Description: Daisuke has made a stop back in Southtown in the middle of his globe-trotting adventure, to take care of some things. One of those things happens to be admitting to some truths to a friend, in case they will never see again. Daisuke, as it turns out, is not the only one with secrets -- both revealed and kept hidden.
It has been a hot minute since Daisuke has been back to Southtown. He even got an official, Team Frost -sponsored absentee permission for school so that he could travel, all in the name of his supposedly influential internship. With the season taking place in the scenic Sunshine City over, he has even been slated to make his way to Metro City next. However...
He has requested time off.
IT's probably something he had to go to quite a few lengths to in order to negotiate that with Juri, but he managed to get at least a couple days to himself, in addition to the travel time to Southtown and then to Metro. The excuse that he had something important to do back home might have helped.
And the day before he boarded his flight back to Japan, however, he did send a message to certain Ryuko Tenjin.
''I'm coming back to Southtown for three days. Can you come by my place when I'm there? If you have some request for food, let me know beforehand so I have time to get ingredients.''
Fastforward to the day after the young man's return to Japan.
The address delivered to Ryuko leads into Southtown Village, and... what turns out to be a surprisingly sizeable traditional, single-story japanese townhouse. Old school edo era -esque architecture and all, with a large walled-off backyard and everything. Daisuke may have mentioned before that he lives alone, so it's certainly large enough that one could easily assume most of the rooms inside are probably going completely unused.
The house is an inheritance from his late foster-father. And the rest of his inheritance is among the reasons he came back to Southtown before his travel to Metro. There has been a rather comfortable investment fund that was left into Daisuke's name, to help support him with a relatively comfortable (if not rich) life. Something he has now decided to liquidate. For all he knows, depending on how things in the near future go, he will not be able to access that money again otherwise, and... he might very well need quick access to hard cash very soon, too.
But that's a process that takes a while, too. Something he is going to have to finish tomorrow. For now, the redhead is keeping himself busy in the large, shockingly well-equipped kitchen within the Kubo Household, equipped with an apron and all.
And waiting for the doorbell to ring.
Ryuko's day to day has been significantly less interesting than her fellow student's since their last meeting. While the teen has been eager to get back into the swing of stirring up trouble, Mama Tenjin has been in full mother bear mode. She can hardly get up to stretch her legs without being shadowed as if her mother expected her to suddenly collapse at any given moment that involved even the slightest bit of exertion. While she certainly appreciates all of the love and concern, it's been thoroughly smothering for the tomboy.
On the upside, her lengthy coma had left her with quite the backlog of games to play. Since picking fights with bullies at Gedo is currently off the table she instead has settled on expanding her conquest of the digital frontier. But, even that starts to lose its charm when you have literally nothing else to do all day. Of course there is a veritable mountain of homework for her to catch up on but she can only tolerate so much drudge work at once. Classes at Gedo aren't exactly designed to be particularly noodle-stimulating what with the vast chunk of its students being delinquents and dropouts.
As such, when Ryuko's phone blows up with a text message from a particular friend she's more than happy to have an excuse to slip free of the confines of her mother's doting affections. She's about one more home-made homeopathic energy drink from having some kind of meltdown. Her response to his request for food suggestions is probably a strange one.
'Junk food. Lots of it. I don't care what just as long as it's horribly unhealthy!'
The day of the meeting comes along, though not quite fast enough for Ryuko's tastes. It takes about half an hour of pleading to actually get permission to go and then another half hour of promising that she isn't going to spontaneously combust to convince her mother that she doesn't need to tag along. Boy, wouldn't that be quite the surprise for Daisuke.
Ryuko takes her time in making her way to the destination. The sun on her face, the bustle of the morning crowd commuting to work, the pleasant caress of a gentle fall breeze. She'd almost forgotten what it feels like to breath free air! Jokes aside, it is quite a nice day outside and it would be a shame to rush.
Following the directions she had been given, the teen makes her way lazily out of the heavy traffic of the Business District and over towards Southtown's more rural areas. It's late enough that all of the school children have already been shuffled off to class leaving her with only a handful of middle aged housewives to share the sidewalk with.
Her bizarre cybernetics earn the girl more than a few reproachful looks, Japanese culture not being particularly keen on anything that sticks out as too unusual. Plus, at her age, she's definitely supposed to be in school right now so that plus the freakin eyepatch doesn't help her look like less of a delinquent troublemaker. Still, she's nothing if not polite, and offers the occasional wave and smile even as everyone pointedly walks to the other side of the street to avoid her.
"Good thing I didn't bring the sword," she mutters to herself.
Fortunately, Daisuke's directions combined with the miracle of GPS gets her where she's going before someone decides to call the police.
An appreciative whistle is offered at the sight of the old-fashioned house. As a lover of all things historical, she can't help but spend a good couple of minutes walking around the outside to appreciate the various details. Only when she finds a couple of old women staring at her menacingly from across the street does the teen realize she probably looks like a hoodlum sizing up the place.
Rubbing the back of her head sheepishly, Ryuko makes her way over to the front door and gives the far more modern doorbell a ring before stuffing her hands in her pockets, trying to look as non-threatening as possible.
The doorbell is one of the modern additions to the old building. Like, well. You know, electricity, as a whole. It rings through the main hall leading up from the foyer, and reaches the ears of the sole occupant in the kitchen.
"Oh-- oh, not ready, not ready--"
Good thing a good cook is prepared for that kind of eventuality. The large square pan filled nearly from edge to edge with a solid chunk of ground beef is moved to a burner set to a much lower heat, before the redhead *bolts* from the kitchen.
It takes a moment, but the door does open to reveal Daisuke to the one-eyed girl... still wearing the white apron over the rest of his clothes. It's very house husband -esque.
"Hey, glad to see you, come in!" He urges her in just *bit* of a hurry, leaving the door open and stepping himself back away to clear the way for her to step inside. "Close the door if you could? I'll just--"
ANd just like that, he's hurrying right back down the hall again, and disappearing through the still-open sliding door on the right. Judging from the delightful scent coming from that way, he probably has a pretty decent excuse for running off like that.
The inside of the house is just as traditional in it's decor as the outside. The long hallway is one of hardwood floor, leading to a couple different sliding rice-paper doors on the right, and a corner rounding the samy way at the very end. And a glass-partitioned porch exposing the large back yard facing the forest on the left.
Through the door Daisuke disappeared to, comes a mix of modernity and tradition. The large, open room combines a living room, a dining room and a kitchen at the very end. The first is lined with carpeting soft enough to even sit on, with a few more sitting cushions spread around near a large (albeit last generation) television screen.
It's the tiled, well-equipped kitchen that Daisuke has dipped his way into, though. He doesn't really peek back to when Ryuko does find her way over, instead focusing on the large pan before him... and the even larger pot on the other burner that is quite clearly getting used for deep-frying something. The beef on the pan has been flipped by now, and a layer of cheese laid upon it, allowing it to melt while the meat cooks. It's not too long before the whole thing is maneuvered, cheese-side up, onto a large, wooden cutting board, and with clearly-practiced speed, cut with a phenomenally sharp knife into eight equally-sized squares.
That's when he finally peeks back over his shoulder. "Hey! You said you wanted junk food, right?" He asks, though even while he's peeking back, his hands aren't stopping. A large deep-frying strainer is hoisted up from the nearby pot, filled to the brim with fresh, grease-dripping fries and set to be hung over a bowl for letting the delicious potato snacks cool off while letting the overflow oil drip down safely for later disposal. All while his other hand makes use of a metal spatula to slip each of the eight beef-cheese chunks onto tiny burger buns already layered with caramelized onions. It's only a matter of seconds, somehow, before bacon from one of the lower-heated pans nearby stacked some manner of sauce, and...
All this ultimately leads, to Daisuke spinning around with a tray lined up with smaller, but very much *unhealthy* looking burgers. "Sliders from the Kubo Household's menu sound okay?"
...Why is he working as an intern in some fighting event, again? Clearly he should be running a food joint downtown instead.
The sight that greets her upon the door swinging open is not exactly what Ryuko expected. Hearing the handle start to her, her hand is already halfway raised in greeting, a warm smile on her face when the apron-clad student comes into view.
Both his appearance and the rushed greeting leaves her somewhat stunned for a moment. As this is her first time to visit Daisuke at his home, she expected a little bit more formality to the whole procedure. She even went through the trouble of bringing him a gift. Were he less familiar of an acquaintance she might take the flippant greeting as rude but Ryuko knows this knucklehead well enough to understand he's probably up to something.
That, however, does not help dispel the image created by the whole scene to the pair of old busy-bodies still glowering at her from their perch across the street. Suddenly self-conscious, Ryuko turns to peer over her shoulder at the old women only to find them openly staring and whispering to each other. The apron certainly did not make this situation look any less misleading. Fighting down a surge of embarrassment, the teen steps inside and hurriedly shuts the door behind her.
Slipping out of her expensive shoes, Ryuko finds a pair of guest slippers to take their place and then turns to follow her host deeper into the house.
Only now does the enticing scent of food finally catch her attention, dispelling all other concerns. Her mouth practically starts to overflow with anticipation of putting whatever is making that heavenly aroma into her stomach. She wanders along down the hallway, stopping in the archway of the open door to peer inside.
While the furnishings aren't nearly on par with the luxurious lifestyle the rich girl is used to, the place looks quite cozy. She imagines most people would be pretty happy to have a space this big all to themselves. The prospect of doing all the housework it must require to keep everything from getting dusty all by herself is fairly unappealing, however.
After taking everything in, Ryuko allows her nose to take the lead and drifts over towards the kitchen and the source of those mouth-watering smells.
As a self-sufficient modern gal, Ryuko has done her fair share of cooking before. What with their busy schedules, both of her parents shared in the duties of preparing meals. While neither one is a world-class chef or anything, she had always enjoying helping out (or so she's been told) and picked up enough knowledge to keep from setting the house on fire on the days when she had to fend for herself. Maybe it's just the weeks of health food she's been forced to choke down talking but she doesn't remember anything she ever cooked smelling so wonderful.
Daisuke's glance back catches her staring at the food with an almost lecherous expression on her face, her cheeks still slightly flushed from the embarrassing scene at the door. Cheese burgers? French fries? And, dear sweet merciful kami, is that bacon?
When the tray of sliders is revealed, she damn near starts drooling. Ryuko takes a few purposeful steps forward, her eye drifting closed as she inhales deeply of the scent of cooked meat and fatty grease.
The teenager's eye slides open and she fixes her fellow student with a dreamy look that practically exudes little hearts and sparkles into the air around.
"Kubo, I've never in my life been closer to asking someone to marry me than I am in this moment."
Ryuko may or may not have caught on to this before, but Daisuke doesn't really... smile that often. Even the times he does smile barely even count as smiles, since they don't really feel entirely 'real', somehow.
But here, right now, as he's presenting this work of art he has created upon Ryuko? *This* smile feels real. It's the smile of someone in his element, and a smile borne from getting to bring such a joy to someone else.
THat smile does turn just a little apprehensive, though, while he waits for the girl's response to what has been brought on offer to her for today's meal. Maybe just a little nervous at the prospect of being told how ridicilous the effort he has gone to is. But then, her actual answer comes, and...
Between the look in her eye and the words she utters out, the redhead damn nearly ends up tipping the tray out from his hands. Thankfully he catches it before any of the cheeseburger-shaped manna upon it gets disrupted.
"H-h-huh?" The student's face turns red comically fast. There might as well be steam flowing out of his ears from the overdrive his brain has to run through in order to formulate some kind of, *any kind of* response. What he finally ends up defaulting to is a nervous laugh amidst his fierce blushing, and making a *rapid* swerve in the topic instead of directly addressing what she just went and said. "I m-might have, you know, gone a little overboard, I guess? I just, uh... I didn't even get to look at a kitchen while I was out in America, so, uh, you know, making up for lost hobby time and all, and I just got lost in it and, and... uh..."
