AKA Parallels

July 20, 2017:

Sizani of the Kupaa and one Jessica Jones come to an unspoken understanding about the Mizizi investigation. Then, the Dora Milaje ambushes the PI with a very specific question, one that proves that Jess still has a long way to go if she's going to be ready to take the stand in the upcoming trial of Bucky Barnes.

Wakandan Embassy, New York City

Abandon all meekness, all ye who enter here.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Bucky Barnes, Jane Foster, T'Challa, Matt Murdock

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Jessica Jones is a persistent soul. Since her adventure with Sizani she has been up at the Embassy nearly every day.

Every day, she has walked away empty handed.

Finally, she ignores Wakandan Intelligence and seeks out Sizani. They’re both busy women, and they haven’t gotten a chance to touch base since their strange adventure with the metahuman cannibal Jessica has come to think of as Shia Le Beouf. Her conscience keeps pricking at her for not searching the sewers to see if he’s alive or dead either, but…it’s safe to say she’s got Concerns about searching sewers, real Concerns, and those have kept her out.

The moment she finds the Dora Milaje she gets straight to the point. “I’m being stonewalled,” she says flatly. “I don’t have a single minute of footage. Not a file. Not a list. Not a name. All I know for sure now is that the whole investigation was conducted by WIS and that WIS was running ‘exercises’ the day it all went down, whatever that means. Did that thing that we did even have anything to do with Mizizi?”

Dressed in nicer jeans of Stark weave, and an electric blue V-necked t-shirt in the same fabric, and boots, her hair now cut to just above the shoulders, and wearing the panther tooth necklace, she once again looks out of place. But maybe a little less out of place than the night that she just showed up in her most ragged clothes.

Her face is set in a mask of frustration, full lips touched with ruby red lipstick pressed and twisted into an expression that conveys her unhappiness as clearly as a shout.

There is only one way to speak in this place, only one way to carry one's self. You must be bold, and for this, Jessica earns no reprimand. Instead, she will find that Sizani absorbs her frustration as surely as vibranium might absorb a killing blow. The lab where Sizani works is a place that few are allowed, but Jessica will find her necklace allows her certain privileges in this place that are enjoyed by few. Before them both is the Midnight Angel armor, with every surface, every panel exposed and open for diagnostic mode. Sanura operates on a nearby screen, separate from her usual home in Sizani's armory, while the Dora Milaje works at replacing a small chip on a circuit board.

There is a tense silence in the aftermath of Jessica's explanation of her grievance, and she lets out a slow chip as she replaces the chip and allows the suit to retract the board into a small housing on an internal plate. From her position on the small dias that holds all of the equipment she needs to service the suit, she swivels in his seat and steps down. Sanura begins working, even as Sizani takes her gloves off and turns to face Jessica.

She wears much the same thing she wore when she tried to kill the investigator, a suit meant to support the armor she wears and allow for a better interface. There is a long moment when green eyes cast Jessica in silent regard, a hand waving to bring images into existence all around the room. A gesture all the system needs to know exactly what she wants.

"Everything is connected, Jessica." A step forward, and she does as she is want to do in such situations, invading Jessica's personal face. "It is but a matter of degree. The actions of the Winter Soldier have often been the actions of Hydra, or those that Hydra would assist. To know Hydra's recent activity in this city is to know their involvement with Mizizi. Or, at least, to begin to understand." She steps aside, allowing Jessica to look over the holograms.

"The WIS will not help you because they have been told not to. Because your investigation must not be tainted by their conclusions. Because your friend deserves this single chance that your bravery has assured him." Her last few words carry weight that Jessica herself has brought to the forefront of her mind. Perhaps it means the investigator's dedication has brought a more open mind to at least one Wakandan.

The suit is as foreign to Jessica as everything about Wakanda, but for different reasons. It all just looks like so much tech to her. More complex than a toaster, less complex than a spaceship, maybe, though probably not by much. At the very least, anyone in Wakanda's embassy ought to know that letting her into a lab produces little danger vis a vis her figuring anything out. Perhaps, theoretically, she could snap pictures or something and get them to smarter people…but that's not her purpose today.

Interesting.

"Well, I appreciate the mindset behind the stonewalling, but I can't investigate without information," Jessica points out. She doesn't care about the personal space— Sizani's touch or presence does not, quite atypically, bother the PI one whit, it seems. Images, though, she reaches for. Well familiar with manipulating holographic displays by now, she absorbs them hungrily, eager for any clue.

