NFG Season One - Otherworldly Possessions

[Toggle Names]

Description: Fresh off of a heartwarming little tete-a-tete with Chevelle Beaumont, Princess Lyraelle decides to spread the love to her next prospect, Junko. Unfortunately, her attempts to light a fire under Junko's backside quickly have Junko threatening to do the same in turn - literally. Can the former hostess of a dark godling offer anything to a miko with a killer corporeal cohabitant?

There is an old saying among her people: To worry is to carry tomorrow's load with today's strength. It does not diminish the sorrow of the future, merely drains the resolve of the present.

Recent events have left Junko with a great deal to worry about. Despite the many reassurances that the wise xian had given her during their fateful second encounter, fear and doubt have been the dominant emotions gripping her heart for the past several days. To place her faith in hope is proving to be a more difficult task than it seemed in the heat of the moment.

What if he is wrong? What if by taking this risk she becomes responsible for the injury or death of someone on the team? She has spent so long doing everything in her power to isolate herself away from others for their own safety. To follow his advice is a terrifying prospect. Not only because of the danger it poses to the future but because of damage it inflicts on her memories of the past.

Had she wasted years of her life in pointless suffering? It seems ludicrous to believe that the answer to her problem is to simply reach out and defy the deadly will of the creature entwined with her very soul. Rei had been able to perform some sort of binding ritual that lulled her monster to sleep. The others possess no such convenient talents, at least not that she's aware of. Ichika hadn't even been able to best her in a brawl when she was fully in control of herself. There's no way the inexperienced young swordswoman would stand a chance against /it/.

The anxiety of it all made her dizzy. Unable to rest properly, she didn't trust herself out among the others. Her temper was on a hair-trigger at the best of times and the demon was doing its best to undermine her willpower with even greater fervor than ever. She needed to be alone, to focus.

Within the confines of her small personal quarters, Junko sits near the center of the room. The interior of her room is mostly bare, sporting only the most basic furnishings provided by the sponsors with what funds they had been granted. A small desk and chair is nestled into the far corner of the room, mostly untouched save for the collection of ofuda papers and the ink well she had brought with her. A half dozen neatly painted sealing scrolls sit fresh and ready to one side, each decorated by a handful of elegant kanji brushed on with a flowing stroke.

On the other side of the room, an empty bed frame has been pushed to the far wall, the mattress it once hosted now resting flat on the floor nearby. Sleeping on a Western style bed had proven strangely uncomfortable. Putting the mattress on the floor wasn't quite the same thing as having a futon but under the circumstances she felt asking for any sort of accommodation would be rude. Besides, she didn't even know who to approach about that sort of thing.

The final bit of decor comes in the form of a small duffle bag in which all of her clothing and other belonging are stored. Not that she has a great many spare shirts or the like. Her uncle had furnished her with a couple of spares as a parting gift which left her trekking to the local park every couple of days to wash her laundry in the river. Maybe someday someone will teach her about washing machines.

Resting on her knees in the traditional Japanese fashion on the cold concrete floor, the miko holds the length of a simple wooden bamboo flute up to her chin. It had been one of the few hobbies that Junko actually enjoyed during her childhood, of those that had been forced upon her out of expectation. Perhaps because she had a natural talent for it and also partly because she enjoyed the attention she got when playing for others during the evening relaxation time. Every young child loves to show of a little when they are good at something and she was no exception.

The soft wispy sounds of the shakuhachi fill the small space as she exhales gently, eyes closed with light concentration. Playing her instrument has always been soothing, helping her to get through the times when the pain in her heart was the worst. Maybe just having an outlet helps. Music is a form of expression, a window into the soul, or so she had often heard.

Judging by the somber melancholy of the notes that drift forth from her fire-hardened instrument her soul is tormented indeed.

There's a knocking that comes from the door to the miko's personal quarters; four quick raps, followed by the sound of a saccharine-sweet chirp that penetrates the melchanoly atmosphere with all the delicacy of a wrecking ball, as if intentionally trying to dash the tranquility of the musical performance on the rocks.

"Yoohoo~ Sponsor calling!"

Then, in a slightly deeper and more warning timbre: "You've got teeen seconds!"

Ten seconds later, if Junko hasn't already opened the door herself, it's flung open - apparently at the command of a keycard that's being stuffed into the front of the royal bodysuit waiting behind it. Attached to said outfit is its usual wearer, the pale-skinned, pink-haired Princess Lyraelle Lightheart. Junko and the Princess haven't had any one-on-one time so far, but most people would recognize her face - if not from the media, then at least from the pictures hung around the Team Thunder headquarters to remind everyone of who the building was sponsored by, or from the complementary Lightheart Enterprises package that all Team Thunder prospects received, including a signed photograph of Lyraelle winking with the message 'It's your time to shine now!' scrawled in the princess' handwriting next to the autograph.

Of course, that's assuming that one could see the pictures in question. The fact that Junko's was written in braille suggests that somebody on Lyraelle's team made an effort to compromise with the otherwise pointless nature of the gift.

"Hello, new minion! <3"

Lyraelle glides into the room, closing the door behind herself.

"Oh, wow! Sorry! I thought you were listening to something. I'm interrupting, aren't I?"

The pink-haired lady looks around the space, drawing in a breath through her nostrils before sighing contentedly.

"Gosh, it's so rustic. You know there's a budget available if you need anything, right? This is your space, so if you'd like a mirror or - oh, right. Sorry! I haven't introduced myself properly - Princess Lyraelle Lightheart, at your service."

Normally, she'd expect others to consider themselves at her service, but the NFG prospects get a slightly more gracious side of the hostess.

"Of course, you can call me Lightheart-hime, or 'Your Royal Highness.' How are you feeling, Daidoji-san?"

