LLK Act I.War - War : Recurrence

Description: K' tracks Shurui down to check up on her during the uproar in Southtown, but he's not the only one to reappear in her life amidst her efforts to evacuate Gedo students. Marise soon crawls back out of the woodwork to menace and mock the both of them: and, while she's there, to offer K' a deal entirely too reminiscent of what Geese offered him months before.

It's finally gotten quiet on this starless, moonless night. Separated from the two fighters she came in with during the hubhub of the deepening evening, nighttime has found Shurui temporarily taking residence in a classroom. Eyes wide and senses open, she percieves little disturbance coming her way; there's not even any near sign of the crowds of unruly Gedo students that crashed in after her and the two fighting beside her. Scuffles continue outside. Gedo is still falling, and she has yet to find any signs of the Guardian Kings.

Whether Gedo is a lost cause or not, her objective stays the same: get the wounded out. Make sure her friends are okay. Get them to Hotaru's. Try not to get caught. She could have sworn she saw some semblance of NESTS moving around; keeping a low profile and her head covered has at least made sure she didn't get discovered immediately.

So why's Shurui in a nurse's office? Raiding the cupboards, of course. Well, 'raiding' isn't a good term for it- it's far more careful, with fingertips touching the edges of things like a blind man reading braille, judging objects on their texture and hardness. It would make sense that bandages would be the most prominent thing to find, and indeed, she finds a roll of them- or, well, something that feels like bandages. No water to wash out the wounds on her back, though. Rubbing alcohol? Would that be smart? A bottle. Sniff. No, that's cough syrup. Another. The cap doesn't come off. Probably not what she needs. Rubbing alcohol- that'd be something with a top easy to get off, right?

She finds it. Taking off her hoodie and securing the bottom fabric of her shirt in her mouth, Shurui takes a wad of bandage and holds it against the open top of the rubbing alcohol, then puts the bottle aside. Steeling herself, she starts wiping away at the gravel burns on her back, approaching it from outside and slowly moving in.

A task like this would have been nothing any other time. Take a shower, wash. Maybe some antibotic creme. Now, it's about protecting against infection at a time when she really has nothing else she could possibly do that'd be useful. The wad of cloth in her mouth keeps any sound from coming from her mouth as she moves in.

Come on, you idiot. It's not like you're resetting your own arm. This is simple. Get it done before someone sneaks up on you.

Too late.

Something is already stalking the half-blind young woman. And whatever that something is, it breathes and moves so quietly it barely even displaces air. It watches her briefly through the window of the nurse's office, completely still in a hidden vantage point outside. When she turns her attention fully to her wounds, it shifts position and is gone, stealing along through the pooled shadows and slipping inside through the askew window.

It behaves as it it knows exactly how her sight works and what its weaknesses are: moving only when her attention is elsewhere, staying far away even from the periphery of her vision. But it also seems to know that avoiding the girl's perceptions is ultimately futile. The first hint that it doesn't really mind that much being noticed comes when it lets slip the most miniscule of noises. A slight creak wrings out of the floor as it passes.

"Shhhh." A familiar voice acts to cut off whatever outburst it anticipates from finally being perceived. The sound is deep and blanketing, staying low-pitched to avoid attracting attention, and it soon cuts off as its owner strafes away into the deeper cover between the cabinets and the doors. "Don't act up on me."

It's typical of him, really, to leave her with curt orders... and suddenly reenter her life on the tone of yet more commands.

Familiar white hair catches the spare moonlight, a familiar yellow eye gleams critically as it settles on her, and a familiar voice continues in its disapproving tones. "...what the hell are you doing here?" ...shouldn't she be the one asking HIM that question? "This is a fucking warzone."

It's hard to escape Shurui's notice. But only if you hadn't had enough time to figure out where her weaknesses lie. When she's on top of her game, the familiar hum of K''s aura would have alerted her sooner or later, but, wincing against the pain of rubbing alcohol, combined with K''s catlike expertise at sneaking in unnoticed by physical means gives the NESTS experiment more room to sneak up on Shurui unawares.

The creak sets her still like a deer hearing the rustle of a single leaf underneath the hunter's foot; looking up, eyes wide, she nearly sucks in the material in her mouth as her body reacts faster than her mind can possibly process.

It's K'. It has to be K'. No one has an aura like that. She's yet to find someone *will* a matching aura to anybody else's. She'd have to know it. And yet, in the second before he speaks, Shurui questions her sight and her knowledge. Could NESTS have managed to clone an exact replica, down to the very aura? What does she know, anyways? What now? Shhhh-

The chances of it all. Shurui is caught between happiness at seeing an old friend again and bristling at the fact that she's been 'caught', so to speak. Not that K''s concerns marked her actions; she had well assumed the young man probably wouldn't be coming back into her life anytime soon. And yet? Here he is. Asking the very question she thought he'd ask. No hellos, just 'what the hell are you doing here'.

It has to be K'.

"What do you mean, what the hell am I doing here?" Shurui manages to parse out beneath her breath, "What are *you* doing here? I thought you were safe with Whip." Shoulders sag until a sharp pain reminds her of the wound on her back. Swiping the last of the gravel that she can sense off, she begins wrapping clean bandage around her midsection. "I'm getting people to safety. Hotaru'll take whomever I can get to her; she's fighting too." She pauses.

To speak telepathically- wouldn't that be smarter? However, would she really want to chance it, even if he allows her?

Suspicions of him being a mere clone wouldn't be entirely unfounded. K' might not know it-- and if he did would doubtless be extremely disturbed by it-- but NESTS started an entire -line- of clones just from his genetic material. There were only two survivors of the entire batch, at the least... but neither of them are people Shurui would really want to find sneaking up on her.

In the end, it's his familiar abrasiveness that identifies him, even beyond his aura or his appearance. His familiar mannerisms... even down to that little irritated tilt of the head Shurui gets when she throws his question right back in his face. Pausing like an offended cat that's just had air blown in its face, K' draws up short and aims narrowed eyes down at the girl.

"'Safe' is a relative term. Doesn't exist for our kind of people. I told you that." Rolling a shoulder restlessly, K' lapses into his old habit of looking around everywhere but at the person to whom he's talking. "Besides, I'm not gonna sit out while something like this is going on." A sudden sharp smile slits his dour expression open, gleaming whitely in the midst of his dark skin. "I bet you Howard is shitting himself."

Despite the words, it doesn't even seem to matter to K' whether Howard is actually nervous or not about this mass invasion of his city. It seems to be enough, for the reckless young man, that Southtown is getting torn up in the first place, and he is visibly thriving in the chaotic setting. He barely even seems to be listening to Shurui's explanations she's helping people to safety.

Not that anyone would really expect K''s priority to be ensuring the safety of citizens. Especially considering what he says next: "I'd offer to help, but... fuck, -everyone- came to this party. Could probably get some pretty important people killed here if things go right..." His eyes have already gone a bit distant. God knows who his mental crosshairs is settling on.

Also, neither batch probably would think that, assuming they were there to fool Shurui, how complex is K''s reasoning for even to bother with her, or her reasons for doing the same, despite the percieved risk. "Then you have your answer for why I'm here." Finishing the bandaging as she speaks, she puts on her coat over her shirt. "Better I fight now than when they decide to knock on Hotaru's door. It's only a matter of time." The gleam of a smile is almost unnerving, but in the context of K''s presence, it's further comforting evidence that he is who he is. And that he really hasn't changed any.

He's still a dick. Self-centered. Stubborn. One could frame him as having a heart of gold underneath that, but that would be reducing him into a flatter semblance of who he is, Shurui supposes. It's not as simple as that, just as how she relates to him, Whip, Kula, or any other NESTS experiment she's gotten to know is never as simple as 'friend or foe'. She'll fight Kula if Kula gets in her way. At the same time, she doesn't see her as an enemy. NESTS makes everything complicated.

It's all about context. "That's one silver lining to all this." Her hatred for Howard is vague; she doesn't know the man beyond impersonal appearances, which conflicts with the deeply personal act of finding he had tried to actively kill K'. She doesn't even know what the man looks like; the blurry vision of photos provides no real sense of identity. He might as well be a phantom, defined by rumors and events attributed to him rather than someone of flesh and blood. But still. He changed her life, even if it was an indirect consequence of his one aim that day. He doesn't know her. He wouldn't care even if he did, beyond what value she may have as a way to blackmail K' should he come up again. With him gone, things would be easier. With him here, things will stay the same.

