2019-05-08: You Don't Have to Be a Weapon

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  • Log: 2019-05-08: You Don't Have to Be a Weapon
  • Cast: Catenna, Ivan
  • Where: Mi'ihen Highroad
  • Date: May 08, 2019
  • Summary: Catenna becomes Ivan's latest assassination target. Despite finding some common ground between his past and her own, she can't seem to convince him to find a different path.

=============================<* Mi'ihen Highroad *>=============================

Many years ago, a man named Lord Mi'ihen, commander of a mercenary group known as the Crimson Blades, was summoned by the Grand Measter to Bevelle to answer the challenge that his group was a threat to Yevon. Though his followers suspected he would be executed and begged to follow, Mi'ihen ordered them to stay behind and walked along an old path to Bevelle, without stopping to rest. 

Moved by the display of piety, the Grand Maester formally adopted Mi'ihen and his soldiers into Yevon as a defensive force, known now as the Crusaders. In recognition of the momentous moment, the path Mi'ihen walked now bears his name.

...except not really, because the original one was wrecked by Sin a few hundred years ago. You can still see bits of it as you pass along the Highroad, on which the Djose Temple can also be found.

BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k8tfe_H7bzw
<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

Catenna did not want to be around her comrades tonight. The emotions she has to work through aren't something she wants to force on those she loves.

What happened at Operation Mi'ihen has happened. The dead have been sent and the battlefield has been left behind - but the feelings weren't. They left Catenna with an entirely different battle, for she didn't go to fight Sin herself.

Kaguya, Catenna reflects as she looks out over the water. Why didn't you and your new allies listen to the warning...?

The Moon Shaman has found herself an isolated place well off the Highroad. She wandered to the coast, to an isolated bluff overlooking the ocean far beyond and a ways below. Behind her, trees sway in an evening breeze, slow and ponderous. The regular crash and churn of the sea against rocks below comes like the breath of a world that simply had no hope or kindness to spare those killed during the battle.

The Moon Shaman moves across the grassy bluff, past shrubs and rocks, the scenery bounding the smoother area she's centred herself in. The scent of incense fills the air as she lays out a few sticks of it - one atop a rock, another atop another. A few small stones are next, and she arranges them in a loose circle around her. It's an old ritual - not a Sending, but a prayer rite she's carried with her from her own people.

All she can do for the dead now is pray for them. Standing at the centre of the circle, she looks up towards the sky, then down, clasping her hands tightly together.

"May it be that Ge Ramtos will see them safely, even here," she whispers.

From her perch in a nearby shrub, a small white Owlet watches Catenna gravely, yellow eyes unblinking.

<Pose Tracker> Ivan has posed.

In the long wait for news of a successful kill, Ivan's father currectly surmized that he must have failed in his mission to assassinate Jacqueline Barber and simply refused to report back on it. Once, that might have meant the task would be given instead to his sister, perhaps with threats and punishment for Ivan. But with Talia dead as far as Lubov knows, and Ivan across the sea, more or less out of reach and without backup, there is no one else to take the task. So Ivan keeps it. And Lubov is not happy.

Lubov has begun saying what a shame it is that he sent the 'only one capable of accomplishing a simple task' to Azado.

Cutting words are not worth killing over -- really, nothing that Ivan has killed over has been worth killing over. But he has a new target, now, in addition to the old.

A woman named Catenna was identified to him -- another in the Caravan Kinship, and one that Lubov, in his dubious and violent way of seeing the world -- was convinced that Leo would be particularly pleased to see dead.

Ivan has spent the better part of the day tailing her, close to silent, as he was trained to be. She has been traveling alone, and any moment might have been the right moment. But he's stalled, making excuses. Too many fiends around; she's too alert. It seems like the owl might spot him if he tries it now. And so on.

But in this quiet moment as she creates a makeshift altar, he can feel in his bones that while there might be another opportunity today, there won't be a better opportunity. Time to swallow those reservations and think like the weapon you keep claiming to be.

