Description: Alba Meira and Scarlet Dahlia share their love of red color palettes and Chinese food while discussing plans for a new partnership for Southtown.
In a somewhat shoddy, small restaurant in the middle of Chinatown, sits a scarlet-clothed figure. At his 'request' the establishment had been closed for all but Alba and the person he is about to talk to. Chinatown is one of the area's he has taken over from Duke, and his influence is enough to intimidate small-business owners to follow his demands. It's not that he's unreasonable, per se. He's at least better to these people then Duke was. In his mind, that is.
A elderly man comes out of the kitchen with a variety of lunch-appropriate chinese cuisine. Covered rice with a variety of beef and vegetable dishes at the side. Spicy noodles, and steamed buns. All in portions appropriate for two people. The man at the table, dressed in his very noticable red-and black apparel, sunglasses, and long hair, responds. "Thank you, Chu-San." mr. Chu, apparently the owner, heads back into the kitchen after giving a bow. Alba sits quietly, waiting for his guest to arrive.
Door chimes jingle as a woman of average height but extraordinary presence walks through the door. A long overcoat, colored a dark charcoal gray, flows about with each minute shift of her gait. Scarlet Dahlia is no stranger to the restaurants of Southtown's Chinatown district, though it's doubtful whether the staff remembers her. She was different, then -- black hair, a brighter clothing ensemble. Now, she, like her host, bears a shock of crimson hair and a fashionable set of eyewear -- bottom rimmed glasses, with clear lenses, in her case. And the lower third of her face bears a set of ruddy-colored scars, marking the brief presence of a raging inferno.
She pauses for a moment to read the room. She takes longer than strictly necessary to spot the host and his bountiful array of entrees -- and only then does she begin ambling over to the table. Catching the eye of the owner, she offers him a brief bow in greeting -- for Dahlia, too, desires to treat workers with far more respect than Duke.
She stops in front of the table, offering a polite smile. And she bows, from the waist -- as one would to an equal.
"Mr. Meira, I presume. Scarlet Dahlia, of Akatsuki -- quite the pleasure to meet you, at last."
It return, Alba Stands up. Doing a similair respectful bow towards the woman. "Likewise, Lady Dahlia. I have heard a many things about you." The young adult gestures towards the table, as if saying 'take a seat' while he does so himself. "This place might not be in the best shape, but they do make excellent food." mr. Meira separates his chopsticks. "More then that, this place in nice and obscure. A perfect locale to discuss sensitive matters, wouldn't you agree?"
A slight smile shows in Alba's otherwise neutral face. "Of course, the restaurant is the least of our worries. I am sure we both wish to discuss the important matters with the attention and respect they deserve."
None of the subtle details of Alba's preparation have gone unnoticed. The way he stands with respect, the way he gestures, the way his silky-smooth voice conducts matters, the way he's reserved space. All worthy of praise.
It helps that he's one-hundred percent color-coordinated with her as well, but Dahlia can appreciate that it might have been merely a happy coincidence.
"Your forethought speaks well to your role." She bows her head once more, before sliding into her seat at the table. "I thank you for going to such lengths to ensure a safe -- and productive -- meeting."
She, too, snaps apart her chopsticks. Perhaps the restaurant isn't the -classiest- locale in Chinatown, but the food is what counts. She smiles cordially, amber eyes locking gaze with Alba's eyes, as if she could see right through those darkened shades. Perhaps some would be distrustful of a man who wears sunglasses to a sensitive negotiation, but the lenses are not a concern for Dahlia. His pleasant demeanor more than makes up for it.
"I do, in fact. But first -- congratulations are in order. You've achieved what many have sought to do, in ousting Duke Burkoff from power. Southtown will forever be in your debt. And, knowing the beast's proclivities, I am most pleased to see that the city was not razed to the ground in the process." She reaches for her water glass, tipping the rim towards Alba.
Twin gems of amber watch intently for Alba's response. Humility? Or hubris? Or will that neutrality continue to reign supreme among his features?
"Appreciated. Kain R. Heinlein created the opportunity for me. It was executed with the assistance of a few powerful combatants." He explains, as he toasts in a manner similair to Dahlia.
