Description: Alma seeks out Adelheid, looking for answers. The renegade Bernstein is not the only person he runs into aboard the Sky Noah.
He fought hard -- this no one can deny.
Low-ranking operatives salute as he swiftly passes, eliciting a slightly bemused nod from Alma Towazu, still dressed in the slim-fitting designer suit distinctive of his work at the YFCC. His already considerable reputation has been bolstered by his performance in the previous round of King of Fighters, having defeated Duo Lon and, in a shocking turnabout, considerably weakening the redoubtable Ash Crimson before succumbing to his wounds. But the talk of the fighting circuit is not Towazu's own strength but the nature of his team -- their team -- the fighters fielded by the quasi-secret Einherjar Initiative. The events of the first Jinchuu remain shrouded in mystery for many, and thus so too is the nature of the younger Bernstein, whose Sky Noah, while not considered an international threat, remains murkily implicated in the destructive conclusion to the YFC4.
The scars from that day, the discolored skin that mars his otherwise finely structured face, tingle upon Alma's features as he emerges onto the observation deck. Though he strode with purpose, his expression is not as inscrutible as it can be; instead, he does little to mask the ambiguity and ambivalence in the otherwise calm set of his eyes and lips. They did not have time to speak, before, not at length. They both understood tacitly, though, that these matters must be spoken of. That Alma accepted this King of Fighters invitation was not merely a demonstration of his own sense of purpose, though it was mostly that; it was a sign of trust in a man he still knows little about. Even if he is now more hesitant to style himself a savior of the world, his attitude toward the Einherjar Initiative and its possibilities has not fundamentally changed. But--
Adelheid must know what Seishirou did to him.
He must know what he was asking.
~ And why... ~
Though he felt as though he knew, in the heat of battle--
~ ...am I doing this, really? ~
The normally resolute hero cannot deny his uncertainty.
~ Am I simply walking into the same snare a second time? ~
To reconcile doing good works with an unpretentious ambition. To remain true to himself without changing the world so that it /mirrors/ his self. These are difficult things for a man who spends his days perceiving with his own eyes the interplay of energies between -- or so it seems to him -- being and being, being and world. He has always faced those fundamental ambiguities with the conviction not that they can be resolved but that from those blurred boundaries arises strength and beauty. He has devoted himself in and outside of battle to blurring those boundaries -- with force, at times -- without sacrificing his clarity of purpose. But it's easy to fall into believing in destiny--
--when you must write your own story.
"Thank you for taking the time."
Standing before his ally, if perhaps not friend, Alma regards him from a small distance with soft, thoughtful eyes. His eyes do not accuse. But they do make a statement. Jiro is dead, they say. Ryouhara is here, they say. What is it, they ask, we are doing here now? What is it, they ask, that you want from me?
And what is it, they ask, that I want from you?
The sounds of piano harmonies resound clearly in the impressive acoustics of the observation bay at the stern along the Sky Noah's unconventional, armored keel. Bach, to the afficianado, is plucked from the ivory keys of the Grand Steinway with a practiced, all but impeccable grace. Lithe fingers attached to arms bearing strength inherited from his father, and honed by his will, rove with almost languid precision, the swells rising and falling in practiced crescendo, and its inverse. Adelheid wears the Einherjar dress uniform, though the double-breasted tunic jacket is unfastened, its metallic silver pins unhooked from one another, revealing a simple grey undershirt as it hangs open. The blonde's own attention seems to be inward - though whether it is on the greater crusade, the King of Fighters, or recent battles and questions... remains up in the air.
Adelheid's own skills have certainly amplified since his betrayal of Rugal, and the repurposing of so many resources - both the elder Bernstein's, and those sought of Adel's own accord. The King of Fighters showed that much, with the dispatch of Crimson and the pitched battle to the hair's breadth fall against the followup brawler. But in the end, the tournament is hardly the renegade Bernstein's focus. The music slows a few moments after Alma's arrival, after his name is spoken, though Adelheid does not immediately abort the playing, or look up. It fades out at the end of a movement, and the lithe blonde scans to the scarred seeker. The Prince of War twists aside, stepping up from the fine black hardwood, cushioned bench, and turns to face Alma fully, nodding once to the other warrior.