The space is too open for a sudden approach, but if he aims well, he shouldn't need one. Crouching behind her and concealed by the underbrush, he reaches into his coat for three throwing knives, which he tucks between his fingers and then simultaneously lets fly -- two aimed for her back and one for the back of her head.

Interrupting what is likely some kind of sacred and solemn ritual doesn't bother him -- at least not any more than the rest of it does.

<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

It feels like a long time ago that Catenna crushed White Knight Leo's sister and called her a bitch. To her face, even.

Catenna has shown no sign that she's aware that someone is there, and indeed, she continues her benediction relatively peacefully, moving her hands through her hair as if to symbolically release a soul onto the wind. More than a soul goes with it. Some measure of her feelings go with it, too.

It is the smallest, simplest thing she can do: Try to send them off. The quiet sense of loss in Catenna's face gives way to a serene smile.

She turns her head just slightly to say something to the Owlet.

And a knife flashes about an inch in front of her face, where the back of her head was a second ago.

Catenna almost doesn't have time to appreciate it, because there were three knives and one of them hits her off-centre and at a weird angle, glancing off her shoulder with a deep nick. The third one catches her just above the same hip where Kaguys stabs her and sticks with a spurt of blood. With a pained gasp, the Moon Shaman drops, sagging to the ground and catching herself on one knee and a hand.

<Shaman! The brush!> comes a feminine voice, stately but alive with concern - and it seems to be coming from the Owlet. The tiny white bird bounds into the air.

With a hiss, Catenna reaches down and wrenches the knife out of her hip. Blood oozes down the outside of her thigh, but she's scowling as she whirls towards the bushes and levels her hand.

"Come out of hiding and show your face," she snaps as she lets a spell go - and the bush suddenly begins to vibrate.

Ivan's hiding place shifts as a force begins to pull at both it and him. His clothing will begin to hang not downwards under its own weight, but in front of him. Gravity suddenly shifts to a spot between himself and Catenna - and the bush's roots begin to pull out of the ground as the spell cinches in.

Catenna's not bothering to come after him. She's just trying to gravity-yank her assailant out of the underbrush and drag him to a spot out in the open.

<Pose Tracker> Ivan has posed.

THE OWL TALKED!! Only with Ivan's luck would the owl be a talking, sapient owl capable of revealing his hiding place!

There might have been some hope of quickly retreating, changing position, and striking again, but suddenly it feels as if he's trying to stand sideways along a cliff wall, and he's dragged into the open by a force powerful enough to tear the greenery out by its roots. Ivan has completely lost his balance and tucks into an acrobatic roll less to smooth his transit and more just to minimize the stupidity and gracelessness of his unexpected arrival into the daylight.

He arrives in an almost-controlled manner, low to the ground but at least looking like he sort of planned it that way, and glowers up at her as he tries to rise. He can see the evidence that he struck twice--one of them glancing--out of three knives that were meant to kill. What a miserable showing.

"That's a great trick. Not going to save you, though."

<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

The Owlet's voice is unusual. It doesn't seem to echo in the ears. It's more that the mind is aware of something being said without the ears registering it, as if the bird were talking directly in one's mind.

Catenna, on the other hand, is talking like a normal person. With a wince, she moves her left hand to touch her shoulder, then her hip - and she doesn't need to look to know she's bleeding, the lower wound worse than the upper. But it's not going to kill her. Much of that is luck: Ivan may feel it's a miserable showing, but had Catenna not turned her head at that exact moment, the top knife would've hit her square in the cerebellum and killed her.

The force of gravity doesn't relent, and indeed, Catenna widens her eyes as Ivan comes tumbling out of the underbrush more arcobatically than she might've expected. The surprise passes to a deep frown as she keeps her hand leveled. There's enough give to the spell that Ivan could rise if he fought hard enough - but Catenna's not going to make it easy for him.

"Save me from what exactly," she begins, before something occurs to her. Her hand twitches slightly.

Catenna takes a step backward - but she keeps her hand leveled and her spell together, her focus partially on maintaining it, the rest on collecting the memory of what Lydia Seren told her.