"And I am happy that we succeeded. Southtown will be better without him, no doubt." A fairly objective assesment, yet one said with a hint of pride. "And that result is all that matters. Although I cannot deny the personal satisfaction on inflicting that final blow upon the beast." Alba admits, as he takes a small bowl of covered rice. "The burden of taking over has been difficult. It is simply a lot of territory to manage. Too much for my companions." he shakes his head, although the calmness of his expression isn't lost. Looking back at Dahlia, he asks with curiosity. "How did the waves of Duke's downfall affect the Akatsuki-Gumi?"
Dahlia's smile grows incrementally as she lowers her chin. Her eyes twinkle with the swift, efficient way in which Alba credits Heinlein with the opportunity. This lines up perfectly with her intelligence on the matter. The pride is permitted as it came with a healthy does of self-awareness.
"I would have loved to have been present for that, alas. To have seen the grimace on his face."
Dahlia's expression, too, grows neutral as he talks about the hardships of managing territory. She seems to consider that for a moment -- but likewise, she reaches for one of the bowls of rice. Loosing a small chunk of said rice, she raises an eyebrow at the question.
"The Akatsuki-gumi was overjoyed, of course. Without getting into specifics, the Akatsuki had never -honestly- took Duke's demand to exit Honshu seriously." A saccharine smile returns, briefly. "Just enough to make him think he was succeeding. The same circumstances that forced us to stay out of the open warfare left us with the resources to step in now."
Fingers splay out, as she gestures vaguely towards the Southtown coastline. "As such, we stand ready to provide you and your associates with whatever logistical assistance you might need. Manpower, as I understand, is a premium -- and a resource we have in abundance. We can provide security for you to complete your holdings. If you're in need of capital -- we can provide that as well. The main priority, as you say, is keeping him and his ilk from gaining a foothold in the momentary vacuum."
She stands poised to partake of her rice, but asks, "But we would need some... particulars of the arrangement with Heinlein before we proceed. We'd hate to step on anyone's toes, you see."
"I see. That *would* be most helpful. But the concern regairding Heinlein is Understandable and warranted. Truth is, I have had little contact with him since the battle." He lays a hand over his chin, thinking. "He sent an accomplice to announce that what remained of Duke's assets would be transferred to me. I believe that he simply expects me to be better then Duke." He takes a careful bite of his steaming bowl. "Namely, he loathed Duke's allies, and motives. The dark forces that he and Kira associated with. And Duke's lust for power and avarice. He expected me to be better then that, and to be competent in acting as a leader."
In respect of his guest, he finally decides on plucking the shades off of his nose. Folding them up before neatly putting them in his chest pocket. Letting his silver eyes meet with Dahlia's. "And I believe that I can deliver on those demands. As long as there is no bad blood between the two of you, I think there is more then enough room for an Agreement for us. However, I do have to ask."
"What do you have to gain from partnering with FATE?"
"I ask this, because I will not let myself be coerced into becoming a puppet for the Akatsuki. Due to the gap in influence between us, the role of Partner and Puppet is divided by only a thin line."
Dahlia listens keenly as she partakes of her rice. "No offense to you whatsoever, but Burkoff set the bar pretty low." she comments, regarding the expectation that Alba would be better than Duke. "Thus far in this meeting you've already brokered far more respect than he had in his entire reign of power. An astute awareness of the territory, an insightful awareness of the power of community, and a candor about your own abilities that few leaders express."
Dahlia chuckles, sipping at her water before continuing. And her smile grows as she makes eye contact. Silver -- an appropriate match to the flecks of gold in her amber irises.
"I've no reason to believe we've got bad blood. Perhaps this agreement will be the one in which we can finally meet."
And then, the million dollar question. Dahlia's smile grows. "I knew I liked you, Mr Meira. I can tell you're always thinking ahead."
Dahlia sets her chopsticks down, folding one hand atop the other. "'Puppet' means we would need to take active efforts in micromanaging you, down to the smallest, most minute motion. Even that takes resources, Mr Meira -- and we still have our other priorities to focus on."
She grows more somber and subdued. "Our interests are best served by a stable Southtown. The most valuable shipping route, the most influential seat of power. And managing these resources is a job we'd rather you take charge of -- while we provide what assistance we can. After all... " She raises her index finger to a scarred cheek. "Why would I risk becoming your enemy, having seen what you've done to Duke?"