And yet, what does he have to do with all of this? Shurui never paused to think about it. Everything was automatic up until this point; it's surprising how quickly she simply reacted on her own whims without pausing to care about the larger picture. "Do you..." Shurui slips off the desk where she was bandaging herself, slipping carefully over to K' in order to make speaking easier. She kneels, leaning against a wall, her voice suddenly confused. "Do you know what's going on...? Why is everyone attacking Southtown?"

It's as if a child was asking an adult why war exists. It's suddenly beyond her ability to comprehend, with no real information to depend on. The next question sounds more mature, more in control as her mind begins parsing pieces together like a jigsaw puzzle. "Is it because of Howard?" Howard has his fingers in everything, yes, but why attack Gedo? The YFCC had that grant, yes, but wouldn't it make more sense to go after an organization that funded the core of his operations?

The expression disappears as quickly as it slashed into being. Within moments K' is back to his usual frowning implacability, his face turned slightly aside in absent thought. The look of him, in profile, is cold, pragmatic, and alert. If there's ANY kind of heart beating in his chest, it's certainly not one of gold. More like one of metal, gears, and wheels.

And yet, in the midst of all its cold, efficient ticking... it can't be said there is -no- place for some more human feelings to take root. Some already have. Most likely, it's knowing that-- through word and demonstration-- which keeps Shurui so relaxed and at ease around such a creature as the young man pacing in front of her.

"There's a difference between trouble being inevitable," he points out eventually, his gaze sliding sardonically over to the girl, "and running into the middle of it. But whatever." A shrug lifts a shoulder. But presently, for the first time, he seems to notice that she's injured and trying to wrap her own injuries. Frowning to himself, his eyes skim the awkward job and ignore the bare skin with all the same clinical concern a brother would critically look over his sister.

"Turn around. Don't move," he snaps abruptly at her when she starts towards him. At first, she might wonder if she's somehow offended him by trying to approach him... but no, soon enough he shows that he's just intent on doing the moving himself. He steps forward, a hand harshly about-facing her if she hasn't already; it pulls away quick, only to return in the form of rough knuckles pushing up the back of her shirt to reveal whatever bandaging she's tried to apply. K' snorts dismissively at the sight.

"If I had to guess," he eventually replies, his voice as sudden as a gunshot cracked over her shoulder, "Howard went and pissed some people off. Don't know any more details than that right now." Rough hands are already undoing some of her work, shifting the bandaging higher and tighter and winding it more securely with painful efficiency. Somehow, K' seems able to connote 'jesus, why am I always taking care of you,' through motions of his hands alone. "Only just got in recently..."

"Well, yeah. But." She's unable to really answer that. Even she admitted to Yurika that her actions were stupid. Why is it any different now? Still, she can't go back after coming this far. And neither can K'.

She stops suddenly at K''s command, freezing in the sudden suspucion that she has somehow strayed too close to him in her goal to simply make it easier to speak. Turn around? Confused, she carefully scoots around, the action ended by K' surprisingly pushing her around, rough knuckles pushing up the back of her shirt to reveal the bandages below.

There is emotion there. It's not a vain hope imposed on a young man whom no one has a karmic right to forcibly change; it's a change that K' has taken on himself, whether consciously or no. And it's moments like this that show it keenly. She was already bandaged; her wounds weren't severe compared to what she recieved in a normal spar on broken pavement. It doesn't even occur to Shurui to blush, the meotion conveyed in these actions is too brotherly, if, well uniquely K'. Really, his manners could be termed to be as subtle as bulldozer going through a wall- unrelenting, and decisive. Clinical. Though, unlike a bulldozer, he's doing a better job and bandaging her than she was doing, aided only by touch and approximation.

"There's weird things going on. The people guarding the gate were from another school. The more I think about it, the more I'm convinced that whoever's attacking has as many inside agents as Howard does. I think NESTS is here. And another force. I can't tell." She holds still as K' roughly manipulates the bandages; even if she complained, she doubt he'd stop until he was satisfied.

So she says something else. ".... Thanks."

There is no kindness or gentleness in the way K' handles Shurui. Only a sort of eminently practical sentiment of 'it's wrong, so fix it.' And as he does, he listens to what she has to say. The young man waits a few moments to see if Shurui will come up with any retort for him; upon ascertaining that she has no answer, he smirks a bit to himself, and lets the silence rest.

He finishes in record time, twisting off the bandages and stepping back instantly. He seems to lose interest in her after that, settling back against the wall and letting his arms loosely cross. "From another school...?" That wasn't expected... though then again, K' pays just about zero attention to the intrigues that transpire between the very schools of Southtown. He thinks about it briefly, before he visibly discards it in favor of things he better understands.

"NESTS -is- here," he confirms, his expression visibly tightening. "NESTS... and 'R.' And Shadaloo. I saw and heard representatives from them all." His gaze skates back and forth, watching the window, the door... visibly tense. "Even if they're all here for Howard, I'm thinking each of them have their individual goals..." He's musing out loud at this point, letting the girl hear his thoughts. Unlike his sister, K' doesn't seem to have a problem discussing things with Shurui as if she were an equal.

His eyes abruptly return to hers after a meaningful beat. "Not the first time NESTS has attacked Gedo or the YFCC." For a moment, the young man's dissembling slips enough he looks distinctly troubled. "I should be taking my chances now. When they're probably not expecting..." Is he really going to try to kill off some major NESTS leaders by himself?

"... Yeah." Shurui frowns, an annoyed look to her face as she thinks over the events. "Then again, they could have just seen me as a trouble-maker. I'm still giving them the benefit of a doubt. But I haven't really seen any other students trying to bar my way in; they probably don't matter in the scheme of things." The final twist alerts the girl to the fact that K' is now done, allowing her to move towards an adjoining wall, her back carefully laid against the coolness of the white surface.

"All it means is that people are pulling out all the stops." She almost finds herself beginning to say 'don't trust anyone further than you can throw them', but, at the last moment, realizing who it is she's talking to, she falls silent. .... Of *course* K''ll do that. Why does she have to remind him, of all people? ".... 'R'?" She narrows her eyes, mental fingers flipping through memories of names and attributes. ".... 'R'. That terrorist group, right?"

Adelheid. Is he still associated with them? He had to be related in some way, to have the same last name as the supposed head of that organization. But isn't that one guy dead? Then again, Vega was supposed to be dead as well. Shurui visibly pales. "They have to be. Maybe those goals'll make them fight against each other once they spend too much time in each other's company...."

But why Gedo? Why YFCC. It may not be the first time that either has attacked, yet... "Maybe it's not an issue of taking down Howard. It's an issue of taking down Southtown. All of it." K' speaks aloud his thoughts, and Shurui does the same in turn, turning over concepts in her head that go beyond the simple concept of 'get friends to safety'. "Gedo and the YFCC... Both organizations'd know that Howard not being as squeaky clean as he looks. Some of us associated with the very people that would later join his syndicate- hell, the first people I'd ever remember meeting joined them. But it's not about that. It's about nipping the bud of the problem before it even begins." She slowly stands up, dark eyes focusing on K''s face. "NESTS would already know that Gedo sticks together and fights back against anything it percieves as a threat. Nip them, and the other schools would fall. And with those schools, you disassemble a good core of fighters. It probably doesn't help that I go here too."

It's not about her, of course. However, if she was caught? It would just be a dollap of whip cream on a splendid cake.

K''s serious words put a stop to Shurui's thoughts, leaving the girl to simply look at K''s face with a worried frown that would be as familiar to him as the annoyed tilt of his head to her. Yet, she doesn't tell him no. To stop. To be safe. Instead, her eyes trail downward, her thoughts showing as loud as if they were broadcast into his mind: it's his battle too. His life. Shurui can live with the idea of Igniz being alive, somewhere, someplace. K'? He lost something that left a solid void, and Shurui can't quite dictate how he means to solve his past without facing the possible reasons for his actions.

Finally, she says, "I've got no right to stop you." She closes her eyes, thoughtful. "Just don't sacrifice yourself for the sake of killing one or two of the leaders. There will always be someone to replace the people who get killed. There will be nobody to replace you. If it was me, I'd want to be there when the next snake head appears. And then the next. And then the next. All until it exhausts itself."

K' shrugs wordlessly, not bothering to reply much of Shurui's speculation about the students trying to keep her from going in. He doesn't particularly care about schoolkids and he isn't interested in devoting any thoughts to trying to divine what might be going on with them. As far as he's concerned right now, whatever might be rotten in Southtown's educational system is not his concern.

He's thinking instead about what Shurui says later. About these organizations turning against each other once they're forced to spend too much time in one another's company. It's a nice thought, but at the same time K' knows it's just optimism to think that any one of these groups could lethally damage another even should they get into some kind of spat. Infighting would weaken, but it wouldn't -solve-. And K' likes things all or nothing.

