2019-06-24 - Hard Like Steel


Keiko awakens back on earth. The first person she speaks with is Koa

Log Info:

Storyteller: None
Date: Mon Jun 24 05:56:57 2019
Location: New York

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How long has Keiko been in the house? She's not sure. There's not a lot she remembers after mastering that demon spirit. The pain had been almost unbearable but she'd survived. She isn't aware of the full effects of that spirit, nor the fact that tattoo on her back is full of prometheum.

She's not long awakened, well after the others. Piotr is nowhere to be found - but neither is Elena. He's probably left a note but Keiko wouldn't think to check for one. She couldn't read it anyway.

It's a barely clad woman who pads into the kitchen. She's still in demon leather - she's no clothes here. She's not even sure where here is.

The front door is actually open and there's some boxes here. And someone with his back to Keiko counting them. "Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven. Eight… yes."

That's Koa. She can see him through the door to the kitchen on the other side. There's food out in the kitchen - someone clearly cooked or delivered - and some of it has been eaten. The boxes being delivered look a lot like clothes and other sundries. As for Koa himself?

Well his right arm is held tightly to his side and in a sling. It's also covered with some kind of cloth wrapping. The whole thing, from hand to shoulder. He smells faintly of smoke. And barbeque.

He turns when he hears her moving. "There's food." He says, looking over his shoulder. He's got something on his neck. A… shark tooth pattern… tattoo? Something. "Help yourself."

OMG, the smell. Keiko's stomach rumbles quietly as she approaches Koa. Her slitted eyes narrow as she looks at him. Does she remember him. He's familiar but … the last fight she had is still affecting her.

She's learned to move quietly in the seven years she's been away, so gets to observe Koa for sometime before he finally turns. When he does turn, she can't help the small growl that start to form and takes a step back.

She shakes her head to try and clear it, moving the food, piling a plate up and starts to eat with her hands.

"What what happened? Where's Elena? Piotr? Others?"

"Not sure where Piotr and Elena went but they said they'd be back. Sam and Illyana are recuperating." He doesn't say where. Could be here, Illyana may well have wanted to sort Limbo out. Koa only just got back here a little while ago to open the door and see to the deliveries.

There's a hissing sound as a box slides over wooden floor to stop near Keiko's feet. Koa has come to the doorway and is leaning on it. On his left side. He's really ginger with his right side right now.

"There's forks y'know." He says finally. "That box has clothes for you. I had to guess at the sizes so they might be a bit loose."

He takes a breath and lets it out, slightly shaky. It's a good thing she doesn't really want to fight because he's not sure how much of a fight he could put up right now. He's got plenty of power. He can still feel it burning within him as it slowly metabolizes. That, like everything else right now, hurts.

"You look rough. How do you feel?"

Koa… suspects that Keiko - and Piotr, and Elena - are all gonna need some serious therapy and he has been arranging that among other things for the last little bit. And getting 'The Look' from Senior Agent Peters.

Keiko watches Koa as he starts to approach, those slitted eyes that now have a touch of yellow to the pupil never blinking. Watching, waiting for the hint of a challenge and an attack.

That's Koa, she knows it is, but this has been her life for the last seven years. Waiting for something to try and kill her.

"They are alright." It's not a question, but it is. Something she'd become adept at as well. No questions. No manners. No weakness could be allowed. "Hungry. So good." How long has it been since she's eaten this hot and fresh?

The box gets a look. She might look at it later. Keiko's not thinking about clothing at the moment. What she's wearing has been good enough up till now. It doesn't occur to her how she might look to others - with all that skin bared, looking wild.

"I can fix if they don't fit." The clothing she mean. The last question has her face blanking as she draws herself up to her full five feet in height and takes deep breath, letting it out slowly.

"Like I battled a demon and mastered its spirit." She finally says. Communicating is hard at the moment. "You look like you saw action and then some." Maybe its the food that's helping or maybe she's just starting to settle.

"They're fine, yes. He took her to go see friends and assure everyone that he was okay. I think. I wasn't quite clear on the note." And he didn't read it too carefully. Snooping and all. Unlike Keiko, Koa still has his sense of manners intact.

