A Good Guest

April 18, 2019:

Following training with Nadia, Katsumi runs into Caitlin. Caitlin shoots Katsumi in the leg.

Training Level - Titans Tower

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

*

The hour has gotten late.

The 'Mud Room' has recently seen some activity, it seems. The entrance has opened, and the first to exit is… an excessively woolly calico cat. Few have really had interaction with him, but the critter infamously stormed into the Tower a couple days ago during a security cycle. He's stuck close to Katsumi's side since. But she isn't the next one to exit the room. Nadia Van Dyne is the next to emerge, who hurriedly goes about her way. At last, the third to leave is the Japanese girl in question, wearing a hot pink sportsbra, yoga shorts, and crosstrainers. Her hair is bound back in a sporty ponytail. And though she looks fresh and unscathed, there's a certain weariness behind her smile.

The punkette shuts the door behind her, then simply moves aside to lean against the wall. Her palms lift to brush against her brow, eyes shutting. The overfluffed calico moves to sit beside her feet.

*

"Hey, you all done in there?" Caitlin walks up to Katsumi with a smile on her face. Hair done up in a tight fighting braid at the base of her skull, and a green raceback athletic top that leaves her athletic arms and stomach exposed. Calf-length leggings and low-soled trainers complete the outfit, though there's some leather and cloth protruding from the large duffel bag in her hand.

Her face falls as she examines Katsumi more closely. "Hey, you okay?"

*

Katsumi Oshiro startles out of whatever distracting thoughts she had when Caitlin's voice registers. Her eyes quickly lift to the other girl, and she puts on a quick smile. "Yeah! Just finished using it! It's a real trip…" Her voice dips at the second question, though. "Just.. second-guessing myself, I guess?"

She shoots a sudden look to the cat at her feet, which is staring back up at her. "Don't judge me. I just got shot at."

She looks back up at Caitlin. "I'm just- I'm stressed. That's all. Getting used to it! Like when I first started wrestling!"

*

Caitlin gives Katsumi an alarmed once-over, then relaxes when she doesn't see any visible bullet wounds. She twists a thumb over her shoulder. "Nadia just went that way. Were you two experimenting in there?" she inquires.

"It's okay. The first time I got shot I thought for sure I was gonna die," Caitlin confirms for Katsumi. "It stings but you get used to it. I think someone once told me getting shot is largely, like, a psychological thing? So if you know it's not gonna pierce your skin…"

She points at a star-shaped scar on her left hipbone, above the waistline of her leggings. "That was an Atlantean harpoon, though. Duck those. Those hurt."

*

Katsumi Oshiro blinks, surprised at Caitlin's first question. "Cait, she's eighteen! Gimme a break!"

She looks down at her feet briefly, then back to Caitlin, gaze redirected to the scar. She cringes a little. "Egh. I'll keep that in mind…" Her eyes raise to Caitlin's face again, and she tries for another smile; feigning the confidence she doesn't quite have yet. "I took a knife in the gut in there." Her hand subconsciously moves over her exposed abdominal tone. "I was pretty sure that was it for me. I froze up, and your training room offed me. But it didn't do jack. I mean, it didn't feel GOOD, but it didn't break skin or hurt-hurt. Does that make any sense? Like if they slashed, it'd probably scratch or something, maybe. But I was so freaked by that, when the guns came out, I just…"

She lets out a breath, giving herself a chance to stop the verbal outpouring.

"I froze. I keep freezing."

*

Caitlin's jaw shifts side to side as Katsumi speaks. She's thinking, considering options, then beckons Katsumi to follow her. "C'mon. I'm just messing around with some armor prototypes, this is more important. Nadia's sweet but she's not—" she gestures at herself and Katsumi. "Y'know? We're tanky types, at least from what I've seen of your profile so far." She sighs heavily, shoulders moving. "At least one upside to being this tall. That and getting things off the top shelves."

