Dark Horse (Pt. 2)

April 11, 2019:

At long last, the extremely woolly calico cat arrives at its destination: Katsumi's temporary abode in Titans Tower. There, in the wee hours of the sunless morning, she learns the origins of her powers.

Habitation Level - Titans Tower

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: Dark Horse - Katy Perry


Fade In…

*

Katsumi Oshiro had to be escorted to a room. She didn't feel it so much at the time, but her poor system is NOT used to alcohol. And on the way back, the intoxication levels seemed to intensify. Perhaps it's due to her enhanced physiology that she had a higher tolerance, or at least could hold out longer. Either way, Katsumi was a giggly, derped out mess by the time they made it back to the Titans Tower. She almost didn't make it into a bed. But as soon as she hit the mattress, that was it. She's out. Like a lightbulb. Sprawled haphazardly, facedown, boots still on her feet, bracelets still on her wrist.

Completely inelegant.

Hours have passed. The last ferry to the island has made its pass. Hours more pass. Security rotations switch out, and the entrance to the Titans Tower is opened briefly. An opportunistic shadow darts underfoot and inside. The lights easily catch the shape of a large feline; a calico, to be precise, and excessively woolly. Despite that, it's perfectly capable of cat-like reflexes, dodging hands and grab attempts from personnel as it rushes about in a panic, only to make its way up level after level.

At last, it reaches the uppermost floor. The cat moves unerringly to the room wherein Katsumi is contained, and sits expectantly in front of the door. On the other side, some sounds can be heard - troubling sounds, like those of distress!

*

Spoiler made her way in, silent as a shadow, a mere ten minutes ago. Just long enough to note who the cat slipped by and how ineffective everyone was in catching it. She waved them off, an unknown as of yet, but with a calm air of authority and belonging in the Tower that she wasn't questioned. Plus, she had a distictive symbol on her chest; few were willing to question it most of the time. Having come to check on Katsumi, Spoiler took the opportunity the feline offered and triggered the system to remote open the door to her room. Those troubling sounds had the blonde on edge.

Door open, Spoiler makes her way in quickly but not carelessly.

*

In went Spoiler, in went the cat.

"Ohmygod, ohmygod, ohmygod," says Katsumi's voice further in the room. What followed next is the unmistakable sound of someone getting violently ill. Should Spoiler investigate further, she'll find Katsumi huddled, sweaty and disheveled, but still in her nice clothes, over the porcelain throne as she expels the alcohol of the night before.

The feline, however, has stopped in the main room with the bed to sit poised in the middle of the floor. Its expression is unreadable, if erring on annoyance. But then again, it's a cat. They always look that way.

*

Even when they are also blonde and wearing latex.

Spoiler triggers the door closed and leaves the cat where it wants to be. Following the sounds, Spoiler steps silently into the restroom behind Katsumi, knowing this all too well. Gang infiltrations have given her experience in this. Wordless, the batling steps over. Gentle, gloved hands pull hair back and out of the way. Fisting the strands delicately, Spoiler is now even more thankful that a certain someone she knew was a major nerd and technophile.

Blue-green eyes hidden by AR lenses sets the shower running.

*

"Ah-!," manages Katsumi in startlement, only just now realizing someone had come into the room. But at this point, she'd welcome death by ninja. Katsumi has never experienced a hangover before. This is a fresh, horrible kind of Hell. At any rate, she's in no position to fight back. She's right back to practically turning inside out.

In the other room, the feline impatiently rotates about. Jade green eyes take in the interior. Sterile, uninhabited. Katsumi hadn't been in here before tonight, so it definitely doesn't look lived-in.

The feline hops up onto the bed, where it resumes waiting.

Finally, Katsumi seems to've completely emptied herself out, ready and willing to slump to the side. "Ugh.. who.." Her head tilts to try to look up at Spoiler. What she's met with is an unrecognizable mask, and fear is immediately visible on her face. "What- what do you want? Who're you!?"

*

"A friend of Fairchild's," is the digitized response. Dark purple lips flat and expressionless. As gently as she had held Kat's hair back, Spoiler untangles her fingers from the strands, stepping back enough for the other woman to get pulled to her feet.

"Get in the shower and wash off. Food will be waiting for you," Spoiler adds, waiting to make sure the first 'suggestion' is heeded before turning to wait in the main room (with that cat), ordering food up from the support personnel of the Tower.