"I saw. It looked like it absorbed into your back. Along with something else." Promethium. Illyana has told him a little bit about it. What it might mean that some of it is now in her he has no idea. Nothing good he's sure. But then this whole sequence of events has been one long set of 'nothing good'.

"I did yeah. Looks like everyone involved can say that. You. Piotr. Illyana. Sam Guthrie." Keiko may or may not remember Sam.

"You're safe now, you know. Nothing's gonna jump you or try to kill you." Beat. "Probably."

Keiko's not sure how she feels about Elena being gone. Piotr it's mixed emotions, poor man. She nods sharply in acknowledgment letting the matter drop. She's a lot to reconcile now that she's not Limbo's Consort. "Illyana is back." Another not question. Koa will get used to those eventually. What isn't clear is how she feels about that.

"Something went wrong. That spirit wasn't meant for me." The mention of Prometheum has her twitching. She's aware of it. "Prometheum weapons hurt a lot."

She's still watching him as she eats - and finishing that plate doesn't take long. When it looks like she's going to wipe her hand on her trousers Keiko remembers herself and uses a napkin.

Then she's stalking towards Koa with almost a feline grace, getting in close to look at his neck. Her fingers run over that sharktooth pattern. "Our collars …"

"Yes. We found her." We because as much as Koa is the one who went through the portal actually getting to her was a group effort. The WAND agent of course had intended to find her. He hadn't known that Piotr and Keiko had been running Limbo but really, that strikes him as a distinctly bad idea so he's glad that it is no longer going to be the case.

"That spirit wasn't meant for anyone. But yeah your tattoo ate it." The fact that she has absorbed a demon, and a piece of Limbo, well… that's going to leave a mark beyond the obvious one.

"They both did something yes." Koa had seen that her collar had sort of merged into her neck. His had too, sort of. The leather burned away. The silver though…

"When she went missing, near as I can figure, they started to tighten. But something happened after that. I… if I had to guess when mine burned is when yours did that."

Merged into her neck.

"What was it like? Being there for so long?"

She's become like Illyana in at least one respect. She's got NO sense of personal space.

Keiko's fingers still move over Koa's neck trying to sense the silver as she does. No sense of persoanl space, at all. She'd had little to begin with and seven years in Limbo … had burned a lot of the humanity from her.

With her this close, Koa can see at least some of the marks that Limbo's left. The eyes are obvious and the tattooes. Still realistic but warped and twisted. Bella and the raven seems the most affected - a demoninc wolf and a zombie bird.

She shakes her head at his assumption. "Mine melded the day they took us and I accepted the throne. The memory was absorbed over time… " She doesn't know how long it took.

"How long." Another not question "Like? I survived Koa. I had Piotr to be strong for. They weren't going to hurt him. And then … Elena."

Oh yes, that's a nice little twist.

There's also scars. Physical marks of a hard life. The wolf and the bird have Koa's face twisting into a bit of a line. Limbo, he knows, affects everything it touches. If Keiko was affected that much, how much more will Piotr and Elena have been affected. Piotr who lost his soul - temporarily - and Elena who never knew any other home.

"And then Elena. Piotr's, I have to imagine." Only because he can't imagine her being a demon's. "She's an interesting child. She has Power." Keiko can almost hear the capital P.

"Hopefully she won't ever have to go back there." To Limbo. No child should have to grow up there. And no one should ever have to rule it. He's already seen what it did to one little girl.

"Mine must have melted at the same time." The silver goes around his whole neck. It flexes, like it's a tattoo. But it is undeniably metal. So embedded in his skin it's probably never coming out. It looks like it hurts, honestly.

Keiko glances at her arms and then back to Koa "You have Power. I can feel it. More than I remember." She'll ask about his arm in a moment. "It hurts." Maybe she'll get back in the habit of asking questions, but she traces that metal in his neck again. She seems fascinated by it.

The question about Elena has Keiko's eyes meeting Koas. "She is. They wanted a Rasputin heir. I was to provide it. I waited as long as I could but the challenges grew to much." Can he process that? What she's saying. Not implying that's for sure.

