Description: In a snow-filled Sapporo day, Shina the Leopard and Tarmo the Finn discuss what's to be done about the young mercenary's yakuza troubles. Also a snowball fight and a moment when Tarmo realizes he is in over his head in regards to shoe shopping.
Snow falls over Hokkaido. A busy city. Crowds of people out shopping and filling the sidewalks. Crowds that supply cover for recovery. Information fed to Meifeng. Information fed to contacts in the city. And then time to disappear. A place to hide out, outside of the noisome reach of Mother Hanbo. Not out of fear, Shina was not one prone to fear. Rather, she was concerned for those she knew, and she also knew that when she struck at the yakuza that it would have to be with a degree of finality she was not yet ready for.
Which is what brought the young French woman to Sapporo. A place where she may not be able to blend in very well, but she is able to surround herself with enough people to make sudden outbursts of gunfire a rarity. Even if it did hamstring her own tendency to solve problems by rushing into them with fangs bared.
But she has had a time of peace, reflection, and planning. And she hasn't been without contact with those she considers friends. Even now as she exhales to see little clouds of condensate float into the air, she smiles and feels warm in the fluffed collared coat she's wrapped in. As she walks through snow lined sidewalks where the heavy fall has already started to pile up. While the city plans for a snow sculpture festival.
"I want to thank you for coming up here," she says to her companion.
"What was I gonna do, not come?" Replies the aforementioned companion, followed immediately after by a faint *crunch* of teeth digging against a crab leg with enough force to crack it before the succulent meat is suckled away.
It's perhaps rare to *not* see Tarmo shirtless -- but to be fair, he is for once in an environment that is arguably very much his kind, this far north in Japan. And the fur-lined winter jacket actually fits the weather, too. And so, since he isn't at risk of being overheated, he does actually visibly wear a dark-blue shirt underneath it, too!
"Gives me a good chance to see someplace else than Southtown for a while too, ya know?" The Finn points out after emptying his mouth -- and simultaneously extending the takeaway-box towards the Frenchwoman. "How long were you plannin' to stick around here?"
"You could have easily done so," Shina states. "You don't need to take risks on my behalf." She takes the offered seafood, has a sniff, and removes a leg. Unlike the Finn, she is more precise in her breaking. At the moment, she isn't wearing teeth for that sort of cracking undertaking.
"But I appreciate the gesture."
She goes quiet for as long as it takes her to suck the line of snow white meat from the leg. And to lick the butter off her thumb. But she isn't quite done swallowing when she's back to talking. "Not much longer. I don't know if I've gotten the right angles to get back at the yakuza. But I have leads in China that I need to look in at."
She looks around, then in giving up she reaches to dump the shell back into Tarmo's box for safe keeping. After, she grabs a handful of snow and dusts her hands off with it, in an attempt at cleaning. "After China, I will see where they stand. I've gotten word of potential work in America."
"I might not," Tarmo allows with a shrug -- though he does it with a light, teasing bump of his elbow made against her side. Or maybe her shoulder, considering the height difference, but nevermind that. "But unfortunately for me, I like you a tad too much to just say no when you come askin' me for somethin' like that."
He takes the opportunity to devour the meat from another crab leg while she speaks -- though he's a bit cruder about the cleaning process, mostly keeping to just licking his fingers clean for the time being. He can make with the tissues soon enough. "What's in China, exactly?" He asks, once he's got his mouth otherwise unoccupied. "And you think they won't try to chase you over to the US? What kind of work, anyhow? I mean, yeah, I presume *you* kind of work, but like specifics."
Shove. . .
Shina leans over. She is a good deal shorter than the Finn, and her bobbling is only slightly overacted. She rights herself and returns the gesture with a slug of her own at Tarmo's arm. "Attack while I'm distracted, non?" she questions.
With a laugh, she hunkers at the snow blowing off drifts. "I don't think you want to involve yourself in my business with China," she says, suddenly serious. She frowns, turning to look out into the distance. Her pale skin rose-tinted at her cheeks and nose. "It is a dangerous mission, but with skilled allies at my side I will make certain on finding success." She exhales slowly. "I would not expect you to join us lightly."
She looks up at Tarmo. She explains. "I am going with a friend to buy shoes."
And there comes the all-too self-satisfied cackle from the finn, in response to the slug to his meaty arm. "Oh, you'll *know it* when I attack, don't you worry about it!" He barks out, flashing a wiiiide, toothy grin down to her. At least he doesn't try to follow up on that chain of teasing blows any further!