Alba is taken a little aback, seemingly it hadn't quite set in what effect Duke's defeat had on how people percieve him. "You honor me, Empress. With that explanation, it would be foolish for me to not accept your resources. And since we both wish for a stable Southtown, I will gladly accept your offer. With Akatsuki's resources, I will make sure to keep Duke's former territory in check. A good place to live, yet profitable." He says this with conviction. "I firmly believe a balance can be struck between those two." With a satisfied, yet subtle smile, he eats a bit more of his shredded pork rice.
Scarlet Dahlia is a good listener -- and she can presume that Alba, practically gifted this grand boon from Kain R. Heinlein, is eager to please. All the more reason to make sure he knows he can trust her.
"Oh, 'Empress?' My goodness, you've been doing your homework on me -- but it's Dahlia now, please." She smiles placidly: "That name came from a long time ago, when I was just starting to make a name for myself. And I realized it wasn't the name I'd wanted after all."
As Alba digs in on his shredded pork rice, Dahlia's attention turns instead to one of the vegetable plates, sweeping it over to her place at the table.
"That does sound wonderful, yes -- and just to make sure we're on the same page..." Dahlia looks up from her plate of food: "... What constitutes 'profit' for FATE? For what puts food on your table is different than the hot items for the Aizawa-gumi, and further still from what remains of the Syndicate."
"Understood, Dahlia-San." He slightly bows his head as he says though, as if making a slight apology. "And, that is a good thing to bring up. Yet a difficult thing to answer. I believe it is at first reasonable to request protection money from business ownerships. Yet I do plan on delivering said 'protection'. Swift judgment will befall those that attempt to cause trouble in my area. Stability will also create prosperity." He falls quiet for a bit, seemingly thinking as he rests his chin in his hand. "While it is a obvious route to said profit, I would prefer to stay away from the drugs trade. Too messy. I have however have no qualms about organizing fighting rings or smuggling weapons, and the like."
He sighs, as he admits. "My lack of experience might shine through in moments such as this, though I believe there are plenty of avenues to pursue. And I would be wise to request advice on a matter such as that, should I run into struggles."
Difficult to answer? Dahlia smiles softly. "I have a lot of plates to sample. Take your time."
The half-Ainu woman finds herself amused at the idealism on display from the new ruling class of Southtown. Like the Aizawa scion, Alba hopes to stay away from 'hard crime' while taking a stand that the people would support. A thoughtful expression remains upon her scarred face as she listens to the business plans, as she samples some of the cuisine before her. But she does not interrupt -- listening intently all the while.
"I'd be happy to provide it, of course. Every... shall we say, -business leader- has the opportunity to set their own house rules. And it's always fascinating to me to see how different and varied they can be." She offers a magnanimous smile. "If you're going to have limits, drugs is a good one to stop at. You'll have to give some thought as to whether you'll allow couriers to pass through. For they will certainly try. But that's a decision for later."
Dahlia claims a pork dish as her own, swinging it over. "This one's my favorite here." So she -is- familiar with the cuisine.
"It sounds like you've got a good head on your shoulders, Mr Meira. Though, I admit, I do... have some feelings about this... Heinlein person. Blond hair, German... yes? When did he begin approaching you? What can you tell me about him?"
"Attempting to stop those rats running around might be more trouble then it's worth. But as you say, later."
Alba smirks in understanding amusment. "Taking this opportunity to gather intel. I can appericiate that. Efficient." The also-german 'business leader' takes a second to consider, before. "Very well. I can share certain details. Nontheless, it is an interesting story." the Young Man takes a good drink of water to clear his throat before starting. "I am unsure how much you know about me, but I will summarize briefly. In the wake of the Darkstalker assault, Kira Volkov forced me to work for her. I had to keep my head down, but I eventually managed to find the opportunity to desert with the assistance of one 'Zach'' Even though he avoids to giving a full name, it likely will still ring a bell to Dahlia- Or Honoka. "We were subsequently approached by the Podiebrands, the so-called 'Harom Squad'. They were an eccentric, thoroughly obnoxious affair. They wanted me to help them investigate and rescue another Podiebrad lieutenant, captured by Kain.
