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Old 08-21-2017, 07:59 PM   #21
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Masami couldn't help but start to smile again as Sudao finally admitted it. Finally dropped the pretences he'd had up all these years, the protective facade they'd all been held forcibly on the wrong side of. She even laughed and accidentally found herself blushing as Kaori explained what he'd asked for that day. It was nice, they were having a moment; the moment they'd all desperately needed for years now. But it was to only be a moment. The tone shifted violently, suddenly Sudao was at everyone's throats again, composed, cold like he always was. And Kaori, Kaori was angry, or as close to it as the giant could get; he'd virtually thrown her off of him in his adrenaline fueled leap into Sudao's personal space. It wasn't fair, they'd been so close, it was... wrong

"Ok, that is enough!"

She swung her arms out, black tendrils flying off of each and wrapping themselves around both of the boys, and their arguing gems, forcibly holding them apart, and threatening to pull them back even harder if they made any other moves. She hated to give away her hand, that even at a party she almost always already had her gem activated and the veins simply hidden away by another technique in case something happened. She didn't like being that paranoid, she just... was; especially when she was alone

She glared at them both, not so much at them, but behind their eyes to the two who had been speaking for them. Unlike her own avatar, Kazu and Otohime were so complimentary to their owners that most often you'd be hard pressed to tell when one took over their host for a moment; but the sudden switch to perfect, uninebriated diction on Sudao's part, and a slight pronoun slip from Kaori, more than gave it away. The masters were tired, so the avatars were taking pot-shots. And worst of all, trying to drag Keiseki into the same game, which was something no-one needed. Luckily, Kei wasn't interested, she knew what Masami was about to do, and that seemed like much more fun for the dark avatar.

"Now if you're both going to talk shit," She began, as black veins started spreading across the ground at her feet, racing to fill the isolated section and a fair bit of the adjacent hall beyond. "At least have the decency to do it with your own mouths!"

She doubted the two avatars would understand what she meant, or what she had just done at first, but they'd find out soon enough. The veins pulsed with the blackish-purple glow that signified Kei's influence, and a soft gossamer mist, almost invisible were it not for the subtle glittery shimmer caught by the bright lights of the party rose up and filled the air; and as it touched where each of the avatars stood in their owners mindscapes, gathered and revealed their presence for eachother, and everyone else, to see. Otohime exposed with her vicious grip on Sudao's body, Kazu with his attempt at brotherly support by Kaori's side; and of course Kei, Masami's shadow.

She wondered if either of them, or their respective avatars, had ever given Kei much thought beyond being some amorphous, malicious, voice in Masami's ear; she certainly had never tried to explain what she had to live with day in and day out in her head, and those times Kei had stolen Masami's voice it was always too unnatural sounding to conjure up a specific image the same way one could for Kazu and the princess. But here they were, all six of them finally staring right at each-other; the three friends, the princess, the slacker, and the monster.

"I think you can discount anything he said after he suddenly got coherent and mean again"
Masami offered as some reassurance to Kaori, while Kei; the Cheshire silhouette; the bitch in the witches head; the walking mess of synesthesia in humanoid form, skin the colour of screams, voice like being stuck alone in the dark, grin that looked like nails on a chalkboard, unhelpfully gave a slight wave in Kazu's direction as introduction, knowing she spooked him the most by far.


"Now who would like to continue misbehaving and ruining everything, without being able to hide behind someone elses face"

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Old 08-21-2017, 09:34 PM   #22
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Sudao, though practically unconscious, screamed at Kaori, or rather, Otohime screamed at him.

“You call him strong, but he’s not! The contest you three went through was nothing compared to what we are now! We would destroy you, and I wouldn’t think twice about it, you plebish prole! You talk a good game, but you only have words. You lack any ability to follow through – you’re not genin anymore! Your silly shields will not work. Your attacks will fail. You are a troglodytic disgrace!”

Otohime shifted her position, realizing that she might seem crazed, though she was more or less required to when Masami ripped a motionless, near-helpless Sudao away from an enraged Kaori. Rather than continue to choke Sudao, who was practically blacked out by this point, she positioned herself on the couch to where she was holding him in her lap, albeit her hands wrapped around his face, evident that she was forcing him to speak once the mist lit up the platform. It earned a gasp from the guests, who all thought it was part of the show – unfortunately for them, the attendant, one of Sudao’s most loyal servants, seemed to know what was going on and pulled a curtain around them. It wasn’t soundproof, but it offered a little discretion.

“Oh no, you impetuous witch, he meant everything that I said. Don’t discredit it just because it came from me; I said what he needed to.” She grinned rather maliciously. “And he knows it.”

