LLK Act I.War - War : Wandering Into War

Description: Southtown is in chaos. Pacific High has holed up within itself, the closest thing to safety there's going to be in this war zone. Enter the Wanderer, Ryu. Through a quick discussion about the situation on hand, today's Southtown becomes a much more prominent stop in his journey.

It's not a good time to be in Southtown. Mysterious figures (including some of international infamy) are attacking the entire city left and right. As the hours tick by, radios talk about violence up and down streets, fires breaking out, explosions, the latest toll injured or possibly dead... it is a state of emergency.
It's even worse in the company of children, many of whom here have lived privileged lives almost completely free of danger outside of the odd supervillain or two trying to pay this place a visit. This is about the worst it's ever been, other crises of the past included. Many are huddling scared in a building somewhere. Some of them are trying to call their mommies and daddies for a safe trip home (and maybe unenroll, while they're at it). A few particularly rebellious ones, namely the ones not completely helpless in a fight, are scheming in quiet away from the watchful eyes of the staff.
And of the staff, there's only one among them with any sort of fighting prowess to spare. Howard Rust, shop teacher. It's late in the afternoon. Some of the football team is practicing out in the field despite these threats, working on team defensive plays for when and if danger /does/ come their way, as they are confident under the direction of star player (and near legendary fighter, all things considered) Roy Bromwell himself. The teacher, just only beginning to carve a path in the fighting leagues, is sitting upon a bench with a couple empty plastic bottles of water littered around him.
What can I do? He wonders to himself as he has himself a sip of the fifth bottle of water today. I'm just a working man, an overseas schoolteacher with a hobby he's finally able to pursue again. But what can I do, he wonders. Especially given when those people he's heard called 'NESTS' show up so many months ago, when they pretty much flattened him. Can I protect these kids?
He sighs, leaning over in his seat while rolling his left shoulder in an attempt to get out the latest little bit of stiffness in his joints. It pops painfully (and rather loudly).

Darkness. To some it is stifling, oppressive. Blotting out sight and giving wings to the harshest crevices of human imagination. To others it is sanctuary, a veil by which selfish deeds can be done unseen, unopposed, unpunished. A forum to vent the destructive artistry of their most shadowed visions. To still others, it is balance, the night to day, the shadow to the sun. Even in the brightest light it is cast, even on the darkest night it is incomplete. Even the thickest pitch cannot swallow all within its stifling confines.
For his part, the nomad known only as Ryu falls into the third group. These villains are not to be feared, nor hated. To be loathed, nor lauded. They are who they are, distracted and lost to a one-sided path, a sadness to be sure, but one that in many ways only parallels those blinded by the light of day, or the singularity of a purpose deemed more noble than any other. Ah, the rigorous dangers of manifest destiny, both the monthly magazine and every one of its many subscribers. Funny thing about destiny, though: it can't be forced, no matter how strong one is, and seldom do its winding roads ever follow the roadmap they seem to be drawn from. Perhaps the ebb and flow of the currents is not a simple a --> b trip. Certainly the Ansatsuken Master would say so.
His own journeys have been vast, the impact of his actions and choices, difficult to measure. Yet the warrior himself carries none of the hubris to believe that the world should be shaped to his vision. He is but a traveler. Some would say THE Traveler. That Southtown is a city in turmoil is clear even before the smoke that rises from sections of the city becomes visible, tangible out over the ocean in the waves of energy, fearful, terrified, that emenate from the imprisoned populace. The despair and self-doubt that fills her heroes, one by one.
None of this sways the Wanderer's bare footfalls as he strides onto the beach from out the surf, as if emerging from the depths like some legendary monster come to ravage Japan. But a) he's not tall enough, and b) he can only shoot fire from his hands, not mouth. Also c) he's not big on destroying things. HOWEVER...
The so-named Dragon does love shortcuts, and being open to the beach means that wandering right through Pacific High on his course further into the city is just the thing to do.