She also spins her questions. She has so many questions.

"Who was on the investigative team? That matters. Is there surveillance video available of the conference? I don't need their conclusions to look at surveillance tapes. Were people required to buy tickets and register with real information? Did they have to wear a name badge? Or were they allowed to pay cash at the door and wander in and out without registration? Do we even know which attendees are still alive? Were there exhibits at this thing, and if so, who were they and which of them are still alive? How about the speakers, which of them survived? Food vendors? What kinds of explosives were used and what's needed to make them? Is there overlap between those and anything that was in any of those exhibits? Where were the explosives planted? How about security? Who provided it? Are any of those guys still alive? How tight was the security? Who owns that venue? Who planned the event? Who freaking insured it?"

She rapid-fires the questions as much to demonstrate all she does not know, all that she would consider to be the very baseline for any investigation, as much as because she's trying to get answers. Though as she studies holograms, it's obvious she wouldn't say no to answers to any of those questions.

It's also a window into how she thinks, for better or for worse, where she starts when presented with a Gordian knot like this, wholly different, in its way, then how someone who navigates the fields of international espionage and secret societies might think.

"Questions you will not find answers to today. Today, we are speaking about our mission. One met with success." She hovers around Jessica, behind her, watching as she absorbs the information. Digesting her process, and how she moves between images and bank statements, the way she might disregard something trivial to find something with meaning. "You see, there. Money changing hands. Shifting outward from America to other countries. This club, it acts as a funnel. But not by itself. There are business partners. Children of the rich, who wish to say they understand the world works."

The pictures come, one after another. Isabella Gerace, Late twenties. Her family is into illicit activities across the eastern seaboard. She's decided Russians are her best option to get her own slice of the pie. Blond, twenty three, she probably has more money than she knows what to do with. And she's used her own personal trust fund accounts to help launder more. The transactions show below her name and face, and Jessica will be able to tell the picture is not from any computer they searched at the club. Sizani has been busy.

Robert Zhang is next, a man who is only just out of college. Twenty four, the son of a world famous heart surgeon who spends his nights pretending he's the next generation of the Triad come to NYC. The reality is if a member of the Triad actually heard him say such a thing he'd never wake up to see his second smile. He buys cars. Lots of cars. For what reason is anyone's guess, but he does so with Sergei's money.

Ian Sterling isn't the last picture, but it's one that will stand out. Jessica will recognize him as the man who tried his best to memorize a pickup line, and who gave her the opening she needed to make it into the basement. Twenty five years old, he and his sister Ava own a sprawling enterprise of small companies that focus on a wide range of products. Some are fronts, but not for Sergei. Mostly, it seems Mr. Sterling's use to Sergei and by extension, Hydra, is helping them procure specific, hard to get pieces of real estate. All of which were held for some time, until recently. Now, the mission is selling, and Mr. Sterling has re-purchased several of the properties, even at a loss.

Overall, the cash flow has increased through this tiny front, and it has formed a near breaking point. There is also information on Ivan Istvan, a man with only a grainy photo taken in some lab. This data shows that he was an experiment that tried to copy the Super Soldier program, but one that produced only failure. Rarely used, mostly kept imprisoned, he was activated as a last resort for a mission in Washington DC, though that information is redacted. He was using the club as a safe house. Apparently, his abilities will decline unless he eats human flesh, and will in fact perish if he does not have it.

"Tell me. Where is your lead? Where will you go next?"


'Questions you will not find answers to today.'

Jessica Jones looks up for a moment. It wouldn't do to alienate her only ally in Wakanda right now. It really wouldn't. And for all they like boldness, they probably don't like being shouted at. Especially as Sizani actually does seem to be on her side, and if she won't give answers it's probably not entirely her fault. The Wakandans have their own strange version of honor, keeping them from just turning over the damned information already, and it's all part and parcel of why MI6 Agents have a year long course devoted to understanding it, and why The Winter Soldier was never sent there.

So she takes a deep breath. Holds it for five seconds. Lets it out again. Takes another deep breath. Lets her mind fill, as she listens to Sizani, with the sound of Tibetan singing bowls. She has had to learn how to pay attention and to meditate while preparing for this trial, and now seems a great time to practice. And by the time she's done with the exercise, she's ready to focus in on the funnel of money as it flows from nation to nation and hand to hand.

