July 25th, 2013
On a Thursday morning with little else to do, Minoko found herself marching up to the O'Connor household. Her dark gaze took in that lovely porch, which had no Gunslinger smoking on it, and then she brought a hand up to come down hard on their front door. Four loud knocks rang out before she stopped herself. You need to calm down... He's not even going to be here. She sighed. I hope Kingsley's free.
Well wouldn't you know it, Minoko was actually right - about the first part anyway. The Gunslinger wasn't there. But it wasn't the dark-haired Kingsley that opened the door either, nor was it her older sister. Instead it was the other blonde female of the O'Connor clan, their cousin, who swung open the door and spent a mere second blinking before displaying a wide smile. "Minoko," she said. "It.. is Minoko, isn't it?" She gave a short, soft laugh. "I always hate getting names wrong. People do it to me enough to know that it can get annoying. Are you.. looking for Kingsley?"
Minoko's lips twisted into an odd little smile. Did Fallon know that Minoko had called her Falcon that one time?! A nod was given in response to the woman's initial question. "I am. Sai too." Both of them would be preferable. Maybe it wasn't a good idea to talk about tons of memory related things around the Astral, but that didn't stop Minoko from wanting to see her friend.
Fallon gave a little wince. "I'm sorry to tell you but they're not here right now. Kingsley is down at the stables, and Sai is off on one of his hunts. He's been gone for a couple of weeks now." She wouldn't say it but she still worried about the Gunslinger, even if he... She relighted the effort of her smile. "I can tell them that you stopped by if you want. I'm sure that--..." The woman blinked and then seemed to be looking right past Minoko. It didn't last long, only a handful of seconds, before she refocused on her. "I guess you're in luck," she said, tucking in one side of her mouth in a funny little grin before ticking her chin up to motion behind Minoko. Once she'd turn, she'd see a certain cowboy just making his way to move past the front gate.
Had he really only been gone a couple of weeks? It felt like Minoko had been looking for the Gunslinger for months now. Time did seem to slow down, though, when memorable thing after memorable thing occurred, when changes were made. An eyebrow rose at the mention of luck, and then the Asian was spinning around. Her black coffee gaze widened. Instantly her heart was racing. A deep breath was taken in, and she tried to distract herself in any little way. The nails on her right hand were sent sinking into her left wrist. There was no reason for her to be terrified. No reason at all. A nauseated smile was forced onto the woman's features for a moment, but she found it too difficult to hold. Her expression changed back into a slight frown. She couldn't speak, so she simply nodded at the approaching Gunslinger.
The cowboy hadn't noticed her, or Fallon. Not yet, anyway. His head had been bowed, letting the wide brim of his hat hide both his features and the rest of the world, one from the other. It wasn't until the small gate was closed and secure and he was walking up the walkway proper that he lifted his head to find the two women standing at the open door. He blinked, looking from Minoko to Fallon. The latter smiled, a small thing, before saying, "I'll let you two alone" and, giving the Gunslinger a nod, closed the door between them. Now it was just Minoko and Sai. He looked to the Japanese woman, slowing as he approached the short stack of porch steps. "Didn't expect to see you here first thing when I got back."
The mention of being let alone seemed to trigger something in Minoko. Her hands shifted and started to press against each other. Surprisingly loud cracks came from such delicate looking knuckles. "I've been looking for you for a while." Her words were rushed. It was probably a miracle in itself that the sentence was even audible. "I decided that I want my memories back."
That was sudden. The cowboy wasn't surprised though, or at least he didn't show it if he was. Instead he just kept on looking at her. "You sure 'bout this?" he asked. "I know I ain't been 'round much, and I'm sure you've had lots of time to think 'bout it. But I want you to be sure that this is what you want." He paused. "You talk to your sister 'bout this?"
Three nods were given in quick succession. She was just that sure. "I think it's the right thing to do. It's not fair to my parents or Ki, and I'm sick of feeling empty..." At the mention of Motoko the older twin looked entirely nauseous once again. "I brought it up before. She said that I was stupid and that I'm better off..." Her gaze shifted upwards as Minoko started to chew on her bottom lip. "We should probably go over there."
He could practically feel the nervousness radiating off of her and, despite how he usually was with not being one to show much outward sympathy or emotion in general, his face softened remarkably. He gave her a small nod. "Alright." He turned halfway, giving another nod off to the side to motion that she come on down and start walking with him. "You just lead the way and I'll follow."
It was easy to move when she was being gently commanded to do so. Quick steps were taken off the porch, and then Minoko was walking in the direction of her sister's house. "They live just south of the Marketplace, so this shouldn't take long..." It really was a great location if one could ignore the market's general chaos. There was a reason that the kids weren't allowed outside without a parent or the family watchdog.
