I... I had everything I had known the entire time break. I had ruined everything. I've destroyed my life, my daddy, and then." Mitsuru falls quiet. And steadily, that rage boils back. Not a wild anger. A focused, contemptible one. "And then Daddy got up, and begin to laugh too. See, it wasn't Daddy. It's was the demoness, Lyraelle. She turned into him, and it was just a recording or something of Sakamoto. See, it was a prank. It was all just a prank. From the beginning months ago. She was mad at me for humiliating her over Steve. And she wanted revenge, and she- and she pranked me for months. Where everything I thought was a lie. Every moment of joy was just part of the prank. All the hope was a prank. And the last part of the prank was going to be me. So she drained me with her tail." Mitsuru rubs her back, shuddering. "And she became me. A better me, for you Steve. And that's when I blacked out. When I came back, I was in a car, and... and we had escaped with the mouse thing. And then we left on foot, we left because now..." Mitsuru trails off. "Now we're going to find my daddy at the mansion, because if she disguised as him, then she got close to him, and- and did something to him. And I have to save him, or- or do something else. I don't know what she did to get close to him. I don't want to think what she did to get close to him, or what she's still doing." Mitsuru grabs her head. "I need to get to him, I need to find him, I need to know why he didn't save me, I need to know why- I need to know why all this is happening? Why do I deserve any of this Steve? Why? What have I done to deserve any of this." And Mitsuru looks towards her guest.
"You don't think I deserve any of this, do you Peng Yu?"
The pair talk, and their host listens. Shrouded in shadow despite the light of the fire, the being sits in quiet contemplation, face turned down toward the flames as if to offer them privacy beyond the obscuring brim of his hat. Beyond the stone walls the storm rumbles and rages, but the man himself is silent, a dark outline surrounded by twinkling drops of falling water.
There is pain here. So much pain for two young souls to bear. But that is only the surface emotion. The boiling liquid that burns atop a deeper truth.
"I do not."
As the distraught teen aims her question across the fire, she finds the mysterious man's bamboo mat to be empty. The voice instead comes from further to her left, her host having shifted at some point to crouch before the large Dutch oven. Gazing down into the open maw of the pot he stirs the contents with a long wooden spoon, motions slow and contemplative.
"It is not Fair, and it is not Just. But that is the beautiful truth of being mortal. You have the freedom to live. A freedom you have demonstrated by choosing your own path, despite the expectations of others. Learn from those choices, but Do not grow to hate yourself for making them. Your ability to do so is the most precious gift the elder gods have bestowed upon you."
Free hand dropping out of sight beyond the edge of the pot, the robed figure retrieves a broad wooden bowl and begins to fill it with large scoops of the rice porridge he had been baking, most of the moisture cooked out until it is thick and hearty. Once the bowl is full he balances the spoon across the lip of the pot and reaches out of sight again, scooping up a large hand full of youtiao which he pokes tip-down around the edge of the bowl, leaving them thrust up toward the ceiling in a neat circle. He only returns to speaking once he has leaned forward to offer the bowl to Mitsuru, placing it on the ground before her if she does not immediately take it.
"Now. You have told me a story full of tragedy and pain, and yet..." Picking up his spoon, the mysterious being taps it gently against the edge of the pot, hidden gaze turning to consider them, thoughtful. "Here you sit."
Teeth flash from within the shadow of his hat.
Dropping his attention back to the pot, he begins preparing a second bowl of steaming food, filling the air with the smells of spices gathered from all across the world. As he works he continues to speak, his soft voice crackling through the drizzling waterfalls and raging storm, bouncing back from the stone walls and floor to fill the space around them.
"Two lonely souls who met in the strangest of circumstances, and still managed to form a bond strong enough to carry them through a near fatal wound, a fight with a demon, and months of imprisonment. If you choose, you could allow these tragedies to reach forth from the past and defeat you. But it seems to me that you have already won. Not without fresh wounds, but as you already know, those can mend."
Planting an identical nest of youtiao upright in Steve's bowl, the figure returns the lid to the pot and stands, circling around the fire with a whisper of robes to offer it down to the young man. Within the porridge are little spots of crushed nuts, raisins, and jujubes, flavored with brown sugar and a range of spices that seem to change with every bite, sometimes nutmeg and cloves, other times cinnamon, and still other times yet more distant flavors.