*

Katsumi Oshiro stares up at Spoiler for a few seconds, then looks aside to the shower. It does look inviting. It's a little loud, but warm water does seem nice. And food - a little food, maybe - might be good, too. She doesn't think she could eat much of anything just yet. And then a thought occurs to her. "Where am I?" This isn't where she was staying before! "I don't have clothes.." Well, besides what she's wearing.

Squirming, Katsumi uses the wall of the bathroom as a brace to slide up to her feet. "I can just wear this again. It's fine. Um.. thanks."

From there, she'll move to oblige Spoiler's request. Ultimately, where she is doesn't matter. She needs to clean up. Especially now!

In the other room, the cat is idly licking its foreleft paw. But when Spoiler enters, its eyes zero in on hers and the paw lowers. She holds its rapt attention.

*

Spoiler was going to answer Kat's questions, but she ran right over any sense of verbal silence that could have given Spoiler a chance. So, the questions are left unanswered, and the offending clothing are taken when Kat's safely in the shower, exchanged for a pair of nondescript sweats Spoiler found in the clothes dresser that sat near the bed.

As for food, something greasy and not a vegetable to be found. It sounds stupid, it sounds vile, it doesn't even sound medically adviseable, but it works. Stephanie was far too young when she learned that lesson; just one of many. Care-taking tasks complete, Spoiler pauses under the feline's gaze. unseen, a brow quirks.

"The girl's guardian feline?" Spoiler asks softly, the 'conversation' masked by the sound of water… for now.

*

The sounds of water continue as Katsumi languishes in the warmth. Getting rid of that clammy, sweaty feeling is amazing. Can she just live in this? Is that okay?

In the next room, Spoiler is talking to the fluffiest calico known to man. The cat looks like any other feline in this sense - unchanging expression, a bit judgmental. And then suddenly:

<What are you?,> asks the feline in very clear, very masculine Japanese. It has the voice of a storyteller, a presenter, with gravitas.

*

So, basically, James Earl Jones voice. The fluffy calico is a miniture Mufasa? Got it! Not the weirdest thing that's ever happened.

The cat's voice is picked up by Spoiler's sensors, and is run through an auto-translate program courtsey of her Bat Computer uplink. It's not perfect, but it works. The translation she's left with is a reasonably close: Who are you?

"My name is Spoiler," she says in English before reading the romanji translation of what her system gave her for what she had said in English: "Watashi no namae wa supoira desu," Her accent isn't the most amazing thing in the world, but at least she sounds polite.

For now.

The moment this gets heard about she'll have to add Japanese to her list of things to learn. Spoiler draws a breath, making a mental note to start learning it before she's ordered to, a pre-emptive move to be sure.

*

The expression remains unchanged, as if this interaction were the most natural thing in the world. All set to the continued drum of a shower in the background.

"You speak the barbarian tongue of the west," says the feline, suddenly switching to crystal clear English. British English, one should note. James Earl Jones, indeed, but as Darth Vader. "I will accommodate your need." The feline's head lifts. "Spoiler."

*

Maybe this is the most normal thing in the world. Spoiler having a conversation with a cat in a room in Titan's Tower. She wants to shift her weight. She does not.

"Yes, I do. Thank you very much," says Spoiler to the cat, offering the furry fluffy creature a bow that is much more fluid than her attempt at japanese was.

"May I ask what you are doing here?" continues the batling, a touch of protectiveness in her voice.

*

"By right of divination," begins the calico, "I have been drawn here. That I may find he who is chosen."

The shower cuts off. Katsumi steps out of the confines to find the sweatclothes, and she begins to get dressed.

"You have a beast's eye," continues the feline as he raises a paw to point to Spoiler's masked face, "but it is not the right eye. It doesn't bear the divine color. Now tell me - what manner of name is 'Spoiler'?"

*

Right of divination. Extra-planar… meta-human… god-like entity. Spoiler's no stranger to dealing with being like this and so, she nods her head in a bit of a bow, acknowledging without giving up her own status in the room. The water cuts off. The cat asks his question, paw pointing, and there is a knock at the door. Turning, the batling brings in the tray of food, closing the door again before turning to set the tray down on a table. It gives her time to consider how best to answer.