She spins up a program in the mudroom. Tabula rasa environment, no detail, and she overrides a red 'SAFETY WARNING' alert that flashes in the air. "This can do some pretty realistic stuff. I know I can tank a depleted uranium antimateriel round, but it hurts, like, *crazy* bad. Let's start with something a lot smaller." She taps a few buttons and a little pop gun appears in the air.

Caitlin handles the gun like she knows what she's doing. Checked, loaded, and then she hands it to Katsumi, butt-first. "That's a little .22. It's a squirrel gun." She steps back and spreads her hands. "Go ahead and shoot me."

*

Katsumi Oshiro looks concerned when Caitlin leads the way back into the room. Even the cat looks apprehensive! But she follows, regardless. If she's going to get past this, she has to try. Caitlin's been at this a while. She might know how best to do that. And in the end, she knows she's right. Nadia's got her own abilities. Katsumi is more in line with Caitlin. Though, given what she's learned, she suspects there are still some significant differences. Maybe some that haven't yet shown up…

A gun. There's a gun. She's being offered a gun. Katsumi stares at it, jaw slack. She picks it up between index finger and thumb, looking as though it might bite her. "Ah-.. I don't.. but..," she stammers. Logically, she knows it won't hurt Caitlin. She wouldn't be telling her to do it if it would, right? But everything in her life has told her that guns are lethal. Not to be messed with.

The cat sits near the corner of the room, watching with a passive frown.

*

"It's okay," Caitlin reassures Katsumi. She cradles the gun in her arm. "Look, like…" She purses her lips and looks around, trying to arrange her thoughts with the deliberation Katsumi deserves. "I don't know how your powers work. For me, I had to overcome a lot of built in impulses. You've got to have the willpower to *make* yourself run into gunshots and pick up grenades. Being tanky isn't just about soaking damage." She taps her free hand against the side of her skull. "You've got to learn how to really flex it. I once pulled a five-story building down on myself in order to crush a bunch of little spider-robot-things that were terrorizing the city. I knew I could survive that and shoulder out of it."

"I mean, I was pretty sure," she amends. "It could have gone worse. But I know I would have *survived*."

She turns the little gun around, aims it at her stomach, and pulls the trigger. *POP!* It's loud enough to make the ears ring for a half-second, but doesn't leave them hurting afterwards.

She winces slightly. "Ow," she announces, dutifully. The pea-sized projectile has left a red mark on her skin and completely flattened out into a little metal disc on the ground near her feet.

*

Katsumi Oshiro frowns. "I don't know if I'm that durable..," Katsumi submits. "I'm strong. I'm fast. I took a knife. But that's.. I don't know.."

The trigger is pulled, and the sound of bullet ignition causes the girl to jump! And immediately, she's regarding Cait's midsection with a keen eye. "Ohmygod, it hurt you!," she blurts immediately, automatically reading into the red mark more than she should. But soon enough, it becomes apparent that she's fine.

And then the thought seems to really sink in.

Worried eyes slowly lift to Cait's face. "Are you gonna shoot me..?"

*

"Golly, no," Caitlin says, blinking. "Not without your permission, that's for sure. It's rude." She wrinkles her nose.

"See how ya flinched though? That's— I mean for me, my eardrums don't ever seem to get injured. I've had dynamite blow up in my face, literally. And I tend to heal really well, so…" She shrugs. "No tinnitis or hearing loss, which is nice."

"But honestly, I'd rather learn *here* than in the field," she tells Katsumi. "If you know a … oh, I don't know, a handgun won't hurt you, that really radically changes how you move and fight. If someone opens up with a rifle and it *can* hurt you, then you've got a serious problem if you don't know you can tank that sort of hit. Doing the dumb bruiser charge doesn't work anymore; you've got to improvise."

She beams a sudden smile. "I *love* throwing manhole covers. They're literally everywhere and super duper aerodynamic. I've gotten really good at it!"

*

Katsumi Oshiro places a hand subconsciously against her previously-stabbed midsection again, teeth worrying over her bottom lip. "My ears don't hurt," she offers quietly. "You just shot a gun. That's all." Guns are scary, okay!