As Mitsuru finishes her story, Steve looks into the fire, clenching his fists in anger. Closing the final chapter of his side of the tale. "Indeed. Moondyne saved us. Without her we would not be here. On the way to retrieve Mitsuru, I did run into her again. Lyraelle"
"Impersonating you, Mitsuru. Attempting to seduce me. Something felt wrong. I just thought, 'Mitsuru would never do this'. We got into an argument, and eventually, she dropped her cover." The boxer looks more downtrodden then before. "I was devastated, and furious. But even so, and to my own dismay, I almost let myself be stepped over again. She came close to making me apologize, as I believed there would be no time to fight." The shame. That shame is peeking through again.
"Thankfully however, the Mouse came through again. And called the succubus out on her Bullshit. And thus, we fought, and pummeled her."
"And it was the most gratifying thing I ever experienced." He states, accompanied with a wry, dark smirk. Eventually, he Turns his attention over to the stranger, now answering her question. "You mortals....?" despite this confusion, he nods to Peng Yu's sentiment, substantiating and agreeing to the message. "That is wisdom both of us should take to heart, thank you. I, for one, will not let myself be seduced, or tricked, by creatures like her again." Steve gratefully takes the deliciously steaming bowl, somewhat greedily digging in. Using the Youtiao as a sort of makeshift-spoon. "This- This is delicious. It's so bloody good." How long had it been since he had a proper, home-cooked meal? Right now, this food tastes like the best thing he had ever eaten.
"I have learned many more things in our time together, Mitsuru. And I hope you did too."
She almost wouldn't take the food.
Certainly, the man was impressed, and was hospitable. But the paranoia was too strong. What if it was a bargain thing? Like they take the food, and have to do something to pay for it? Mitsuru imagines what this stranger would do to her, to Steve. ANother flare of anger, of energy, an incitement of combative. She would resist it, and run away with Steve. She would brave the storm, and she wouldn't fall for the traps. She almost was strong enough.
But the groan of her stomach was too strong.
Mitsuru takes the bowl, and instinctively straightens her back up. It was the proper Seijyun High way. Miss Sakomoto's training and instruction... had drilled in harder than she had hoped. Taking the youtiao, she begins to sip it, the heat being too much to bear. But the rush of spices was invigorating, refreshing. She missed spices. She was going to let it cool, blowing on it softly. She listens to Steve explain. SHe almost could handle it. BUt when Steve describes the 'encounter' with Other Mitsuru though?
She turns beet red.
Blushing, she braves the heat of the youtiao, and sips the porridge more. It was delicious. But even now, with the comfort, with the shelter... they had won? No. Mitsuru shakes her head even when she only thinks of it. "We haven't won yet. We need to find my father. She- Lyraelle became me, Steve. Because she stabbed me with her tail. ANd if she became daddy- became my father, I am afraid for him. We need to find him, and make sure he's okay. Before she recovers, before she gets to him." Mitsuru looks back to her host, holding the bowl in her hands to warm them. "That's why we're here. And why we can't stay too long; we- we need to figure out how to get through the darkness. IT's not because we don't appreciate your kindness and hospitality." Mitsuru's voice gets higher pitched, squeakier. "We just- we haven't won yet. We need to save him, or-" Mitsuru trembles, a flicker of rage. "Or something else." She averts her eyes. THere would be another way for the demoness to steal her fathers form. But that would involve cooperation.
ANd Mitsuru didn't want to think how her father would be cooperating with that filthy disgusting homewrecking monster.
Having handed off the bowl to an appreciative Steve, Peng Yu does not immediately answer. Allowing the young man's confusion to go unaddressed, the robed being slips his hands into his sleeves and clasps his forearms before him, circling back around the fire with his back to the pair.
"The path ahead of you is fogged by a darkness I can not dispel." There is a level of regret in his crackling murmur as he admits this, head tilting back to stare up through the ceiling toward some place beyond. "Draw strength from your allies if you are able, Mitsuru, as it is a darkness only you can overcome."
Wandering forward away from the fire, the old(?) monk leaves its protective warmth behind and passes into the shadows that still cloak the edges of the room, outline growing vague and indistinct as the gloom wraps him. It is difficult to keep track of exactly where he stands as he moves along the edge of the room, a vague black shape amidst the darkness that drifts along to the quiet rustle of robes.