Sizani seems convinced any of this has to do with Mizizi; Jessica is less convinced. But it's a lead to pursue, and the whole people-eater thing is still pretty god awful, and if nothing else, it will be something productive she can do with her time while she tries to figure out a way to get answers out of a foreign country she can't actually travel to yet. There's gotta be a way to work the phones.

In the meantime, the cannibal has a name, and the name doesn't make him any easier to think about.

Where is your lead, Sizani asks, and Jessica arches an eyebrow.

Jessica stops on the picture of Ian Sterling. "I'm going to go do a deep dig into every one of them, but the first one I wanna talk to? This guy. He helped me get into the basement."

But she's frowning. This kid is even more of an enigma wrapped in a what the fuck now.

"Because he helped me. And I'd love to know why. Seems counterproductive, for someone willing to be involved in all this."

Slowly Sizani leans into the periphery of Jessica's vision, her gaze a cutting beam that takes in every detail of the man's face. "You will only know when you peel his layers back and find out who is inside. This is a man of great resources, but one who wishes to be involved first hand with things he should not. A good place to start."

There is a moment where everything is still visible, until finally it is all sucked away, and Jessica will feel a flash drive curled in against her palm. The hold does not break, and Sizani steps in front of her so that she might stare into her soul once more. "You must work in parallels. You can investigate this lead, and help your friend, while still remaining here for him."

Her hand will finally leave her own, and she steps back, leaving her with a caution against her own failure. It plays in her eyes, in her broken soul. She leaves it unspoken, that this task will lead her places, but not the quagmire of overwhelming work that would come should she decide to engage a mystery from half way across the world.

It seems in her own way, Sizani is looking out for Bucky. Or perhaps just for her own purpose and agenda, whatever that may be. She offers a small, uncharacteristic smile. "I know much of Barnes. Everything there is to know from record alone, as brief as they may be. Tell me what he means to you, and how you came to know him. Tell me like I am your sister, and I will take your words into my heart for when the time comes for his judgement."

T'Challa had promised he would face one. It remains to be seen just what kind.

Jessica's hand curls around that flash drive much as it had curled around the panther tooth necklace during their second meeting. Sizani speaks of working in parallels, and for a flash, for a moment, Jessica thinks she sees something. Something about Wakandan culture, something that she's being told.

A moment more, and she sees it. She can't see the information she seeks.

But Sizani can.

And Sizani believes Jess now, or is willing to believe her. Furthermore, Sizani is watching how Jessica thinks. And there's more to that than testing her. There's more than that than trying to understand this ridiculous American who has leapt in with both feet to make messes in Wakanda. If Jessica's right…

Then what is happening here is Jessica will be doing Sizani's work while Sizani does Jessica Jones'. It's an elegant solution. A rather beautiful and subtle one that Jessica…just would never have been capable of coming up with on her own. Because Jessica Jones does not do subtle…but she's capable of appreciating it when she sees it.

When Sizani tells her to tell her of Barnes, she all but confirms it.

"I— think I understand," Jessica says, and makes a fully American gesture, pausing to gently touch Sizani's shoulder, and squeeze. "Thank you."

Jessica Jones pulls over a chair and straddles it. She pauses to compose her thoughts.

'You've got to get where you can tell this story calmly, Jessica,' Matt had said, and here, again, is an opportunity to practice for trial. She lets singing bowls fill her mind.

"I first met Bucky when he was still under Hydra's control. I didn't realize at first how much we had in common, but once all the symptoms became known to me I knew. He was being mind controlled. I knew, my most unlikely sister, because I have been mind controlled. Not the same way. Not for the same purposes. But enough to know what it's like. Imagine two steel cages wrapped around your mind, tight. Imagine you are in the innermost one, screaming, railing, throwing yourself against it with all your strength. It won't budge. Meanwhile, someone squeezes the cage on the outside to force you to do things. Imagine you can watch, feel, burn as your body moves without your volition, as your mouth speaks words you don't want to speak. Or imagine you are drowning, being held under the water, staring up at the patterns of light, the sun on the surface, and you fight to break through. Sometimes maybe you do, or bits of you do, and then someone forces you back down again."

It has to start here. This story. It must start here, and Wakanda must understand, truly understand, what it means to be under the control of another.

