NFG Season One - The Truth Shall Set You Free

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Description: Mint does what she needs to do to get the truth out of Djamila about what happened with Kenzo. Something Djamila couldn't admit even to herself.

Mint was unhappy at the message. At the time she'd received it, she was across town in a secure military compound, hard at work. Team Metal was just supposed to be training -- nothing more.

As she'd begun making her way to the Ultratech building, more updates came across to her LifeBand. More... upsetting updates.

Thankfully, Kenzo wouldn't be subjected to the scrutiny of a public hospital, but rather to the analytical embrace of Ultratech's sophisticated medical ward, where he'd receive top-notch, round-the-clock care instead of an endless litany of nosy reporters. But that wasn't what bothered her.

She arrives in a waiting room, not long after the doctors have pulled Kenzo into a closed operation room. No windows, no visitors allowed -- just the isolation required for Ultratech's finest doctors to commence their work in peace.

She is armed with her heavy metal arms. Not that she plans to fight with them -- just that she'd had them on when she'd gotten the message, and couldn't be bothered to find their proper traveling case. But that just makes it all the more noticeable when her fingers grind against one another in her anxiety.

She enters the waiting room. And looks at the status monitor, housing the only indication of Kenzo's existence 'in the system': a single line that reads "KUROIWA - OPERATION IN PROGRESS" along with the time of induction.

Mint grumbles to herself, as she glances over to Djamila.

"Hey." She ditches her grumbling face for a brief smile. "He's getting the best care possible. How are you doing?"

Djamila has been there ever since it started. What else could she do? She knows full well she is responsible. So many things have been going through her mind. It doesn't stop. Why should it anyway? She looks like a mess. Her body shows signs of many different emotions. Anger, stress, sadness and hate. She holding her staff so tightly.

She hears Mint come in, but she doesn't turn her head toward her. Not until she hears her say a few words. With the voice alone, she recognizes who it is. "He shouldn't need all of this. I thought..." What did she think? "He was supposed... you know..." Her voice is a mix of emotion as well. Her voice raises. "We kept Kenzo safe... safe from... Junko." She pauses. "Yeah, we fucking kept him safe so I could destroy him myself! WHY COULDN'T HE HANDLE IT?! I AM NOT THAT MORE ADVANCED THAN HIM, IF AT ALL!!!" She takes a deep breath. "Sorry... sorry... It's my fault. I know. Lay it on me, Mint, come on, don't spare me."

After a few more moments. "I am ok." Signs point it isn't true. "Kenzo needs to be ok. Then I have to make a decision." This sounds more cold. "How are you?" She shivers. "You... you probably didn't expect... Well, you know, expect to have to come here today..." She frowns and goes silent after that. She is waiting, waiting for what will come. Waiting for Mint to get at her. Waiting for Kenzo to be ok or not ok. How can see know right now anyway? There are too many thoughts in her head. But she's keeping a part of herself. A part that will explode. Explode at the right time.

Mint had wanted to vent her outrage. She really did. She's had all the data necessary to get really, -really- furious at Djamila.

But that wouldn't help matters, not at all.

She nods -- perhaps a little coldly, at first. The more she hears Djamila's stress... the less angry she can really -be- at her.

She moves closer. And she wraps her metal hands around her for a big hug.

"I'm fine," she says warmly. "Everything's going to be fine. Just... talk it out. Say whatever's on your mind, Djamila. I'm here."

Mint can already tell that Djamila's punishing herself worse than anything she can possibly say at the moment. The only objective... is the future. And to properly orient Djamila for the future -- she needs to know everything she can about the circumstances that led up to this particular problem.

How can she explain? She blames herself, of course. She did it. But a part of her blames Kenzo, too. He has machines that can do read-out and shit. Why wasn't that enough? She didn't do a cheapshot. She didn't sneak on him. He tried to act like Junko, but underneath it all, he was still Kenzo. She recognized that in his moves.

She takes a deep breath. She tries to be normal. Enough to speak correctly and be understood. In a way it's the last thing she wants. But she forces herself. "I blame myself." Yet her voice is still shaky among other things. "Of course, I know it's my fault." A pause. Yes, it's true, be honest. "I blame Kenzo too, Mint. He is so smart. He has his gadgets, and he's a very good fighter too. So how is it that happened. Why couldn't he stop this? It's not like that was a world-ender of a tactic or anything. I didn't give him a sneaky blow. He should have seen it come in and act accordingly." She takes a deep breath and goes silent for a moment.

"What's worse, he's the one I love and... and." She hesitates there. Then, finally she lets it out. "I have to decide if I should stay with him because I love him and I am loyal. Besides whatever happens, even if he is crippled in some way I don't care. I want to be with him..." Another pause, shaking a bit. "Or should I just make sure he ends up ok, then go as far away from him as possible..." Hesitation in her voice. "To make sure something like this never happens again from my hand." She can't stop herself from shaking after saying that. "I am so angry Mint. But I am keeping that bottled up until my match. It will serve me best there. After all, it takes a monster to beat a monster." Yes, that came out. She is a monster.