"If you are certain of your strength, walk the path. But if doubts remain, look to healing the wound that the demoness has left you. There is evil in the world, but not every invitation is a trap.."
Steve had slown down a bit, eating the delicious porridge with the respect it deserves. Listening intently to Peng Yu's words of wisdom, supporting his words with the occasional affirming nod or grunt. Not directly interfering with his own speech as to let the girl come to her own conclusion. After all,
There is porridge to eat.
Mitsuru stares into eternity upon the sound of the silence. Averting her eyes, letting the words run into her heart and rattle in there. These kinds of things don't get resolved in a single day. A seed becomes planted, and it grows and grows. Eventually, the only sound left was her own breathing, and the sloppy sounds of eating tasty porridge. She gnaws on Peng's own wisdom. And takes it in. But she was young.
It wasn't good soil for wisdom.
"Yare yare daze." Mitsuru scoffs. "Good grief. You sound like a self-help book. I bet you are gonna talk about essential oils next or something else." She sneers cynically. "I don't think you can understand what we've been through. I don't think anybody can." Mitsuru scowls, keeping her gaze away. "The only ally I have is Steve and Bob." And nobody else, not even your friends or family? "God it sounds like a stupid game. I don't want to fight Lyraelle. I just want her out of my life. I just want all these awful things out of my life. I want to get back to normal! I want to be normal again." She looks to the ground, not touching her food. "I want things to be normal. I don't want darkness or evil or monsters or- or all this stuff. I just want it normal."
"Why is it so hard for things to be normal anymore?"
"Normal?" The word drifts musingly from the darkness as Peng Yu pauses, his shadowy outline now standing behind the stone altar with the long silver spear stretched atop it. "Is that truly what you want? A return to petty rebellions against a disapproving family, where the only person who accepted you was your rival and tormentor? A time before Steve, before Bob."
For just a moment, twin sparks of light flare to life within the vague outline of their host's head, crackling points of bluish white that call forth a thunderous boom from beyond the temple's walls, shaking the structure to its foundation. The room feels small, crowded, constricted beneath the focused gaze of something immense peering down from the heavens.
"I can return that life to you," Peng Yu promises, the full weight of his unnatural gaze falling upon the kneeling girl. As he continues the twin points of light fade away, the atmosphere in the room relaxing, "However, you would have to lose everything you have gained. There are those who suffered through the same horrors with no way to fight back. Families who lost Fathers, Mothers, Brothers and Sisters. All that you have lost is a false understanding of the world around you, and you have gained so much more. Inner strength, friendship, and understanding. Would you truly trade away Steve for a chance to return to that life?"
"You know more then we told you, Peng Yu." Steve stands up, after gently putting the bowl on the floor next to him. looking somewhat nervous towards the 'mere' stranger. "You speak to Mitsuru about things that I do not know about. I get the distinct impression that, you are no mere monk." While Steve is cautious, he does not display hostility, merely intrigue and a smaller measure of frustration.
"But this is too much pressure. She is still just a child- you can't expect her to, to..." The boxer has trouble coming to grip with letting Mitsuru be confronted, but his argument fades to a close, lacking any reason for his words other then gut instinct and his protective nature.
And so, with a long sigh, he sits back down with his porridge.
"You- I'm sorry, but you- You should answer his question, Mitsu."
Mitsuru was just about to slurp some more porridge from the bowl, when the true nature flashes.
Mitsuru shoots up at the sound of the thunder, face dripping with porridge. The bowl was spilled on the ground. The strange energy around was a dangerous telegraph; another demon? Or something else? Mitsuru was feeling the oppressive energy all around her. Was it going to happen again? Was she going to be taken away and trapped? Her and Steve? The promise is offered... was it wisdom? A threat? Or a test? The words are leveled at Mitsuru, and she felt her scars burn. The teenager looked aside at Steve briefly, as the pressure unloads on her. She had to answer. She had to do something. So she does.