"Towazu." The Einherjar commander offers with a nod. What he wants, what he expects to find here, why he fights... none of that is a question that Adelheid is capable of answering - particularly not unasked. "Good to see you here. I'm.. sorry about Jiro Kasagi." That the impulsive operative shouldn't have been where he was, alone... is left off. There's no correcting such mistakes, now.
Alma exhales silently, visible only in that his shoulders fall.
"That... wasn't your responsibility."
He shakes his head slowly, and eventually manages a slight smile. Being able to see Jiro one last time, on the brink of life and death, did a great deal to relieve Alma of a tremendous burden of grief, one he had already lived before when his sworn brother was struck down at the end of the Southtown Invasion. He has never blamed Bernstein for the result. Jiro could not disentangle himself from the events in which his identity had been mired. He became trapped, lost and trapped. Hounded by the law, lost to his family, the Einherjar Initiative had been Jiro's last path to a new start, and it was not enough for the Stray Dog.
"Jiro... couldn't leave behind what he had lost."
Alma swallows once, finding his throat suddenly dry.
"I believe he was looking... for a place to die."
At this, he cannot help but avert his eyes, though not intending to. It is clear, for all that Alma has continued to move forward, much remains unresolved about this matter. However--
"I have never blamed you, Adelheid..."
One step at a time.
"...and I do not blame Seishirou Ryouhara."
At this, his gaze returns to his ally, and he steps forward, his polished dress shoes clicking lightly upon the reinforced floor of the observation deck. The ambivalence fades from his features, returning them to the mild and self-possessed seriousness which is typical of them. Indeed, slightly more serious than usual. A hint of his intensity flickers in his otherwise restrained gaze as he mentions the name of his unforgotten foe, his rival idealist.
"However mad or confused I believe that man's vision to be," he says quietly as he approaches the piano, his gaze fixed on Adelheid's own, "I do not believe he intended bring about my best friend's death, though he may have struck at me in the past." Indeed, Alma, humiliated you. To say nothing of what the scarred beauty underwent in his psionic torment in Taizhou. "Nevertheless, that man and I..."
He pauses, halting his advance, eyes flickering as he ponders his words.
"...no matter how much I reign in my own ideals," he at last continues, "our visions of what the world ought to be are utterly compatible. However much we both elevate and aspire to our... own brands of heroism, the revolution he seeks to bring about is one I cannot countenance. Even now, I suspect that if we continue our courses of action, eventually we will be... compelled to destroy one another."
He says this last bit with furrowed brow, set jaw, and troubled eyes. They are not the words of the righteous Alma condemning a monster in his path. No--
"There must be a better future than that."
On the contrary.
"So I need to know."
Who is Seishirou Ryouhara?
"Why do you persist in working with Ryouhara?"
What are his ideals worth?
"And what is your goal in assembling our team again...?"
"Perhaps." Is Adelheid's assessment of Jiro's motives. "He was never the most... restrained. His potential wound itself around to a bull rush forward - not a blind one, but seldom did he pause to see where he was heading. Suppose one can envy that kind of ability to live in the moment, but it is.. risky, in many senses." Not just the one that finally wound up the end of Kasagi. Adelheid doesn't immediately expand on the thought, however, nodding once to the rest and considering. He turns to take several steps to the side, resting one hand on the piano and lightly running his fingertips along its smooth finish. "You believe you understand Ryouhara's vision?" Adel inquires with the vaguest smile, glancing to Alma out of the corner of crimson eyes. He turns back to the YFCC coordinater and leans back lightly against the instrument.
"Seishirou seeks, I believe, to destabilize the status quo, much as I do. To topple the madmen who have pulled strings in secret - or overt - actions for generations. Where I would form a strike force able to proactively and reactively meet them, precisely dismantle the operations... he would largely sow upheaval and motivation the world over, draw more into the fight. To me, we must stand together, forge something greater... not simply tear it down. But his methods are seldom what they appear on the surface, and he has long been a help to me... since before I.. vacated my father's employ. The very nature of the ninja's methods makes their outcome chaotic, who they touch and what impact that has... difficult to foresee. I do not think, however, that your visions are so different as your methods. What tactics you employ, and what you'll sacrifice - or believe /can/ be sacrificed - to still meet one's goals. Where the line of action and consequence is remains to be seen, Alma. How far we can go is for each of us to decide, and when that line has been crossed is a similar question... when /do/ allies become part of the problem?"
