Description: [Personnel] In the parlor of the puppetmaster, two engineers meet to discuss a /fascinating/ proposal.
Not precisely Downtown.
More appropriately, the outskirts of downtown, outside where the bustling city proper truly surges with activity. It's not the most enviable of places, but that's why it is ideal. One of the more run-down storage houses that border the Business District and downtown Southtown, the location hardly attracts much activity; it's not suspicious enough to be fingered for a criminal hub (and in Southtown, who would bother to crack down on them anyway?), and at the same time is decrepit and of poor enough quality to fend off the more cautious of people. It's simply there. Hardly important enough to be noticed, and hardly important enough to investigate.
Which is just how Yuu wants it.
Evening begins to eclipse day as the sun sinks and the moon shines vaguely in the dark skies above. This has been the second facility that Yuu has chosen to occupy during his tenure at Southtown. The second had been a warehouse, but that, in the end, had been too noteworthy; at night, when a rundown warehouse is lit up, one cannot help but be suspicious. Here, though, there are no such problems; the storage facility is dank and dark, the outside walls crumbling vaguely from the entropy of age. Within is considerably different than the exterior would suggest; the first thing that is all-too noticeable... is puppets.
A host of life-sized puppets hang lifelessly from the walls of the facilities, some half-finished and some not even looking human, limbs sprouting from various parts of their bodies and some with their mechanical 'innards' all but gutted out; a host of lifeless eyes staring onward at nothing. Charts, notes and experimental procedure decorate papers strewn about on tables and tacked onto walls, some of these notes crudely written on the walls themselves. Hidden amidst the sea of notes are several, rather plain-looking kunai, tacked onto the walls in very specific locations, almost as if set up in a set pattern. At the center of all this is set a long operating table, with pieces of a rather sizeable puppet strewn about it, and notes on ambient chi scattered around the general location. And hovering above it, twisting and rearranging the limbs of the puppet with an almost casual, dispassionate ease... is Yuu. This is his parlor. And he has made it with the express purpose of secrecy.
Unfortunately, secrecy is not so easy to maintain.
Secrecy is difficult to maintain, for someone explicitly looking for you. At least, someone with the experience and resources he has stockpiled for these occaisions. You see, he deals in information, and information is in some ways the easiest thing to deal and come by in these troubled times. That is not to say it was easy to locate someone with the ability of this 'Yuu.' It was.. difficult.
It was.. satisfying.
If it were any easier to locate him, the effort invested would be worthless.
That much makes this worthwhile. This, and the resources invested.
There is no real indication of Ryouhara's arrival. Odd, considering the clanking, whirring ninkou chair that has become his telltale over the past weeks. But he is there--it is something unmistakable to the senses of the alert. A bright sense of chi, a fine steam trailing from a cup of water.. there is another presence here, and it is orchestrating.
A thin glowing white line traces a silhouette high in the facility wall, and something.. /something/.. arrives through the wall, bringing a soft spotlight of shining moonlight over the thing. It lands heavily. It is featureless, a lanky humanoid forged of brass, featureless and plain, bearing a blank face save a telltale emblem burned into the faceplate. It ratchets. It clanks. It pops. It whirrs. But it carries a massive scythe, rife with whirring gear and a small glowing tank near the razor sharp blade.
And in about 10 seconds, it will attack the orchestrating ninja in his own parlor.
The difficulty of fading to nothing is not an unknown concept to the young man known as Yuu. However well-kept one is, they can eventually be found.
That is why there is always something to be said for being prepared the moment that secrecy is shattered.
The thin form of the puppeteer hunches over his current work, as if completely absorbed within it. And he would be, if he could afford the luxury. As it stands, Yuu is nothing if not alert. Being a target by choice has made Yuu a man very aware of his surroundings. While he says nothing at the sudden sliver of light that invades the darkness of his deranged home, it does not go unnoticed. A host of soulless eyes stare on as that chin condenses and silhouettes, making an appearance as remarkably as one can.
And Yuu still works.
Like a doctor invested in the safety and security of his patient, Yuu takes the sharp blade of a scalpel to his lifeless victim. The mechanical whirring mass of danger behind him pops to life, be-scythed body jerking to life towards him. Yuu continues his work, his right hand pressing down on a small, bizarre device looking almost like a mechanical heart--
The thing strikes out. Yuu's left hand twitches, his fingers giving a sudden dance. The scythe swings...