It's beneath the stature that one should have to a stranger, to say the least of the mysterious monk. But Mitsuru pouts, lip quivering as she crosses her arms. Standing up, she keeps her eyes averted from the man. She stomps her feet. Thrusting her hands down into fists, she actually shouts at Peng. "No you -can't-! You moron! You can't make it come back! You can't change what's happened! I don't care about those people, and I don't care if Steve never got to meet me, and could do things he likes, like boxing, and not being a criminal, and not being horribly experimented on! I don't care if he would be happier if he never met me!" Mitsuru states with the utmost conviction. "You know what I do care about?"
"People who lie about the nice things they will do!"
Mitsuru puffs out her chest as -now- she was leveling her gaze back into their benefactor. Scowling fiercely into the raw force of the supernatural power, her bones felt hollow. Her stomach felt more empty now than ever before. But at the purest and spiritual force of convinction, in the face of this dire power?
She looked like she was going to fight this man for the insult leveled at her.
"You aren't anybody special!" She starts, shouting furiously as she makes the situation better again. "And it wasn't bad before! And if it was? Good grief, so what? I'll just fix it myself! I'll make all those students and the fight club respect me, and stop making me do stupid fights and laughing at me! I'll beat up every student who picks on me! And Lyraelle? I'm going to beat her so bad, that she is going to want to apologize to me forever! And then I'm going to go to Daddy, and make him like he was before. Where he won't play around with painted ladies who put on too much makeup and do whatever daddy likes! And I won't have everyone making me feel like garbage, but are scared and respect me! Steve will teach me to box, and I will be the best boxer in all of Southtown and everyone will fear me and respect me for being so tough and strong! And Lyraelle will apologize to me, and so will Grandpa Mishima, and so will everyone who crossed me!" Mitsuru takes a threatening step. "So I don't need you or anybody to fix anything! I'm not the first Tokugawa who fought bad spirits, and I won't be the last! Yoshitora Tokugawa knew how to deal with things like you and Lyraelle. So put away those bargains up your- up your butt! I'm going to fix it! I'm going to make things to go back to what they were!" Suddenly, her knees felt very, very funny and unstable. Her eyes dance around, looking around the supernatural essence that was flowing through the temple now. "And... and..."
"And the porridge is bad too!" She hastily adds, wiping the smear from her cheek and slurping it into her mouth.
A mere shape in the wavering darkness, Peng Yu observes the girl as she rises to her feet, watches her quivering pout transform itself into adolescent rage. Still and silent, he allows her words to wash over him, remains still despite the open threat of her posture. As ever he is enigmatic, unknowable.
And then he smiles.
A flash of white cuts through the shadow as he grins into the face of her pout. A soft, dry chuckle shakes itself free of him, the sound at once reserved and delighted.
"Yes." the being agrees with crackling warmth, "I'm sure you will." There is no detectable sarcasm in the statement, no barbed edge. Only a subdued fondness for the mortal that stands so bravely before him.
"Keep that fire close to your heart, Mitsuru Tokugawa. Do not let it fade."
Still smiling, their host reaches down out of the darkness to take hold of the long silver weapon resting across the altar. Hefting the artifact with casual familiarity, he abandons all pretence of a disguise, allowing the full majesty of his power to surge forth and fill the room. Eyes coming alight with crackling ferocity, the Lord Of Thunder makes his presence known, storm raging beyond the safety of the walls as bolts of lightning burst forth from his body, dancing along his limbs and the length of his staff. The darkness that had cloaked him is banished by the radiance of his aura, leaving him standing in full sight of both travelers, white hair lifting slightly to crackle with contained static.
"There will always be darkness in this world, but that too is its own sort of gift. Because only by striving for the light do mortals find the true depth of their spirit." Still smiling, Lord Raiden taps the end of his staff once against the ground, sparks dancing out across the stones. "I am sorry for what has happened to the both of you. But I am also proud. Do not forget what you have accomplished together. Take your ease in this place of worship, and when you are ready, continue. No harm will befall you here."
Last bit of wisdom given, the living god lifts his staff from the earth and points it toward the ceiling, light surging in a blinding FLASH. Outside, thunder roars, and the god is gone. All that remains in his place is a simple grey robe folded neatly atop the altar, 2 sets of bamboo sandals, and the pot of porridge that still steams beside the fire.
"That's the type of attitude I like to see." Steve's response to her outburst, accompanied with a proud smile. "Try, and keep trying. No matter how much you get knocked down. As the man said, don't let that blaze be snuffed out by anything, or anyone."