Otohime was, truthfully, an insanely beautiful woman. Her blue hair felt in carefully styled tendrils, some of them braided and decorated with white and gold fishnets. Certain tendrils seemed to float, like they were caught in the ocean, and a sand dollar seemed to clip part of her hair in place, complimenting a similarly-tinted ivory skin with deep, blue eyes that seemed to hold the weight of the world’s oceans. Otohime wore a white dress, and the underneath seemed to glint with scales plucked from the ocean’s finest fish, while vibrant and bright starfish seemed to decorate her dress elsewhere, some of them even seeming to creep and crawl among her.

“And I have no problem saying what needs to be said. In fact, this might be better.”

Her eyes locked onto Kei, and then to Kazu. She didn’t seem to fear either, instead, she seemed like she had stationed herself far above the both them.

“That way you can bow in person to your queen.”
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Old 08-21-2017, 10:34 PM   #23
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Kazuisho was angry. He had changed since he first emerged from the jewel chrysalis. No longer content to be carefree and cool like Kaori, he was the indignation Kaori should have felt, but didn’t. No, maybe not angry. But he was indignant and protective, and that didn’t translate well to others. And now that he was standing next to Kaori, obviously visible to others, he was inexplicably pleased. They could finally get to know him! They could be friends!

Not a chance, Kazu thought to himself, frowning. Not with that shady ass ocean monster wannabe royalty and… Oh god.

Kazu pointed a finger to the sky and turned to Kaori, muttering just loud enough for everyone to hear, “Great, now we’re all visible. This is about one-third awesome, and two-thirds horrible. Can he go smile all creepy, like, somewhere else? Wow.” He shuddered, eyes barely visible under the large beanie. Kei was as creepy as they came, and Kazu didn’t like it. No, he hated it. How she had that thing inside her, it unsettled him. It scared him. One look from that Cheshire grin sent his skin writhing. A visible shudder coursed over him, shaking him from the shoulders to the waist, as though he were dipped in ice water.



Be nice,” Kaori said, warning his friend. Kaori hadn’t noticed that Hime and Kei were now suddenly visible. He had simply done what he did and taken it in stride.

Kazu turned to his Master Bro and dropped his finger, opening his mouth to protest silently. At least it forced him to not look at the Creepy-Kun.

And we ain’t bowing to anyone, lest of all you,” Kazu shouted, crossing his arms and turning his head in defiance. “You’re just a washed up old woman with no friends. You hag. You know why Sudao doesn’t have friends? Because you scare them all away. They can probably smell your clam-chowder ass from a mile away!

Immature.

Yeah, but I’m sick of everyone giving Sudao a pass because some starfish-screwing, seafoam sucking disaster is pulling the strings,” Kazu spouted, pointing again. “Personally, I think Otohime is a really insufferable bitch, but that’s jus me.



Enough!” Kaori said, yellow veins erupting all along his body. He glowed vibrantly, like sunlight refracting off a pile of gold and swung his fist to the side, piercing directly through Kazu, who shimmered into gold dust and reformed a second later a few feet away. Kaori took another breath and allowed the veins to subside. The gem avatar peered at Kaori and nodded in begrudging agreement.

Fine,” Kazu relented, “but I’m not going to be nice to the walking bedsores behind Masami. And besides, Masami is the true Queen, Miss Barnacle, she doesn’t have Royal Subjects for nothing.

Kaori sighed and walked to Masami, putting a hand on her shoulder. He glanced at Kei and swallowed, nodding to him. It was like nodding into a black hole, it was like sensing your life was ending. It was terrifying. That was her reality. Kaori nodded to her once, apologizing. “I got carried away.

And then he sank back into the couch and put his head in his hands. This was tiring. He should have just stayed home.
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Old 08-23-2017, 08:03 PM   #24
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"Oh Bullcrap." She glared at Otohime. "We've known him way longer than you, Princess. That was him, the real him, and the rest was you covering your own arse"

Kei meanwhile was being greatly amused by Kazu's skittishness, and if she were pushed may have even admitted to being slightly impressed by the avatar's new demeanour. It was true what Otohime had said earlier, regarding Kei's opinion of her brightly coloured counterparts; she didn't like them. Kazu was a slacker, he had no goals, no ambition, content to just sit inside of Kaori and simply be. But now, Kazu finally looked interesting; a sudden burst of passion, rage, drive. She could perhaps learn to approve of the uncouth apparition if those qualities could be nurtured, encouraged to grow, and used to send Kaori down... amusing, paths the same way she herself liked to nudge Masami into danger. Though while she was usually dismissive of Kazu and his pathological lack of ambition, she was disappointed by Otohime. Yes, the water spirit had drive to spare, and clearly had ambitions and zero qualms about using her vassal as a pawn to obtain them, but her methodology bored Kei deeply; too much pointless work for so little fun as payoff. The Princess' power was all about status, perception, a carefully constructed and paper thin facade without which she'd be useless. Power, the black jewel thought, should simply be power; it should exist of its own merit, not piggybacked on top of other superfluous qualities. Otohime needed Sudao to be seen a certain way or everything would fall apart; Keiseki's plans to amuse herself with Masami on the other hand changed imperceptibly little depending on whether she was liked or respected, or through any kind of outside irrelevant factor. The way it should be.