... But feels the clang of steel rather than soft, yielding flesh.
The movement is sudden. From the walls springs to life a puppet, wearing a simple black cloak; metal clashes with metal in an illuminating rain of sparks as the scythe crosses blades... with another scythe, one produced from the depths of the puppets right arm. A single, cycloptic eye stares impassively at its automaton attacker.
"... I have guests."
Yuu pauses, finally looking; he bends backwards, looking upside-down at the mechanical, whirring automaton with wide, yellow eyes and a deranged smile. "... And not what I was expecting. Hmmmm. A puppet? No, something else. But still, very ironic..." His eyes twitch ever-wider, "... I'd love to see how that works." For all intents and purposes, Yuu speaks to the automaton. But he's not.
He just doesn't know where his new guest is.
"I wonder who my guest could be...?"
Slowly, clarity comes. He--whoever he is--is faintly visible now, a faint sheen of white from an encompassing shroud in the reflected moonlight, but esconced in the cast darkness, it is difficult to tell just who--or what--he is. Even now, a soft and slow panting can be heard, and it is the only thing even remotely indicative of the fact that the person there is not merely some forgotten piece of furniture draped over long ago.
That breath, of course, and his word. "In due time," he assures, his voice faintly labored. It is worthwhile to his purpose to avoid being rude. "But first. Humor me." The unilluminated form moves slightly--it is a gesture, unmistakable.
The brass automaton, deadlocked with its scythe against the deadly sickle of its opposition, seems to respond as if given cue. But it is clearly not a puppet. It whirrs and whines, almost seeming to fall on its own face as the jangling thing goes low, but only by its trunk and waist. Its arm stays in exactly the same spatial location, its scythe not moving in the slightest. With speed that belies the sudden jerked movements of the thing, it seems to decide to simply try to take the other creation's arm right off at the shoulder, its opposite hand swinging up haphazardly in what appears to be an extremely crude rendition of a knife-hand.
Of course. When one's arm is made of brass and steel, it might as well be.
Sometimes, things have to be sacrificed.
It's a concept that is adhered to on all levels of interaction. It's a key point of strategy: 'sacrifice the pawn.' Yuu is no stranger to sacrifice.
And it shows in the depraved and calculating smile that spreads across his thin lips.
The figure speaks, and yet Yuu still smiles, still bent backwards as he is. In a rather absurd gesture, he pushes his glasses up the bridge of his nose, head rotating to the side in a mild, contemplative gesture. "Humor you? Funny." Yuu looks down to stare at the automaton, yellow eyes lingering at the area of the creation's scythe. His smile draws wider.
"I was going to say the same thing."
Sacrifice is important. And it comes here in a knife-hand jerking its way into the underside of an artificial ligament. Yuu makes no effort to maneuver his puppet out of the way even as that hand slices upwards. His fingers twitch, but instead... thin, high-tensile wires filter out from the puppets left fingertips. The knife slices in, starting a crude amputation. As the automaton makes that move, Yuu winces subtly, as if feeling the sudden damage inflicted by the creation.
But the pawn is sacrificed. As the arm is sliced, those wires slide out to ensnare the automaton's own scythe, yanking upwards. The face of the puppet spreads open, rotating away to reveal a cannon beneath as the entire marionette collapses forward. The barrel flares.
And then fires off a single explosive round at nigh point-blank, aimed straight for that glowing tank.
Sacrifice the pawn.
The automaton is skilled, to say the least. It's offensive ability is more than enough to take the puppet's arm off at the shoulder. That was the talent of their clan. Their mechanisms are strong, but the tactics involved are stronger. This particular automaton was to appear to have no real weapons--in which case the scythe, though dangeorus in itself, was merely meant to give a focus for the other's attack. The command jutsus sealed in it designated its style as a dismantling-type prototype, picking everything apart until there is nothing left. As is inherent to the command seals, it pursues its objectives with unreal vigor
The trouble with the jutsu, of course, was an issue of available power.
Aboard the Suiryuu, a wealth of chi was available, enough to power dozens of replicants. Now, with the air suffused only with his will--the unknown man's 'Shinrou Kiritsu,' it was only enough to power one. But one.. as Momo found out, is quite enough.
