Calling

Revisiting a place that was once called home, be careful not to bite off more than you can chew.

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Reiko Souma
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Calling

Post by Reiko Souma » Tue Jun 23, 2020 9:40 am

To take place during the second half of Reiko's community service. Played in the Wilds on Discord with Joseph Dawson, this is cross-posted from the "You're Under Arrest!" thread to indicate the start of a new storyline.

Oh, the peace and calm of twilight. The quiet. Almost too quiet, really. No birds flew overhead, no creatures scurried through the undergrowth. All was silent along the dirt road that cut through the woods. A low fog hung in the air, clinging to the ground, and there was a distinct stench of rot and decay lingering between the trees, just faintly. The only sound to be heard was the gentle rushing of the stream that lay to the left of the path, down the hill. The breeze picked up, ever so subtly, carrying whispers that were barely audible. Just faint brushes of song, travelling through the woods.

"He's got the whole world... in his hands..."

"He's got the whole wide world... in his hands..."

Mid-morning, and the Albino was hard at work on the farm. Name all of the plants and crops that were to be planted: vegetables, primarily, from squash to cucumbers and carrots. Today would bring about an expansion to this in the form of fruit. Trees were being added to this now. This has been, and will be, Reiko's site for conmunity service for the next two weeks as her way of contributing to the replacement of the fruits and vegetables that she had damaged during last month's freakish power evolution. Headband in place and secured, a wonder she didn't lose it before being saved from nearly drowning amidst a trio of sharks yesterday. Thank the Fates for someone being there to help her then, but it was decided by her overseer that there would be no more beach visits during the downtime given in the middle of the day.

Speaking of downtime, the Albino was thinking of skipping that today. She felt as if she might be starting to take advantage of that and would rather work like she was supposed to. At least, that was the plan. Her denim overalls and knees were dusty from tending to the growing crops, her gardening gloves on to guard her hands. It seemed like a typical day on the farm, right?

"Reiko!" There was the call of the kind woman from several metres away. Man, did she have the set of lungs that the Albino herself did not. Reiko looked up to see Mia waving her over and stopped, having just finished planting her gazillionth potato as it was. When close enough, "One of the goats has managed to escape and has run off into the woods somewhere yonder. Would you mind retrieving it, please?"

Great. I have to play hide and seek in the woods with a goat that already doesn't like people. Reiko pulled off her gardening gloves. "Yes, ma'am," she responded, jogging off on the path in the direction she was pointed in. She slowed when she reached the woods and started to look around, her eyes peeled for signs of said runaway goat.

That was when she heard the faint sounds of a song, one she recognised from her teenage years. Someone else was in the woods as well. Company? Maybe it was one of the other farmers who had seen the goat run off and was trying to bring it back as well.

"Now where'd you run off to..." As the Albino ventured deeper into the woods, the first thing she noticed was the wind blowing, the trees seeming to sway a little faster in the wind with a chill in the air. Odd. Today's forecast was supposed to call for a calm breeze; this was anything but calm. Of all the days for her to go goat-chasing, it had to be on a day that the meteorologist was more inaccurate in his weather prediction than usual. At least it wasn't raining, though. Whilst that would mean goat hooves to see in the mud, it would also mean having to find something to use as a shelter until it passed, or otherwise going back to borrow an umbrella from Mia.

What Reiko found odd as she continued to venture into the woods for her search was, the singing had stopped abruptly. Then it started again, only it sounded further away from the path now. It was as if she was listening to a moving forest choir, and the choristers were inviting her to find them. She had a goat to find, though, not a choir.

"He's got the whooole world...in his hands..."

"He's got the whole wide world...in his hands..."

The singing seemed to be made up of many voices, each faint and distant, but sounding almost as though they were whispered in Reiko's ears at the same time. The fog thickened around her ankles. "Damnit..!" Reiko hissed as she noticed the fog becoming denser. Good thing she could still see! Dense fog stood little chance to her keen vision, a blessing in times like these. Suddenly, just as the fog became almost too uncomfortable to bear, that goat she was chasing strolled out into the path. Just as she was starting to puff her cheeks, there it was! It seemed to move towards her once it came into her path, and her eyes lit up. "There you are! Now come this way...slowly, now..."

It was clear that Reiko knew nothing about luring goats to return to the farm whatsoever, and that would soon become her undoing. For starters, she was ignoring the vacant look in its eyes, glassed over, and its movements were uncharacteristically calm. The animal paused, looked her dead in the eyes...then ran off, into the woods.

"...hey! Where are you going? Come back!" Her trying to call after it was futile with her voice not loud enough as it was, and she started to run after it. What is with this goat?! It looked so strange...like something-no. I can't think like that right now. Instead, she was letting her experience in running track kick in. Provided nothing could cause her to trip up, Reiko should have no trouble keeping up with the fleeing goat.

Running on the flat, even surface of a track was nothing like trying to run cross-country. It was starting to show with the changing terrains and the uneven surfaces. Yet that goat was simply not giving up on its game of Chase! It was safe to say that Reiko was in for a good bit of exercise today, even more than what she usually got from the last handful of days of tending to the farm. She was still working, technically, following her overseer's orders of trying to bring back that elusive goat. Trying to, what a joke that was...only one party was cooperating, the goat not being the cooperating party.
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Post by Reiko Souma » Tue Jun 23, 2020 9:41 am

As the beast ran, it weaved through trees and bushes, disappearing behind some foliage every so often only to miraculously be several feet ahead mere seconds later. As it led her through the forest, the ground became damper, swampier. Mangroves gradually replaced trees, and the faint buzzing of insects could be heard, alongside that singing. Which was getting closer. The goat was leading her into the bayou.
If this is a trap, then so help me Fate, I'm going to be pissed. Reiko didn't need her abilities to sense that something was wrong when she had her gut to rely on. In her pursuit, her run slowed to avoid tripping over some of the tree roots that had peaked above the ground. Said ground was no longer dry, and she was starting to have a slightly difficult time trying to keep up with the fleeing goat. Maybe I should turn back and call for help. I'm too far into the woods now...but this goat. I'm supposed to bring it back. If she was gone for too long, then Reiko was concerned that she would get in trouble for not checking in with somebody. The last thing she needed was more trouble.

But, the goat! Stubborn was as stubborn did, and the woman decided that she wasn't going to give up just yet. Even as the environment started to change around her, and the sound of that choir singing (as she perceived) was sounding closer to her, she was determined to find that goat! Reiko was on a mission, damnit! "This is getting ridiculous..." she muttered as her run started to slow to a jog.

Soon enough, that goat was gone. It had turned a corner, around a tree, and disappeared. Damnit! Soft curses parted her lips as she continued to give chase to the goat. Soon enough, she had lost it. I'm so screwed...Mia's going to be pissed! I couldn't catch it... Reiko shook her head in disappointment with herself, knowing that it was pretty much impossible to catch any animal when she no longer knew what direction it was going in. If she didn't have to wear her headband for another month, then she would have been able to find and bring the goat back awhile ago. But, no...she still had to comply, especially in knowing that Rachael was being kept in the loop of her progress. Reiko had to be careful.

The young woman found herself in a clearing, the swampy, muddy ground at her feet, surrounded by thin mangrove trees. Speaking of careful, where even was she? "I'm not in Kansas anymore...and I've lost my Toto." This wasn't good. The singing had seemingly given way to the accompanying sounds of insects, mosquitoes and the like which loved to snack on the flesh of humans whether living or dead. It was still foggy, but she could still see. Her eyes had yet to fail her as she now looked around, her feet moving in place so as not to sink into the thickness of the swamp-like ground beneath her.

That was until a soft, white light pierced the fog ahead of her. A low, gruff voice continued that singing, as a figure emerged from the mist, holding a lantern aloft.

"He's got the whole world...in his hands..."

"He's got the whole world in his haaands..."

Oh wait, there was that singing again. The moving forest choir was back, but now she was seeing a white light. It was a strange thing, this lantern. It didn't have any apparent bulb or light source, yet the white light emitted from it anyways. Soft that it was, Reiko's eyes were light-sensitive, and they squinted slightly behind the wraparound pink-lens sunglasses that she's been wearing all day so far. White mist seemed to seep from the thing and sink towards the floor as the figure came into view; Reiko's band touched the nearest object to her left as she watched the figure emerge from it. A skinny but well-built man, wearing an unbuttoned shirt, his messy long hair flowing to his shoulders around a beard. He wore a grin on his face. When he spoke, his voice was soft and calming, though held a touch of the sinister about it.

