Rumors and Lies


Makoto and 'Masato' meet for the first time.

Date: 2015-06-10
Pose Count: 14
Nephrite 2015-06-10 03:16:34 1694
There's a reason why Nephrite abhors these mass draining schemes; aside from the fact that they are crude operations that paint in the broadest of strokes, they leave far too many loose ends, too many for even the amount of energy they drain to justify. It might be easy enough for a simpleton like Jadeite to ignore the whispers of suspicion around town, the wives' tales that spring up overnight about this 'haunted' establishment or that 'cursed' building. Nephrite, on the other hand, cannot. He lives among the mortals, after all, his finger on the pulse of their culture at all times. When the first rumors of the vengeful spirit in his bridal shop reached his ears, the Shitennou knew it was time to check up on the situation.

Never send a youma to do a Dark General's job.

Unsurprisingly, he found the store nearly bereft of customers, hundreds of dresses standing untouched on their mannequins. Even the signs on the windows advertising unbelievable discounts could not draw in more than a customer or two, it seems. Unbelievable. A few moments later, he and his disguised youma were in the back room, sealed over temporarily by dark magic to keep out prying eyes.

"What did I *clearly* say about striking too many?" Nephrite shouts, grabbing the inhuman woman by the collar of her dress. "We can't very well drain the energy of these mortals when even their dull eyes can see what's going on here." He scoffs, disgusted. "Kidnapping the grooms...tell me, what exactly did you hope to accomplish with that brilliant move?"

"I h-hoped to drain all their energy. To have more for Queen Beryl. Y-you make people disappear sometimes, master--"

That remark earns her a slap across the face.

"One disappearance is a tragedy. Several disappearances is a trend. A trend that has been traced back to *us*," he says, crossing his arms. "You'd better pray that the Senshi have not yet caught on to your actions, for it will not be me that pays the price."
Makoto Kino 2015-06-10 03:35:17 1695
Makoto was out for something else, of course. She's still learning her way around the neighborhood, and it never hurts to know where the stores are and who might be likely to put on good sales. She has no business at the bridal shop... but seeing the display window as she passes, she can't resist stopping just to look.

The sight of the gowns in the display sparks Makoto's imagination, giving shape and texture to the dream for the future that lives in her heart. A dreamy sparkle comes to her eyes as she stands there, imagining herself wearing a gown like one of these, a happy bride with someone who loves her waiting for her at the end of the church aisle.

It's only a fantasy, painted in indistinct watercolors - any possibility of getting married is still a very long way off. But still, Makoto can't help but remember the feeling that brought her to this area in the first place, the rush of wind around her seeming almost to whisper that *something is waiting for you.*

Who's to say what that something could be?
Nephrite 2015-06-10 04:06:10 1696
The youma had, of course, cowered and begged, showering him with assurances that she'll do better, that she'll kidnap few grooms and cut prices even more to bring in the customers. Nephrite knew she was wasting her breath trying to please him -- he hadn't come here to kill her, though the fear of it would certainly be useful in convincing her to follow orders more attentively. He lets his mind wander as the simpering continues, pondering what he himself could do to clean up this mess, when suddenly--

"Wait."

Something is very close to the store. Well, something, or some*one*, he supposes, but what mortal outside of one of his Dark Seals would be radiating the kind of energy he's sensing? Nephrite would be tempted to wonder if one of them had accidentally wandered by, were it not for the strict spell he places on all of them to avoid contact with him at all costs.

There's no choice. His business here is done anyway. He must investigate.

With one final sidelong glance at his youma, the Shitennou walks through one of the room's many shadows and emerges as someone wholly unfamiliar: tall, dashing, well-dressed. Masato Sanjouin, the mortal owner of the department store as well as many of the establishments within.

"Do not interfere with this," he growls, then steps out into the store proper. No one new has entered the store, but it doesn't take long to pinpoint the source of the energy dynamo he sensed. Icy blue eyes zero in on the other side of the store window, where some young girl is ogling the dresses posed their for sale. He blinks once, baffled. There's no possible way...

