Description: [Personnel] For the purposes of the new underworld, the blades of the strong must first be attained. Unfortunately, some blades are harder to wield than others.
She had not expected to be able to situate herself so favorably in the city quite so soon... but it seems fortune was on her side, to place her in a position to be introduced so directly to the master of Southtown. It took her a little bit to fully recover from Howard's idea of a cordial induction... but on the whole, she had very little about which to complain. Her placement is just fine with her; Suzume is a creature of habit and hierarchy, these days. Her ambitions and restlessness are largely tempered now by that inevitable desire for comfort which comes with adulthood. That, and a lack of something to which to devote her latent fervor.
Late afternoon, on a weekday warm enough to sit outside. Children are in class; their parents, at work. For her part, Suzume can be found placidly entertaining the company of a cup of hot tea, seated at one of the outdoor tables of a trendy cafe in the shadow of Geese Tower. From the way she carries herself and the fact she has no book or laptop, it would seem this is just one stop on the way to some destination or another.
The woman seems nondescript enough. She is dressed in Western business casual: a nice white button-down, a pair of grey slacks, slightly-heeled boots. She carries no purse, no briefcase-- indeed, she has nothing on her person save for the slightly-curved, elegant cane resting against her leg and the slim cell phone placed with a symmetrical precision right by her saucer. She is, technically, on call; but she needs nothing more than those two items for whatever work she might be assigned in these early stages.
In the shadow of the great monolith, under the eye of a god amongst peons, people mill about as if it meant nothing. Regardless of truth, the people are oblivious. Business... proceeds as usual.
Since the assassination attempt, there hasn't been a single sighting of Ryouhara within Southtown city limits for weeks. It would make sense. He has many enemies, and Howard has many friends. That sort of situation would spell his death no matter how well concealed his holdings are. After all, life is the easiest thing to steal, isn't it?
But.. at some point, /someone/ returned to the darkness just beyond the world's eye.
The heat in spring.. is suffocating.
It's not something that manifests directly, but more of a vague feeling. With a varefully intended temperature rising, it is enough to drive off the weak passively, a vaguely noticeable 'force of intent' that quickens the heartbeat and makes the strongest uncomfortable. The time is well picked--there are few to begin with, and what others remain are driven off from the heat wave. Soon she is alone. You see, she might even notice it herself. It is not the simple difference of a breeze and not. It is ninjutsu.
The air is quiet enough to carry the soft whirr of an electric motor as a young shinobi, covered in a black shroud draped over his wheelchair, makes his arrival.
There is no outward reaction from the kunoichi. As that wave of pressurized heat pulses its gradual way into their surroundings, causing all around to become restless and drift away, Suzume just rests a fingertip on the rim of her saucer... and pushes the hot liquid slightly away. Whatever vague discomfort she herself might be feeling-- she does not have the ability to counter such manipulation of heat, so it is certain she feels it fully-- she restrains any indication of it that might appear. It is invariably deadly to reveal weakness.
Her left heel moves infinitesimally, tilting that length of polished wood to an angle that curves one end of it against her hip. Black eyes turn, though her head does not move, and her gaze follows the shrouded shinobi as he whirs closer and closer. She recognizes him. Anyone who watches any sort of television, follows any kind of news, would know about him.
She has been told nothing as to what to do if confronted with this man. As such, for the moment, she does very little. There is nothing in her expression save the faintest hint of polite, half-smiling amiability.
"Will you be joining me?" she eventually greets calmly. The vaguest indication of a smile pulls at the corner of her mouth. Her wrists tilt slightly in her lap, those cascades of silver bangles clinking against one another as they slide down her arms and pool atop her hands. It is a fair presumption to make; he has driven off all others save for her.
For a time, there is a unique silence.
The youth's face can't be directly seen--his normally piercing eyes are veiled beneath the shroud's encompassing shadow. From beneath the fire drape, there is only the vaguest indication of fingertips, absently working a small rubber-encased knob that is the control for the chair's electric locomotion.
But the absently whirring gyroscopes of the conveyance. The mesh. The armor plate. And the storage bays. Once the chair stills, despite being virtually alive with machinery, it is dead silent. The glowing sigil on the foreplate. Oh yes, that is Ryouhara proper. As always, he is defined by the technology.
The inimitable silence ends, first with the slow approach of the chair to the table, then with the youth's voice, clear and unmistakable even in the deafening quiet of the city.