There's a too-calm smile at that, a little bit sad, but otherwise stoic. "That's a question you'll have to ask yourself, not me. I would also ponder what Seishirou's crusade /gains/ from altering or stoking your own fire. What his motives may actually be." The lithe Bernstein pauses, lifting one hand to stroke lightly at his bare chin. "My goal is what it has been for some time. Protect others - perhaps the world itself - from those who think strength is divine mandate over all. To gather together as a diverse, worldly group those who have been crushed - but not broken - under that heel. Because only with that perspective, and that power, will we win this war."
Alma lowers his gaze, acknowledging Adelheid's words and even nodding as he listens. Briefly, his eyes close, his moment of intensity fading as the prodigal son's speech mollifies him. Were he as hubristic as his lofty ambitions might suggest, Alma would find it difficult to forgive the harm that Seishirou has done him, and certainly the thought of being so straight-forwardly manipulated by the shadowy genius of the Ryouhara is far from a consolation. But the Scarred Angel, while his conviction is almost unsurpassed, he is persuasive in his passion, and he is a competent administrator, has never imagined himself a brilliant tactical mind. That Ryouhara is playing a longer and more involved game than he, so to speak, in pursuit of their respective ideals, is not untenable -- even if their philosophies are equal in nuance and nobility.
"You speak well," he admits softly, at last raising his gaze to meet Adelheid's own when his ally's words are finished. "Now, as ever, my own ideals align with yours, for even if I am not driven by the same desire, the world of my vision is equally devoid of such tyrants. But, Adelheid--"
The faintly troubled look in Alma's eyes now, as he steps forward to rest one hand lightly upon the dustless surface of that fine piano, is not one of uncertainty, but of tremendous feeling.
"The question of method is more significant than that."
He shakes his head slightly as he continues.
"The divide between my project and Ryouhara's," he murmurs, "is more than one of a choice between revolution or reform. Ryouhara's project is purely destructive, one of cutting away dead wood, of stirring chaos and spurring urgent action in the conviction that heroes will arise to challenge those who oppress others with false ambition. I have always sought to work with what I have, with the resources that surrounds me, to absorb rather than deny. I..." Shutting his eyes briefly, the Radiant Angel reaches up to run a hand through his ruby-tinged hair, as though suddenly fatigued. "I cannot think of myself as anything other than immersed in my world. Such is the nature of my vision." In more ways than one. "To shock people by uprooting them, by burning their comfort down around them -- I cannot believe those means justify the ends. I must have more faith in people than that -- in their ability to choose justice over hollow ease."
Lowering his hand, he glances at Adelheid sidelong, his lips pursed and brow slightly knit still with emotion. "There is much I still do not know of that man," he says at last. "But the difference in our method still suggests to me... that we do not agree on the nature of humanity. What it needs -- what it will tolerate. If that is so... I am not certain how we can share a vision of the future."
After a moment, however, he smiles slightly, a hint of warmth reaching his eyes.
"But I thank you for speaking of him so openly."
"--There's nothing within your will that shouldn't be sacrificed for the good of your ideals."
His arrival was completely soundless, a boy who simply elected to appear from the shadows, as if hearing everything at his whim. When he finally makes himself known, his appearance seems plain as day, a boy wearing both the tunic of Einherjar and the bolt of grey silk that forms the haori that he favors over his older, white affair. Both garments lay open, fitting loosely over his shoulders, and it's debatable if his arms are even occupying either set of long sleeves.
The sheathed tsurugi tucked into his obi makes an open suggestion as to the level of formalities Ryouhara is willing to enforce on Adelheid's ship this time, in case the look he's got about him doesn't.
The shinobi doesn't seem as if he's been sleeping much, from the slight bags underneath his eyes. Still, the deadly and gilded sharpness about his glance as he passes gaze to both Adelheid and Alma in turn begs the question if Ryouhara even knows how to sleep at this point. He steps forward, the milky dark draining from his garments like oil, revealing his dark skin to the scarred thing and the prince himself. "When -do- allies cross the line.." Ryouhara echoes the sentiment completely, his glance becoming fully imperious as it settles on Alma. "And when -do- they become part of the problem..?" His words, though echoed in perfect harmony with Adelheid's, suggest a starkly different perspective.