Nowhere was safe in Rhydin, or at least the Gunslinger thought so. The entire world here was just anarchy softly masked by those of which wished for a simple, peaceful life. But Sai could see beneath that mask. Too often he was witness to that horrible face that lay beneath it, snarling a wicked smile and staring with its crazed eyes. That's what he was for - to stand in between that masked harlot of a demon and those that he was champion of. Minoko, whether or not she knew or even asked for it, was one of those few. He kept a watchful eye as they walked along, too wary not to. That didn't keep him from talking to her, however. "You doin' alright?" he finally asked her, glancing in her direction for a brief moment. "I haven't seen you for a while. Want to make sure nothin's goin' wrong."
These days Minoko's feelings concerning her life seemed to go from 'Everything is terrible' to 'Everything is perfectly wonderful'. There was no in-between. She had spent far too much of the last few months covered in blood, and one person in particular was to thank for that. Minoko didn't want to mention the immortal, though. Their relationship revolved around a constant turmoil in her mind, and Sai was the last person she wanted to discuss that with. Mikoto had already got enough out of her the other day. The Asian had decided to keep her mouth shut, because if she couldn't feel guilty about a death then she would certainly feel guilty about everyone disliking Emlen. "Yeah, I'm alright. How was hunting?" She managed to look to the side and briefly meet the man's too blues.
That was brief, and a very unusual answer for the woman. Usually she had something going on, whether it was gaining new powers or meeting new people or getting into some sort of trouble with Kingsley. But, according to what she had just said, nothing had been amiss. Sai didn't buy it. He didn't push for anything else either though. If she wanted to share something with him, she would. If not, well, there wasn't much to be done about it in his mind. "Long and tirin'," he replied. "Was a horde of 'em this time 'round 'stead of the singles I've been gettin' myself used to. Wasn't all that bad though. Managed to flush 'em out and send 'em all elsewhere." Meaning that he killed them, in his own weird, demon-killing way. Speaking of demons... "You hear any more 'bout Toby?" Surprisingly, the name didn't taste as bitter as it had before. Didn't mean it didn't still taste like dirt though.
She imagined elsewhere to be some sort of hellish demon jail that rested between planes. "That's good. Toby? I?ve seen him at the inn a couple times recently..." Awkward eye contact had been made. She couldn't help but stare at the young man from across the bar. Minoko could swear that his hair had gotten redder, that maybe he was shaping up to be his former self. It made her crazy to think about him, and so she attempted to banish the boy from her mind. "I haven't seen Kings lately, so I don't know if she's still dreaming about him. "
That made him frown. "I haven't seen her since I left. I only got back just then," he said with a motion of his head behind them. He went silent for a footfall or three. "I know she don't think I noticed but, I know she was havin' a real hard time 'fore I had to leave. I think her memories are givin' her some trouble." And that just made him frown all the more. It was bad enough that the Astral had to deal with them, but the worst part for Sai was that he felt as if he had failed her. He had taken her memories once before, had cleansed the palate of her mind to leave her with the chance at peace. He had tried to do it again, to prevent her from suffering a fate worse than most of them could imagine. But this time, the memories were coming back. He scowled, mostly at himself.
Dark eyes took in the man's scowl, and her features fell into a distressed frown. She could sense the Gunslinger's unease with himself. Sai and Kingsley's relationship was complicated. People threw that word around a lot, but Minoko really did have trouble wrapping her head around it. Sai was a guardian. Not a parent, but a guardian, whose job was to keep Kingsley content, not by buying her things and providing her with support, but by tampering with her memories and killing demons. The last time she had spoken with Kingsley the Astral had still been angry. Her heart ached, knowing that Sai had to deal with those justifiable feelings. That was what made the situation seem so difficult in Minoko's mind: both Kingsley and Sai were in the right. "It's really difficult to deal with. The flashbacks and weird dreams... I had those for a few years, and then they mostly stopped."
"You said that you hit your head." Changing the subject was probably the easiest way for the Gunslinger to forget to keep blaming himself, at least for the moment. He looked at her. "Got any idea what it was you forgot? Everythin', I'm guessin', but..." He drew in a long breath and let it out in a muted sigh, looking away and around them again. "What I'm sayin' is, is there anythin' that you think that maybe you shouldn't remember? Or at least somethin' that your sister thinks you're better off without."