It can be, at times, incredibly difficult for someone to North Jersey to listen without interruting. But Minal manages to do so -- for she's the one who asked for Djamila to speak her mind. To shake the glass jar and make sure all the beads spill out onto the table.

"Okay. First off. I've reviewed the footage."

She pauses, because this could adversely affect how Djamila might take the advice that comes next. ARIA, being a sophisticated, all-knowing artificial intelligence -- provided everything possible, right down to data that even -Kenzo- might not have had access to. And reasonable assumptions were drawn to make that approachable to Mint.

"He was doing his best to emulate Junko, someone who does -not- have all of these things. He wasn't trying to be him -- he was pretending to be Junko, to help you out. So -- when you talk to him, I would suggest -not- blaming him for any of this."

Mint keeps a gentle, distant voice. She knows that Djamila is more likely to read emotion into her voice, whether it's actually present or not, so she does her best to ensure that the emotion that -is- present in her voice is warm, motherly, and -- most of all -- supportive.

She lets her breath out, and continues.

"Now... I've heard what you've said. I know you feel guilty over this. And it's -good- to channel that in your fight against Junko. So -- can we change subject for... just a few moments?"

Mint's fingers grind against each other again. She's keeping control of her voice -- but she's still somewhat agitated.

"Can you tell me why you think people are upset at Junko? Why they think -she- is a monster?"

"I would never say tell him this." She answers her right away when she mentions that. "I just need a way to cope, and sharing the blame with him in my mind helps me plain and simple. because otherwise I would drown." She speaks that very quickly. Otherwise, she wouldn't be able to admit this.

When Mint asks her if they can change the subject, she nods her head and gets ready to listen.

When it's her turn to speak. Now, this answer allows her to think of something else, even if for a tiny moment. Even her hand eases up on her staff. She can feel the stink from the blood able to flow back correctly again, but she doesn't care. "I don't have all the data, and I can be wrong. But Junko has a monster inside her, and she's unable to control it all the way. So by the time she wins, the monster side of her has her hurt people, like Coco and Kenzo, if the Fulgores unit hadn't been around. She's a monster because she has no hold over that part of her.

Djamila says she would never tell him that. And yet, she's telling herself that -- knowing that it's a lie. She waits for Djamila to finish speaking her mind, so as not to interrupt.

"Well, if you don't believe it, then I would recommend that you cope by saying it once. Just once -- no more. Because repeating it brings it closer to believing that it's true, and I guarantee that's worse."

Her voice is calm, clinical... possibly even motherly. She's not trying to sound judgmental -- but rather, to pick out the points of disorder, and hopefully, help Djamila to filter through them.

The pivot to talking about Junko seems to be a little easier to discuss. Anything to break the endless cycle of Djamila blaming herself for something that's already passed.

"... Yeah, that tracks with our current assessments. She has some limited form of control over the monster within, if that's what it is. But she's just opting to let -go- of that control when it suits her. Like, when she thought she was going to lose."

Mint relaxes her metal hands, letting them swing down to her sides. With her fingers fully extended, she'd have no trouble touching her fingertips to the floor. That doesn't seem to concern her at the moment.

"Have you heard her talk to people outside of a match, Djamila? Or, heck, -before- it? Do you get a sense that she recognizes when she hurts people?"

In turn she listens to Mint, to everything. Her grip returns strong when she speaks of not blaming Kenzo more than once. She understands but. She doesn't interrupt Mint however. She lets her answer everything she needs to before trying to say something back. "It also helped me cope because how will Kenzo love me after this? If I handicapped him in any way, how would he forgive me? What if he feels less than a man because of all it? No matter how you see it, he may hate me. I wouldn't blame him." She hits her face with her hands after this. The staff still standing up on his own.

It takes quite a while for her to continue. But at one point, she rubs her face and lifts it back up. "I would guess she can willingly let the monster out, or if she doesn't at one point, it might get out on its own. I think there must be good inside of her because signs point Chevy is friends with her. Unless she controls her. But knowing Chevy, it's the former. I had nice interactions with her and all. If Chevy is friends with her, there has to be some good. But if I see the progression from my first match with her all the way to Kenzo. I think the good part of her starts to care less and less if she hurts people. She detaching herself from responsibility. Perhaps it's knowing no matter what she does, she will be in pain. Maybe it hurts less if the monster is out and in control." She takes a deep breath.

"There is a silver lining in this. The Fulgores units, making her run away, not only saved Kenzo, but it displayed that she is not immortal. There was fear there, as far as I could tell. If there is fear, she's still beatable, her monster side included. I will give her something to fear about." She takes another deep breath. "Am I allowed to go all out against her and not restrain myself?" She then goes silent. Each time she talks about Junko not being able to hurt Kenzo, she is reminded it is she, instead, who has hurt him so badly.