"It is a codename. A name I work under, for my tasks are often dangerous and could bring trobule to those whom are dear to me. Hiding my true face, my true voice, my true name, is how I try to protect those I care about from the things I fight against," she says finally, settling down to the bed so that Katsumi will have no other choice but to sit at the table with the food, and eat.

*

The feline is joined on the bed by Spoiler, who seems to absorb this information with the same odd mix of passivity and intensity. His stare is a hard one, seeming to look through her rather than at her. "Shinobi," he observes. The jade-green eyes focus just a hint further. "Kunoichi. Service through secrecy, honor sacrificed for purpose. I am not unfamiliar with this."

The door opens, and Katsumi emerges in a listless amble. "Who're you talking to?," she asks as she immediately spots the food. She'll be getting to that shortly. First order's first, though. She heard Spoiler saying things.

Her eyes land on the cat, and Katsumi gives an excited gasp. Suddenly leaning in, she grabs the feline beneath the forelegs to pick him up and raise him to face level, letting his lower half dangle.

"Ohmygod, it's so precious! Is this your cat!? You know, I didn't know what to make of you, but anyone who has a cat THIS fluffy has to be okay!," she fully gushes.

*

Spoiler leans back a bit on her hands since trying to sit up straight on the edge of a bed is folly. Once more the space in which Spoiler could have answered questions from Katsumi is run into and Spoiler is left unable to answer immedtiately.

"I was talking to the cat," she replies after Kat gushes. Spoiler's eyes are on the feline's dangling back paws. "You really should support his hind legs. And no. The cat does not belong to me. I rather think he is here to talk to you."

*

"Hahah, what?," asks Katsumi with a giggle far perkier than someone with a hangover ought to have. She looks at Spoiler, head cocked, then back to the cat.

The feline, dangling as he is, continues to stare up at Katsumi. Hard. His gaze is transfixed on the magentas of her eyes. Finally: "This cannot be."

Katsumi recoils with a girlish, "YEEK!," dropping the cat who lands neatly on all fours. She rapidly footsteps backwards until her hips run into the table behind her, and her hands grip at its edge to balance herself. "W-w-what the f&#*?!"

*

Smoothly, Spoiler rolls back up to her feet, stepping around the feline to grab Katsumi's elbow firmly but gently so as to guide her into a chair.

"The cat talks. Welcome to New York. Sit down and eat, please?" Spoiler once again suggests, ready to settle in the other chair.

*

The sun is threatening to crest the horizon, but Katsumi's supernatural strength is still in full swing. Yet despite being many times physically stronger than the human girl taking her wrist, she's very easily manipulated into the chair. Mouth hangs agape, slightly trembling, and unable to take her eyes away from the furry creature seated neatly on the floor before her.

"I came to find the chosen vengeance of a god." The calico lifts to all fours. "And yet I find a chittering girl. Had you not the eyes of our Lord, I would not believe it." He turns to hop onto the bed again, padding confidently towards the pillows. "It smells like sick in here. Are you feeble on top of it all?"

Katsumi starts to speak, but falls short of formulating any reasonable response to any of this. Her eyes dart from the cat to Spoiler, as if seeking answers from her instead.

*

Spoiler has no answers for Kat, only for the cat.

"If you don't have anything constructive about which god sent you, why that god sent you, and what you've hoping to find, you are welcome to leave. She's human, and sick sometimes happen; feeble or not has nothing to do with it." Spoiler's tone is sharp, something like annoyed, and not at all cowed by the fact that this is a talking cat and the subject is gods. She sits then, across from Katsumi, and presses the plate toward the other girl.

"Eat up."

*

Katsumi Oshiro quickly looks to the feline, who is perching on a pillow, then back to Spoiler, alarmed. It's talking about gods! Gods! And just as quickly, her attention is put on the plate of greasy food.

"Answers require questions, shinobi," replies the feline disinterestedly. "I speak of matters above your mortal mind." He starts to turn, then pauses to regard the table again.

At this point, Katsumi is delicately pinching food into her mouth while keeping an unerring stare on the cat. "Unbelievable," he laments. A paw lifts, brushing over his brow to the bridge of his nosepad in a decidedly non-feline way. "If I am being rude, I will beg pardon. This is not what I envisioned. I cannot begin to expect this is what the Lord had in mind."

*

"And sometimes, time is required to think of a question," Spoiler… er.. Shinobi, since the purple batling failed to correct the cat, states. She leans back in her chair, one leg oflding over the other at the knees, arms foldign over the bat symbol on her chest. Those unblinking white-lavendar eyes peering coldly out at the world.