Not that the avatar was going to let any of the others in on her thoughts. Why bother? They would just yell, or argue, and that was boring, Kei craved the twisted perversions she considered her entertainment. Her silence was deeply troubling for Masami though. Inside her head Kei rarely shut up, forever talking and double talking so the poor girl was forever having to try and pick apart every sentence for the subliminal machinations lest she succumb to whatever they were. But now, outside, in front of everyone, the avatar was silent. It wasn't even like the others hadn't heard Kei speak before either, she'd stolen Masami's voice the same way Kazu and Otohime had done, on many an occasion. But now... It wasn't the first time, either. Kei adamantly refused, or rather just simply didn't, talk if she was visible to others, or if it didn't in some way come from Masami instead of herself. Truthfully, it scared the Kiyama; there were more than a couple restless nights where she wondered if Kei even had a voice, or if it was all in her head, like really all in her head, not just the way the avatars were. After all, the one thing every scholar says about the Black gems is that with them comes madness... Those restless nights often turned into completely sleepless, weeping, nights after that kind of thought...

Kaori snapped her out of it though when he put his hand on her shoulder, and offered her the remorseful smile and apology. She returned the gesture with a thankful smile of her own, both for the remark, and appreciation that even without knowing it, he'd just saved her from going someplace dark in her thoughts. Kaori would always be Kaori, keeping you safe even by accident.

She decided to follow him to the couch and flump down next to him with a lazy thud; she was as exhausted by all the high emotion as he seemed to be, and all the adrenaline fuelled sobering it was putting her through meant that her subjects growths were starting to hurt her insides again. Curie nestled between them to steal their combined body-heat, as they all leant back into the cushions as though to beg to be swallowed up by the fancy upholstery and no longer have to deal with any of this; but that said...

"I'm glad we all came tonight"

It almost sounded like she'd read his mind and was offering a reassurance of her own, but really she was just coming to her own realisation of the situation they were all in.

"I mean... it sure has answered a lot of questions. I mean, this is it, isn't it?"


The reason they could never put it all away, get over it, finally learn to be together again. It was them, the gems. No, maybe not, or at least not entirely; she was aware they all had their own faults in the matter as well, her inability to forget, Sudao's pride, Kaori's shame... but the jewels certainly didn't help matters. They were similar in many ways to their living partners, it was true, but there were a lot of differences finally being revealed as well; Kazu, a Kaori that couldn't forgive, and that only cared about himself and his partner; Otohime, a Sudao that had never learned the value of other people; and Kei... a Kei. Her metaphors and deductions always stopped short when it came to her own avatar, it was intentional albeit subconscious on her part, she could recognise a defence mechanism when she saw one though. As much as it pained her to push the thought further, there probably were aspects of Keiseki that mirrored her own... people get the gem that fits after all; she couldn't tell you what parts they were, but as much as she wished she could, she couldn't deny they likely existed.

"We... really have to make this work guys." Her comments were for both of them and she hoped they were both listening, but as catatonic as Sudao looked she couldn't be sure and so mostly ended up addressing Kaori collapsed in the seat next to her. "We can't keep... fighting, we can't keep pushing each other away. I don't... I don't think its safe for any of us to be alone anymore."

She turned to forlornly look at the motionless aristocrat as she tried to explain what she meant; it wasn't easy, as much as the alcohol had been burned out of her system by the commotion, it still wasn't as easy as she'd hope to arrange her thoughts into words "He... has Otohime, and he said it himself that he likes himself best... and I'll bet that she likes herself best too. And right now, that kinda means they want the same stuff as each-other but there will come a day, a moment, where that's a conflict, where what she would like most for her, is not what he would like most for him, and... I think that's why she likes making him push us, everyone, away. We care about him and so we're a threat. And if she gets her way then on that day it'll just be him, all alone, against her and all the planning and claws she's dug into him all these years... won't it, Princess? And I don't want to lose someone I care about to you, doubly if it would mean he's losing himself to you as well; he deserves way better than that, there's so much about Aoyama Sudao that the world needs to see, and that needs not to be cruelly suppressed or stolen away by you"