Look at 'em, the shop teacher thinks to himself as the football team sets up yet another defensive plan or another to practice. If this keeps up, he wouldn't be surprised if some of them managed to injure themselves well before any sort of threats arrived, but as he was asked - does he have any better ideas? No, he supposes not. And that's why he is where he is now. Sitting there, as if waiting for the inevitable crisis to come to the front step (or from the beach, as the case may be).
A figure clad in white approaches from the sands. It takes a couple guys on the team to shout almost incomprehensibly for anyone's attention to be drawn towards it. A couple murmurs come between the team. Is it game time yet? Because they're the home team, they got home field advantage, it'd be a massacre, yeah, yeah.
The waterby taps the teacher's sleeve and points out to the beach. The one who lives up to his surname eerily well raises his head up from his pessimistic contemplation and squints. Why, who does that look li-- wait, why the hell is he wondering, of /course/ he knows who that is. He pushes himself up from the bench with a little grunt of exertion, striding across the field towards the way that leads to the beach. His pace, slow in the best of times, is marked by mental fatigue and worry.
Ol' Rusty remains sheathed in that poor toolbelt pocket that never asked to be torn into a hole for his weapon to be shoved through. He swallows a lump, but hell. If this is who he thinks it is, there's nothing to worry about... right? He just can't help /but/ be.
The team watches on before making up their mind as to whether to keep practicing, watch, or what have you. Mr. Rust waves his right hand behind himself in a vague signal of 'just stay there.' He has yet to say anything to the World Warrior himself in his approach. There may have been others to win the title, but to fighting enthusiasts the world over, there tends to truly only be one.

Look at them indeed - apart from Bromwell, they just don't stand a chance. Though there's something to be said for the sheer metric of their combined weight. While the illustrious Mister Rust is the picture of battle fatigue and concern, the man in the rapidly drying gi is the opposite paradigm. Stepping into a warzone with complete calm, focused and almost pensive. It's tangible in the air around him, almost impossible to ignore even for the most passingly talented of fighters - as if nature itself walked with him. The flexible strength of the wind, the unflinching fortitude of stone, the unrelenting currents of the sea itself... the fire burning deep within this man is all but everpresent, as if he travels through it, and vice versa, rather than wielding it at all. Bonded to the Earth, even in this jungle of concrete and steel he now approaches. His bare footfalls pause as he crosses the football field, sensing before he sees Howard's approach. He adjusts the duffel on his shoulder, still dry (meaning he probably didn't actually arise from the depths as first believed!), and turns halfway to face the approaching shop teacher.
He holds his course, but does not call out or wave - there is only the ghost of a greeting, polite smile, and a slow inclination of his head and upper body, a traditional greeting. Restrained, but far from somber - still, it is an acknowledgement of the times, quiet and unassuming.
Unthreatening. He holds his ground, lets the shop teacher come to him, turns his gaze momentarily to the riled-up team, and then back, dark eyes carrying that light of power and thought clearly in his alert consideration. He looks towards the Southtown skyline, the distress there is greater than any he senses from Rust himself. A city full of stress and terror - it's almost a wonder the island itself does not shatter and break into the sea under the strain. But then, that's quite impossible... at least this early in the turmoil. Still, the hesitation and doubt he feels all around him prompts him to open a dialogue, the question is the obvious one. The only one he could ask, with the sights and sensations before him.
"What has happened here?" There's sorrow in the voice, he can feel death around him, pain. Even within Rust himself. Concern. But above all else, compassion. No trace of the fear that permeates everything else, even the gung-ho athletics-field warriors that mask it so capably.