"You'll forgive if I don't.. partake," Ryouhara says in reference to the gently simmering tea. It seems as if it boils the closer to the table it gets to the ex-Leaf shinobi.
As if a victim of whim, he taps the armrest with a fingertip. "After all, you take your tea closest to the heart of Southtown. For me.. it would be ..." A pause, and a faint smirk. "... foolishness."
Suzume, as an aside, bears little to no interest in the other ninja clans. No feelings of kinship. No bond. She took from her childhood and heritage only her training.
The modern world she sought to apply it to sprawls around the two of them, a steel picture frame for their strange tableau. Geese Tower casts its deep shadow over their delicate silence. Even the sound of traffic has dimmed, both due to the absence of actual activity itself, and because Ryouhara's heat chi oppresses the senses. Suzume exhales slightly into that pressure, letting go a little sigh, and the next breath she draws seems slow.
She looks over that chair-- so inimitably Ryouhara-- but evinces no interest other than a thin and measuring lowering of her lashes. But for all her seeming scorn of the clans from which they came, Suzume certainly wears the mark of her own rather prominently. It is not immediately obvious, not like the contraption that supports Seishirou, but anyone who knew what to look for would see Nakatani written in all the bits and bangles of silver and steel that garland her body.
Her eyes, when they settle on the young man in the chair, do not regard him with any of the familiarity one might expect to see between such relics of Japanese past meeting in a city street. She just smiles, distantly, and shifts in her chair. It is both a gesture of gracious reception, and a movement that faces her away from the table such that a sudden iai strike would not be blocked in its course.
"Foolishness," she echoes, agreeably. Her slight smile hara-kiris itself a little wider. "Indeed so." Her hand slips over the cup in a deft gesture, pushing it closer to Seishirou across the table; her sleeve briefly obscures her movements, a classic kunoichi sleight of hand to deliver a poison. The implication unfolds when she finishes her train of thought: "There are many dangers of which to be wary, after all. Still-- the invitation stands."
There is a moment's pause, and then Suzume inquires judiciously, "In view of that... it surprises me to see you here. One would think you persona non grata in this city."
The form is still, lips pursed in thought as he considers the kunoichi underneath the all-piercing eye shrouded beneath the tilt of fireproofed twill. Every so often a hint of his black hair creeps from beyond the fabrics, shining as he abruptly shifts with breath.
From the way he stops for an instant as the cup is pressed towards him, it is clear enough that he catches the slight. For a moment, he seems only solemn, considering momentary the meaning of such a thing. It is a curious display she puts on for him, isn't it..
The fingers of his free hand turn upwards, as if to gently lift the sky. The heat of his passage moves on and stills a moment. The radiance is not something he can control right now--not if privacy is still desired. But comfort. That much should not be denied. After all, is the tea not boiling at its proximity to the young man? He looks downwards, with a measured degree of intensity beyond. "Persona non grata in every city. It is our way," he asides. "It is a price that must be paid to improve the limits of our ability in the world. To achieve our goals. .. Something you'd understand, wouldn't you, Nakatani..?"
The implication is subtle. Is the drive any less weak in her blood than it is in his?
The veil itself is enough to conceal anything he desires, even beyond the bays of his great machine. There is in fact, a great likelihood that he carries enough explosives in the machine alone to topple Geese Tower. But he makes no display of this. There can be none in this situation. Of this, he lifts his head.
The flash of a single brown eye is enough.
"No matter what the threat," Ryouhara explains coldly, "We persevere."
He lifts the cup. Despite what must be a searing heat, the tea is drained halfly in but an effort of moments.
The meaning? Who knows what meanings women place into their motions? Kunoichi in particular are infernally difficult to read. Is that motion a threat? Is it an indication of her nature and ability? A warning to Ryouhara? If a warning, what kind might it be?
That, it seems, will be left to Seishirou to interpret.
Suzume watches Seishirou as he accepts the tea anyway. The look in her eyes doesn't bother to conceal its amusement. An entertaining boy to play a little game of chicken with-- but that's not the point of this encounter, is it. The mention of her surname would prove that. It's something that thins her lips, chilling her expression and stringing a subtle stiffness through her posture. For a moment, she looks pretty cold.
"This city in particular. Ryouhara." Her head tilts forwards slightly, eyes narrowing fractionally; she studies him an instant, before her expression abruptly relaxes. She essays an almost apologetic smile as he talks, hearing out his words; but the look in her eyes is still sharp. "I assume you did not come all this way-- did not brave this city-- just to tell me things I already know."