Mint hears Djamila's words -- but she doesn't refute. The need to cope, the need to deal with issues... that's personal. And it's not really something Mint wants to debate. She's here to deal with a specific issue, in a specific way, right now. So she stays quiet.

-How- Djamila responds is as important as -what- she says.

Mint is asked a question. And she avoids it, yet again.

"Djamila, when you signed up for the NFG, you were given a form. You may not have had it all read out to you, you might not have understood it fully -- but I'll cut to the chase: you've accepted that people may go in this to try and hurt you. You may end up maimed, disfigured beyond belief. You may end up unable to walk, or unable to breathe. You may even die. Everyone agreed to this, when they signed up for the NFG. And everyone signs something similar, whenever they sign up for any event that PFW puts on. It's just... a standard clause. Price of doing business. PFW couldn't even run these events without that binding -faith- that they aren't gonna get sued into oblivion the first time someone breaks a bone."

Mint walks around the room, past the chairs, towards the exit. She makes sure her voice carries clearly over the distance; she's mindful of the echoes of the smooth-paneled walls.

"But just because you signed the form, that doesn't mean PFW is going to go out and screw up your face. They're not going to just break your arm off as soon as you sign on that dotted line. No one's going to choke you, or twist off your legs."

She rests a giant metal hand on the trashcan, near the exit.

"We just have faith that the people we fight are going to respect each other as people. We have to -- or else, why participate in this thing at all, right? Sure, we -fight-, but in -most- cases, we don't just go out there with an aim of, 'Hey, I wanna enter this tournament so I can burn people to death,' right?"

She pauses for a moment, looking down at the floor.

"Do you think Junko, deep down, wants to hurt people?"

She listens to Mint again. She makes sure to listen to all she has to say before answering back the points she brings out. Since Mint does not add to what she said about Kenzo, she doesn't either. In the end, it is what it is. She doesn't fault Mint for not wanting to delve further into this with her. It's something one would share with family or someone else equally super close, like a close friend. Mint was a sponsor, a caring one, but she couldn't be expected to have all the answers, not like a mother or such. Or perhaps, in the end, we're all truly alone. It is something she would have to think about on her own But, for now, there are other things.

"There is always someone trying to hurt me. But I always survive. Of course, the ones running the show must protect themselves. I am not in it to get hurt and then sue to get money. Money is a necessary commodity, but that's all it is. I will earn my own with my skills." She shrugs.

THen it goes to "We do our best, and it's true for most of the people in this, wanting to try to destroy the other person, but..." She doesn't continue that sentence right now. There is one more thing Mint asked Djamila. "I don't think in the beginning Junko wanted to hurt people, but the more she fights, or perhaps the more she allows the monster to do its thing, the more she is ok with it. Until one day, it won't matter at all. There might be good in there, but she is quickly becoming more and more of a menace." She takes a deep breath.

"Mint, when I go out there against Junko, I will consider her hostile and a threat to my life. Which wasn't the case in my first fight. I will go out there and I will make sure she stays down. If she wants to get back up, I will continue to hit her. I will hit her until I am sure she doesn't get back up. Because in that fight, I will be the predator, and she will be the prey."

"I can't be nice with this one..." She ends on that note. Hoping Mint will understand.

Mint nods, quietly, standing with her hand rested quietly upon the trash can. The metal gauntlet is big enough to completely encompass the trash can, all by itself.

"I understand. And I'm kinda with you on that -- I think there's a lot to answer for here, and..." Her tone grows a bit more light, a bit friendlier. "... believe me, I -know- the power that comes with moral righteousness. It feels -good- to work it all out on someone who deserves it."

The friendliness fades, back into a distilled neutral.

"But in the end, Djamila -- you answer to yourself. Your decisions for this Junko fight... " She taps herself in the temple with her free hand -- accompanied by lots of grinding and whirring sounds. "Your decisions are made by the same brain that was fighting Kenzo. The same brain that fought Buford, Genie, Chevy, everyone else."

Mint pauses, looking back down at the trash can. "And your brain can make a perfectly logical decision, sometimes. One that's rationalized through." She laughs, softly, mirthlessly, as she looks back up to Djamila. "Hell. It might even be the correct answer. In every way, shape, and form."

There is a loud, -very- loud crunching noise.

The sound of a brushed aluminum trash can, folding into a compressed ball of scrap metal.

Mint barely puts any effort into it at all -- the servos of her augmented gauntlet are doing all the work. In fact -- if Djamila could see her expression, she'd see no emotion, no concern at all. There's no shift in her breathing, no change to her tone, as she continues.

"It's your heart that has to bear the burden of those decisions, Djamila. Just like Junko's got to live with her choices, and Coco no doubt had to wrestle with hers."

She lifts the crumpled trash can up. Even tosses it in her hand a few times, the mangled metal making a number of sounds as it clangs against her metal hand.