He pauses for a bit, eating more rice and giving the story some room to breath. "I agreed, seeing it as a opportunity to get closer to the Southtown Syndicate- and beyond that, Duke. We managed to track him down to a empty Bathhouse. Though he expected us, and somehow was very well informed. The Harom Squad wanted me to.. join him. Discuss terms for their lieutenant's save return. Though apparently, he had another goal. A goal we had in common, and a goal which he recruited me for. Taking down Duke. We discussed, and we had a sparring match. I lost, quite miserably. He is outstandingly powerful"
"But we succeeded in our mutual goals." It is capped off with this simple statement. "Naturally, it would be unwise of me to share too much, as I'm sure you understand. What I can tell you about him, however, is that he is the Intelligent type. Far more then Duke. He has a strong belief in trusting in induvidual strength, rather then institutional."
"Survival of the Fittest."
Dahlia smiles to the suggestion that "intel" was not warranted. "I simply feel it's useful to know who we're dealing with her. A key to any successful negotation is ensuring all parties are able to benefit." She lifts a morsel of food for consideration, but decides to explain further: "You've said yourself, you don't know much about him, after all. This 'intel' benefits both of us."
She maintains attentive eye contact throughout Alba's story. She finds herself agreeing with his claim that it's an interesting story -- particularly in how she bristles when Kira Volkov is mentioned. Though, when Zach's name is mentioned, she shows no particular glimmer of recognition, instead preferring to comment, "I'm glad this person came along when he did."
When the Podiebrads are mentioned, though, Dahlia begins to smile again. For she -has- encountered this particular bunch before. And when it's mentioned that -they- suggested working with Kain? She presses her hands together, grinning brightly. "I should have known they had their hands in this."
Scarlet Dahlia listens a good while longer before saying any further. It's a good opportunity to make up for lost time with regards to the bounty of Chinese cuisine.
"I understand the need to keep some information close to the chest, no worries. The ten-thousand-foot view is plenty for my purposes. Some pieces of information I knew already, but I was lacking -your- unique perspective to tie it all together. So... thank you."
Chuckling softly, she nods at Kain's meritocracy. And -- rather than offer her own insight, she simply tilts her head.
"Is this a philosophy you agree with, as well?"
"Up until a certain point, yes." Alba thinks long and hard, considering his own view and words. "I do believe that it is one's own responsibility to grow and rise. As do I agree with the belief in induviduals rather then institutions. Yet, his philosphy seemed too.. lean a bit too heavily into that belief. We never discussed the matter in detail, but I get the impression that he thinks weak people do not deserve to live. Emotional weakness, in particular."
"And if my assessment is right, then no. I can't agree with that. It is too extreme, and Inhumane. Try as one might to quell them, emotions are an undeniable part of the human race." He leans back in his chair after voicing his opinion. "Yet, is it significant important to judge, and take action based on reason. Always following your gut or instincts is a swift trap to an early demise."
Dahlia maintains a neutral, impartial look as Alba talks himself through the intricacies -- or lack thereof -- of Heinlein's impenetrable philosophy. Showing an emotion would skew the result of the test, after all -- and Dahlia is more interested in how Alba reasons through the matter rather than any actual words he might put forward. People are malleable -- dogma is absolute. And Alba demonstrates the mental flexibility to be useful.
She sips her water, as Alba concludes. And considers, for a moment. "So you do -not- believe that survival of the fittest is the only rule of the land. And that reason, and judgment are. Hmm?"
She offers a faint smile. "In a world where manking devolves into monsters, it could be argued that the axiom 'Survival of the Fittest' is the most logical, reasonable course of action available. Why should resources be devoted to the weak, when the strong can make far more use from the same? And what role do -emotions- have to play in physical fitness? Someone either has the mettle to survive, or does not."
She does not change her expression throughout -- just that thin smile. Gauging for Alba's reaction, all the while. For her point is made for her -- as she raises an empty hand.
"You may be letting yourself get caught up on the details. The issue isn't what choice is the right choice for someone in Kain R. Heinlein's position. The issue is: who makes him God?"