But when coming up against a real puppet engineer, certain design flaws ... are exposed.
ITs scythe bound and rendering it more or less powerless, the automaton twitches visibly as the explosive destroys the reinforced casing around its scythe tank, some form of ambient power storage or another being disrupted. But, more importantly, a strong imbued corrosive is released from that tank, with catastrophic results.
Brass, steel, wood, wire. It's all melted to the same slag as the fluids hit the thing point blank. It melts /everything/ it comes into contact with into a sizzling, boiling mess. Some sort of heat chi retentive acid. Within an instant, the automaton itself is eaten through the torso, where most of the liquid fell.
By the time the automaton hits the ground, it's in four seperate pieces. One of which-- the shining head, comes and rolls to a stop near the observer. He--it is assumed--breathes outward slowly. And it seems with that will alone,the room becomes balmy, and less heated.
"The sacrifice needed to gain the upper hand. ..Impressive," he finally manages, ninkou motors whirring as the complex chair scrolls into view. Seishirou is revealed as his face slides into the cast moonlight. A gyro spins by his head malevolently. "As expected," the youth determines.
"...For one of the few in this world or the next whose mechanical prowess could match that of the Ryouhara clan..."
COMBATSYS: Kiyoko has ended the fight here.
Nirodha, while not the greatest of his creations, serves its purpose admirably. Its own tricks, in the end, are few, but the ace in the sleeve proves enough to bring the encounter of automaton and marionette to an abrupt end. Corrosive liquid explodes outward all over the automaton, and Nirodha is not spared the rod; the material splashes on the puppet's left leg, eating away at the dense materials protecting the inner workings of the puppet. The leg cracks. Snaps.
Yuu is left to frown as Nirodha collapses.
"Mmm. That will be inconvenient to fix..."
But it's only a passing concern. Thin strands of semi-transparent chi shimmer before fading away completely. Nirodha disassembles completely as a result, even as the automaton collapses in on itself and spills out Yuu straightens, twisting around to plant two booted feet on the ground and pull himself up to a stand. His focus is only mildly on his puppet, damaged at his feet. Instead... yellow eyes focus forward. He looks to the approach of one form, restrained to a chair, as whirring and mechanically active as the automaton now destroyed at the puppeteers feet. "Of course. Nirodha's beauty is simple... but ultimately effective in dealing with problems such as this. The answer wasn't hard to discern. But that's the boring part, isn't it? The interesting part..." His gaze tinges with a sort of marked interest.
"... is the name. Ryouhara. Seishirou Ryouhara?" Of course, who else would it be? The question is rhetoric at best, even as Yuu's tone tinges with some vague shell of politeness, his expression echoing the tone. "Ryouhara, in the flesh. What an honor." Yuu offers a stiff bow. He even means it -- slightly. As much as a man like him can be sincere.
"... but I wonder, what you're doing here? Not to kill me. That would be too small and petty a thing for you to be indulging in. What brings the last of the Ryouhara clan to my doorstep...? I wonder..."
It takes some effort, but the ninja manages to lean down just enough to pick up the skull of the replicant methodically, as if it were the only reason he'd moved at all. The replicant. It's true enough--while Nirodha is a complete thing, the replicant is not. A mechanism without a name, without a face. A dark and industrial thing, the skull sits in the Ryouhara scion's lap, without identity and treated as such. Whereas Yuu expresses some concern over the loss of his creation, Seishirou expresses none at all.
"An ample response to threat. I had to be sure of who it was I spoke to. Had you not performed as you had, I would have burned your facility to a cinder as a mockery of who I sought."
Dispassionate. As if the creation was made only to die.
"You see. There is no talent that deals in 'ninkou' .. that cannot be honored in its own way." After all, if Seishirou wanted to take Yuu's abilities, now would be an excellent time. However, at the same time, Seishirou discards the standard politenesses. The battle, brief as it was, was enough. The skull gleams in the moonlight yet still. "But that is not my purpose here," he acknowledges. "I trust that if you thought on it, the answer would become clear on its own."
His voice is a cool, still wind of fall. "There is no time. I've come to you with an offer."