Her Royal Pinkness finally leaves sufficient room for Junko to respond, smiling expectantly as she clasps her white-gloved hands behind her skirt.

Junko's soul-searching melody comes to an abrupt halt at the unexpected rapping at her door.

The young miko turns and stares at the entrance to her room in surprise. In all the time that she has been staying no one has ever bothered to actually come visit her. Not that she wanted them to but considering how aggressive some of the members of this team have been about trying to socialize with her it's honestly sort of surprising she made it this long without interruptions. Especially after her 'chat' with Ichika, she's been expecting some sort of angry retaliation or at least a stern talking to. Maybe that's what this is?

Needless to say, now is not the best time to be taking visitors. With her emotions in such turmoil, there's no telling what might set her off. Best to just ignore it. Her door is locked anyw--

Midway to putting the flute back up to her lips, Junko all but jumps out of her skin as the door suddenly slams open. She tumbles backwards with a yelp of surprise, sprawling in a heap onto her butt, eyes wide as dinner plates. Lyraelle's flashy entrance is met with a doe-in-headlights stare of confusion, the young teen's mouth slightly agape.

Sadly, while the thought was made to make the effort to help the blind miko at least know the name of her sponsor... she never actually learned how to read braille. Even if it actually existed in her backwards mountain village, there was no one around who would have actually taken the time to teach her. So she's pretty much in the dark as to the nature of her bombastic new guest.


Is this strange woman suggesting that Junko works for her, like some kind of underling? The demon stirs at that insinuation, it's prideful feathers thoroughly ruffled. She clamps down hard on the sentiment of resentment starting to well up inside, mind racing for a way to justify it. Maybe it's just a colorful way of saying she's one of the students? Surely that must be it.

Unfortunately, Lyraelle keeps talking.

The comment about the mirror is a little harder to brush off coming right on the heels of the first insult. Junko's dazed expression quickly fades, her jaw clamping tightly shut as her molars grind behind pressed lips. She pushes to her feet, fingers balling up into tight fists as the intruder starts making absurd declarations of royalty about herself. Clearly, she is being made fun of right now. Not a good way to start the conversation.

Scarlet fire swirls to life behind the miko's eyes, her irises starting to glow cherry red like heated iron as she glares daggers.

"Like I'm about to do something I'll regret later," she growls through clenched teeth. "Why have you intruded?"

The fact that Junko's reaction to her intrusion doesn't seem to cause Lyraelle's too-sweet and overbearing demeanour to falter in the slightest suggests that Lyraelle is either completely oblivious to the effect that she has on people or, perhaps more horribly, entirely self-aware.

"Right. Grew up in a remote mountain village, didn't you? Don't worry, sweetie, 'minion' is just my pet name for my fans, my employees, and you lucky five. Actual fealty is optional in your case."

In the absence of somewhere to sit, the princess chooses, by default, to remain standing.

"Normally I would have brought tea and cookies, but from what I hear, you're on the naughty list at the moment. Of course, maybe if you'd got your share of the tea and cookies sooner, these little incidents wouldn't be a problem. I know what it's like to get hangry."

Lyraelle's eyes narrow slightly as she leans a little toward Junko, trying to get a better look at the miko's red irises. Then, without subtlety, she goes straight in with the question on her mind:

"You're visually-impaired, right? Are we talking completely blind, or just altered, like you can see auras or something? I've got to admit, you're missing out on, like, at least half of my appeal if it's true. Well, maybe less than half, if you can at least see shapes."

She rests her hands on her hips and poses emphatically.

"As for why I'm intruding? I had a gap in my schedule and you've been slotted in. I probably would've gone to Buck first, but he's busy fighting or something, and with the way you've been acting out recently, I presumed you were in need of attention."

Having the whole 'minion' thing cleared up actually does make Junko relax visibly, at least a few notches. Some of the tension in her shoulders releases, her fists unclench into loose balls, and her molars stop grinding loud enough to be heard across the room. A glorious state of relative calm that lasts for roughly two seconds.

The miko flinches at the mention of her unfortunate incident with Ichika. Though Lyraelle didn't say it directly, there can't be much of anything else she's talking about. After all, Junko hasn't assaulted anyone else... right? Well, there's a terrifying thought that does nothing to help her anxiety.

Also, what the hell does hangry mean?

The teenager's chin droops slightly, her gaze shifting to the floor with a look of contrition. She really didn't need to be reminded about the whole Ichika situation again. Knowing that others have been made privy to that disaster makes her feel worse somehow.

Fortunately, Lyraelle's lack of tact provides a rather unexpected distraction from those thoughts. Junko stares at her in silence for a moment, taken aback by the sheer gall of asking such a question directly. Does this woman have no filter?!

But, upon thinking about it, she realizes that no one has ever actually asked her that before. Strange. Her uncle knows about her condition because she saw fit to inform him but no one else in the village cared enough to wonder. That or she scared anyone who did off before they could get around to asking.

"That's... difficult to answer simply. My eyes no longer function at all. Burned to uselessness. A side effect of..."

She stalls seemingly at random, mulling over her words. She had been about to say 'my power' but it isn't hers and she needs to keep that firmly in mind. These flames are a curse, not a blessing.

"...the power I wield."

Junko closes her eyes and sucks in a long slow breath through her nose, steadying her emotions. Talking about the specifics of her situation is drawing attention from her darker half. Perhaps it enjoys preening over its own abilities or maybe it's just waiting for an opening to make her uncomfortable. Gods knows there's more than enough bitter memories associated with this topic.

"But, I can... sense, I suppose, sources of heat."

She gestures at Lyraelle with a vague wave of her hand.

