Fellowship of Assassins

January 27, 2016:

After the events of Beauties Save the Beast, X-23 finds herself being invited by Betsy Braddock for tea.


NPCs: None.



Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

The beauty of the mansion is that there are rooms literally everywhere. And there are rooms that are just looking for a purpose. So an enterprising person can find a quiet place on an upper floor in the main wing, and after a quick talk with Charles, convert a room into almost any need imagineable.

Betsy has turned one such room into a meditation chamber. It's south facing, so there's always soft and indirect light, and being high up, it's usually comfortably warm. A fan built into the window provides some airflow when needed, though plastic bags have it taped off now. The entire room is dedicated to a minimalist aesthetic, but harmony abounds in the lack of furnishings. A series of three watercolors on rice paper adorns one wall, drawing the eye from color to monochromatics to the suggestions of an unfinished cloud scene done in water. A few bonsai trees are under the large window on the south wall, in various states of growth and looking as if several different hands have tended to them. Each seems representative of a different gardener's personality.

Betsy is in the room, kneeling at a low folding table set for tea, for two. The invitation had been sent to Laura to join her 'around noon', but the leggy kunoichi had been there clearly for some time. She's garbed in a simple, even plain kimono robe, though it lacks the frippery of a traditional woman's attire and features subtle floral prints across it. Her hair, drawn back into a ponytail, hangs to her midback, and she rests with her hands on her thighs and eyes closed. Everything about the room projects… peacefulness. Particularly to anyone exposed to an Eastern philosophical tradition, but really useful for anybody who's looking for somewhere with no distractions.

A ghost. That's what X-23 is. Or at least, so it may seem. She's only been here a full twenty-four hours, but already some of the other students have learned to give her a wide berth. Others have also commented on her conversational skills, or lack thereof. Once the evening hit and the student body at large went to their respective rooms for sleep, X-23 finally came more out of her shell. No, she didn't speak per se, but she did start to explore the school and what rooms she had entrance to. It seems very little sleep was to be had for this particular mutant.

Finally morning arrives and at the first stir of students and teachers, X-23 drifts back to the guest room that was earmarked for her use. It's still quite early, but when she steps into said room she pauses. Something has changed. A note. Picking up the invitation, X-23 will read the lines upon it before dropping it to the bed. Then she waits.

When the alotted time rolls around, X-23 will make her way quietly to the upper level. It doesn't take her long to find the room and Betsy will likely be able to sense her presence getting closer, before her slight form darkens the doorway when she opens the door. The dark haired woman will stay standing at that threshold, as her bright green eyes roam around the room. She's taking it all in and finally they'll settle upon the woman within. Laura says nothing for the moment, instead she just waits within that doorway.

Betsy doesn't speak up immediately. She's obviously aware of Laura's presence, but it's clear she's not ignoring her by any means. She's simply profoundly occupied in the moment of tranquility in which she finds herself.

"Hello, Laura," Betsy says, opening her eyes finally. She doesn't quite smile at the slender mutant, but there's something welcoming in her expression. "I'm glad we are finally getting a chance to meet face to face, so to speak. I'm Betsy, as I've been told you know." Her head nods in a small gesture akin to a bow, shoulders tilting forward. "I was wondering if you would like to join me for some tea," she says, gesturing slightly at the prepared service for two on the low table. "It's a tradition of both my British and Japanese heritages— it lends itself towards promoting companionship," she says, in her eloquent diction. "I find it's a good way to get to know someone better. There are many rules and customs for it, if you ever wish to learn, but for now, there is no requisite except stillness and sharing. Would you care to sit?" she says with careful formality, indicating the pillow opposite.

All of Betsy's pretty words are heard, but outwardly they're not reacted to. Inwardly, it's a different story. Inside her mind she calculates the possibility of this being some sort of trick, or trap. Poison? All of these things easily flit through her mind, thanks to the training The Facility provided for her. Infact, her bright green eyes will drop towards the tray and its contents, before her gaze moves back to Betsy's face. There's a weighing as X-23 considers her next course of action.