From his point of view, he's the one who has to put up with all of you.
"...Saa... unimportant," Ryouhara decides. "It will be decided in a flash, whether history is handed to the tyrants. Prepare for the day you want to stand against me, Towazu." He seems to suggest that every fight prior has been absolutely nothing to him--as if they were only skirmishes leading up to some great war inside his own mind. "And then we'll see what your ideal is even made of."
"Until you're ready.. there's other battles to be fought."
The small, thoughtful smile lingers with Adelheid as he listens to Alma speak. It might be almost irritating, really, that quiet expression from the younger blonde that he knows something that has yet to factor into Towazu's own equation. "Purely destructive, is it?" Adel sounds... unconvinced. "You assume much, in terms of intentions you admit may not yet be clear. Ask yourself, if Ryouhara meant to detonate the first bomb... why he went to the lengths he did. Why, if he meant to use the second weapon... there was a tool to disarm it. I do not protest the chaos of the methodology. But there is ever chaos, and to think you have covered every possible outcome in your strategy.. is to embrace foolishness. If you ask me.. Ryouhara's goal is to inspire others to action, his 'terrorism'... to bring those up who would stop it, and expose those who would use it." Seishirou's appearance... doesn't really forestall Adelheid's own opinions, and explanations. Nor does he rise to the challenge and opposing implications present in the echoing words, simply nodding once to the shinobi, in agreement. Precisely what he's talking about, exemplified right there.
"Many do not agree on the nature of humanity, Towazu. Many do not agree on what is needed for a positive future. You were not asked here because you agree with everything I say, or everything any of us say. Nor did I seek your help, Seishirou, because you are in-line with everything any of us would do. It is a matter of ideals, yes - and a matter of adaptation. You do not fill a chessboard with only knights. But Alma... people have chosen fear, and hollow ease, for generations. One way or another, they /must/ be shown another path, this must stop. Which of us is right? Perhaps it is not a simple matter of right or wrong, but of unifying for something greater... a war that is not pointless, or idealogical, but essential for the survival of the world itself on every possible logistical and humanitarian scale. This is not a question of black and white. It is not a question of one true path. We do what we must, because we can - for something /beyond/ selfish ambition, and personal legacy."
In Alma's defense--
Ryouhara's words sound pretty destructive.
The Scarred Angel's eyes flash, the tall youth straightening immediately as Seishirou's presence is revealed, the psychic's senses as usual doing nothing to aid him in ascertaining his nemesis's close proximity. Though his body does not visibly tense, his hand moves as though not of his own volition to rest upon his sternum, responding to a sudden ache there; only a moment later does he remember what is so easy to forget when he is not looking in a mirror: the Ryouhara seal is forever burnt there.
"A man who would sacrifice anything for his ideals," he murmurs quietly, carefully unclenching his jaw, "is a man who has forgotten from whence his ideals came."
Still, he says nothing more as Adelheid finishes, presumably listening even if his gaze can no longer stray from Seishirou, the phoenix's intensity suddenly quite palpable, at once exuding an aura of barely-contained fiery passion. Even if his face somehow manages to remain relaxed, his eyes glimmer with a raw power -- a fury, even -- that he could not obscure even if he wanted to. But then, that is why, for all his self-possession, he cannot live in the shadows.
That is why he is a knight, and moves accordingly.
No wonder Shioe and Kagero were able to ambush you in those alleyways, Alma. You need to stop running around in L-shapes all the time. Oh, right, speaking of which.
"Indeed," he adds softly. "And you prepare as well, Ryouhara. I assume my overcoming of your repressant technique supplied ample research material." It says a lot we almost forgot about the /last/ time Seishirou almost killed him.
"I understand your circumstances far better now, Adelheid," Alma continues, his gaze at last shifting to the leader of their team, "and I accept your decision to include... this man... into our team. Though all our paths may diverge in the future, in pursuit of defeating tyrants the world over, I am united with the both of you. I will continue to pursue my ideals in my own way -- but I will join the Initiative whenever called upon, and I will continue to fight with you in King of Fighters... as a sign of solidarity, at the very least." At last he smiles again, almost reassuringly. It's not that there was any doubt he'd stick around for that.
