NFG Season One - Self Actualised

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Description: Coco receives yet another visitor. It seems like she can't catch a break! Or, can she. How the hell is it possible that Juri isn't the worst person to have turned up in her hospital room? Is the ex(?)-assassin going soft? ... No. Surely not.

It's been a quiet week of convalescence for Constance Coalbridge. There have been surprisingly few visitors to her hospital room since the incident that put her in here. The fact that Mad Gear's maddest spent time acting as Coco's personal security probably served as some degree of deterrent, as did the near-meltdown that occurred when Team Thunder had sent a delegation to wish Coco well. So far, none of her family have seen fit to slum it Stateside to see her state for themselves. It's mostly just been her and Hawksley during visiting hours.

That's how she's preferred it. She's helped herself to several servings of paranoia pie during her time here. She doesn't trust the food, or the nurses, or anything aside from Hawksley and her Team Frost mentors. There were flowers in her room, but she was convinced they were making her more ill and had them removed.

By now, at least, she's at least reduced her reliance on the bandages and morphine. Her body is far from fully healed, and her mind is in an even worse state, but she no longer looks like she's wearing a balaclava - only half her face, roughly, is covered by bandages - and she can sit up in bed and walk to the bathroom when she needs to. That had been untenable at first, and there's still a balance between aggravating the pain and the dosage she's on to manage in order to avoid collapsing for one reason or the other, but it's a line that gets less fine each day.

For now, she's comfortable enough in the assurance that no one is coming to see her that she's lying on top of the sheets in her gown, getting her daily Morgie fix through online videos instead of the real thing. Attempts to convince the hospital staff that the binturong counted as family and they might as well let a bearcat in if they were letting people bring flowers to patients were not successful.

So the big question on people's minds, obviously, is ... where has Juri been in all of this?

Her team has been wiped out. Not just her official one, but her unofficial one too. The Psycho Power contingent had ultimately not made it past the first round of the NFG's final tournament. And Coco had flamed out in spectacular fashion. It might seem cold, even. The way that Juri has very much not been around to wish Coco well and reassure her that everything is going to be okay. Nor had she made any effort to respond to Abigail's declaration. In fact, Juri had simply... disappeared.

If anyone knows anything about Juri, they should know to be very, very worried by that.

And then, there she is. Having apparently waltzed right past the guards and somehow gotten into the room without anyone noticing, there's the woman herself. Her hair has changed. Maybe that's what she's spent all this time doing; the eye that used to be patched now covered by the dark locks. She's wearing that bizarre spider-like upper body garment which hides... practically nothing, and the unzipped baggy pants plus tights combo which would look, frankly, ridiculous on anyone who it wasn't a terrifying prospect to call out.

"... Tch. So this is it, huh?" She drawls, to announce her presence. She detaches herself from the wall as though she's been leant there for hours but -- surely not. Coco would definitely have noticed that, right? Juri may not, exactly, be helping with the paranoia situation right now.

"You suffer one beatdown, and now it's all hospital food and cute animal videos? Are you really going to take this laying down?"

In spite of the relaxing effects of whatever's in her system, Coco jolts immediately at the sudden interjection from Juri, letting the phone leap onto her lap.


Gasping at the sudden elevation of her heartrate, she lifts her eyes up to meet Juri. Her expression turns from shock to confusion before parking somewhere between resignation and relief.

"Oh, thank God, it's only you."

One might suppose that such a reaction isn't the sort that Juri is accustomed to, for a couple of reasons, though Coco explains one of them ('unusually dismissive') away after a second: "I mean, you and not anyone else." It's not that she's forgotten the time where Juri kidnapped her or that she doesn't think Juri would be a threat to anyone she wanted to threaten. It's just that Juri's on the shortlist of people she's actually interested in seeing at the moment.

"I was watching videos of Morgie because they won't let him see me while I'm in here. As for the hospital food, it's rank. You know they put you on a liquid diet when you've been badly burned? And not the fun kind."

A bit of umbrage does make itself visible on the part of her face that can be seen. That section of her features mostly looks like she's had far too much sun, but it's clear that it gets worse toward the bandaged areas.

"As for taking this laying down, I've been kicking arse all year, I'm out of the tournament and I'm missing half my face. I don't think a holiday in hospital on the en eff gee's tab is too much to ask. And I already let the people who did this to me know what I think. What do you want me to do, go pick a fight with them?"