"...I assume that Lubov asked you to undertake this attempt," she says. "Ivan.

"Or would you have me believe that you chose this path without reservations, of your own volition, having never met me before in your life?"

<Pose Tracker> Ivan has posed.

Something turns burning in Ivan's stare when he reads a deeper insult into 'save me from what?' than may have been intended. He funnels that anger into focusing on pushing back with all his strength against the gravity well, determined to stand up, if only for the sake of proving that he can. For the time being, that determination is occupying most of his physical attention, rather than an alternate strategy of attack.

But then, she surprises him a bit with his father's name, and his own. "Great, someone's been talking about me," he replies flatly. After a fashion, that information has to have come from Talia, but he doesn't know if that means it came from her directly. The Caravan Kinship surely talk to one another. They've got to be close. It's in the name.

"I wasn't going to pretend I have a personal grudge. So, yes. You got me. I'm an assassin. I kill people my employer wants dead."

<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

The gravity spell isn't going to kill Ivan. He's able to power through the spell enough to stand up - in fact he might even be able to move or attack. But the extra weight keeps dogging him. It'd be like carrying a boulder.

"People do tend to talk in a family," Catenna points out with a frown. "Particularly when an assassin is sent after Jacqueline Barber."

Catenna's lips curl slightly. Her first instinct here isn't this. The young man before her is an assassin - a paid hireling sent by a powerful man with money. A part of her wants to throw him off the bluff.

Lydia's voice whispers a memory to her.

Shaking her head, the Moon Shaman lets out a breath through her nose. "Alright. I understand that. I'm of a people called the Zortroa, and most of us are not so different. We fight because we are told to fight by those who are willing to pay. At least, most of us do."

The Owlet flutters from the brush to Catenna's uninjured shoulder. The woman dips her head, finding Ivan's eyes with hers.

"...Was this what you wanted to do with your life? Or did you set other dreams aside for one that was thrust upon you? I don't mean to stand here and dissect you, of course... but I suppose I'm curious, as a would-be killer myself."

She's not really doing much more to defend herself than watch and hold the spell, perhaps counting on Ivan being too encumbered to strike her.

<Pose Tracker> Ivan has posed.

Ivan would prefer for his victims to be far more unpleasant than this one, but even as Catenna attempts to talk him down from his mission, it's still refreshing to detect a sensible level of ire from her about the whole thing. Going after Jacqueline Barber and being sweetly rebuffed for attempted murder was beginning to make him feel like he'd lost his mind a little. This is, at least, more like being leveled with.

"I didn't and don't have any dreams, and if I did, I wouldn't tell you about them," Ivan says, pausing every few words to focus and breathe as he slowly rises to his full height. Once this is accomplished, he savors the success for a few moments; he would probably look satisfied if he weren't caught in a permanent wince.

"I realize this is senseless and stupid, but I don't care about that."

His arms move more freely than the rest of him, though it still feels as though they're pushing against weights. He raises them up over his head with as much speed as he can manage under the circumstances, and with a flash of his ring, calls a weapon into his hands -- a giant warhammer, as large as he is tall. He brings it crashing down toward her, trying to use the gravity well itself as an assist if she doesn't realize what he's up to in time.

<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

"That's not quite it. You're under no obligation to tell me what you dream about," Catenna says, moving her other hand to her hip. There's a hint of rebuke in her tone - but she doesn't outright insult Ivan to his face. "But I'm going to talk to you a little bit while I have you here, if you don't mind. From one would-be contract killer to another."

She cocks her head slightly when Ivan says his last. "Are you sure you don't? I didn't think I did either, until I realized I didn't have to be a weapon. I suppose it's hard to think of yourself as anything but, though, when the one who tells you such things is family-"

The hammer comes out, and boy is it a big one. Catenna clicks her teeth together and drops her arm - and the gravity well breaks as the Moon Shaman vaults backwards to try and clear the huge weapon.

She can't quite; the reach of it is longer than she expected. It doesn't land solidly, but the blunt end of it clips her arm firmly enough that her backwards lunge turns into a sickening spin that deposits her on the ground with an outrush of breath. The Owlet on her shoulder takes off and flutters up into the air.

