2014-07-07 - With Friends Like These

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Title: With Friends Like These

After months of waiting, Nephrite comes out of deep cover at last. Zoisite has something to say about it -- and the mountain his comrade has constructed on the edge of Tokyo.


Nephrite, Zoisite


Above Tama Outer City

OOC - IC Date:

07/07/2014 - 02/08/2014

<Pose Tracker> Nephrite [Infinity Institute (S)] has posed.

It had been far too long.

Somewhere in Tokyo, in a relatively undeveloped area, a handsome man walks into the shadow of a building. It would be hard to describe the change that comes over him as he does so -- there is not a flash of light, nor a sudden hurricane of darkness. Reality simply glitches for a moment around him, and a second later he reemerges, bedecked in the regalia of an officer, though certainly not one from this world. Without breaking his stride, he leaps into the air -- and seems to disappear.

That's not the case, of course. Nephrite has simply teleported himself several hundred feet above the city proper, eyes scanning it with superhuman clarity. It had been far, far too long. Waiting in the shadows. Disguising his power. Biding his time, all at the stars' behest. Never had he found it more difficult to obey their instructions than when they told him to wait, that the pieces were not yet in place for his plans to truly begin.

But that waiting is over. Above him, concealed by the garishly blue sky, the heavenly powers tell him that his time has finally arrived. Furthermore, if he is to be successful, he will need a dedicated meditation chamber and base of operations, from which to do his scrying. And that is why he is here today.

Tokyo -- especially modern Tokyo -- is not satisfactory, landwise. Every inch of earth is developed, overtaken by skyscrapers, warehouses, and factories. Humans trying to lay claim to a power far beyond their reach. No matter. He will simply carve out his own territory, and naive as they are, the citizens of Japan's capital will hardly even notice.

Summoning his Black Crystal in one hand, Nephrite lets loose several pulses of dark energy, and his work on the mountain begins, flickering in and out of sight like a mirage. At this point, it is a simple illusion, but in concert with the power of the stars, it will become solid and substantive, if not truly real.

<Pose Tracker> Zoisite [None] has posed.

"Correct. Now, without looking at your notes, who can tell me where feldspar places on the Mohs scale of h-..."

There's a full twenty seconds of silence before the students in this Infinity lecture hall start to shift uncomfortably, then another ten before a few brave (or foolhardy) individuals sneak looks at their phones or whispers to nearby friends.

At forty-five seconds, one of the young men seated in the front row dares to speak up: "Ah, Izono-sensei...is everything alright?"

It's unusual for strict, exacting Professor Junko Izono to flake out during class. Nevertheless, she remains thoroughly flaked, passing by the student without giving any indication that she's heard him and crossing to one of the tall windows let into one wall. Her bright green eyes focus on some point beyond -- and up, and up.

"...Class is dismissed," she says then, softly.

Nobody moves. Is this a trick?

One strawberry-blonde eyebrow twitches. "I said GET OUT!!"

The resulting stampede is barely out the door before Professor Izono simply /disappears/.

<Pose Tracker> Nephrite [Infinity Institute (S)] has posed.

The flickering between the actual field and the superimposed mountain becomes more frequent, the two now seeming to blur together like some kind of visual puzzle. Looking from a certain angle, you see the original location, but turn your head slightly, and there's a steep mountain, covered with trees and a cool mist, despite the day being clear. All seems to be going according to plan, for Nephrite's face doesn't change in the slightest -- though truthfully, the man has never been known for his range of expression. He flexes his hand once, and an especially powerful ray of dark energy pulses from the Dark Crystal. On the steadily materializing mountain, the ghost of a mansion appears, a very old-fashioned building constructed in a distinctly Western style.

Offhandedly, his thoughts drift to the other Generals of his Kingdom. He knows little of their whereabouts, as they likely know little of his. For the past few months, he has simply been immersed in his civilian identity, gathering a bit of energy here and there to fulfill his duty to the Queen, but not making any major moves. Nephrite has heard rumors that carry a distinctly Jadeite or Zoisite air, but has not learned much about what they've accomplished, or how they might have changed since their last meeting.

Nephrite scowls, turning away a curious mortal with an ominous thundercrack. Now is not the time to wonder about his compatriots. If they have business with him, they will bring it up themselves.

<Pose Tracker> Zoisite [None] has posed.

Professor Izono now stands atop the roof of Infinity Institute, not far from the helipad. The view from up here is stunning, though it's better at night: all of Tama Outer City spread out like an overturned jewelry box, aglitter with every possible hue and framed by the sparkling ocean on one side, hazy Greater Tokyo on the other.

During the day, of course, it's merely so much grey, splotched here and there with the fragile, stunted green of city flora. 'True beauty lies in darkness,' as Kunzite is fond of observing.

It's why the Professor has little trouble pinpointing the source of the dark energy she sensed during her lecture. The thickly wooded mountain coalescing in the distance, looming over Tokyo like a tiger ready to pounce, absolutely definitely was not there yesterday.

The wind picks up, carrying with it a profusion of pink petals. It sweeps past the Professor, untangling her pale red curls from their strict bun -- and casting her away. In her place stands Zoisite, who -- now divested of his disguise -- simply lifts a hand to his cupids-bow lips and laughs, delicately, behind his fingertips.