At the mention of her head Minoko's hand rose up to brush back through ebony locks. "I mean, sort of? I like to think that Motoko's told me everything... Our whole village was destroyed, and we were the only survivors. I remember pieces of that, and I remember a few faces, but..." She was having trouble gathering the proper words. That much was obvious. What she was going to admit was difficult enough to vocalize, and the woman was set on doing it properly. "There was this boy in my village. We grew up together, and he was my best friend, and Motoko says we were going to get married? Like, everyone just knew it. And that night he died for me. I remember his face, and I remember these horrible feelings, but I don't actually remember him...going."
"Are you afraid to?" He already knew the answer but he asked her anyway. Sometimes even when you knew something, it made a difference when you said it out loud. This was one of those things and one of those times that Sai thought it might help her, or at least help clarify for him if she really wanted to get her memories back or if she was just saying so for the sake of it.
Minoko wasn't sure if Sai had noticed, but the Asian had actually been leading them in circles for the last few blocks. The pair should have reached Motoko's house at least ten minutes ago. In spite of herself, Minoko smiled down at the cobblestone. "I'm absolutely terrified."
Even if he had noticed, he didn't let her know that, or minded. Again, he found himself breaking his own usual shell and sending a small grin down at her. "It's alright. It's natural to be. But you're goin' to be okay, Minoko." Much out of character, he placed a hand gently on her shoulder. "You're tougher that you think you are, and I think you're goin' to be just fine." The hand was gone again, like a breeze that came and left.
Her initial reaction to the hand on her shoulder was to stiffen up. She was surprised, and for a moment Minoko thought that maybe someone else had appeared and attempted to grab her attention. But it was only Sai. Once she realized that, Minoko relaxed and grinned. "That means a lot... Thank you." His words had given her the courage to take the proper turn onto Motoko's block. The Asian came to a halt in front of an odd storefront. Though the building was clearly an establishment of some kind, there was no sort of sign or any indication that they were open for business. "Here we go." She took a breath in and balled her fist up. Two hard knocks rang out on the McCesneys' front door.
Sai took a survey of the immediate area, scanning every nook and alleyway visible to the naked eye. After he felt comfortable in their safety, he turned his attention to the front door of the building, keeping behind Minoko and off to one side, and waited.
Booming barks echoed out of the front door when it finally opened after thirty seconds or so. There stood Minoko's mirror image, the only differences between the two being hair length, choice of clothing and Motoko's deep frown. A sleeping baby rested in one arm. How Tsukiko could sleep through Hentai's barks, Motoko would never know. Dark eyes slid between Minoko and whoever the hell had accompanied her here. No greeting was offered, only rude words. "Is this the guy you're f*cking?"
A dark eyebrow arched and he looked from the scowling Asian to the (he's guessing here) soon-to-be-blushing one. Well that was one way to start an introduction.
Minoko's mouth hung open in a stupor. She had taken so much care to not mention Emlen, and then her twin had given the last few months away, just like that. A light blush surely enough appeared on the woman's cheeks. She took a quick glance over to Sai and then looked back to her traitor of a sister. "Motoko, this is Sai. He's Kingsley's guardian. The guy who's supposed to give me my memories back..." Though her tone was calm, the volume of Minoko's voice was abnormally loud.
So there was someone whom Minoko was sleeping with, to put it more gently than her sister had. Lucky for the Gunslinger, his typical traits didn't betray him then. Other than a twitch at one corner of his mouth, the faintest hint at either a smirk or a scowl, his face didn't change in hue or figure. Looking back to the second Asian, he just stayed quiet. For now.
Motoko gave Sai a quick once over. She was like Minoko in the fact that her gaze said everything; the younger twin obviously wasn't impressed with the Gunslinger. "Fine. Come in." The woman turned around and stepped back into her general store turned home. Once she moved Hentai was released on the pair. He leapt onto Minoko in greeting and then started to sniff at Sai.
She stared blankly at her sister's back before looking down to the family dog. If anything could cheer her up, it was that slobbery face. "Hi, Hentai!" There was a story behind the animal's abnormal name, but Minoko had honestly forgotten that the word had any other meaning. She kneeled down and ran her fingers through the dog's fur.
"Thank you, ma'am," the cowboy said with a dip of his head, a finger and thumb tugging down one side of his ever-present hat. He looked down at Minoko, who seemed quite content with letting the dog distract her from everything else, but waited for her to step inside first. For all of his harshness and jagged edges, the man did have some manners tucked away somewhere.
Ma'am. She scoffed. Motoko supposed that was the polite thing to say, but she still disliked being addressed that way. "I'm going to put Tsukiko to bed. Did either of you want a drink?" The woman turned around and narrowed dark eyes on her drunk of a sister. Minoko's answer to that question was always yes.