Thankfully, however, Laura finally offers a nod of her head as she says in that monotone voice of hers. "I will drink."

Stepping into the room now, X-23 will allow the door to close softly behind her, before she's moving over to the low tray and Betsy. Easily, Laura will settle in a seated position similar to Betsy's, unconsciously mirroring the other woman now. Her hands are settled in her lap, as she looks again to the tea and then Betsy. Her head will tilt slightly to the side as she speaks once again. "Masque has been defeated. He will not be able to take you as his bride." So X-23 says, just in case Betsy was worried about that.

Betsy bows again very slightly. "I understand you were a principle element in assuring my freedom. I thank you for that." She moves to the teapot and opens it, the interior in clear view for Laura, and scoops a diffuser full of loose leaves. It gets placed in the teapot, and she fills it with hot water from the sealed carafe, steam billowing as she uncaps it. An hourglass gets turned over and set aside, and Betsy looks back at Laura.

"Many of our new residents have you to thank for their relative health, I understand. They look up to you as a guardian. Even a leader. Some people have a difficult time when they no longer need to fulfill the roles others have set them into. I wanted to talk with you privately, somewhere… comfortable," she says, gesturing vaguely at the tidy, imacculate room, "and ask you how you are feeling about the arrangement here at the Institute. Please speak candidly," she urges Laura, focusing her sharp amethyst gaze on the petite killer. "I will not be offended by you speaking bluntly here."

At the sight of the diffuser full of loose tea leaves, X-23 automatically scents the air, her nostrils flaring slightly. No, she doesn't necessarily expect poison to be served within the tea, but that precaution is still taken. Thankfully, all that X-23 can smell is the tea and it allows her to relax ever so slightly.

As to Betsy's thanks - those polite words aren't reciprocated with a 'you are welcome', instead only silence is X-23's current response.

When the hourglass is turned over and set aside, Laura can't help but look towards it. She'll watch the grains of sand fall for a second, before her gaze is drawn back to Betsy's, when the other woman speaks again. It's the mention of residents looking up to her as a guardian that finally causes the first emotion to flicker across Laura's features. The faintest shadow of puzzlement flits across her features, as Laura tries to parse how to react to that. Thankfully, that puzzlement is quickly pushed aside when Betsy's next words about roles are heard. A sharp look towards the other woman is now given by Laura, as she leans forward. There's a struggle within her mind on how to respond to that statement and while those rolling emotions don't necessarily make it to Laura's expression, they do eventually manifest into words.

"I have no mission. I do not know what to do." And while the school has made excellent arrangements for her, she's still at a loss as to WHAT she should be doing. Killing, assassination, missions, that's what she knows. This school setting … it just confuses her.

Betsy's nods slightly. Realizing that Laura very likely can't pick up on a subtle statement such as that, Betsy exhales quietly and delicately undoes some of the barriers she's spent a lifetime erecting. Though Laura's not a psychic, and Betsy doesn't do something so blaise as broadcast her thoughts into the woman's mind, there is an easing of communication that washes over the lonely little assassin. As if, perhaps for the first time in her life, she's actually able to read Betsy's emotions and truely empathize with a person. In this case, with the purple-haired woman across from her.

"Laura, I… know you don't know me well," Betsy observes. "If at all. I think as we talk, you might find we have more in common than you would guess. Perhaps more than almost anyone else at the Institute," she says, carefully, her tones suggesting that she's acknowledging the depths of Laura's confusion and wariness with honest empathy, not just sympathetic words.

"I think it bears mentioning first that I am a psychic, and quite a talented one," she says, with no false modesty. "I assure you, I won't go rummaging through your mind, first," she says, quite firmly and sincerely to Laura's awakened senses. "But some of your surface thoughts are as unavoidable as a twitch of the hand. I can tell from your posture and your alertness you've had significant martial training, and that you are mentally unprepared for the position you find yourself in— not having someone giving you minute to minute instructions. Is this accurate?"