Juri has, indeed, never once in her entirely life been told 'thank god it's only you'. The exclamation actually draws a smile on the woman's face. The novelty of it outweighs whatever unintentional insult there might have been.

"If you want your pet, go get him." She says, in that same drawl. "If you want better food, get that, too. We've got better things to do than laze around in here just because someone else is footing the bill."

It's... entirely unreasonable, of course. Juri herself had spent literally months in recovery, licking her wounds in a safehouse, just before the start of the whole NFG business. But Coco sure doesn't know that, and it isn't like Juri is renowned for being a reasonable person at the best of times. She saunters over until she can prop herself against the bed. Facing away from Coco with her arms crossed, she looks over her shoulder, as though this is all just an enormous bother to her, personally.

"Do YOU want to go pick a fight with them?" She asks, "I was thinking we should go on a road trip. This whole thing has been a collosal waste of time. Rigged from the start to put their little family-friendly poster kids up front. Abigail is going to rip this city apart, and I don't feel the need to be here when he does."

There's some irony there. At the beginning, Abigail had worried that she'd be the one causing trouble. Now he's out there, practically declaring the start of another gang war in the City, all because he was so furious that Professional Fighting Worldwide didn't live up to his standards.

"Still." She allows, "There's you, and Daisuke. The kid has come on leaps and bounds. Two out of three ain't bad."

Coco squints a little at Juri as she's told to go and get her pet and to go and get better food. On top of that comes the accusation of lazing around. It's true that Coco has spent most of her life seeking opportunities to laze around, a privilege that she's earned by having been born to rich parents. If this were lazing around, she'd be having a lot more fun.

"I'll do it when I'm better," she protests, though something about the fact that someone she respects is actually pressuring her makes her want to go ahead and do it, just to show her. For now, she at least swings her legs over the side of the bed.

"I mean, I want to sue the pants off the en eff gee. They've clearly not shown any responsibility, letting someone like Junko in with a bunch of us genuine newbies. That would ruin them a lot faster than Abigail's rampage and without starting a riot."

She finds herself wondering who in the NFG is a family-friendly poster kid. Chevy, she supposes. Was it really rigged in her rival's favour? Did somebody decide that she'd have to face Junko instead of Chevy? Actually, that sounds like something that she'd heard about online, where someone had pointed out that the seeds for the bottom four were shuffled for some unknown reason. She's not totally sure she followed, though.

"As for the rest, I intend to deal with them personally once I've recovered. Which is why I want to do that as best as I possibly can, short of demeaning myself by accepting whatever Ariastra was offering. Do you know, they were all saying I deserved worse than I got? As if I owed them all something?"

She crosses her arms over her midsection.

"They're such bloody hypocrites. I'm not going to fight fair next time I get the chance with any of them. I..."

She blinks her eyes a couple of times as she finally catches something Juri has already mentioned. "A road trip? You mean on your motorcycle? In my condition? That sounds absolutely hellish."

She can visualize it now. The biting wind tearing at her raw skin like thousands of tiny needles. Forced to hold on tight in spite of the pain it would cause her or literally die. In fact, she gets so caught up in the visualization that her skin actually starts to sting and burn all over, causing her to cry out and tighten her hold on herself reflexively as her nascent capacity for mind-over-matter turns against her.

And then the tears start to flow as the cold-blooded cobra retreats, shedding its protective skin to leave nothing but a broken little girl.

"I can't! I can't. I can't even go out like this..."

Juri watches. Really, calculating. Initially things look good; the kid wants to get up and prove herself. Mind over matter. Sometimes, that absolute refusal to be held back by the limitation of one's own body is the only thing that lets you get back up. Or pull yourself from the rubble and stagger who-knows-how-far on a broken leg to escape. It's not the only good sign, even. There's real venom for a minute there; suing the NFG? Whatever. No longer intending to fight fair? That's a Coco she can get behind. Solve your problems with cheating and violence, that's the way.

Then reality asserts itself. And, perhaps surprisingly, Juri shows some actual compassion. When Coco's power turns on her, she reaches out, and her hand grasps the girl's wrist tight. The thousand-needle-pain lasts only a moment, before the tiny, scared girl finds the Beast, snarling and monstrous, between her and the winds.