"Trust me..." Yuu states calmly as he sets aside his scalpel. His smile is calm, impassively self-assured.
"Had I thought you were actually here to kill me, this would have been a very different scenario."
He seems relatively assured of these words, beyond the simple fact of the obvious. Gloved fingertips trail against the cold metal of his operating table as the puppeteer listens to Seishirou with measured patience, a brow lifting at his words.
"Of course the answer is clear. If you're not here to kill me, it's because you want something from me.
"Since I'd hope you're not the type for pointless banter."
A gloved hand waves through the air as Yuu turns his back to Ryouhara, focusing once more on his puppet. "You seem to be in a poor state, but then... I doubt you're as helpless as you seem. But that's not the point, is it? You're not here to waste time." The cool wind of the outside world blows through, the puppets lining the walls rattling.
"You have something to offer, which means you have something you want. So what is it that you want, Seishirou Ryouhara...?"
Seishirou is hardly self-assured.
Quite the contrast, his whiplike grin shows just a hint of fang.
"I'd expect nothing less."
His expression softens momentarily, fading to a sterile dispassion that brooks little more plying words and toying phrases. Seishirou isn't one to waste time, and trading idle threats--no matter how truthful they may be--is not in his interests. He relaxes in the pulsing device, much as a cat might laze about in the lap of its master, only as for now, there is no master in sight for the Ryouhara scion. No sensei, no mother, no father.
"In many ways, one can mention our practices as the same. Scholars, if you will. One that abhors the garbage science of today's lost masses. In the end, it is simple. I've.. a client whom requires a great thing that only such a practice can produce. However... to create it, I will need ..." He seems troubled to admit it, "... an engineer of talent I can respect."
A blunt admission of what could be considered obvious. Seishirou has seen better days, indeed, to have to admit weakness to such a man. But it is not without it's own agenda. He is weak, but the very thing he relies on for locomotion could be easily imagined a weapon in and of itself. Beyond the control knob which he uses to move forward and backwards, there are various fuuinjutsu inscribed in the armrest of the chair. Rubric jutsu, and their mere presence is hint as to the purpose of the heavy panelling on the chair, the bays at its sides, the guards, and the tell-tale clan insignia at the rest of his thing. The fanciful may say it is more a mobile throne than a mere wheelchair.
"Your allegiance to a research organization of my forming would be required. The benefit to you is transparent. Resources are like water to those who walk with shadows. And in the darkness.. protection."
Dark brown eyes look up to the ceiling, straying from Yuu's back. "I am sure it is not something you yourself are concerned with. But research would be less difficult. Our sites are numerous. After all. Protection is something that all great works need. Especially the works of those hunted by their own clan."
Ryouhara lifts a hand, "Isn't that right.. Naoto?"
'Isn't that right.. Naoto?'
Yuu freezes in the midst of his work. Not the type of freeze that comes from surprise; rather, Yuu pauses as if struck with a sudden bout of nostalgia. Yellow eyes half-lid. Lips draw into a thin line. A gloved hand lifts to calmly push his glasses up. He does not look pleased...
... But it only lasts a moment.
Back still turned to Seishirou, that look of neutral annoyance dissolving into one of half-amusement. "'Naoto' is such an ugly name. It hardly even merits mentioning." Yuu rests his tools down, eyes widening slightly. His gloved fingertips scrape against the countertop in an idle drag.
"After all... he's dead now."
Yuu sits like that for a moment, in mild contemplation. Seishirou is hardly a threat to him -- not because he's crippled, as the puppeteer is not a stupid man. The chair the ninja uses likely has a myriad of defensive -and- offensive designs to it. This is, after all, Seishirou Ryouhara. To be more precise... this is, after all, a man who is not unprepared.
When he speaks again, it comes slowly; the words are mulled out in a drag as Yuu's head rolls to the side to peer at Seishirou. "Resources. Protection. These facilities... I could use them for my own tests, correct?" Yuu seems to consider this, a thin smile once more creeping across pale lips. "Hmmm. A 'great thing,' you say. Tell me what this 'great thing' is, and I might be inclined to help you. There are no secrets between potential comrades after all... correct?"
"Dead things do not always stay that way. That... is the name that is on my list."