She didn't really wait for a response from the sea witch before turning to Kazu, she knew it'd either be lies, snark, or insults anyway. "And you... Kazuisho, I love that you always stand up for Kaori, always remember that, knowing you always have his back is really comforting... but as much as you defend him, you don't protect him. You're too the same, on the exact same wavelength, you have the same great ideas, the same total belief in yourselves and your actions and your luck, and that sounds so good, but I think if we're honest..." She fixed Kaori as she spoke now, offering him an apologetic look for what she had to say, "You... need someone to hold you back sometimes. You're going to get hurt one day, you've been really hurt before. Luck's not forever, and its not even the same from one day to the next. And, I know, that when we hold you back, save you from yourself, we can be total utter arseholes about it, but its because we're scared. We don't want this next big crazy idea to be the one that makes us lose you. Gods, do you know how close we came to losing you in that fricking last one? And worst of all, you... do you even care? Either of you? You'd probably think its a fair price, what happens when you dedicate yourself to being the shield, protecting everyone you love... well..." She struggled for a second for the words, not because she couldn't think of them, but she just didn't want to say them as bluntly as they sounded in her head; she was trying to be honest, and impassioned, but that often lead to almost sounding mean in her case. "Let us protect you too... It doesn't make you care less, if you let people care about you back, you don't have to be the only one looking out for everyone, and especially not if its at your own expense."

And then, unavoidably given the way the discourse was going, her eyes fell on Kei. She had to include herself in the list; it would be wrong, and a lie, not to, even though it would give the others all the ammunition they'd ever need against her to dismiss the whole idea of trying to stay together again if they decided to. Plus... it was what they would do. Sudao was a master manipulator, but he was not a liar, he said what he thought, he said what was on his mind; if it were him giving the speech, and part of her wished it was, he was really good at them, she knew he'd include himself... spun in a way to make him look better, but the truth would be there. And Kaori, well... she was sure Kaori probably knew what a lie was, but doubted he knew how they were actually done. Both of them would be honest with her, and so she owed it to them. "And then there's me... And Kei. And I guess my ulterior motive... I need you both probably more than you need me. Its no secret I'm the third... fourth... fifth... sixth, wheels here." She didn't even realise she was using Kei's insult from earlier against herself as she said it. "You two were paired by name, I'm just the girl... but I could use the friends. You both know what they say about people with my type of gem... we only end up dead or crazy, and hell thats with friends, Gods help whatever we end up like if we're all alone..."

She sighed, and let the silence hang in the air for a second. She'd talked to much. She always talked too much. That's what Sudao always told her after all. She wasn't even sure half of it had made sense, or if she'd detoured in zig zags away from the actual point too much, so she meekly repeated it one last time out of hope.

"We have to make this work again..."

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Old 08-23-2017, 08:57 PM   #25
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“Miss Bitch. If you’re going to swear at me in that tone, you can at least address me properly.” The woman harrumphed, watching as Sudao stirred, opening his mouth in a wide yawn. He didn’t seem entirely unconscious, but the effort to respond or react to any of the harsh words being thrown around was beyond him. It wasn’t, however, for Otohime. Her misty gaze locked onto Masami, like she was staring straight through her. Something about her seemed dangerous, something just as dangerous, if not more than Kei.

Power was relative. Power, in Otohime’s sense, stemmed from an ability to control people. One’s own might didn’t matter if they could inspire loyalty, drive people’s hearts to believe lies and commit unspeakable acts. Power stemmed from politics, something that the Tsuchikage achieved with his little deal with the daimyo. If a claimant arose in Otohime’s utopia, then she would be ready to put it down, and if it were beyond her power, well, a Queen always had loyal subjects willing to shield her. Subjects willing to fight for her. True power came with station.

“You can say what you want about me, Masami, but it wasn’t me who punctured this little group’s spare tire. You were closest to that subject, weren’t you?” She grinned rather fiendishly. “Did it hurt, when he cut you down? It must have, given how you tried to return the favor, but… Your weakness made you miss, did it not?” She laughed a deep, guttural laugh. Her voice was tinged with pure malice. “You see, I love Sudao. I love him like a mother, and I know more about him than you ever will. I know every sting of betrayal that he’s felt, all at Kaori’s hand. I can count the times you, Masami, have guilted him into mock sympathy. Don’t look too deeply into our relationship. The only reason I can speak for Sudao is because of how similar we are – if he didn’t want me in his head, I wouldn’t be here. We’ve not gotten along for a while, and in that time, he learned to silence me. Neither one of us feel the need to speak to one another constantly. But, like both of your jewels, I’m here. Always watching. Ever present.”

Her grinned waned into something a bit coyer, and she folded her arms just underneath her breast.

“The only jewel here that wants to harm its owner is yours. It doesn’t just watch, it plagues you, doesn’t? Negative thoughts, feelings of what you’ll never amount to. It changes what you see. What you hear. It places doubt where you shouldn’t feel any. It terrifies you, maybe it even haunts your dreams.” She looked over towards Kei. “You’ll lose yourself to that one before Kaori or Sudao ever will.”
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Old 08-23-2017, 09:47 PM   #26
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Kaori couldn’t help but hold his side as he hollered, laughing wildly at Otohime. He tried catching his breath, only to find he was wheezing and unable to get enough air down his lungs. He pointed at her and continued howling at maximum volume, while Kazuisho laid face first, banging his fist into the floor, tears streaming down his grinning face.