This is not how she will ultimately tell this at trial, she knows. But it is how she would tell her sister. If…a bit more poetically. But everything about Wakanda seems to inspire poetry in even this most habitually ineloquent of women. She has heard them speak in metaphors, and it just…feels right. To add the same sort of speech.

—-

For her part, Sizani does not speak as the tale begins, before for her people stories are sacred. They are the motion of the mind, wrapped in the texture of the past and the echo of the future. A way to bring history to those who need it most. And here and now, she needs it. She does not nod or speak of things left unsaid, because that is where they must dwell, in a place no one but those present should understand.

And they do have an understanding.

And so, Sizani imagines a dual cage, her head tilts. Her eyes drown, and her lips part. To anyone watching, it might seem as if she'd grown dizzy, but instead she has only grown closer to the truth. Finally her eyes fall shut, and Jessica's horror can fully become her own. Only when Jessica pauses does she ask a question, part of the ebb and flow of the way a tale like this should progress.

"And how did he break from this cage enough to show you he was not the monster they made him?"

Her breath slows and her fingers curl against her thighs as she sits in the chair across from Jessica, focusing on the face in her mind's eye, the face of the Winter Soldier. She would know him, and know him through the lens only Jessica Jones can provide her.

Jessica feels it. The sacredness. Feels, for a moment, what it might be to be a Wakandan storyteller. The rhythm of question and answer is wholly unlike the same rhythm in an interrogation, or witness questioning session. It is a dance, it is a drumbeat, it is something that sings in her soul. Even though this is a raw story, a true story, it feels, for a moment, like dancing as Jessica knows dancing.

And so she falls into it naturally.

“As there were two cages, there must needs be two keys.”

She stops choosing words so much as she begins painting with them.

“The first was the key of his own heart, will, and memory. The heart of a mighty wolf, old and ill-used but strong, so strong. The second, the key of love and friendship. Twas the second key that began to turn first. He came face to face with his pack brother, Steve Rogers, and it shook loose memories that Hydra had thought to squeeze in its tentacles and hold fast. He found his mate, the scientist Jane Foster, a wolf— by the by— that would no more allow anyone to harm scientists or their science than she would cut off her own hand. He found others, old friends and new. The witch who showed him his true face and told him his true name. The spy who fought a war with him a lifetime ago. Others. Myself. For a time, my role was to merely call out to him, to encourage him to fight the lies and the controls planted in his mind through torture and technology. To believe him and believe in him. But once I understood, I could not turn my back.”

In that last line, perhaps, a good summation of the best of who Jessica can be.

“Hydra does not let its prey go very easily, and they spin plots within plots. Eventually they took the scientist and tried to take her mind as they had taken his. We launched a massive rescue effort, and brought them both home, and in the course of that effort, both keys turned and both of them were free.”

Sorry, Jane. Sorry, Bucky. But I have to. And. Well. None of this will be much of a secret in a week.

Jessica drops her voice and says softly, “And it is a miracle there was anything of his mind left to turn his own key. Or hers. I saw some of the tortures they performed, here in our city, deep beneath the streets. I heard the screams. No human should make those sounds, like those screams. Minds work in certain ways, have roads and pathways that are known and which can be exploited. The beast of Hydra can shatter a mind, all to the song of screams that are akin to a mother watching her infant being thrown on the fire, akin to hearing a man skinned alive under a merciless sun. Screams unending, until the cages are set and locked. Which is now, why, these two wolves hate Hydra with all of their hearts, and seek to rend and rip at the flesh of the beast.”

She pauses again, for she hears the pause in the drumbeats of her mind, to see if Sizani has another question to ask.

Now it is not about the story. She has the soul of this man in her crosshairs, delivered to her by Jessica Jones. She will examine it herself, in due time. Now it is about Jessica, and her eyes snap open to take her in. "You find kinship in him for more than this shared nightmare. It goes farther. Tell me. Tell me what sin you have in common. Did some part of you want the things you were forced to do? Some sense of power? Did you enjoy the food you were made to eat? Harming those in your way who happened to annoy you? Tell me, Jessica Jones. Tell me why this man is important to you, tell me what part of your broken soul he reflects."

She's standing again, looming over Jessica as if a prosecutor standing before the world's worst witness box, glaring at Jessica in her search for the truth. This is another crucible, and it is not about The Winter Soldier at all. She will find her answers, she will remember Jessica's regard for this man, and the truth she sees in him. But now it is time for Sizani, daughter of the Kupaa, to see the truth in her.