"You just look like a big blob of orange heat to me. Like most people."

For all her seeming of self-absorption, the pink-haired hime does take time to listen to Junko's answer to her question about the miko's eyesight, her hands remaining folded behind her back as she does, her head cocking slightly to one side. The tiara that she wears, at least, is designed to remain firmly in place in combat situations, let alone in the event of exaggerated expressiveness.

"Oh, that's interesting. So you're kind of -"

Something causes Lyraelle to suddenly exhibit a severe case of delayed cringe.

"- wait - a blob?? /Orange?!/"

The horrific image causes Lyraelle's lips to twist downward at the edges and nose to crinkle in disdain.

"God, I can only imagine how terrible that must be. I mean, most people kind of blur together to me, too, if we're being honest, but orange is /so/ not my colour. I bet I would've been blinding back when I was the Demon Queen, though. I was hot as hell back then. Literally /and/ figuratively. Now, only figuratively."

Lyraelle unfolds her arms from behind herself to cross them over her midsection as she looks toward the ceiling for a moment with a wistful sigh before lowering them as she starts to wander around the room slowly, taking a deeper look at things.

"Sorry, we're talking about you, here. So, tell me about what's going on with you and Ichi - oooh, are these sealing scrolls?" Lyraelle wonders aloud as she gets a little too nosy around the desk, her gloves delicately fingering the paper scrolls for a moment before separating from them. She quickly turns around to face Junko directly again.

"Anyway, right - I wanted to hear about what's going on with you and Ichika-chan. That new laptop cost me fifty thousand yen, you know, so I'd like to know if it's something that's likely to happen again."

Her expression would be a little difficult to read even for someone who could see it; her tone is very matter-of-fact, but not angry.

Once again Junko is taken aback by the sudden outburst, flinching at the reaction to her explanation. Seems she isn't used to dealing with people who are so excitable. And loud.

"It's... not really a color. That's just the best way I can explain it."

The teen frowns, rubbing the back of her head sheepishly. She's never had to try and describe this before in detail. Her uncle wasn't much interested in the finer points, just the general gist.

"It's more like a sensation. Living things like people or animals don't put off much heat so they feel... gentle, I guess. Warm. Orange. Objects that put off more heat, like actual fire or a hot car engine, are brighter."

Demon Queen? Is that another figure of speech? Perhaps it's better not to ask, this woman is frustrating enough already.

"H-hey, don't touch those!"

Scampering over to her desk, the miko all but barrels the older woman out of the way and scoops the charms up protectively, holding them against her chest as if they were made out of gold instead of paper. An annoyed glower is directed at Lyraelle, the girl's expression thoroughly indignant, as if she had tried to read the teenager's open diary.

Shamelessly, the nosy intruder switches the topic without missing a beat - right back to the open wound she'd peeled the scab off of only a few moments ago.

Junko's glare shifts back to the floor but some of the heat goes out of it, her shoulders slumping dejectedly. She clearly looks guilty about something.

"...there's nothing going on. I just..."

For a moment, the miko's expression becomes uncertain and a little bit vulnerable. She chews on her bottom lip nervously, eyes shifting away from Lyraelle. She still hasn't had enough time to make up her mind on how to resolve that. If she takes Rei's advice and tries to let people in to her life then there will need to be one heck of an apology involved. But, if she decides not to risk it then any hint that she thinks she did the wrong thing might send a poor message.

"I did what I felt was necessary," she says softly.

Lyraelle's eyes flit thoughtfully toward Junko when she wards her off of the sealing scrolls. It's fairly evident that the miko sees the scrolls as important. Besides, the pink-clad princess saw enough to have a fair idea of what the ofuda are about. One doesn't survive becoming the premiere provider of darkstalker-based entertainment - sometimes without the monsters even being aware of their casting calls, and other times through contracts not based merely in monetary provisions - without getting familiar with solutions to esoteric and occult issues. Lyraelle is pretty confident in having narrowed the purpose of the scrolls to 'keeping something out' or 'keeping something in.'

"Well, then..."

Lyraelle finally stops menacing the decor with her mobile presence and instead sets her royal rear end down on the foot of the bed frame. It's not exactly the comfiest of places to sit, but at least it's at about the right height to serve the purpose. Her arms unfold and she arches her back and shoulders until they pop, dropping her gloved hands down onto her stocking-covered knees.

Then, she smiles warmly.

"...Well done."

She cants her head a little to one side as she continues to beam.

"You did what felt right at the time. I'm a big believer in going with your instincts. When you're playing a field like this, second guessing yourself is a loser's game. People don't want to see you do the /right/ thing, they just want to see you /do/ something. Paragon or renegade, you just have to commit."

This was supposed to be about a private dispute, wasn't it? Though, Junko may already be aware of the fact that footage of the fight was already aired on Team Thunder's own media platform, depending on how much attention she or those she's spoken to pay to such things.

"And look, if you're feeling bad about Ichika's laptop, don't. Like I said, property damage is covered. Just don't cause any permanent damage to your fellow Thundies and you've got an implicit O.K. from me. I mean, I certainly won't condone it publically, but I'll make sure you don't take any backlash over it. I'll even let you have some input on the spin, if you want. You know, the reason for the beef. Doesn't even have to be true, as long as it's juicy."

Of all the strange things this bizarre woman has said thus far, those two simple words - well done - are by far the most unexpected.

It takes a couple moments for the miko to process what has been implied by that statement and another couple for the realization to hit her face. The chastened expression slowly morphs into a look of utter confusion, her head lifting to regard Lyraelle as she if had suddenly grown back her old horns and tail.