Betrayal? Every sting!” Kaori screamed, jumping up on the couch next to Masami. He looked to Masami and Sudao and leapt off the couch backwards, landing square on the ground like he were about to make snow angels. “So dramatic! So serious!

Kazu pulled himself up from the ground and crossed his legs, pushing invisible glasses closer to his bridge, as though he were about to deliver a vicious verbal counterattack. Instead he explained the funny joke.

Kaori’s never betrayed anyone. In fact, he’s only ever looked out for your brood. He loves Sudao!

Whoa, whoa, whoa, ” Kaori said, turning over to face them both. “Yeah, love, I mean, Sudao’s my bro. But Oto-hemorrhoid is way off base saying anything bout betrayal! Betrayal? I’m so sorry.

He ran up to Sudao’s half lifeless body and kneeled down, as though begging forgiveness.

Bro, will you ever forgive me for my stongs of betrayal, ” cackling with mirth. “Will you ever allow me to not hurt your heartstrings with my vicious treason!

Kazu chimed in, “Deception!

Um,” Kaori had already forgotten synonyms with betrayal.

“Duplicity!” came a voice from a face in the far doorway.

Yeah, duplicity!” Kaori said, putting a hand to his forehead. “Wait.

He turned back to the door and stood up. “Dude, you can’t just watch other conversations. This is private!

The man in the doorway eep’d and hurried away, closing the door behind him. Kaori turned to Kei, tracking the nightmare in solid form. Still quiet, just sitting there, avoiding talking to them. Well if Kei didn’t want to talk, Kei didn’t have to. After all, the less they heard from the source of all horrors itself, the better. Kazu was still wary of Kei, preferring to stay far away with several pieces of furniture in between them. He looked at Kei and nodded again. It was a lot of nodding, but it conveyed a lot that he had trouble putting into words. Mostly it meant, I acknowledge you, please don’t kill me.

Masami is right, as usual,” Kaori said to everyone, snuggling back on the couch. “Just like when we argue with Sudao, we’re never going to convince him of anything because he doesn’t want to be convinced. And she’s worse. And everyone knows it.

Kaori sat up, perked by a thought, which was novel and interesting to him.

Wait. Sudao’s a better person than I thought because even he sees the horse-shit she tries to feed him,” Kaori said, emboldened by his very uncharacteristic deduction. “She said he has tried and been successful in quieting her, and that the fight. Even Kazu is quiet, it’s not for long, and it’s never because of a fight! Sudao sees through her treason. She’s the betrayer.

Kaori started to giggle again. “The treasoner.

Kazu started laughing. “The dupliciter!

Kaori held up his hand and waved it. “Sorry. Sorry. It’s just really funny. Masami, you’re right. We’re what we’ve got, and if we’re dysfunctional, that’s okay. I’m never going to have the best bro ever, but I have you two, and that’s good enough. Sudao and Otohime are always welcome in my life, even if I think she’s awful. And Masami, you and Kei. Always. Yeah, Kei is pure psycho, but if I let her get a free pass, you can get one, too. And you’re not a spare wheel, Sami. It’s just hard for me…

Kazu came out and blurted it, the thing Kaori had been unable to say.

Oh my god, just spit it out! He feels like a piece of shit for abandoning you, Gods,” Kazu said, weaving side to side. “He left you all alone for years and he wants to make up… no, that’s not the right term, he wants to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Shut up!” Kaori said, moving to stop Kazu, who just dodged the grapple and continued speaking.

He was a bad bro and he knows it. And he thinks it’s all his fault the team fell apart. Because sensei always said that the team needed Kaori. He wasn’t the best or the smartest, but he was the most needed for this team.

Kaori stood there, facing the ground.

I… I’m sorry,” he said, knowing she now knew what he meant.
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Old 08-24-2017, 12:34 AM   #27
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"Kaori, Kaori..." She hopped up after him as fast as she could manage in her condition and put a hand on his shoulder in a calming gesture as he paraded around Sudao. "Don't... just don't. Otohime, she- she's over-dramatising it like hell for effect, but she's she's not wrong"


"I wouldn't call it betrayal... that is a bit heavy. But..." She continued quietly, once she'd managed to grab a pause in the giant's loud tirade thanks to the fortuitous distraction by the insensitive partygoer. "None of us can honestly ever say we've not hurt each other. Even if we've never meant to, it can still happen; and there have been times..." She left the rest of the thought unsaid, that she could remember more than a few times where something Kaori had done had left her frantically trying to stop Sudao freaking out, the guilt tripping Otohime likely referred to her doing. She knew Kaori would get the message without having to resort to actually naming examples and bringing up specific old wounds when they were trying to move past it all. "And... anyway. Don't-, don't start all this all off with mockery and fake apologies just because she was playing them up, ok? That's not how we're going to get anywhere..."