"It's dangerous to be out in these parts o' the woods alone, miss..."

Reiko would be lying if, as the figure - being a male, as she soon made out - didn't come across as physically attractive to her. Idiot! This isn't the time to be checking out potentially hot guys! She shut her eyes for a moment, as if refocusing. Then she opened them again as he spoke to her. "You think?" was her first response. "I wouldn't be out here if a certain goat hadn't decided it wanted to play Chase and lead me this far...did you happen to see where it went, by the way?"

The young man came more into view, and as he raised his lantern to head-height, the fog seemed to slowly dissapate around them, leaving a circle of clear air around the two. Pink azalean eyes, forever lacking any eyelashes since birth, didn't move away from the man as the distance between them both lessened at least a little bit. Aside from the occasional blink of those eyes, they indicated that this man had her attention. How interesting that, not one minute after the goat had vanished from her line of vision, he should step out into view. The timing almost seemed too perfect, just like the clearing fog. Oh no, there was nothing about this that screamed trap at all...nothing. Maybe she was just glad to see another who at least looked human.

That grin set into his face, he cocked his head to the left slightly, looking the young woman up and down. He scanned her with his eyes, as though checking out the quality of the new livestock. Or maybe...no, she definitely found him pleasing to her eyes. And, from watching him carefully, was he checking her out?! If so, then what a place to be doing so in! Boring blue overalls that stopped at the knees and had a black t-shirt beneath it, along with sneakers that had a little bit of a platform to them and black shin-high socks were what the man was going to see covering a bit of her very white skin, apart from her shoulder-length bubblegum pink hair that was, at the moment, tied back into a short ponytail.

I'm supposed to be looking for that goat, but I'm becoming distracted... Reiko shook her head slowly. It wasn't exactly a wild beast, albeit she was questioning the "wild" part right now. No tame beast would simply run off and lead its pursuer on a possibly wild goose - er, goat - chase deep into the woods!

The bass-y, southern drawl in his voice came through as calm and inviting when he finally spoke. "Should a wild beast wish to roam...who are we to impede it, my child?" He let out a low chuckle. A nasty, unsettling thing. Deep and echoing.

"Don't let my overseer hear you say that..." the Albino mumbled. She just wanted to find the goat and bring it back...okay, maybe after a little bit of a conversation with this guy. Reiko didn't unnerve easily, unless there was blood. Any kind of a laugh, regardless of its tone or implied motive behind it, drew no reaction from the woman.
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Post by Reiko Souma » Tue Jun 23, 2020 9:42 am

With a wave of his left hand, the goat came slowly trotting through the mist, and curled up at her feet. Seeing this, having noticed the motion, drew a raised skinny eyebrow. He looked down at it, then up to her, grinning. His eyes seemed to burrow into hers, and he hadn't really blinked since she'd seen him first. "Seems he's come back, then."

"Decided to come back, huh..." Reiko glanced down at the curled-up goat, and then she looked back up at the man himself. "...that doesn't explain why you're out here by yourself, though. Who are you?" she asked.

The man's grin widened, and he took a step forward, spreading his arms in an almost Christ-like pose, with his head cocked to the side. "Me? ... Why, I am he who shepherds the meek and unloved through the valley of darkness...I am Joseph, the New Messiah, the Modern Ezekiel..." As he spoke, he began to pace a circle around the young woman. "I am the shepherd, and the world is my flock...I have spoken with the Almighty and I act upon his will...I am the protector of those who are lost in this world..." He paused, stopping once more in front of her, now a good bit closer, his voice lowered, almost a whisper.

That eyebrow was still raised, but she wasn't moving. Well, considering the goat was curled-up at her feet, Reiko couldn't exactly do more than slide her feet backwards if she wanted to or even tried to. It was safe to say she was stuck here but, considering this man was a bit of a looker, she didn't seem to mind much. She was listening to what he had to say, which was quite a bit of an introductory speech. All she wanted was his name...she got that, all right. But, she was getting more than his name. She was getting what sounded like something the villagers in the previously war-torn village she'd been stationed in at home had been devoted to. They had been devoted to someone that they saw as their Messiah of sorts.

It was different from the beliefs that Reiko held close to her and practised more closely than she had in years past. Her priest had done no pacing like this Joseph man was doing now. Shepherd the meek and unloved through the valley of darkness, huh. What is he, some sort of field minister that wants money? If it was money that he wanted, then he would be sorely disappointed. Reiko carried no money on her today. In place of money was a utility knife.

"But who...who are you, my child..?" Joseph asked.

"Interesting that you speak with someone that even I know doesn't communicate with their followers audibly," Reiko pointed out. This was done politely, hoping to encourage further communication. In actuality, the sound of Joseph's voice prior to him lowering it was sending shivers up and down her spine. She matched the volume of his voice with her own. "As for who I am, I'm just an Albino who's trying to stay out of trouble with the law. Reiko."

He smiled at her, taking a step back, and clutched his lantern with both hands, looking down into its light. "There are those who he has spoken to in the past, my child...Prophets. I am but the latest of their number...the Lord spoke to me, child. He gave me my gifts so I may light the way for those willing to follow."

Just how old was this guy to be calling her a child? Never mind trying to figure out his age. He may be really good-looking and all, but he sounds crazy. Yet she wasn't moving. Reiko might be dismissing the whole deity speaking to Joseph idea as an act of lunacy or some mental health issue, but she was still listening to him speak.

He looked up at her, and as he spoke, bright green roots sprung from the ground at her feet, which blossomed into beautiful pink and blue flowers in seconds, before equally as quickly wilting, rotting, and decaying into the ground once more. Reiko looked down at the ground to watch this, only to be disappointed at the decay. They had been such pretty flowers, too. "It is his hand that guides my actions. His voice that comes from my lips."

Clearly, that had come from Joseph. If that was the case, then...Reiko was starting to piece some things together. Had he had anything to do with the goat leading her out here, then? "Hm...gifts, you say." Nope! She couldn't demonstrate. Even her Metronome was blocked by the headband she wore. "A pity you found me a month too early...why I say that isn't worth mentioning right now, but I will say this. You talk smooth to someone who doesn't follow the same deity you say you communicate with."

She wasn't convinced. A demonstration only told her that he had abilities like she did, but of a different nature. Squatting down, Reiko started to pet the former runaway goat at the top of its head. She noticed it looking up to her, as if telling her that it was about time she gave it some attention. Her eyes were still looking at Joseph, wondering if he had anything else to offer.
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Post by Reiko Souma » Tue Jun 23, 2020 9:43 am

Again, he cocked his head, and wandered over, crouching down to pet the goat near its back. He smiled at it, and suddenly, the grey hairs near the top of its head changed to black. The creature seemed to swell, muscle building on its form, its horns lengthening, dirt and dust falling away from it. All of a sudden, the animal was in the peak of health. He looked up at her, his brow furrowing a bit as he studied her. Seeming content with not one, but two, hands giving attention, the goat lowered its head - not noticing the change in its colour. Reiko noticed, however, along with the other changes to its physique.

"You are not to blame, child. You simply have much to learn. I will do my best to teach you as I have others, should you allow me to. The knowledge which has been shared with me is not exclusive. I am a shepherd to all." He paused again, tilting his head the other way. "What do you mean by that, my child? I would wager it's worth mentioning..."

"What did you just do?" she asked, her eyes narrowing slightly. Her hand froze on its head. "My overseer will have my head if she sees this...she notices the slightest of changes in her animals. How am I going to explain this to her?"

Now the goat looked up at Reiko, having heard the change in her tone. It blinked, puzzled, but otherwise seemed content with the change. As if full of energy, it was ready to rear up and start running around! Cautious, the Albino focused on any signs of aggression or other changes that her eyes wouldn't be able to notice. She really hoped that she wouldn't have to deal with a goat gone feral when bringing it back in a bit.