"Insofar as it behooves us to bring an end to this world's current order," he continues, quieter now as his smile fades and his eyes drift back to his cunning adversary, "we can continue to fight together. But when it comes time to foster a new world atop the ruins of the old--"
His expression does not even need to change. The sudden surge of intensity can be easily felt by both, to say nothing of the fire that blazes up again in his eyes.
"Your story will end there, Ryouhara."
You fucked up his /face/, man.
"At least one of you has some sort of forethought."
Adelheid's words gain no dissent from the doomed heir. It seems as if--for the moment--the shinobi doesn't seem too intent on questioning Adelheid's ideals. Convinced, as he is, that Adelheid's heart is in the right place, Ryouhara sees little point in dissension amongst the ranks. At least where the prince is concerned. Alma is another story entirely, but if Ryouhara came to fight him (again) he probably would have done so already. Discreetly, and possibly in mid-sentence while Alma is speaking. The fact that Ryouhara is even allowing Alma to say anything at all speaks wonders for his patience and discipline. It's highly likely Adelheid's presence has something to do with this.
He gives Alma the kind of widow glare that only spiders and someone whose eyes are simply a facetious expression can. His 'shinrou kiritsu' doesn't need to be active to convey that much. "There isn't anything in this world or the next that I'm not preparing for," Ryouhara says simply.
"This story of ours.. won't ever end."
And that's pretty much that.
He doesn't explain much of his decision or his alignment. Again--the fact that he's even here at all is enough to state it. Instead, the boy walks forward. "But the world's order is currently in jeopardy. The forces at work here are going to do our work for us if we don't stop it." His faint smirk betrays a bit of the irony. Einherjar. Kagero. Working to uphold the current order of things. It's a little unsettling, isn't it? But stranger things have happened. At any rate, Ryouhara seems uninterested in talking about Alma's ideals. He is not, to interest, vain enough to simply spy on all conversations concerning him, despite his eerie timing.
"I hope you all have been busy."
"There's one story that never really ends, has unpredictable chapters, and no sense of formatting, paragraphs, or consistent perspective." That's Adelheid's input into the argument about Seishirou and Alma's respective roles, and the tale being woven around them. "Thing is? It's a lot bigger than any of us, and a lot longer than any of us are aware - both in pages already consumed, and those yet unturned." The Prince of War doesn't seem overly bothered by this fact. To him, it's just one facet of how the universe /works/. "And of course there's always the fact that a zealot is a man who redoubles his efforts, while losing sight of his goals." Crimson eyes pan between Alma -and- Seishirou with that, narrowing ever so slightly at the hostility, though his own temper runs icily cold, just now. Disciplined, focused... the renegade Bernstein's own intensity ringing quietly despite his own remarkable power.
"Overcoming the trials and pain that are inherent in a life lived on this edge... does not simply better the one who orchestrates them." Something he has more than a little experience with, when you get right down with it. "In fact... sometimes it's what destroys them." Again, whether this is food for thought for Towazu or Ryouhara, or simply an observation, is not clarified in the least. He segues almost unnoticably into business, "The Noah's sensors have been spiking oddly all over the globe. Something is very off... I can feel it, in my blood." Irony much? "What needs to be done, and protected, and torn down... it's an ever-shifting field, but this one is shifting faster than I can confidently track. What have you discovered?" Again, eyes scan between the two rivals. This is about working together, after all.
Alma shakes his head quietly, almost imperceptibly. The story of the world itself -- to be sure, in a sense, it will not end, even when all is reduced to dust. But the Scarred Angel firmly believes that it is mankind which makes stories, which subsists on narrative. It is in humanity, and the shared human purpose in which he has faith, that all stories find their root and ultimate meaning. So as soon as Seishirou begins to deviate from the elevation of humanity, and the true evolution of the world it inhabits--
Alma will make certain he'll have no part in this story again.
"NESTS is moving again," he replies, unpreturbed by the shift in topic. Enough said indeed -- not that Alma ever runs out of things to say. "They struck at me at the YFCC, but were unsuccessful. I am unsure of their motives in doing so, but I suspect they too detect a certain unrest at the heart of King of Fighters, which they seek to capitalize upon while isolating known threats such as myself, and I do not believe they are responsible for the unrest itself. ...Though I admit I have no direct evidence for that presumption."