While sudden understanding doesn't necessarily wash over Laura's features, when that empathy is afforded to her, there's a lessening to the tension within her form. The tightness around her mouth, her eyes and within her posture slowly bleed away. There have only been a few times she's felt this way. A few stolen moments with her mother and a book about a boy puppet wishing to be real. Those few memories bubble to the surface for a few seconds, until Betsy begins to speak again. Her words bring Laura's attention back to the purple haired woman.

And while they do not know each other so well, that extra bit of empathy that Betsy has helped foster within Laura's mind has her asking, "You are a killer too?" While Betsy hasn't quite said anything of that sort, X-23 is able to see some of the same things within herself within Betsy. After all, a predator knows another of its kind, and Betsy strikes many of those cords within X-23.

The mention of Betsy being a psychic is considered, before the dark haired woman states, "Like Nate Grey." Though she has no idea how Nate's telepathy rates, but he's the only other psychic she knows to draw a similarity from. Of course, it's Betsy last words that finally strike a cord within Laura. Her hands fist within her lap and almost her claws peek through the skin upon her hands and knuckles, so great is her … relief? Yes, that's relief she feels. "You understand." She says, eyes focused intently on Betsy. "My life has always been about missions. Without them - It is hard. I have tried to be normal, but I am failing at it."

"I am," Betsy confirms at that one question— which brings down a staggering number of potential barriers, personal, social, spiritual. There's a kinship there that very, very few people can possibly share— not just having taken a life, but having been truely amoral about ending someone with absolutely no personal greivance.

"Quite like Nate Grey, yes," she says. Though she's not looking at the hourglass, she leans forward when it peters out and pours tea into two cups atop saucers, neither with a handle, and then removes the diffuser while letting Laura pick which cup she wants to drink from. An old custom among killers, and even if Laura's never seen it before, she can surely respect the intent there. "I can hear surface thoughts— particularly very loud ones— and emotions as easily as you can read someone's twitch of the hand or hear a whispered conversation. I can do quite a bit more, but it's… rude," she says, with a downturn of her lips that suggests it's really incredibly offensive to contemplate such psychic pilfering.

"A little over twenty years ago, a girl named Kwannon was born in Japan," she says, beginning a story. "She was raised by a monastic order of ninja assassins, known as The Hand. She was trained in every possible method of assassination— garrote, poison, the empty hand, the blade— and just after her twenty-first birthday, her husband killed her." Her tone is empty of feeling, but hurt washes over Laura— the hurt of deep and real betrayal. "A few days later, a woman named Elizabeth washed up on the ocean. Mystical portents suggested that a ritual, possible once in a lifetime, could resurrect Kwannon. The Hand failed, and the ritual produced a blend of Kwannon and Elizabeth's body and mind. That person is me," she says. "I have memories of a lifetime as one of the finest assassins in the south-eastern part of Asia, and after the ritual, I travelled the world, killing with my mind as well as my body. I was an arrow strung on the Hand's bow, and fired wherever their will directed. I had no say of my own in the matter. I lived for the mission."

When Betsy confirms to X-23 that she was indeed a killer, the dark haired woman simply nods. Yes, that particular fellowship is likely a small one. At least, around the Institute, it seems.

When the tea is poured, Laura will consider the saucers before her. Finally, she'll lift her right hand up and take the one nearest her. It's just a hint of trust being shown, as the dark haired woman brings the cup closer to her face. Again, she scents the air, this time taking the in the aroma of the tea and then a small sip will be taken. She'll roll the liquid in her mouth a moment, before swallowing. Then, "Rude. Yes. I have been told it is rude to eavesdrop upon conversation. It is hard not to. They are so loud." Obviously, X-23 means verbal conversation, versus psychic. Since her senses are attuned towards the much more mundane way of communication.