Seeing her prize student like this, she can understand Abigail's instinct here. The desire to go murder someone over this is pretty strong. But she's not going to give into it. Not because she's a better person, but purely because it's Coco's revenge to take, not hers.

"Calm down." The sadistic teacher mutters, "And yeah. I'm not surprised they've rallied around their pet flamethrower. They're a bunch of cultists, all playing follow-the-leader. Not independent thinkers, like us." That was, after all, what her training had been trying to instil; find the best version of yourself that you can be and chase it, regardless of what everyone else thinks. Coco had her cobra. Daisuke was a 'superhero'. Genie was a Princess in a tower, and the dragon lurking beneath it. They were all good options, even if none of them were what Juri herself would have chosen. That was fine. That was the point! She didn't want mindless followers. She wanted people she could rely on.

She'd managed to keep two out of three.

And now one of them was down and out. And the other? Well. Daisuke she trusted to be there when it was time to fight the 'bad guys', but he didn't have the stomach for all the work leading up to that. And he was very willing to stand against her. He'd made that perfectly clear. If she couldn't salvage this... she'd be on her own again. Which was fine. Obviously. It's not like she cared about anyone, and who cared about a monster like her?

"Listen." She says, as she draws her hand back and resumes lounging with her arms folded across her chest, "The tournament is over for us. Which means I have to get back to work. No more playing around. There's people who need to die, and people who'll pay good money to make that happen. There's also a lot more people like you, who are going to wind up dead or worse if someone doesn't show them how to use what they've got."

And there's the matter of that name. Rose. She's going to need to track that person down, not that she admits it right here and now. Who knows who might be listening? It's one thing to say that she's getting back to her life of terrorism-slash-assassination, it's another to start dropping hints as to her exact next targets.

"If you want to come with me, I'll hang around until you're back on your feet. I'll even get you your own bike. If you don't..."

She shrugs her shoulders, looks up at the ceiling.

"Tch. Just remember you've got my number."

Any mind can be a terrible thing when it turns against itself. It's not just true for the psychically gifted, but it is especially true for someone with Coco's capacity for self-control. Fortunately, her mind is in the presence of a stronger one. The winds of Coco's psyche are nothing but a breeze to the Beast, and the relief from the self-torment gives her a moment to gather herself as she's told to calm down, returning to the reality of the present, where the painkillers are stronger than the illusory elements she imagines.

The gratitude is unspoken, but tangible.

She sits back up, elbows resting against her knees. Her hands wrap around her neck to support it.

"Exactly. That's what they're like. Buck's the only decent one between them, and they're trying to corrupt Hawksley, too. He thinks I'm crazy for seeing it."

She lets out a slow, deflating breath. It takes her a few seconds to take in what Juri's just said. Assassinations? People like her?

Trying to help people in her situation doesn't sound especially interesting to Coco, but honestly, after the way that she's been treated by Team Thunder, she just might have got the sort of itch that a good bit of murder for sport could scratch. Or maybe just a cuddle off her binturong.

"I'd think about it, and it honestly sort of sounds fun, but..."

Coco's lips tilt downward at the corners. "I think I'm going to stay with Lucky for a bit, while I'm getting better. He's said he'd take me home for Christmas, and holding him to it now that I look like Freddy Krueger seems like a legit revenge for him calling me crazy in front of Team Thunder."

She adds with a bit of a chirp, after a beat, "Luckily I've got your number, so I can text you all the holiday pics."

"Do what you want."

After how... demanding, in many ways, Juri has been - how often she'd just straight up violated Coco's agency, as well as the other members of the team, the words might just seem utterly out of place. Especially after her initial demands. But, it is also heartfelt. Sure, Juri's natural sarcasm makes it sound like she disapproves of the student turning down her offer. But does she, really? Tch. It's annoying, certainly. She could use the extra pair of hands, and knees... but.

"I'll drop off some holiday reading, before you get out of here." She says, "Read it, if you want. Or don't. I'm not your boss. From here on out, you'll have to make your own choices."

She shrugs, an easy, languid motion, stretches up arms high above her head. "If you want to talk again after your little, vacation, let me know. If you find a better offer, no hard feelings. But I need to blow off some steam. I've played teacher for almost a year now. People are going to start thinking I've lost my edge."