"She can speak with animals, yes. And command demons, some of them at least." There's nothing soft about Keiko, she's a different woman to the one Koa had known but there's something in her voice when she speaks of the child.

"I took in a lot of it." Koa says, nodding. His eyes are still gleaming, shifting colors randomly. He drew in more power from that than he has EVER drawn in before. And it is such agony. And it is SUCH a rush. There's a part of him that would do it again regardless of what it has done to his physical form. Even if he lost an arm. Both arms. Even if it killed him.

That part frightens Koa.

"It hurts." He agrees. His arm hurts - the parts of it that can. The mana within him burns at his body and soul as he slowly metabolizes it. It's an effort to keep the pain off his face and not an entirely successful one. Anyone can see he's pained when he moves. And sometimes when he's just standing there.

"She's going to have it tough, you know, Keiko. Born with one of her parents entirely soulless. Raised in a hell realm around demons. It's going to be difficult for her." And it may not ever get easy. She may not be doomed to Limbo like Illyana but its touch is always going to follow her. No matter where she goes, its shadow will loom large.

"I know how that feels." Taking in a lot. Not like Koa does but she had taken most of what he carried, Illyanas and Sifrors power as conduit to Plokta. It had nearly killed her in the process. And yet, she'd do it all again if they needed. "I helped before… when you had too much."

Can she now? In her state. Does he even want her too?

For all her stubborness, there's something to the loyalty she feels to the small 'family' she found.

"Of course she is. I should never have …" She's saying things to Koa she might not be able to say to Piotr. At least, not yet. "She's here now, and she's mine. For what that means."

"This stuff just has to burn off." Koa says, shaking his head. "It's going to take a while. But I'll live."

He's wording that rather deliberately. He'll live. He doesn't want to really make this about him or what he went through because he knows that she has literally went through hell and done things that she would have never imagined doing before she went there.

"She's your daughter. And you love her." That's not a question. He knows she does. She may not feel it right now but that love is there. The loyalty. The devotion. Perhaps the rest will come in time.

"I've arranged for some therapy and counseling… if you're interested. You and Piotr and Illyana and Sam could all use it, I think."

"You'll be changed too." Keiko pushes a little, knowing he's holding back but not entirely understanding why. "I … want to … help, if I can. You … helped me." Her fingers drop from his neck and she turns to look at the boxes, he can see the silver infused tattoo on her back.

"She's my daughter and she's mine. Piotr loves her." Does that count as love? She's not sure. How can you know what you've never experienced?

"Therapy and counselling … I … you think we need it." Again a statement that is really a question. She's no idea he's recommending 'couples therapy'. What would she say if she did?

"I need clothes for Elena. She has the ones that I made her. She grew so quick, I was always busy."

"You've spent the last seven years in hell." Koa says a bit flatly. Does he think she needs it? She's essentially an extreme trauma survivor. It'd be like having been lost on a desert island for seven years. If that desert island was in another dimension and populated by people who would kill you at the drop of a hat and could only be ruled by force and cruelty. That's enough to warp anyone.

In the boxes are more food, clothes for Piotr, Illyana, Sam, and Elena. Selected with some care to seem perfectly… normal. Perhaps a bit bland but normality is often the goal after an experience like the one Keiko has had.

"We've taken care of that already, and there will be someone coming over to clean the house for the next couple of weeks. We just want you all to get better."

That Keiko wants to help is touching. Koa isn't sure that she can, but he also won't deny her the opportunity if he can think of something. The ability to help someone, and the act of doing so, might help her as much as him.

"Your back." He says quietly. "That tattoo didn't just taken in the demon you fought. It also took in some promethium. Your entire tattoo has turned silver."

"I spent 21 years in a cult." Keiko rejoinds "And two years running before I found somewhere to settle. It … was different but in many ways the same. Similar rules. Just … you know. They wanted an heir." She might be making his case for Koa with that.

"I will see them because you ask. I might not keep seeing them." The peruvian opens a box, and then another, and another until she finds the one with Elena sized clothing. She could have asked Koa, but that's asking for help. She can't read, after all.