"I will not stand for you until I know the whole truth of you, and these acts you have committed to are not the acts of a woman who stands only in friendship. You act like your family is at stake. You act for all the world as if your own life were the one in danger. I would know you, now. Before we go farther. Before the world must suffer the outrage of injustice committed against my people, and your friend."

The fire she holds is the fire of someone wronged. Because long ago, she was. Now she has a chance to perhaps correct such an error. Wakandan justice is swift, it is violent, it is unerring. But it is not always on time. Here and now she commits to know where she must be to met it out to those deserving of it's final caress, and she is not yet convinced James Barnes should escape her claws.

Jessica's truth might change that, if only she can bring herself to bare her soul to the Dora Milaje.

Jessica's eyes narrow, and now she snaps, "That's like asking someone if they enjoyed their rape, Sizani. No. That's exactly asking that. I dunno. Ever been raped? Did you enjoy it? Did you want it? Shit! C'mon! You're smarter than that."

She stands up, the metaphor shattered, the illusion of telling a campfire tale gone, something raw and infuriated in its place.

Yep, she forgot to be calm on that one. The prosecutor would have nailed her on the stand probably, but she meets Sizani eye for eye. "And yeah, guess what! When it's mind control you do get to feel fucking guilty about it, thank you very fucking much. When you're forced to murder, which yes, I was, when you're forced to beat the shit out of people, which yes, I was, of course I want to help people who are like me. But it still wasn't YOU and it still wasn't your fault. And none of that has a god damn thing to do with why I feel kinship for him. He and Jane are god damn family. He did not fucking do it!"

She's too furious to see the fire of someone wronged, because her anger just comes pouring out of her. Tears flow down her face.

"This trial! This fucking trial! All of you with your fucking trials! Everyone so god damn willing to blame the one who suffered instead of the one who pu— the ONES who put people through this! Because it's easier! It's easier to think if you do all the right fucking shit and you are good and you are strong and you are enough that nobody will ever do it to you, but it can happen. It can 100% happen. And then? Then some fucker can come frame you for another fucking crime just to come rub salt in the fucking wound!"

She wipes her eyes, but the tears won't stop. The tears she'd dashed away for Bucky, the tears she'd swallowed on the ferry, the tears she'd avoided because she didn't feel she had a right to them, because it was her job to be there for these people. A job she's failing spectacularly at right now. In part, because these trials lay bare a dark fear.

If Bucky is at fault, then she is at fault.

But there's more to it than that. "I love them. Ok? I do. Jane found out all about how…fucking filthy I still am because I didn't want her to feel alone and she accepted me right away. I didn't even know her till after the rescue and she was just so incredibly brave, you don't even know how brave, hurt to her god damn core and still worrying about me. James, too. Instantly wanting to protect me when I was trying to give him comfort and solace, ready to jump in and make sure nothing ever happened to me ever again. Cause that's who he is. He protects people. He defends people. And that's all we've ever done together. Fight monsters side by side so people can stay safe. He taught me to fight because I was so sloppy. He taught me to dance, too. To dance, Sizani. I felt like I was flying— I was happy for a minute, god damn it. Family? Like my own goddamn brother, my older brother, and now you all want to take him away, and I can't, I can't lose another brother, I can't."

She suddenly falls back into the seat, turning away, trying desperately to stem the flood running down her face, her eyes red and her nose full of snot.

"Fuck," she whispers. "Fuck, fuck, fuck. I'm going to fucking blow it on the fucking stand if I can't— god damn it."

Her lips part, and she takes in a slow breath through the display, watching as her accusation cuts to the soul. If such a cut would bleed, Sizani would revel in the backwash of blood. Instead it is only frustration. She barely moves, barely reacts, watching her like someone might watch a caged animal while it works out it's impotent fury. It is not until Jessica is facing away that she will feel her reassuring touch, a hand over her shoulder, and then it slides around her neck as another arm joins her in embrace. Her cheek will find the side of her head, and she cradles her in the way her mother once did, so long ago, when she felt such great loss. Her words are a whisper, dropping the pretense of her accusation, meant to draw poison from an emotional wound.