"And yeah, I said it; you were right... Sorry." She ran a hand through her hair, brushing it out of her face from having chased after Kaori so suddenly, before she looked over and addressed Otohime properly. "If you wanna say you're like his mum, then I'm not going to argue it. One living through him vicariously and so still being pretty risky to everything about him we just said and worry about losing, but a mum nonetheless. It doesn't mean that bad day where there comes a conflict of interests won't happen though. Just because the reason will be different, that you'll supposedly be acting in what you consider his best interests above what he considers them, doesn't make it less scary. Doesn't make you less dangerous" She couldn't help but wonder if the regal avatar would get a thrill out of being acknowledged as a danger by them, possibly even take it as a compliment. "But... like Kaori says, you're stuck as one of us now. We're a dysfunctional little family, and you're Sudao's family, so we'll try and treat you more like it for as long as you're still acting in what he considers his best interest."

Once the deal was out in the open, she turned to look at the other issue Otohime had brought up, Kei. The avatar was busy tormenting the eavesdropper from earlier by just waving hello as he tried to peek back in after Kaori's warning, only to be greeted by the smiling face of the monster. "You're right about that too..." She kept her voice low, as if that somehow meant Kei wouldn't hear it like she always did, all whilst she dared not take her eyes off the avatar while it enjoyed its little game; at least till Curie started spoiling it by purposely getting in the way of all her attempts and dragging the curtain firmly shut with her teeth. "She scares me more than you think. Or at least, more than I hope you know; I wouldn't wish all that knowledge even on my worst enemy. But I'm trying, every fucking day... Just, gods it's hard" She finished with an almost defeated exhalation of breath. She wasn't looking for sympathy, and even if she were she knew Otohime was the last place anyone would ever get it; but, even if the princess had just been talking out of her tail to sound like she knew everything, just saying it out loud to someone who at least claimed to actually get it provided some kind of weird relief from it all, just for a moment.

As she let the thought that she'd be first to become lost really sink in, she returned to reassuring comfort of the couch, laying across the length of it like she had been on the plantlife when Kaori had first discovered her, finally free to move on to the final of Otohime's points; the one she'd saved for last, the one she'd rather have avoided if she could have gotten away with it. "Sure he-. He... killed me. Before there was even a you, that's going to always be all on him. I mean, it's true, can't deny it. He didn't even just kill me, he buried me; If we'd had a Miko around it'd have practically been a whole funeral. He always was thorough..." She closed her eyes and pinched the bridge of her nose, trying to beat the headache and nausea she knew was going to be coming before it got to her; before her accursed memory flashed it all back before her eyes again. Made her see it all, feel it all, feel all the pain, again. Because Otohime was right about that too, it had hurt so much. She was sure he hadn't meant it to though, not that much. Sudao was at least as gifted in combat as he was in speech, she knew first had that he was capable of quick, clean, killing blows that in their own way were almost merciful, peaceful. Or at least, compared to bleeding out slowly on the floor, in what felt like unending agony...

"Its not all on him though, I made my own mistakes that helped us both end up in that no win situation. I panicked, fell back on archer instincts instead of shinobi ones; tried to move out the way like an idiot instead of stand and defend, messed up his aim, denied myself his quick kill. " A move that some of the adjudicators watching had suggested was the only true mistake either of them had made in their drawn out defences against each other, proving if nothing else how well they'd each known the other back then. But of course, when the stakes end up growing to those kind of heights out of the desperation of an unending stalemate, the first mistake is always the last. "And because of that, that part of me ended up just... gone. Never came back, not like I can feel Yusuke and the others doing. Just... gone."

"I wasn't strong enough to play on that kind of level against someone I cared for. I mean, like you said, when I had my one shot at payback, I missed..." She laughed sadly at herself, "He likes to make fun of my accuracy because of that. I know he knows though, that I could have hit him, that I've hit harder targets at that range with just as much going against me. I had the perfect shot, right between the eyes, and I even pulled the trigger; I just hesitated and the timing got all messed up. But honestly, I'm never going to be able to be strong enough to make myself as detached as Sudao, to be able to make those decisions he needs to make. I'm never going to be like Kaori either, to have the blind self confidence to make the life preserving decisions he does. I'm just stuck in the middle somewhere; just doing the best I can from the shadows and hoping its enough..." Not that she hadn't acted like Sudao sometimes; either had to, or been encouraged to by her avatars influence. She could be very good at it too; there was a reason that people often mistook her for the cold hearted one when she stood next to Kaori's endless joy and the practised diplomatic charm Sudao would extend to people he hadn't met before. But after it was all done, she'd still end up wasting a sleepless night or more thinking about what she'd needed to do, what she did. Just not strong enough to make it all go away like he could. She sighed as she thought about it, slightly envious of his ability to compartmentalise like that. Even though in some ways she wouldn't really want to be able to do it in the first place anyway, it had simply become a necessity she lacked; but nonetheless it was clear she wasn't just casually dismissing his ability to make that kind of emotionally detached judgement as the sign of bad character like many others had done before. She respected it for what it was.