"You keep on referring to me as a child, but you look no more than a few years my senior. Either you age really well, or you're an incredibly intelligent priest of sorts." She was still denying any acknowledgement of Joseph being some kind of Messiah of sorts. "Teach me? What could you possibly have to teach me that my priest didn't already pass onto me?" she queried, "My talents weren't easily acquired, not easily trained or controlled, and currently not to be used. I'm sorry, but I prefer not saying more before I'm permitted to remove my current restraints."

Joseph chuckled, looking down at the goat and petting it. "I didn't do anything...I simply helped it to be what it always had the potential to be. Your overseer will be pleased with you, I'm sure." When the animal stood up, so did he, and the mist dissipated around the clearing, giving it better visibility as it ran around. He turned, smiling at Reiko. "All are my children, as all are His. Is not a shepherd the father of his flock? A lion the father to his pride? A wolf the father to his pack?" He chuckled again, picking up the lantern to once more stare into its depths as he talked. "I can give you the knowledge required to unmake the world, and reshape it in your image, child...I can show you the truth that the Lord has bestowed upon me. I alone can shield you from the Day of Judgement. For once his righteous fire cleanses the world, only the Children will remain.

At this point, it was entirely possible that Reiko had said too much. No, she definitely had said too much. She didn't know Joseph from a hole in a wall, nor did he know her. Yet she had basically revealled a good portion of her strengths and weaknesses without going into specifics. Talk about a fail on her behalf right there. She knew better than to do such a thing, yet it had all but gone out the window. At least she had refrained from saying anymore. Fate be praised for that.

She really needed to find her way back to the farm now, though. Far too much time had passed since Mia had sent the woman out to look for the runaway goat, which was still curled-up at her feet in a somewhat content state, given its...physical modifications. Reiko was going to count this as her downtime because of how much time she had taken, and she was going to resume working after getting something to eat because she was starting to get hungry at this point. "Let me think about that, Joseph...I really must return to my work," Reiko told the man with his Messiah-like complex. It was all she could do to keep from being outright rude to him, though his good looks were the sole redeeming quality about him.

In a surprising motion on her behalf, the Albino kept one hand on the goat's head. The distance closed when she rose to her feet, and she took hold of his shoulder with her left hand. Her lips touched his briefly before backing away. "Hold me to it," she whispered, turning. She looked to the goat. "Come," she told it, and it listened without running away this time.

He was surprised when her lips met his, but he didn't show it. He simply grinned upon her backing away, a Cheshire Cat looking grin, and held his lantern up to face-level, bathing his own in white light. As he did so, the mist dissipated completely around them. "Go with God, my child...no harm shall come to you in these woods." He paused, turning to walk away. He took a few steps, then stopped, turning over his shoulder. "You'll see me again...Reiko." With that, he walked away. Her line of sight to him would only be broken for a moment by a tree, but he was gone. Into thin air. With only that dark laugh echoing through the forest.
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Calling Now

Post by Reiko Souma » Tue Jun 23, 2020 9:45 am

It. Was. Hot! An atypical accessory was in the Albino's tow today, a parasol. Ordinarily, the day's work would be done outside. With concerns for the woman's health, however, Mia had decided to send Reiko inside instead. She was tasked with working out of the office, a lovely little shoebox of a room that was kept nice and cool with a little air conditioner tucked in the room's only window. Sort documents, file, use the computer to compare prices for new chicken wire fences...Reiko's met her match in the limits of her technological knowledge. It showed quickly, only ten minutes into her work, so imagine what it was like after several hours of doing routine clerical work.

Having worked inside since morning, Reiko was permitted to leave for the day. She had two options; actually, make that three. She could either go home and rest, go to one of the taverns and spend some time there, or she could go back to the woods that she had been in yesterday. Why that was even an option, Reiko didn't quite know. Except, she did know. It was that man, that Joseph. He had said things that, after literally sleeping on it and thinking about it during most of the day, left her with more questions. He was clearly gifted with the ability to create, alter, and end different forms of life. That, she's seen before.

What the woman wanted to know was what else he was capable of doing. If talking smooth and looking good was all he could do besides the lovely gift of his, then she might be disappointed. As she bid her overseer farewell with the promise to return at sunrise tomorrow morning, Reiko started in the direction of the woods. Eyes were peeled behind her pink-lens sunglasses for signs of anything atypical in the atmosphere.

Almost as soon as the girl crossed the threshold into the woods, nearby where she had first been lured in, that deep laugh echoed faintly, like a whisper on the wind. The sheep was returning to her flock...

The trees to her left slowly began to part, roots upending and burrowing in further away, grass and moss decaying and rotting within moments, stone being pushed up through the dirt...until a paved stone path suddenly lay open to her, leading deep into the dark, dark woods...

"Will you walk into my parlour?" said a spider to a fly~

There was one benefit to working on a farm: parking. She had parked her car far enough away that it was out of sight of the house where Mia and the others resided. That it was black made it easier to blend in with the dark, should she find herself staying in the area for that long. Provided her questions were answered, and more questions weren't compounded on top of the answers given, it was possible that she might be back by dusk. The chances of that actually coming to pass, however, she was prepared for it not happening. Always be ready for anything, as her guardian had told her.

It was as if she was answering an invitation ahead of its delivery to return. Unlike yesterday's unplanned trip, there was no goat being chased. There was no fog either, but the landscape was doing something she hadn't seen before. Reiko's memory had yet to fail her, as she distinctly remembered the absence of a stone path yesterday. "Nothing about this setup is the makings for a trap, wouldn't you say?" she suddenly said aloud. If anyone could hear her, then she hoped it was Joseph himself. "Spiders typically lay the most obvious of traps that look like anything but, and their predators fall for it because they're deceived into believing they can escape." Only once they were ensnared, there was no escape.

Reiko stepped forward onto the stone path, her steps slow and small. This was what she wanted, after all, to see that man again. She was moving so slowly, as if she was expecting something, or someone, to physically ensnare her. The woman's done some stupid things before, but she was anything but a fool.

As she walked, that white fog began to settle at her ankles, hovering above the ground. As she walked, the path fell away behind her, grass and earth growing back in its place. She would hear his voice, then. Fainter than a whisper, as if it were right in her ear, despite him being nowhere to be seen.

"No harm shall come to you~"

The forest grew darker as the path wound on, and as forest turned to swampland, the stone path poked up out of the water of the bayou. A low-lying stench of rot and decay lingered in the air the longer she walked.

Facing forward, each small and slow step continued onward. Venturing deeper into the woods, the familiar feeling of the earth beneath her boot-covered feet and the blades of grass brushing against her ankles, she had a feeling that she was starting to get close. One look down confirmed this with the return of the fog that had been so dense yesterday. There was the atypical effect on the day's weather, abnormally low in her opinion. She was going to give it maybe a minute, or perhaps two, before it started to become thicker and expand around her.

"No harm, huh. That's a relief." Except, the only kind of harm she might have to voice a complaint about was the stench. It was starting to make her nose twitch some. "I don't suppose you could do something about the horrid smell whilst you're at it? Maybe, replace it with something a bit more pleasant." It wasn't an unreasonable request that she was making. Nobody with any sense of self-respect would have any kind of tolerance for such a horrible odour at all. Reiko didn't know a single individual who lived like this. What she did know was that her stomach was starting to flip-flop within because of how it reminded her of the dead, bloodied bodies of those she had been forced to kill.

It was gross, and it was the reason she could walk no further. Her hand now covered her mouth as she prepared for the worst to happen in terms of reactions.

No reply came from the trees. Nothing. Guess the talk ends here. That, actually, was fine by her. She was still standing stationary in wait for the familiar reaction she was well used to from years past. It's only been twelve years since she last dealt with this in battle, after all. She would never get used to it. Suddenly, she felt as though she simply couldn't smell anything. This is still weird, though. Weird came in the form of her moving her hands away and rubbing the base of her nose with one finger, only to not smell that acrid stench any longer. What the Hell?