The cup will be placed back upon the low tray when Betsy begins to tell her tale. Unlike others, Laura doesn't interrupt with any questions throughout the telling. She instead listens to the full story and even nods every so often at Betsy's telling. There are many things X-23 could say, but for the moment she focuses on that last part of Betsy's. "But no longer?" She asks, her voice still quite flat as she asks that question of hers. "How did you get past it?" Get past living for the mission, she means.

Betsy takes a slow breath, marshalling her emotions. It's clearly a topic that's quite raw for her, despite her absolutely unreadable features. "I killed… dozens, in those few months. I was finally saved by old friends who managed to snap me out of my confused state, and in that moment, this… gestalt of Elizabeth and Kwannon seized control. I call myself Betsy to simplify things for myself, more than anyone else," she explains. She shifts a bit, balancing her teacup on the saucer, and sips with a ladylike quiettude. "It took some time. I was angry— very, very angry. I still am, and it's difficult to control my temper sometimes. But…" She looks out the window at the warm winter sun glinting off heavy snowfall. "I wish I could tell you that I found solace in my routines and my comforts. I exercise for hours a day and I shop compulsively. But the only thing that brings me solace… peace," she says, a sense of serenity extending from around her, "is the mission of the Institute. I recognize that I still serve an ideology," she concedes. "It might not be better or worse than the way of The Hand. But it is a mission still, and one that some of the best and strongest people I've ever met have dedicated themselves to. It is … a bit of a leap of faith, I admit," she says, with a small, uncertain sense about her. "That what I'm doing now is right, because serving The Hand felt right on some levels, too."

The slow breath, the scent of her emotions, even without that understand Betsy has given her, X-23 can tell the other woman is upset. Again, Laura becomes the seemingly silent witness, as Betsy reveals her past deeds and her own struggle with that and the lack of mission. The mention of anger is nodded to, as the dark haired woman says, "I have killed many too." She admits, then "There is anger, yes. And regret." Bright green eyes will search Betsy's face now, looking to see if the other woman feels that same emotion, "There is regret too." Disappointment is easy to read with the faint slump of X-23's shoulders, when Betsy reveals that there's no easy cure to their predicament. Still, there is hope it seems. A faint cant to Laura's head can be seen now, as she states, "I do not like to shop. It is boring." But exercise? Yes, she already does that. It's why she's in such tip-top shape still. Not to mention her healing factor, as well.

"What is their mission?" She asks, finally raising a hand to gesture at the room at large. "Nate Grey stated this was a school. Is it not to teach?" She questions, a faint note of curiousity coloring her otherwise monotone voice. As to the last part of what Betsy has to say, about it feeling right to serve The Hand, well, all X-23 can do is nod in agreement. The mission. No matter how brutual they were, it still felt right when she completed it successfully. To know she did what was asked to her. Even with the terribleness of it all.

Betsy's lips curl a little at a smile, but a blossoming sensation of amused pleasure washes from her person. "You've just not gone shopping with the right person," she assures Laura, preening just a little.

She calms herself, thinking about Laura's question, and sips her tea. "The mission here? Is to ensure the harmonious co-existence of humans and mutants," she says, settling her saucer across her thighs. "It's an altogether more important one than trying to ensure the accumulation of wealth or destabilization of government. The mission takes many forms, of course— some days we focus entirely on making sure a generation of mutants grows up with the mental and emotional tools to go out into the world and be production parts of society. A part of that is helping them become envoys for the mutant race as a whole. Other times, we go into the sewers and shadows, to find mutants who are hidden away or being controlled by malign influences." Her eyes harden and an eager, knife-sharp pleasure slips past her control. "And sometimes we take to the field and strike our enemies down."