"Hmhmhm, how did it go...? Ah yes, 'Player 2 has entered the game.'"

<Pose Tracker> Nephrite [Infinity Institute (S)] has posed.

Nephrite has never quite understood how humans could be so blind.

When he first awakened -- when the Dark Kingdom was still gathering allies and rebuilding its strength -- he had been sure to use utmost caution in his every deed. Never stepping too far out of line, never making a scene, insinuating himself into the unwashed masses as seamlessly as possible. It didn't take long for him to realize that most mortals simply could not comprehend magic; or perhaps, they wisely chose to ignore it. The creation of this mountain is perhaps his greatest departure from subtlety, and even so, the population of Tokyo barely seems to turn their heads as the Earth shapes itself around them.

They make it all too easy.

The mansion, and the mountainous wood surrounding it, flashes more and more permanently into existence until it stands completely where the field used to be, overshadowing a small portion of the Outer City with its bulk. It's not truly an illusion. Every tree produces an airy scent of pine, dew from the mist clings to each blade of grass, and the air at its peak thins just as the air atop a mundane mountain would. But the place rings hollow, and is quite devoid of life. Nothing seems to cast a shadow because the mountain, constructed from darkness, absorbs the light, shrouding everything in muted colors and fog. In a postcard, it looks idyllic. In reality, it feels fake, even if it is not strictly an illusion.

Nephrite smiles just a touch as he looks upon his handiwork. It would do nicely.

<Pose Tracker> Zoisite [None] has posed.

"Oya oya, this wasn't here yesterday~ which of us is the dramatic one now, Nephrite?"

Zoisite's words float past his comrade's ears just ahead of the petal-strewn winds that herald his arrival. The smile that formed them lingers, sweet as poisoned honey; he taps it once, twice, with a gloved fingertip.

Here, at least, he allows Nephrite a few moments of reprieve from his faux-friendly chatter. It's time the ginger Shitennou takes to properly glance over Tokyo's newest topographical anomaly -- and he can see the way the shadows eat the light, hear the silence where birdsong ought to be. It /is/ beautiful...in a foreboding, gothic sort of way.

That hand lifts a scant few degrees, moving away from Zoisite's mouth to wind a finger or two in a purposely stray lock of what is now vibrant, autumnal red hair. "Oya oya," he repeats, still smiling. "You won't have to worry about anyone finding you here. I wonder, was that the idea...?"

The poison in his smile has made its way to his eyes, which watch Nephrite with unblinking exactness.

<Pose Tracker> Nephrite [Infinity Institute (S)] has posed.

Alas, his marvellous creation did not go unnoticed by everyone. Nephrite sees a few wayward petals float in front of him, as though caught on an errant breeze, despite the air being quite still. Only one person he knew was ostentatious enough for such a display.

"Zoisite," the man acknowledges coolly, turning his head only a few degrees to catch the other General in his peripheral vision. He should have known the pest would show up. Great power always attracts those who would be parasites. "This is the difference between you and I. I use my power to shape the very Earth. You use yours to create these," he holds one gloved hand up to catch a soft pink petal, "things; for a shallow flourish, no less. I see you have not changed in my absence."

He crushes the stolen petal, then drops the powder to the ground below. "I did not construct this place to /hide/. My plans have advanced to their next stage, and I find myself in need of a...more secluded base of operations." Nephrite finally looks Zoisite head on, face stoic, but his eyes alive with the faintest sparkle of condescension. "Though I suppose a straggler like yourself wouldn't have need of such things."

<Pose Tracker> Zoisite [None] has posed.

Careful, Nephrite. Many are the parasites that kill their hosts.

Soft, refined laughter meets the elder Shitennou's condescending acknowledgement. "My, my. One would think a student of astrology such as yourself would know that certain types of power are invisible to the eye," Zoisite chides, as sweetly as before. "It is because I do not *waste* my power on landscaping that I can put it to better use elsewhere.

"But I suppose you wouldn't know anything about that, would you, given your 'absence'."

Queen Beryl herself had called it a coup. What could Nephrite, that insufferable wretch, do that would outshine Zoisite's grip on the heart of no less a person than Tuxedo Mask?

Pinkish powder drifts away on a stray air current, but isn't out of sight before Zoisite's fixed his vivid gaze once more on his brother-in-arms. He finds Nephrite's eyes meeting his in short order, and his heavy-lidded own remain unblinking--

Until Nephrite hits a nerve. No matter how well his plans go, Zoisite can never tear the feeling that he is simply not good enough out by the roots; some fragment always remains to grow anew.

The change is instant: the flesh around Zoisite's left eye develops a tic, and his smile flattens into a venomously shallow curve with just a hint of teeth. "Oh yes, a mountain is /very/ secluded indeed. Well done! Tell me, did the stars instruct you to set up this incredibly inconspicuous base of operations, or did you come up with the idea yourself?" Fury transforms into mock concern, "An original thought! Did it hurt?"

<Pose Tracker> Nephrite [Infinity Institute (S)] has posed.