"What if we try something like that and I can't take it? Won't you have just.. um.. killed me?" She looks again to the gun, easing back a step from it. "Is it real? Is it not?"

*

"It's real-ish," Caitlin confirms. "I've deactivated the safety overrides. I kind of have to do that most of the time anyway to get a real workout in," she explains.

"But I mean, we don't know if you've got internal invulnerability. If I shot you and it can't exit your skin, it might just bounce around inside. That's something Nadia can look into. For now, you might just try shooting yourself in the foot," she says, still trying to reassure Katsumi with a beaming smile. "This uses about the smallest, lightest bullet in the world, so worst case you get an owie and limp around for a few days. I'd rather make that mistake *here* where we've got medical gear and can fly you to the hospital in three minutes, than for you to dash out heroically in the field and discover you're not fully bulletproof."

She extends the grip of the small pistol to Katsumi again. "You don't have to do this," she says, seriously. "You're still coming into your powers and it takes time to figure them out. I don't want you to get hurt un-necessarily, either. Trust your instincts."

*

The anxiety continues to mount. Are they really talking about her shooting herself? But before she can let Caitlin or her own brain talk herself out of it, she's reaching for the gun. She takes it and looks up to the redhead with a forced smile. "It should be okay! It's not like I'm summoning my persona or anything!" Is Cait hip enough to get the reference?

She thrusts the gun down at her foot. "Mmnh.." Suddenly, she's squirming to remove her shoe. She puts her heel on the toe of the sock to step out of that as well, leaving the foot bare. No point in ruining her clothes, right?

She uptilts the foot, balancing it on its heel. The gun is aimed down again. Her hand begins to shake, causing the gun to rattle lightly. Her eyes are burning, her frame rising and falling more quickly. The tremor in her hand grows. "Nnhh..!" She squeezes her eyes shut. "Ahh-!" She points the gun away from her foot, the tension overwhelming her. "I can't!" Everything in her mind is telling her she's about to cripple herself. "H-here!" The gun is offered back to Caitlin. "You'll have to!"

*

Caitlin shakes her head, accepting the gun back but not turning it towards Katsumi. "It's okay," she says, reassuringly. "Look, like I said. You're still feeling your powers out. If your gut is telling you not to do it, then don't do it," she advises her friend.

She steps forward the and offers Katsumi a hug and her reassuring presence. "It's okay," she repeats. "Don't stress about it. You've had a big day and I'm throwing you into the deep end. I'm just—" she grins, and laughs. "I'm sorry. I'm so excited to be able to help someone discover what they can do. I wanna teach you all the cool stuff Diana and Carol taught me," she explains. "But I don't wanna push you too hard, too fast, either."

*

Katsumi Oshiro is already cringing, bracing herself mentally and physically. Instead, she finds herself hugged. Her eyes blink open to look up at Caitlin, a little watery, tense, and frantic. "No! I need to do this! I can't just stall around out here! My career's over, I'm in a foreign country, I'm f&#*ing homeless, I NEED this! Just- just do it!" She squirms against Caitlin, attempting to coax her back a little. "Please!"

*

"Hey."

Caitlin braces Katsumi's shoulder with her hand and flexes. Just a little. She gives the younger woman a level look, sympathetic but not convinced. "Look. When I first got started, I thought I couldn't possibly lift more than a ton or two. Then I got to ten. Then I started *training* and now I get to spar with the doggone Kryptonians," she tells Katsumi.

"You've been at this… like, two weeks. There's *time* to figure this out. To get it right. Rushing into high stress testing and hurting yourself is super counterproductive."

*

"I am afraid that is not quite true," comes a deep, resonant male voice richly colored with a British accent - like James Earl Jones reprising Darth Vader. The feline pads closer to the pair. "The Yokai Soul has already seeded within her. It is ready to be revealed in full. There is no need to hold back." The feline comes to a halt ten feet away from the pair.