"Nothing ever is. But unless your Lord told you exactly what is on his mind, I'm not sure it's prudent to think that this isn't what he had in mind?" Shinobi offers back, keeping up the commentary so that Katsumi won't feel the need to fill the silence unti she's ready.

*

Katsumi Oshiro is clearly not ready. She's still munching slowly, her eyes never leaving the talking cat.

"Perhaps. Yes, perhaps," considers the feline. "I came to find a warrior. Instead, I find…," he motions a paw towards Katsumi.

Katsumi, still with a fry half in her mouth, quickly interjects! "'m a warrior!" She chews and swallows. Sensing the cat's skepticism, she adds, "Really!" The calico exhales a sigh, truly odd coming from a feline, and climbs up onto the dresser beside the bed. She looks back to Spoiler, still having no idea who she is, but grateful enough that she's present. "Let's- let's try to back this up," she says, finally getting something akin to her bearings. "Spoiler, right? Why were you in here with me? Have we met or something? And you," she looks to the cat, who is presently staring into a lampshade. "What the Hell ARE you?"

The calico redirects his focus to the two females at the table. "I am the Emissary of Maika-no-Yomorinushi. The Lord Protector of the Night."

*

With katsumi jumping in to defend herself, Spoiler falls quiet. When her name is spoken, the batling gives a nod, head turning so those unwavering eyes are on Kat.

"I was in the area, saw the cat at your door, hearing you being ill," she replies, leaving out the fact that she was in the area because she was checking up on Katsumi. It also means the question of the two having met goes unanswered.

*

The emblem on Spoiler's chest is noted, but she doesn't really get it. What do spoilers have to do with bats? Or wait, is that a bat? It could also be an open mouth. What a quirky hero symbol that is.

"Oh. Okay." Katsumi isn't sure what else to say on that. And in all honesty, she's more concerned with the next question she has on her mind. Redirecting to the cat, she asks, "So you know what's been going on with me. Why my eyes are a weird color, why I'm.. sometimes strong. What's the deal?"

The calico's ears fold. "The 'deal'?," he asks. "Yes, I know what is happening to you. I will explain." He prowls around the lamp, then does precisely what all cats do: pushes it the hell over. The lightbulb and shade creates a bright spotlight against the wall behind the table, and soon, shadows begin to dance into view. It's shadow theater; presented by nimble paws.

"Many centuries ago," begins the calico, "there stood a village, isolated in the wilderness, but under the guidance of a benevolent samurai." Little stick-figures bob about, with one being a bit taller than the others with a point hat.

"They thrived under him. But the laws of the land were changing. Samurai were called to their shogunate. To refuse meant surrendering their title, and living their life as a peasant. So the samurai departed the village, leaving it in the care of its elders." The taller, pointy-hatted shadow waves a nubby appendage, then bobs out of the spotlight. The other figures sag, morose.

*

Spoiler is silent, watching. Cats will be cats, expression impassive when the cat knocks over the lamp. The shadow puppets are impressive for a person with thumbs… for cat? Spoiler presses her lips together to stay the snarky comment.

*

Storytime continues!

"As the years went by, the villagers grew paranoid. The isolated nature of their home weighed upon their mind and preyed upon their fears. None who ventured into the dark woods every returned. And soon, they were convinced they were surrounded on all sides by yokai. By… monsters." The borders around the spotlight seem to encroach with strange shapes, and the little figures cower and tremble!

"More years passed, and this village ruled by fear became desperate. Foolish. To avoid being overrun by monsters, they rounded up all domestic animals in the village - and slaughtered them." The little shadows, now wearing twisted, angry faces, are shown attacking smaller, more animalian shapes. "Cats. Dogs. Birds. Then their fury turned to the surrounding wildlife. Everything was suspect, and anything suspect was put to death." A turtle shadow is 'broken' apart. Then a bird gets the same treatment.

"And finally, they turned on each other." One little figure has a 'face' that isn't quite as twisted and angry as the others. They begin to swarm it. "If anyone seemed different, they were called a monster. They were put to death."

A trio of taller, more clear stick-figures amble out on their own. "The elders could stand it no longer. They fled into the woods to beseech the gods for intervention. And the voice who met them…" The 'sky' of the spotlight begins to take on a twisted face of its own. "…was Makai-no-Yomorinushi. The god of beasts and monsters. Lord Protector of the Night. And he was furious."