The sort of character that Ryu holds is about tangible in the air one would breathe (...in more ways than one). For a man of his stature in the fighting world... Ryu doesn't do it by being loud and proud. The little smile, it's almost reassuring in an endless wave of frowns, tears, screams, and curses. What it doesn't do is help get rid of that persistent ache from around the triceps in his left arm following his Neo League bout from Cherry. He wouldn't begrudge Ryu for that.
What has happened here. Howard's head sinks just a bit at the question, though the approach continues until he's about a good fifteen feet or so away. He scratches the back of his own head noisily, exhaling loudly as he tries to drum up, well, the obvious answer. "Southtown... well, ah, you probably know. Bunch of... bunch of bad people, just came out of nowhere and tore shit up. 's everywhere now." His voice is weary, low, gravelly, and trails off at around that last sentence. "Entire school's on edge. Only ones out here... me, and the football team." He gestures with his thumb briefly. "Rest are, are inside the campus. Nobody's... ah, nobody's sure what to do now."
He coughs once, patting his chest with a closed fist hard enough that one could confuse it for a bout of a need to inflict self harm. "Sorry. Grass here's... grass here's got me." Sniff. "I, uh... wish we here could say 'hi' with a bit, a bit more enthusiasm, but... here we are."
He looks up a little to establish somewhat firmer eye contact than has been made in the entire display. His eyes... slightly lighter than Ryu's. It is really the only descriptor anyone has to tack on them other than 'brown,' in a sea of kids with sparkly eyes compared to gemstones. "Just passing through?"

Of course, one would expect Ryu to already know what was going on. It's all over the news by now, on every radio station and newspaper, even in special editions of some of the world's foremost magazines. Sadly, at least so some would think... he is not exactly a popular media afficianado. He listens as Rust speaks, dark gaze remaining on Southtown as he considers the situation, the tremors that still permeate the air, unlikely to abate so long as the tide flows in with such seemingly inexorable malevolence. It's a sensation that is sadly not a first for the Wanderer - though rare indeed is it to see such turmoil in the modern, 'civilized' world represented by Southtown. However, he is keenly aware that even such a 'gem' has its corrupt center, one that all the well-intentioned sparkly schoolchildren in the world couldn't hope to fully abate. His initial response is simple - the Ansatsuken Master nods, once. It's acknowledgement, and not answer, however.
The shop teacher's question brings the nomadic warrior's attention back to him fully, and while the answer is not much more complex, the cool, resonant intonations speak volumes, "Not anymore." Two words, a shift of the course he had previously plotted (if indeed he HAD an itinerary at all), and one that could impact the situation of the city itself. There is strength here, even in the fear, power in the inhabitants of this city, for good and ill... sometimes, all it takes is a reason, or an example.
"It looks like I'm staying for awhile." It is far from a black and white situation for the Wanderer, however - what do they want? Why Southtown? Why now? He refused to battle Rolento through his block-by-block occupation of Metro, and in so doing, stopped himself from playing into the hands of the maniac as so many well-intentioned warriors wound up doing. So what now? It's not a question he has a ready solution to, but there is something different, in the air itself, in the ground - he can feel it, and he cannot turn away, this is not a passing moment born of chaos and misdirection... he feels that regardless what happens now, there is more to this, a graver impact on the future. And such must be met, and eventually... answered.
It's a bit of a paradox, really - as many unanswered questions as Ryu has, as much grey area as is left, even more than those involved from the beginning... there is no uncertainty. Where Rust and the rest of the Pacific group are unsure what to do, the man born and honed to fight sees only one choice, "What we do now, is fight." The young champion advises his elder with implacable, smooth focus, "Protect as many lives as we can, and contain the actions of those who would do anything else. The only advantage they have is surprise and fear. This is Southtown, there is power here that the selfish cannot begin to fathom."