The older woman lays out her own view on things. Just about everything she says clashes violently with the long and emotional heart-to-heart that the miko had experienced with the more reserved Rei. Though in a roundabout way, both of them had given her the same basic advice which is - everything is up to you to decide.

In the xian's case, however, he had cautioned her of the inherent dangers in following the two paths available to her. There was pain waiting for her down both roads. On one hand, the constant suffering of isolation and loneliness, the promise of having to repeat the cycle of harming others in order to protect them from the greater threat of the beast slumbering inside of her. On the other, the torture of constantly living in fear that those she has taken into her confidence and warned about the nature of her spiritual pact will wind up permanently maimed or worse.

This woman seems to be telling her to simply forget about all of that and just act on instinct. Do whatever she wants, what feels natural. Don't think, just act. There are a lot of confusing terms she throws in the mix, perhaps some cultural references that she has missed out on, but the general gist of her message is fairly clear.

But, that's pure insanity, isn't it? Trusting her instincts means trusting that she can tell the difference between her own thoughts and desires and the poisonous whispers of her dark companion. What if Rei was right and all these years she's just been a puppet on a string, dancing to the tune of the demon? The xian claimed it wanted her to be alone, needed her to be isolated so as to prey upon her vulnerable emotions.

If he's wrong, then she would just be pointlessly opening herself and others up to more tragedy. Thus far what she has been doing has worked. No one else has died since she cut herself off from the rest of society. Sure, it sucks to be alone, but that seems to be the price she has to pay for her mistake.

Junko's brows furrow as she mulls this over in the span of a few long moments. Rei had given her the advice he thought she needed to get out of the rut she's found herself in. Yes, there's risks involved but he'd laid that out plainly. He just wanted her to know her options.

Which raises the question why Lyraelle would come bursting into her room and try to convince her to act without thought. Junko knows effectively nothing about this woman. Her past, her character, her motivations - all mysteries. And the miko should likewise be mostly an unknown to this strange woman. Sure, she might have seen what happened between her and Ichika but that's only a tiny fragment of the big picture.


She patently refuses to entertain the thought of calling this woman a princess without some serious validation on those credentials. She keeps her tone of voice calm and conversational, but there's a suspicious edge to it that she can't completely hide.

"I'm afraid I don't understand. Why encourage this?"

The reaction from Junko to her encouragement doesn't appear to be all that unexpected, judging by the composure and the smile that Lyraelle maintains as she remains perched on the disused bedframe. Her expression softens just a little - though the shift may be imperceptible - as she answers Junko's question, her speech becoming slower and more deliberate.

"Right. You don't know me very well, so you're probably wondering what exactly I'm doing here and what my qualifications are to be giving you this advice."

She draws in a deep breath through her nostrils before exhaling it.

"I'm Lyraelle. At one point, it could be said that I was the most famous darkstalker in the world since the Dohma invasion. The Demon Queen," she says, sweeping both hands in the air as if gesturing toward a marquee suspended above. "To hear Fighterpedia tell it, I came out of nowhere, rose to FightTube stardom with my 'making of' videos, drew with a World Champion in my first actual match, and then went on to become a dominant force in the international fighting scene. I swayed global opinions and awareness of darkstalkers from an all-time low to what we have today: integration, acceptance, and equal opportunity. I mean, other than the real eat-your-babies types, anyway."

She pushes herself up to her feet and starts to wander a little again, unconsciously rubbing away the soreness of the uncomfortable seating selection.

"I bought this place. You know, the other mentors on this team have been around a long time. Centuries, in some cases. But I've had a bigger impact than any of them. People know my name. They know my face. They can watch me for hundreds of hours on FightTube if they want, but they still pay to see me live. And I didn't achieve any of that by being 'the good girl.'"

She makes air quotes with her gloved fingers as she says it, apparently too accustomed to her own mannerisms to adjust for her audience at this point.

"I blew shit up. I humiliated my opponents. I broke Saturday Night Fights by showing that people wanted real stakes and real monsters with The Midnight Channel and they /begged/ me to take it over. They didn't buy me out, they paid me protection money."

She brushes her hair back idly as she continues to speak about what is obviously her favourite subject.

"So that's what you get with me. You want to learn how to fight? Ask Ariastra. You want to learn how to be smug and old? Ask Peng You. You want to do... whatever it is shrine maidens do? Ask Ichijo-sama. You want to... I dunno, learn a bunch of cryptic elementalist crap? Ask that new guy."

She slides to a stop and turns directly to face Junko.

"But if you want to make an impact? I'm your girl. Because that's why /they/ asked me to join them."

She takes a step closer, holding her elbows at her sides and balling her hands in front of her emphatically.

"I'm the one who's fresh and relevant. I'm not here to change you, and I'm not here to keep things intentionally vague. I'm here to help you take who you are and own it. Whether that's someone people love, or someone people love to hate. And trust me, people love it when you blow shit up."

The subtleties of the mentor's body language are sadly beyond Junko's ability to perceive. Big orange blob. Perhaps if she could notice the way Lyraelle seems to be entirely in control of the direction this conversation is going, as if she'd planned it from the start, the miko might be a little more wary. But things are confusing for her right now. There's so many different emotions and desires pulling her in various directions that it's hard to see straight or perceive where each path will end up. All she can do is listen to everyone's perspective and try to figure out which one aligns with her goals.

So that's what she does - listen. It's something that she's gotten quite good at doing lately. Everyone seems to have something to say about her and her problems despite knowing almost nothing about her. Honestly, as annoying as it has been, even the well-meaning but ignorant slew of advice has been a pleasant reprieve from the years of isolation though she would never admit it out loud.