Nephrite is not a man easily provoked. At least, not by petty barbs from a man he considers vastly beneath him in skill. The only remark of Zoisite's that elicits a minor reaction is his reference to his 'absence.' The older General raises an eyebrow in an unreadable combination between annoyance and self-reproach. He chides himself internally -- he'd walked right into that one. Nephrite had forgotten just how easily his compatriot could turn a man's own words against him. He would not make the same mistake again.

"Hmph. It seems I've misspoken. Apologies," he says bluntly, clearly in no way apologetic. "My work has simply been more undercover, in recent months. As you say, the power of the stars works best in subtle ways. I was not absent so much as setting plans into motion. Plans that you will see come to fruition very soon." He smiles derisively. "I would, of course, be delighted to hear what you have done in our time apart."

And there: his barbs have hit their mark. Nephrite's smile becomes almost genuine when Zoisite flies into fury, pleased that he has not lost his touch. At the man's insults, he merely gestures to the mountain, to the numerous buildings surrounding it, and to the people of Tokyo continuing their everyday lives. "Do these mortals appear concerned? Do they appear to notice anything at all is out of the ordinary? Really, I knew Kunzite was out of touch with the human mentality, but I hadn't realized it had spread to you." He turns his head to look back at the mountain, pleased with himself. "Birds of a feather, I suppose."

<Pose Tracker> Zoisite [None] has posed.

Ahhh, it is /so/ satisfying to see thorns successfully pricking Nephrite -- and any crack in such a stony façade is a victory, as far as Zoisite is concerned. They haven't seen each other in so long, he'd almost forgotten how it felt.

It's clearly nothing of the kind, but the redhead lets his comrade's empty apology go unremarked upon. Much better prey follows it, rewarding his patience with unusual alacrity: 'undercover work.' "Ara ara, I'm surprised to hear it," Zoisite replies, leaning his head on his hand, "as I myself have spent the last several months undercover as well! Establishing presences in the places most likely to draw our foes, et cetera... Of course, it would not be fair of me to speak at length about my accomplishments when you have yet to accrue many," or any, "of your own, dear Nephrite."

He lets out a theatrical sigh, pursing his rosy lips back into a moue of concern. "I look forward to seeing your seeds bear fruit, yet I cannot help but think that planting them so late in the season will render you a scanty harvest. What will you do, I wonder, when you come up short and have to turn to me for aid? The seeds I have sown will yield enough to sustain us all, you included...if, that is, you survive your shortcomings /and/ your diet of pride."

But-- Zoisite never remembers points he's already scored when he takes a hit. The way Nephrite's smile brightens at his distress is further grit in the younger general's eye; another moment is too much, and Zoisite turns away to stare furiously downward. He wants to tune his comrade out as Neph keeps talking, but he can't -- and soon enough--

"/You leave Kunzite out of this/," Zoisite hisses, rounding on Nephrite with viridian eyes ablaze. Sparked by the enraged Shitennou's emotional magicks, the air around him begins to shimmer with heat; his coppery curls buoy and waft, licking upward like tongues of flame. "Or they /will/ notice your precious mountain by virtue of the /forest fire/ covering it."

With which Parthian threat Zoisite vanishes, a veritable storm of petals covering his retreat.

<Pose Tracker> Nephrite [Infinity Institute (S)] has posed.

That damned Zoisite! Leave it to a conniving weasel to twist his words so horrendously, somehow stripping through his layers of bravado to the failings underneath. Such a worldly, /petty/ man would never understand the meaning of patience, of biding one's time, as he had done at the stars' behest. And yet...a part of him echoes the man's accusations. Had he himself not felt the frustration of inaction each time the stars had told him to stay his hand? Had he not, in the quiet dark of night, felt the stirring of doubt in his heart -- doubt about his course of action? Truly, gathering energy in large swaths was crude and inefficient. But if waiting for peak, prime energy could not make up for the time lost nurturing it, how could he call his own method any better?

"I think, Zoisite, that you are not one to throw stones when it comes to pride," he snaps, a bit more passionate than his usual self. The younger General had a way of getting under his skin that drove him mad. "Queen Beryl herself approved my course of action. Unless you claim to know better, I suggest you stay your tongue about seeds and sowing. We shall see who the victor is, come harvest."

But the tide of battle, even a battle of words, is a fickle thing, and soon Nephrite finds himself with the upper hand, having zeroed in on his companion's weakness. His visage calms noticeably as Zoisite's grows troubled, and that mocking not-quite-smile returns to his face. The relationship between those two is as amusing as it is baffling; and clearly, all is not well if a single mention of the man is enough to upset him so. He presses his advantage. "Oh, a lover's quarrel, perhaps? Or has the flame simply grown cold? That would explain the good General's absence, at least. As well as your," he summons a cool wind to battle Zoisite's burst of heat, "overcompensation."

But the slight man disappears soon after he says these words -- perhaps before he has a chance to hear them. It matters little, all things considered. His mission takes precedence over the infantile politics and intrigue that so often plague his beloved Dark Kingdom. With that thought, Nephrite closes his bright blue eyes and vanishes from the sky.

It's time to get to work, at long, long last.