Leaving a bloody smear on the ground, Catenna scrabbles to her knees and rolls, tumbling forward a couple times to outright run away from the man with the huge hammer - and once she's clear, coming out of the roll on her knees, she sweeps her arms back and snaps a power word in a language not of Lunar.

Again the force of gravity kicks in - and it attempts to grab Ivan by his hammer. This time Catenna's pulling him upward.

If the spell works, she'll anchor the hammer and the assassin attached to it to a spot about twelve feet up in the air, leaving him to hang there as if he's been hung up in a closet.

"Slightly less murder, please," she huffs.

<Pose Tracker> Ivan has posed.

"Of course I'm sure! Absolutely sure! What do you expect me to say?" He wonders what else he is supposed to discover in himself, and how, even if he found something, he could present it to a world that he'd been menacing for the entirety of his life so far.

Yes, I know I've burned innocent people alive, but it's time to forget about that and celebrate my talent for cultivating mushrooms! Or whatever.

But regardless of Ivan's mental theatre, there is murder to be done.

He brings the hammer down! Ivan has become accustomed to the mixture of satisfaction and stomach-twisting regret when a particularly violent blow lands. He's braced for something horrible to happen if he succeeds with the hammer, but it seems that he only manages a glancing blow. Relief arrives, uninvited. Before he can decide what he thinks of the outcome or what he intends to do with his newfound freedom of movement, gravity shifts again, lifting him into the air.

He vanishes the hammer back into his ring; it isn't a throwing weapon, and he may lose custody of it if he tries to improvise it into one.

Its form flashes bright and then distorts as it's swept into the stone. Its sudden absence destabilizes his place in the gravity well, but sends him upward rather than downward. There may be a small amount of flailing and a noise of surprise as he finds his new center in the sky.

But he is wholly undeterred by her explicit request for less murder, and once he feels secure that he is neither going to shoot up into the stars or plummet unexpectedly to the ground, he moves one hand in an arc through the air and then pushes it forward, calling three rocky-cored fireballs into being that spiral around one another and divebomb her.

"You're going to have to do more than just ask!"

If he kills her, or even stuns her, he will definitely fall, but he feels capable of handling a descent from this height.

<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

Catenna clicks her teeth together with a rush of breath through them. Talking isn't getting her very far, no matter how much she wants to honour Lydia's request.

Up goes Ivan, and the Moon Shaman holds the spell - but the disappearance of the hammer startles her a little. She presses her lips firmly together and keeps her hand leveled, not about to let the spell go just yet.

<Remember what your siblings would respect were they here,> Saarda-Shanta opines from where she's circling well above.

A cold sensation races up Catenna's back. She hardens her expression slightly.

Ivan starts hurling fireballs at her. They plunge down like a corkscrew meteor shower - but this time Catenna anticipates it. She lunges to one side and hits the ground uninjured shoulder-first, rolling to the side and coming down on her free hand to boost away. The fireballs slam into the ground in a burst of flame, setting grass ablaze and digging smouldering trenches where they impact.

Sweeping her hand up, Catenna curls her fingers like claws. The grip of gravity only intensifies. The force imposed upon Ivan's body feels like he's about to collapse into himself. Wriggling out of it is possible - for the determined.

"THIS IS NOT NEGOTIABLE," Catenna roars at him with uncharacteristic aggression, before she snaps her hand to one side - and gravity attempts to drag Ivan along.

"SIT." Catenna attempts to violently slam Talia's brother into a rock.

"DOWN." Gravity snaps again as Catenna tries to lob Ivan into a tree trunk.

"CHILD." Catenna attempts to follow that by planting gravity's apex in the middle of the ground - and if it works, she'll try and pull Ivan downwards and slam him into the ground like a falling rock.

<Pose Tracker> Ivan has posed.