After a moment, all she would smell was the humid air of the swamp, and the scents from the various flora that surrounded her. Floral scents were more pleasant and made a suitable replacement for what she had just been on the verge of vomiting over. The path would lead on, deeper and deeper into the dark. Soon, the path was flanked on both sides by water, as mangrove trees broke the waterline of the swamp every now and then. The fog was, indeed, starting to pick up as she delved deeper. Soon, she could not see but a few metres ahead of her along that stone path, and each time she took a step, the path would fall away into the water behind her. It was dark enough that the woman knew most people wouldn't be able to see in front of them. Reiko could still see, and she could definitely still hear. Everything was in a dark enough tone that she might have to take out her phone to enable the flashlight feature on it. Hey, at least she could see at all.
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Post by Reiko Souma » Tue Jun 23, 2020 9:47 am

Moving forward again, she could feel her feet stepping on a stone path once more. How much further did she have to go just to find this guy? Curiosity was starting to rear itself in another way now. "Where is this path taking me?" Reiko now called out.

"Home."

The reply came whispered amongst the swamp, as a form started to take shape in the mist.

"Home?" The one word was repeated as a question. Reiko had a home, two to be specific. It could beg the perfectly valid question of which house she truly considered her home. To that, she would end up lacking an answer. Where home was to her, well...she was never one to use overly-clichéd sayings, such as, "Home is where the heart is." That one in particular made about as much sense as another one, "Wherever you go, you are home." Both of these made zero sense to her whatsoever.

She was making it no secret that she had serious doubts about this place. If it was a home to Joseph, then that was good for him, though Reiko did wonder how it was that he could live with that stench that she hasn't smelt in quite a few minutes now.

A great, dark shape became more visible as the fog cleared, until it revealed itself: a large house, seemingly long since abandoned. Some of the roof appeared caved-in from storms, the windows were shattered, and moss, vines and mould seemed to climb the walls like tendrils, almost as if nature itself found the structure abhorrent and was trying to tear it to pieces. Most notable, though, were the figures.

Hundreds of them, easily. From all walks of life. Tall, short, men, women, even some small children, all standing motionless in the front lawn. An army of them. All staring directly at Reiko, and all of them wore black, thin plastic sheep masks over their faces.

Apparently, this large house, which looked like it's seen far better days once the woman could see it better, wasn't just home to one person. All of these figures she saw on the front lawn (who knew when that was mowed last?), they looked a little bit too realistic to be lawn decor for that Halloween that so many decorated. If she had to be as honest as she always was, then this place looked like the perfect location to shoot a horror film. Reiko looked slowly from left to right, noting the different sizes of each figure. Then she lowered herself down to be face-to-face with one of the shorter figures.

"Hello there..." Reiko greeted. She noted the mask this one wore. The one she saw to her left had the same mask on. "...how long have the lot of you been here?" Not moving too close, she studied the details of the one she stood the closest to, looking for signs of where they all came from.

The figures backed away from her, like scared cattle, some of the bigger, bulkier people moving forward to shield the others, as though Reiko was sick, or dangerous. The shorter figure she had crouched down to, a young girl, hid behind the leg of a larger man, her eyes wide behind the mask, staring into Reiko's. Okay...that's not something I see everyday, even here in Rhy'din.

"Please excuse them... they're not used to outsiders."

The voice came from behind her, a few feet away. The familiar figure of Dawson, his hat tipped over his eyes, wearing an opened up shirt, and holding his lantern high, had suddenly and silently appeared behind her. He wore a wide grin as he stepped forward, standing to her right, and placing a hand gently on her shoulder. "Fear not, Children...she means no harm...she is simply a lost soul, as you all once were..."

She watched, not moving, and only turned when she heard the familiar voice of the one she sought. So, they not only were sentient, they were definitely human - of sorts. The hand on her shoulder was welcomed, the first form of physical contact of any sort since she'd parted with that kiss. Already comfortable enough to touch her? Reiko couldn't hold back a little bit of a smile at this.

"I see...have they always been like this?" she asked, "Wearing black robes and masks, I mean. Have they always worn such attire and been weary of outsiders, even when they first arrived?" The woman gestured to them all. She listened to how he spoke to them all. All were addressed as his children, even the ones who had to be older than Joseph himself was. Interesting, it was, in its own way.

The people didn't move forward or say anything, but seemed to relax a little. The young girl cautiously approached Reiko, looking up at her...before looking down to the ground. At her feet, a pink flower bloomed up from the earth. She picked it, gently, and held it out to this newcomer into their flock. Joseph's smile widened.

A pink flower being offered to her, it was welcome as well. Lowering herself to the young girl's level, Reiko offered a soft smile to show that she wouldn't do anything of bad intent. Then she reached out and, with the smile still present, accepted the flower. "Thank you so much, little one," she said, and held it to her nose to take a little sniff. It was a pink azalea blossom, the same colour as her own eyes. "Did you know...the pink azalea is my favourite kind of flower?" Then she straightened, looking to Joseph once more.

He chuckled darkly, taking a step forward, his hand off her shoulder to press against his lantern as he looked across the group. "No...some came to me as addicts, some from houses filled with abuse...broken people. People who were hurt, victims of a world of sin and pain...I took them, and gave them a home, gave them a family of love and kindness. The Children tend to be wary of outsiders...they have been hurt many times before, you see. It is the nature of the sheep to be wary of the wolves..."

He turned to her, grinning, his dark green eyes seeming to pierce into hers. "Yes...I did. And I also know that pink and black are your two favourite colours. And that you're working in a farm not too far from here. I know you're from New Jersey. That you've committed some crimes in your past and are working to clear your name. Most importantly, Reiko...I know that you are a kind soul at heart. With a want to do good in this world..."
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Post by Reiko Souma » Tue Jun 23, 2020 9:48 am

"......." The woman froze. He'd just regurgitated information about her, not all of which she'd made public knowledge. The pink and black was probably the most obvious of all, considering the summer-type of dress she was currently wearing. Some had a tendency of questioning Reiko's choice of apparel because of how revealling it was most of the time, but she didn't give a shit. It was her body and her choice. As for the less obvious, however, "You've been watching me. For how long?" came her query.

Reiko wasn't going to touch the backgrounds of most of these people here. That was because they all hit home for her like sharp knives landing just outside of her heart. Abusive parents, abuse of alcohol, loss of unborn babies...trauma on and off the battlefield...Reiko probably defined broken. But, she wasn't about to admit to any of that. Instead, she held the flower in her hand. She noticed how it made for a nice complement to her hair, her eyes, and her wardrobe.

He simply smiled, and raised his lantern in the air. At that signal, the crowd dissipated, either retreating back into the house or going to work around it, standing guard, or just going about their day. He turned back to her, eyes meeting hers once more. "I have not been watching you. God has been watching you. He watches each of us, every one of us, from the moment we are born." He took a step forward, getting a lot closer to her, almost scanning her with his eyes. "He gives this knowledge to me for the same reason he has blessed me with my abilities. So that I may help those who need it...people like you." He paused. "I daresay I know more about you than you know about yourself, Reiko." His smile softened, and he tilted his head slightly in curiosity, like a cat watching a mouse.

Her head tilted slightly to the right. It was her signature head tilt that she did whenever she was doubtful, skeptical, or confused. In this case, she was skeptical. "Is that so..?" she muttered. Again, just like the previous day, she ignored the deity part. "I would be surprised if anyone knows me better than I know myself." More skepticism was present, and it was showing

He spoke up, a lot quieter this time, his eyes narrowing a little. "Though...I must admit...you are somewhat of an enigma to me."

She was also rather stubborn, and she wouldn't be surprised if he picked up on it. "You say you know more about me than I know about myself, yet you say I'm also an enigma. Please, explain that one..." Reiko dared notice the closeness they stood at, almost close enough that another kiss could be given...if she wanted to.
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Post by Reiko Souma » Tue Jun 23, 2020 9:49 am

The young man paused, his eyes staying locked into hers. He raised his lantern, illuminating both of their faces as they stood in front of the dilapidated house, the buzz of mosquitos the only sound between them. After a moment of contemplation, he spoke. "...I have been able to discover much about you, child, though...admittedly, not as much as I am with most. And more interestingly...you sought me out on your own initiative. Yet you remain wary. You are skeptical of my teachings, that much is obvious...yet you find me regardless. I wonder what drives that yearning within you. Is it the knowledge I possess that you wish to know? The power I wield which you wish to harness? ... What is it that would send a young woman deep into the dark, dangerous woods to find a stranger..." He paused, that grin forming on his face. "...Or is it simply that deep down, some part of you knows that what I say is true...some part of you knows that to seek salvation, you must only follow the flock..."