Knowledge is strength, more than any sword. Ryouhara just so happened to possess many of both. But in this case, Yuu is correct. At that moment, Seishirou poses no more threat to Yuu than Yuu poses a threat to Seishirou. But as surely as Seishirou is prepared, one must be aware that he is in a puppetmaster's den. And every wall is lined with potential weapons that could seek his throat in an instant. But there is no concern on the Ryouhara shinobi's face. After all, potential comrades would not stab eachother in the back, would they?
"Hardly," Seishirou disagrees. "Camaraderie is defined by secrecy and lies." The bumbling Blackjack group demonstrated that much. "Especially for one such as ours. My research group.. will change the world by any means necessary. To protect the works of intellect in the world. That was the reason it was created long ago. And so it will be reborn into a new age. The man whom lent us this task... realizes that ideal more than even he realizes. And even your engineering capacity will be pressed by this project."
He needs to say little more of that, instead pressing his thumbs to the base of the skull in his lap. There is a hiss, as the facemask splits with the sound of decompressed air. A small scroll protrudes from the skull immediately thereafter. The automaton was complete. It was made for only one thing. "Challenging oneself, however.. is the hallmark of the superior designer." Seishirou draws the scroll from it and unseals it with a handseal. This he furls open and displays to Yuu. It clearly displays a schematic, in fresh inks. The design is merely prototypical and quite rough still, easy only for a fellow engineer to follow. It is.. clearly unfinished. But it speaks for itself.
"I would consider your own experimentation a neccesity of our growth. If 'that man' is dead... perhaps you could be challenged enough to take his place amongst our number."
"Secrecies and lies? How tragic. What a cynical view of the world."
And Yuu couldn't agree more.
The blue-haired man's words drone out in a slow sigh as his right hand runs through strands of pale blue hair. He pushes off his seat in an idle gesture. Gloved hands fold into billowing sleeves as the puppeteer turns his yellow gaze back towards his would-be guest. He takes in the words of the last Ryouhara, staying silent amidst the explanation. He takes the pertinent information -- the things that he cares about. Protecting the intellect of the world. Resources. Protection. Seishirou's talk of 'rebirthing' is tucked into the back of his mind, though is hardly a pressing concern.
The only -pressing- concerns are his own.
And Yuu's primary interests beyond those self-serving desires is the designs unfurled before him. Yellow eyes take in the details, the schematics. His eyes widen, his lips drawing into a wide and delighted smile. Excitement twitches across his eyes as his right hand reaches out, and presses against the scroll.
"Oohh..." he muses, softly, "... what a -challenge-. This is an... INTERESTING... design." His mind rummages over multiple things, amongst which additions to be made to the design, and just -who- would ask for something like this. The latter is only a faint consideration. His hand slowly pulls back.
"This will be an amusing way to pass the time, I think... yes, it will be very entertaining." His eyes drift back towards Seishirou, pale lips parting in a broad and unnervingly excited smile.
"Challenged? Yes, I think so. Yes... this will work -very- well... comrade." His words drift momentarily, as his gaze lifts upwards towards the sky.
"And the name of this organization I am so honored to be a part of...?"
"The principles are almost beautifully simple. But the execution.. by logic, cannot be."
It is a slow, predatory grin the Ryouhara ninja presents. It is perhaps not meant literally. Above all, he is aware of the irony. Were such a design presented to him... even he would be enticed. The truth is, they may not be too different, after all. Jinzo's services were almost not needed. Almost. The engineer corps would be complete..
"The research group's resources will be made of use to its utmost for this project. I am temporarily suspending my own projects for the duration.. after all. The subject matter is quite deserving of undivided attention."
He opens a hand and waves it aside. As he does, the scroll snaps shut, resealing as his grip tightens over it. This piece of parchment he secrets away into the folds of his coat. It would be a gift to Yuu, but Ryouhara is no so foolish so as to allow documents like that to leave his control, especially not before Yuu's loyalty can be assured. Instead, something else of his favor is given. As planned. "Keep the parts of the replicant... for the interest of your own designs. Call it a tribute to the inevitable success of our...camaraderie."
"Our faction walks the twisted dragonfly's path. My Special 88 Research Group, 'Kagero.'"
Log created on 16:44:36 04/05/2008 by Seishirou, and last modified on 02:35:27 04/06/2008.