He apparently likes interrupting, too. Shurui barely gets through her first thought before K' is interjecting impatiently, "Howard -is- Southtown." It's a moment before he seems to recognize what she actually means... and when he does, he makes no indication he's going to admit she might have seen something he didn't. Destroy Southtown in its totality? Why? What would be the point?

Visibly, K' shrugs off the questions. It's not really his concern what any of these syndicates want or what their aims are here. His only concern, he reflects to himself, his eyes narrowing in a decidedly bloodthirsty way, is to make sure they're hurt badly before all is said and done here.

Instead of dwelling on motives he can't guess, K' occupies himself with watching Shurui's reaction to his clear need for vengeance. His keen eyes read first her frown, and then the thoughtful drop of her eyes. He's tense, ready to be snapped at, ready to be argued with... but in the end, those claws weren't strictly needed. Slowly, K' lets them retract as Shurui admits she's no right to stop him.

It doesn't mean she doesn't have other concerns, though. "I'm not really interested in suicide bombing," he deigns to assure her in response to her inevitable trepidations. "Not like I wouldn't rather come out of it all alive." There is a long pause, then, while K' mulls over some troubling private thought... and then he adds, slowly, "Least -you- understand." About his need for vengeance. About his need to return some of what he's felt.

Not to destroy Southtown, but to own it. Or is it to make an example? Maybe they *do* want to destroy Southtown. Conflicting thoughts race around the girl's head, prompting a wince. She lets the thoughts settle down into the muck, resting her eyes. "I guess, all I really care about is that my friends get through this okay. The things they did to free me... They killed. It's one thing if it's one of us, but a normal student? Even a Gedo one? Gotta give something back for that... If I find that they're somewhere else, I'll just go back to Hotaru's and never look back."

She can almost see K''s frown. She can't force him to care about anything other than what he's commited himself to, and really, that's fine. That's K'. It'd be better that he focused on his own goal- he'll need every ounce of oppurtunity, concentration and circumstance he can get.

"Hm?" Shurui looks up, confused at K''s statement. "I don't really like it, yeah, but... it's not like you're trying to go after someone who's a saint. Everyone's lives'd be better if NESTS was gone. There'd be no one there to keep telling us that we're supposed to be this way, or that way. There won't be any mes, or yous, or Whips, or Kulas." Kula would be free. Into a scary world, yes, but a world where at least one person won't expect her to kill in order to prove her loyalty. The others, too. The ones she's only met once or twice. "There will always be other organizations trying to take adavantage of genetics, but at least we'd have the option of whether or not we need to care, and how much."

Brutal words, but they're said for K'. Shurui might care depending on the situation, but K' may not. And that, really, is fine. It's just that freedom to choose that's important. "Hey... speaking of that..." She tilts her head. ".... How's... Whip? I never got to talk to her, during this whole mess. Never got to thank her or anything."

Strange, to talk about such matters when gunfire is heard in the distance and shouts bounce off of dark buildings blocks away. They're still safe here; nobody, friend or foe, has yet to come near. "And you. You've been doing okay, right...? Besides this. Was trying to think of what I could get you and Whip for Christmas, but." She shrugs. ".... We can celebrate when Howard is gone."

A weird promise that may never be fulfilled, but is that truly a bad thing?

A distinct frown actually does cross K''s features when Shurui references her kidnapping. It's not particularly a topic he likes to hear about, if only because he was not the one to solve it. He's absorbed enough in his irritation over having failed in that regard that he doesn't notice her concern over her friends and fellow students. If he were really any kind of decent person-- or even, for that matter, listening all that hard-- he would have offered to help her guard the people important to her.

Instead, he's thinking about vicious retribution. It's only reinforced by the fact Shurui not only agrees, but helpfully outlines how much better things would be if NESTS were gone. Eyes drifting half-shut, K' is thinking hard enough how he wants to try to approach the situation and attack NESTS that he almost misses her sudden shift in both tone and topic.

The question catches him off-guard. K' is silent for longer than one would expect, seemingly not even knowing how to answer it. Or what the answer even is. He shifts restlessly like a bird of prey on its perch, before he replies shortly, "I don't know. On missions." A slight clip of resentment nips at the edges of his tone. It's pretty clear he's angry at the fact that he doesn't even know how to answer the question honestly.

He's quicker to respond when it comes to himself. Though quick doesn't necessarily mean honest, as becomes clear when his response actually comes out: "I'm fine." A shrug lifts his shoulder, the young man's face turning aside in a fairly clear show of not wanting to discuss states of 'okay' or 'not okay,' feelings and states of being. "I should be asking YOU that."

The reaction to her question tells Shurui enough. "Mm." Shurui nods, eyes drifting aside. Not a good topic to rest on, obviously. Missions, huh? K''s response about his own condition only fares slightly better in terms of information. His aura seems fair; nothing obvious that wasn't too out of place in the conditions they were in. All Shurui can do is accept it and not push. For now, anyway.

Battlefields aren't exactly the best place to extract information from a stubborn K'.

How is she? Wasn't the last time K' left her the time she was effected with that psychic plague? "Alma got rid of whatever was hurting me. From me, anyway. I slept for long time afterwards- Hotaru pretty much was there for me every step of the way." She smiles idly, looking down. "You'd think, with what she went through, that she'd want to hold back. Shut herself away. Distrust people. But she doesn't. Whatever she has, it's genuine. Not fake." And yet, Hotaru lives alone, in a mansion with rooms larger than the very home Shurui lived in with her father. "She's lonely. I think I should stay with her a while. Not the best company, but... I guess I can count in some way."

There's something different about Hotaru; K' must have felt it too, to actually feel driven to kiss her. It's not simple acceptance. She loves and understands, in a way that Shurui feels instinctually that she should doubt.

But there's something else. "Also." Shurui cranes her face to regard K''s. "I guess I can... well... speak. Through the mind. But. I've only done it a few times." There were so many times it could have saved her, had she known this ability existed. Could she talk over distances? What is she really capable of? She could have confused the guards outside her cell when she was trapped underneath the casino. She could of-

She shakes her head. No point in wondering about the what ifs and the whys. All there is to worry about is the now. "I won't use it unless I need to, especially with you. Not unless it was a do or die situation." In a sense, these words are a warning- if the situation warrants it, she'll even force herself to contact K'; better he be annoyed and cross about it now than later, when his concentration could be busted. "You... get what I'm saying, right?"

She doesn't push it. K' doesn't pursue it. Even if Shurui were to try harder for information, she still would get nowhere. K' honestly has no idea where his sister is, other than to assume she's assigned somewhere in Southtown itself from her vague talk of being 'on a mission.' It's not as if she was ever much good at correspondence.

The topic drops once Shurui updates on how she's been doing. Intent yellow eyes focus back in on the girl, taking in her improved appearance in silence. He makes no reply to her words about Hotaru, not really seeing the need to affirm aloud what he already knows to be true. The girl really is not what she seems, or what she could have been, and it's because of that K' came to respect her in the first place.

Little more than a brief nod escapes K' at Shurui's ultimate decision to stick around with her. It's her follow-up that draws more attention, K' frowning perceptibly as the girl reveals her telepathic capabilities. Inherently distrustful of anything that messes with the mind, K' stiffens slightly.

"...Yeah. I get it." The young man leans back further into the shadows, letting his head dip in thought. He can understand how such a thing would be useful, which is why he doesn't bar her from using it if necessary... but nonetheless, he attaches a warning. "And yeah... you better keep it to necessity." Meaningfully, K' tilts his head at the girl. "Not a mind you want to fuck around in for long."

It wouldn't be good to push it in a situation like this. It may be nighttime, it may be in a spot that is safe for the moment, but either way? Shurui's shoulders sag. "Hopefully Whip's not involved in this. That'd be one more thing to worry about, wouldn't it?" One thing to worry about, yes, except that Whip is a trained and experienced soldier, with a small arsenal of weapons at her side and a military unit that could very well double as family for all their closeness and comradere. Shurui is weak in comparison.

But not so weak as to give up when she's come this far. "... I'm more worried about the effect the mental contact'll have on you than m-" Shurui hushes, her face drawn as she turns her head. Something.... is there. She knows this feeling. Can taste it on the back of her tongue. Familiar. But...? She narrows her eyes, hunching down low with the self-awareness of a small predator now turned into prey by something possibly larger. There's no need for mental messages here; K' should know Shurui's body language in the way it distantly mimes his own, if only due to a similiar goal.