"I have not suffered your circumstance, Jessica Jones. But I have known hardship that has threatened to break me. When my sister perished fighting the enemies of Wakanda, I was a raw nerve. It was my duty to stand against those who would challenge my mother's authority among the Kupaa. I failed at just the mention of her name. It filled me with rage. Reminded me of the poor replacement I was in her stead. Our enemies nearly seized a moment of weakness to destroy us. Just as your enemies will seek to destroy you when you bear witness. He will ask worse things. Make greater overtures. He will dare you to be weak when you must be strong."

Her grip tightens, and she shakes Jessica with the force of it. "There is no shame in your emotion, no defeat in your tears, but you must have control of it. It is the difference between victory and catastrophe. And you must prevail. This trial before you is the burden of nations who know little of just ways, and by the time I am finished with you, I will teach you what the Dora Milaje taught me. You will not flinch at the mention of grotesque suggestion. You will not falter when they seek to use your suffering against you. You will be cold vibranium, and they will break against you. Only then can your brother be judged by those who will know reason, and I give you my word, by that time we will know the truth of things."

She leans back, and up, just a little, fingertips pushing at Jessica's chin to force her to look up. She will see a single tears marking ruin on a face that has perfect symmetry. She will know the vibranium can weep too, when the setting permits. "Today is your first lesson, and it has concluded. Tomorrow you will see Ian Sterling, and return to me with your report. Then we will begin again, every day. Every night, until words can no longer harm you."

This time, she flinches at the touch. She needs a shower. She needs like six. But she soon allows the embrace. It's not a flinch of feeling threatened, but a flinch of feeling too disgusting to be touched, but…there's something in the way that Sizani holds her that somehow allows for that.

It’s been some time since Jessica has enjoyed a motherly embrace.

She had thought her past had lost its power to hurt her. Instead, she's just learned she just knows how to live with it a little better than she used to. She hates that, hates that about herself so much. It should have lost its power to hurt her by now. She should have defeated this, by now. Will she ever? Will she really? The reminder that Kilgrave is alive, comatose, but alive, taunts her suddenly, dances, cackling, along the surface of the wound.

And the outburst itself was embarrassing. She shouldn't even claim that sort of thing about Bucky. Steve is his brother, he's already got a surrogate family member. She's just the weird, awkward, broken, inadequate friend who has attached herself to both Bucky and Jane, and who can't let go of something or someone once she's found a way to hold on to it, someone they probably mostly just tolerate and are nice to because they are good, incredible people.

She's so…fucking lame.

But will that change her actions? No. No, probably not. She’s still got to do what she’s got to do, still compelled to fight for them both. Because it’s for Jane, too. She wasn’t kidding, when she told Bucky she thinks his death will destroy her.

Bucky’s death will implode multiple lives, really. She just knows it. So she can be stupid, she can be lame, she can be shit on the ground, she can be whatever it takes to keep that from happening.

But can she be calm? Because that’s what it’s going to take. For her to be the one thing she’s never been. All the rest of that shit is natural to her. All those familiar failures.

She struggles to focus on what Sizani is saying. "I'm sorry. About your sister," is what she manages to say at last. And she is. There’s too much loss in the world. Too much. She feels like such a prick. Other people have lost people, other people have been hurt, and she’s just in here yelling, selfishly yelling like she’s the only one it’s ever happened to.

She listens to the rest. How Sizani intends to prepare her for trial just as Matt does. Well, she'll more than take all the help she can get. She's just proven she's not ready. Not by a long shot. She'd thought she was really starting to get the hang of it, too. And it's coming, approaching like a freight train, the day when she will sit in that chair. The day when a male might ask her if she enjoyed it. The thought makes her blood curdle, and go cold. Makes her taste bile, right at the back of her throat. But she manages a few more shaky words.

"I— thank you, Sizani. You're a better friend to me than I deserve."

Today she will shower. Six, eight times. Hot. It has to be hot. She wants to scour her skin off.

She will try not to cry more, because she's so sick of it. So sick of her own tears.

Then? Then she'll… go see Ian Sterling.

She finds herself a little reluctant to leave the embrace she just flinched from, but she does, heading towards the door, hands shaking a little. Sizani gives her word, and she holds on to that, believing in it. A most unlikely friendship. And of the pair, Sizani is the strongest by far. But perhaps she won't be weak forever. Perhaps she'll learn. Learn to be as strong as a daughter of the Kupaa.

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