If he is silent for a time it is only for his deep concentration.
Holding it gently in his fingertips by the rim now, Ryouhara sets the cup down in its saucer, only loud enough to make a soft clink on the porcelain. The tea is merely simmering now, the cup still half full. His eyes turn up behind his sockets in a deep kind of thought. Hmph. His disconcerting lack of feeling towards the tea doesn't fade in time, and only seems to grow. For a reason unbeknownst to most, he seems almost frustrated, after a moment or two passes. Heated to chemical volatility, a poison based on a hot tea would be able to acheive effect in small quantities--simply because tea is meant to be enjoyed in small quantities--a sip at a time. Further, given the target, it would have to have an immediate effect to be of any use. He hadn't noticed any difference in his chi flow. He a type that a kunoichi like Suzume may understand.
He's at least mildly disappointed that Suzume wasn't yet able to show him a poison capable of hurting him.
But the effort .. is interesting, to say the least. The game is played, and it is played well. But it is a game, regardless. With a slow, languid blink and a slow breath of air, the shinobi's intense frown fades. His hand returns to the rest of his chair. ".... Aa." he quietly acknowledges the thought of the other nin. "I've business here," he minds. "... But my observations brought it to my attention that your clan was in the city as well."
He laughs, once. A light, harsh thing. The meaning is unclear.
"A man of offers and bargains sits at the top of his tower in this city, the tallest of them all. In a world where freedoms are bartered away like coin... it isn't difficult for someone to guess that a pact could be offered to a shinobi that but stands before him... a pact of enough value to render it quite difficult to refuse."
Is it even a question?
Did she really slip anything into that cup? That's the question. Watching Seishirou carefully, she detects that hint of frustration as he puts that tea aside. A vague smile flits across her mouth, but she says nothing for the moment; she just takes the cup back, after a few instants of pause. Her hand palms briefly over the cup's top, after which she lifts it and finishes the remainder of the tea herself. When she puts the cup back on its saucer, her eyes rest on Seishirou rather than on what she is doing.
All conversations, after all, need their appropriate ends. Even if those conversations are not spoken in words.
"My clan?" Suzume laughs. The sound is not unpleasant, but it isn't really warm either. "-I- am in the city, Ryouhara; not my clan. If you are looking for alliances with the Nakatani--" Suzume leans back slightly. Her hand drops to rest on the hilt of her weapon, more carelessly than as a gesture of threat. "--go and speak to them. As for that..." Suzume shrugs. Her glance settles, meaningfully, on that empty tea cup. "I largely tired of nin obfuscations, tricks, and little mind games long ago."
There never was anything in that cup beyond a little gesture of play; a token acknowledgement of the kunoichi's world she had left behind those years ago. And beyond a little neutralizer, after Seishirou had handled it.
"If you have a point, I will listen. But make it."
.. A faint smirk.
Under Seishirou's eye, there is no room for wasted meaning. Each word is carefully chosen, meticulously tended to, like a man would tend a beloved garden. Just as there is no room for weakness amongst the shinobi. Suzume's reaction is noticed, and it interests.
From the way he frowns at the cup, there may or may not have been any poisons in it before the compounds were added.
"It is the rare shinobi who abandons their clan. The crime must have been grievous." In contrast to a moment previous, he doesn't smile as he says this, nor does he frown.
It is all he seems content to say. "The point. A man whom makes bargains will barter only in what he can willingly sacrifice. For what he has an excess of. Money, most often. Allegiance, second more. Both are necessary, but none are true value. They are tools, nothing more. Ability is the only true currency of worth in the new world, and it is the thing men are most reluctant to part with."
His eye gleams under the sun as he lifts his head. For once, beyond a brief flash, the dark brown iris is visible, a single one, focusing on Suzume. "... The way you hold that blade of yours.." Iaijutsu has a very telltale positioning. One very similar to the way she had held her cane at her hip just then. Iaijutsu only knows one hand. "... ability is something you hold dear, isn't it..?"
He gestures, with one hand, the practiced, calloused digits of an engineer turning through the air dextrously. "Allegiance to a clan is worthless to me. All of them have their fools." His hand stills at his rest, two fingers tracing a thin half circle around Suzume.
"Your services are needed."
Suzume may not have added anything to the cup. But she does not trust Seishirou to pay her the same courtesy. Hence-- that precaution. Perhaps it was one not entirely wasted.