Where was the fun in laying a full hand out right away? The woman found that boring, no matter who it was that she spoke with or crossed paths with. If someone wanted to get close to her, then they had to earn their way into such a position. If they wanted her trust, then they would have to earn it. There was no denying that Reiko found an initial attractiveness in Joseph, and perhaps it was at least a small part of the reason for her seeking him out a second time. It was anything but the entire reason.

Remembering her parting words to him before taking leave with the runaway goat, Reiko didn't make any effort in looking away. Pink azalean hues remained fixed upon his as she watched him, noticing that grin of his returning her again. "I came back because, after making my own move, I told you to hold me to my own words. To think about what you were saying...you who say you know more about me than I know about myself, should know very well my reasons for carrying skepticism with me - not just with you, but in general."

She reached out her left hand. Just as she was about to place it on his chest, just below his shoulder, she reconsidered. In place of that was her very lightly touching his chest where one's heart typically was. "What I can do, that I currently am prohibited from doing at this time...given the opportunity, I could cause your heartbeat to quicken considerably...or slow to a rate that could lead to you experiencing a near-anaemic episode." Her finger travelled up to his forehead. "I could bend the perception of reality around us...affect the ability to think." Finally, her finger touched his lips. "Or, I could do neither of those things and simply use myself to encourage the enigma you believe me to be."

That grin on his face only widened more, and his head tilted to the side a little. His eyes seemed to burrow into hers, though there was a frustration behind them. He was finding this a lot harder than it usually was...his eyes glanced up to that accursed headband. He knew that was the problem. But, he also knew already that she would not agree to remove it. Not yet. But it could wait...he had played the long game before, he'd do it again. "You speak of such power...yet you allow yourself to be controlled. Perhaps you fear what you could do, given the chance..." He held his lantern up higher, further illuminating both their faces. "...I, too, possess the power to hurt. But more importantly...to heal, child. That is the most important thing. It is what each of my Children has learned. I can reach into their hearts, their very souls..." He reached over, and gently lay just his fingertips on her chest, just over her heart, similar to what she did. "...I can grab hold of those parts of yourself you despise, those memories that scar you, and those impulses that pain you...I can wipe them away, like breath on a mirror...or, I can teach you not to hate them any longer. For once you have seen the things I have seen, heard the things I have heard...you learn that the fires...well, they can be your friends too."

It didn't take a sixth sense for the woman to be able to attempt reading those eyes that seemed to stare so deeply into her own. Reiko felt as if Joseph was trying to read her like a book. The only problem was her headband. It was there for the safety of others, but it was there for her own safety as well. Considering the latter wasn't usually near the front of the woman's mind. Her safety here was, her mind couldn't be read. Her abilities were locked up not only for the benefit of others, but for her own benefit. She couldn't use her abilities, but her abilities also couldn't be used against her.

"You think I have a choice in the matter?" Reiko asked. She pointed at her headband. "This, I don't have a choice on. Not if I don't want to spend more time serving my sentence for destruction of property..." Her words trailed off, no other thought to be converted into spoken word, when his hand touched her chest where her heart was. There was a faint tinge of pastel pink on her cheeks as her face warmed some from the touch. Oh, she was still listening. She was hearing him out, and still questions arose. "Tell me. Tell me how you-"

Her vibrating phone cut her off. That was a surprise. Reiko didn't think she had any signal past a certain point in these woods, but she apparently did. She took it out and looked at the screen. Shourim. "I have more questions for you..." Reiko placed her free hand over Joseph's hand gently. "...since you seem so willing to answer them." Her hand lifted his away from her chest; holding it briefly, she did what she had done in their first encounter. That is...her lips met with his, touching lightly, before she moved away and released his hand to take leave.
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28 Jun 20xx: Work to the Woods

Post by Reiko Souma » Tue Jun 30, 2020 1:00 am

Downtime had come for the Albino, and the day was a hot one on the farm. She could easily just stay inside and enjoy the air conditioning on the ranch, but she wanted to go for a drive. Her car was air-conditioned, her lovely Mercedes-Benz that she'd gotten back from the mechanic the other day. As it turned out, her car had broken down for the first time ever because she'd completely forgotten that she'd left it running for hours before the automatic turnoff function kicked in. Well, it had kicked in too late, thus the breakdown. So, some adjustments had been made to the car's computer system after a full diagnostic had been run to make sure there weren't any other issues at hand. All of the fluids had been changed as well.

On her way to the car, she shed her worker's vest to adjust the sleeves on her t-shirt. Today, she wore shorts instead of overalls. With an entirely black wardrobe as per usual, the woman closed in on her car and unlocked it, opening the back door to only put the vest away on the backseat. There was a bottle of water sitting with a larger bottle of water; the smaller of the two was retrieved. Shut and lock the car up again, and she leaned against it.

"I am calling, calling now..."

Lyrics to a song she'd listened to recently ran through her mind. It was a beautiful Russian song with interesting lyrics, once translated. Some Latin phrases might have been mixed in as well, but it didn't take from the appreciation Reiko had for it. Hearing the song run through her mind at her own will, the woman started for the woods absently. She took a different route than usual to assure she stayed out of sight. It might get her lost, what with her headband now powerful enough to block out all attempts of breaches into her mind, but she was willing to try and find that house on her own. Even if it meant dealing with mosquitoes and the stench of rotting bodies making her ill, she just had to make the effort. The woman had left without asking her questions,

As the woods grew darker and the ground grew muddier, low, quiet humming could be heard in the distance. Some choral song, echoing over the winds and through the old mangrove trees. No aid would come to her this time. No trees pushed aside, no path cut through the swamps.

That there were no traces of guidance this time around came as a little bit of a surprise to the woman. She started to wonder if she might have pissed Joseph off some with her strong stubbornness and reluctance to accept his words head-on. That wouldn't surprise her if she had pissed him off some, as it was something she was used to doing to people. She was long used to this. All she had to do was think back to the parts of her childhood from before the deaths of her parents as a reminder of such, even though none of that had been her fault. Reiko had done nothing wrong to deserve such abuse.

When reminded of her guardian ultimately liberating her, following her parents' simultaneous deaths, Reiko's walk sped into that of a jog to vanish from the sight of anyone who might have seen her after all. But no, the farm hands were all bent over in plucking weeds from the ground. Mia and Dorin were inside, making lunch. None of them had seen the Albino disappear into the seemingly normal state of the woods. It was safe to say that, as she moved forward, the soles of her boots were starting to feel the effects of some of the swampy state on them. The unclear path thickened beneath her feet as Reiko now had to resort to running at the speed that she was used to running at.

Would she be able to find the house on her own? That's what she was about to find out. Oh she ran, remembering to run straight. Though, since she had entered ten metres to the left of her usual entry point, she needed to go diagonally to the right by that same distance. Low hums, she could hear. She listened to see if those hums would become louder as she continued to run forward.

As she ran, they could indeed be heard, louder as she approached. Soon, forest turned completely to swamp, mud turning to knee-high water. The distant glow of oil lamps could be seen off to the right...the hissing of what had to be alligators or some other formidable creature coming from behind nearby trees, ripples underneath the water, no doubt caused by leeches or snakes...Reiko may have wanted to take the usual route after all.

The woman soon found her pace slowing quickly by the seconds in her little detour. There was no longer any kind of solid ground, simply a murkiness with water that was getting deeper to her knees. She was now cringing, uttering quiet curses beneath her breath. "This is what happens when I make the extra effort to avoid being seen...damnit all..!" Reiko hissed. Ever the determined and stubborn one, however, she was going to make it through the swamp regardless. She just had to! Reiko didn't believe in giving up!

There were trees nearby. She was a good tree-climber, and now she was tempted to climb the nearest one. When looking up as she walked, however, she could see that there wasn't enough of a fair proximity between trees for her to leap from branch to branch. She wasn't allowed to remove her headband and use her telekinesis either, or else this would have never been an issue. So, in her struggle to amble through the knee-high water towards the glows of what had to be light in the distance, she spread her arms beside her at torso level and bent them, as if pumping her muscles to give her some kind of boosted strength to make it onto the nearest patch of dry land.
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Post by Reiko Souma » Tue Jun 30, 2020 1:01 am

Soon enough, the house would come into view ahead of her, shadowed in a belt of soft mist. There it was! A new effort was made to move quickly in order to get out of this blasted swamp and onto dry land. Her legs were sure to look a sight, but at least she would have a plausible reason for her disappearance: falling into a swamp. That was believable, right? That is, unless she was able to clean herself off before heading back...fat chance of that happening, Reiko decided.