She grins. And maybe that's the main thing she's taking away from all of this. She'd been convinced, so convinced, that if she stuck her head above the parapet then Shadaloo would blow it off. But they've done nothing. Didn't touch her students. Didn't touch her. They just lurked in the background, as though they were... frightened.

Maybe it's time she showed them that they were right to be.

"Maybe I'll send you some pictures too." She says, "But don't hold your breath. I've never been the holiday type."

And just like that, she starts to walk back towards the door. Slowly, in case there's anything else Coco does want to say to her.

But she's never been particularly good at goodbyes, either. All this emotion crap. It's not for her. Obviously.

The admission that she'd rather spend her convalescent Christmas in County Cork playing happy families with Hawksley than off on some mysterious mayhem mission, while perfectly sane, still feels like a betrayal to Coco, particularly after all the support that Juri has provided her with in establishing her self-identity as a badass snake girl. Now feels a time for shedding that skin, though. Hopefully soon she'll be ready to shed the next and sharpen her fangs once more.

"Holiday reading? You mean like, Dickens or Jenny Colgan? I don't actually read that much, but, um, I guess I might as well while I'm in here."

She lets out a scoffy little huff at Juri implying that people would think she's lost her edge.

"I didn't really know you before, but I reckon they'd be bonkers if they thought so. You're the only coach who's got away with a kidnapping. Like, literally poaching fighters off the competition. I'm just sorry I didn't go any further, 'cause I... I really liked you guys."

The reptilian skin is still off, as Coco is clearly fighting a losing battle with her tear ducts at the realisation.

"You know, you, Angel... maybe not so much Buford, or that weird wanker with the sunglasses who never seems to do anything, but I feel like you two are the only ones who sort of really get me. Which is kind of weird, because I think you're both like secret assassins or something. And it turns out Abigail's actually, like, a really nice guy."

She wipes away a sniffle gingerly with her cast, then forces a smile toward Juri's retreating back.

"You know, I've never like, driven before, but I am gonna get that motorcycle. And once I've learned, we should go racing sometime. We could maybe even invite Angel. Then we could go drinking in bars and get in fights, like a little girlie biker gang."

She's not sure why she suggests that, other than it sounding like a laugh. Something to make her sound badass again. Something to make her /feel/ badass again. Maybe that's it.

Juri doesn't clarify what holiday reading she has in mind, in that moment. Though she does allow herself a small smile at the idea that Coco actually... enjoyed her time. She reaches out for the doorhandle, and then, pauses. She turns to fix Coco with that one good eye of hers.

"You didn't fail, kid." She says, "You were robbed. Don't forget that." Because sometimes, you just have to cling to that bit of spite. Let it really dig in, so it forms a nice, nasty core for you to build your revenge around. Juri knows that, better than most. Then, she looks back to the door.

"And, sure. I didn't spend much time with Angel. I had stuff I needed to look into. But she seems okay, I guess. I can think of worse ways to spend my time."

Funny. She'd come here with an invitation, and wound up accepting one instead. Still. She's not going to give up completely on that idea. Coco needed time to recover. She has more sympathy with that than she might let on. And she has Hawksley to help her through it. Better than Rock. The dumbass never did figure out that she wanted more than just food... she wanted, well.

It doesn't matter what she wanted. The Untamed Beast doesn't have friends. Least of all some blonde prettyboy, or a massive hulking gangbanger, or a pair of prissy heiresses. She's cruel. Vicious. She consumes all that enters her sight.

"Oh yeah." She says, "If Daisuke comes calling, tell him to go back to school. He has got a lot to learn."

The door opens. Juri steps through it. There's some startled sounds from the 'guards', and then... Coco is once again alone with her thoughts.

Until a that evening. At that point, a delivery arrives. It's a large wicker basket, and inside, there's a very familiar bearcat. Along with several large jars of kimchi, and three books: Memories, Dreams, Reflections. The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious. Alon: Researches into the Phenomenology of the Self, all by Carl Jung.

There is also a note.

'I've already told them that if they try to take him away I'll come back. Also, I hate reading. I'm not running a book club so don't ask me about any of it.


Log created on 10:17:14 11/18/2023 by Juri, and last modified on 18:34:49 11/23/2023.