"The thing is though..." She sat up and shuffled on the cushions until she once again looked right at Sudao's companion, wanting to see her reaction. "I forgave him, like a really long time ago. I still hate that it happened, learned that hate and forgiveness aren't as mutually exclusive as I once thought, but I did forgive him. I don't think he knew how bad it was going to be. I don't think he knew I'd dodge just that little bit further than he'd predicted, and certainly don't think he realised quite what a part of me dying does to the rest of me. He was aware they sort of grew back, probably only thought it would incapacitate me for a little bit... I don't think he ever planned to traumatise me for life" Sometimes, though he had vehemently denied it when the thought had been merely implied on their last mission, she comforted herself with the idea that maybe in his own way he felt bad about it. They'd been friends before it happened, more overtly alike to each other than they were to Kaori, and even if there hadn't been the type of bond she liked to think there had been, there had at least been a partnership of some sorts; they'd worked well together, if nothing else. And if he did, however slim the chance might be, feel the same way then they'd both lost something that day, both been left with their own scar from the event. What was it he'd said on their most recent outing, at least she and Kaori would never know how it felt to be branded the bad guy for just doing what they had to when they had no choice. She'd hated that he'd said that, in the moment she'd hated it because she thought he was just twisting things to be about him and not have to engage with her side of the argument, and now she hated it because she worried it was almost too close to the truth of what he felt inside. Looking at him as he gave a few drunken signs of life but nothing more, she offered her final thought on the matter to Sudao himself instead of Otohime. "You weren't the bad guy to me, Sudao. You were just the winner, for whatever that became worth."


By now Kaori was busy tripping up over his words again; searching for the at least the second time tonight the right way to tell Masami whatever it was he was trying to say. Luckily, or perhaps not judging by his reaction, the giant's own avatar stepped in on his behalf and spilled the beans. A display that brought a tired, albeit genuine, slight smile back to her face despite the nights emotional rollercoastering. "Don't worry, Its ok... I'd already forgiven you too. But it took a little longer..." It sounded insane as she said it, how could something take longer to forgive than being killed? It was the sad truth of it though, Sudao's supposed crime was finite, once it was done it was over and could become the past; what they did after by cutting her so completely out of both their lives was ongoing, in some ways it had only just recently ended now they'd been forced back together by fate. And because it for the longest time seemed like it would never stop, it grew into a much bigger hurdle for her to get over.

"I felt like a ghost, like neither of you could even see me. He was too busy purposely avoiding me and you just kept following him like some... lovesick puppy, trying to make sure it was okay that you'd won. You both made me feel like I was the one who died that day instead of it being me." She leant forward, putting her head in her hands as she stared at the floor in front of her so as to avoid looking any of the others in the eye. It wasn't that she was afraid of them seeing her face as she said what she needed to, more that she didn't want to see theirs in case they didn't understand, or thought it worth ridicule in some way. They'd put so many doubts into her head, and long before Kei had arrived to make dealing with doubts her normal, even; she'd gone so far as to start believing they both had wanted it the other way around, to lose Masami and not the subject. "I got so scared that you both had liked... Kuro, better. That now they were gone from my side and seemed not to be coming back that you had no use for me. I mean, it would have made sense in a twisted way; that was the face you'd gone through the academy with, I was just the new girl or whatever that showed up on the first day we were a squad alongside of one of them... That was not a fun pit of thoughts to be stuck in." The hands holding her head had steadily progressed from being simple resting places to having fingers entwined throughout all her curls, as if threatening to tug and shred at it all if she got any more wound up thinking about the inadvertent mental hell they'd put her through; but mercifully she took a deep breath, relaxed her grip and stretched her arms safely out of reach of her hair as she collected herself, even going as far as to pull Kaori down onto the seat next to her again.

"But I got over it..." She rested her head on his shoulder gently, "Believe it or not it was actually that one over there who put those thoughts to rest when she arrived; said I was reading too much darkness into your intentions. Guess she'd know" She pointed with her eyes to indicate her avatar as the culprit behind the uncharacteristically kind assessment of her two friends. "And I stopped caring why you both forgot I existed, just wished you'd stop doing it, cos I dunno about the whole team needing part of what Kazu said, but I sure needed you..." Then again, there was a ring of truth to it; maybe not completely that Kaori was the sole lynchpin that held them together, but she remembered a talk with Hiroko-san that had ended with a semi-similar conclusion. Kaori, she was told, was the soul of the group and she could kind of see it; he had a pureness to him, working on raw desires and dreams. Sudao, of course, was the mind; able to out think and out manoeuvre almost anything, whether it was in war, peace, love, diplomacy... She then, was left with being the heart, the emotional one; not on purpose, simply because when you had more than one mind able to feel things at the same time it could often come out as more... intense than someone who could control their emotions better might have been. Plus, hearts got hurt the easiest, become broken and put up all sorts of walls and distance as a defence to stop it all happening again... that certainly reminded her of her, as depressing a thought as it was. But still, prose and poetic imagery aside, she knew what Hiroko had been trying to tell her, and probably tell Kaori too. They were three parts of a whole, incomplete in some way if a piece was ever missing; and for the first time in a long time, none of them were, even if they were having trouble remembering how they all fitted together.