"Ultimately, how hard you hit her isn't something I have any control over, Djamila. Just like how hard you hit Kenzo. You're the one who has to listen to your heart now. And that's why you've got to train yourself to listen to your heart in the -ring- too. You need to think about what constitutes excessive force and what isn't."

Mint crumples the trash can even further in her palm.

"Because, you see... a minute ago, I didn't need to worry about how much this trash can costs."

She crushes it, just a bit more.

"I mean, it's no big deal. It wasn't a person. I can't ask it out for coffee, or pizza. It didn't bother me at all."

She drops the crumpled ball of aluminum on the floor; jagged metal scrapes the floor on its way to a resting spot.

"I'm not gonna lose sleep over it. It's, what, maybe twenty bucks, ARIA?"

"A new trash receptacle of that model retails for two hundred seventy-six dollars, Corporal."

Mint sucks in her breath through her teeth. "Ooh. Ouch. Guess I shoulda thought about that a bit."

She listens to mint. There is a lot to think about with what she adds to everything. She doesn't say a word, letting Mint again say all she has to say. However, she does make a face when at the noise from crushing the can. She continues to listen with a good heart, even if thoughts are fighting in her head. There is some good, not so good.

Finally when Mint is done again, it's her turn. She almost giggles when Mint is way off of the price. With everything, she's tired, and she needs a good laugh. Yes. A little giggle ends up coming out before she talks with Mint again "You know, I think sometimes, for what you believe in, you just have to go full steam in. Maybe a good beating is what someone needs. When niceness doesn't work out." She shrugs her shoulders.

"Kenzo was an accident. A very costly accident, however. If I can get over the grieving and guilt, I will see this for what it is and hopefully learn from it to not get another accident of this type if it can be helped. It doesn't remove my responsibility in Kenzo's condition, however." This is as honest as an assessment she can give, though she can't accept it yet. She hasn't worked her way through the guilt yet. She needs more time.

She releases her staff, and she stands up. "I am still learning. I will always learn. Even if I become a legend of a fighter, I will still learn. Though accidents of the sort might not happen as much. But then worse accidents could happen. I am aware. I am aware of a lot of things, Mint."

"As for how hard I hit. I never sent anyone to the hospital. It was an error of judgment with Kenzo. With data that will help me in further fight, like Kenzo would say." She brings her head down at the mention of Kenzo. Forgiveness oneself is hard. She also still doesn't know what Kenzo's reaction will be. She's fully aware he can have any reactions he desires and be as angry with her as he wants. She won't be able to fault him for that. But she has to get back to Mint before it feels like she ignores her. "Anyway, I've been good otherwise. I didn't send anyone with a life-threatening injury or whatever is happening right now..."

"You know Mint you've been quick to Crush this trash can. And the fact you thought it was like 20$ but, you learned it was much more brings an interesting point. One has to be mindful of the destruction they do. A seemingly uninteresting object can be worth the world to another person. Granted, this trash can probably doesn't have any value beyond what it is for, but it's still a point you made me think about." She goes silent for one more moment.

She walks a bit around the room before she moves toward Mint. "I don't know if anything I told you in answer to what you've been trying to "teach" me right now reassures you or anything. But I promise to consider everything. In the end, for anything, I have the final say in my actions. I get it. If I don't want anything to happen like what just happened with Kenzo, then I need to not do it. It's on me to find the right balance for each trial in life." She extends her hand toward Mint.

"I don't know how far I will go in this, but I will give my best. I still intend to be the predator in my next fight because I don't feel like being the prey. It's a conscious choice. I also need to stick to the choices I make and learn from them."

After that, she puts a smile on her face. One who wouldn't reach her yees, but she doesn't need to worry about that. "Thank you for everything Mint. You changed my life." She means that.

"All I'm trying to say is that... inanimate objects don't have a choice in the matter of how much they're gonna hurt someone. Your pole, unless I'm grossly misreading its value to you... it doesn't feel the pain. It won't know whether it's hitting Junko, or me, or Kenzo. It doesn't care. My hand doesn't care, and your hands don't care."

Mint kicks at the crumpled up trash can with the toe of her boot as she walks around the room. Nudging it around like a soccer ball, idly.

"You might not think very much of Junko as a person. But y'know, I'm not your mom. Crush her if you wanna, I think she could use the lesson. But never -- and I mean -never- -- forget that there's a person there, a person who can feel every tiny little iota of pain.

She kicks the trash can around again, thudding it against the wall.

"I mean, you're right. That could have been someone's entire world. It wasn't -- believe me, I did some research, I'm getting it replaced for thirty bucks, Djamila. The cost of a good lunch on the Skywalk. I'm not coughing up two hundred bucks to make a talking point here." She laughs, walking close -- and kicking the compressed ball again.

"Just be mindful of how you hit people. You aren't. And that's what's really eating you up right now, I'll bet."

It wasn't terribly obvious, since Mint is making a point of kicking that can around -- but she's been circling closer. And suddenly, she's right next to Djamila -- close enough to whisper. And she does so.