And she has learned a good deal about her new teammates from their brief interactions. Surface level things, mostly, but even that is an insight of sort. The xian Rei, so calm and full of strangely poignant wisdom despite how young he sounds. He seems to have a genuine interest in helping others grow and learn. Ichika, with her boldly optimistic approach to the unknown. She had said something about getting to know people through battle. A strange notion but one that hinted at an underlying empathy to the girl.

It's a shame Lyraelle doesn't seem to share the same passion for trying to understand others. Perhaps if she had cared a little more to learn about the miko's origins and past she would have been a little more circumspect in her choice of words. Like maybe not telling the scion of a centuries old monster hunting clan that you're a freaking demon lord.

Junko's entire body goes suddenly rigid as the woman starts to unload her spiel about the glory days of her past. Darkstalker. That is a word that, until recently, had no meaning to the young girl. Isolated from the modern world, her clan was in many ways mired in traditions and beliefs centuries out of date. They had little exposure to other cultures which might have tempered some of the more unpleasant aspects of civilizations past.

The only window into this bizarre alien world into which she had been thrust was the occasional stories of those who needed to venture outside the boundaries of the clan's ancestral lands in order to trade for supplies. Her uncle had been one such individual before his unexpected ascent to the head of the clan in the wake of her father's demise. Though he and her father never really got along that well, he had always been kind enough to her and she enjoyed hearing the tales of the strange machina and fashion sense of the world beyond her own.

The last couple of years had introduced her to a new story, however, one which she had struggled to believe. Portals to the realms beyond had been torn open and spilled forth all manner of nightmarish abominations from myth and legend. Wisely, humanity had sought to exterminate these vile fiends and waged a terrible war. Yet in the end there were those who sought not to drive these beasts back to the Hells where they belong but /embrace/ them in friendship. The very notion was laughable and yet her uncle had insisted it was true, warning her to be on her guard against such perfidious infiltrators welcomed by the open arms of soft-hearted fools.

Lost in the flamboyant recounting of her many accolades, Lyraelle may not immediately notice the shift in her companion's attitude. The miko begins to slowly back away, her dour scowl steadily morphing into something even less pleasant. A mixture of fear and fury wars for dominance on her pale features, brows furrowed, lips slightly peeled back in a restrained snarl, her eyes aglow with unnatural power.

It suddenly makes sense to her. This strange intrusion by a woman who seems intent on pushing her towards a chaotic path of violence without restraint. Odd, that she could not sense the demon's aura, such creatures tended to have rather distinct feels about them but she has heard tales of insidious creatures able to disguise themselves perfectly as humans before. The wicked kitsune. The mischievous tanuki. The viscious bakeneko. The treacherous yama uba. And many others.

By the time Lyraelle has started to wrap up her spiel, her audience has long since ceased to listen. Junko stares at her with open disgust, a trickle of sweat running down the side of her face that betrays the fear she feels as well. She isn't prepared to handle some kind of demon noble on her own, not in this state. Would anyone even come running to her assistance if she called after all the effort she has taken to keep the others away?

The word Darkstalker had no meaning to her, no, she had understood its purpose enough to link it to one that does.


The word is hissed at Lyraelle like a curse, dripping with enough venom that her bite might actually be poisonous in that moment. The handful of ofuda that she had snatched up earlier are clutched to the girl's chest like a shield as if their mere presence might ward away whatever evil influence this vile trickster had been attempting to weave upon her.

"Uncle was right. This world has gone completely mad to allow creatures such as you to roam freely!"

Seeming to suddenly gather a sliver of her courage, the miko whips an arm forward, one of the sealing charms held up towards Lyraelle as if it might ward her away like a cross to a vampire.

"S-stay back, youkai! My clan has dealt with your kind for generations! I will not be swayed by your wicked words!"

Lyraelle goes perfectly still mid-gesticulation as Junko presents the sealing charm to her. It seems that, for once, the land mine that she's just detonated might have actually been a misstep rather than an intentional tactic. After a moment, though, the expression on Lyraelle's face becomes one of heartfelt pity, like that of someone being waylaid by a child with a toy sword. She places a hand on her chest.

"Oh, sweetie. I admire the reductiveness, but that wouldn't have worked even when I /was/ still a demon."

She sits back down on the edge of the bedframe again in a non-threatening manner.

"At least, I'm pretty sure it wouldn't have. Nobody really gave it a go with the ofuda. Crosses and holiness definitely didn't stop me from having my way with a priest, though - but that turned into a lovely friendship. At least, for as long as I was high on his supply. Catholic guilt is a real trip."

She subtly adjusts her tiara as if she were fixing her halo.

"Anyway, the part of me that you're so afraid of? That was ripped out, against my will. I'm back to being a normal young human woman, just with more sparkles than average. It really sucks. Imagine having all that power and just losing it. I could still be doing so much more good right now if I was still the Demon Queen."

Crossing her legs over each other, resting her elbow on one knee and propping her chin up with her hand, Lyraelle lets out a sigh.

"On the upside, I don't have to mentally wrestle with a self-proclaimed incarnation of vice on a daily basis, so it's not all bad. But on the other hand, I usually won. Homefield advantage."

She makes a vague gesture with her free hand. Then, she chances a guess.

"How's it usually go for you?"

The casual manner in which Lyraelle simply continues the conversation is unnerving. Even the most powerful of youkai understand the threat that a sealing charm presents! Though, admittedly, her own ability to imbue the slips of paper with restraining magic is rather limited. Not to mention the ofuda currently in her possession aren't designed to ward off evil or banish wayward demons - they have a far more specific purpose in mind. She was kind of hoping the creature wouldn't notice that though.

Despite the demon queen's reassurances, Junko remains firmly backed into the corner, ofuda held at the ready. Even if it isn't the most potent thing out there it might buy her enough time to flee should the need arise. Alternatively, she has them ready should her own monster decide to take offense at the presence of another powerful demon. Last thing she needs right now is some kind of power struggle in the middle of the team's living quarters.