Oh, the poor boy is rambling. His eyes are twitching pretty much every which way other than direct sightline towards Ryuko, too.
I guess I also thought you could use something good to eat after the whole-- you know--" The whole coma thing. He might not be a medical professional, but he can at least wager a guess as to what kind of recovery regimen that might involve. Definitely wouldn't include any food like this.
"A-anyway!!" He's abruptly stepping around Ryuko and out of the kitchen, to carry the tray to the dining table in the space between the kitchen and the living room section. In a similiarly traditional japanese fashion to much of everything else in the house, the table is a low-set one, clearly meant for eating while sitting on the tatami-matted floor. "F-feel free t-to dig in, uh, I gotta-- wipe the cutting board real quick so, like-- anyway--!" Aaaand he is practically zooming right past Ryuko for the second time and back into the kitchen. It probably *is* a good idea to get the wooden board under the water so it's not a pain in the ass to clean it out later on, to be fair.
But it does also give him a chance to try and calm himself the hell down out of sight.
Being the doting big sister that she is, in spirit any ways, small things like habits and body language are the kind of random details that she zeroes in on like a hawk. Sometimes people who need some sort of help or support foolishly try to hide that fact. A fake smile, a tough act, the cold shoulder - all of these and more can be indicators of concealed pain or anxiety.
So when Daisuke's expression lights up like a Christmas tree compared to his usually reserved self, she notices. He's talked a lot about his interest in baking in their past conversations, always offering to cook her meals or bring treats. And there was that delicious batch of home-cooked chocolates he gave her at their last meeting. It's pretty obvious that he really enjoys spending time in the kitchen.
Just as it's extremely obvious that he's waiting to see how she responds to this offering of cheese and meat. As always, she can't help but tease him. Teenage boys are ridiculously easy to unbalance when an attractive female shows them a little bit of attention and past experience has proven that Daisuke is particularly susceptible to her suggestive comments. But it isn't bullying for her to constantly poke at his weak spot! She's just doing what any big sister might and giving him a hard time. It builds character!
Just as expected, his response does not disappoint - though she has a minor heart attack when he almost drops the tray of food. That would have been a tragedy that she'd never forgive herself for! She'd probably just have to fall on her blade right here and now in repentance - or a convenient kitchen knife, anyway, since she left her sword at home.
Fortunately, Daisuke's reflexes are quick enough to spare her the ignominious fate of seppuku. In fact, they're so quick that he veers out of the path of that trainwreck of a conversation and instead draws attention to his recent excursion.
"Hey, you never told me you were leaving the country."
Ryuko feels a little jealous. She's always wanted to do some traveling and see more of the world. So much of Japanese pop culture seems to drizzle down from the United States that she can't help but wonder if it's as grandiose and wild as rumor claims. Maybe after she graduates she'll ask her parents to foot the bill on an overseas trip.
...or maybe she'll just ask her dad. That seems like the less suicidal option.
Stepping aside to let the chef deposit his burden on the table, Ryuko is quick to take him up on receiving permission to indulge in this offering of greasy snacks. She plops herself down unceremoniously in front of the table, a hand going to her waist out of instinct to push the sheathe of her sword aside before remembering that it's still at home. Old habits die hard.
"Don't mind if I do! Itadakimasu!"
Clapping her hands together to offer the traditional prayer gesture towards the food, Ryuko snatches up one of the miniature burgers and chomps down greedily. The flavor is nothing short of ambrosia from on high. The juicy meat, gooey cheese, and caramelized onions combine into a rich sweet and savory blend as she chews. This is precisely what she needed and it's ~heavenly~.
The sound of running water does show that Daisuke does, in fact, engage in the necessary cleanup that's required immediately after cooking. But he does very much take that moment, too, to just lean against the sink and take a deep breath. She really knows how to push his buttons, and he's still not sure how exactly to take it.
It's not terribly long of a moment he ends up needing, thankfully, before he's emerging from the kitchen again, sans the apron and plus two cans of soft drinks freshly retrieved from the fridge.
"All to your liking, hime-sama?" He asks as he passes behind her, bumping one of the chilly cans against her shoulder before depositing it in easy reach for her on the table before continuing on to round himself to the opposing side from her.
"Sorry I didn't mention I was heading out," he offers when he sits himself down, cracking open the can he'd brought for himself. He doesn't try to reach for any of the junk food he's prepared, though, letting Ryuko gorge freely for the time being. She probably needs the calories right now anyway. "It was kinda... sprung on me, you know? I'm heading back to America in two days again, too."
He takes a slow sip of his drink, while watching the girl from over the rim of the can. There's a vaguely rueful look in his eyes, too. It's... probably fine to let this moment linger for a bit longer before he gets to talking about the serious stuff.
"...You look good, by the way," he offers to her. Though perhaps having gotten at least a *little* used to the constant teasing and reaction-fishing from Ryuko, he does realize practically right as the words leave his mouth how that could sound, coughing akwardly with it and quickly trying to amend that statement with, "I mean-- you look like you're getting better. You know, recovering, and... stuff."
By the time Daisuke returns from his cleaning duties, his guest is already on her third slider and has apparently decided to avail herself of the french fries as well. As he had witnessed during their not-a-date at the goth club, her table manners are utterly atrocious. Smears of grease stain her lips and fingers while bits of stray meat, cheese, and potato lie scattered around the table and on the front of her fancy blazer. No prim and proper princess this particular damsel, which makes his off-hand nickname all the more ironic.
Seemingly oblivious to the mess she's making, Ryuko pauses her rampage of devastation upon the hapless snacks long enough to accept the offering of soda and guzzle down a long pull. A satisfied sigh is given as she sets the can back down.
To the random compliment, Ryuko's antennae slowly swirl forward like a pair of radars detecting enemy activity. She turns her head to regard him with a steady look, eyebrow quirking upwards questioningly. The poor sap seems to realize the pitfall he has thrown himself into headfirst and attempts to make a recovery. Rather than tease him again, she just smiles knowingly and lets it go without comment.
Too easy. There's more interesting ways to pick on him.
"Volunteering yourself to be my first retainer, Kubo-dono?"
Ryuko rubs her chin thoughtfully, eyeing Daisuke as if sizing him up.
"Hmm, dunno. You're a little rough around the edges. And imagine the gossip I'd have to endure if I let a peasant join my retinue!"
She casually plucks a wad of fries from the pile and stuffs them in her mouth, chewing noisily as she gives him a haughty look.
"Ah princhess hash to have shome standards, ya know."
Holding her messy hand up, Ryuko examines her digits and then licks the excess grease off each one decadently.
"Althooooough... I suppose I could make an exception, just this once. I am, after all, known for my benevolence and awesomeness."
As used to the teasing from Ryuko he might be, that one was still unexpected. It's not just the thought of getting likened to a peasant to Ryuko's noblegirl, but the idea of being a retainer to her. Wait. To be a servant, basically, isn't that basically what it would mean? Color suddenly rises at the redhead's cheeks -- it's more subdued than the reaction she got out of him before, but somehow, the impact of it all still feels just as weighty.
But still. Even he can't help but let his brow twitch subtly upon hearing the implication that he might not fit some standards... all while Ryuko herself so crassly speaks even with her mouth full. Especially with all the mess she has been making with her ravenous feast already.
Daisuke lets out a deep sigh. The flush of color might not escape his cheeks that easily, but...
*Something* is different.
"...It seems like prostating myself to someone like you might be more trouble than it's worth, you know." He actually *shrugs*, among the audacity to make a claim like that. "...Still. It would kind of pain me to leave someone who needs help to potentially make a fool of herself among her peers..."
A napkin is caught between his fingers, while the redhead slowly leans over the table. Rising up on his knees from his side, to get closer and closer, so he can boldly reach over, and dab that napkin over the left side of the "Princess'" mouth, wiping off some of the leftover mixture of sauce and grease there.
"Perhaps a peasant's lessons and care would do good for you, Tenjin-himesama."
Despite how friendly the two teenagers have become, there's still quite a lot that they don't know about each other. For the most part, Daisuke has only seen the public persona that she puts forward. The cool, relaxed, overly friendly big sister who always has something quippy to say and a shoulder to cry on. Sure, the vampire club thing was a bit nerdy but plenty of people are into cosplay and themed restaurants are pretty normal in Japan. He has absolutely no idea the sheer depths of depravity that lurk beneath the surface of this particular abyss.
Otaku is a term widely used these days to refer to someone with an obsession about some aspect of subculture. For many, that usually ends up being anime or video games. And while Ryuko is definitely a consumer of such products in truth her real passion lies in something far more specific.
The Sengoku era of Japanese history is rife with tales of heroism and atrocities. In many ways, it can be likened to the Middle Ages of European history where knights and lords waged warfare and political intrigue in a deadly game for glory and honor. The differences between the Western knight and the Eastern samurai are many, of course, with the various conflicts of the time sharing more in common with the Chinese Warring States period than Europe's more famous wars. She's had /that/ debate enough times to write a book. It's said that more than a dozen forums are still burning to this day in the aftermath of her arguments.
There is a lot to love about that period of time from a historical perspective. So many stories of intrigue and deadly conflict between rival daimyos each seeking to further their own power. Political marriages and tactical alliances that ended with dramatically explosive betrayals and whirlwind romances. While the actual academic reports aren't quite as interesting to read, there is has been so small amount of romanticization of the elements of that period.
The image of a noble samurai standing fast in service to his lord as hordes of warriors line up to do battle in epic clashes that leave entire fields of dead strewn about like discarded leaves is a decidedly modern interpretation of the events of the past. In reality, quite a few of the 'noble' warriors of ages past were complete scum who cared only about themselves and their own interests. Most conflicts arose as petty disputes between rival warlords each vying for more land and resources. Natural disasters and famine claimed far more lives than any battle, leading to frequent peasant rebellions against the tyrannical ruling class. Not nearly as glamorous as pop culture would make it out to be.
Fortunately, all of that is in the past! Which means indulging in the more appealing aspects of ancient nobility is a relatively benign vice. And boy does Ryuko indulge. Just about every game ever made set in that historical period has been played, dissected, reviewed, and dominated. Roleplaying games, real-time strategy, first-person shooters (they exist), tactical turn-based games, historical simulators, beat em ups, musous, belt scrollers, gachas... she's played them all!
Naturally, with such a love of fantastical romance, Ryuko has also indulged in many an otome as well. So, as the conversation turns in a somewhat silly but otherwise harmless direction, it suddenly strikes her just how close to being smack dab in the middle of a scene that could fit right into one of her romance games she is.
Ryuko's eye widens as the scruffy 'peasant' leans in to dab the mess away from her 'noble' check. The air of haughty playfulness the girl had been affecting vanishes as she goes suddenly stiff, her own pale cheeks slowly turning pink with embarrassment. Once the napkin is pulled away, she swallows hard and turns her face to the side in a lame effort to hide her shameful thoughts.
"Ugh, you're such a dork..."
It's kind of a shame that Daisuke had just learned how to properly control psychic senses during his trip abroad. Without getting a cheat code peek at the girl's surface thoughts and emotional state - something he find himself unwilling to use out of respect now that he *can* choose not to - he is left completely clueless as to the internal workings that have lead Ryuko to react in such a manner. But then again, even if he did, there is a non-zero chance that he would still somehow not manage to interpret it correctly. The boy isn't stupid by any means, but he can be... well, when it comes to certain matters, he can be as dense as tungsten.