Still, he must investigate. Perhaps once he's outside the store, the true source will reveal itself to him. So the man straightens, settling into an easy smile, truly becoming Masato Sanjouin. Then, and only then, he slowly opens the door.

He pretends not to notice her, at first, checking his phone like any young professional might; after a moment, though, he raises his head and looks her over.

"They are beautiful, aren't they?" he remarks casually, lowering the hand with his phone. "Though I'm not entirely sure the mannequins do them justice."
Makoto Kino 2015-06-10 04:30:26 1697
Lost in her daydreams, Makoto almost doesn't even register that someone's come out of the shop until he actually speaks to her. Only then does she snap out of it and look toward the source of the voice, her mouth opening to reply--

--and immediately stops short, eyes widening, for a moment absolutely tongue-tied. It's practically a physical jolt, like a snap of static electricity: *oh no, he's hot.*

Seconds pass before, belatedly realizing that she's staring, Makoto hastily looks back toward the display window, reaching up unconsciously to rub the back of her neck as a flush rises in her face. "Yes," she manages to say, "they really are."

There's something nagging at the back of her mind as she looks at the wedding gowns now, some misplaced scrap of memory that she can't quite place, but at the moment whatever it is stands no chance whatsoever of holding her attention. "I couldn't resist stopping to look," Mako says instead, and could almost kick herself for how inane she sounds to her own ears.
Nephrite 2015-06-10 04:58:36 1698
It's her. There's no doubt in his mind now: the energy beacon that got his attention even within the store lies within this girl. His confusion doubles, though the mask of pleasant civility he's adopted conceals the emotion completely. Surely, a human emitting this amount of energy is soon to reach their life's peak -- so why have the stars not notified him of her existence? A Dark Seal placed on her...he can hardly imagine the bounty he'd collect, provided he didn't experience another unfortunate 'interruption.'

But now is not the time to muse on that. This interaction with the girl isn't protected by the amnesia of his dark magic, so he must act as intelligently as he can. He must connect to this girl in some way. Any way.

Fortunately for him, it seems that won't be terribly difficult. If the flush and the nervous neck rub are any indication, his mortal form's handsome countenance has done its job. Infatuation is a powerful upper hand to have when dealing with humans and their shallow emotions. So his smile warms noticeably, and the phone disappears completely into the pocket of his lavender jacket.

"I can hardly blame you. I find that wedding gowns are often more than simple dresses -- that is, it isn't just their craftsmanship that makes them beautiful," he says, turning to look into the window that had caught her attention. "They symbolize something more. A great love. A vow. A new life. The rings may be a reminder of these, but the dress is a celebration." He glances her way to see how she reacts to his rhetoric. His instinct pegged her as the type of appreciate flowery words, but it is possible he was mistaken.

Nephrite lets his face fall slightly in affected disappointment. "It's truly a shame that the rumor mill has latched onto this place so viciously..."

The man trails off for a second, then resumes his friendly, if highly dignified, expression. "Ah, but where are my manners?" Here, he extends his free hand. "My name is Masato Sanjouin." He doesn't ask for her name, but something tells him she will be all too willing to give it.
Makoto Kino 2015-06-10 05:24:34 1699
Nephrite's instinct was not wrong. Makoto's expression has started to turn kind of misty again as she looks at the display, Nephrite's words bringing all the daydream images from a moment ago back into her thoughts again more vividly than ever. "A celebration... that's a good way to put it," she says. "I guess in the grand scheme of things it's all just trappings, but even so, getting married is the start of something so important. Who wouldn't want it to be extra special?"