"Oh, um..." She sensed the hostility in her sister's gaze, but that didn't stop Minoko from nodding. It was then that Hentai let out a whimper and headed back over to Motoko. Slightly bewildered, the older twin stood to her feet. "I haven't seen him react to something like that since he was a puppy..." Curious eyes slid over to Sai as she walked into the house.
Sai didn't give a verbal response, or even a physical one. The only thing he did after observing the dog slinking away was send a glance at Minoko before looking in after her sister. "Yes, ma'am, that'd be nice." He assumed she meant alcoholic but, he'd take whatever he was handed.
That would be the day that Minoko came over and asked for a glass of water. The two bottles of hard liquor that sat in the kitchen were for Minoko and Minoko alone. Spencer didn't drink, and when Motoko drank she preferred beer. An eyebrow lifted when she saw that Hentai's tail was down. "I take it you're not human?"
Once Minoko would make her way inside, she could be sure that the cowboy would follow. "Of a sort," was the answer he gave. It wasn't much of one but, hey, who was human in Rhydin? Or at least pure human - no changes, no alterations, no special abilities or skills, born with or earned otherwise. Sai would glance around the store-turned-household, taking it all in with one long stride of eye-sweep. "Nice place you got here."
Hadn't Motoko gotten the message that Spencer and she were the only unaltered humans left in the city? Looking slightly uncomfortable by her sister's frankness, Minoko stepped around the store counter that seemed entirely misplaced in the room. She could get her own damn drink. The woman disappeared into the kitchen for a moment and quickly returned with a bottle of cheap brandy and two glasses. "Motoko's fixed the place up a lot in the last few years." She gestured to the living area. "That used to be all shelves."
The store counter was indeed the only remaining hint that the building had once been a business. What had been shelves was now furniture, two large couches, a couple armchairs, a coffee table and a large rug. Toys were scattered around: balls, a few plush animals that the boys only seemed to use to hit each other with, some odd toy cars and action figures that Katan had bought. It wasn't that nice, but it was better than it had been before. "He's not overly fond of non-humans." And with that Motoko headed up the stairs. Hentai followed at her heels.
Sai watched as the more-sour sister ventured up the stairs. Once she was gone, he looked back to Minoko, one dark eyebrow only slightly hitched. He didn't say much else, just made his way over to the counter to await his drink, although he was quite careful not to kick any toys or stuffed animals along his way.
The awkward smile that Minoko forced onto her features held embarrassment and maybe even a little panic. At least there was a counter, though. Minoko always felt safer behind a counter. Both glasses were filled with brandy, and she nudged one over to Sai. "Yep, that's my sister..." Her gaze fell to the floor as she sipped at her drink.
"Seems nice." Minoko, of all people, would know that was at least a little bit of a lie. It wasn't that Motoko was cruel or anything, she just... wasn't like Minoko. Not that he could tell yet anyway. Taking the glass, he nodded his thanks for her before bringing it up for a nice, long first kiss. "I'm guessin' that she's goin' to have some questions for me." More of a statement than a question, really.
His words were no little bit of a lie. They were a straight up untruth. Motoko was a lot of things, and nice wasn't one of them. "Probably. I have questions too, but I'm sure Motoko will ask them all for me." A faint smile appeared. That was at least a load off her back.
It hadn't taken long for Motoko to put her daughter to bed. Tsukiko was by far the most cooperative of her children. The young mother of four reappeared at the bottom of the stairs, and Hentai was no longer at her side. Apparently the dog wanted to protect the baby. "Alright." She took a fleeting glance over to the counter before sitting down right in the middle of one of the couches.
The cowboy licked his lips of the warming liquid and turned to face Motoko, making a small notion with his head for Minoko to join them before walking over to the gathering of couches and seats. "I'm sure you've got a lot of things you'll be wantin' to ask me," he said as he took for himself a lone armchair, resting the brandy-filled glass atop of one of his jeaned thighs.
Minoko topped off her drink before moving to take a seat on the empty couch. She was silent, dark eyes flicking back and forth from her sister to the gunslinger.
He was correct. Motoko nodded and shifted around on the couch, rearranging both her arms and legs into crossed positions. "Are you going to save me the trouble and start explaining yourself?"
"What do you want to know?" In other words, 'no'.
Lips curved into a scowl. "I'd like to know exactly why the both of you think this is a good idea, but I suppose that's more of a question for my sister. How do you bring her memories back? What is your power?"
Her stare lingered on Motoko for a few seconds, and then Minoko's gaze fell to the floor. The brandy in her glass seemed to be disappearing at an alarming rate.