Either way, he is left giving a confused look at the side of the girl's face, clearly clueless as to what exactly he has gone and done in this particular situation.
"Look at the pot calling the kettle black," he mutters right back at her once he's leaning back, though, taking a vaguely indignant sip from his halfway-drained drink once he's fully back on his side of the table.
His brows do knit together slightly when he regards the pale-skinned girl again. "So... How are you doing, anyway?" The question might sound a bit on the lame side, but there is a genuine concern there, still, recalling the overall mood that had reigned over their last meeting. "If I remember anything about your mom, I'm kinda guessing your folks are probably not letting you go back to school yet. Right? . . . I was actually kind of halfway expecting they wouldn't even let you come visit me."
By the grace of Daisuke's thick skull is she spared any further embarrassment. Sometimes Ryuko's glad most teenage boys are completely ignorant of subtle subtext.
With a handily timed subject change, the awkwardness drains from the air allowing Ryuko to relax. She mimics her friend's relaxed posture, leaning back on her palms. Jutting out her lower lip, she blows an exasperated sigh up into her bangs setting them a flutter. While the tomboy is not usually prone to displaying a great deal of typical teenage angst, there's enough feeling behind that wordless gesture to make her frustration obvious.
"Officially? Still on the mend. The doc wants to keep me under low stress for another few weeks to run some more tests and make sure everything checks out. Dotting all the i's, crossing all the t's, that sort of thing."
She shrugs and makes a dismissive gesture with one hand, indicating what she thinks about that.
"Technically, I have leave to go back to school but Mom is in full helicopter mode. Knowing her, she'd probably follow me around campus. As much as some of the knuckleheads at Gedo annoy me, I'd rather not be responsible for a massacre of that magnitude."
Ryuko tilts her head to give her companion a grave look. Having met her mother, Daisuke should be able to understand that she's only half joking about that. The former MMA champion that is her parental unit doesn't understand the concept of restraint.
"I had to pretty much sign a pact in blood to convince her I wasn't going to collapse in a ditch somewhere on the way over here."
Idly reaching out to take another slider, Ryuko wolfs it down in a couple of quick bites.
"Which reminds me," she says, pointing a greasy finger at him. "How's that Faustian bargain of yours going? You still gonna keep all the juicy detes from me? I assume this sudden trip to America has something to do with it."
"... I can only imagine that is making you go nuts." As far as Daisuke is concerned, see, Ryuko is not among the kind of people who are perfectly okay with staying in one place for a very long time, even if the conditions in that one place would be phenomenally good.
And afterall, what kind of rich girl would willingly go to Gedo despite definitely qualifying for a higher-class educational institute?
The other thing Daisuke has come to understand about this friend of his, is that her mother is *dangerous*. And immensely overprotective. Not a good combination for anyone, sometimes including Ryuko herself. He does remember very well that one time there was a very unfortunate misunderstanding that made her think he and Ruyko were--
"So... what you're saying is your mom will almost definitely kill me if she finds out you're here?" He is also only half-joking. There is a hint of genuine fear of what might happen if Mama Tenjin thought he had baited her darling daughter into his den with the promise of delicious food to be taken advantage of.
But, despite his still-lingering worries about Ryuko's situation thanks to the worries she had admitted to the last time they met still being fresh in his mind, there really was no way he was going to avoid the subject he had been trying to avoid, but teased at the last time.
THe redhead's lips purse subtly, and he rubs his hand along the side of his neck slowly. "...I'm not," he offers with a sigh. "It's... part of why I wanted to see you."
His hand draws away from his neck, so he might peer down into his palm. "I told you I... met someone who understands my energy better than I did? Well... I've been learning better control. To a point. And understanding some... truths, I guess. Like... I guess... I don't really have 'chi' inside me, like most people seem to have? Like that stuff I saw you use, too, in that fight of yours that was broadcast out."
He turns his hand then, and holds it out -- his eyes locking onto the trayful of sliders and fries. His already-bright green irises seem to get even brighter -- and then outright glow, as a mass of blue-green energy surges out from his palm, extending out as a tendril that reaches to wrap around one of the miniature burgers, and then draws back to yank it into that open hand before disappearing again.
"...They called it 'Psycho Power'."
Dropping that term out, the redhead promptly takes a small bite out of the slider he snatched out... and immediately after swallowing, he looks kind of embarrassed, as if realizing just how kind of ridicilous he must have sounded. Like he had drawn some term out of a particularly angsty and chuuni-esque teen's notebook.
"...So, uhm. I guess I'm a psychic? And stuff?"
Ryuko is actually quite happy to sit and vegetate in front of her computer for hours on end - but not *every* day. It's a delicate balance to maintain being both a nerd and a tomboy. And after months of lying in bed being cooped up in her house all day isn't the most enjoyable thing for her equilibrium.
The girl's cyclopean eye slides sideways to give her friend another long meaningful stare in response to his concern about her mother.
"Kubo, if you think I was able to escape my mother's clutches without giving her detailed plans as to where I would be at all times, including topographical maps, potential hazards, escape routes, emergency meeting locations, bomb shelters, hospital response times, and a comprehensive weather report for the next three days then you either vastly underestimate my mother's overprotectiveness or vastly overestimate my diplomatic skills."
Just how much of that is accurate and how much is dramatic exaggeration she leaves to his imagination. It's more fun that way.
The conversation then turns to something a little more serious. Ryuko's eyebrow quirks at the implication that she might finally get some details about this mysterious secret he'd kept from talking to her about last time. She continues to joke about some sort of deal with the Devil but considering the nature of Daisuke's problem and how shifty he was about the whole thing there's a fair bit of genuine concern there.
Munching on another mouthful of delicious fries, she gives him a gesture that indicates she's interested and listens quietly while the story is laid out for her in Daisuke's meandering fashion.
Ryuko nods at his first statement. Her own powers aren't particularly fanciful, just a bit of generic spiritual enhancement to make her swings hit with a little more force and a bit of a light show. Pretty much anyone can learn how to do that sort of thing with enough practice. Her mother being the expert fighter that she is, Ryuko picked up on the trick for wielding her inner focus at a pretty young age - or so she's been told. That part of her past was one of the many casualties of her memory loss.
Her hand stops halfway to inserting another wad of fries into her face as Daisuke decides that a practical demonstration is required, her eyebrow visibly trying to climb to the top of her forehead. After a pregnant pause, Ryuko leans back and puts the fries in her mouth. Once she's finished chewing on both them and her thoughts, the girl crosses her arms and gives a low whistle.
"Psycho power, huh. Pretty rare thing, that."
As someone obsessed with both nerd culture and fighting culture, Ryuko is pretty well aquatinted with even the more esoteric forms of doing battle. Despite the prevalence of energy-based techniques in the professional circuits, not much is known about psychic power. Most of the people who use it seem to be either extremely secretive, outright insane, or fairly clueless about the nature of their own abilities.
Daisuke obviously falls into that last camp, being pretty clueless in general, but whoever it is he's started learning from must therefore fall into one of the others. That's a pretty worrying proposition. Last time she had asked about it he had told her that this mysterious benefactor didn't want to be mentioned, which would put them into Category A. Unfortunately, from the stories she's heard about other Psycho Power users, Category A and B are not mutually exclusive from each other.
Ryuko gives him a thoughtful stare, her antennae whirring softly as the gears in her brain rotate. It probably won't do her any good to press him for details if he's not prepared to share more. So 'Concerned Big Sister' mode will have to take a backseat here. Instead she opts to try a slightly more sideways approach to see if she can't coax any more information out of him on the sly.
"Technically, people don't have chi inside of them. Chi is the natural energy of the world around us, power of the elements and stuff like that. Most people can learn to tap into that energy and it usually manifests as fire or electricity or something like that."
She jabs a thumb at herself.
"My affinity is wind based, I think. Lets me slice through the air easier, move in fast bursts, that sort of thing. Can even shout at people hard enough to create an explosion," she adds with a smug grin. "So keep that in mind if you ever decide to get into an argument with me."
Her hand shifts, thumb folding in and index finger extending to point at him now.
"Psycho power, is the complete opposite of that, from what I understand. I'm no expert and a lot of my information comes from speculation and theory-crafting, so take this with a grain of salt. Most of the people who use your kind of power are pretty stingy with the details. Anyways, like it says on the tin, Psycho Power or psychic energy, comes from the power of your mind. It's not something you learn you just... have it."
She presses her lips together trying to come up with a good analogy. Naturally her otaku brain lands on probably the most nerdy one possible.
%t"Basically, in Dungeons and Dragons terms, most people are wizards and you're a sorcerer. Get it?"
Daisuke's perfectly willing, it seems, to allow Ryuko to muse through her speculations without interrupting her. THough he might narrow his eyes just a little bit at the threat of what might happen if he were to get into an argument with her. What with the explosive shouts and all.
The comparison to a certain tabletop roleplaying game's setup makes the redhead look at her with some faint sheepishness. "Um... sorta, I guess?" He's not sure if he should be admitting to actually being familiar enough to understand the comparison, but... ultimately he decides to go on with his thoughts on the matter, regardless.
"But, like... Wizards and sorcerers still technically use the same kind of magic, right? Meanwhile, I... mmh. How would I explain it...?" His face twisting into a frown while he tries to properly put his thoughts and own understanding on the matter into words that make sense. "... I don't have affinity to any element or anything, you know? I can't conjure fire or control the wind or anything like that. If chi is the essence of the world itself that you can channel, then..."
Taking in a slow breath, he sets the half-eaten slider in his hand down on the table, before pressing his palm against the center of his chest. "...What I have is the pure energy of my soul itself, given shape. What I turn it into is... what I imagine, more or less, I guess. I think there might be some limits to the way it manifests from person to person, but I more or less bring it out in bursts of pure energy. It mostly comes out in shockwaves, but if I properly focus I can shape it into... stuff. Like what I did just now, or... I guess, a sword, usually."
With a brief pause, he does glance away, with a sudden fit of akwardness, adding with a much lower, almost muttering tone, "And I guess I can kinda sorta also read minds and emotions but nevermind that..." as if he's hoping Ryuko might somehow either not hear or not pay attention to *that* part.
"You're right about people like me being stingy about information on all this... It's pretty rare to begin with, and..." His gaze drops down for a moment, seeming to hesitate. Truth be told, he's not sure if he should tell her about this part. "...There's a group that makes a point of grabbing people like me and... I guess, reshape them? Turn them into weapons. It's kind of the sort of thing I was scared of might happen. Why I've been trying to keep it all hidden from most people. Way the person who has been teaching me tells it, these people are insanely powerful and dangerous. I'm inclined to believe her. She..."
His eyes close now. Not out of hesitation, this time, but out of some awful recollection. "...I've seen into her memories. She used to be with them... No, I guess the truer way to say it is she was used by them."
"True," Ryuko's eye sparkles with amusement even as she concedes, nodding at the flaw in her metaphor. She knew he was a nerd. "But my point remains. Power from without that is learned and power from within that you're born with. From what I understand it's impossible for someone to wield both chi and psychic powers. Guess the energy is incompatible or something. At least, I've never heard of anyone using both."
A fresh slider is taken and munched on while Daisuke lays out the specifics of what he's learned about his own powers, the plate of snacks quickly getting whittled down to the last few sandwiches. As always, she is an attentive listener even when appearing distracted, her cybernetic 'ears' perked up and absorbing every word with inhuman clarity while she focuses her active thoughts on considering this new information.
Soul power. This is the first time she's heard that claim before. Perhaps because the name suggests the presence of something that has yet to be scientifically verified. While she's all for wallowing the realms of mystical fantasy and romantic metaphors, Ryuko is a very practical and analytical person when it comes to what she actually believes. It might very well be that souls exist or something akin to a soul that doesn't necessarily have anything to do with the religious connections that implies. For the moment, she's happy enough to accept that some people have an inner energy they can tap into for some reason.