The last of the crab-legs' meat devoured, Tarmo finally dumps the box and the remianing shells into a garbage bin, before wiping his fingers off with a leftover tissue. Just in time to send a narrow-eyed look to his companion. "When have I ever had any hesitation in involving myself in your matters, Sparks? I get you don't want me to get hurt either, but come on, saying it like that isn't exactly a compliment either, you know? After all the shit I've gone through with you, I'm not really feelin' like goin' half-measures anymore."
And then comes the further explanation, and... Tarmo just stops. So sudden is it that she might end up accidentally stepping a bit further ahead from him at first, only to see him just staring back at her dubiously.
"To buy... shoes." Slow blink. "...You know, maybe you are right. That's probably out of my field of expertise."
Shina keeps walking, leaving Tarmo behind for several steps. That's when her serious face breaks and she starts to laugh out loud. She leans back and looks over her shoulder, face pursing to fight against the growing grin on her face. But then she turns about and walks over to Tarmo, sizing up to him and coming in far, far shorter.
"It is," she assures, reaching up to pat at Tarmo's bicep. "But not for the reasons you think."
She looks down and taps the heel of one boot against the toe of the other. "You've seen my other shape. It is something of a problem for my footwear. Clothing in general, but one thing at a time. Meifeng, she has shoes and the person who makes them is in China. I want to get materiel that would work for when I am in both shapes. So I do not have to keep replacing them."
The height difference does mean that Tarmo has to tip and crane his head down looow to maintain his eye contact with her when she gets that close. He does huff just a *little* when the pat to his thick bicep comes, and he somewhat indignantly crosses his arms over his chest after.
The actual explanation that comes does... make some measure of sense, at least. "...I mean, if it's actually for shopping, I wouldn't have exactly minded seeing what China is like, too, but I ain't gonna force you on that. It's really just that? No work or anything?"
Shina cranes back a bit, tilting to look up toward Tarmo. She tucks her hands into the pockets of her jacket for warmth. "It is," she says, her accent slipping thicker.
Realizing her closeness, she takes a step back. "It is intended for shopping. But Meifeng is a member of the Librarium. And I have my own work. I cannot say that there will not be some sort of fun."
She turns on her heel and takes a step before stopping again to look back and see if Tarmo is following. "I would not mind company. But I do not know how Meifeng would feel. Or how close you are willing to be familiar with Darkstalkers, or the NOL. You are a competitor, non? Our circles, they are not always the same."
Tarmo's eyes lid ever-so-subtly while he watches the Frenchwoman. Head lightly tilting from one side to another -- a bit canine for someone so often referred to as a bear, huh?
"I don't really have as much of an opinion on the Librarium as a lot of other people seem to. And as for Darkstalkers..." he points out with a roll of hi sboulder-sized shoulders. And then, slowly, he leans over -- lowering himself down closer to being at eye-level with her, and with it? A much more mischievous smile comes creeping onto his lips.
"I'm pretty close to you, ain't I?"
Now Shina's arms come out from her pockets to cross at her chest. She leans back, one foot sliding gracefully along the ground. Back and ready, cocked like the hammer of a gun. She holds a base. But then Tarmo's smile has a certain flair to it. One that makes Shina smile.
But she also laughs. "Non non non," she protests, unfolding her arms and holding her hands up. "I should be honest. I can be with you."
"I am not a Darkstalker."
Her arms fall. "I am what was, is, I don't know anymore, called a zoanthrope. We were, are, humans meant to hunt and fight Darkstalkers. That was the plan. That is what my father, what I, had hoped for. We were some of the best mercenaries in the world, we could help more if we were made better."
But Shina stops, and she sighs, and she shakes her head. "But then the Justice came. And we were not in the project anymore." Her words are quieter, more restrained and reserved. They come slowly and with precise declaration. "But knowing Meifeng. I have doubts as to differences. Truly."
In Tarmo's defense, the mistake was probably an easy one to make. Most people usually default to 'Darkstalker' when they see something that could be considered 'inhuman'. And so, the Finn does seem a bit surprised at that confirmation first, but he doesn't prompt her for explanation right away. He lets her explain things on her own terms.
He's quiet for a while. Watching the girl with a contemplative expression on his features.
"Does it trouble you?" He asks eventually, and comes stepping further after her, until he's standing right besides her.
"Whichever it's supposed to be, I know there's at least one truth I can trust on for sure." And in a relatively bold gesture, he reaches his enormous hand down, to grasp her own within it. "You're still Sparks. You're still Shina."
"Weeell, I am also Jeanne Gado, and 'the Fighting Marvel!', but I understand the point you are making."