The practicing football team slowly shuffle back to practice as the two adults speak about their business peacefully. There's no problem here, so far as any of the achievement-driven ones with the loudest commanding voices can tell. They gotta be sharp and ready for when whoever comes here isn't someone like Ryu. And to do that, they need to perfect their various formations as to block and bring down an enemy brigade. Their confidence may truly be all they have in these times, outside of the power that Roy brings to them.
'Not anymore,' Ryu replies. The teacher's idle gestures in which to scratch at whatever itches or rub at what aches most comes to a halt as he tries to comprehend what that could mean just from those two words alone as the Wanderer continues. Staying here for a while? Howard wouldn't complain about that, if he had a guy like him watching his back.
'What we do now, is fight,' so the older of the two is told. A line so easy to deliver as practiced, but from the words of a legend, spoken with clarity and honesty truer than any recital born from the expertise of a speech writer. 'Protect as many lives as we can, contain the actions of those who would do anything else.' This is what he's doing when he's staying by the side of these kids, isn't he? 'The only advantage they have is surprise and fear.' The teacher's body language picks up again around this point, scratching the side of his nose. Surprise, fear... and stuff that leaves him half-buried in asphalt.
This is Southtown. There is no debating or contemplating that point. This /is/ Southtown, one of the two great cities where the greatest of the great fighters of the world tend to call home, even if they were born or even have lived their entire lives elsewhere.
But where does the teacher play into this? He lowers his head again in an aborted nod, gaze looking down into the expensive lab-grown mutant field grass that thrives - and gives him allergies - year-round. A low, contemplative hum escapes his throat. "That much is... uh, that much... that's about clear." He finally gets it out in spoken word. He is the exact opposite of Ryu. Even with this undeniable truth, the fog of doubt plagues him.
"Hell if I know where I start." He looks back up, motioning his head over towards the kids. "Been asking myself this... for a good long while. What I'd do if, if people came by to hurt the kids. And... and let me tell you, all the times I can remember... they didn't end pretty." That he's still able to walk after some of what happened throughout his time here in Southtown? Heaven's blessing, right there.
His left elbow creaks disconcertingly as he scratches his side with a thumb. "I look at some of this.... and I think, good as I might've been... good as I might be," he does have two good Neo League victories under his belt - as well as two losses, one of whom was supposedly a deadly Isreali special agent in his younger years, if the rumors circulating around him are right. His loss to that - one so very serious and deadly with his craft, the sort of which would be dominant among such forces invading Southtown right now - plays a very big part here and now as to his worth when it truly counts.
"I... I don't know if I got what it takes. If I go out, or if they come here," he finishes on that blurb as his right foot picks a little into the grass to stretch out his leg a bit.

What else is there to do? Training may keep the body fit, but in these times, the drills do something else as well. Busying the mind, exhausting the possibilities aside from victory. Camaraderie. Readyness. Out here, with the turf, and sweat, and harsh impacts, there are no other possibilities. The sensation of readyness may do as much for these youths as actually /being/ ready could, at least right now. There's always another course, after all - another door to take when what was expected turns decidedly unexpectedly. Of course, the absence of expectation, and a simple awareness of when a door may have opened, or another may have slammed, is a strength of an entirely different sort. Ryu feels little need to distract himself from what is happening here - indeed, just the opposite. Rust's confusion, the distractions of the schoolchildren - it doesn't earn derision or condescension from the Wanderer. He knows well enough where they're coming from, and in truth, can hardly disagree.
No idea where to start. It's a sensation he's felt before, most notably when everything fell apart for him, on the personal-universe scale. When he lost himself to ambition, nearly killed one of the world's greatest warriors, now scarred and set into darkness.... and simultaneously lost his sensei and father to the very thing he was becoming. Where indeed does one even start to pick up such pieces, and find another way through? "The most important thing is to start, and to do what you must." The nomadic warrior answers somewhat esoterically, returning to the present from his contemplative bout of introspection, "Whether it is enough or not. Alone, even the mightiest of us is not enough. Not for any battle, in the end. Our strength comes from community, and diversity, respect and honour - I suspect you know this better than most." There's just an air about the pragmatic, if rattled teacher. He is not naive, nor ignorant of the world, and he would not be where he is now, at this stage in his life, defending what he defends as he defends it if it were not the case. He would not be afraid. Fear for himself, but layered above and beneath it, fear for everything else - the city, these children, the innocents outside this little sphere of peace they've maintained despite the warzone.
"We have no choice over when we fall, it can come from a million directions for a million more reasons, but each of us must choose how we live, and what choices, risks, and acts give that journey meaning." The Ansatsuken Master, honed tool of an art used for millennia only to destroy, speaks words of protection and stewardship, peace and compassion, "Your confusion is understandable, but only half as deep as the rest. You are here, you have already made up your mind. It is frightening, but if they come here, if you must strike out with someone else, there is already purpose. It is already enough, that you act. The outcome.... is just one of two possibilities." There's a small smile at that, meant not to be reassuring, per se.... but it's a viewpoint both fatalistic and not in the least. At the end of the day, Ryu is an optimist, it seems. Even if he should fall, there is meaning, and his choice carries weight.
It doesn't matter how practiced one is, how many tournaments one conquers - things are never so predictable, and no one is untouchable. But in the reverse, that is reason for hope. And then some, "Even if all of us fail, and the city is plunged into anarchy or tyrrany, and the worst of man carries the day.... it will not last. It cannot last. Such things are... not built to endure." It's not human nature, despite the frightful fervor with which some of the strongest seek such dominance. Even the meekest is not content to be trampled indefinitely.
Ryu slings his duffel off his shoulder, dropping it to one hand as if it were light as a feather, and then to the ground with a gentle thwump. He loosens the ties and fumbles around within, coming out with a hardshell case which he flips open to reveal a technological