At last, she manages to tear her eyes away from the display and turn her attention back to the man, the blush still lingering on her face. "I'm Makoto Kino." She hesitates just briefly before reaching for the hand he's offered. "It's nice to meet you, Sanjouin-san. Is this your shop?" Something about the way he talks about it makes it seem like, at the very least, he has some connection to the place beyond just being a customer--

The comment about the 'rumor mill' shakes something loose in Mako's memory; she glances momentarily back toward the storefront. "Now that you mention it, I think I heard something about that myself... a ghost story, or something like that." There was more to it, she thinks, but she can't bring it to mind now. In the light of day, it seems difficult to place any stock in the rumors.
Nephrite 2015-06-10 05:59:49 1700
Hook, line, and sinker. Nephrite smirks inwardly as the girl's eyes mist over as she looks at the dresses once again. That was truly the benefit of living among the mortals; more often than not, he can read them like open books, much more so than his comrades. Well, possibly excepting Zoisite, but if he ever reached that weasel's skill at conniving, he'd have to ask Queen Beryl to put him out of his misery.

He gets a better look at his target as she muses about brides and weddings. She's tall -- uncommonly tall, for what he presumes is her age, with an air about her that he can't quite describe. He's caught her in a moment of sentimentality, certainly, but he suspects that there is something beneath the nervous softness he's witnessing now. After all, if this girl was all sighs and daydreams, what reason would she have to possess so much energy?

No, there's something else at work here, something he hasn't figured out. But he will.

"Kino-san," the disguised Dark General repeats, giving her hand a firm shake and perhaps lingering a second longer than necessary before releasing his grip. "It suits you." Another of those disarming smiles he's spent so long perfecting. "I'm glad to make your acquaintance."

He gives a brief chuckle when she asks if this is his shop. "Indeed. As is the shopping center itself, in fact," he says, gesturing to the bustling crowds and shops surrounding them. "Though in name only, I'm afraid. I oversee larger business decisions, but the day-to-day handling is done by more experienced hands than mine."

However, that affected cheer darkens noticeably when the ghost story is brought up, Nephrite manufacturing a put-upon sigh before glancing away. "It's a hideous thing to associate with a bridal shop, not to mention totally unbelievable. I find it rather callow to link the inconstancy of some men with their intended's chosen dress shop." He looks back up, then shrugs. "Though I suppose people are always going to talk."
Makoto Kino 2015-06-10 06:27:09 1703
The entire shopping center. Makoto's eyes widen in admiration and something faintly resembling panic as, belatedly, she puts two and two together regarding just what the 'MS' in 'MS Department Store' must stand for. "That's--" she begins, only to stop again, at a loss for words. What is someone of his status doing standing here talking to *her?*

It takes several seconds of wild internal flailing before Mako grabs onto the immediate subject at hand in an effort to steady herself and just maybe not go on looking like an idiot. "...it's really a shame," she says, brows drawing together as she looks toward the bridal gown display again. "But that's how rumors are, I guess. I wish there were a way to stop them, but I suppose that's impossible."

There's a self-conscious twist to her mouth as she says it, thinking of other rumors that have nothing to do with the supposed ghost of the bridal boutique. Mako's not just speaking from sympathy - hers is the voice of very personal experience.
Nephrite 2015-06-10 06:58:18 1708
Despite his professed skill at interpreting mortal behavior, Nephrite knows his ability comes from repeated exposure and practice, not an innate talent. Those emotions he's familiar with -- infatuation, frustration, sorrow, rage -- he can detect in just about anyone who crosses his path. But the more subtle expressions, like specifically placed emphasis on a word or a twist of the mouth, he cannot reliably decipher, as humans have an infuriating habit of hinting at their meanings rather than saying them outright.

Thus, as Kino-san speaks about rumors, he knows that *something* significant is behind her words, but he cannot completely make it out. Other than her height, she seems like a rather normal girl, after all. What would the rumor mill have to dirty her name with?

The Dark General pushes it out of his mind. It truly doesn't matter. All he needs is a way to get his hands on her energy, and this sudden wave of (what he thinks is) sadness has given him a perfect opportunity.

"Rumors can be damaging things," he agrees, lowering his voice to match the solemnity of the moment. "Though infinitely more so to people than to bridal boutiques."