Quiet for a moment as she takes the clothing out, laying it out so she can see it, smoothing her hand over the fabric. Soft cottons and wools, fabrics she couldn't get in Limbo. "Elena will look good in these." It's a thank you without saying the words.

"I can clean here. It's what you're paying for, really." She's not really keen on having people intrude on their space. The others, of course, will have something to say about that.

She stops when he mentions the tattoo, shoulders drawing back as she rises to her full five feet tall. "It was different this time. More than I had experienced before. I … would like to see it."

"There's a mirror in the pantry, I think." Koa says pointing toward it. He doesn't try to move past her to get to it because, well, he's not entirely sure how well that would be received. Demons can be really territorial and right now this is her territory. She's going to have to share it with four to five other people but still.

"Just give them a shot. I know it's going to be difficult." The agent keeps leaning on his left side and avoiding his right for obvious reasons. "If you want to clean and you find it… not too much, then go for it. It might help you focus. But you've been through a lot and I know there's a possibility that you might need to take some time for yourself. Or… time for your family, as the case may be."

The pantry. Keiko blinks and swallows. The last pantry Koa had shown her had an anomaly in it. It's not like she expects that to be the case here but … it takes a moment for her to go to it. "I need you to hold it so I can see." No please, no thank you.

Though he does get a look for his reticence. What is he afraid of? Or worried about.

"Piotr will care for Elena. I will train her." she says quietly. The term family hasn't quite hit her. That Koa is treating the three of them as a unit. A logical assumption but one that doesn't have all the … facts.

It bears noting perhaps that Koa has taken an injury that would have crippled most other WAND agents. He moves a bit and takes the mirror one handed. It's tricky to balance and angle it but he manages. She'll get a good look at it. The tattoo, like most of others, is kind of horrific. Unlike the others it is gleaming silver.

"Children tend to do best when they have a mother AND a father. Just sayin'." Koa says dryly. He knows that Keiko isn't in a very maternal frame of mind at the moment. Really, she's in a very demonic frame of mind. He's seen that before. That will change, he is confident… but it's going to take time.

"It's… you don't feel do you. You're having trouble. You know you're missing something and it's more than just what Illyana took from you. It's like there's a part of you that's… numb."

When Keiko sees what she asked of Koa she sort of regrets it. Some things manage to filter through a bit. She frowns as she looks at. That's a demon that's outlined on her back. Not a beast like the others. She manages to run fingers over part of it and she hisses a little. "Well I suppose I'll be training with that, real soon."

Taking the mirror from him to ease the discomfit, Keiko's face look drawn.

"She has both, Koa. I am not leaving her." She doesn't get the nuance that Koa is putting on it.

"I … you're correct. To do so was weak. There were those there that watched and waited … Safer for all of us, for me to be strong."

"Well that's reassuring." Koa definitely picks up that she's missing the nuance and he suspects that some of it has to do with the fact that he ate a piece of her soul a while back. He does feel bad about that but there is literally no fixing it so…

He shakes his head a little bit. "That kind of strength is like… steel." Koa leans the mirror against the counter top when Keiko is done with it and doesn't let it fall.

"You can make steel soft and you can make steel hard. But the harder it gets, the more brittle it is. Strike it and it will shatter. Swords can't be made from very hard steel. The spine of them has to be able to flex and bend. You've made yourself hard. But if you keep yourself that way…"

Koa takes a knife out of the kitchen drawer and then smacks it, hard, on the counter. It shatters.

Point, hopefully, made.

It's almost dispassionately that Keiko watches Koa. The dry tone is, again, missed. It's the part of her soul that he ate, the collar melding with her, the conduit and Limbo … a perfect storm of events that has bought her to here.

When the knife shatters, Keiko just looks. At the pieces as they fall to the ground and then Koa. "Then I will shatter. Eventually. But until I do, I am here to protect my daughter and Piotr." She's expendable, isn't she?

That's what Limbo taught her.

Koa shakes his head. "You miss the point. Hard steel is only so useful. You want steel to be able to flex and bend without breaking. You're only making yourself hard. You had to, to a degree, but now you need to learn how to be… less hard."