"Like, I just gotta know. Kenzo's just about to keel over. Scale of one to ten, he was maybe a 2 or 3. You coulda nudged him over. You could have -tapped out- and called the match over. You coulda gone -easy- on him, Djamila."


Mint *SLAMS* her foot into the trashcan, hitting it so hard it rebounds off the wall in a nearly perfect, elastic collision. It ricochets right back at her -- and Mint catches it with her gauntlet, without even having to think about it.

The compressed metal is still orange-hot in her hand, the heat roiling off of it in waves.

"Data shows it. You weren't just hitting him to -win-, Djamila, you were hitting him with -deadly force-."

Mint reaches for Djamila's LifeBand -- and stabs it with her finger.

"And this? This right -here?- This proves it."

Mint draws back, resting her gauntlets behind her back -- and dropping the trash can to the floor.

"Nah, I'm not letting you off just yet, Djamila. Tell me why it was necessary to use that much force."

Djamila would raise an eyebrow. "Of course. It's not the gun or the bullets that kill. I get it. It's the one using the gun. Same with my staff, same with your hand. I get the point. I never said otherwise. I never blamed my staff for what happened to Kenzo." She frowns, not understanding where this is going.

She doesn't say anything while Mint plays soccer with the trash can. She will have to buy another. She can use that one as she sees fit. Who is she to tell her to stop or such?

She listens to her point about Junko. "I think she needs the pain, though. Don't worry. I am not forgetting everyone I face is a person in one way or another. But I am the one who can stop her. I am going to. Maybe show her it's not fun when the tables are turned. I firmly believe she can benefit from that." Shrugs. "Maybe I am just silly to think that though." She shrugs more.

The sound of the trash can, always the sound of the trash can. Maybe after all she doesn't get what playing with the trash can brings right now. Yet she says nothing about it still.

"You're telling me you did research about a trash can to make sure it wasn't someone's world, yet you didn't know how much it costs? Kind of weird here. But the trash can is not the point so..." She doesn't say anything anymore.

She takes a deep breath, did she hear that right? "I am not mindful? Because I sent Kenzo to the hospital while everyone else was fine, I am not mindful. Just like that, you figure that out?" That anger looks like it could start coming out. She takes a couple of quick, deep breaths.

She then has to listen to the assessment of Kenzow and all. Before she kicks that trash can again, and this time it makes her jump. "WILL YOU STOP WITH THE TRASH CAN! STOP IT! STOP IT STOP IT!" She falls on her knees.

Then there are more questions. "I DON'T KNOW!" She did know, but could she even admit it to herself? "Why are you doing this Mint? I made a mistake. Am I not allowed to?" She was shaking. This has to stop. She doesn't want to go deeper there. She didn't know how to make it stop. All she can do is repeat. "I don't know." To give herself some time until Mint prods deeper.

Sound is important. Mint was very deliberate in adjusting her sound levels -- because she'd felt that sometimes, her messages just weren't getting through to Djamila. And, truth be told, she actually -does- care for Djamila very much, even though they don't always make the strongest connections.

But sometimes she needs to be bold. Sometimes she needs to be loud. And once Djamila drops to her knees... Mint is done being loud. Her voice drops back to a calm, almost neutral tone, with just the slightest hint of her frustration in this particularly harrowing situation. That voice only gets drawn out after Djamila's repeated insistence that she doesn't know drops to a lower, softer cadence.

"Making a mistake is one thing, Djamila. I'm sure Kenzo would forgive a mistake."

She lets that statement hang in the air for a moment.

"Is that what it was? ARIA tells me that the damage output from those two strikes was roughly fifty percent over and above your -usual- for those strikes. Which, by themselves, aren't exactly love taps."

She lets her hands drop to her sides. The crushed trash can... she's done drumming that particular point in, for now.

"We've talked about how hard you hit people before. In my opinion, you haven't been able to use 'I didn't know my own strength' as an excuse since we left Sunshine City."

Metal scrapes, as she flexes her fingers. She lets out a sigh.

"So... yeah. It didn't look like a mistake to me, or ARIA. That's why I'm upset, Djamila. Because if it was just a matter of -me- forgiving you, it'd be done. But, ultimately, it ain't us you gotta convince."

Mint lifts her gauntlets up again, breathing another sigh.

"It's Kenzo."

Mint crouches down, curling her gauntlets over her knees as she gets close to Djamila's kneeling level.

"I'm sorry I had to break it to you that way, Djamila. I don't think you -meant- to hit him that hard. But you did. And -I- owe him a big apology too.

Mint breathes out through her nose.

"For not... having this talk with you sooner."

She starts crying, crying with no tears, but there are the sounds of someone, and she's shaking on the ground. She knows why it happened, but she has such a hard time letting it out. Why Kenzo and not someone? What happened there? She knows, and this makes her so broken.