marvel, his COMMUNICATOR. Alright, so a cell phone isn't all that interesting to anyone else. But it takes him a moment to even turn it on.

Howard really misses that little flame of youth, that feeling you could take on anything and everything if you try hard enough. That feeling that runs so strongly along Pacific's football team even as they come before that may be far beyond even Roy's power. Even if many have helped him try and reclaim some of that essence, there is the undeniable fact that he is getting up there in years - and is expected, perhaps settled, into the role of a tree. Set. Maybe strong, maybe sturdy. But unlike the seeds, set to where it grows, unable to do much against the changing tides and environment of the times.
The most important thing... start and do what you must. But what if he can't do what he must. What if he has to face down that guy with that... that long, blonde hair who floats again? (That he mentally gives more immediate importance to 'long, blonde hair' as opposed to 'floats' is something he might want to reorganize his threat priorities on if he ever thinks to.) He nods his head as the statement goes on. Strength from community, diversity, respect, and honor... the kids that can fight will inevitably want to, there's no stopping them. But if he had a choice, he'd make sure they wouldn't come in harm's way - but then he'd be the only one standing. It is a tough place to be when you are the only teacher on payroll that can throw a punch worth a damn.
'We have no choice over when we fall,' and Howard doesn't want to think about it. He looks back over to the kids again as Ryu elucidates on that sort of thing. Fate vs. choice. We may not have control over when, how, or why we fall, but we sure do choose a lot coming here, don't we. He could've chosen to quit his job and go home like at least two other teachers already have within the last 24 hours. (Sadly, Mr. Marshall was not among them, that rat bastard.)
He mouths a silent 'yeah' as he turns back somewhere along the point of 'you have already made up your mind.' He's standing here. Unsure what to do, unsure how he'll do it, but he is right here. To think ten years ago he wouldn't think twice about standing up to some crime kingpin's best hired muscle after some of the stuff he'd do back home. But as the years came, so did the complexity of his life - especially when things didn't go the way he was hoping for them to.
"I'd like to think... I'd really like to think, we'll pull through, not let... this whole thing take us down." He puts at the end of it all. That tyranny would eventually fall isn't terribly reassuring in itself. The step before it - the step that all of us - Ryu, Howard, hell, pretty much everyone willing to try one way or another - have a chance of this all going to pot. He's aware of it. But that thought. That thought remains scary. Very real. Which brings him here, as it were.
The tone from quiet, contemplative tension melts away into a brief air of aggravation. That cellphone! He grunts. "Y'know... they don't make 'em that big any more. The one I have... my seventh since I came here," because he keeps losing them, "...just... they're... they're... so /tiny/. Can't, can't get my thumb around a key without hitting a whole bunch."