Yet the surprises keep on coming, one after another. First this witch reveals herself to be a monster then claims that the monsterness was pulled out of her? What does that even mean?! You can't pull the Hell out of a demon, there wouldn't be anything left! Unless... she was possessed?

Junko slowly lowers the charm a little, eyeing the other woman warily. It could just be a lie to get her to lower her guard. Youkai are tricky like that. Then again, why even reveal her secret in the first place? Why give her the warning to be on her guard? It she just trying to confuse her? Agh, this woman is so frustrating!

The miko's temper starts to flare in its usual literal fashion. The temperature in the room starts to rise, rapidly filling the small space with an uncomfortable amount of heat that the dusty old vents can do little to disperse. The fire in her eyes intensifies from a glow of a dull ember to the cherry red of heated iron. The demon within her stirs, its curiosity roused by the prospect of encountering another of its kind but doesn't make a push to try and influence her either way - not with those seals ready at hand.

"What nonsense do you speak? Youkai do not... become human when divested of their power! If you were truly possessed, you would not speak so casually of wishing that curse returned!"

The dismissive manner in which this woman speaks of such a thing is almost offensive. If Junko could turn back the clock and undo everything that came about as a result of her own possession she wouldn't even need to think about it long enough to blink. How many lives would have been spared without her foolish action? What sort of life might she herself yet live without that tragedy hanging around her neck like a lodestone? The thought of -willingly- trading all of that away just for a bit of power?


"If you saw my encounter with Kasumoto-san then you should damn well know how it usually goes!"

An understanding expression creeps across Lyraelle's features as her assumption appears to be confirmed by the miko. That probably means that her original angle here might be a little miscalculated. It was meant for a teenager with too much power for their own good and difficulties with self-expression more than for a girl whose desires were in strict contradiction with a corporeal cohabitant. It also means that she probably has more legitimate empathy for Junko's situation.

She hates it when she has empathy; it really isn't her colour.

"Yes, I was possessed. I used to be an ordinary girl. In fact, I was so ordinary, I was practically invisible. I never knew my 'real' parents, and my adoptive parents stopped caring once they had a kid of their own. So when a magic mirror showed up on my birthday and told me that I was really long-lost demonic royalty and all I had do to was accept it, 'no strings attached,' I jumped on it without a second thought. It just made sense; that was the kind of awesome I always imagined I was. Blame it on D&D or video games or whatever."

She lets out a slow release of air through her lips.

"I found out that there were definitely strings attached pretty soon afterward. It was sneaky, so I might not've ever noticed if it weren't for when it started getting triggered. Trying to force me to feed, feeling when I would get humiliated. Sometimes it'd take over when I'd hit the brink of consciousness to try and get me out of a situation or show off its power. I think it was worst when I couldn't distinguish between what I /really/ wanted and what it wanted me to do. There were times where I used its power to do things that I genuinely regret now, and even if I don't know if it was stuff I would've done without its influence, there was a part of me that did want it."

She focuses her green eyes on Junko.

"I don't get the impression that you volunteered for what you've got. I mean, you clearly have a hate-on for darkstalkers; I can't really see you choosing to become one. And you seem a heckuva lot more conflicted than I ever was."

As angry and confused as she is at the moment, Junko finds it hard to muster up empathy in return. She doesn't have a lot in common with the supposed normal girl that Lyraelle claims to have once been. Her family was very tight-knit and loving, both mother and father spending inordinate amounts of time to smother the young miko with attention and affection. There was no promise of power gone wrong, no whispered temptations to play upon a lonely heart. Just the love of a daughter for her father and her desire to save him from an inevitable and excruciating fate that went tragically wrong.

Furthermore, Junko spent her entire life growing up on stories that warned about the lies of inhuman creatures and the false promises of power and wealth that they offered. Such deals always resulted in death or corruption, either those of the pact maker or those around them. To her it seems only common sense to know that accepting such a promise from an obviously cursed object is the height of stupidity. And it's just not that easy to feel sorry for someone who brings misfortune down on themselves with their own stupidity.

The miko cannot see when Lyraelle's gaze shifts back her way but she has developed a sense for knowing when someone is staring at her. Junko's expression twists with confusion at the bizarre slang and then with anger at the implication that she might ever be debased enough to even consider such a thing.

"I do not have a... ooogh! Use real words, you wretched woman!"

The teenager stomps a foot in irritation, her fists clenching tightly, crushing the paper seals in her hands without noticing.

"And I am not conflicted! Youkai are evil, almost without exception! Any power they might offer is cursed and only a fool would willingly make a bargain with one!"

Lyraelle lets out a soft snort at Junko's outburst, folding her arms across her chest.

"Well, maybe if you'd grown up on Disney, you would've been a little more optimistic about fairy godfathers and magic mirrors and people telling you you're a real secret princess as long as you just believe it. I'd still call what I achieved with it a net positive. The way I see it, having power with strings attached is better than having no power at all. One of the first and last things I did with my power was to put a stop to a monster that was a lot worse than I ever was."

The princess-poseuse quirks her lips at the vividly violent memories.

"Honestly, you kinda remind me of him. He was always pissed off; liked to set things on fire. The difference being that he loved it. If there was a difference between him and whatever the rage monster inside him was, you wouldn't have known it. God, it felt good whenever I managed to suck some of that anger out of him. Ended up taking it out on his whole crew the first time. Second time, we set Delhi on fire. Third time, we sunk an evil airship or something. That one was a bit of a blur."

Rambling again, Lyraelle cuts herself off and looks thoughtfully at Junko.