He steps away from the piano, folding his arms behind his back as the well-dressed psion turns again on his smart shoes, regarding the ninja and the prince sidelong. "My students and volunteers," he continues, "are reporting strange fluctations in behavior from those who have or have developed a gift in combat. And... a dark cloud hangs over Southtown," he says simply, his eyes glimmering faintly again at those words, as though to remind those present of the typical veracity of Alma's intuitions. "I felt it even as I began my work in Sunshine City. Whatever is at work feels to be a darkness older than the enemies I know and understand. Its correlation with King of Fighters is likely more than coincidence, given history if nothing else." Not that Alma is privy to much of what has occurred behind the scenes in previous tournaments, but-- well, plenty of people tune in just for the inevitable madness, let's just leave it at that.
"Nevertheless, I am uncertain where to begin. Though..."
His smooth brow furrows once again, briefly, for a moment.
"I do wonder if Ash Crimson possesses some of the answers."
"Its name is Orochi."
Ryouhara's hands--never actually in the sleeves of either of the coats he's wearing--come up as he folds his arms, green wool veiling the finish on his collar plate. Dark bangs dip over his eyes, masking his look from the others. Adelheid doesn't need to get too worked up. As he said. If Ryouhara felt any kind of "enmity" for Alma that needed to be resolved, it would have happened a long time ago. Regardless, his voice is fully shades of ascerbic as he explains. "While you were busy with my hunter killer," Ryouhara points out, referencing the small girl with the knives, Shioe, "I sent an agent into Kagura Enterprises."
He doesn't mention what happened after that.
"In the end, your soothsaying isn't too far off the mark. In case you aren't up on your studies, that 'thing' is a force beyond the corporeal reach of this world. It is a force beyond what we've experienced before. The anomalies that you're feeling, Towazu, are the attempts of certain individuals on the material side of this world to release it from its confine." He explains this quite simply, not bothering to couch his words in rhetoric or obfuscation. There's no need. "The behavior changes we're seeing... is just one of the tools of the Orochi's servants."
He also doesn't mention where that piece of information came from, but he seems briefly troubled. It is, in fact, the only time you'll see that particular expression on his face.
Seishirou looks up, but only an edge of gold can be seen in the darkness of his face.
"As far as the enemy composition, we haven't determined much. Just one, an Ethiopian. Using my resources, I'm sending my jutsu into the world to gain a view of their patterns and movements. I've sent a unit to investigate some others."
He shakes his head at once, ending the brief. "It's in all of our best interests to be careful in direct engagements. The power our enemies are using is not something willpower can resist for long." For all he saw in Alan, it seems to have broken with the snap of fingers. That's not something that Ryouhara knows even the tyrants of this world to do. But as for his own wayward member... well. That's something he intends to correct personally.
Orochi. The mention darkens Adelheid's gaze. It's a word he's heard, if not a topic he's at all up on. There's a deep, lingering frown at the explanation from Alma... one which only deepens as Seishirou speaks. Otherworldly entity sought to be released by violent, mind-possessing legions. Lovely. "Lovely." The renegade Bernstein echoes verbally, his tone dark as his expression. "So we have a few key questions, to proceed. The way I see it, I suspect the best way to stop it is to locate and neutralize those seeking to unleash it. That will take recon, like you indicate, Seishirou. Another facet is how we defend ourselves against whatever power they're wielding."
Adelheid paces a moment, tracing the contours of the piano slowly and considering. "That requires identifying it, and figuring out a counter, or a way to avoid it entirely. We should likely start working on a plan if this thing -does- get out, as well... and prepare for whatever power is backing it already on this plane in other regards. There's bound to be some strength there, from what you're describing... and what I'm sensing, as well.
Alma fails to mask a certain mild surprise at how forthcoming Seishirou is being. Not that he necessarily doubted the Ryouhara scion's commitment to the cause, or willingness to share intel when convenient; he's just never heard the ninja speak in anything other than riddles. Glancing at his erstwhile nemesis in a slightly new light, he remains silent and listens intently, eventually seating himself on the piano bench that Adelheid has vacated as their leader begins to pace about.