"Because I have seen the times where the flame was slowly flickering to a halt, and it was devastating."
But at that point, thunder booms- and Steve is struck by surprise as he moves in front of Mitsuru in preparation to shield her. But alas, no attack is made, and the stranger has vanished before the boxer got to ask his questions. "What the f-" he coughs, minding his language. "What- What just happened." Wide-eyed he turns towards Mitsuru. "Did you see that?!"
"I am- I am just flabbergasted right now. Blimey." he walks towards the thunder god's now Vacant spot, looking around.
"You alright, Mitsu?"
Mitsuru was going to punch that thunder god right in the snoz.
She didn't care if it was stupid. Maybe because it was stupid, it's why she wanted. The world was full of stupid people doing stupid things, but nobody seemed to pay any mind. Fortunately for both sides, Raiden was satisified. The temple fills with the smell of ozone, as the crackle of energy comes up. Mitsuru instinctively flails her limbs into the blindness, fighting as all her senses are overwhelmed. And then, it stops. Motes flicker, her eyes ring. And gradually, she realizes the stranger is gone. She relaxes, relaxing more than she had ever been for months, years. There was a calmness in her heart, in her soul. Steve mentions her, asks if she's alright. ANd she doesn't feel like blushing and punching him. Instead?
"Tch. You should be asking if he's alright." Mitsuru kicks the robe. "I guess I scared him off. Good riddance!" Mitsuru says, as she takes the robe from the ground. "I'll take the sandals. You get the robe. We'll finish eating, and... I guess we will leave at daybreak. Yare yare daze, you sounded so tired and worn down Steve. You need to sleep. I wouldn't want you to stumble into a- a stump or some kind of fox girl who will seduce you! WE're going to go to my mansion tomorrow, and there..." She gives a long yawn, smacking her lips.
"We'll deal with daddy, one way or another."
Mitsuru was thinking about the words, the... blessing. She was feeling a heavy weight lift off her shoulders. A curse reversed, almost. She didn't know what it was. But she felt lighter, less attached to things, less obsessive. She didn't know why. She wouldn't know why. She felt happy at this meeting. She felt happy that... maybe the gods were looking out for her. Maybe there were people up there looking out for her. About the friendship. About the journey. That there was hope now. Enduring hope, no matter how black the world seemed. She looks at the mats, and the robe. She suddenly scoffs, as she hurls it at Steve.
"Just promise me you'll change in private, baka!"
@emit "Sounds like a plan."
The boxer shakes his head, smiling. "Again with the fox girls, huh? She was feeling better, and that gives Steve an opportunity to relax as well. He catches the grey robe out of the air. "So should you. I've heard that teenagers need at least 10 hours of sleep. As a fact, I only need 7." The teasing words are followed by the Englishman's face turning serious. "Tomorrow will be a difficult day for the both of us. I get the feeling that, your father will not be happy to see us together. I understand that you want him to be relieved, but.."
"Curb your expectations, and try to keep yourself together if that does not happen. He is a real piece of shit, in my eyes."
A deep sigh, "This is all assuming he is fine, and I hope he is. Not for his sake, but for yours." With the passing of the words, Steve moves outside briefly, before returning with the loose robes hanging from his body. "Blimey, this thing is proper cracking. No clue where it's comin' from, but I sure ain't complaining." he plops down on the mat, satisfied and comfortable. Before filling up his bowl with another portion of rice and porridge. "I will take watch for a few hours, Mitsu. You ought to get some sleep soon."
Mitsuru hesitates, as Steve goes down that line of thinking.
She considers everything she's gone through, and what is real, and isn't. And finally, she just snaps it out. "He better not be fine. Because if he isn't fine? That means he's been -doing things- with the awful Demoness." Mitsuru fixes the sandals on, frowning furiously. "Maybe because she's twisting his mind and seducing him, or worse, because he's been a dirty old man! So I better find a corpse-" Mitsuru felt really sick. "Nevermind. Um, um... Bed time? Yare yare daze. Okay -dad-" Mitsuru sneers, as she grabs the dropped bowl and hastily scoops up more porridge. "I also lied to the guy about the porridge." She mutters.
"It's really, REALLY, good"
Log created on 17:14:33 02/04/2021 by Mitsuru, and last modified on 23:31:24 03/05/2021.