This has unexpectedly turned into quite the philosophical debate, with Alba being the one that's gauged. As Honoka offers her counter-arguments, Alba nods as he takes the time to eat a bit more of his meal. "Of course. Yet what one finds to be reasonable, it in turn affected by someone's beliefs."
"Ultimately, I belief it to be reasonable to give a guiding hand to someone weak. I belief it to be logical to take effort in making as many people survive as possible. This might not be considered 'reasonable' by someone with different beliefs. I cannot deny that many of my beliefs stem from my emotions, in one way or another."
"But this is the case for almost everyone, is it not? And Is that a bad thing? I don't think so."
The young man tilts his head, questioning her last statement. "Who makes him god..? There is no such thing. Even if someone like him would rise to so much power to be percieved as such, they are still human. Still fallible.
Scarlet Dahlia does not seem to be terribly hungry -- but she does seem close to finishing the food on the small plates before her. And, as before, she is mindful to maintain eye contact with Alba throughout -- perhaps unnervingly so, as she doesn't need to glance down to see what she's picking up with her chopsticks.
"It is no crime to have firm policies, driven by belief, nor is it impermissible to change your mind when encountering new facts -- which seems to be the philosophy you espouse." She folds her hands before herself once more, tilting her head askew with a pleasant smile. "I feel I must apologize. Your beliefs are not on trial here. I simply wanted to know what makes you tick. -How- you plan to solve problems -- and what makes FATE different from the other factions freed from Syndicate control."
But when Alba answers her rhetorical question, her expression grows stern. And the small amber flecks in her irises begin to take on a soft, golden glow. "Gods exist. And they, too, are fallible."
A moment passes. Dahlia closes her eyes, composing herself. In a calmer, less intense voice, she continues, "I have met gods -- and I have met people who wish to become one. In practice -- the only difference is how much sway we allow them to have." Her eyes open again, minus the glow; her calm has returned. "Be mindful of that -- for the difference between gods and mankind is that gods do not need our cooperation."
And, once more, she smiles. "You will face many challenges in the coming days, weeks, and months. And you have an ally in me. A partner -- happy to follow your direction. And a confidant to watch over your shoulder for those who might seek to take advantage of you."
She reaches over, taking a sip of her water. "Again, my apologies for the inquiries. Are there any questions you have of me?"
"Gods? I see."
Alba chooses not to contest, or ask further about this statement. "It is quite alright. Knowing your allies is as important as knowing your enemies. With that in mind, I believe that I do have a question." he stays silent, building up suspense for a few moments until.
"How is the food?" A innocuous question, but at the same time an admittance that he feels as if he knows enough, for the time being.
Scarlet Dahlia cracks a wide smile at the question. "The food is wonderful. The spices and the flavor definitely stand out from the rest. And it's a pleasure to find a restaurant that knows how to make vegetable dishes that make as big of an impression as the meat. You have excellent taste in restaurants, Mr Meira."
Dahlia places her empty plates in a neat stack. "Though, I regret that my appetite is not as large as the spread you've selected. I do hope this restaurant allows take-out."
She notes, while withdrawing a business card from the breast pocket of her jacket. She presents it to Alba with both hands. "I look forward to our partnership. Determine where my people can be of the greatest use to you -- and let me know at this number."
She adds, "Also, how much do I owe you for this lovely meal?"
"So do I, ms. Dahlia. I will contact you shortly" Alba stands up, Bowing once more before clearing up his own side of the table. "I intended to pay for this meal. Though we could split, if that is what you want." mr. Chu approaches with the bill on a platter, Alba takes it with a short bow before looking at it. Subsequently passing it on to Dahlia. "1550 Yen each, in that case." He leaves his share with the bill, putting in an extra 1000 as a tip for the excellent service.
"Of course," Dahlia affirms, withdrawing the appropriate number of bills and coins from her wallet. "We're partners. And before long, it will be safe once more to walk about the streets of Southtown."
She rises from the table, smoothing out the folds of her long coat. "And I hadn't mentioned it before -- but I feel like the color coordination shows we were clearly meant to work together."
The scarred Ainu leader offers a gracious bow, before settling up and making her way for the door.
Log created on 11:30:49 03/16/2021 by Honoka, and last modified on 20:25:59 03/17/2021.