*

Still not interrupting, Spoiler slides her gaze toward Katsumi, to check on how she's taking all of this.

*

Katsumi Oshiro is staring at the spotlight, eyes wide and processing. She doesn't even notice the look from Spoiler.

"His children had already been hunted and killed by humans for millennia, whether or not they had committed sins. This, he could stand no more. And so, he told them that he would choose a champion among humans. One who could walk among them, but be the retribution they sought by nightfall. And in return, that human would be his champion - his avatar of vengeance against mankind for its cruelty."

"His what now?," asks Katsumi, whirling around to face the cat.

The calico is carefully poised with paws in front of the lamp and a few additional assorted objects carefully arranged (including some leaves from a fake, decorative plant, book, and cut-up spare paper). "His wrath against mankind," he clarifies. "That would be you. Apparently."

*

"So she is your Wrath," Spoiler finally speaks up. After the shadow story, that warm rich and earthly tone of hte cat's voice having reigned for so long, the feel of Spoiler's digitally altered voice gets it an almost inhuman and grating quality, raspier seeming than it is normally.

*

"Correct," answers the cat.

"That's not possible! I mean, why me?! I'm no one's- ow.." Katsumi pauses, placing a palm against her temple as her headache flares. The hangover is still in full swing.

The calico exhales another impatient sigh. "You performed the ritual. You made the pact. You are his chosen."

"Ngh. What ritual?," asks Katsumi, her voice much more subdued and cautious now.

The calico returns to shadow puppetry! On the spotlight canvas, he creates the shape of a shrine centered with a gnarled and distorted face. "Makai-no-Yomorinushi instructed the elders to create a shrine in his honor. Then they were to commit an act of heroism on behalf of a beast, in defiance of a human. At last, they were to spill their own blood upon the altar, bonding them to the Lord Protector of the Night. Whosoever completed the ritual would be his champion. Imbued with divine power. His wrath. They would bear his immaculate gaze, and mankind would know virtuous fear."

"But I didn't-.. wait.." Katsumi squeezes her eyes shut briefly in thought. "..oh &#*dammit." She looks aside to Spoiler. "Before I came to America, I was supposed to do a promo in this wrecked, old, abandoned village. A couple of the newbies were being d#&*s to a cat in front of this old shrine, so I kicked their asses. Cat scratched me, and I guess.. some of the blood got on it."

Her head turns away, gaze unfocused. "THAT has to be why I fainted. S@#&."

*

"Interesting," is all Spoiler has to say about this. Her tone, still falsely grating, at least has the curtsey of sounding intrigued.

"You are to act as her guide, then? Her interpretor to the Lord's wishes? Or are you simply a messenger who will vanish now that your missive is given?"

*

"Correct again, Shinobi," replies the calico. "My body was crafted by the elders, by instruction. When the Lord's power was granted, I would awaken at the first touch of moonlight, and I would be drawn to him." Beat. "Or 'her', it seems." There's a little derision there. "And here I am; Herukage, Emissary of Makai-no-Yomorinushi, advisor to his divine avatar."

"But I'm not a monster," contests Katsumi.

"You are. You possess the Yokai Soul. Whatever you were before, you are now something more."

"I'm not a MONSTER," Katsumi insists.

"You have the power of yokai. And-"

"Nope!" Katsumi suddenly scoots back with her chair. "I'm not hearing this. Not feeling the way I do, not with this headache, not now, maybe not ever!" She looks to Spoiler apologetically. "Sorry, I- I really need to sleep. Thanks for not letting me puke on my hair. And for the clothes."

"You cannot just ignore-"

Katsumi is already moving to pick up the cat, once again under the arms, and march him to the bathroom. "Shh, shh." She sets him down, then closes the door.

Her eyes shift to Spoiler. "Don't judge me."

*

Spoiler just watches, having the sneaking suspicion that the cat and the girl were going to get on each other's nerves. Pushing up to her feet, Spoiler turns for the door, pausing to look over a shoulder.

"Why would I judge a divine avatar when I dress like a bat and prowl around roof tops in the middle of hte night?" she quips, purple lips now curling in a smirk. If her eyes were visible, they'd be laughing. but they aren't, so the snicker is internal only. Quips left to hang, Spoiler turns and sees herself out.

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