Catenna gets serious, and Ivan feels his chest clench as gravity presses in around him, making it harder to breathe. The sensation is alarming enough that his first response is to start urgently looking about, trying to plan some new act of violence to escape her grip. But before he can muster something new, she takes him for a ride. Gravity sweeps one way, crashing him into a rock, and another, smashing against a tree trunk, and another still, finally slamming into the ground. Her point is well made, and the combination of G-forces and blunt collisions finally stuns him into smething resembling placidity.

"Yes," Ivan says, dizzily, blinking through a searing headache. "It would have to be... more like that."

He hasn't given up, though. He will strike her down in just a moment, as soon as he is sure his brains are still inside his head. He doesn't want to be caught checking this, however, or, really, giving evidence of experiencing pain at all.

<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

The human weapon Catenna can never be nags at the back of her mind. He's just going to jump you as soon as he gets up again.

"We can continue this, if you like," she says out loud. Visibly weary, she plants a heel on a rock, keeping her hand level as if ready to let more Guardian magic flow. "But despite what you were sent here to do, I have no interest in killing you. Besides, I don't think your sister would much like it if I did so."

Catenna barely knows Talia from Adam, to tell the truth. But the Kinship talks. Tales get carried.

Flipping her hair back with a puff of breath and a toss of her head, the wounded, tired woman holds her position - but she doesn't press the attack. Only the words. "What will you gain from killing me, Ivan? If you go home with my dead body, do you think an honourable man like White Knight Leo will jump for joy? Will it be enough to please your father?" Evidently Lydia's explanation was fairly detailed. "Will any number of deaths be enough? When does it ever stop? And when it does, what's left of you?"

She lowers her hand, then, slowly, and gives her head a shake. "...You aren't the only one whose father treated his children like weapons. I would have been exactly like you - a weapon born from the womb of mankind. But it isn't much of a life. I don't expect you to drop everything and immediately find another dream. But you can have them. You're allowed. If I can, you can.

"You deserve better than this." The pity in her tone is palpable.

<Pose Tracker> Ivan has posed.

Ivan sincerely doubts Leo would 'jump for joy' -- more likely, Ivan would be reprimanded for failing to bring her in alive. The same went for Jacqueline Barber, but the line of argument did little to disuade Lubov, who put himself in Leo's shoes and evidently decided that the directive to bring the Caravan Kinship in alive was a matter of bureaucratic red tape and what Leo truly, secretly wanted was to be brought a series of corpses from 'accidental' kills.

It's a delusion, but it's not Ivan's delusion. Neither does he think that one murder would earn him respect from his father.

But here, his own internal story does derail from reality. One murder wouldn't redeem him in his father's eyes, no. Not when it's coming on the heels of a failure. Not when he has so many past failures to make up for, from back when Talia was there to pick up his slack. But if he could become flawlessly, undeniably capable, and reliable--then ... Lubov would have to recognize, at the very least, that he'd finally repaid his debt. That he was worth the effort and expense of keeping alive...

He doesn't say these things aloud, but his face burns as her insinuations make him feel foolish for thinking them, or caring about them. And she's on with more about dreams. And deserving better. He visibly cringes at those words.

He gives into the pain in his head and brings a hand to his forehead, in part to hide his face for a moment.

"Being able to put those words in that order and say them to me doesn't make them true. I know other killers have made another life. My sister is like that. Great for her. But I don't have anything else going on on the inside. I'm just this. I can keep doing what I'm good for or I can dissappear, and I don't intend to disappear."

<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

The way the young man's face turns to flame tells Catenna some of the things Ivan won't. She can't see the thoughts, but she can assume and reconstruct some of them.

    -- YEARS AGO --

    "you don't even try to become a real zortroa!" a wild-eyed riima screams with a dogmatic flare in her eyes as she grips catenna by the shoulders and shakes her violently. "you don't even try to achieve the beast state, do you?! you don't even try to forsake your body! you just sit there and act like a weak human!!"
    she pushes. catenna gasps in pain as she's thrown down to the rocks, scraping. the brown owlet drops down beside her with alarm.
    "why would i want that?!" she cries as she pushes herself up. "riima, you're you! i don't want to sacrifice my humanity! it's stupid anyway!"
    "you don't even realize how much you shame our father." riima curls her lips back. the griffon behind her looms, ferally.
    "and mother thinks you're her favourite." she sneers.
    "and that is why you're a weakling.
    "you're just a human, catenna
        "a stupid fucking human meatbag
            "when you should be
                "a weapon!!
    "a dark weapon born from the womb of mankind!!"