Figures, donned in masks, were set about working and praying, some chopping wood, some tending to little lines of crops out the back. However, there came a low, gurgling hiss from behind her...something was approaching fast. What was that noise? An alligator, most likely...though who knew what could have been lurking beneath the waters of the swamp. Turning some, that hiss belonged to something, and it seemed to be closing in on her quickly. A water moccasin, maybe? An alligator? Something!

"Great. I'm going to become lunch before I even see him...been nice knowing you, hot shit Joseph," Reiko said, and made a second attempt of running for dry land. As quickly as she could move, which wasn't very fast at all, the Albino was sure to make it onto dry land before long. Question was, would any of the masked figures stop to help her? Or, was she still considered an outsider as long as she wore no mask? It seemed to be the latter. Though the figures did not cower from her, they stopped what they were doing the second she came into view. Each of them turned to look at her, some more relaxed than others. A few went back to work after a moment, though some still stared. Joseph himself still had yet to appear.

Eventually, finally, there was dry land! Reiko was soaked from the knees down, but what was most important about that was her safety. She had managed to escape from whatever it was that had been about to make a meal (or a snack) out of her. Her hands were on her thighs as she panted, catching her breath. She hoped not to do that again.

Looking up, she could see those who were staring at her. Reiko blinked a couple of times. "I'm...I'm sorry to startle you," she said, "I thought that was a better path to take in search of here...but I was wrong." Reiko didn't move from where she stood. "Please, don't let my sight unnerve you. I know I'm an outsider, but I really mean no harm. I came to speak with Joseph...is he inside of the house? Can I go in, or do I have to stay out here?" She straightened at last. "Outsider that I am...you all..." Suddenly exhausted, the woman fell to her hands and knees. The run through the swamp had caught up to her, leaving her temporarily winded.

Soft footsteps approached from behind her, stopping in front of her face. Joseph smiled down at her, his lantern in his hand, hanging down by his hip. He offered his hand to her, a comforting smile on his face, his head cocked to the left in that cat-like way. "Welcome home, my child..."

At the greeting, Reiko looked up at the offered hand. She accepted it and started to stand slowly. Her eyes followed in its upward travel towards his face, seeing the smile. "Uh...thank you," she said, not intending to sound unsure of herself. She was actually relieved. It was either him or the wildlife; her preference was a bit obvious here.

None of that stopped the thoughts that had previously swirled through her mind days ago. None of the words she had uttered on her own escaped her as she recalled them all of her own accord. "You came to answer my questions...either that, or you like it when I part ways with a kiss that much." Her smartass nature was still intact, apparently. She might have enjoyed kissing him, but she did doubt that it was mutual.

He raised an eyebrow after helping her up. "Forgive me... but it seems it was you who came to me."

"You're right. I did come to you." There was no denying, not that she would want to. There was a pause, and he looked her up and down, before taking a step forward and brushing some of the hair from her face. Her eyes didn't follow his this time. She knew she looked a mess, especially right now. She looked more a mess now than in her last two visits, where in those, the worst she'd dealt with was sweat and a little bit of dirt from working in the farm and the fields. Those stray hairs brushed away from her fade had escaped from the restraints of the ponytail her hair had been in, the gesture bringing a soft smile to her face.

"You have suffered from the journey, child...come with me. You should get yourself warm." With a smirk at her comment, he turned, his lantern lighting the way as he walked around the side of the house to the front door. As he walked, every figure he passed stopped and bowed their head until he had passed them by, at which point they returned to their work.

If this was considered suffering, then maybe she should suffer some more...no! What was she thinking? Bad Reiko! The woman nodded with an, "All right. I could do that much whilst I have the time..." and started to follow behind Joseph. Taking notice of those bowing their heads in his passing by, the woman raised an eyebrow. He had told her that he was their messiah and saved them from various broken lifestyles, after all, ultimately themselves...bows of appreciation for doing so, perhaps? That was her guess.

"All of them...no doubt your god heard me comparing them to the children I was never able to have," Reiko commented. She hadn't been lying to herself when admitting aloud to wanting to hug them all and hold them as if they were her own. That desire was stronger, even now. "Even if some of them are older than I am and are old enough to be my parents...it may seem weird, I know, but those are my feelings. As you may already know."

He turned his head over his shoulder, a slight hint of surprise crossing his face at how open she was being about the subject. Surprised? He should be, if he indeed was surprised at all. Reiko was testing the proverbial waters by speaking up on this, only offering as much as she had already spoken aloud.. "I know of that, yes." As she thought, he did know of this already. With his knowledge, she wondered if he could connect the dots and figure out the rest of her life story without her having to say anything more. That was the real test she was going to give him.
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Post by Reiko Souma » Tue Jun 30, 2020 1:02 am

He left a pause hang in the air, as he opened the front door...what greeted the two of them was a warm hallway, the damp and rot of the house's exterior nowhere to be seen. Lit by oil lamps, the inside of the house seemed like a haven in the unforgiving swamp. He stepped inside, letting his lantern hang by his hip. Upon stepping inside, the difference was immediately clear. It was impeccable on the inside, rather than the dilapidated state of the outside. Now why was that, she wondered. Was it to keep away unwanted and unwelcome guests? One had to wonder.

"Your story is one which eats away at my very soul, child...the more I hear of it. I cannot fully experience the pain which you hold inside of your heart...but I seek to remedy it as much as the Lord allows me to." He turned, then, looking at her, a solemn look on his face. "You are like many here. You will come to realise that although they treat you strangely now...there are many that share your pains. And many who have overcome them."

She paused when he turned to her. "How they treat me strangely doesn't even begin to faze me, Joseph. It's nothing I'm not used to." Reiko wasn't going to sugarcoat matters any. "Although similar, even beneath those masks they wear, each one is still unique in their own way." Her right hand touched his shoulder, just as he had touched hers. "That includes you, Joseph...even if I annoy you by not readily accepting everything that you preach to me, it's worth you knowing that I at least listen."

His expression softened, and he turned fully, the door closing behind her on its own. "You do not...'annoy' me...we each approach our salvation in different ways. Many actively fight against it. You will learn...as all do."

He doesn't take compliments...or does he? She had no way of knowing for sure what he was thinking whenever she attempted to give a compliment to him. Uniqueness was a compliment to be worn as a badge of honour! Reiko wanted everybody to know of that and be proud of it! Each different appearance, with or without masks, gave proof to this.

The shutting door was heard clearly. Telekinesis. Reiko was all too familiar with that ability. As glad as she was that she didn't annoy him, she was also glad that she was one to fight against many things. Some things that she fought against, she was aware that not everybody liked. That was on them to like or not like it. Reiko could still sleep peacefully at night regardless...usually.
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Post by Reiko Souma » Tue Jun 30, 2020 1:03 am

He left a pause, where they stood in front of each other in the hallway silently...until he gently took her hand in his own. "Come." He smiled, and turned to lead her down the hallway.

In taking her hand in his, her eyes grew wide some. What..? Surprise showed as she allowed Joseph to lead her down the hallway. Where was he taking her? Probably to help get her cleaned up, she decided. Even so, she couldn't stop the clouding up of her eyes. The gentle touch reminded her of more pleasant times, of when she had been married and treated lovingly by her then-husband. Before said man had really showed his true colours...not a word was uttered as she tightened her lips, trying unsuccessfully to hold back silent tears.

He did not turn around when the tears fell from her face...though his hand squeezed her own. His face remained turned away from hers, until they walked into the living room...a roaring fire, and two armchairs. Nothing more. He led her to the middle of the room, in front of the fire, and turned to her, a solemn, grieving look on his face. He raised his lantern, and the tears which lay on her face faded away...no doubt to be replaced by fresh ones. He placed the lantern down, and held both of her hands in his own, those deep, green eyes staring into hers as he wore a visage of pure hurt and pain. After a long moment, he spoke up, his voice soft and gravelly. "Seeing you like this pains me in ways you cannot understand. Speak with me, my child...what is it that would hurt you?"