Then, she freezes, her face seizing up in something as far from calm as a girl's face can manage. An unique expression, one K''s only seen in the most extreme of cases. Even the psychic plague that downed her never truly made her afraid. Instead, she was tired, simply coping with it with whatever resources she found. In fact, that's mostly been the only thing that one could point out the girl of doing in regards to fear. She's not fearless; she just copes because being afraid solves nothing. Few things break this habit, but due to brute strength or fearsome looks. It has to do with deeds and memories. Torture. Helplessness. Lack of hope. The idea of someone coming back from the grave.

Really, it's just better to call it what it is: Fear, pure and simple. And yet, she hasn't said to K' what it is. Surely, if it was Vega, she would have warned him by now, wouldn't she? ..... But, then again, wouldn't Vega's presence be felt by itself? This is something that didn't want to immediately be noticed, perhaps.

.... It could still be just her. A similiar aura. That person was dead. Dead. Not alive.

"Well, well, well."

The lilting, feminine voice intrudes upon the solemnity of the runaways. Soft and syllibant, yet unnatural enough to send a chill along any spine. The world seems colder than moments before.. The continuous sound of the invading NESTs and Shadaloo army is quieter than last remembered. Distant, as if the air itself stretched thin.

"The wooden boy and the little doll meet at last.." The source of the voice comes from the head of the classroom, towards the podium where the shadows are at their deepest.

How long that dark symmetry has stood there.. No one could tell. Perhaps the ghoulish maiden was always there, standing as motionless and lifeless as the shadows themselves.

It is a voice Shurui undoubtedly never thought she would hear again. Confirming what ethereal senses screamed to her.. Affirming the fear growing in her heart.
The Devil yet lives.

"A family reunion most grand.. This is. Or.. I should say.. The toy collection is now complete?" A hand gestures plainly. Beautiful lips curl in amusement. Eyes hidden beneath a veil of black tresses. While her outer form is as elegant and deathly serene..

...Her spirit is as hideous as ever. Pity the girl who can see it for true.

"And you both have met my old apprentice hmm?" Hands clapping together in seeming delight, revealing that she has been listening in for an uncomfortable period of time, "..You both would be surprised at what little Hotaru is capable of... With proper.." The monster searches for the word as she glides asside the podium, hands turning as she attempts to conjure the proper word, "... Guidance." Settling for that word with an alarmingly sharp smile.

"I admit.. K-Dash.." The Devil of Koga regards K' askanse, a glint gold revealing itself through her bangs as she muses, "I had heard of your foolhardiness.. But I never would have thought you rash enough to assail your makers while they're on the warpath. A death-wish, have we?" A small titter, nose scrunching at the thought, "I'd hate to see such a masterpiece of killing thrown away so recklessly. Besides..." The tip of her tongue slithering across her lips a moment, her fingers easing upon a nearby desktop, "..If you really wished 'Howard' dead it is not too late to make amends with your builder.."
Notice is given to Shurui at his side, "..He may even take that little failure back as well. ..Perhaps if you threw in a good word?" Marise offers her most pleasant and helpful of smiles.

Close as he is to Shurui, K' notices her fear before he notices their unwelcome guest. Two instincts immediately conflict in his heavily-programmed mind: the older, more deeply ingrained instinct to attack the source of that fear... and the newer, less familiar instinct to protect it instead. A moment passes, before he seizes upon the appropriate reaction; and then in one rough movement he's stepped in front of Shurui, forcing her back into the wall behind him.

It's clear from his eyes he's particularly avid about that potential outcome of this encounter. Clear from the way that misbegotten power stirs abruptly to life in his blood. To those without extrasensory perception, it would be noticeable only as an oppressive thickening of heat in the air. But to people with eyes such as Shurui and Marise, the coiling of it is as easily read as a book.

"I -know- what she's capable of," K' snaps abruptly, finally nettled into speech when Marise reveals just how long she's been eavesdropping. For a split second, his expression carves itself open in a humorless smile. "Not listening to you. I know what I'm capable of, too," and it's so clear K' would already be advancing on the attack if not for his awareness of Shurui, his need to protect her, "and you're gonna find out in about two seconds..."

But in a rare moment of what might almost be called prudence, he pauses when Marise references NESTS. Is she with them? His eyes sharpen, but he lets none of his sudden wariness show. "Between Howard and NESTS," he replies shortly, "the choice of who I hate more is pretty clear. Still, I'd like both dead. I'll handle everybody on my list in their time..." The young assassin pauses meaningfully then, licking the point of a canine. His eyes fix on Marise's. "And since you're here now, I can start with you."

You have to calm down. You have to calm down. K''s here. He can't deal with this sort of shit. Fear solves nothing. That was a long time ago. You're stronger now. And yet, no matter what Shurui tells herself, her body refuses to move, physical memory remembering the stress inflicted upon it during what seemed like an eternity underneath that casino. Why. Why the hell is she still alive. She's supposed to be dead.

.... No, Marise is definitely alive. That aura is unmistakeable. The sight. That ugly, mishappen, screaming blob, that tries to walk and talk and call itself human. Something that other see as physically beautiful. It would have disgusted her if not for the memories of what that blob did to her.

It takes K''s rough shoving to break the temporary spell placed on Shurui. Pressed against the wall, Shurui stares up at the physical wall K' makes as he stands in front of her, his aura unfurling as sweat begins to form on her brow. "...." He's... angry. Beyond angry. Sliding up the wall slowly, Shurui breathes carefully, dark eyes wincing from the not-glare of something that physically shouldn't hurt her eyes. He's angry because of her. He's holding back, too, keeping himself between her and the Devil of Koga instead of indulging his ignited fury. K''s need to protect her never really needed being tested; it was obvious that it was there time and time again in how he complained and rubbed his nose in her business without bothering to consider her wants and feelings. Annoying. Stubborn. Rough. He didn't care about her comfort.

He just wanted her alive and well. The least she can do is help him on his terms, even if the method might hurt.

How will it hurt? Telepathy is an art that is susceptible to variables Shurui can't begin to be aware of. The lightest of contacts could still be a minefield, considering the state K' is in. Still, she calls, her face falling slack in concentration. < .... NESTS- She can alert them if- allowed to. I can pinpoint... to hit. ... It'll- make.... quicker. Can move- make it easier. >

"Ah ah." The Devil straightens as the Scion of NESTs' rage begins to take hold. The growing flames within his patchwork soul flare like a mighty beacon to her wicked vision. The stolen Promethean fire certainly concerns the monster greatly.

After all, it was forged to eradicate things such as she.

However, the ghost does not reveal herself to such an overwhelming foe without potent failsafes. One does not live as long as she without having more than a few contingency plans in place.

Before his retributive fury is incited in full, Marise ever so calmly lifts her hand over the desk, standing a simple cellphone on its edge with a painted nailtip. Middle finger hovering over a single 'send' button with the little picture cam pointed directly at the pair.

"Before you demonstrate what little you know of the Kusanagi Flame, keep in mind." Her opposite hand gesturing, like a hostess revealing a item of interest, "I touch this button, and my good NEST allies will be here three seconds hence."
Only then does a shadow of her former smile return, her own predatory eyes meeting the Jinzoningen's from beneath the ebon tresses, "I revealed myself as a favor to you. Though.. If you feel you can destroy me in a single second then by all means.."
The violet nail teases the button, "..Ignite."

However, as K' grapples with his marginally bridled rage, the Devil slowly tilts her head to the side. Her long tresses pouring over her milk-pale shoulder, leaning far enough to suggest looking past the dark guardian to the small morsel he stands sentinel afore.
"You certainly look better since last I saw you.. Hn Hnnn..Tsk." Tongue clicking the corner of her lip, "How lucky you are to know such boys that love their dolls so.. Had I known you were so precious to them.. I would have had another of you made." The wretched creature muses in quiet reflection.
Ah well. What is past.. Is past. Hindsight is twenty twenty and one cannot bemoan such a little things. She did get a fraction of what she wanted.. At least.

With that little one addressed, the Devil restraightens. Looking directly to the tall fire warrior once more. The tall woman leans a degree or two more over the desk, finger never far from the switch as the prototype makes his decision.
However, it never hurts to sweeten the deal..

"I think your little doll would want to know if her lovely Kenji and Hakuya owners are still alive.. Yess?"

K' twitches visibly when Shurui's voice enters his mind, telling him what Marise soon reveals herself. Ever since ridding himself of his glove, his resistance to that which touches the mind has diminished... forced to share space with the increased concentration he must maintain just to keep himself from losing his newfound command of the fire in his blood. Listening to Shurui, even if only for a moment, causes his tight rein to falter. The temperature rises.