He lets that feigned understanding hang in the air for a second or two, then dons his coy, slight smile again. "If you wanted to, Kino-san, I could arrange for you to try on one of our dresses. Our schedule has been rather...free, lately. It wouldn't be any trouble."
Makoto Kino 2015-06-10 07:11:03 1710
"Really?" The unexpected offer has Makoto blinking in surprise, momentarily floored. "Ah, that's--" Flustered all over again, she trips over her words in her haste to reply, and blushes anew before she manages to find her way back into intelligibility. "That's very generous of you, Sanjouin-san, but... even if I tried something on, it's not like I could buy anything."

Feeling awkward, she looks down. It does nothing to hide the wistful little smile that won't quite leave her face. "I'm afraid I'd only be wasting your time."
Nephrite 2015-06-10 07:35:41 1714
"Nonsense. I wouldn't have offered if I thought you would waste my time," Nephrite replies, charming as ever on the outside, though slightly irritated that she didn't accept him right away. This absurd tendency to demur from things a person desires -- he's seen it many times, and it's never failed to baffle and frustrate him. He'll just have to make the offer so appealing she couldn't possibly refuse.

Otherwise, he loses what little hold he has on her, and it will take time and resources to find her again. Much easier to snatch up the energy while it's firmly in his reach.

"As I said, there's been little business at the store, since every bride from here to Osaka seems to think themselves cursed if they so much as come near this shop. You wouldn't be obligated to buy anything, of course," he explains, knowing that the girl is far from the age where she'd be considering marriage. "It's just such a shame to leave those beautiful dresses on the unmoving mannequins all day, don't you think?" He tries to match that faraway look that he saw in Kino-san's eyes as she looked in the window, as though he is just as devoted to the romance and spectacle of weddings as she is. "And, if people were to see a pretty girl like you trying on our dresses, then perhaps the rumors..."

But then he shakes his head, abruptly switching tactics. "Forgive me. I don't wish to force you into anything that makes you uncomfortable."
Makoto Kino 2015-06-10 07:58:10 1718
As she listens to the explanation that he gives, Makoto's expression gradually brightens from uncertainty into understanding (and no small amount of starry-eyed flattery when he actually calls her pretty). "Oh!" she says. "I see. So it'd be kind of like advertising, in a way. Showing people that there's nothing to worry about?"

She looks down again, this time to look herself over with a little hint of a frown. He may say she's a pretty girl, but Mako only sees herself as she always does, oversized and awkward. He could surely find someone prettier to model for him... but...

Decision made, she looks up to meet Nephrite's eyes squarely. "If I'd be helping you out, then I'd definitely like to," she says.
Nephrite 2015-06-10 08:29:37 1719
Nephrite smiles, allowing his genuine feelings to show for the first time in the conversation. The girl fell all too easily -- a relief, after learning that his energy draining scheme was going so poorly. Even if he had to abort that mission early, the harvest from this girl alone (in addition to a few of the errant grooms) should be enough to satisfy his Queen.

He didn't want to be simply satisfactory, of course. The Dark General wanted to show up his fellows, demonstrate exactly who the most capable among them is. But that would have to wait for another time. Perhaps the girl will reveal some useful information to him as he drains her of life. After all, extraordinary energy is most often produced by extraordinary circumstances.

He will have to ask the stars why they didn't show him Kino-san earlier. It's a most perplexing oversight.

Regardless, 'Masato' says, "Thank you. Truly. You're doing me a great service, Kino-san." Yes, a service for him -- and the Dark Kingdom. Not that she'll know that until the very end. "If you could come by around seven on Saturday? Only if you're not busy, of course."
Makoto Kino 2015-06-10 08:44:10 1720
Makoto takes a brief moment to think over whether or not she had any plans for the weekend, but it doesn't take her long at all to conclude that she doesn't, and she nods with a bright answering smile. "That's fine!" she says, with the careless assurance of someone who has no adult authority figures at home to object to her going out at seven o'clock on a Saturday. "I'll look forward to seeing you then."

She follows the words with a polite bow, trying hard to suppress a sense of bubbling excitement that's welling up within her, and only kind of succeeding.