"Anyway, now we're here... at a party, all three of us for once no less, with no ignoring, with actual talking between all of us... And I can say it to both your faces, what I should have said so long ago but was just too scared you'd ignore me, or worse laugh at me. I forgive you both, and I'm so very sorry for my parts in everything that happened too... Before and since."

Last edited by Bass; 08-24-2017 at 11:55 PM..
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Old 12-02-2017, 12:46 AM   #28
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“Are you quite finished with your monologue?” Otohime did not seem impressed by the girl’s diction. In fact, she seemed quite peeved with it all, but rather than interrupt, she simply caressed her drunken charge, massaging his scalp and running her fingers through Sudao’s hair. He seemed quite content, not unlike an oversized lapdog or temperamental feline. If the onlookers listened closely, they would be able to hear something that sounded like a cross between a purr and a snore sneak past his lips.

“Otoooooo~.” The apparition’s charge whined in a singsong voice. She looked perplexed as she removed her hands, if not a bit peeved. She had been in control; she was unsure of how the boy still functioning. “Hiiiiiiiiiii–” Sudao coughed as he sat up. He looked left, then right with narrowed eyes, not exactly sure of what was going on. So, he reached for another shot, and his eyes snapped open.

“Me.” He finished his ward’s name, and the two locked eyes for a long time. There seemed to be some kind of mental exchange between the two, for the princess’ gaze narrowed. Her mouth opened. Sudao meekly shrugged. Then the woman, with a grimace, almost robotically as she inched toward the curtain. She reached the end of Masami’s control, and then, she stepped through, seeming to combust into a lovely blend of bubbles.

His gaze snapped toward Kaori, then passed over to Masami.

“Well that was a pretty cool parlor trick.” He hiccupped, reaching for a beer before simply flicking the cap off and watching it bounce and roll around in the mist. After a moment, he raised his drink, a silly, drunken grin etched across his face.

“Uh, a toast.” He looked perplexed for a moment. “Ayyyy. Yeah, a toast. To second winds and second chances.”
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Old 01-07-2018, 08:30 PM   #29
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Kaori wasn’t sure how to process the feelings he had, so he shelved them, setting them aside so they could return as combat fodder or angst fuel in the coming battles. Or maybe they’d singe away neatly, a clean burn during one of his rituals that calmed him. Either way he had no use for them now. Kaori wasn’t sure exactly what Masami meant with her comments, but he knew they were important, so he agreed that she was probably right. No one was perfect, and in true Kaori fashion, he had someone made it about him without trying. He was similar to Sudao in that way. But where Sudao did it with tact and poise, Kaori seemed to lumber into the spotlight like a drunken buffalo, somehow equal parts hero and victim. He was seeing that happen more often, and it was uncomfortable. Many months ago he wasn’t so “self-aware,” and so far he didn’t like all he was seeing.

What he did like was knowing that these two, regardless of their issues and pasts, still cared at least a little for Kaori. Sudao only bothered arguing with those he deemed worthy of his intellect. Masami was so guarded she’d just as soon ignore or deflect someone. By very nature of them all being in the same room relatively unscathed, Kaori could tell there was still good blood between them. Practically cathartic, Kazu’s outbursts had finally unveiled the swirling mass of shame Kaori had hoarded these years. She had forgiven him, now all he had to do was forgive himself. If he could get around to that.

He’d probably shelf those feelings, too. Put them in a box, stuff them down, and try to pull a new chick from the bar.

I thought we were all just a team,” Kaori said, “So I never thought about it. But you guys are fam.

He paused and stretched out. “Maybe I was selfish. I don’t think about those things, I put myself where the hurt is because I don’t want to see you guys get that. I saw you die, Sami. I mean, I know he was like... you, you feel? And Sudao, maybe you could get on my level in a fight, probably, actually, I’ve seen you fight, bro, but I trained exactly to take a big-ass beating. It’s all I’m good for, so let me be that.

A smile crept across his face, “I don’t know about thinking and shit, just let me get hit. I promise you I won’t die. If I do, you have permission to hate me then. So don’t worry about me.

He turned to Masami and frowned. “And for the record, you were never the new girl. I get that your brothers are you, but they’re not you. I mean, they are, but... but you’re you and they’re also you but not you you, you know? I don’t even know what I’m saying, whatever, cheers are right. Second rings or wings or whatever. Second chances!
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