Thwarted, effectively barred from expending the brunt of his sudden rage, K''s temper is forced to check itself before it can even really get out the gate. The result is doubtless deleterious to what's left of the young man's blood pressure. K' starts a few steps forwards, the abrupt movement loaded with threat: but then, Marise lifts that cell phone in warning. At the sight K' emits the kind of growl that starts in the back of one throat, and ends up embedded in the arteries of another... but unable to act on the sentiment, he stops. His right hand clamps on the back of a chair barring his way, as if in an attempt to ground his anger.

It would be stupid to act further. Even if it's a lie, even if she doesn't really have NESTS at her beck and call... he doesn't precisely know how powerful she is. There is no guarantee he would be able to kill her easily. The woman-creature has never put herself in a position where he would be able to judge her strength. Were he alone, he would likely have thought little enough of finding out by seeing just how fast he can break her in half... but there is someone else to think about here.

It's the barb about knowing nothing of the Kusanagi flames that draws actual words from him. "I know more about it than you do," he snarls back, his right hand-- bare and unhampered-- closing abruptly with force enough to crush the material in its grasp. A token attempt to expend some of the anger in him. "And if you keep talking to her like that..."

K' shoves aside the mangled thing in his grip, its legs squealing across the bare floor. Now unbarred, he leans forward in the same aggressive way an animal bristles and postures. "I might just use it. Reinforcements or not. I'm pretty good at hit-and-run..." and by this point, he's assuredly bluffing himself, just a little, "...I was made for it. I could kill you and be gone seconds after. You want to run the risk...?"

His eyes don't leave Marise, but K' abruptly addresses Shurui nonetheless. "Don't listen. Don't leave." Little reminders. He would have told her to run a long time ago... but there's no guarantee he wouldn't just be sending her into some NESTS patrol, or reinforcements called by Marise herself.

"...!" Shurui's eyes flutter wide, the connection instantly broken as she withdraws. Bad idea. Very bad idea. She slumps against the wall, the bright scar of flame that is K''s aura noisely crackling in her mind even as her eyes turn downward temporarily. This isn't working, obviously. She straightens. Obviously, she can't fight Marise directly; she'd obstruct K''s ability to make a targetted hit and risk her calling upon NESTS before either of them could knock the phone out of her hand.

And then there's the mention of Kenji and Hakuya. Shurui's demeanor instantly changes from one of fear to one of rage. What did she...? Where... The thought of them, bleeding, alone somewhere on this property. And her? Just sitting here, unable to at least watch them die. Her face goes white, anger conflicting with the recalled animalistic fear of the past. If they are dead....?

K' again snaps her back to the physical world, startling her. ".....?" Her eyes look to the back of K''s head, and, despite him being unable to see it, she slowly nods. ".... I won't leave." You're risking yourself enough just to stay here with her.

One could misidentify the girl's lack of verbal response to Marise's words as an inability to verbally fight back, or a willingness to allow K' protect her on the verbal front. Instead, those dark eyes glint, trying to think. Rage is converted into strength. If Kenji and Hakuya are dead.... if, indeed, all the friends she made here are no longer with her, she, at the very *least*, will make this encounter one Marise will remember. Even if she can't fight. She can still speak her mind.

"I just thought it out," comes Shurui's curiously calm reply from behind the raging NESTS experiment. "Whatever my worth is to you- it also doesn't change the fact that you... Marise... in a sense, you *died* trying to keep the Guardian Kings from taking me and my friend." Her head lifts, tilting slightly. "Are those the actions of someone who thought I was a piece of trash? Think about it... you died for someone else. A piece of trash. A doll. Your life... snuffed out. You survived, yes, but should that change the fact that you got yourself into that mess in the first place?"

She separates herself from the wall as K' moves forward, but keeps a safe distance away. "And so what if I'm a doll- I can see who you truly are. Anyone could correctly guess the kind of person I am just by meeting me. You, though... you're just a lying sack of pus." She grins, slowly. "You grab onto other people and try to make what they have yours, but that'll never change your aura. It'll just make it more of a blight to my eyes. And do you think I'm the only one who can sense that?"

"You talk because you're too scared to face the truth. We're more real than you'll ever be."

The Devil is motionless. Not a tremor of movement betrays whatever intrepidation this dark creature might feel at playing at such high-risk with such dangerous game. While her serene smile hardly waivers, it is clearly a hollow thing that never touches her hidden gaze.

It is madness for her to be confronting such a danger being so. The Devil is, above most things, a predator.
Predators devour the weak and the powerless. The strong they leave alone or bow before. It is the way of nature. For all the arrogance Marise may still possess, the Sacred Sword Treasure is one of the few forces she truly fears with every fiber of her being. Even at the height of her power, she looked upon its radiance with mortal concern.

However... However...
This is an opportunity that may never come again. She may never again have K' in such a compromise. Bound as he is to protect his little charge, surrounded on all sides by his most dire of enemies.. And the thread holding the Damocles sword in her claws.

A very unique opportunity to .. parlay.

At the Beast of Flame's snap over the pedigree of his power, the Devil's lips curl into a small o. "Is that so?" Spying the destroyed material with aknowledgement of the destruction he is capable of, "My.. Do you even know who created it? Where it was forged and why? ... Do you even know what it was meant to do?"

The ghost leaves that concept hanging however as K' begins to reveal his side of the bargain. What tension Marise sought to hide in her shoulders is revealed.. as she actually begins to relax. If a fraction. Her stance loosening as she slowly begins to prowl along the periphery of that desk. Rotating on that balanced cellphone, her finger resting upon the communication trigger.
His ultimatum over Shurui's character elicits a shift of bare shoulder, "As you wish..." She is meaningless to the Devil now. Silencing her viper's tongue in the little doll's direction is a meager enough sacrifice to forge a momentary truce.

As the dark warrior describes in exacting detail how he can end her, Marise actually smiles a fraction brighter. Not for the reasons he may think, in actuality because she genuinely believes him. Her free hand waves dismissively a moment, offering a new idea upon that threat as she posits, "You know.. There's been a misunderstanding between us. We've gotten off on the wrong foot.. as it were."
A brief glance at K's half-hidden charge behind him as she continues. Perhaps to gauge her expression.. Or perhaps to remind the fiery marauder why he can't erupt into violence brazenly. Yet.
The beautiful woman's bangs slide apart, seemingly of their own accord. Those eyes.. Golden not unlike K's.. Save black and slitted in the manner of a feline. Whatever their minor differences the look is uncanny. The way they pierce and follow.. Eyes of predators. Her own fangs glinting past luscious lips as she speaks in that slow, sultry tone.
"I know something of revenge. You see.. You speak of your 'list' yes? Of all those you wish dead at your feet? ... Believe me.. Oooh believe me.."
The maiden settles herself onto the desk, sliding one long leg over the other as her kimono falls open over her knees. Hips shifting as she balances flawlessly.. The cellphone still at her side and held at the ready, unforgotten.
"My list is far longer. I know what its like to keep on living.. When those who've destroyed your life seem beyond reproach.." She leans just a little closer. Though there's a distance between them, the softness of her whisper somehow manages to crawl along his neck, "..I know what it means to awake every morning with raw.. endless rage boiling inside.." Golden eyes narrowing yet further, her smile devolving into a deepening, distainful frown, "..To want all those who've ever crossed me .. who've ever hurt me.. To suffer just as much as I have."
The monster ventures then, expression questioning, "..Tell me.. Am I close?"

Meanwhile, in the wake of that exchange it seems the little experiment that couldn't has a thought. "Do you now?" Marise murmurs in a bemused fashion. Recalling her earlier concession to diplomacy she does not remark in all manner of ways of the little doll's commentary.
That amused smile does not last long.

The Devil's expression sours in a fashion that promises all manner of foul fates upon the man-made girl. The repeated and stressed words of 'death' earn a slight facial tic with every utterance.
"What .... I did to you. Was not personal." All the horrors, the torture, the terror.
"..Those things will pale before what I do to the filth of the Kiryuu and Suigetsu.. For what they -almost-.. Did. To Me." Every word stressed for absolute clarity.

Then.. Shurui just had to go and speak her mind. She had to tell her former captor, her torturer, just what she really thought of her.
"The truth? Hrnnn.." The Devil lifts her clawed hand. Finger pointed directly at the little creature and held steady for several seconds. Mad, golden eyes glaring down the length of her pale arm before her fingers slowly spread, pointing with all four fingers now.. Perhaps to calm herself or to emphasize the point.
"..You have no idea. How ugly the world.. And the people who live on it.. Truly are." The Devil declares in a tone, struggling in careful restraint.

Marise has killed people for far.. Far less than those words. But as furious as she is...

She is ever mindful of the other ticking bomb glaring absolute murder at her. The treachery of the Gedo children and this little doll will be dealt with very.. Very soon.

