Ryo would've called the pair childish, but then they'd probably kick his ass so he just kept quiet.
Ryo would've called the pair childish, but then they'd probably kick his ass so he just kept quiet.
"If you were half as superior as you claim to be," Kai snapped, "you'd just leave her alone, her contempt below your lofty notice. Clearly your belief in your own worth is compromised. You talk about second chances, to Shari and myself who had to drag ourselves out of depravity simply so that even thinking about offering us a hand up wouldn't have been monstrous. Comparatively you had every chance handed to you. It's a joke, a weak one, and we see it. We grew up in this place, in this filth. We were born in the gutter and we clawed out.
Shari wanted to give that girl a second chance, a hand up out of here. She wanted to take her with us and actually ensure Kana took the chance she'd been offered. Do you know what the filth does down here, Yuanjun? Do you want to know the dirty, nasty little secret that we all hide from?
Ah-" He said softly, dark eyes like flint, "except you already know it, don't you? The secret is that you cannot get out on your own. Everyone needs someone, Shari. Sogi had people. I had someone. Shari, unfortunately for her, seems to be stuck with me- we all know I'm hardly a paragon of virtue, don't we?- and you, you insufferable, silly little woman, you have Rin.
Who does Kana have?" He shook his head in disgust. "You seem to think that by not acing every fight we ever have all by yourself you are somehow "teaching" us. This is ridiculous. Your attitude that people should pull themselves up by the strings on their shoes is obnoxious. Your condescending assurances that it's our fault that we're still feet on the ground, as you refuse to lower the ladder to the goddamn pedestal you believe you're standing on is a self-delusion that's almost impressive.
We are supposed to be a team, Yuanjun. Nobody has to like each other. But for Kami's sake and Rin's, control yourself. Nobody cares how much you hate Shari. Nobody cares how much she hates you. It's boring, annoying, and if you do this idiotic fight later all you're doing is wasting time nobody has. I loathe you, Yuanjuan, to me you are utterly contemptible. But even I know you're better than this."
"Now," he said calmly, "I am going to go and talk to Shari. At Shari. You're both behaving like children. Control yourself."
Grimly, he set off after Shari.
Yuanjun just crossed her arms and stomped off. At least she didn't hit Kai. That was something, I guess?
Although given that she neither said anything nor hit him, maybe she actually listened?
Shari hadn't gone far. Even if there was somewhere to go in the pestilent little hive they had found themselves in, it wouldn't be very dutiful of her to simply walk out on the others. Instead, she just stood at the bottom of the stairs. Sulking to herself, but also keeping her ears keenly open for any upright undead they could have missed.
She heard Kai yelling, and although she couldn't make out the words, she knew that she was next. That was too be expected. Kai really was a moral person at heart, where-as for a person who prided herself on self-control, she seemed to loose it the very instant any time Yuan stepped in the room.
It wasn't the insults that did it. Or the fact that Yuanjun was like a walking work of art. Shari knew that she was dirt, at the end of the day, as much as she had learn to gain confidence by rolling around in her own disgrace...
No, the problem was Rin. It was always Rin. The monk knew that she was immeasurably far away from ever really gaining her master's trust again, but the person she had chosen to give her trust to was that stupid, childish, naive, arrogant, stuck up little snot-nosed bint. A person who didn't know a single thing about loyalty or honour in the first place.
She wasn't sure she could ever repress that kind of hate. Kai was probably going to end up seeing what a petty, ugly soul she really had, but she wasn't sure she could ever repress that...
It was utterly unforgivable.
As Kai descended the stairs, he half hoped Yuan had listened. Although even if she hadn't, he thanked the gods for the small mercy of her not hitting him.
He came up behind Shari and coughed to make his presence known, sliding next to her and sitting on the stair.
"You," he said calmly, "are not going to fight with Yuanjun, because whether you win or lose she is always going to be an obnoxious waste of time. And if you lose, she will lord it over you until the day you drop dead, and long after. This is petty. It's stupid. It's a waste of everyone's time and as much as I would like to see her self assured sneer twist as you break her nose, it won't actually achieve anything."