Shina looks at her hand, held as it is. She finds the gesture somewhat silly, but it amuses her in a warm way. "What I am saying is that I find the line between Gear, Zoanthrope, Darkstalker, whichever, to be more difficult to understand than I had thought."
5r She shakes her head. Then pauses. The states in a flat tone, "If you are holding one, hold the other. Your hands are warm and I'm feeling lopsided with just one being so."
But she is, in her way, relentless at making her point while holding up her other hand. "What I say is that I do not know as much as I thought. I am not magic, and that is one thing I thought was for Darkstalkers. But Meifeng, she doesn't look human. Well, more human than I do when I change, but the point is she has one shape. So does that make a difference?"
She ultimately shrugs and settles on. "I am not a scientist. I never have been."
"Semantics, semantics," Tarmo protests with a roll of his eyes. "But you can be whatever you want me to call you, yeah?"
The demand she makes with her other hand held out does make him laugh warmly, too. "Look at you," he rumbles in a low tone, eyes glistening with mischief. "Getting all greedy." Still, he does bring his other hand over-- the original gesture lead to him standing side to side with her, but if she wants him to hold both her hands, they're going to be standing face-to-face instead. And that seems just fine to him. No matter how many funny looks they might draw from the passerbyes as he wraps both her hands into the warmth of his enormous paws.
"Most people seem to just default to calling it all 'Darkstalker', even when it's obviously a 'Gear' instead," the Finn observes, however. "But they're just outsiders. They don't have the same vantage point... honestly, I can't say I really understand it well either. I can't even say I am able to understand what it is like for you, either, being the way I am. But... Maybe the important thing is just what you recognize as 'you' for yourself?"
"Non," Shina says after a long moment of thought on what Tarmo said. "I can only be human or leopard. Either or. I am not that variable."
Shina doesn't care if she has to stop for a moment. And to be looking up at Tarmo. They are just two things there, the people can walk around her and him. "It is that or both hands come back to me. Greedy is on you," she informs him. "I just want warm hands."
Something strikes Shina as puzzling. She looks up at Tarmo, trying to figure out if it's language or if she didn't hear right. And it's that that gets her to finally pull her hands away from the big Finn and to clean her ear out with a pinkie finger. "The way that you are?" she asks, looking up with narrowed eyes. "In what way are you?"
"Is that right?" Tarmo doesn't seem entirely convinced, as he looks down at Shina's hands in his own. Though notably, he does *not* let go of them, even as he proceeds to murmur, "If you say so."
The question, though, he takes in a a casual sort of stride, with an entirely nonchalant shrug of his shoulders. "Being that I'm just some idiot from a backwater forest village who probably doesn't really know anything at all." With her hands slipping free from his, he takes to sticking his now unoccupied hands into the pockets of his jacket. "S'why I don't have any kind of real perspective. Hell, that probably means I don't really have any kind of justification for saying anything on the matter, and that I don't really know jack shit."
That was all it was? Shina quietly chastises herself for the pointless paranoia over Tarmo's statement. It was just a simple outsiders perspective that was a difference between Tarmo and herself. No great revelation or surprise. No dangerous, damning secret. Just a guy from a small place who felt out of sorts with the strangeness of a mercenary's life. It's enough to make Shina laugh. "Is that it?" she asks. Just that you don't know more?"
She too puts her hands in her jacket pockets, warm and toasty. And now more amused than suspicious. "Never mind. Let's not think on that tonight." She looks aside, she studies the piles of snow. She ways against the warmth of her hands. And her lips purse as she conceives of a terrible plan.
A plan where she quite openly reaches out for the snow, takes a fistful of the white powder, and flings a clump at Tarmo.
"What, is that strange?" Asks Tarmo, a touch amused by the laugh that anti-climactic revelation drew from Shina. "I just don't have any illusions about what I am in comparison to a lot of things in this line of work. But still--" That toothy smile again. Even when he briefly dips into something akin to somberness, he just goes right back to that bombastic grin all over again. "Won't stop me from living my best even as a backwater idiot!"
The Finn's gaze goes wandering, peering down the street first, and up along one of the tall buildings of Sapporo. "In the end, we're both still a part of this w-"
The grin fades away, now, while a clutter of white powder slowly slides down along the side of his face. A steady blink, and Tarmo's head slowly turns to face the Frenchwoman with his eyes narrowing nearly to slits.
"Oh, I thought you wanted to keep your hands warm?" He grumbles-- but suddenly, mischief makes it's way to his features with absolutely *lit up* eyes -- and suddenly, he's lunging over, sending his hand into a scooping motion through the streetside snowbank at the same time.