This is, in truth, perhaps the one time Marise will ever have a chance to talk to K'. To try to influence him. Were this almost any other time, any other situation, any other place, the Devil wouldn't even have a chance to speak before he would be barehandedly tearing her wide open. But constrained as he is now, he's forced to hear out her machinations. To admit to himself that he really doesn't know much of anything about the divine birthright grafted into his blood. To listen when she outlines their similarities.

K''s teeth bare at the thought of sharing anything, any trait, with Marise. A disgusted expression briefly curls, white and sharp, in his dark face. But, in a small victory for the creature, K' does not interrupt her. After all, she's only voicing aloud what already lives in the most poisonous corners of his mind. And as she calmly paints him a picture of vengeance enacted, punishment doled where it is deserved, and suffering repaid with suffering, he hesitates with a visible temptation.

He knows what it's like to wake up in the morning rife with hatred... unable to even think through the anger. But when Shurui abruptly retaliates against the Devil with sharp words, her voice seems to snap him out of his brooding. Even if only for a few moments, clarity returns to his thoughts. He's reminded of what this creature did to someone that is -his-, and his gaze visibly hardens.

"There's no misunderstanding," he replies sharply, the shortness of his voice betraying some self-directed anger at his momentary lapse. "You fucked with what's mine. Deal with the consequences." But even then... despite those words, despite what Marise has done, there is one thing K' can't quite deny: his all-consuming hate. A hate that could even cause him to forget more important things. There is something he can't stop himself asking, out of that same fatal curiosity that felled even Hotaru: a far better soul than him. "Tell me -one- thing you could offer me to avert that... beyond empty shit about knowing what it's like."

His eyes slit dangerously. "You should know something... if you -understand- how it is so well..."

Shurui keeps silent once more as Marise teases K' along with more information, formulating these morsels of data herself as K' struggles himself to find an answer. It's clear words aren't having the effect she wanted on the devil woman. Even laughter would have worked for Shurui's purposes- anything that would reduce the element of control and give K' a little more room to strike.

Now, Marise is launching an attack of her own against K''s restrained will. And yet, even as she speaks and Shurui's first assault failed, the short girl is clued in to the very same stalemate as K' has against Marise. She can still speak, allowing herself to momentairely break whatever logic the demon tries to weave under K''s eyes. To be potent, it would have to be done sparingly. Not an annoying whine against their ears but a calm voice of reason. Thought.

The devil extends a proverbial hand, and K' ponders aloud with justified curiosity. Shurui finds it her place to add something here as well. "... Is this related to why you mentioned Hotaru earlier?" Could it have been Marise's doing that changed Hotaru? Or was it just her words? Her influence? As much as Shurui would like to shift the blame for Hotaru's state on someone else, it's still a choice. One that K' might need to be mindful of.

Shurui needs to be mindful of a few things as well; Marise's words manage to pull the carpet clean from underneath her, exposing naked pent up rage. ".... It wasn't personal." It wasn't personal? How the hell does that factor into anything? "... Like. I. *Fucking*. Care. It clearly wasn't personal at all; you reduced me to piece of meat!" Her face etches itself into an ugly thing, of clenched teeth and squinted, dark eyes. "You were going to cleave my face apart like a fucking lab rat just so you can figure out how my powers worked!" She slams her fist against a wall. "Don't you fucking DARE lecture me on what I don't know! I might have been thrown into an alley like some bit of trash, but I fought tooth and nail to get where I am. Hatred? I had no time for hatred. I just wanted -to survive- and find a place where I *belonged*." The rage manages to even blot out the odd choice of words K' had to say in reference to her; she barely has the wit to stop herself from going further. "There might never be a place for me here, but with the people I've met- grown close to- I don't mind if I keep wandering forever."

Enraged at Shurui's words the Devil may be, but her gaze remains upon the Beast of Flame like a hawk. As assuredly as his piercing eyes strike at her with intensity that threatens to burst her into flame, the abyss looks through him.
There is no secret or mystery in the hatred that lies in his eyes. It is a fire that burns with a grander brilliance than that insipid Kusanagi could ever manage. A long year ago.. Marise stalked the young jinzoningen. A contract with NESTs for her previous employer at the time. What she saw in the rebel intrigued her then.. Intrigued her enough to risk her discovery.

And here, seeing that fire in those golden eyes, the dread woman confirms it to be true.
A soul-searing hate that very nearly matches her own. A loathing that drives him, pushes him forward and gives him power. Such a force can be useful.. So very useful.
It is also so refreshing to see such an honest emotion for once.. In an ocean of insincerity. Such as this lying little doll and her Gedo friends.

As K' seems to snap out of his trance, his sharp tongue employing bitter words at the Devil's transgressions against his property.
Marise lifts her free hand once more, a warding gesture of compliance. Eyebrows lifting as she replies calmly in the face of his broiling fury, "I agree. Reparations must be made.."

Then.. K' asks for that one thing. Daring the Devil, demanding of her what she could possibly offer him. At that does the Devil of Koga smile. Fangs revealing themselves with a cheshire's grin, crawling a little closer over the desk as she leans as close as she can. Her whisper manages to carry the distance, a conspiratory tone that teases his ear.
"I can help you be the one.. Who destroys Geese Howard."

No frills, no muss. Only an offer to help cross off one of the names higher on the list than she is. Surely... The Beast of Flame might be interested?

The words of the little doll distract the Devil once again, sending a tremor of renewed annoyance through her.
Hrnnnn.. This little thing is proving to be more than a little problematic. A harsh reply is snatched by Marise's clicking teeth, managing to avoid a reflexive reprimand by a single moment. Tearing into this clockwork peasant will ruin whatever leverage the Devil thinks she may be managing with K'. As such, as the little girl mentions her former apprentice once again, the Devil can only reply,
"...Perhaps." Confirming what once occured, ".. It was I who gave her great power. In the end.. It appeared that she simply did not have enough enemies to make my mentorship... Worthwhile." Content to leave it at that.
Except Shurui has a few more things to say..
..Things that command The Devil's full attention.

The outpouring of white-hot rage seems most familiar. Too familiar, in fact. As the Devil's crimes against this young girl are recanted in such detail ... Marise just can't help herself.
She smiles once again. Remorseful.. No. -Proud-.
"My.. Such anger. Perhaps you are a person after all, Shurui." The ghostly thing muses in a slow tone, "But look at you now, for all that you have suffered - You have become stronger. More real. You deny your hate ... But it is there." Pale fingers clench into a fist, "It led you to your allies. It gave you focus. It made you what you are."
"You should be thanking me. For in suffering.. Only then can we know truth."
At those words, the Devil turns her golden eyes to K' anew. That same notion carried to him. "Isn't that right.. K-Dash? Imagine if you could turn all your hate.. All your suffering.. Focus it into a weapon." Her fist unclenches, her violet nails extend like unshealthing blades. A bouquet of razors. "...And use it to strike down all those you hate most.."
"Would that not be glorious?"

The funny thing about rage is that it is an intensely personal thing. It tunnel-visions even the best of humanity. It narrows any person's world down to little more than the tremble of their hands, the hiss of their breathing, and the furious meter of their own heart. In this way, Shurui's abrupt outburst barely seems to touch K' beyond the way it heightens and fuels his own anger. Moreover, he knows already what was done to her, and hears no surprises in her words. He's endured things just as bad himself: few things shock him anymore.

The time for being shocked about past wrongs has passed, in any case. It's time to be angry about them... time to fix them.

Still standing between Shurui and Marise, K' meets those golden eyes with all the direct, searing passion she rightfully notes as missing from the true Kusanagi scion. Reparation is demanded for her incursions upon his property, and surprisingly-- or perhaps unsurprisingly, considering the creature's nature-- they are offered. Predictably, K' seems to calm as Marise so obligingly and slyly obeys his demands. His initial rage dampens down to a suspicious, cold stare... one that barely even wavers when she finally makes her offer.

Momentarily, K' struggles with himself. He had -told- Hotaru she was better for having discarded such a vile instructor from her life... for deciding to make her own path. He had determined, after his disastrous arrangement with Geese Howard, not to let himself be ruled or swayed by any other person ever again. And yet, now that he is faced with it again-- that offer of help to achieve what he wants-- he cannot help but listen, and wonder. If only for a few moments.

Most assuredly, the Devil woman is wise not to snap too harshly at Shurui, in those moments K' is left to think over her words. Were she to do so, she'd certainly lose whatever hold she has on K''s attention: if not some things more immediately necessary to continued life. But he does not miss the way she attempts to absolve herself of all she has done to the girl. Reminded of those acts, K''s aura noticeably resurges with dangerous, seething memory.