"Makes sense that psychic energy would be more malleable, I guess, since it comes from your mind." She rubs her chin thoughtfully considering the possible uses. "If you can get full control over that aspect of it, you'd have a pretty versatile weapon."
And, because she never seems to miss a thing, Daisuke's pitiful attempt to mutter under his breath does not go unheard. Ryuko's eye widens in a dawning realization and resists the urge to slap herself on the forehead. Of course, a psychic would be able to read minds, wouldn't they? It seems so obvious now.
A strange sensation suddenly wells up from inside of the girl, a sense of trepidation and anxiety as if the idea that Daisuke being able to see into her thoughts is some sort of terrible danger to her safety. The thought is bizarre, almost alien, as if coming from somewhere other than herself. More disturbingly, with it comes a barrage of emotions, flashes of memory from past encounters with people she can't remember at all.
Confused, she tries to focus on the feeling, to bring some of those blurry snapshots into clearer view. A sudden pain lances through her head that causes her to wince hard enough to flinch. Her eye squeezes shut, a hand going to her temple as the cybernetics begin to flash with rapidly blinking neon lights.
%Perhaps fortunately, most of Daisuke's heartfelt sympathy for the mass murdering former S.I.N. agent gets lost in her sudden migraine. While Ryuko, like most people, is not actually familiar with his would-be mentor and her history, there's no telling how she'll feel about that once she eventually finds out.
The cramp lasts for several unpleasant seconds, easily on par with the worst ice cream headaches she's ever experienced. By the time it fades, Ryuko has broken out into a cold sweat, beads of perspiration running down the side of her face. She slowly opens her eye, blinking erratically through the fading echoes of pain and distorted memory.
"What... what was...?"
"I... think that makes sense," Daisuke agrees with the notion of chi and psychic abilities being incompatible. "I mean... It kind of feels like my body always reacts badly whenever I get in contact with some energy channeled with chi, if that makes sense? As if I'm allergic or something."
He's just about to reach for the one mostly-eaten slider he had claimed for himself again, but he does notice the change in his friend's expression. WIth his continued insistence to not intrude on her privacy with psychic abilities, he might not be able to tell what's going on in her head, but he can tell something's up.
"Hey, what's...?" He starts to ask, but before he can even finish the thought behind the words, she's obviously flinching with those cybernetic augmentations flickering with warning lights.
Without even thinking about it, he's damn near leaping over, scrambling around the table to bring himself up to her. He's not really even sure what he could possibly do here, and if she was having some kind of attack it might even be a bad idea to be getting into her personal space, but... as mentioned, he's not really thinking. Some instinctive part of him might be thinking she might be about to fall over, and that's what guides him to bring an arm around her back to provide support. But now what? All he can do otherwise is look at her with growing concern, and...
Consider trying to look in her mind.
Truth is, he has not really been able to read anything more than lingering emotional energy and surface thoughts before, but... what if he tried to really focus? What if that could help? His other hand starts to lift up, even, intent to reach for her forehead--
But thankfully, before he has the time to actually attempt anything, or even reach for enough to have to explain himself, she seems to come down from the worst of it. The concern still doesn't leave his eyes even then, however.
"H-hey, are you okay...?" The redhead asks, frowning at her from... well, much closer than he was the last time she had looked at him a couple seconds ago. "Has that happened before?"
Ryuko winces again, clearly still in pain. Everything seems a little too sharp at the moment, too vibrant and colorful, as if someone turned the saturation settings on the universe up several notches.
"That's a new one."
Lingering traces of the unfamiliar memories continue to haunt her hazy mind. The touch of the clothes against her skin is ghostly and ephemeral, parts of her uniform grinding against her like sandpaper while other bits seem as if they aren't there at all. She feels strangely disconnected from her own senses and suddenly self-conscious as if she is being stared at by dozens of invisible eyes whose burning gaze she can only sense instead of see.
After a few seconds she suddenly sits bolt upright and turns to look at Daisuke as if only now becoming aware of his supportive arm around her shoulders. The teen regards him in silence for a long moment before her eye narrows with uncharacteristic suspicion. Planting her hand on his chest, she pushes him away with a firm shove that offers a quick reminder how surprisingly strong Ryuko is.
The expression she gives him is strangely calm considering what just happened. She doesn't look embarrassed to have been standing so close to him or annoyed that he'd touch her in such a familiar fashion. She looks wary and defensive, her typically playful smirk smoothed out into a flat stare. Likewise the tone of her voice is cool and measured, almost diplomatic, as if she's talking to a stranger who offered her unneeded assistance.
"Thank you for your concern."
For that to have been something she hasn't experienced before just increases the worries in Daisuke. He's about to say something-- only for her to bolt into upright posture again. The redhead blinks with some measure of surprise at that sudden change, and the look she's giving him. He doesn't fight getting pushed away, either -- of all things, the shove itself feels like it could have been expected, considering he's just gotten into her personal space without permission.
But he's still seeing something different. For a second, he almost feels like he's looking at a completely different person. Maybe she's just the type to prefer to act like she doesn't ever need any help and push away people who offer support?
He is very much the same like that. There is a little bit of recognition through that familiarity, but still... He gives a worried look at the cybernetic 'ears' atop her head. Those things were freaking the hell out. That can't be normal, can it?
"...I'll get you some water," he eventually decides, pushing himself up to standing and immediately stepping back for the kitchen without waiting to even give her a chance to decline that much help. It's almost supernaturally quick how fast he's returning to the table again, too, and setting a freshly-filled, tall glass of water down in front of her. "Here..." And right alongside it comes a small packet of over-the-counter painkillers. "...Just in case."
He goes to move around the table again after setting that small care package down for her-- but halts right after getting past the first corner, to fix her with a concerned look. "...You're sure you're okay?"
Unlike Ryuko herself, the teen's strange cybernetics are still quite animated. The thin neon slits at the base of each fin continue to blink in sequence while the larger rectangular stripes create a wave pattern that flows back and forth. It's pretty to watch but strangely reminiscent of the idle patterns that play when an electronic device is trying to load a program. Perhaps whatever software controls her implants needed to reboot?
Whatever the cause, Ryuko is noticeably on edge. She watches Daisuke with an intense level of scrutiny as he rises to acquire her a drink of water. By the time he returns, she has risen to her feet and stands next to the table. When he moves to present his offering in front of her she walks a counter circle to keep the small wooden barrier between them at all times. The medicine receives only a quick glance as it is set down before her cyclopean stare flicks back to the other teen.
"I'm fine," she repeats with much the same lack of emotion as before. "Thank you for your concern."
Well, this is awkward. The atmosphere grows strangely tense in the silence that follows. However, before Daisuke has much of an opportunity to investigate this change in behavior further Ryuko's skirt starts to make an electronic chirping noise. Reaching into her pocket, her eye locked on him the entire time, she removes the fancy phone/pocket computer that she carries around and places it against her ear.
There's a brief pause as the sound of someone on the other end of the line warbles unintelligibly.
Returning the device to her pocket, Ryuko stares at her friend in silence for a couple of seconds as if processing something.
"That was my mother. I have to go."
It's not just akward. It's *worrying*. There is a mild surge of panic inside Daisuke that is starting to build up. There is no way this is normal. The Ryuko he knows has never acted like this, and as far as he is aware never even would. Even when she had practically just woken up from her coma she found it in herself to play around with him.
What he sees now is something else. Something distant. He's not even sure if he's actually even looking at his friend, right now.
"You don't look--" He eventually starts to say in an effort to push on the matter, but...
Her phone rings.
The redhead falls silent with that, but none of the worries leave his gaze while he listens to her speak so tersely into the phone, and then waits for her to say... something, anything, once the call has been hanged up.
What she declares just makes that panic in him rise further.
"W-what? No, wait--" He didn't even have the chance to really tell her what he wanted to talk about here. But the sense that something is *horribly wrong* only gets stronger and stronger now. "I don't-- I don't understand! You don't sound fine! Please, just-- just talk to me--" The panic is reflecting in his voice now, in the pace that the pleading words come out with. He even instinctively takes a step along the table again to try to get closer to her, likely only to find her retreating all over again to maintain that equidistant safety behind the table. "Look, I don't... I don't know when I will be able to come home again after tomorrow. ... I don't know if I'll *ever* be able to come back home." Because of everything he has gotten involved with. Because of who he is working with. Because of who he might be ending up going up against. But most of those worries leave his mind, and an entirely different anxiety replaces them.
"Please. Don't leave like this."
The fear that the last time he sees his friend is while she is like this. That he wont even have a chance to help.
But then. Then, his eyes lock on the mechanical fins atop her head again, as they continue their strange sequential flashing and dancing. The worry slowly turns into suspicion. And then anger.
"...Did those things do something to you?"
Just then, his eyes surge into a bright glow, much like when he had demonstrated the manifestation of his brand of Psycho Power to her earlier. But there's no bursts of energy coming out -- just an intense stare at her friend. The barrier Juri had trained him to put up to filter out all the emorional feedback and surface thoughts from people around him is purposefully brought down now for the first time since he had formed it. For the first time since all these troublesome powers grew into him, he willingly tries to *see*. He likely can't see anything particularly deep or meaningful -- a deep dive with his level of refinement would likely require physical contact, and even then it isn't a guarantee it will be successful.
But he needs to try to see at least *something*. Anything. To try to understand what has happened.
Ryuko has always been a passionate person. Though she does well to balance her emotions with a temperate attitude, the tomboy has never hesitated to speak her mind or display her enthusiasm or frustrations. Daisuke has never seen the ugly side of that coin. To him she's just the quirky but upbeat rich girl who seems to promote the stereotype that all wealthy children grow up to be eccentric. A bit on the silly side and someone who likes to poke fun at dark situations but there was never any question that she genuinely cared.
The person that stares at Daisuke from across the table is not that girl.
The panicked attempt to keep Ryuko from leaving with his impassioned pleas earn little more than a narrowing of her eye. If anything, her stony mask seems to get only more devoid of emotion in response to the outpouring of his own. And there is no mistaking her response either. She maintains eye-contact with him the entire time, staring Daisuke down with a look of utterly detached disinterest.
She doesn't care in the slightest about his problems. The possibility that he might wander off to a foreign land and right out of her life forever doesn't even earn the batting of an eyelash. Ryuko lets him say his peace and then, without a word, she turns his back on him and starts to march towards the door leading out to the hallway. Clearly, whatever is going on right now, she's no longer interested in hearing what he has to say.
And then, he does something extremely stupid.
As the walls that he had put up to protect himself from ambient emotional influences come down, Daisuke's mind reaches out to try and connect with the retreating figure - and he succeeds far more effectively than he has any reason to expect. The sensation of trying to sift through surface thoughts and general emotions swells up and hits him in the face like a physical force. It's as if his mind is being somehow dragged into Ryuko, the tenuous connection of his psychic powers grabbed onto by some external force and supercharged from a single fraying wire into a tightly wound high-voltage cable.
In that initial moment of connection he is struck by a powerful sensation. A deep feeling of confusion and anxiety. A sense of being lost in the darkness without any tether or hint that might lead to back to the path of illumination and understanding. Of struggling to keep from drowning without even knowing if she's swimming towards the surface or diving deeper into the blackness. Stasis.
But, after a few moments, something else begins to override the confusion. Surprise - and recognition. Ryuko's mind brushes with his and -notices- him.
Rather than welcome the presence of her friend, Ryuko's psyche recoils from his touch as if afraid to be contaminated by it. Powerful pulses of emotion flood through her, the unmistakable hints of fear that are quickly subsumed and buried beneath an explosion of resolve.