This is an awful metaphor, really. Okay, it's a fairly good metaphor but only for someone who has ever watched Forged in Fire.

Keiko probably hasn't, he's guessing.

"How much, by the way, does Piotr need protecting?" He's curious.

Keiko has in fact watched Forged in Fire. It was one of her favourites for the weapon crafting. "I am what I am, Koa. I'm not anything else. If this is what it is, then it is." She's saying, without using the words, she doesn't know any other way to be.

How much does Piotr need protecting? Keiko gives a Koa another flat look. "He is vulnerable through me and Elena. This is something I can not allow to be." It's not an answer because she simply doesn't know.

"Oy…" Koa says as he leans back against the counter himself and brushes the steel shards into a pile. He'll have to clean that up before he leaves or someone might get cut on it.

"You might be something that makes him stronger, you know, and not weaker. Many a man has been known to do heroic things for the sake of his family." It's a very demonic sentiment that attachments are weakness and hey, there is something to that. It means there are additional ways to cause pain. But it ignores the fact that attachments are also a source of strength. Human beings are not made to be alone. They function much, much better when they have someone to lean on.

Or someone to fight for.

Keiko goes to the cupboard under the sink and takes out the dustpan, starting to clean up the shards that Koa had collected. It's 'busy work' something to focus her while they talk.

"Piotr said as much, often, when we were in private." The woman says quietly as she finds some newspaper to wrap the shards in. No one will cut themselves. "He was often saying things he shouldn't." Clearly she didn't believe him.

"Piotr doesn't really have a head for Limbo." Koa says. "At least not from my observation of him. He's too fundamentally decent. I suspect he would have needed a lot more time there to corrupt properly."

How will Keiko take that. Koa saying something even slightly negative about her king. Even if he means it sort of as a compliment. You have to have some darkness in your soul to thrive in Limbo.

"I don't think Piotr would lie to you though, for what it's worth. As to saying things he shouldn't, that might well be the man's super power."

That gets a slight quirk of a smile. "You never had a real family, I know Keiko. And maybe you wouldn't have ever wanted one. It is the most wonderful and terrifying thing at the same time. It can make you feel like a coward or a weakling, or make you feel like you can move mountains. Or both at the same time."

Keiko wraps the shards up and puts the parcel in the trash can before responding anymore to Koa. "Piotr did what he to to survive. The rest, I did… " Piotr gave her the demons to punish, to make examples of and Keiko had nearly relished it at the end. The rush that it gave - the feeling …

"He could Elena what I could not." That she knows this means she is completely lost yet, right?

"I have a family now, Koa. I have Elena and Piotr." It's just not as she expected it might be. She'd seen the TV romances and might have wanted that. But she never really got the chance, did she?

"What are you trying to say, Koa. Tell me." It's the first time she's broken that programming since she's been there.

"I'm saying that you're in for one hell of a ride no matter which way it goes, and even if it goes well there are days you'll probably hate it." Koa pushes himself up off the counter and gives Keiko a wink and an admittedly forced smile. It's difficult for Koa to smile right now.

Because literally everything up to and including his soul hurts right now.

"But you're back now. Back, I hope, where you should be. Take it slow. You spent a long time getting the hell beat out of you. If you rush to pick up where you left off, you might miss some important things. Things that you need to heal."

"It's better than thinking you're never going to get out of that place and having another child because others demand it." Keiko says bluntly. Elena is five … and there hadn't been another. Had it been nature that did that or something else?

"I'm going to put Elena's clothes away and adjust some of mine so they fit better." Given what she's wearing now compared to what she had worn before, Koa might begin imagine what she means.

"You will be staying for a bit." It's another 'not question'.

"Forty five minutes or so." Koa nods. "To make sure things are in order here. Then I need to get to an appointment of my own. Medical." Because yes. Koa took a beating. And there are things that his job is demanding that he do as a result. It might not be entirely medical either. In fact it isn't. Koa knows he's up for a psych eval as well.

WAND wants to know it can trust him. He can't blame them for wanting that but if he's honest it kind of stings, not in the least because he can't be completely sure that the answer to that question is 'yes'.

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