The girl's presence serves as a constant reminder that humoring this creature means humoring something that has caused two people he cares for a great deal of suffering. Shurui is the reason K' eventually backs up one cold, denying step. "I -am- a weapon. How do you think -you- can help -me-?" Merely offering to help him kill Howard isn't enough. He wants to know how... and perhaps, if possible, why.

It's something that could cause guilt in the girl's heart- her sudden rash of courage is built upon the foundations of the stalemate, with K' serving as a physical wall between her and certain danger. While the girl may or may not be able to take on Marise one-on-one, she's certain the woman wouldn't bother to humor her as much as the Beast of Prey standing guard in front. In fact, if it were just her here, Shurui supposes NESTS would have been here already in hot pursuit. There was no deal to be struck; Marise had tried to get whatever she found useful about Shurui already, and it didn't matter what the outcome was of that initial contact.

Even with that possible twinge of guilt, it would still be tempting to continue to speak, to babble incessantly against every word that horrible devilwoman says to K'. Instead, there is only the silence of someone who feels the conversation already has a fatal flaw. Shurui'll allow for Marise to talk, for K' to think over the woman's words, for in her eyes, Marise is setting up a potential noose with which to hang herself, should she make that one misstep where Shurui can take out in one defining strike with logic. The stalemate may continue, but if Marise has nothing more to offer, there will be nothing to do but for K' to strike and end it once and for all.

For now, there's temptation. K' may be curious about Marise's offer, but Shurui can't force him to automatically and immediately avert his eyes from that temptation. He saw what Marise did to her, and she supposes he has some knowledge of what happened to Hotaru as well. That's two people K' cares about in some way, two people out of so few he's grown some sort of bond with. Some level of trust has to be brought into consideration here on Shurui's part; she can't sink to the level of people before him and try to control him. That's not her role in his life. All she can do is have her say and hope K' has the common sense to see which would be the best choice.

But, when Marise decides to reply directly to her, all bets are off. Shurui won't allow her to think she's done her a favor. Taking a moment to compose herself, Shurui wipes the sweat from her brow, the residual heat from K's close aura making her feel like it's the middle of August instead of a cold day in Febuary. But it comforts her. She has an ally, one she almost lost to Howard's violent exiling.

And so, she speaks. ".... No." Denial. "I owe you *nothing*." Her voice slowly lifts in volume from that soft two sentences from behind K''s shoulder. "You had no hand in leading any of my friends to me; no one was obligated to do anything because of what happened." She straightens. "K' could have easily walked away that day and I wouldn't have said anything. But he didn't. ... And for that, I owe worlds more to K' than I do you. So..." Her fists tighten. "-Stop flattering yourself; you're just making yourself look embarrassing!"

The Devil's eyes search K's own continuously. Shifting back and forth, peering into the turmoil and judgement storming behind his furious gaze. Leaning far forward as she is, kimono loosely clinging to her inclined symmetry. Pale flesh a stark contrast to the black and purple silks. An expression bordering upon.. Eagerness. Waiting to see the results of his tumultuous cogitation.
Marise has no real idea why the Beast of Flame desires Geese dead. His recent travails are mostly unknown to her. All she knows is the tone 'Howard' was spoken in, a tone the Devil uses herself whenever certain names are uttered. Especially in the context of their conversation.
It is a notion that Marise, herself, knows quite well. In the chaos of this siege, all of the real forces are coming out to play. In these times of nigh-anarchy.. Old debts can finally be repaid. Law and order suspended just long enough for inequities to be rectified.
Small wonder then, why the Devil told Shadaloo she would assist in Gedo's destruction free of charge.

For a moment.. A very heady moment.. K' seems to give in to his piqued curiosity.

But then Shurui had to go and open her enraged mouth.
Inhuman eyes flutter closed, a slow exhale whispering past her lips all manner of unkind words just beneath the audible. With the girl's outrage, K's distrust kindles anew. Painted nails click upon the polish desktop in the manner of an agitated spider.
No real headway can be made with K-Dash with his little pet in the way, whispering her humanist nonsense.
Still... Some curiosity lingers. Enough to the Devil once more. This gives her some room.. Some.
"Is it not obvious?" The Devil muses in a low tone, her eyes unhooding slowly, a weary gesture, "As part of this little.. offensive.. I have access to information. You see.. As it so happens I would not mind the American dead either." A self-satisfied, half-shrugging gesture with a lopsided smile, "I find him ruling this puppet kingdom within my homeland offensive. We have a common goal here.. you and I. I can funnel information to you.. From sources within NESTs and Shadaloo. I doubt they will spend much effort dealing with a mysterious third party striking Syndicate targets.. Yes?"

Marise allows that possibility to fully process in the Beast of Flame's calculations. Eyes shifting to the loud girl as she once again interjects with that annoying self-importance.
True.. Marise would not have bothered to grant Shurui any measure of deal. The little doll, to the Devil, is just a toy. As she truly believes the GK boys play with her to their heart's content, so too does she. As it so happened those cute button eyes came in handy to her once.. But not anymore.
Though this sudden upsurge in rage does improve the Devil's opinion of her somewhat. Hatred is the only way to know you are alive.. After all. No other emotion, no other state of being, is real. While the Buddhists would say that such things are illusion.. It is where Marise differs from such holy kin.
Only hate is real, all else is a lie.
"No.. You had Ayame and Bernstein's spoiled brat to thank for that indiscretion." The Devil mutters with utter distaste twisting those plush lips, "If you owe K'... Then think for a moment."

The Devil's attention shifts back to the elder Jinzoningen anew, though her words might be directed at the youth standing in sanctuary behind him.. They find his ears equally as readily, "This is his chance. Perhaps his one and only chance to set his life right. To finally avenge himself upon those who've left his existence a hateful ruin. He can flail away in the shadows.. Hide away in Hotaru's skirts and pray vengeance will fall into his lap.."
Red tongue sliding over violet lips and glistening fang. sibilant voice a hushed whisper.
"..Or he can listen to me.. and finally stand over the broken.. bleeding bodies of those he hates most of all.."

K' certainly doesn't look interested in keeping this a stalemate much longer, from the way his right hand is coiling and smoking with sudden heat. In spite of that clear antagonism, however, his eyes remain fixed on Marise in wary, but not entirely unreceptive, thought. He's had the same thought as her... that in this time of strife and convergence, chances to enact retribution are far more frequent. Far more convenient. It's why he's here, in the midst of a school entirely taken by an organization that would love him dead or chained up again.

And though Shurui's presence is keeping him from being quite as receptive, perhaps, as he -could- be, he isn't entirely immune from curiosity. From asking at least one question: how?

The answer is predictable. The conveyance of information. Tipoffs about what Syndicate targets to strike where. Blank-faced and emotionless, K' considers the offer in even silence for a few moments, his weapon of a right hand slackening as he does... and then, after a few tense moments, it lowers completely to his side. The young man's posture relaxes to match his disarmed hand, his eyes sliding over to meet Marise's with no less intensity... but a slightly diminished amount of anger. Something almost like clarity gleams in his yellow eyes.

K' is entirely too calm. "'Listen to you?'" His even repetition of the phrase might be the Devil's first clue something has gone slightly awry: he isn't quite saying it in the tone she might prefer. He isn't quite keeping the distance from her that she might like him to keep, either, his lean form suddenly slicing closer. "No... I don't think so. I decided a long time ago I was gonna make my own path. To do what I needed to do with my own hands. No more 'mentors.'"

No listening to people that would hurt Shurui so badly their mere presence could send her into an abject terror.

K''s sudden lunge wouldn't even register in the vision of any mundane person. The sudden sparking, streaming trail of light that drags after the sacred flames sheathing his hand might, though. "Let me show you what happened the last time I let myself listen to somebody," K' snarls, voice mingling with the tearing of the flames. "It involves a broken... bleeding... body--"

The young assassin's arm claws forward with a punishing strength sufficient to hole concrete, powerful sacred fire ripping and snapping about his wrist and hand. He seems intent on seizing her very -face- if she doesn't move fast enough... and immolating it too, given the flames raging in the cage of his hand. "Except this time, I think I'll have it be yours..."

Why bother thinking about going for someone else... when one entry on his list's already here?

"They made their choices too." Ayame and Adelheid. When Shurui mentioned to K' about the former, it was with the disclaimer of how Ayame proved herself to be a vital key in her rescue. It was she who alerted the Guardian Kings to their whereabouts. Shurui even mentioned this to K' when she sat next to him on the plane during their last SNF match; she really didn't know what the young man would attempt to do, if anything. In retrospect, she would have preferred if he at least gave Ayame the consideration of this vital fact, but hey, it's K'. Let no one make the mistake of thinking that the girl in some way manages to hold command over his behavior.