She can't talk. Mint would see she tries a couple of times, but she stays crying on the floor, shaking a broken mess right now. The noises also got to be heard hard with the intensity of the emotions running around.

After another moment, she starts punching the ground. Over and over, she hits the ground with her hand. Whack, whack, whack. It looks like she won't stop, but she slowly calms herself when there is enough damage on her hand.

Finally, she says something, still shaking, but no longer making any crying sounds. "Kenzo growled at me. My love growled at me. I knew he was playing with me." She curls up to be able to continue. "But on a deeper level, my love wanted to hurt me. So instinctively, I put all my power in and took the threat away... I took the threat away because a fake growl felt way too real deep, deep inside. I had to take him out. I had to take him out. I couldn't let another person who was supposed to love me just hurt me. I had to take it out." She cries again. "It's so stupid. I am a stupid bitch. I knew it was just a fake growl to pretend he was Junko. But he's my love. He growled at me. And I just reacted instinctively. And now he might die because of me. I can't even love correctly. I can't love. Kenzo is in critical condition because I am too broken to love. I am too broken. I love him so much, and he might die because of me. Because I am broken. I am broken." She's not doing it on purpose, she can't help repeating herself. "I can't love." She goes silent now, sniffing, shaking, a mess on the floor. It came out. What really happened? She feels so stupid. Mint knows the truth now, and she will hate her even more because it's stupid. It's a stupid reason. If she had really cared about Kenzo, she would have kept her mouth shut. Kenzo would be so much better without her, but she loves him, and he loves her. So many conflicting thoughts

It's tough to stand by and watch. Mint's not, herself, a parent. But she's had to have this talk, or something like it, with every Marine under her command who's had to fire live ammo at living targets before. Not the -same- talk, of course -- but matters of life and death, and wielding the weapons that can bring one across the threshold with ease, yes.

It hurts doubly so, for she understands that Djamila just... doesn't have anyone else. No taller shoulder to lean on, no broader chest to cry upon. It doesn't make her job even the slightest bit easier.

But it does mean that the instant she -can- do something, she will. That is -- right after Djamila hits the ground once, there will be a sound of heavy metal being placed -- carefully -- onto the floor. And then the chain-reaction of six latches popping loose, as Mint frees herself from the confines of her heavy metal gauntlets.

It won't be long before Mint presses soft neoprene, somewhat like flesh hands against the side of Djamila's arms. Not to pressure, not to harry, not to scold -- but to comfort. To peacefully request an end to the self-harm.

"Easy there..."

If Djamila lets her, Mint would wrap her arms about her in a hug. And it might be possible to hear, or even smell, the tears from the mentor's eyes.

"It's okay. I'm really sorry for this, Djamila. It's... that's all I was trying to get to here. It's not about -blame-. It's about finding the -problem-, and working through it so it can't happen again. Alright...?"

To Djamila, Mint is the closest "thing" to what she can consider a mother, but she can never admit that. It's too weird. But it's true, who is she going to tell? One of her friends in the NFG? How could she put that weight on their shoulders? How could they understand how it happened? Only Mint can understand, at least to a point, because even if it's different for her, she still knows what it is and lives it.

Djamila ignored the sound when she continued to hit the ground. At that moment, she wouldn't even recognize why there was that sound and what it meant. But when the almost fleshy hands touch the sides of her arms, it does help. It does calm her down to a point. However, it can't stop the hate she feels for herself at that moment. She knows full well what she did.

When Mint ends up hugging her, she doesn't fight at all. Even if there was a part of her that would have fought it, and that's very uncertain she would have. She's simply too drained to fight it. If anything, she is leaning a bit into it.

As much as the metal sound of the removal of the mechanical hand went unnoticed by Djamila. The complete opposite is true of Mint's tears.

She takes a deep breath of air through her nose, noisy because of how stuffy it is. Crying will do that to you. Then she says. "I didn't even know I would react that way." She still has a slight shake, which she can't help, but she really has calmed down. "I couldn't even admit it until you forced me. Will Kenzo have to be careful of everything he does around me? That's not a life. I don't even know how he can ever forgive me for this. If I would have kept my mouth shut about how I felt. He wouldn't be here right now."

She tries to think, but she doesn't know how this can be fixed. "I have deep scars Mint. I can't make them disappear. I don't know how to correct this. Maybe I just need to be loveless."

Mint holds on tightly.

She had hoped it wouldn't take such a loud, frightening demonstration to get through to Djamila, to see what's -really- lying beneath. But one of the dancer's many strengths is, unfortunately, walling herself off from the world, hiding her true self behind a brittle veneer of confidence.

Djamila's no Marine.
She didn't go through a hard-assed drill instructor.
But the drill instructor's 'shock and awe' method can work in a pinch.
Even if it's not the kindest approach.

Crying is tough. But it shows progress. It shows the barrier's been broken. And Mint has a feeling that whenever Kenzo is able to question Djamila about this very same matter, at least he won't have to work so hard to get to that same hard truth she's had to fight to find out.