Abruptly, Daisuke finds himself back in his own head. The powerful connection between him and Ryuko is severed just as quickly as it had formed, cut away as if someone had brought an axe down on that mental cord in order to end it as quickly as possible.
Whirling around with frightening speed, Ryuko turns to stare at the young boy once again as she takes up a clearly aggressive combat stance. Something like raw indignation or contempt flickers in her eye along with the unmistakable surge of honed killing intent.
"That... was a mistake."
A soft electronic whine fills the air as Ryuko's cybernetic start to hum with a surge of power. There is hardly a moment of warning before the girl simply seems to blink through space, disappearing from her place near the door to reappear in front of the psychic in the span of a heartbeat. Her fist connects with his gut before his synapses even have time to process the shift, the punch already an inch away from driving her knuckles into his solar plexus and, consequently, the air from his lungs when the time snap ends.
To say this was unexpected is putting it lightly. Ever since these abilities first surfaced, Daisuke has been effectively haunted by the 'presence' of everyone within a certain distance from him, all the way until he was taught how to filter them out.
But this... this is different. It's something much deeper than he has ever felt. And it's frankly frightening even before he feels what is hidden beyond Ryuko's mental border. He didn't intend for this to happen. Something's pulling him in against his own will. For a fraction of a second, he tries to fight it, but then--
The fear paints through him, makes every single neuron fire through him. It makes him sick, at first. But then there's an even more horrid realization. Some modicum of understanding. Is this what she felt like, when...?
But that surge. The recognition. It mirrors from the young man's side, too, and in a moment of mislead desperation, he tries to reach deeper.
But then the line severs.
It comes with a whiplash that spikes through Daisuke's own mind, his hand slapping against the side of his skull with a sharp grunt, his mind struggling to regain focus amidst the recoil of getting jostled back and forth like that.
He can see his friend turned to face him, though, with that awful look. With that outward threat.
The redhead's body folds over the fist, white hot pain flooding his senses while oxygen escapes his body and gastric juices alongside what he had time to eat threaten to well up from his stomach. He couldn't even see her move, but the knuckles pressed into his center and the physical shock act as undeniable evidence that she made the impossible leap in a time faster than could be perceived.
The boy staggers back a step, unable to manage more before he loses control of his weight, driving him down onto one knee, one arm clutched around his stomach.
Slowly, he manages to lift his head up, to look up to... no, what he's looking at surely can't be his friend, can it? But his gaze peers up towards her face there regardless, trying his best in spite of the hurt to look into her eye. The glow in his own gaze has disappeared after that blow, unable to focus enough to even attempt to establish any psychic connection again. But still, his gaze is desperate, as if he could somehow still call out to the girl he knows, somewhere in there.
Once again the face that look down at Daisuke is not that of the caring and boisterous teenager he has come to know. In the face of the suffering she has inflicted upon him Ryuko is cold, clinical. Watching for some attempt by the foolish psychic to try and push through the pain and fight back. Ready to react should he prove somehow more resilient than expected.
As soon as it is clear that the fight has been knocked out of him, Ryuko reaches down towards the boy. Any momentary hope that she might be about to offer him a hand is quickly smothered. Her fingers dig into the ragged mat of red hair atop his head, clenching and twisting to establish a firm and painful grip. With a sharp flick of her wrist she yanks his head backwards while jamming a knee into his spine, exposing his throat.
"I'm afraid your luck has run out."
Ryuko's free hand draws back, her fingers folding tightly together to create a blade-like surface. A tell-tale nimbus of neon blue energy starts to gather around her upraised forearm while the implants start to whine softly once again as they spool up for another time burst.
Daisuke has only seen brief glimpses of what his friend is capable of but nothing pleasant has ever followed when she starts to channel that mysterious power. And judging by the dead-eyed expression she's sporting and the fact that the strike she's winding up looks awful similar to an axe about to come crashing down on a piece of firewood it's pretty clear to see what her intention is.
She's going to kill him.
A familiar chirp interrupts the building sound of impending doom. Ryuko hesitates, eye narrowing as if unsure whether to deal with her ringing phone before or after handling the current problem. After a moment, the energy around her hand fades away and she fishes the device out of her pocket again. Her grip on Daisuke remains iron-clad - in fact she seems to tighten her hold, making it clear that any attempt to wriggle free will be met with violence.
"What is it?"
The teen listens to the voice on the other end of the line for several seconds. Her eyebrow raises at something, faint surprise dancing across her face.
"Are you sure that's wise? You know who he's been associating with."
Ryuko falls silent again, listening for several more seconds.
"Fine. We'll do this your way."
The phone is returned to her pocket once more and the teen's attention shifts back to Daisuke. Ryuko stares at her captive in silence for a long tense moment, her gaze inscrutable and intense. Then, with a heavy sigh, she closes her eye and releases him.
"Looks like I spoke too soon."
With that exhalation of breath all of the murderous intent seems to melt out of the girl. Her emotionless mask relaxes slightly into something a little more natural though still no where near the cheerful resting smirk that Ryuko typically wears. Turning on her heel, she stalks over to the small table and takes a seat on the edge facing Daisuke, scooting the trays of leftover food to the side to make room. Her elbows come to rest on her knees, both hands folded together into a bridge upon which she rests her chin. She eyes the red-head for a moment then points at the space on the floor in front of her.
"Park it, kid. We have some stuff to talk about."
What could Daisuke possibly do? He could try any number of things, sure, but even as the cruel grip of Ryuko - or whoever is in there right now - yanks into his hair and her knee spikes into his spine, he simply can't bring himself to.
Not even a token defense. He can't allow himself to hurt her, even while her body is actively threatening his life.
Head drawn back, then, and throat exposed like he was the carcass of a hunter's game about to be bled out, the only thing he still does is to slowly raise his hand up, in the air. Knowing what he has just revealed about himself, it could register as a potential threat, but... there's no surge of energy, no psychic burst towards her mind, nothing. Just a desperate, blind reach in the air, while his head struggles to let him at least get a corner-side look towards the face of his friend.
"Ryuko..." She has to be in there somewhere still, he thinks. "Please..."
But it's the phone that saves him. His outreached hand falls down with that, limply, while that grip tightens in warning at his hair. He listens quietly, and waits.
"Guh--" The instant she lets go, the boy slumps down onto his back on the floor first, turning to his side after and finally letting several pained coughs spill out after the painful abuse that had just been inflicted upon him. It's only when he hears her speak again, when his gaze lifts towards the table and her sitting there.
With a slow, steadying breath, the redhead, too, closes himself to the table, scooting across the tatami mat until he is sat down, cross-legged, in front of her.
Arm still clutched around his middle, he turns his gaze straight to her eye, his own narrowing subtly. "...Who am I talking to, exactly?"
"That," the girl says, fishing the pack of cigarettes out of her skirt. "...is about as privileged as information gets."
Pulling one of the smokes out with her mouth, she snaps open Ryuko's fancy lighter and takes a long drag that makes the tip glow cherry red. The movement is smooth and natural, as if she's done it a thousand times and knows exactly where to look to find what she wants. In fact, it looks disturbingly similar to how he's seen Ryuko light up in the past, almost a pantomime of the very same motions.
Stowing the pack and lighter back in her pocket, the girl gives Daisuke a long look as she inhales deeply. After a couple of seconds a cloud of wispy gray smoke is blown into his face.
"And I'm not particularly interested in sharing such secrets with someone who associates with one of the world's most dangerous mass-murdering terrorists."
If there was any doubt that he'd stumbled upon something way over his head before, that information drop should put some perspective on the sort of person he's dealing with. He'd never managed to tell Ryuko who it was that he'd taken up apprenticeship under. And since she's been effectively incapacitated for some time now it's unlikely that she's been secretly following him around to spy on his whereabouts. Surely, -she- would have noticed any interlopers anyways, right? Which does raise the question of how his connection is known and who might be interested in keeping track of his whereabouts.
Ryuko leans forward slightly, staring him down. Her tone of voice is soft and conversational but there is something about her that seems unsettling. Her surface thoughts, what he can make out at least, are carefully guarded. Unlike when she was one good muscle contraction away from caving in his windpipe, there's almost no insight to be gleaned from her mind. It's like she's surrounded in a haze of fuzzy static that scrambles his extrasensory perceptions when he tries to reach out.
"You only enjoy the continued privilege of breathing because this troublesome girl has grown attached to you." She sighs, her eye closing slowly as a faint smirk pulls at the corner of one lip. "Honestly, she's just like her mother. Nothing but a magnet for trouble."
Daisuke's brow twitches. He might not have gotten an answer to his question... or at least not as much of an answer as he would have liked, but that still tells him something. That his suspicion was right. Someone else is driving the vessel he knows as Ryuko, right now.
That is... upsetting. But he's not allowed to act on that particular emotional reaction right now. Right now is the time to try and fish for any information he can.
And wouldn't you know it, there's more offered in the same breath that denies the answer for his spoken question. As cool as Daisuke might be trying to play things now, his brows still hoist upwards. "...You know."
In all fairness, it's not as if it's difficult to find out he is working as an intern for one of the NFG teams. But the way this mystery controller declares their knowledge paints a certain picture in Daisuke's mind. That they know that he is working with her specifically outside of the framework of the internship. That implies a multitude of other things. Worrying things. Could it be someone from the same organization Juri had been preparing him to fight against? ...No, perhaps not. What little she had told him about Shadaloo would have him think that they would employ Psycho Power to achieve something like this, and even if his current working theory wasn't that this sudden incident had something to do with her cybernetics, he didn't sense any of those psychic forces touching his friend. But who else could have similiar kind of range of influence?
His posture straightens up when Ryuko - or her body, anyway - leans closer, his brows knit together with a faint hint of defiance. An expression that doesn't last for very long, though, in the face of what is said to him shortly after.
"...Guess she was listening somewhere in there afterall, huh?" He smiles a little. It's an effort at making himself look more confident than he has any right to be... even while a bead of nervous sweat drips along his temple.
He doesn't actually think *that* is what his saving grace was. The reaction he sensed from Ryuko hardly implied the girl herself had any kind of idea on what was happening. So whoever was on the phone couldn't have been his friend somehow manipulating phone waves through the cybernetics or whatever strange cyberpunk thing. Whoever is on the other end of this conversation doesn't seem like someone who is willing to let Daisuke know a great deal, so right now the best move might be to not let on the line of hypotheses running through his mind. He has to choose his words carefully. That being said, though, this one mentioned Ryuko's mother in what seems like a kind of familiar way, too, and whoever was on the other end of the phone must have been someone who cared about the girl's feelings...
''...It couldn't be, could it...?''
He forces that particular thought away for now, lest he let it show in his face. Instead, he meets that cyclopean eye, with his lips pursing with clear dissatisfaction.
"...Answer me this, then. What the hell did you do to Ryuko?"
The girl's eye opens, the smirk still in place as she leans back to give him some breathing room. To his notion that Ryuko had somehow actively saved his life she gives no confirmation or denial. The less he knows about her situation the better. In fact, she would prefer that everything he knows winds up on the bottom of the bay along with the skull it's contained in but that call is out of her hands for the moment. Lucky him.
Daisuke's bravado earns him another puff of smoke in the face. Clearly, he isn't going to intimidate whoever it is that he's speaking to at the moment.
"Don't see why I should tell you that, kid. For all I know, you're planning to go running back to that psychopath that you're so chummy with, share all the juicy details."
She grimaces at the thought of what would happen if that monster Vega caught wind of Ryuko's predicament.
"Last thing I need is Shadaloo crawling all over my backyard."
"...Are you an idiot?"