"So, what exactly does yours want you to do?"

Whatever this 'Disney' is it sounds ridiculously foolish if its teaching young children to wistfully dream about being enthralled by some supernatural trickster. That this woman views the world in such a manner is proof-positive of the dangers of such false hope. The offer of power is one of the most insidious traps laid by youkai. No matter what good one tries to accomplish with it, it always ends in tragedy.

"Hmph. Foolish words from a foolish tongue!"

The miko's rebuke is spat with contempt but some of the heat bleeds out of her temper. Her arms cross loosely over her chest and she leans back against the wall, adopting the classic posture of a disinterested teenager speaking to an authority figure.

"You try to justify aligning yourself with demons while openly lusting for power. Your motives are clear."

Junko's nose wrinkles upon being compared to whatever slavering monster the mentor had done battle with in the past. She shakes her head, sighing deeply at the story, but keeps any further comments on her thoughts about Lyraelle's past to herself. She isn't interested in an argument with a demon or former demon or whatever the hell the woman is.

Lyraelle's final question earns her a sidelong look from the young girl, her eyes narrowing slightly. She could simply tell this witch everything. That would be one way to ensure that any potential threat she poses is dealt with, albeit messily. It's would be so easy to set her up and she would never be the wiser.

Junko shakes her head vehemently, growling slightly at herself. The demon's dark laughter echoes in the back of her mind, its sinister presence withdrawing as she forcefully disentangles that dark thought from her own. It's getting more difficult to resist those wicked impulses of late. She's allowing her irritation and anxiety to get the better of her.


The answer is forthcoming after a long thoughtful silence. Junko looks away, staring at the floor as her arms hug around herself a little more tightly. Her voice is soft again, laced with an edge of weariness and fear.

"Just knowing it exists puts you in danger."

The girl holds up the crumpled sealing scrolls and glowers at them accusingly before tossing them onto the desk in a messy pile.

"You weren't supposed to see these. I'm sorry."

Princess Lightheart's lips draw taut at the dismissive words from Junko. Nevertheless, she lets the teenager finish speaking her mind without interrupting, though her jaw sets in annoyance. She had figured that this was going to be an easy job. A simple matter of keeping the heat turned on, one way or another - either goading the miko to keep her riled up, or encouraging her rebellious behaviour. Now, though, she's starting to realise that not only is it not working, but it might not even be a good idea.

Especially when she tells Lyraelle what the thing wants.

"Oof. That's awkward."

Lyraelle straightens up, touching her lips with one finger as she folds her arms under her chest.

"Murder demons are kinda the worst. There's no endgame, is there? As far as I can tell, they seem to be the most simple-minded. Humanity's got so much more to offer than blood. I always preferred love and devotion. I like to think that Napoleon had come around to my way of thinking by the time we parted ways."

She scratches beneath her ponytail through the gloves covering her fingers, then turns her head to consider the scrolls that Junko has returned to the desk.

"Look, I'm not really sure why I'm being as forthright about my historical motives as I have been. I blame Ichika-chan, probably. She's the one who started it all. Let's be clear on one thing, though: I may have been a power-hungry bitch, but I was never a fool. If I was, I'd be dead by now."

She quirks her lips.

"I generally believe in transmogrification-positivity, but I can see how in your case it might not work out. So, I'll try and give you at least one piece of advice that you can use. For me, surviving playing host depended on me realising that Invidia depended on me, and its plans were at my mercy, not the other way around. Maybe it's the same for you; maybe you already figured that out. It might be the first step to dominating your inner demon."

She offers an almost careless shrug and smile before turning toward the door.

"I'm always open for visitors if I'm in residence. Just talk to any of the imps if you need me. They're the slightly smaller orange blobs, probably. And please, like I said, we have a budget. Anything you need, for comfort or anything else, just shout."

Oh, there is an endgame.

A bloody and violent conclusion to the tragedy that is her life, one final apocalyptic crescendo in the melody of destruction that she has composed with her foolish choices. The demon takes no small pleasure in regaling her with the tales of what sort of horrific atrocities it plans to commit when her resistance has finally been whittled down to the marrow and she no longer has the strength to maintain dominance of her own soul.

In dreams and waking nightmares she has seen such death and chaos as to drive her to tears. Even now she often finds herself waking in the middle of the night, screaming in terror and drenched in sweat. When she was a child, Junko would often have such dreams as a result of the terrifying tales of monstrous demons she was told as a part of her training. No matter what time of night her mother would always rush to her side, engulf her in a loving embrace and hold her tight until the night terrors faded and she drifted back to blissful slumber.

No one was waiting to comfort her in the darkness any more. All she ever woke to was the haunting sound of malicious laughter and the promise of another day of suffering alone.

As for being simple-minded? No, the entity entrapped within the confines of her soul is anything but. *Single-minded*, perhaps. Unnaturally focused on inflicting as much misery and pain on everyone and everything as it is capable of doing, certainly. But, as much as she hates the demon with all of her being, to dismiss it as simple would be foolish. Its cunning and craftiness had been underestimated by her in the past and there was no small amount of blood on her hands as a result of that miscalculation. Even now, she finds herself looking back at all of the choices she made since their unfortunate bonding and wonders just how much of it was actually her decisions and how much was the influence of the hateful monster inside of her. That it is so difficult for her to tell the difference is terrifying.

Once again Junko finds herself baffled by the older woman's choice of words. She was responsible for the deaths of dozens of people, all of them blood relatives or close friends. Her every waking moment is a constant struggle against the desire to lash out at anything that moved, to unleash unholy fire in a wanton rampage across all of creation. She cannot trust even her own thoughts for fear of being led astray and causing even more strife while believing herself to be acting in the best interests of others.