He paused, and sighed, "Except that Rin will yell at you, the already damaged relationship you have with her will be further trashed, and yet again she won't say a word about the bullying, abusive bullshit her little girlfriend gets up to. It's lose-lose.
"You are better than this, Shari. You've been a disgusting thug but you aren't that person anymore. You would have risked everything to save Kana, wouldn't you? Doesn't that prove how far you've risen? You're not anything she says you are. You're intelligent and brave and beautiful. I'm not saying turn the other cheek and let her keep on pounding until you bleed, but I am saying that you are better than a street brawl with that woman."
Shari kept her back to him, simply gazing at the floor ahead. Perhaps a sign that she was honestly ashamed of her actions, but still too worked up to get herself in the state of mind for an apology.
"...It's pretty pathetic that I even follow Rin, really." Her voice made a grainy and sour attempt to laugh at her own inadequacies. It obviously wasn't talk that she would say to just anyone, considering what calling your master pathetic to serve amounted to, but her voice sounded far more jaded than hurt or apologetic. "Kai, I'm... Yeah, it was something a ten year old would suggest. I'm an imbecile, I know."
"But what can I do? Where can I go from here? I'm duty bound to a woma- No, a goddess of kinds- who curses the ground I walk on."
"...I thank you for saying nice things to me, keeping me sane, but... I still feel empty. I'm sorry."
"...It was vain, but... That Bakeneko was a chance for me to actually do something constructive. Take a break from being... Well, a charity case."
At first hesitating cautiously, then suddenly moving with an abrasive urgency, Shari wrapped both of her arms around Kai's torso and put the side of her face to his chest. It was awkward and ill-practised, but it was a embracing hug. Still, she would not let him see her face.
"I knew I would probably loose. But that is the person I am. You can guide me to the light, but it seems I cannot avoid crawling the path there on my belly."
"If... If it happens... Please do not put yourself in the way. That would hurt me alot more."
Kai said nothing as she spoke, simply wrapping his arms around her and leaning his chin against her head.
"I won't," he said eventually. He smiled humourlessly. "And I'm not so good I won't be cheering you on, wishing you first blood. We're all petty and childish sometimes."
He hesitated, and dropped his voice to a murmur. "Shari, we both know Rin is not perfect. She makes mistakes, says things she doesn't mean and hasn't thought through. As such she's not... she's not a divine being incapable of feeling or change, who stands eternally for a set of ideas and ideals. You don't have to serve her out of a sense of unchanging fealty. You should serve her because you want to serve her, Rin the person, the leader of our country, our... friend. That's not pathetic. Loyalty, devotion... these aren't pathetic."
"Neither is wanting to save Kana." He sighed. "I don't think you're a charity case, Shari. I don't think you ever were. I think you reminded Rin of who she once was, and she saved you and hated you for it."
Shari suddenly found herself thinking about the moment that Rin had actually gained her loyalty. It made the scar across her stomach ache with a recalled pain.
"I guess the ironic thing is, I did enjoy serving her once. She's the strongest being I've ever known, at least physically." She spoke into his chest at a low tone, soothed enough by his bodily warmth that she became reluctant to move. "But... Back then, I don't think I understood enough about liking someone to realise you could still hate them at the same time."
Plying herself from his grip with an almost slumber-like demeanour, Shari took two steps forward, before straightening herself up, and then finally facing him again.
"It won't happen...The fight... Not if you don't want it to. I already knew what you were thinking." Her expression was veiled, through her eyes were still red. The way she spoke was a dull statement of information, far too strict and controlled to have any purpose beyond hiding the feelings she was uncomfortable with allowing to escape. "I could never hate you. I could never live with you hating me."
The air within the poorly maintained mansion felt like it dropped a couple of degrees. Her head snapped back to facing forwards, and she looked blankly towards the large double-doors ahead.
"...We... should leave."
And so the group set off towards Oguchi's capital, and with it Hitomi.
Yuanjun waited until she was able to catch Kai alone, especially from Shari, before confronting him.