Daisuke clicks his tongue with the first visible hint of annoyance after blurting that insult disguised as a question out. "You really think there's any love between us and Shadaloo? Hell, for that matter, you think I trust the psycopath enough either to say anything about any of my friends?"
The redhead's eyes narrow, and the russet brows above them tighten into a deeper frown. He might not be able to pierce whatever is blocking his senses, but that glare might as well be trying to bore a hole through the sole of whoever is talking through the girl in front of him regardless.
"You don't know a goddamn thing about me."
A hand clutches at his own knee, and teeth grind together within his mouth. The irritation is slowly growing to anger again, out of a fierce protective instinct. And a horrible lack of self-preservation instinct, for that matter.
"Why you should tell me? Didn't you *just* say we had things to talk about? Then do it to stop me from prodding further if that's really what you're concerned about. Cause right now it seems like you're hurting someone I care about."
Daisuke's outburst does little to impress the impassive figure before him. The cigarette is idly returned to her mouth as he speaks, her expression that of a teacher listening to an unruly child throw a temper tantrum. Once he's finished, she thumbs her smoke at him, sending a spray of hot ashes flying towards his face.
"Only an idiot would buy that sob story you've been fed. You ever seen footage of the poor little Spider going about her work? Of what was left when she was finished? Someone like that doesn't just turn over a new leaf, kid."
Ryuko leans forward again, extending the hand which isn't holding the cigarette this time. The tip of her finger jabs into the middle of his forehead, the teen's well manicured nail making the contact rather unpleasant. A buzz of something like friction-based static crackles into him at her touch but instead of feeling the sharp snap against his skin it jolts straight into his mind, scrambling his psychic senses for a moment.
"And last time I checked, you were smack dab in the middle of talking about how you were learning all the fun things that people with Psycho Power can do. Like, I don't know, READ MINDS?"
Rolling her eyes, Ryuko sits back and rests her elbows on her knees again.
"You don't have to say a word to give information to someone like her, kid. Just being aware of things makes you a liability. Which is why the moment you tried to poke your nose where it doesn't belong I was forced to intervene."
The redhead's eyes do squint shut at the current the poke from her finger delivers. It might not be painful, but the mental effect might as well feel like something sharp getting driven into his brain regardless. Enough to make him rub the side of his skull even after his eyes open again.
"Nhh... You might be right. But I still can't agree with you. I don't have to read your mind for me to be able to tell..."
His hand lowers down, and his other eye opens up too, then, to look up to this mysterious figure wearing the mask of his friend.
"...It's useless for either of us to try to convince the other."
Whoever this person is, they are fundamentally incompatible with Daisuke. The feeling is likely mutual. He could try to get more information still, in spite of that understanding, but... in the end, the two of them would likely find themselves running circles around each other for all of eternity. At some point, even someone as stubborn as Daisuke is going to have to admit something is pointless... even in spite of his concerns that something bad is happening to someone he cares about more than he is willing to admit.
So he lets out a deep sigh.
"...So. What's gonna happen now, then?"
'Ryuko' gives an amused snort, smoke blowing out of her nose.
"You seem to be horribly misunderstanding this situation. We're not talking because I want to convince you that I'm right. We're talking because circumstances have dictated that it will likely be more trouble to kill you than not."
Tilting her head to the side, the girl rests it on the palm of one hand and holds the other up as she counts off her reasons.
"First and foremost, you have become a stable fixture in the girl's life. You have helped her out of a bad situation and been there to talk with her about the issues that stem from her unique situation. You came to visit her in the hospital and were the first person she sought out after waking up from her little nap. That -meant- something to her."
She sighs. Again. Seems to be something she does quite a lot.
"For better or worse, she relies on you and expects you to be there. If you were to go missing, she would go looking and potentially put herself in danger. If you were to wind up face-down in the nearest ditch, she would try to find out why, with the same results."
A second finger extends as she moves on to the next point.
"Next, your association with the Spider. Whatever you might have been told, it's far more likely that any schism between that woman and her former organization stem from some sort of power struggle rather than Miss Han having a Grinch moment and struggling to contain the size of her new heart."
The sarcasm in that last statement leaves no ambiguity as to what his conversation partner thinks of Juri.
"And that's the best case scenario. For all anyone knows, this could simply be one of Shadaloo's ploys. She might be trying to draw out the organization's enemies by creating a weakness that doesn't exist, something their rivals would be tempted to exploit. She could be using the tournament as a premise to scout for new 'talent' to be added to Shadaloo's ranks."
Daisuke gets a meaningful look for several long seconds.
"Hell, kid, she could just be stringing you along so she can get betray you later for her own amusement. That woman is a sadist who loves toying with her victims. I wouldn't put anything past that monster."
Ryuko runs a hand across her throat in the universal motion for killing.
"You might think that provides us with a pretty good reason to take you out of the equation. And if it weren't for Ryuko, you'd be right. However, you going missing would not only upset the girl, there's a strong possibility that Juri and-or Shadaloo will decide to come poking around to find out why. Which is something we don't want."
"And, third." Another sigh. "Killing some dumb ass kid who accidentally got tangled up in a spider's web doesn't sit well with me."
A statement that runs somewhat counterpoint to the events of a few minutes ago. She had been more than prepared to strike him down without hesitation. So either she's lying or someone capable of doing what she feels is necessary regardless of her own feelings. A shame he can't poke around in her head to find out which it is.
Finishing off the last of the cigarette, the girl flicks it with pinpoint precision into a waste bin on the other side of the room without even glancing sideways. He's seen Ryuko perform such feats herself in the past. Is it a talent facilitated by the cybernetics or is something else going on? Another mystery.
Folding her hand together again, Ryuko rests her chin on them and stares directly at Daisuke. The faint hint of playful amusement is gone, the teenager's unsettling emotionless game face neatly falling back into place.
"What is going to happen is you are going to do everything in your power to forget what transpired here today. Ryuko isn't aware of any of this and it is imperative that she remains in the dark. And no, I'm not going to tell you why. You will simply have to accept this as necessary. Likewise, you will not pass any information about Ryuko to your new...mentor. Don't talk about Ryuko at all, not even in casual conversation. Hell, don't even think about her while you're around that bitch if you can help it."
Her eye narrows dangerously and the killing intent that she had put off before hits him again. No doubt he has sensed such violence before, from Juri if no one else. But this is different than the emotion fueled aggression that she radiates. This is cold. Calculating. And without the faintest trace of mercy.
"Because if I suspect that you have endangered the girl or attempted to inform her about any of this, we will not be having a second conversation. Understand?"
Daisuke does not feel particularly happy about any of this. Whatever the true identity of his current conversation partner is, they just... rub him the wrong way, on a base level.
But there is one thing he has to accept, after the final threat given to him. The exhale of breath that comes out past his lips is... surprisingly calm, though, considering it all. His eyes close, for just a moment.
"...I think I have a pretty good understanding, now."
Opening his eyes again, his brows tug into that frown once more, shooting another absolutely hateful glare through the camera of Ryuko's eye. "Just so you know, that goes both ways. If it ever looks like you're hurting her, I'm going to find you and burn down *everything*." This might seem unconvincing, just out of prior knowledge of Daisuke. The redhead isn't a violent type. He's outright said he dislikes fighting. But right now, that declaration comes with all the resolve of someone who is willing to make that prediction come true at the cost of his own life.
The boy grunts, and lightly leans himself forward, arms folded over his own thighs for support, but that glare never leaves it's focus on 'Ryuko'. "...Now let me talk to her. I'll tell her she passed out after a seizure and leave everything else out. Tell her she should go to the hospital. I'll even put her in a cab... though, judging from everything, there's probably a car already on the way here, isn't there? Just..."
The edge that has stayed with Daisuke since the two sat back down at the table fades away now. It's replaced with something else. Hurt.
"...Have the decency to let me say goodbye."
It was what he was going to tell her here in the first place, afterall.
For a moment, the girl's eyebrows rise in genuine surprise at the counter threat. Then she smiles, a genuine look of mirth dispelling the illusion of potential violence. For a brief instant it looks as if Ryuko is herself again, teeth flashing in that confident smirk that he's come to know.
"Hah! You have some guts, kid, I'll give you that."
Leaning forward, the girl gives him a quick punch in the shoulder; a playful gesture rather than a rebuke.
"I'll keep that in mind. But don't you worry. We have Ryuko's best interests at heart here. I know it's a lot to take in, all of this, but trust me when I say that the less you know the better."
His offer of a cover story earns him a nod and 'Ryuko' rises to her feet, moving over to the spot where she had been sitting when the migraine hit. She lowers herself down carefully, legs crossing into the precise same position that the teen had been in. The trays of food are pulled back into place, their contents settled into roughly the same positions as before. Satisfied, she leans back on one palm and turns to look at Daisuke, giving him a come hither gesture with one finger.
"I believe you had your arm around my shoulder when I took control. She'll remember that. Best keep things as close as we can."
Even if the final reaction from 'Ryuko' to his sudden burst of a threat might have been a positive one, Daisuke still finds himself instinctively squinting one eye shut when that playful punch comes. He's used to it from his friend, but not the one currently in control.
He doesn't immediately get up when she does. But when she beckons him, and gives the explanation... he suddenly finds himself looking *elsewhere*. "...Right, I was just... right..." Why is he suddenly pensive *now*, after everything else?
The reasoning for this particular setup makes sense, at least, so the redhead does push himself up to his feet and come rounding the table. Though before actually sitting down, his gaze catches onto the glass of water and the packet of painkillers he brought along earlier. She'd probably notice, right? So he snatches those quickly, and takes them back to the kitchen for hiding before returning again. THere's still just a second of hesitation even after that before he drops down to sitting besides her.
...Probably the realization of just how close he had gotten to Ryuko in the first place doesn't really hit in until just then, judging from the audible swallow in his throat. But he manages to shift right up close regardless, and carefully guide his arm about the girl's body. "O-okay, just... g-get it done already before this gets weird..."
The girl waits patiently while Daisuke gathers up the pills and his courage. Strange that someone who was so feisty a moment before would lose his nerve now. She can't help but smirk at that. Ah, teenagers.
She resists the urge to roll her eye at him as the young boy settles down at her side stammering like he has a speech impediment. Calling attention to his behavior might make it worse. Instead, she just adjusts her posture a little, leaning into his arm. Her head tilts to regard him one last time and she gives him a final intense stare.
"Remember - not a word. And try not to draw attention to yourself by acting suspicious or dodgy. The girl is perceptive, she'll notice something is wrong."
And, with that last bit of advice, Ryuko's head slumps forward and her body relaxes. Atop her head, the cybernetic fins whir and shift for a few seconds. Steadily the soft but audible whine of machinery begins to die out and the lights settle back into their dull persistent glow. For several seconds nothing happens, the teen remaining motionless save for the gentle rise and fall of her chest.
Eventually, Ryuko stirs groggily. A hand goes to the side of her head, pressing against her temple as if shaking off remnants of the migraine she had been experiencing before things got weird. It takes her a moment to get her bearings as she sits up, antennae sweeping around in a cautious scan.
Her head lifts and she turns to fix her bleary gaze on Daisuke. Finding him so close to her doesn't seem to affect Ryuko immediately. She might just be too dazed to feel awkward yet.
"Don't need to tell--"
The mystery person's probably gone before he's even through the first word there. At least that leaves him with a moment to recompose himself. Which is... well, easier said than done for him, with him basically holding on to Ryuko.
But whatever teenaged akwardness and embarrassment he might be feeling quickly makes way for the very much real concern that still remains. Sure, he's in the know in this situation more than her, but there's still a lot about this whole situation that leaves him with enough genuine worry to not need to fake it when she eventually regains consciousness.