"Yes," the girl says slowly, her expression hardening. "Awkward."

Ironically, once the truth of her situation is revealed Lyraelle ends up offering the exact same piece of advice that Rei had given her in parting. The demon needs her so ultimately control lies in her hands.

Unfortunately, as with the xian's advice, Junko is uncertain this is true. While her body is most certainly acting as a host for the demon's soul at the present, the situation she finds herself in is , as far as she knows, unprecedented. None of the surviving priests in her village had any clue how to deal with it, at any rate, and her entire clan specializes in such things. Considering how often the nightmarish images that bombard her involve her own demise, it might well be that her death would simply set the creature free and allow it to reincarnate as a more complete and terrible whole.

The miko's expression sours further at the idea of interacting seeking out this woman of her own volition, much less interacting with any sort of vile monster in order to seek an audience. Pushing away from the wall for the sole purpose of turning her back on Lyraelle, in true petulant teenage fashion, Junko gives one final frustrated growl.

"Ugh, just leave already! I'm tired of everyone's 'advice'! Take your foolish transmo... trangrom... your damn positivity with you!"

If Lyraelle were already outside this would be the part where the miko slammed the door in her face. Alas, she'll have to be content with stomping her foot again in disgust, as if that simple gesture carries with it the authority to banish this vexatious woman from her presence. It would seem there's still a bit of the old spoiled clan princess lurking in her mannerisms.

"And don't tell anyone about what you learned here," she adds, somewhat more soberly. "You'll be putting their lives in danger."

To be fair, egocentrist that she is, Lyraelle had mostly meant 'awkward' for herself. She's been able to act as a fixer for beings of esoteric appetites in the past, and had pivoted to that notion as a means to support the miko, but murder is where she draws a hard line. As much as she'd hate to admit it, she's not really able to offer much by way of support. Her interactions with Ichika had been surprisingly inspirational for a woman who'd once (?) had plans of world domination, and she'd left her meeting with Chevy with a genuine case of the warm fuzzies.

There are no warm fuzzies to be had here.

"Oh, don't worry," she says with a serious look over her shoulder as she lingers just a moment in the doorway. "I won't."

She was never planning on airing the footage from this meeting anyway; it would give away far too much of her game to the viewers. The 'Big Sister' style programming of Team Thunder has all been made to look completely natural, and that takes way too much work to give away the trick. It spoils the magic, anyway.

She makes a mental note to herself to archive this one on her secure personal drive and to review Junko's everydays more closely. The girl needs somebody looking out for her. In fact, Lyraelle thinks, she'll probably need someone to keep a watch over her directly. A bodyguard, for herself and people around her, maybe. And there's only one minion she can think of who'd be up to that job...

"By the way, I'm going to assign each of you newbies a personal servant," she adds, as if she'd planned it all along. "I'll send yours along in a little while. Don't worry, he won't let himself in. He's -very- patient."

She offers one last smile to the miko before pushing the door shut behind herself and letting out a deep exhalation.

She'll have to figure out minions for the other students, too.

There is plenty of warmth to be had here - one might say uncomfortable amounts. All of Junko's adorable fuzziness has long since been scorched off, however, leaving nothing but hard scars on her heart. It's sort of hard to inspire someone whose only aspirations are 'try not to let the rage demon living in my head murder anyone today'.

At least, on that front she can relax a little. Lyraelle's promise to keep the details of the miko's circumstance a secret significantly reduces the odds of fiery destruction sprees in the near future. Though, she has to remind herself, it does not eliminate them.

On that particular issue there is something that confuses her. Other than showing a little interest at the former demon queen's exposition bomb about her past, the monster inside had paid little mind to Lyraelle. When Rei had tried to confront her on the subject it had damn near lost its mind, yet this time... nothing.

Could it be that whatever the xian had done to quell the demon had lasting effects? Junko hadn't noticed a particular decline in the amounts of unhinged rage flowing through her veins like lava. Nor have the constant attempts to chip away at her sanity grown any less persistent. It's almost like the beast just doesn't care about her.

Perhaps it just doesn't see her as an obvious threat like the wise elementalist. Or maybe the miko's overt disdain for Lyraelle was enough to satisfy its conditions about keeping people at arm's length. Either way, its silence is almost as disturbing as is its attention.

Whatever. The conversation is over and she can go back to brooding in peace - or as close as she ever gets to it anyways.

Junko turns to eye the mentor as she steps out the door, giving her one last sidelong glance just to make sure she actually leaves. Which proves to be enough time for the damned woman to offer one final act of vexation.

With a start, the teen whirls around and stares with open dismay at the very notion of having someone 'assigned' to her. Just how many ways does she have to say 'leave me the Hell alone' before people understand?!

"Wh-?! You wouldn't dare!"

The miko can't see Lyraelle's parting smile so much as sense the smugness wafting off the woman with that final pause. Her jaw and fists clench, scarlet fire literally bursting into existence around her hands. She manages to restrain herself from unleashing a blast of Hellfire into the arrogant tart's backside, though only barely. Instead her hand whips out, swinging across the surface of her desk to grab the first thing she can find. A flaming bottle of ink sails across the room like a ballistic missile, smashing noisily into the door as it closes behind the retreating ex-demon.

"Rrrrgh! If anyone so much as knocks on that door again I'm going to burn them to ash! You hear me?!"

She stomps angrily over to the closed doorway and stamps her foot on the cold concrete, hellish flames scorching the floor beneath. She yells at the solid object as if it were the person daring to consider invading the sanctity of her little piece of the base.

"TO! ASH!"

Log created on 06:26:10 09/23/2023 by Lyraelle, and last modified on 11:48:26 09/26/2023.