Katsumi's eyes squeeze shut briefly, and she shakes her head. "Ugh. Say hi to my new fluffy 'friend'." She takes a deep breath, then opens her eyes to look back up at Caitlin with a tight frown. "I know it doesn't make sense. But I need to do this. Not for- for HIM, but for me. Please."

*

Caitlin's eyes go wide as saucers when the cat *talks* to her. She instantly interposes herself between the feline and Katsumi, bristling with an entirely uncustomary sort of hostility.

Her reaction is tempered by Katsumi's resigned tone, but the feline still is given a wary once-over. "Tabling the 'gunshot test'," she says, slowly. "I'd really love to know how your talking cat bypassed our security," she adds, with a particularly even tone of voice. "Not that I don't love houseguests but that's, uh, kind of a big problem if something that looks like a cat can just waltz in."

*

Katsumi Oshiro grunts when Caitlin plants herself between her and the feline. She then slouches. "Here we go again."

"Patience," replies the uber-woolly calico. He sits before Caitlin's feet, head tilted back to look up at her with tapered jade eyes. He looks passively annoyed. But then again, he's a cat. That's kind of their default face. "Patience opens many doors. Somtimes literally. People were leaving this tower. That is when I made my move."

He brushes a paw down the front of his fluffy coat, aloof.

"I am Herukage, Emissary of Kamai-no-Yomorinushi, Lord Protector of the Night, God of Monsters and Beasts, shepherd to animalkind and father of yokai. If it eases you, no force known to man would keep His Eminence from contacting his champion. I am merely the vessel of his word and will."

*

Caitlin's eye flickers a few times. Her AI assistant's going into full drive, querying multiple databases and launching research requests at the League's assets for furthur examination. Whatever the Titans— or the League— knows about Herukage or Kamai-no-Yomorinushi, she'll have by tomorrow.

"I don't know," Caitlin says, doubtfully. "I once saw Zatanna hex a demon queen so hard it looked like she had a freight train shunted into her face."

She glances at something hovering in the air, then back at Herukage. "But, uh… if you.. come here meaning no harm, and promise not to do any harm to our friends and allies, you're welcome here as a guest," she says, hesitantly. "Oh—! And I'm Caitlin," she tells him. "Fairchild. It's nice to meet you."

It never hurts to be polite.

*

"Your hedge wizards and their antics with demons are of no consequence to me or the will of the divine," remarks the feline. "This is a very jaded age. Everyone seems to feel the need to disrespect gods or threaten cats. An odd people."

Katsumi has, by now, folded her arms over her modest bust. "Before you start playing innocent, you wanna maybe give her the full story?"

"It upsets the natives and serves no purpose." The calico pads a short distance from the pair before turning to sit again; now with less neck strain! "Caitlin Fairchild. She refers to the covenant she made with the Lord Protector. Humans find it distasteful."

*

Caitlin slowly turns to look at Katsumi, inquisitively. She keeps the cat in her peripheral vision— not dismissing or ignoring it, by any means. "Covenant?" she mutters. "Were you messing around with a Ouija board and summoned something?"

She looks back at to Harukage. "Try looking at things from my perspective, Harukage-sama," she suggests. Caitlins's been brushing up on her Japanese honorifics. "I don't know you and I've never heard of you until now. But you're in my home, and I didn't invite you in," she points out, her tone meticulously accurate but not challenging or confrontational. "Were you in my shoes, wouldn't you be a little nervous?"

Her face grows a little bleak. "The last time I looked a god in the eye, it was when the Asgardians and I were flying back to Earth. After we defeated Set, and Atum bound him forever to the Source Wall."

All true. And the sort of thing that leaves a Mark on the soul of anyone who beholds it. As it should— the death-cries of the Serpent God and the Sun God reverberated through the universe.

*

"What? No!," balks Katsumi.

"Your perspective is alien to me. I am neither human, nor mortal. I am kami. I am a cat." The delivery is so dry and joyless it may as well be a McRib.

