Found Her

March 25, 2017:

After an entire week of searching, Jhiao Ting finally finds the person she's been looking for and doesn't let her go.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Peace and quiet reigns in a wooded meadow where the city of New York begins to blend into the surrounding state. A modest walk away from a suburban nowhere stop on the busline, a dark-haired young woman is enjoying the seclusion with the accompaniment of a few small things spread out in front of her. Dressed pleasantly warm for the cool but no longer freezing weather, she's mostly buried in a mammoth winter coat and an open instrument case is on the ground beside her - along with a paper bag from Wendy's that by now is about half empty.

Instead of an instrument, the brown-eyed youth has spread out a small blanket, a little box, and a straight dagger in its sheathe. A two-liter of water, small balls of varying sizes, and a few other odds-and-ends are left in the instrument case, with no instrument proper around at all. She pauses to take a sip from a metal flask shoved down the front of her pants, then opens the box and pulls out a small set of cleaning supplies as the wind shifts to the south, rustling the couple stray strands that have escaped from her hat.


Over a week has passed as the clouded leopard known to some as Jhiao Ting has searched New York City. She has moved by day and by night, as necessary, keeping herself hidden; people in the City are not prepared for spotting a large leopard slinking about snuffling as she goes. There have been encounters, but none very productive, and they have ended with the leopard haring away to escape those who might pursue; she has no desire to return to one of those caves of metal bars.

In all her searching, Jhiao has found no signs of the scent of her former friend. She has no idea how Nerina might be; she could even be dead, considering the severe weather that has passed since last they saw one another. But she promised herself once the snows had melted away she would leave the safety and comfort of the Mansion and hunt for Nerina, trying her best to find the two-leg woman. Even if she should meet Nerina again, she cannot be sure what reception she will receive, or whether their friendship can survive what has transpired. Yet the only way to know is to try.


Sitting against a tree, oblivious, the young woman finishes laying out her instruments and draws her blade from its sheathe with a sharp swish and snap as it comes to a stop. In the same motion the weapon telescopes and locks together, stretched out to the length of a full sword with only a few small notches where the pieces connect - and a discrete switch in the handle - to betray its ability. Like its owner, the outwards appearance is sometimes deceiving. She's been going by 'Vladlena' recently, but it's the same scent being carried off on the breeze.

Nerina looks over the nicked and untended edge of her blade before grabbing her cloth to wipe it clean.


A couple of hours past, the leopard caught a hint of a scent. She has been quartering back and forth across the trail of that scene, narrowing down on the source, which was moving for a good while. Now, at least, she is drawing close to what smells like a primary source. But there are differences. Less salt in the scent, for one. Still, the leopard slinks down low and wriggles closer, to get a look at the source of that scent.

Jhiao never saw any sign of Nerina with a sword. That doesn't prove this isn't her, but it does give the four-foot some pause with her paws. What now? She keeps watching for a while, before finally come out from cover and creeping closer, bit by bit, until she can get that closer, hopefully more accurate look.


There isn't much in common between the fishing waif and the Slav with a sword, unless one knows what to look for. The eyes are a different color, so is the hair, the clothes - and there's no backpack or flute in sight. But beneath the sheen of makeup that's been chosen to muffle skeletal cheeks and sunken eyes, the young woman has the same overall shape, the same dullness to her expression, and might be about the same age. Compared to Nerina last the leopard saw her, she might even be a little thinner…

Continuing to clean her jian, with its ornamental lion-head pommel catching the light as she turns it over, the dark-haired girl is paying the forest around her little mind.


The leopard does not judge on outward appearances, but on things she holds to be 'true': scent and movements. Once she feels she is close to being right, the leopard pads closer and curls around until she is approaching from in front of Nerina, tail lashing back and forth. She'd be hard to miss. And how many clouded leopards can there be in and around the city?


The young woman looks up and her eyes widen for a moment in muted surprise, having an easier time recognizing the leopard than vice-versa; the same damp, small expression, and the same lack of panic or fear.

"<There you are,>" she murmurs in her native Russian before offering English as she looks back down at her sword. It's a jian, historically a defensive weapon worn for protection good for parries but too short and neutrally balanced for attack - and something Jhiao might recognize. "You took your time."


The leopard tilts her head to the side, little rounded ears flicking forward as she focuses on Nerina. She doesn't understand Russian, but the woman's final words are very curious. Took her time? A low rumble starts in her chest as she approaches. She does indeed recognize the jian, and it does not at all fit what she knows of this woman. And it looks odd, in ways she cannot understand right now. She does not close within stabbing range, but stops just outside it, still growling, head titled, watching.


Nerina pauses as the large cat approaches her. The vagabond grins. "Do you want to attack me?" She asks as she calmly sets the sword aside and begins to open her jacket, exposing the Adidas shirt underneath. "Let me take this off first. I don't need it getting damaged…"


The leopard snorts, almost sneezes, and tosses her head back and forth. Then she keeps advancing, slowly, creeping closer and closer to Nerina, wuffling, taking in the other woman's scent. She stops at about half the distance, and stays, staring, wondering why it is that Nerina actually thinks she would attack her when she hasn't attacked first.


Nerina stops grinning and raises a dark eyebrow as she pulls her coat back on - yes, she dyed those too. By now the leopard isn't very far away and the girl stares back, peering into Jhiao's eyes and trying to peek into what's behind them.

"What, then?"


The warm amber eyes stare deeply into Nerina's gaze, as she stops and holds her position. Her tilted-head perspective continues, augments, making an even stronger statement of how confused she is by Nerina's words and actions. Damned confusing two-legs. So frustrating!


"Yes, you found me," Nerina affirms stone-faced before Jhiao's confusion. "What are you going to do?" she asks as she opens her arms to either side. She's exposed now and unguarded, but so is her lap.


The leopard keeps moving forward, bit by bit, slowly, until she pushes her muzzle right into Nerina's chest, and keeps pushing, as if to push her through the tree. That won't work, of course, but she does not push hard enough to cause injury. Just enough to exert force to keep the woman in place. Still. Whatever that's supposed to mean.


The Russoitalian looks curious then uncomfortably as the leopard presses into her chest and pins her against the tree. There's not a whole lot more vagabond there than anywhere else. The rise of her breathing can be felt as it meets resistance, and if Jhiao is patient she might even notice the beat of the young woman's heart.

"Oof…"


The leopard then sprawls out over the other woman's lap, possessively. This way, the Russian/Italian woman can't run away from her again. She has found her, after an entire week of hunting. She's not letting her go anytime soon.


And once again most of Nerina is buried under clouds of cat fur. She puts her own furry sleeves atop Jhiao's back and rubs the feline, unable to keep from smiling at the blatant show of affection.

"Da, da, you found me alright," she affirms.


There's not a lot Jhiao can do to communicate more information to Nerina. So for now, she just remains where she is. She has finally found her target. She has laid claim to her target. That will have to do for now, until she has another chance to learn more. She'll need a telepath, or need to change to two feet to manage that. She'd prefer a telepath, but given the way Nerina responded last time, she may have to resort to two feet. Gah, she hates two feet.


That, at least, is something the two have in common. Nerina slowly but surely sinks her shoulders and head down atop Jhiao's fur, burying herself in it and quietly scratching the feline's neck affectionately. Just because she can talk doesn't mean she will. The vagabond lets body language speak for her too; she doesn't want to leave anytime soon, either.

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