This instance is not an exception to the rule, either. When Marise makes her offer- one that gives K' pause- Shurui says nothing, save one last, softly and calmly delivered sentence: "K'.... You already know what I think." Trust. What he does is of his own volition, even if it's a choice that leaves her alone. She'll have to deal with it. But here, she can at least show some bit of faith in him, faith that he'll see the mistake Marise's offer is in the making. And even if he agrees, what's to say it's not just a ploy to get them out without any fuss? There's nothing that would bind him to her later on. Shurui doesn't feel that it's neccessarily his style, but there's always room for surprises. He relaxes. She watches. No objection. Silence. Shurui watches that aura calm down; while it could signify his serious consideration, it could also mean-

A leopard, halting itself for a killer strike.

The words confirm this, causing Shurui to step back against the wall in a precautionary measure. She remembers that body that K' spoke of, lying cold and broken in the streets on chilly December day. Life still there, but quickly fading. The grimness in Whip's voice as she looked upon the scene with the neccesity of a soldier- how could she view it otherwise without harming him? Her own self, crying. She wasn't losing a simple ally. It was an honest friend. A jerk, who consumed whatever she cooked for all of them with no consideration for anyone else. Someone who selfishly came and went as he pleased. Someone who threw her off a building, but while being held by him as he vaulted down the same building. Someone who understood her where few else could, and often suffered a great deal more of it. Someone who tries to protect her even when he had every reason to walk on by. An ally. A friend. A psuedo older brother.

He's made his choice. Shurui simply stands by, ready to run at a moment's notice.

For a moment there.. For one wonderful moment.. Marise actually thought he bought it.
That relaxed look, that eased demeanor - Its clear he made his decision. And why wouldn't he? The answer is so obvious. So easy.
Undoubtedly he'll think he's playing the Devil for a fool. Extracting what he wants from her to fulfill his own ends. In the end, he figures, he can just be rid of her.
Why not? That's good, honest thinking in Marise's estimation. The right of the powerful to use what they wish and discard what remains. Thinking the Devil wishes to encourage in him. Foster in him. Make it grow.
Right now, K' is indeed a weapon. But one without direction, without purpose other than to seethe uselessly. All it takes is a little push. A whisper here, a thought there.
Maybe he'll even kill her in the end. But that would be fine..
...As long as he helps her destroy the world and all the fools within it.. All else is just details.

He has all the makings of greatness in him, as misbegotten it may be.

So very unfortunate then that he continues to make all the wrong choices, listening to the wrong whispers.

The Devil's expression of near triumph wipes away at those three words. 'Listen to you?' The monster knows that tone, as calm as it may be spoken. Oh.. He made his decision alright. He made it poorly. Golden eyes narrow to slits. Lips twisting into a low snarl as words hiss from them.
"Then you will die alone with your arrogant mistake. Jinzoningen!"

At Shurui's words, the Devil's eyes shoot to her with a look of absolute murder. The things Marise did to that little doll were completely inhuman.. And she did those things, not caring what Shurui actually felt.
Now? Now Marise cares very much about what Shurui should be feeling. The monster is going to ensure that she feels all manners of things. Every violation that little doll never could conceive of with her child-like mind. If it was not for her right this moment.. the Beast of Flame would belong to Marise right now. The Devil knows it. It's all -her- fault for leading him astray. This is on her head..
... And that little toy will know what it means to suffer like a real person before the end.
Unfortunately for Marise.. That time will not be immediate. A far more pressing concern overtakes her.. Namely the Sacred Sword Treasure igniting within the heart of the dark fighter.

Nailed finger strikes the 'send' button the moment sacred flame stokes within the Beast's claw. The pulse of murderous intent as clear as day to the Devil and her wicked eyes. She would scream at him, enraged at this foolish mistake. Roar at him for throwing away this perfect opportunity, for throwing her offer back in her face. For proving that he is, even as savage a beast as he, not unlike that betraying pig-tailed girl who told her 'no more'. Frustration and endless rage at worthless debris like Shurui tainting an otherwise beautiful creature from what it could -truly- be.
What a brave new world to have such cowards in it!
Marise would scream these things.. If she had any time left at all.
The standoff is ended. The alarm is sent the moment that the attack is conceived, let alone launched. The Beast of Flame has made his decision..
...Now the Devil just has to survive it.

Inhuman eyes widen at the aggressive, sacred fires raging in her direction and the claw-like hand it immolates. While his grip falls short of its goal.. The Monster has to sacrifice her arms to do so. Throwing her crossing forearms in the path of that biting attack, setting the sleeves of her kimono.. And the white flesh beneath.. alight.
With a hellacious screech, Marise throws herself back and away in a sprawl and clatter of crashing desks. Hurtled through the podium behind her and slammed hard to the wall. Scrambling madly with flailing limbs as the fires cling to her.. Burning in unusual, smoking patterns upon her that the Beast has likely never seen before. Something in the fire reacts .. Oddly to her. Potently. Almost as if the heat tries to consume her harder than any opponent K' has turned his rage upon before.

Breathlessly, the Devil's voice pumps in shrieks, glaring pure murder up at her betrayer, "..Haarrrh! ..Thisss.. Is NOT the end!"
Whipping her yet flaming sleeve, the distracting motion obscures the creature a moment.. Just a moment..
..And she is gone. ... Vanished. Only the stink of charred, old flesh remains in her wake..

...And the sound of approaching soldiers in the near distance, charging through the halls of Gedo.

Enough. K' has had enough of welcoming in one darkness to try to end another. It did not end well the first time, and it would not end well this time. That decision made, many things become instantaneously clear. The stark and malevolent evil of the creature before him. The fact that ridding the face of the earth of her would be a favor done the world. The fact that right now is as good a chance to kill her as he will ever get...

When K' finally is spurred to attack, however, it is hardly out of any such sentiment as the good of the world. It's out of far more personal reasons... reasons all involving the little blind girl holding her own in the corner. Deciding he wouldn't accept shit from Marise just reminded him of how simple his original plan for dealing with her-- before all her confounding words and offerings-- really was:

Keep an eye out. Kill her on sight. And all because she had the nerve to mess with what was his.

A huff of frustration escapes the young man when his intended killing blow does little more than wound: even if the manner of her injury is unusually potent, it isn't killing her quite as well as he would like. With a snarl K' settles out of his attack and tenses, ready to lunge off in hot pursuit to end this farce of a fight. But the sudden sound of approaching reinforcements in the distance, coupled with Shurui's continued vulnerability, eventually stays him from following his intended quarry.

"Shit." K' turns abruptly on his heel at the door, rising in the same movement as he swivels. His knuckles meet the wall instead of Marise's face, much of K''s remaining tension expended into that frustrated blow. He's quiet a moment, and then his eyes flick up again. "Here's gonna be a bad place to be really soon..."

K' is back across the room in the next instant, frowning out the window. So far, clear. He shoots a look over his shoulder at Shurui, the kind of flat unimpressed look that tells her he sure as shit isn't carrying her, before he prompts, "Time to go."

Shit. Even if K''s movements were fast enough for Shurui's eyes to fail spotting his aura, it still wasn't enough to avert danger. Really, there's no time to even consider whether or not K' truly defeated the Devil of Koga in that moment; all Shurui can do is offer, "If she's alive, she'll be back. You got bigger fish." She doesn't mention the fact that it might be at a time when K' isn't there to seize his vengence upon the devil woman.

She'll deal with it then. One thing has become clear: Marise's power over her has diminished in its sting. Shurui never did witness Marise dying that day. She didn't see the demon being forcibly extinguished, the very life source that caused her so much anguish screaming to a halt. Now, in a sense, she has, through K''s intervention. She doesn't possess the same holy flames as he does, but her psychic power? It's stronger than it was when Marise held her in her grasp, so many months ago.

Shurui will definitely be willing to deal with it from here on out.

The short girl is already by the window as K' makes his move over. "You see anything? I don't see anybody close enough to be a danger." If they move quickly, that is. The sour look that K' gives her inspires a dismissive hand wave from Shurui, a return to old habits of returning grumpiness with due sarcasm. "Don't give me that look." If K' doesn't immediately go first, Shurui straddles the window ledge and, with a relaxing of her shoulders, slips down into the scratchy cushion of the evergreen bushes below- a factor she remembered from earlier. Pressing towards the ground running, she turns her head towards the similiarly fleeing K': "You gotta act before they know that you're here! If we get seperated, just keep going! I'll make due!"


Log created on 00:34:49 02/27/2009 by K', and last modified on 00:13:00 03/09/2009.