"You did what? Where? Wha?," asks Katsumi, leaning around Caitlin to peer inquisitively at her.

Herukage has no reaction to the tale. And though reference materials she's likely to find in relation to Yomorinushi will be extremely vague, scarce, with opinions ranging between painfully neutral to blasphemously negative, he seems willing enough to elaborate. "Centuries ago-"

"No. No. Short version," Katsumi interrupts impatiently. "Way, way back when, this village was a bunch of d&#@s. They were paranoid about being surrounded by monsters, so they started killing anyone who seemed different, and butchering every animal they ran into."

"The elders petitioned the gods for intervention," Herukage interjects to continue. "But the voice that answered was Maika-no-Yomorinushi. For millennia, he had observed humanity's treatment of his children. Of the beasts of the earth. And this village's depravity saw the end of his patience."

"He told'em to make him a creepy-ass shrine," Katsumi tags in. "Then told'em a ritual to do."

The feline pads closer as he picks up the story again, "A human would act in selfless service to a beast, in defiance of mankind. And then that human would make a blood offering to the shrine. In so doing, Maika-no-Yomorinushi, Lord Protector of the Night, would choose his divine avatar of wrath. In return for the power to route the evil in their village, that elder would become his holy vengeance against mankind; the possessor of the Yokai Soul."

*

Caitlin waves Katsumi's question off. Later. Her eyes go wide again at the lengthy explanation and she looks at Katsumi once more. "So … what, you made a blood offering to Maika-no-Yomorinushi?" she inquires, sounding baffled. "That's all kinds of really deep juju, Kat," she says, worriedly. "Like left-hand path stuff. Blood magic's really powerful."

Her brows flatten into a straight line. "It was *your* blood. Right?"

*

"Dammit, no! I didn't!," fusses Katsumi.

"She did."

"Not!"

"She did," repeats Herukage.

"God, look, okay? Before I left for America, I had to do a promo for the show. The show here. Did you see it? The one in the blown out village that looks like those dusty old charity commercials? Minus the people? Yeah, they wanted atmosphere. That's where we wound up. Well, these dip#@^& newbies were kicking a cat around in the woods. I beat'em up, sent'em packing. Went to check on the cat, and the stupid thing scratched me. Some of that blood had to've gotten onto the shrine."

"And with the first rays of moonlight, I awakened. I've traveled this new world to fulfill my sacred obligation," the cat concludes.

*

Caitlin's head is spinning, and she puts fingers to her temple as if that could help assuage the barrage of information she's receiving. It's enough that she dismisses the endless data from her AI for a few seconds so she can pay attention to Katsumi and her companion.

"Okay." She pinches the bridge of her nose. "Katsumi accidentally bled on a sacred altar and summoned Harukage. Harukage is the guardian of the… Yokai spirit. And you're—" she points at Katsumi. "Carrying that spirit, which is, I'm guessing, why you've suddenly got superpowers."

She's not looking for responses. Just objections to any details she gets wrong.

"Which leads me back to the main problem, fun as this story was," and she focuses back on Harukage. "If you're *here*, then you're here as a *guest*," she says, pointedly. "And you're welcome to be a guest here if you promise to, uh, abide as a guest oughta. Er, ought to. Will you do that?"

*

"Yes," nods Katsumi.

"No," refutes Herukage.

"Kind'a?"

"She satisfied the ritual and received the blessing. I am not a guardian. I am only the messenger. If anyone is a guardian, it is her." The feline points a paw at Katsumi. "She is Maika-no-Yomorinushi's avatar of wrath. His chosen champion. His divine vengeance upon mankind. The Yokai Soul is not literally a soul in itself. It is a power - the power of the God of Monsters swelling within her - infused with HER soul."

Katsumi gives Caitlin a helpless look. "It's also why my eyes changed. Apparently that's how you know who has it. They have this deity's 'divine color.'"