The good thing is... Mint -does- have some poignant advice for her now.

"Hey. He'll be fine. We're in the best place on the planet for a nerd like him. He can get titanium replacements that are practically indestructable."

She laughs, softly. It's not really the -best- time for glib humor, but it's certainly not the worst.

"Don't forget who you're talking to here, I'm pretty damn broken myself."

She gives Djamila's shoulders a gentle squeeze. "If you want my recommendation: tell him what you told me, and let him decide. Because you know what the best solution to deep trauma is?"

There've been a lot of tough questions lobbed Djamila's way, just now. So Mint only gives a second to think about it.

"Love. If he loves you, he'll understand. And he'll work with you to -make- these scars go away, Djamila."

She needed to be shaken to the core, and Mint figured it out though. Because that's right, Djamila is no Marine. Not like her father. The problem is, that she signs for nothing that happened to her in the past. It simply happened. It made her who she is, but with deep scars that despite her best intentions, reopen and make things happen. Not that often apparently, but with too much consequence, as what happened with Kenzo shows.

It seems like, at least with her best intention, she fully intends to be honest with Kenzo when possible. The consequences of this honestly will be his to decide.

She wants him fine, in all ways, but the only thing that comes out is something inappropriate, showing the lack of filter Djamila is known for at times. "I hope it will work out down there for him. I fully wanted to give him my virginity eventually." Meaning if he doesn't feel anything, what's the point but she doesn't elaborate on that properly. It's probably a good thing too. She already said too much. She doesn't respond to the joke, however. Not positively or negatively. At this point, she just ignores it.

"I think you're amazing Mint. I don't see you broken at all." Maybe it's hard to tell for someone on the outside. Maybe it's the same for her. People can't tell she is broken, normally.

"I will be honest with him. He deserves as much, and then he can make a full decision. I agree." How could she not? It would be even worse if she just lied to him. He deserves a lot better.

"If he loves me and if he's truly indestructible. He might just help me get through my scars without being destroyed in the process." She sticks her tongue a little. "I am a tough nut to crack in the worst way."

She has really calmed down this time. It still hurts inside, but it's manageable. "Thank you, Mint. It was painful as all hell, but I get it. You did that for my own good. Before it would come out in another bad or uncontrollable way... I can't believe it. It happened to me, I finally admit it, but I can't believe it. Feels surreal. All of it.

"I will be ready when it's time to fight, though. I didn't come this far to just back down. That might sound insensible, but If Kenzo loves me, and I think he does, I don't think he would want me to drop from the tournament either. So I will be ready to give my best.

Mint finds her cheeks reddening just a bit at Djamila's frank admission. She -ought- to be used to the exotic dancer just coming right out there and saying stuff, but even the New Jerseyan can be surprised from time to time.

Though... with her penchant for bad jokes, she can easily recognize when one lands funny. And in this case, she winces just a bit. "I meant titanium hips, for the record." Anything other than that is for Kenzo to decide with his doctor, as far as Minal's concerned.

"Mm... well, thanks. I hide it well." She snickers, slightly -- "... It's something I had to go through with my boyfriend, a while back. But we're healthy now. I believe in you, Djamila."

She finally slips away from the embrace, satisfied that Djamila's in a stronger place now. "Listen. The fight? Don't feel like you gotta justify yourself to me. I know you wanna kick her ass." She clenches her human-normal-sized fist. "Just, y'know, do it for the right reasons. Put her down for the count, and don't get the Fulgores angry, yeah?"

Mint grins -- she knows damn well the Fulgores wouldn't pull plasma cannons on one of Team Metal's own! But ... she's trying to get back to her normal, truth-deflecting jokester ways now that the mood isn't -quite- as intense.

It's another broken thing from Djamila, but it's not really a problem type of thing. At least compared to what happened to Kenzo anyway.

When she means titanium hips, she shrugs. "I know he got a lot of damage because of me. But I've seen a head injury before. I just never saw a crotch injury. He was bleeding there, and I couldn't shake that image from my head. It sucks it's the only image that really sticks. It's not the most important thing about him. I should be worried if he can walk again or if he will keep his intelligence. Not about his crotch." She frowns. "Stupid mind." She remains calm, however, at the moment.

"That's what we have to do hide it." She cringes. "I don't mean I have it as bad as you or know what you went through. I am sorry." She frowns and takes a deep breath. Again, she manages to be calm. "It's good news you are both healthy now. It shows it's possible." She gives a bit of a smile to that last thing Mint says, before it continues.

It felt good, the embrace. She is grateful for it. She needed that, and she didn't even know it. Not until it happened. All good things come to an end, though. "I will have to push hard and quick. All I am going to say about it. The rest will still sound like justification. I intend to go to the final against Chevy or Ichika." She can't help but smile. "You know Mint, if the Final is between me and Ichika... NFG will end like it began. We were the first match." She can't help but laugh a bit. "I am sure NFG will take advantage of this to draw even more people if it happens that way.