It is scary, Ryu can definitely agree to that much. If they fail, if Southtown became ruled by any amalgam of these madmen, or even just the center of some war stepped from the shadows for any length of time.... if the defenders cannot c arry the day, and all they care about is laid to waste... well, it's scary. There's no better way to put it. It would be a tragedy - but there's no use fretting over things that are out of one's control, when there is still so very much that can be done to bring it back in line with the outcomes they seek. The oppression of Southtown, the eradication of good here... it's not something that the Wanderer forsees, and certainly not something he'll abide while he still draws breath. None of them can afford to be distracted by the lovable Igniz's flowing, radiant, well conditioned tresses.
Victory and defeat are not character judgements, to Ryu, however... not measures of success or failure. Only the two possible outcomes every time one has to fight. Even a total underdog can get lucky, kill or unseat a veteran. There are always other masters, as well, waiting in the wings to challenge for their own ends. Always someone as good, or better, or just plain lucky - but it doesn't stop the so-named Dragon from doing what he does best.
"These things can turn around before you even realize what's happening." The young champion offers, affirming the idea that they can still pull out, make it. That there's a chance, and then some, "Right now it is chaos, and overwhelming. But they are the intruders here, even as the Syndicate is, and the Universe has a way of responding to overt use of blunt instruments." He smiles slightly. As complex as the maneuverings of these overlords may sometimes seem, there's an underlying truth that leaves them oh so vulnerable.
When the only tool one possesses is a hammer, every problem begins to resemble a nail.
Once the power button is held down for the ALLOTTED time and the screen actually alights, Ryu waits for the cryptic and mysterious signal bars to display before punching in a practiced number - one of the few ever dialed from this phone. There's too much at risk here -not- to make this call first. Right away. Right here on the field, right over the conversation with Howard Rust.
.... and he gets the damn voicemail, "It's me." Yep! "Get to Southtown. Don't fly into the airport, take a chopper from the mainland, land at the hospital downtown. If I'm not there already, something went really wrong. Do it now, if you're not already on the way." Sure, it's bossy - but there's urgency in the tone, expectation that it'll be understood, that he doesn't need more than to emphasize just how important this request is. He hangs up after the brief blurb.
"Don't like them at all, myself. But sometimes they are a lot more useful than irritating." Regardless of the confusing things like.... megapixel cameras and SMS messaging and mailbox IDs.

Even living so different lifestyles (and truthfully, if Howard here had his way he'd be living life a lot like Ryu is - just him, Ol' Rusty, the open road... an occasionally nasty time at scrounging up enough fare for the bus or getting a hospital to validate his health insurance... okay, no, maybe not that far...), a certain truth is plain as day that it is bad for so many in a worst case scenario.
Ryu is full of reassuring smiles in his lessons of the world at large. Howard is largely stone-faced and unexpressive throughout, uneasiness still wearing very heavily upon his face. Especially now that there is the idea that somewhere out there is a cellphone of Ryu's size that he can still purchase and get service from, because dammit, all the local ones here are too, too, too small. He can't even begin to imagine what it's like for people such as Raizo over at Justice.
He mulls over some of Ryu's words in relative silence, outside of a 'hmmmmm' as he scratches his head, largely over one word: Syndicate. Okay, he's heard it once or twice off-hand while he was minding his own business somewhere but that was the beginning and end of it. So this Syndicate-whatever is based here in Southtown? That doesn't brighten his mood any. He doesn't think to ask any more about it, largely because Ryu there is making a call. He spends that empty time alternating between coughing (with a brief apology given how loud it is), stretching his arms (with another brief apology given how loud his shoulders pop), and then scratching his lower back (with one last apology and, finally, a mindful step or three away away with how loud /that/ is).
He nods his head at the observation about cellphones. Seriously, they're almost as bad as student loan debts these days, with how much they charge you for even the simplest features on top of the phone itself.
"You're headed... headed to the hospital, huh." He brings a hand to his chin. "Let's see, uh... heard two roads closed... New Park got a nasty pile-up... one of the other teachers was talking about how they... they blockaded off, what was it... August Drive. Hadn't heard anything about the other ways there."
He takes in a deep breath and lets out a sigh while scratching the back of his head for the umpteenth time. "'s about all I can give you, my radio ran out of batteries... hour, half an hour back." And guess what? There weren't any fresh ones available on campus. What luck.
You know, it really is something. Talking to this guy. An absolute legend. This is the very first time he's ever talked with someone of this caliber face-to-face, something that'd make the inner fighting enthusiast in him squeal with delight but, these are hard times.
"Just, just watch yourself out there." Does he even really need to say that to /the/ Ryu? It's the worried grown-up in him. Hell, minutes after Ryu leaves he'll probably kick himself for forgetting to mention something about wanting to try his luck when it all settles down.

Log created on 23:58:49 02/16/2009 by Rust, and last modified on 14:04:32 02/20/2009.