Whatever the case, she puts it from her mind. The time for those little games with which nin greet one another; it is past. She regards Seishirou levelly, some of that graciousness leached from her expression. The look of her goes from 'calmly pleasant' to just plain 'calm.' His question is largely rhetorical, but she answers anyway: "Something any kunoichi, regardless of her affiliations, holds dear."
She makes no effort to disguise the way she handles the weapon. Seishirou has already seen so far as to discern what it is. She rests her touch on the kashira, lightly perching her hand there; she does not comment on his perceptions.
She skips to a discussion instead of his final comment. Her black eyes narrow on Seishirou's. "I have," she warns lowly, "taken a master already." From the tone of her voice, she is making it manifestly clear; that man is Geese Howard, and the moment she signed that contract she bound herself to him. "I find your presumption that you can show up and command my service bold... unless you've something more to show to me than what you already have."
There is a flash of his canines as Ryouhara reveals a thin smile.
'Warning' him? "Does it amuse you to think my interest would be turned by such a triviality?" he asks, his tone a razor just barely touching silk. "The world will turn whether you wake in this bed or another. It lay here in my hands. Your name, Nakatani Suzume.." He pronounces the last few syllables slowly and deliberately, "..is already on the list."
He turns to a side with only a twitch of his fingers, and the churning whirr of motors. The machine pulls a slight dovetail as it rounds the small elegant cafe table. It seems only for a moment as if he intends to simply leave. He stops, far enough away that Suzume can easily draw her blade, but close enough that she can hear him whisper.
"Do you imagine him to be a suitable destiny?" he asks, simply.
There is no more meaning in his voice. It is simply as he says.
"Do you imagine your blade will grow any sharper as you devote yourself to that person? You cherish your ability, but will it shine in this bitter world? Will your mind stay sharp, and resolute? After losing what you were prior.. do you beleive you'll ever know worth to another again?"
Mn. "Are you even sure who it is you have taken?"
A hand raises, and waves. It is as if his mind changes with the tide. "... Saa. It is a hardened world we live in the shadow of. The old way is dead. But I will build a world underneath that world, where ability will flourish, and the truly able will have names of their own. I would show you... but you must think it premature."
"After all, the old ways, and the agreements... must be honored. Above drive. Above friends. Above love. Above life. Above... everything else. I will hold this ideal as my own. And I will remember you." There is nothing but opportunity in his hands. But it is not something freely given. There will be no dance. The ideal will speak for itself.
A finger twitches, and with the whirr of motors, the shinobi begins to move away.
"You may hold an interest if you like," Suzume replies him levelly, leaning back again in her seat. "You may leave my name on your list. You may think what you like, about Howard, about my ability, about my worth. But if you're going to talk about honor... then you should comprehend the honor of holding to a contract. I signed to serve; and I will."
She is not a creature to doublecross or to do anything less than her best, once she agrees to something. Call it the perfectionist in her. But one thing will always invariably sever that loyalty, and that one thing is disrespect. It is something Howard has yet to show her.
She watches him as he makes to leave. She continues to watch him as he abruptly pauses. What he says -does- touch a chord in her. It reaches out to that ambitious, restless side of her that she thought had died a year ago; it touches that part of her that needs something more. That smothered obsessiveness in her that fixates so hard on things. She tells herself, these days, she's happy enough forgetting about destinies, about being unique, about being anything more than a woman with a regular paycheck and a decent life; but suddenly, she's not entirely certain. The moment lasts an instant, and aftewards it leaves her unnerved.
She says nothing more, her silence telling of that one moment she wavered at his words. She just watches as he starts to roll away.
"Premature," she eventually, finally, replies to his back; an unspoken addendum of possibility hovering in the silence after her word.
The fabric twists. The veil shifts, as the Ryouhara shinobi looks down and to his left. He seems pensive for a moment, considering his own words in the sudden pregnant quiet, a moment in which even knaves are uncomfortable in their own skin. The raven fall of his hair jutting out ever so from beyond the concealing shroud, the ninja almost chances a look back. Almost.
A hand, freer than most, opens.
"When the free world beyond in my eye is realized... we will have to cross blades. Until then. I'll deal with devils." When words are of their greatest meaning, he speaks at his simplest.
Seishirou and his strange chair shift a moment, flickering briefly, becoming indistinct. In an instant, both the man and his contraption are gone from view, with only the sound of fabric on the wind to declare he was ever there.
Log created on 15:42:02 03/08/2008 by Seishirou, and last modified on 02:36:07 04/06/2008.