Oh, great. This was just what she needed, to start crying. Remembering those past memories, the emotions had started to bubble up as they hurried to the front of her mind. Her marriage ending in death, the miscarriages...wanting to hug each and every one of those masked figures outside, her time in the service. All of them had boiled over in the walk to the parlour as Reiko now bit the left corner of her lip. It was all she could do to keep from escalating those tears into all-out sobs.

Gradual mourning. Arla had warned Reiko that this would happen. Well, now it was happening. Not sitting, but still standing, she managed to make out the look on Joseph's face as fresh tears replaced the old tears. It probably matched her own. Her hands were both held by his now, so she wasn't able to wipe her own tears away or cover her face in shame. "I'm sorry...I'm so sorry...this isn't like me." She swallowed forming lumps, breaking the eye contact to look down. "Even though I can't remove my headband, still I remember the pains of my past. Not wanting to forget, but to be able to remember without the pain attached...regardless of my selfishness in initially seeking you out for my own reasons." She sought him out because she wanted him. The woman clearly had no shame, and she leaned her head against his chest, not letting go of his hands in the meantime.

He held her in his arms, petting her hair gently, his eyes closed as he whispered to her. "It's alright...you have nothing to be ashamed of. You have been through too much, Reiko. More than most...you are strong. Remember that." He paused, before leaning down and gently kissing her forehead. "If nothing else, know that the people you have lost are in paradise, where you shall join them...and those who have hurt you will be burning, forever. This knowledge will not make your pain go away, I know...though it may bring solace to your suffering. Above all, remember..." With his thumb, he gently wiped the tears from her cheeks as he looked down at her. "...you are safe, in this place. With me. So long as you are here...no harm will come to you. As I said when we first met."

Secure. Safe. Reiko was safe and felt secure in his arms, even if it was temporary. The woman, for now, took advantage of the opportunity. She moved her arms, and she wrapped them around him. Even if for now. That didn't stop her from softening inside as her forehead was kissed by him. Dare she tell him her real reason, the growing reason? No, not now...the earlier exhaustion was returning, and it was making her sleepy. Her eyes slid shut, her hands gripping his back.

He set her down in the armchair, by the fire, a hand coming down to pet her hair as he stood over her. "Sleep now, my child. Sleep. You will be alright...I will make sure of it." He picked up his lantern, and lay a soft blanket over her. He turned to leave the room, closing the door behind him as he walked down the hallway away from her. The grin on his face...contained a hint of malice.
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03 Jul 20xx: The Messenger

Post by Reiko Souma » Sat Jul 04, 2020 12:37 am

"He's got the whole world...in his hands,
He's got the whole world...in his hands,
"

For one reason or another, the children's campfire song was playing through Reiko's mind. She was right at the end of her work for the day, having worked from sunrise at quarter past the fifth hour this morning. Office work, she was starting to get used to. Technology still wasn't her strong suit, but she wasn't exactly hopeless either. Little tips and tricks (new to her) were picked up here and there. The newest of such was being able to view two open windows at the same time; all she had to do was resize them so that she could see the contents simultaneously and set them side-by-side. The Albino felt smart!

"He's got the whole world...in his hands,
He's got the whole world...in his hands,
"

Repeating in her mind, the children's campfire song seemed a little bit louder now. As she walked back to her car, she shed her ugly-coloured vest and carried it in the same hand that held her purse. In her other hand was a large tote bag filled with vegetables that Mia had picked from the farm. How spoilt Reiko was! The bag, as well as her vest, were left in the boot.

As was the long-sleeved button-up shirt and the casual shirt that she also shed. Her arms needed freedom! The black tank top she now revealled to nobody in particular better complemented her mid-thigh shorts and black wardrobe anyways. Give her a minute...Reiko was moving her car somewhere else, as if she was leaving the farm completely.

Five minutes later, she was walking back towards the woods. This time, she knew better than to take any different route.

"He's got the whole world...in his hands,
He's got the whole world...in his hands,
"

It was almost as if Reiko had gone back in time to her first walk in the woods. The forest choir, as it had come to be called from the first day, sang its children's campfire song. Whispering, as if in her ear, she could hear with little effort. The winds guided the direction of the branches' rustling movement, showing those that wanted to know which way the wind was moving. As she progressed, walking further, thoughts of her purpose for seeking Joseph out started to take the place of earlier thoughts she'd once had. Reiko thought she had felt something when she had broken down; no, it wasn't the exhaustion she was thinking of.

A bad habit the woman held was in allowing her mind to go into a playback mode all too often. No different than before, her mind played back what had transpired during the most recent visit. She had endured a murky swamp...that had been no fun at all, especially with whatever the Hell kind of creature that had been hissing at her. She'd seen those masked people almost behaving normally...almost. They had still stopped upon seeing her, but at least they hadn't backed away from her. Reiko hoped to gain their trust, given she was still an outsider.

Speaking of outside, she had to wonder if that dilapidated exterior was ever going to be fixed anytime soon. Reiko would even help pay for the repairs and, if she had to, would even fix it up herself. It didn't unnerve her any every time she saw it, though it did always raise the question of why Joseph allowed it to remain in such a condition whilst the interior looked so immaculate.

As the girl walked through the woods, those lyrics would soon echo out loud through the trees, whispers on the wind and the rustling of branches, as though they had burst directly from her mind. And soon, they were coming from right beside her in a soft, gravelly southern accent.

"He's got the whooole world... in his hands,
He's got the whole wide world... in his hands,
He's got the whooole world... in his hands,
He's got the whole world in his hands.
"

Joseph was next to her, almost as if he'd been there since the beginning. He stood to her left, keeping pace with her. He stopped singing, though it was like the song kept going wordlessly as they walked through the woods. It was brighter this time. Rays of sunlight came through the trees, bathing the two in light, colourful pink and purple flowers blooming either side of the path. He said nothing as they walked, a soft smile on his face as he enjoyed this moment together with her.
Reiko Souma
Proven Adventurer
Proven Adventurer
Posts: 192
Joined: Sun Jan 10, 2016 8:38 pm
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Post by Reiko Souma » Sat Jul 04, 2020 12:43 am

Another ten steps, without stopping, and she heard the singing from right next to her. She couldn't be hearing things...that was definitely his voice. Reiko's head turned in the direction that she heard the voice coming from, after the singing stopped, and was pleasantly surprised. He was walking with her?

When she turned, he kept his gaze on the trees and the forest around him, as though unwilling to disrespect the beauty of the nature around him by allowing his attention to be taken so easily. When he did turn to meet her gaze, those deep, dark green eyes seemed to shimmer a bit, and a soft grin spread across his face. "It's dangerous to walk these woods alone, my child..." he said, echoing the first words he'd spoken to her all that time ago. "...good thing you ain't alone, then, isn't it?" His smile widened as he extended his hand for her to hold, should she choose to.

This was the first time she's seen him so far from his house and away from his followers. She supposed that even he needed to walk some and spend time alone, whether it included people like her coming towards his house (home?) or not. Swamps aside, Reiko had to admit to herself again that this was a nice place to come to...provided one was careful enough to not wander into a swamp, that is. In wondering why the house was so far removed from civilisation and the city life, she remembered what had been told to her by Rhiannon and Eregor, among others. Death cult? Reiko has yet to see anyone's lives ending.

Her head turned slightly to face forward again, only to turn to the side again. Yup. He was still there, and he was still walking beside her. Their eyes met and, sure enough, the same first words he'd spoken to her then...she heard again. No, she wasn't alone. "No...I'm not alone," Reiko said, "you're with me." A soft smile took form on her face, her eyes lowering to see Joseph's hand extended. She extended her own hand and took hold of his as they continued to walk. With what intent she held his hand...she was trying to figure that out.

His fingers gently curled around hers as they strolled through the woods. As the woods became darker and more unforgiving, his lantern lit the way ahead of them as he held it up. "Yet again you have come to find me...what is it that troubles you, child?" he asked, not looking down towards her.

Troubles...what did trouble her? "If I had to be as honest as I usually am, then it would be how you almost never address me by my first name," blurted from her without a thought. Reiko faced forward as they walked further, the lit lantern supplementing her vision. "Sorry...it seems my mouth decided to be quicker than my mind for a moment. That happens sometimes." But, Joseph was right. Yet again, Reiko had come seeking him out. The last time, she had suddenly started to cry into his arms. How embarrassing, and yet, how strangely comfourting to be able to cry without being judged.