Oh Gods please don't hit- oh, she wants to talk.
"Look," she drawled, "you're right. I know I am too hard on all of you sometimes and I'm... I'm sorry." Kai got the idea Yuanjun wasn't very used to apologizing. She sounded sincere though. And very awkward. "I know you wont believe me, but I am so hard because I care about you, and Haru, and Ryo. I.. I'm sorry, I'm not very good at... people?" she shrugged. "I am sorry to hear you hate me so much, because I don't hate you." Yuanjun wasn't used to telling people who were not Rin how she felt, of course. And not used to talking to people of the opposite sex who could remember where her face was. And definitely not used to telling people she was sorry. And it showed.
"But you are also wrong." Oh. "I understand that we all need people. I know that. I have Rin, she has me. We have eachother. But Shari had Rin before I did. She didn't just meet her. Do you remember our first little adventure together? Shari tried to torture that Orochi woman, and Haru had to kill her to save her. Or did you conveniently forget that? When Shari chooses to behave herself like a Human being and not some sort of Oni, she does it because of a sense of obligation, not because of any lessons learned. Shari has Rin. She had Rin. She has you. And she still hasn't learned a godsdamned thing. All her ancestors could rise up and smack her upside the head and she still wouldn't learn anything because Shari is a godadamned idiot." There's the Yuanjun we know and love. "You're alright, Kai, and I don't hate you or hold you responsible for her, but don't lecture me on her or pretend like you don't have blind spots either. And my decision regarding Kana wasn't motivated by my dislike of Shari, either. You wanted, what, us to bring her along? Yeah, great idea. If Kana misbehaves now, I will have to hunt her down and kill her. If Kana was brought along and misbehaved and betrayed us, we would fail in our duty, Otoyo would be brought back, and then Dragons only know what would happen. Taking Kana with us was never an option, only killing her or letting he go and hoping for the best, and I chose the latter. But you decided I did what I did because of my intense dislike for Shari. See? I'm right. And you know it. It was dumb of me to waste time challenging her here and now, we can do that back in Kusanagi if she wants, but don't pretend like I always let my dislike of her blind me like you let your like of her blind you."
She was angry again but seemed to calm down, crossing her arms and kind of kicking at the dirt under her feet. "Um... that's it."
Kai nodded as she spoke, his face blank. When she was finished, he shrugged. "I don't hate you, Yuanjun."
"The thing is, Yuanjun, I want a better world. Of course I remember what Shari did to Ran, what she wanted to do." He leant in to Yuanjun, his mouth close to her ear, and dropped his voice. "Do you forget that I was right there beside her, goading her on? That we failed because of Haru's kindness?"
He paused, and leaned back. "I would have killed Kana. I wouldn't have let Shari bring her along. I would have killed her, and not even blinked. Tonight I would sleep soundly, her blood long wiped from my blades. You assume too much, you are still assuming too much. You assumed she made that decision out of idiocy, because you seem to be incapable of acknowledging that perhaps Shari has motivations you don't see or comprehend. I don't care why you let Kana go. I never said anything about your every move being dictated by spite. But your words? Your goading? That I take issue with. That is your petty, pathetic spite. You assume she's an idiot! Have you even said a word to one another that wasn't loaded with loathing?"
"The difference between us, Yuanjun, is that I have never pretended I am not weak and blind. I have not pretended to be better than you, or her, or anyone. I know I am blind when it comes to many things, to her, to Mio. But if she slips, if she falls into what she once was- I will stop her. With words or blades, I will stop her. Because I am not that blind. Not that blind. I want a world that by definition can't have people like me, people like her, in it. A better world than this. But until then, people like you need people like us and our little cruelties."
"Or did you forget that Rin gave us Shari? Don't forget that everything she was, Rin used. Rin set her loose upon that cult. And I don't think she was wrong for it. The right tool for the right job."
"But now Shari is more than a tool, a nasty knife in a bag of nasty tricks. If you refuse to believe she's changed, grown, then fine. Stay out of our way. Leave us be. Harmony is a simple as not opening your mouth."