"Yeah," the boy says in a quiet voice when she utters his name. "I'm here."
His other hand settles gently on her shoulder in a pre-emptive gesture with an urge of "Take it easy, don't try to get up yet, okay?" He tries to offer a small smile down to her, but even without his spiritual incapability for genuine smiles, it would be tainted by worry. "You had some kind of attack. I thought you might have been about to go into a seizure, but then you just passed out. How... do you feel? Can you breathe okay? Do you want me to get you some water?"
Ryuko stares at him in silence for a moment then turns away, staring at the floor intently.
"Damnit... not again."
His questions and the offer of water earn a couple of slight nods. By the time he returns from the kitchen the girl has changed positions. She sits with her back to the nearest wall, arms hugging her knees tightly to her chest. There isn't anything as dramatic as tears running down her face or fresh hole punched in the wall but it's obvious that she is Not Okay.
The expression on her face is tired and dejected. She glances up at Daisuke with something like guilt in her eye as he brings her the glass, taking it and sipping on the cool liquid in silence for several seconds. When she finally speaks, her voice is soft and uncertain, but she tries to put a joking tone into it.
"Sorry. I came here hoping to give you a happy send off, not more things to worry about."
The nods are enough to get the redhead moving back to the kitchen. He'd made a point of pouring the water he got earlier out; if she'd asked for the water after coming back to, she'd probably have found it weird to not hear the sound of running water that now rings out from the kitchen with the refill of the same glass.
It comes with that same packet of painkillers he had attempted to offer before, too, but he does wait long enough in holding the packet out to her to see wether she accepts it or not before moving on.
And 'moving on' in this case means settling down to sitting right next to her by the wall on her right side, with his own back against it and his right knee propped up to let an arm drape over it.
"...You really don't have to apologize about any of this, Tenjin," he insists, while his head tips back to prop against the wall enough to naturally guide his eyes towards the ceiling. "Honestly, after everything we talked about last time? I'd probably be worrying at least a little bit regardless, you know? I mean... how could I not? I mean, like..."
A vaguely frustrated breath leaves his lips. He's not good at this kind of thing. His own twisted spiritual core makes it difficult for him to put his emotions into words to begin with, even if this wasn't a particularly difficult topic.
"...I guess it's just natural when you care about someone, you know?"
He'd blurted that out without really even thinking about it. But even if he does end up thinking about how incredibly corny it might have sounded afterwards, he doesn't seem terribly inclined to try to walk it back.
"Mmh... Not that there's probably anything I could do even if I wasn't going away for... what could turn out to be a really long time depending on how things go. At least with psychic terrorists or whatever there's a clear target to aim for. With something like this I'm even more powerless than usual."
Ryuko's smile becomes a little more relaxed at his response. Putting worries on other people is the last thing that she wants. As designated Big Sister to everyone she meets, it's her job to take everyone else's problems onto her shoulders. Even the jerks at Gedo have experienced her care and attention - usually after a good beating. Sometimes big sis has to take a firm hand, after all.
Daisuke's struggle to put voice to his thoughts does not go unnoticed. She's always been pretty perceptive about noticing other people's troubles, even small things. So she's not particularly surprised by the words he eventually settles on. It's been pretty obvious for a while now that they've gotten quite close. But it is nice to hear it said out loud.
"Such a dork..." she mutters, but her smile grows a little wider.
"So... you gonna tell me about this mysterious mission you're setting out on? I caught a little bit of what you said before but... it's kind of a blur."
Usually Daisuke protests the moniker of dork that Ryuko keeps giving him, or tries to throw it right back at her. But even just those two initial words, almost like just afterthought sounds of his breathing, don't sound the least bit argumentative. His wall-propped head turns subtly, enough to cast a sideward look to her with a single emerald-colored eye, quietly looking at her like that for a few seconds before directing his gaze up to the ceiling again, and finishing his thought:
"Guess I don't mind being a dork when I'm with you."
But of course, she has to prod him about what he was talking about before. It was even more difficult before all the other revelations he got made privy to, but now he hesitates all over again. Rubbing one hand at the side of his head out of some deep-welling frustration directed at his own self, he does eventually at least make an effort at it.
"Look... The truth is, I probably didn't want to tell you anything before was because I didn't want *you* to worry. The person I'm working with isn't... exactly a good person. They're at least working to keep other people like me safe and prepared right now, but it's hard to tell where things are going to go."
The arm draped along his upraised knee draws back, slowly, and settles his hand to squeezing lightly at that same knee, while his expression twists subtly to something more troubled. "...Even if things with *them* go well, I'm still likely going to end up targeted by the people trying to turn people with Psycho Power into weapons. Right now there's a pretty good chance someone from Justice is going to end up outing me for what I'm doing, too, and... well..."
Damnit. He just said he didn't want to make her worry. But at the same time, she deserves to know, right? His eyes close, slowly, while he gathers his own courage once more.
"I guess what I'm saying is I might not be able to come back home."
Ryuko's eyebrows lift slightly but her surprise quickly turns into another smile. She turns her face away, staring at a spot on the carpet between her feet so he can't see the hint of pink that colors her cheeks. The silence that follows is a little awkward but not unpleasant, neither one of them looking at the other but still aware of their presence. It's strangely comforting just know that he's there, looking out for her.
Which is why what he says next is thoroughly disquieting.
"...you're right, that's a pretty good way to make me worry."
Ryuko chews on her lower lip pensively for a while, pondering what to do with that bombshell. Her first instinct is to offer some sort of assistance. No matter what sort of trouble this knucklehead might have gotten himself into there's always a way out. Either the right person needs persuading or stabbing and she's pretty good at both of those things.
On the other hand, she just had another episode. There's no telling what sort of damage that did. Even if it was just a headache, it's pretty clear that she's in no condition to be gallivanting off on an adventure right now. That sort of thing in the middle of a fight would just make her a liability and it sounds like that's the last thing he needs added to his troubles.
Plus there would be the teeny tiny hurdle of trying to slip away from her mother. Even if she did succeed, she'd feel completely awful about the amount of stress she'd be putting on her poor parents. They've always been incredibly loving and supportive. Even the times they've butted heads with her it's been out of a desire to keep her safe. And, considering how unstable she seems to be at the moment, it would be foolish to ignore their advice.
"Wish there was something I could do to help," she says softly, resting her chin on her knees. "But I'm kind of a mess right now. Just get in your way."
The truth is, Daisuke likely would have tried his best to keep Ryuko uninvolved with his troubles even if she was in her prime condition, out of concern of not wanting her to get hurt. But he's not about to say that. He is 100% sure that she would smack him upside the head if he had the audacity to tell her something like that.
But still, Daisuke feels... kind of guilty. Not that he wouldn't feel any less guilty about keeping all of that hidden from his friend, at this point. She has the right to have at least some idea of what has happened if he just... suddenly disappears.
A long moment of silence passes. What might well feel like an akward eternity, without him saying anything, or even looking back to her. Until...
"...There is something you can do, actually."
That's when he turns where he sits, to try and face the girl more fully, to prepare both of his eyes to meet her if she, too, turns to him.
"Do everything in your power towards getting better. Not just so I'll have less to worry about when I'm out there. So I'll know I'll be able to see that smug look I'm so used to seeing on you again, when I do make it back. ...Okay?"
Ryuko lifts her head and turns to regard her friend, meeting his gaze. If there's something she can do to help him then she's more than willing to try. Big Sis is obligated to do her best, after all.
His request leaves her blinking at him for a moment before a wry smirk pulls at the corner of her mouth. The girl lets out an exasperated sigh and closes her eye, leaning her face on her knees again.
"And here I was getting ready to hurl myself into traffic at the next opportunity. Have to try and beat my personal high score for air time, you know. I made it up to twelve seconds last time!"
She lifts her arm slowly and brings her fist down on top of his head in a gentle bonk, smiling the whole time.
"Gonna kill me with boredom but I guess I can try to take it easy."
Something occurs to her suddenly and Ryuko sits upright, a look of realization on her face. She shifts her weight to one side and digs around in the pocket of her skirt.
"There is something I can do for you, actually... or something I can give you, at least."
After a moment, she successfully fishes the bulky pocket computer out of its hiding place and holds it out in front of him.
"Here. It might come in handy."
Ryuko might obviously not be serious about her eagerness to go playing traffic test doll, but Daisuke's nose still wrinkles up at the particular thought, and he even complains, "Come on, don't even joke about that..."
The bonk on the top of his head he at least meets without any complaint, even if the light bump of her fist atop his thick skull does still urge a brief ssquinting of his eyes.
"Look, I get it. Really, I do. But, like... recovery is your job right now, right? And... I want you to get better, even if I can't help with it. ...And for the record." His eyes suddenly narrow. "If I find out you've gotten worse because you were pushing yourself or something, I will absolutely come find you and kick your ass."
When she fishes out the small computer from within her skirt, though, he blinks rapidly before straightening up in his own sitting posture, so he might properly reach to take the thing from her hand, to be held in both of his.
"Is this...? But I thought...?"
He's more than a little taken aback by this. He's caught sight of the device a few times, and though he doesn't actually know what it truly is, he at least has had the impression that it's been an important tool for Ryuko, too. After a few seconds of baffled staring at the computer, he looks back up to her, eyes subtly widened.
"Don't you need this...?"
Ryuko snorts at the threat in her usual unlady-like fashion.
"You'll try, nerd."
His reluctance to accept the gift of the small computer is understandable. She never really explained what it was to him, mostly using it as a fancy phone. It looks expensive. It -is- expensive. An average person could probably never hope to afford anything as technologically advanced as this without saving up for quite a while.
She pushes it into his hand firmly, smiling and shaking her head.
"Nah. It's basically just an expensive phone with a lot of extra features. Mostly to monitor my health. My parents gave it to me to make sure I'd be able to get in contact with them no matter where I am. It has a miniature satellite receiver built in so you can get reception pretty much anywhere, as long as you aren't underground."
The device is only slightly larger than an average cell phone but significantly thicker and heavier, weighing at least a few pounds. It looks more or less designed in the same layout as any other phone with a couple of extra knobs and buttons on the side.
"With this you'll be able to talk to me whenever you want. My parents both have one too. I'll just borrow dad's until I can get a replacement."
Daisuke's eyes narrow slightly. He still might not be smiling, but there is at least a flicker of amusement in his eyes.
"You're right. I'd just feel bad about even shoving you."
What turns out to be largely a phone with extra features does find it's way to his hand with Ryuko's insistence. He turns it around once, twice, partly to get a good look at all the buttons and knobs that definitely don't belong to a normal phone, partly to get a feel for the weight of it.
"I mean... I don't know what to say," he murmurs, suddenly feeling a little akward -- and even more so with the explanation given on the device. "I mean... thank you. I can see the use in it even besides, um... Checking in with you regularly. And stuff. Uh."
That akwardness grows again, to the point of him looking away from his friend akwardly. Damn. Here he was thinking he was doing okay looking like a reliable kind of friend.
"...You know I will, right? When I can, anyway. I want to know you're okay."
"You'd better. Otherwise I'll use the tracking beacon to come find you, punk."
Ryuko gives him a playful shove with her shoulder then rocks the other way and rises to her feet. She wobbles for a moment but finds her balance quick enough to avoid causing any worry, her antennae humming noisily as they work overtime to compensate for her vertigo.
"Anyways, I should probably get a block or two away from your house before my mom gets here. Whatever that... black out was, it tripped my health alarm. She'll probably tear the front door off trying to get in here if I'm not outside waiting."