"You should know better...!" Up comes the massive hand, with an equally massive heft of the snow bunched up in it, swung through the air to send the powdery projectile to Shina's way! "...than to challenge a northerner to a snowball fight!!"
"There is the competitor!" Jeanne Gado laughs at the shift in the big Finn. The surrounding people be damned, she's finding fun in the moment. She is quick to turn, but those be-damned crowds get in her way. A lump of snow thumps against her back and she slumps forward, pushing a now upset Sapporo resident.
Shina, quick to rebound, spouts a half-concerned apology in French as she pushes off the unfortunate man. Twisting, she soon starts off into a sprint away from Tarmo. In her run, she ducks low, scooping a handful of snow and begins to tightly pack it into a ball as she runs.
Back and forth she weaves through the people, running as quickly as she could around the public. A turn down a side street, into a pedestrian square. She twists and waits to bide a moment to strike Tarmo when he comes around and exposes himself to her ambush.
"Like you don't have any competing spirit of your own, huh?!" Tarmo calls after his companion, with all the heartful, good-natured laughter that seems to be the norm with him whenever the two of them start tussling -- be it at an actual fight or something as silly as this.
And the Finn, for his part, is already gathering more snow - in both hands this time! - and is even ready to throw his renewed snowball reserve at her once she's done with apologizing to the local... only to see her running *the other way!*
"Hey!" He barks, sounding just a *little* disappointed. "When'd you turn into the type to turn your tail on me?!" Hands shifting along the mass of snow to make sure it maintains it's shape, he goes charging right after her... and if his size alone doesnt make it easy to tell when he's approaching, the wide berth all the pedestrians give the truck-like man gives *more* than enough telegraphing for the matter.
"Damnit, Sparks!" Comes just before he rounds the street, towards that square. "Where'd you go!"
From above comes a snowy death. . .
Or more accurately a tightly packed snowball hurled from atop the safety wall of a raised pedestrian path leading to a parking platform. The high ground, held by a pouncing predator. One armed with ranged, chilly, projectiles.
Probably safer than purple lightning.
"I am up here, if you cannot guess," she answers, waving from her high spot. "I want to see that competitor. You may need that if more people with guns come after you for associating with me. I do suppose they need something to level the playing field against us."
Tarmo's head actually recoils forward visibly when the snowball comes and explodes into a million tiny particles of white with the impact on his skull.
AT least he has the situational awareness to snap his eyes up high after the fact, and spin around on his heel to face his elevated opponent as much as he can in bracing for a followup attack.
"...Is *that* what got you all bothered about me?" He calls up to her in askance, eyes briefly narrowing. "Didn't think I still needed to prove to you--" And suddenly, he comes charging right for that safety wall, leaping up much higher than one would probablky expect from someone of his bulk, with a boot-clad foot kicking at the side of the barrier to carry him a bit further up -- high enough, at least, that he can swing his far-reaching arm in and just shove the snow gathered in his hand at the woman's face. "--that I can handle myself!"
Shina may have pantherine reflexes, but she is also sitting on a wall and not in a position conducive to getting out of the way quickly. Particularly when a big man makes a projectile out of himself and comes crashing up at her. She makes only a token effort to brace for impact before she meets a white-wash and falls back over onto the walkway behind her.
There, she laughs, rolls back over her shoulder, and shakes off the snow that's built up in her short, spiked hair. "Okay, okay, I surrender," she says through her laughter. "You win."
Her hands rest on her hips and she sniffs, breathing out the last of her laughter before stepping to take a look at the city in motion just a short distance from their spot of solitude near the parking structure. "It is settled, then," She states. "Tomorrow I return to Southtown. I will find Meifeng. China, and then we deal with Hanbo's lieutenants. You agree, no?"
Turning oneself into a projectile does come with the requirement to be able to deal with the ending of the flight, too. For Tarmo, it's not as graceful of a thing -- he falls right back down besides her, coming down to the walkway front first, but apparently taking it in well enough of a stride to let him smooth himself up onto a knee right after.
And for that matter, join the spiky-haired girl in laughter. "Told you not to underestimate a northerner in a snowball fight!"
Up to his feet he goes, smoothing his hands over the front of his jacket and his pants to ward off the snow caught on the fabric there -- and then, a slow nod of agreement to his companion's statement.
"Yeah. We'll make some noise."
Log created on 16:07:40 12/20/2021 by Shina, and last modified on 12:45:40 12/21/2021.