Orochi -- it's a name he's unfamiliar with. Still, nothing he has detected, however ambiguous his perceptions, suggests that Seishirou is wrong in any of his assertions. Given the circumstances, the phoenix elects to take the Kagero chief's statements at face value, and give him the benefit of the doubt. Not a vengeful person by nature, whatever negative sentiments or dubiousness he may harbor toward his foe do not show as he rests his elbow gently atop the polished wood, the scarred beauty cradling his chin in his hand.
"Strange," he muses. "If this Orochi entity has the power to manipulate people, I might expect the emergence of strong psychic energies. Yet I've detected nothing like such a force in the darkness that pervades these happenings." Admittedly, he has not yet faced the Anemoi directly, but Alma is sensitive enough to such energy that he would be able to detect it even if diffuse or distant. For a moment, he pauses again, his eyes narrowing. "I recall, however, that when my friend's memories were sealed by a particular jutsu--" There seems little point in mentioning Hotaru and Kurow's names. "--I was able to release them, though the original practitioner utilized a very different technique."
His gaze lifts to Adelheid's again.
"Even if this Orochi entity does not wield Psycho Power," he suggests, "perhaps said power could be a counter to its manipulations. In which case we already have a weapon at our disposal--"
Whereupon his eyes narrow again.
"--unless this being is already aware of this possibility."
Features slightly troubled but resolute, he turns his gaze back to Ryouhara.
"Seishirou," he says, the passionate youth somehow managing to say his nemesis's name in a professional tone, "if you are able to pass me intelligence on where Orochi's agents are striking, I can go in person to test the limits of Soul Power's effect on its minions. I can also attempt... psychic therapy..." Is there a term for that? "...on those who currently suffer from that manipulative affliction." Admittedly, such efforts can require a bit more of a subtle touch than Alma's usual perforate-your-soul style, but it's not like he's Zach or something.
"But I suggest we attempt to ambush them, rather than let them take the fight to us. If our wills are not strong enough to resist Orochi's power head on, then we should choose our battlegrounds carefully. If psychic power proves to be a counter, and Orochi is not aware, then we lose our advantage -- and if Orochi /is/ aware, then..." He trails off.
~ Then I will be the first to die. ~
"I wonder if King of Fighters is simply intended," he adds thoughtfully, his gaze lowering to the ground, "to draw such threats all into one place."
Ryouhara is surprisingly coherent when he elects to be.
Despite all rumors to the contrary, he is not entirely insane.
Ryouhara listens to Adelheid levelly, barely looking at more than the plates at the dock. Adelheid outlines the idea for his group, and brings up some details. He frowns. The sudden change in countenance is distinct, punctuated by the boy slipping folded arms free and letting them hang limp back beneath his twin coats. Both of them seem to make Seishirou appear larger than he is.
"Hmph. An obvious course of action," he finally agrees.
Of course, the unspoken assertion made is that Ryouhara has already long since begun on his own plans to undermine the enemy installation. Did you imagine he was just here to collect information? "Just make sure you're ready when everything breaks loose. I'm not going to be in form for it."
"But. Whatever plans you make. Don't underestimate the power of chakra." As someone who built the ship that is now in the air, powered at some undefined level by the same jutsus he uses in fights, Seishirou Ryouhara is in something of a unique position to comment on what chi is and is not capable of in comparison to the powers wielded by Alma. "The moment you do, it's over," the shinobi assures. He turns away, and begins to walk back into the dark, the only thing visible of that shinobi is the receding image of his Ryouhara kamon, still emblazoned bright on his back.
"I'm going to go deal with the anomalous rage personally," he says, flat.
There's something more there. As if he already has someone specific in mind..
Wait. Alma says something that catches the shinobi mid-stride, cutting him off mid-thought. The idea that the angel's soul power might be worth something other than annoyance in this sort've campaign isn't something the shinobi considered. For a moment, he simply pauses, noncomittally. He hasn't had a chance to decide how to proceed. He tilts his head to the right, looking back over the edge of his collar at Alma.
"I'll send an agent," he responds at once. The explanation follows.
"If I spend too much time around you, I get the urge to kill you..."
With that, Ryouhara simply disappears into the night. Regardless of whether you're looking dead at him or not, the weight of his 'attention and hospitality' seems to simply abruptly disappear.
Log created on 19:33:05 03/04/2011 by Adelheid, and last modified on 21:09:44 03/05/2011.