He stopped briefly, for a moment, looking at her. "I...I do not know. Moreover...I do not know why I have referred to you at all by your first name. It is not something usually done for those outside of the Family. There is something..." He paused, his brow furrowing slightly. "...something about you. Something I cannot see. Or something I have yet to understand."

This time, she wasn't finding anything that troubled her so much. Her earlier thoughts from when she first stepped into the woods returned as a reminder of her overall purpose. "I wouldn't call it troubled...but I was wondering. On the inside of your house, it looks glorious. On the outside...it looks like it's had better days. Have you had any thoughts of fixing it up?" And, now that she was thinking of it, "Where does everybody sleep..?"

Maybe she was asking too many questions at this point. Maybe not. If this wasn't a cult of any sort, then surely there would be perfectly reasonable answers to her questions. Right? Then she remembered. Her soft smile not fading, she recalled her headband having been taken off for about a minute. But, she felt no need to make mention of that.

After a brief moment where his eyes stared into hers, he moved on. "The house is kept dishevelled on the outside to ward off travellers, or those who would bring harm upon us. Our Family have been the subject of persecution and violence for years. It is best we hide in plain sight…it is also symbolic. We hold decay and rot as things to be respected. A symbol for how all things will slowly decay and give back to the earth around it...mould grows to moss. Moss to grass. Grass to flowers. And it all comes back around..." He paused once more. "...the house is larger than it first appears. We have many floors below ground. Some extending out further to the side...ample room for all."

Something he couldn't see or had yet to understand, huh. The woman hadn't shared much about herself at all and had kept her headband on every time. Well, except for her recent dealings with a vampire trying to attack her a couple of days ago. Her removing her headband had earned her an extra four days of community service by the Watch. "Well, I can kind of see why...you did tell me I was a bit of an enigma, after all," came the gentle reminder. Her hand, the one that still held onto his, gave it a gentle squeeze. "Had it not been for my quick thinking a few days ago, you may not be able to have the chance to see or understand what it is about me you're looking to glean..."

A phrase, "ashes to ashes, dust to dust," came to mind. Wherever that originated, it seemed to make some kind of sense. Somehow, anyways. Persecution. Violence. Warding off travellers. Yet here she was. "I see..." She had only seen one very small part of the house, the entryway and the parlour. "...I'm glad. The winters must be brutal out this way."

He chuckled softly a little as the swamps grew heavier around the stone path, and the lights of the house in the distance came into view. "We have the means to survive whatever hardships are given to us. Our God allows it." He squeezed her hand back when she squeezed his, holding her close to him. "I suppose there are things we both need to find out about one another, Reiko. Though your story is not one I am unfamiliar with..."
Reiko Souma
Proven Adventurer
Proven Adventurer
Posts: 192
Joined: Sun Jan 10, 2016 8:38 pm
Location: Camden, NJ, Terra; visits Rhy'din on vacations
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Post by Reiko Souma » Sat Jul 04, 2020 12:47 am

Survival. Reiko was no stranger to that concept, although she wasn't the quickest to attribute it to her deity of Fate. Though the memories of the circumstances she'd had to live in survival mode were buried beneath layers of mental defences, she could never forget having to live that way at all. Those were things the woman didn't want to think about, especially not now.

Huh..? Finding the distance between them lessened now caused a slight quickening of her heart. What was this? Pastel pink started to take form on her face, beginning with her cheeks and spreading some. "Tell me..." Her voice lowered. Not that anyone else was around that she was aware of, she had lowered the volume of her voice to a seemingly more "intimate" volume. "...tell me what you want me to find out about you...or show me. I've nowhere else to go for the rest of today." She had time. Whatever it was that Joseph wanted her to find out about him, she was going to try and remain as open-minded as possible. How else could someone learn if they had no desire to do so with their openness?

He stopped, turning towards her and looking into her eyes, his own narrowing slightly as he thought for a moment. When he spoke, his voice was quieter than hers, barely a whisper as they stood alone in the swamp. "...what I wish for you to find in me..." He paused. "...I can help you, Reiko. I can offer you anything you desire. Safety from all that would seek to harm or corrupt you. Salvation from the horror and terror of this world, and from the suffering that is yet to come. Knowledge of concepts and worlds and ideas that you cannot possibly fathom. Power to crush those who seek to harm the good-natured and innocent souls of this world, and to protect those you hold dear. I can offer you a freedom from the pain of missing those you have lost...your parents. Your children. Your husband. The assurance and hope that one day you shall be reunited in His Kingdom." He paused, and leaned in closer towards her, their bodies nearly touching. "...I can offer all this and more to you, my sweet, precious child. That...that is what I wish for you to discover about me."

"In return for what..?" Once again, Reiko's mouth was quicker than her mind. She was mentally kicking herself for letting her mouth move faster. This sort of thing sometimes got her into trouble. It was something she couldn't afford to get in trouble for again. She needed to be more careful with her words, though her question was completely valid. Everything that Joseph was promising her just had to come with some kind of a catch. What did he want from her in return? All of the questions just had to be asked. She would be a fool if she didn't.

Safety. Salvation. Knowledge. Power. Freedom, and assurance and hope. Reiko was listening, at least until Joseph mentioned her unborn children and her late husband. She had come to cut her losses when it came to the latter because she had been on the verge of making their divorce official, but her unborn children were a completely different story. They would have been her world, had they been born. So, how did he..?

"My Mayuki...my Anton..." Reiko's eyes widened some, quivering. She'd been anticipating their arrival so gladly, it would have been an entirely new leaf turned over in her life. "...they were my...how did you learn of all this?" the now-upset woman asked. They were so close now, she could swear she felt his breath whenever he spoke.

His expression softened, and he gently lay a hand on her cheek. "Your pain is that felt by many. Many who follow my flock, in fact. The Lord knows all, child...and sometimes, he allows me the power to know also. Understand that I only seek to help you...nothing more." He paused. "...the only thing I would seek in return, is your loyalty. Your acceptance of the Lord's gift, and for you to become one of the chosen few...though I shall not force this upon you. It is a choice you must make on your own. And not one you can make now. No, it is far too soon..."

As long as the woman was upset and nowhere near fully-healed of the pain of losses, it would probably always be far too soon. There was a catch after all! Such wasn't going to dawn on her right away, however, what with her mind filled anew with a fresh layer of grief for her unborn Siamese twin babies. Her hand that had held onto his pulled away from it, and it joined her other hand in taking hold of Joseph's shirt. Talk about cutting to her heart.

"There are some things which must never..." Her words trailed off for a moment. "...never be..." And again. She was having trouble now. "...never be spoken in my presence..." Her hands let go of his shirt, but remained on his shirt with her thumbs touching his chest if the shirt was open like it usually was. Her head hung down, as if studying his chest, and she fell into silence. It was all she could do. No crying! Reiko could not cry a second time.

He paused, and sighed, closing his eyes with a look of regret and sorrow across his face. Gently, he put his arms around her, holding her in close and whispering to her. "I am sorry...I'm so...so sorry, Reiko. I didn't intend to hurt you..." He pet her hair gently, his eyes still closed. "Please...I only wish to heal you of the pain you are feeling right now...I...I care for you deeply..."

It was safe to say that the Albino's mind had been gutted. Her stomach felt like a pit was forming and not wanting anything to do with anything that was edible and safe to eat right now. Dinner? That was far from her mind right now. Her mind was presently consumed by her losses, a form of solace needed. She was trying to fight tears as the space between Joseph and herself now vanished.

For someone who had only met her days ago, he sure did seem to know a lot about her. Her head stopped hanging when held to him, turning to her left as she bit her lip. The pit in her stomach held steady in the meantime. She was hearing him talk, and she was listening. As she'd told him once already, recently, she might not readily accept his teachings, but she was at least listening. Considering what to research. Yet, even so...

...she didn't want to move from his arms. Her mind had teetered between wanting a parental companion and a desire for some kind of romance...it had been teetering for a few days now. Knowing that Shourim was the closest she would ever get to a father figure removed one thing from the equation. She was seeking not another parental figure, for sure. What she sought was...

...an end to her long-suppressed loneliness.
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