Considering her current state, the girl waits long enough for Daisuke to rise and escort her to the door. He's almost certainly going to insist on it and she's happy enough to give him the chance to be chivalrous. In truth, she'd love to stick around and talk with him some more. The idea that he might be heading off into something so dangerous that it could result in his untimely demise is going to be the cause of some restless nights, that's for certain. So an excuse to delay her departure for a few more moments is something she welcomes.
She isn't kidding about her mother's excessive zeal in hunting her down though. Best not wait -too- long lest his front wall get an unplanned remodeling.
"Make sure you take some time to explore the phone," she adds. "It has a lot of useful features for a blockhead like you. Might come in handy."
"Whoa, whoa, hey--"
Daisuke is up on his feet in damn near an instant after Ryuko, launched into action like that after seeing the wobbling in her stance. It's just as quick that his arm comes around her for support, even in spite of it becoming apparent that she will manage to handle her balance in the end. He really is kind of a fussy one.
"...I honestly kind of thought about calling you a cab, but... yeah, I figured something like that would happen. It's not like it's the first time."
Wether or not Ryuko accepts the actual physical assistance, he will indeed at minimum walk with her back to the front door. And very carefully watch her nearly the whole way there in case of any other issues in her ability to stay up.
"I will," he promises, on the suggestion to study the phone. "I'll look through before I head back overseas."
The walk to the front door somehow feels more akward with every passing step that brings them closer to it, too. And once they do get to step down off the hardwood flooring and onto the lower-level perch between the rest of the house's footprint and the door itself, the redhead actually looks kind of... hesitant.
"So, um..." He mumbles, lamely, while waiting for her to get her shoes back on. "I guess... this is goodbye for now."
He'd already pained over that realization before she even came here, but saying that out loud stings a little. His eyes do remain on his friend for a moment after that, but they drift off soon after. Something nags at the back of his mind. Like there's something else he should be saying, but... he's not quite sure what. He can't put a proper pin on that feeling.
For all the insight his latent abilities might have given the young man on other peoples' emotions, he still struggles to understand his own.
Strong and Independant she may be but Ryuko isn't above accepting a helping hand from a friend. She wraps her arm around Daisuke's shoulder and allows him to help her make the journey back to the threshold. Compared to her mother's doting, his fussing over her is pretty low key.
"What can I say, mom and dad spared no expense to make sure I don't pass out in a ditch somewhere."
The awkwardness that Daisuke experiences doesn't seem to be shared by her. Despite everything, Ryuko's good spirit has made a quick recovery and she's all smiles by the time they stop for her to slip back into her sleek shoes. As always, she proves to be preternaturally aware of his feelings, not that he does a good job of hiding them.
"Yeah, yeah, try not to fall to pieces on me, ya big baby."
There's no hesitation in her own send off. The girl steps forward and wraps her arms around him, pulling her friend into a tight hug. Most Japanese people aren't really big on the displays of physical affection but Ryuko was raised by the world's most prolific hugger. There's no one here to see anyways, so she spares him that embarrassment at least.
"Stay safe. And don't hesitate to call me if you need something."
The hug that comes might take Daisuke by surprise, but... well, in all fairness, he did kind of also capture her into a pretty tight hug the other time, so it's not like he gets to call her out on the breaking of cultural norms.
He does bring his own arms around her, returning the hug with an equally tight squeeze in spite of the bit of red flaring at his cheeks. At least with his head by her shoulder she won't notice that, right? Right?
"Right back at you. I'll even drop everything and get the first flight back here if it's something serious."
He might let that tight hug linger a bit longer, but he still draws back away eventually after offering her that much, with one of his hands slipping by the side of her face and giving a light, playful - and affectionate - pat to her cheek.
"...Now go on, before your mom breaks through the door and thinks I'm courting you without permission or something and breaks all my limbs."
Ryuko laughs at that mental image and turns away from the affectionate pat - not out of rejection but to hide her cheeks turning a couple of shades pinker behind the long curtain of her asymmetrical bangs. The girl chews on her lower lip for a couple of drawn out moments, uncharacteristically hesitating over something.
Ever since she met this copper-topped dork the two of them have seemed unnaturally drawn together. Be it one or the other having to dramatically rescue the other or bonding over a shared love of food, every time they meet there's an unspoken awkwardness between them. Instead of drive a wedge between them, her long nap seems to have somehow amplified that attraction.
Absence making the heart grow fonder? Or is it something more than that?
Her gaze slowly shifts back to his face, Ryuko's eyelid half closing in a suggestive fashion as she comes to a decision. Considering this is might be their last chance to say it, it seems fairly clear that her adorkable friend lacks the courage. Maybe he just hasn't realized it himself. Also could be that he doesn't feel the same way, as traumatizing a thought as that is.
Only one way to find out.
Taking in a slow breath, she steps forward again. When she had drawn him in for the hug, it had been quick and firm, lots of Big Sister energy radiating out to negate the potential awkwardness. This is different.
Ryuko invades his personal space with deliberate slowness, pressing herself up against his front. The heavy duty blazer that she wears often does an admirable job of muting her more feminine features but she makes it very clear to him just how much softness there is lurking behind that black cloth. Leaning in close, damn near red as a tomato from embarrassment at her own boldness, she rests her mouth next to his ear and whispers in as low and silky of a tone as she can muster.
"Who says you don't have permission?"
Pulling away, she maintains eye contact with him for another second or two, allowing that statement simmer in the air. Then she turns and saunters out the front door, one hand lifting to flutter her fingers at him in a playful final farewell.
Ryuko has surely seen how dense the redhead in question can be. It could truly be any number of things running behind the eyes that, in that particular instant, give an entirely clueless look at the girl while she's running through her own hesitation.
He does catch on to *that*, at least, even if he doesn't quite catch on to the reason for it.
His voice is initially out of genuine confusion, and of mild worry. Something's clearly bothering her. But what?
And then, all that changes. The first second or so of her slow approach doesn't seem that unusual for him, but then he realizes something is, indeed, different.
By the time she's right in close against him, and pressing into his lean-but-firm front in such a way that reminds him all too well of the fact that the person in front of him is, in spite of all their friendly ribbing, still a very attractive girl, the color of his face is practically mirroring her own.
That lean forward, then, makes him practically freeze into place, with the utter inability to properly process what is happening. So perfectly still even when her lips come close enough to his ear for her to feel her breath there, and a voice unlike any he has heard from her before whispers in.
But those words do prompt a faint shiver along the fellow student. He is very much visibly taken aback by that. That was different from all the other times she's deliberately messed with him, even he can tell that much.
But he's... truth be told, not entirely sure what to do with it. The poor boy's sense of self is so horribly twisted that something like this simply does not fit into his world view. The kind of spiritual wound that has been disrupting his inner self for ages that makes him think of such a thing something he is completely undeserving of.
The truth is, even if he fails to recognize it himself, that he is only capable of feeling joy through others. His own well-being and satisfaction has never factored into it.
So what is someone like that to do when he suddenly feels someone else suggest an attraction like that, even while the hole inside him keeps beating him up for feeling such a thing himself?
He's left to stare silently into her eye for that moment of internal conflict before she turns away, and still quiet even after that, as she goes for the door. SHe might have intended to get out before he could give a proper answer anyway, but the complete lack of even trying might be a little worrying.
But once both her feet are past the threshold, and she is just about to close the door behind her...
He doesn't try to run after her and grab her hand or anything dramatic like that. He just calls out her name with such a soft tone that carries just enough urgency to hope she waits to hear him out, but not enough to indicate he is intending for her to stop.
"...Wait for me, then."
Something in the boy is still fighting against him to keep him from outright smiling, but there is at least a hint of the corner of his eyes turning subtly upwards.
"At the end of all this... I'll come find you again."
The girl pauses with her hand on the door. That final utterance of her name, her actual name, with no honorifics might not seem like much of a difference to many. But to Japanese gal such as herself he might well have gotten down on one knee while saying it. There is meaning behind that call out. Even without the words that follow she would have gotten the message.
Stopping long enough to turn her head to the side, Ryuko glances at him over her shoulder and offers one last dazzling smirk. She doesn't say anything, nor does she have to. She's made her intentions clear enough and he his. Now all they have to do is try not to die before that whisper of a possibility can blossom into something more.
The door swings shut with a strange amount of finality creating a barrier that is somehow more than just wood and metal. It's time they go their separate ways, at least for a little while. But now, they both have a reason to keep on fighting.
Ryuko stuffs her hands in her pockets and lets out a long sigh. The trip down to the nearby bus station - the designated meeting point for her recovery vehicle - takes her a few minutes, her pace sedate and meandering. At some point she realizes that she's been walking with her eye closed, allowing the internal GPS of her implants to guide her steps while she focused on solidifying that memory in her mind. It's important to her now, one of her personal little treasures, and she wants to make sure it stays that way even if another episode tries to rob her of such things.
By the time she finally draws near to the destination, a non-descript black sedan sits parked on the far side of the road. Checking for traffic, she quickly hurries across the final stretch and climbs into the back seat.
"Well," comes an impatient voice from the figure occupying the bench beside her. "Did you succeed?"
The girl says nothing, her hands lifting up to form a cushion behind her head in a gesture that seems almost petulant considering who she's talking to. Only once the car is in motion and any possibility of being eavesdropped on dispelled by the soft background noise of the road does she finally open her eye again and turn to look at her 'mother'.
"When have I ever failed?"
The towering woman's face contorts into a grimace, her arms crossing as she leans back into the seat with a creak.
"You want that list itemized by date or by magnitude of the fuck up?"
The teen rolls her eye. For a moment you could almost mistake them for an actual mother and daughter.
"Relax, Rita, I got the job done. That kid is going to sleep with the tracker under his pillow. Hell, he'll probably sacrifice one of his kidneys to make sure it stays safe. I made damn sure of that."
This time it's Mama Tenjin's turn to roll her eyes.
"Yes, I heard. And how are we supposed to explain that to Ryu..." She cuts herself off mid-word as the teen turns to glare at her with a scowl, both instantly reacting to the other as if they've had this same exchange a dozen times before. The larger woman concedes quickly, if not happily. "...to the girl?"
'Ryuko' shakes her head and lets out an exasperated sigh.
"We tell her nothing. Her feelings for the brat were already pretty strong. Maybe not quite to that level yet but it shouldn't be a big enough leap to cause any dissonance. Those memories and feelings are fresh in my mind and they should trickle down to her without any problems."
Turning to face her Amazonian co-passenger, the girl lifts a hand and presses her finger into the side of the woman's shoulder.
"The important thing is that you don't give her any reason to think any differently than she already does. Keep her distracted and happy. That's your job."
Mama Tenjin scowls and brushes the prodding finger away.
"And if you're wrong? This one is still adjusting to the imprint. Even a small discrepancy has the potential to cause a cascade failure. Do you have any idea how much it costs to create a replacement?"
The girl barks out a laugh at that, unable to contain her obvious disdain.
"Really? Since when has money been something you care about."
She shakes her head, chuckling again.
"If it breaks, they'll just make another one. Just like last time. And the time before that. And the time before that. The real problem is that you keep getting attached. If you want to protect your precious little dolls, then do a better job so they don't break, hmm?"
Ryuko's mother lets out a long sigh and looks away, clearly unhappy but unable to offer a meaningful counter. After a few seconds, however, she does throw in one final comment on the matter.
"You're a heartless bitch, you know that?"
'Ryuko' quirks an eyebrow and then slowly peels her lips back in a shark-like smile. The expression is twisted, almost psychotic, completely incongruous with anything that the teen has ever showed to any of her peers or friends. Rita stares at her in silence for a long moment then turns away, staring at her own reflection in the tinted glass.
"And that is precisely why I always win, Rita."
Log created on 06:10:27 09/26/2023 by Daisuke, and last modified on 23:57:46 10/05/2023.