"Your concern about me is confusing. I am a cat," Herukage repeats to Caitlin. "Are cats a frightening thing here?" He moves his paw to his muzzle, casually licking over the pad for a couple seconds in silence. And then: "I am always a proper guest." The paw lowers again. "Now please shoot her. This peak in bravery must not be wasted."

*

"Cats can't talk, and the ones 'round here aren't divine emissaries," Caitlin rebuts to Herukage. She's still very polite despite the tension of the big reveal. "But, uh, as you have, uh…" Eyes flicker, looking in midair. "As you have consented to be a guest, I welcome you as your host."

She looks relieved as she gets through the phrase. Whatever her AI companion is feeding her, it probably reads a lot more impressively than Caitlin recited. Flowery anachronistic language is not one of her fortes, not with that hayseed Iowa accent.

She looks at Katsumi, meeting her eyes, and then twitches the pistol barrel towards her. *BANG!* The round is a grazing shot against the meaty part of Katsumi's calf muscle. Just enough to poke a hole in a normal person, and with the ammunition in it, it wouldn't do any long-term harm.

"That's for not telling me about the spooky cat spirit!" she tells Katsumi, finally venting what passes for her ire (mild as it is compared to most!)

*

"W-what? HEY!"

*BANG*

"AAHHH S#&@!"

Katsumi recoils, her hands immediately move to her calf as she bows at the knees to immediately alleviate pressure! "You f#^&ing shot me! It- ah! Ow!" Isn't that what she wanted?

"Very good," nods the feline.

She's not dropped to the floor, though. That's a good sign. No red oozing between her fingers. And though she's near-hyperventilating with anxiety, she manages to pull one hand back from the leg. There, against her skin, is a little red welt. No penetration. It likely won't last past the hour. "F-f-f#*@…" She looks up at Caitlin again, eyes enormous. "Was that.. for real? For real bullets?"

"But that was a weak shot, was it not? You should increase the strength. She must know her limits, if she is to shed her fear."

Katsumi's voice seems caught in her throat, still hunched around her leg and staring at the redhead.

*

Caitlin winces at Katsumi's reaction, and tosses the gun away. "Stop, stop! Lemme see!" She drops to her knees, slapping aside Katumi's hands so she can inspect the wound. One hand clams Kat's leg below the knee. It feels like a tourniquet being applied, even to Katsumi's enhanced senses.

"It's okay. No holes," she promises, and lets Katsumi examine the wound. She rises to her feet, nodding at the question.

Herukage's statement ears the cat a flat look of reproach that Caitlin's probably learned from some iron-fingered nun rebuking someone for speaking too loudly in church. "I think that's enough training for today," she says, with a tone of finality. Her green eyes transfer to Katsumi, soften a bit. "C'mon, I can get my workout in later," she says, putting a comforting arm around Katsumi's shoulders. "I'd say you've earned a treat, and I put some fresh brownies in the oven before I came downstairs. They're probably done by now. Brownies make everything better."

*

Katsumi Oshiro is visibly stressed out by events of the day, and just stands there while Caitlin fusses about her. When she confirms that there's no injury, she nods. "But.. was it real? Would it have injured me? I need to know." Even as her shoulders are looped, the girl's head is uptilted to Caitlin. "I can't just be doing nothing." There's something more beneath her words - beyond a simple and base desire to remain in motion. Despite that, she's giving the redhead zero resistance. She'll wander around wherever Caitlin leads her at this point.

The feline, meanwhile, gives an annoyed little 'mrrrl' under his breath. "I do not agree…"

*

"It was a real bullet," Caitlin confirms. "And if you were anything but your awesome self, you'd be wailing about how I just put a hole in your leg," she assures Katsumi. "But it glanced off. Barely even a red mark. I've got old notes somewhere for tensile strength comparisons, and we can probably extrapolate just how tough your skin is from that point as a reference," she assures Katsumi.

"But that's for another day. We'll get you there. For now— brownies!" she says, escorting her friend upstairs whether or not the grouchy feline approves or not!

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