    -- NOW --

"No. It doesn't," Catenna says. Her voice is much softer than it used to be. Her weariness shows through, but it's not all that shows. There's an obscure sadness there - that pity takes on the tender edges of kindness.

With a sad smile, the Shaman of Celesdue looks down, then lifts her head again, pushing one hand through her hair. There's nothing aggressive in her stance anymore. Any trained killer could tell that she's letting her guard down - though the fact that she feels she can may be the biggest indictment of all.

"You say that because you haven't seen what else there is. And it's alright to feel that way. Finding a new path is scary and it seems like there are no possibilities at first. But there are people in this world who care about you not because you are a weapon, but because you're you."

Catenna takes a step back and moves one hand to her hip, wincing as her fingers brush over the deep cut Ivan left. She tenses, then breathes out the pain, trying to reclaim some of her reserve.

"If you still want to fight, then we can fight," she invites quietly. "But if you want my advice, go back and tell Lubov you couldn't find me. Or if killing me is important to you, then fine. But whatever you do, don't forget that what's inside you is something no one else can decide but you."

<Pose Tracker> Ivan has posed.

"There's nothing inside me," Ivan answers dully. This has taken a humiliating turn, but he can't turn around and leave every time he has a human interaction with one of his targets. Being protected from fiends during a flare of his illness by Jacqueline Barber was one thing, an extreme case. Something that won't happen again. He can't give up on Catenna just because she sympathized with him.

He pushes to his feet and calls a shortsword into his hand, resigned and not wanting to look at her. Though he's going to have to, eventually.

"I'm sorry. I don't make exceptions anymore."

<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

There's a part of Catenna that wants nothing more than to reach out and hug Ivan and tell him it'll be alright. The rest of her realizes it'd probably be like hugging a scorpion that doesn't want to be hugged, no matter how much it needs one.

The young assassin calls up another weapon - he must have a repertoire, she realizes. The Moon Shaman sets her jaw slightly, then lets it go, drawing back from the rock - but the moment of tension passes as she realizes that he can barely bring himself to meet her gaze. "People with nothing inside them don't experience guilt or shame," she points out quietly. "I'm sorry for this, Ivan. I think you're more than you think you are, though.

"Please... try and kill me again soon."

Catenna levels her hand and takes advantage of something: The circling nature of the fight has positioned Ivan close to the edge of the bluff. Beneath it, the ocean churns.

The Medium tied at Catenna's hip pulses as she shout a power word - and gravity churns again. All of a sudden, the earth attempts to pull Ivan upwards, the unseen force trying to yank him off the ground and up into the air - and backwards. And if Catenna can grab him...

...then the source of gravity will cut out suddenly, a move intended to put Ivan on a lazy, lobbing trajectory, as if she'd casually thrown a basketball.

It's a course that will deposit him harmlessly in the ocean below.

<You seem awfully taken with him. I will never understand why you're like this,> Saarda-Shanta opines tartly from her perch on a branch nearby.

Catenna doesn't answer, but there's a sad smile on her face.

<Pose Tracker> Ivan has posed.

Ivan's expression turns puzzled and suspicious at the change in her tone, and the farewell-for-now sort of tone it takes. You can almost watch his mind catch up with her intentions before she even does anything -- but, alas, even seeing it coming, he doesn't yet have any counter strategy for being physically lifted off the ground, other than to hurl flames toward her.

In this case, it's a swirl of raw fire, not as well-aimed or robust as it might have been if his attention weren't divided with anticipation of a fall into the ocean. She pushes him back and releases her hold, letting him drop. As he plummets, she can just make out his shouted reply, diminishing in volume: "I CHANGED MY MIND, I'M NOT SORRY!"

...followed by a faint splash.