She looks back at Laura, focusing on her. "I've accepted that Charles and Scott are far better at planning long-term strategy than I am. My inclination might be to take a knife to the problem, but very rarely is Charles incorrect by proposing a peaceful resolution of some kind. Because my goals are the preservation of peace, I accept that my desires or ideas are not always what's best for the rest of us here. Does that make sense?"

There's a head tilt at the mention of not going shopping with the right person. She'll let that drop to the wayside, however, once Betsy gets into the Institute's mission. At different points of her explanation, X-23 will allow a very small frown to crinkle her brows and downturn her lips. "Like the Morlocks." She finally says, when Betsy remarks about the sewers and the shadows. "I understand."

The mention of taking a knife and dealing with the problem in that rather violent fashion is nodded to. Now that, that is something that X-23 truly understands. She nods again, her hands still laying upon her lap as she says, "Yes. I understand." She states, echoing that last phrase again. "We will have to wait at times to take down the enemy the proper way. Yes?" She asks that last bit, looking for confirmation of how she understands it from Betsy. "When Hank advised not to kill Masque. It would not help the … cause."

Betsy nods at Laura. "It would have complicated things in the long-term, killing Masque. And this is not a battle to be fought, but a war to be won," she says, her tones echoing military texts that Laura's surely read.

She finishes her tea and sets it aside. "Laura, I don't know what sort of future you want for yourself," she says. "Whether that's a life of war or peace, or prosperty or piety. That's a decision you'll have to come to on your own. Everyone here has had to deal with trauma and pain in their past— deaths in the family, the loss of innocence. I sense your burdens are heavier than most. Weakness is never preferable, but being crippled by your burdens is even less so. I'd like to help you discover the joys of life. This room, I decorated for a place to meditate and be calm, when I'm overwhelmed," she says, gesturing vaguely. "Everything from the paintings to the bonsai trees is meant to help promote a certain frame of mind, from relaxation to exclusive focus. I work out several hours a day— endorphins certainly make life more bearable," she says, with a small smile and confiding sense of self. "I enjoy the company of my friends and once in a while I even go on dates. A purpose gives our life direction, but it does not need to entirely dictate the way we make that journey."

That tone of Betsy is nodded too. Yes, she's read nearly all the military text and books out there. She has them memorized, in fact. So, what Betsy says does make sense. Even if it felt wrong. Some people just deserve death. Or so it seems to X-23.

Either way, that is best left for another discussion. The mention of this room and its purpose is heard and allows Laura to look about herself. She'll focus on the paintings the bonsai tree, even the tea again. While it may seem like Laura isn't going to respond and has lapsed right back to being a mute, that's far from the case. Her mind is whirling with a variety of thoughts thanks to what Betsy has said and while her expression remains perfectly flat, her mind continues to whir. It's only after a few minutes of near-fidgitless sitting, that Laura's gaze will come back to Betsy.

"I do not know my new purpose yet." Begins the woman and yes, there is a but there, "I would like to figure it out. Like you, I would like to know who I am. Not just killer."

"It will not be easy," Betsy says candidly. "But if I can help, I will do my best. All I can recommend is that you find things that bring you joy, whether you find contentment in relaxation or adversity. You're welcome to join me in the gym as often as you like— Logan and Hank are the only ones who frequently take me up on the suggestion," she says with an an amused smile. A sense of inclusiveness extends to Laura. "It'd be nice to have another woman in there. The boys tend to stink the place up."

"For now, though, would you like to meditate with me?" she invites, pouring more tea. "We can sit and pursue silence, if you like, or practice some watercolor. Whatever you would find soothing."

There's a bob of Laura's head as she considers all of what Betsy has said. For now, however, she doesn't say whether she'll join Betsy in the gym or not. Instead, the dark haired young woman will say, "Meditation." And with that single word, X-23 will settled into a crossed legged positions, her hands upon knees, as she stills all her jumble of thoughts within her mind.

Before she closes her eyes she will stop to look at Betsy again. There's a slight bow of her head for a silent second or two, before she says, "Thank you."

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