"Fulgores fear me. I am so dangerous." She's sarcastic "But if I had to fight them, I would. You know I am not even kidding." She shakes her head. "Don't worry though. It will be all ok." She turns around and tries to move to put a hand on her shoulder, to give it a squeeze, if she can.

"We've got the best folks here workin' on him, Djamila. Let's just be patient a little while longer."

Mint doesn't actually know ... much of anything, insofar as Ultratech is involved. But she knows ARIA would stop at nothing to keep Kenzo on staff -- and that counts for a lot in her book.

Mint is a pro at deflecting people away from hard truths with humor -- it's one reason that she's able to recognize it in other people as well as she does. So she fully understands what Djamila means, and isn't offended in the slightest. "No, no, I get it. Thanks."

She nods slowly as Djamila talks about strategy. No doubt that would have been one of the things she discussed with Kenzo -- and, as she gathered, the reason for the training going the way it did.

"Yeah. I'm sure you'll do great. You've probably got... honestly, -most- of the NFG rooting for you at this point. I mean, Coco was the poster-child 'bad girl' of the NFG for as far back as I can remember, and with that one fight Junko wrested the crown away from her. So. You're -gonna- hear some cheers in the crowd, girl."

She springs back to her feet -- but not without squeezing Djamila lightly on the shoulder in exchange. "Yeah. We're good, Djamila. You just hang in there. I'm gonna grab some coffee from the kitchen -- can I get you anything?"

She agrees with Mint. "Yeah, it's best it happened in Ultratech proper, I guess. I still have to think about the extent of his injuries and how he will feel about me..." She also has one thought. What if he doesn't remember her at all... She wouldn't be happy at all. She doesn't share that thought, however. She also thinks how Ultratech would like her to work with them too. At least before she would hurt Kenzo so badly. Would they still want her to? This brings the thought about why they were thinking she wouldn't want to refuse it. She forces her mind to go back to the now and Kenzo.

In the end all that happened because Kenzo wanted to help her with her fight. Does she need a real strategy? She can have an overall one, but in the end, she will fight a lot on instinct. Because you can't plan a fight blow by blow. Except maybe Kenzo... Thoughts going in circle here.

Need to answer Mint now, not the time to get lost in her thoughts. "I think you are right. Junko ratings have to have gone down the drain with all this. And I have my fans." She smiles a bit. She can't help it. It felt weird but so nice to have them. Even if she doesn't do a lot of internet things with them or for them. She was just Djamila, take it or leave it."

"You're a life safer." She finally tells Mint, after she tells her they are good." She ponders for a short moment. "Coffee would be great please. I think there's a long night ahead."

Before she leaves, Djamila has to ask. "Do you think I will still be made an offer to stay with Ultratech? Kenzo talked to me about it. Just you know with what happened?" Even if she would get an offer now, she would still mention it to Kenzo first. They would accept it together or something.

After Mint answers, or if she leaves for Coffee first, Djamila lets her leave either way.

"Love, Djamila."

Mint smiles brightly -- not that she expects Djamila to be able to see that.

"Love is the answer."

Mint doesn't elaborate on that -- no sense in making promises, faith is way more important at this point.

When it comes down to coffee, though -- "Yeah, not a problem." Part of her wants to ask whether she'd like cream or sugar. But that's what LifeBands are for.

And, well. Mint seems to think long and hard about what Ultratech is, at its heart. She thinks back to how to the lengths ARIA went to, just to ensure Djamila was able to proceed in the tournament without worry. And she factors in... the ways this could work in the corporation's favor.

Clack, clack -- the latches snap shut on her gauntlets, as she lifts them from the floor. And, a moment after that, that poor compressed trash can.

"Yeah. I got a good feeling about that, Djamila."

And with that, the corporal is off to fetch some coffee.

"Kenzo is my first love that way Mint." She admits. "I also told him I loved him way too soon. I don't know how to best act half of the time. But it's ok. Doing my best. I have to keep love in mind yeah." She admits to Mint. She's also trying her best to not go hysterical with all the feelings. It helps nobody.

the Lifeband would then let anyone who needs to know she takes her coffee black. Coffee in its simplest form. "Thank you, Mint." It's so easy to call people by their first name like they are old friends. it was good so far no one got offended by this.

There is silence while Mint thinks of the question, and Djamila respects that silence. She does her when Mint puts her gauntlet back on. To think she would remove it simply to comfort her. Mint also gives her love. Different from Kenzo. But beautiful and comforting.

"Ok. Thank you for your opinion. Right now, mine is not so great I think." She says honestly after Mint answers her.

While Mint is off to Coffee. Djamila uses the wind to get her staff back to her. She spent quite a bit of time without it considering. There certainly was something special between her and the staff.

Log created on 09:02:05 11/30/2023 by Djamila, and last modified on 03:33:31 12/02/2023.