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(2013-05-25 - 2013-05-25)
Alma and Souji come to terms about their differences.
Souji Murasame Welcome back to the office, Alma.

Souji is present there once more and is sitting at his desk, looking over papers and reports. There is a voice recording displayed on screen with a picture of the woman of the hour, Feige 'Evil Science Is Immortal' Abramson.

He waits for Alma to arrive.
Alma Hyral Deja Vu.

Alma Hyral walked into Souji's office yet again with all the dignity she could muster. The door closing behind her as Helena tried to make it as ominous and theatrical as possible. She was like that. Even now, after all that had happened with Feige. She still didn't fear Souji. No, she feared what would come afterwards...

She was wearing the same dress he had seen in Costa Del Sol, with her hair down. It may have seemed like base manipulation on her part.. except she still appeared to be genuinely oblivious. It was just something she wore frequently around the Ame-No-Torifune, that Souji hadn't yet seen since he rarely was out of his office around the airship.

As she entered the room, she looks at the picture of Feige Abramson on the screen, a flicker of emotion crossing her features, and that emotion was... terror. She wasn't afraid of Souji, she was /terrified/ of Feige Abramson beyond anyone else in existence.. save perhaps Garland.

She would cross the room with slow measured steps, before coming to stand in front of Souji's desk, her hands clasped together demurely in front of her. But her gaze was still turned upwards to face him.
Souji Murasame Souji looks up as Alma enters. She is dressed in that dress again, the one that makes her look like her sister. He watches for a long moment, his expression obscure, his eyes glassy for a moment before he pulls his gaze away, looking down at the papers. Were he not always so precise, one might simply mistake it as a delay in reaction. Those close to him know better.

"Hello, Hyral. Sit." He picks up his papers and looks them over before he looks back up at her, remaining businesslike. If he thinks she is being manipulative, he is not calling her out on it. "You offered to explain to me your side of the incident. Please do so."
Alma Hyral She seats herself.. well not fluidly, she wasn't graceful after all. It was a touch awkward to look at, if Souji were still looking. She spends a moment smoothing out her skirts, before folding her hands in her lap.

She takes a deep breath, allowing herself to quell the discomfort in her stomach, before she spoke it was a delay just as notable as his own, "Thank you, Souji."

Meeting his gaze, she begins, her voice is quieter than usual, when speaking alone with him, but still relatively calm in its timbre. "Feige Abramson took a notable interest in my research, Souji. Some of her comments appeared to be.. more eccentric than what I am used to dealing with. Namely when it comes to her views on power. She let it slip that several friends of mine are a project of hers. I am not certain if it was inadvertent or not, but regardless, these beings are sentient entities and I do not see them as a science experiment. I contacted them to run an anonoymous background check on Miss Abramson to see if I could continue to safely discuss my research with her. I did in the process reveal that she was an employee of this company as they did not trust an anonymous message, but I did not realize this was supposed to be protected knowledge. Despite Miss Abramson's suggestion that I did this to harm her, you, or the Corporation, I had no such intentions. The rest, you are likely aware of already."
Souji Murasame Souji listens intently, his hands folded before him on the table. He does not interrupt Alma, but waits for her to complete her account. "I understand your concerns. This is a reasonable issue, of course, but it is not your position to run background checks on our employees. If she is employed by the Corporation, we are trusting her with research that is just as valuable as your own. I assure you, she will be nothing but a benefit to us. She is motivated and effective. While I do not expect problems to arise from this enconter, I do have to inform you that the Corporation is gaining enemies and general opposition as we progress in our work. Some of this is healthy economic competition. Others are violent, unreasonable, and wholly evil."

Souji gestures. "You must be cautious with discussing business with people outside of the Zaibatsu, or else you might draw attention and danger to memebers of our organization... or even yourself. I cannot accept this."

He pauses. "You may have reservations with the nature of Abramson's work, but I believe it will be used for the benefit of what remains of our world."
Alma Hyral Alma listens just as intently, her hands folded calmly in her lap. She does not interrupt Souji either. "And that is all quite reasonable, Souji. I would accept working with her, even if I feel she is amoral. Except for one thing. She is now blackmailing me with the threat of murdering a sentient life if I do not comply, effectively making me her prisoner. Am I to tolerate that as well?"

A flicker of emotion crosses her features, her voice cracking as a stutter creeps back into it, "J-Just so I k-know where you s-stand."
Souji Murasame Souji's eyebrows arch downward slightly. "Blackmailed, you say? With murder?" He taps on the table. "Abramson is very sensitive to pressure, Hyral. You must have said something extremely threatening to her to force her to such drastic measures."

Did he hear the entire exchange? Didn't he? He focuses on her. "Explain."
Alma Hyral There is a slight pause, but Alma looks entirely nonplussed, her voice is still stuttering, "She s-stated that as a s-scientific e-experiment, she will see if I will c-continue to f-follow through with my m-morality, or to see if I'm w-w-willing to allow her to sacrifice a s-sentient life if I c-continued to /interfere/ with the experiments that are my friends, then she will m-murder the l-life in her possession."

And then after a pause, her voice lowering further, "Since then, she has c-continued to d-direct my a-actions through t-twisted b-bargains to see what I would be w-willing to do to p-protect t-those I l-love."
Souji Murasame Souji leans back in his chair, and consider's Alma's words. For a time, he is quiet, turning things overi n his head, before he looks back to Alma. "Tell me, Alma. Do you believe that she will follow through with her threat if you were to continue?"
Alma Hyral Alma leans forward, looking Souji squarely in the eyes, her voice sounds entirely calm again, "I believe she would carry through with her threat if I prepared one of her kosher meals wrong, put the wrong number of sugars in her coffee, or decided that in her opinion I no longer carried any potential worth exploring. So yes. Yes I do."
Souji Murasame "I see." Souji taps the table again. "So you believe that she is fully capable of carrying out her threat. Do you believe that you are going to incur her wrath in such a manner through intentionally betraying the Zaibatsu?"
Alma Hyral "We're not playing this game Souji." Alma narrows her eyes at him, livid, "Do you approve of her murdering a sentient life as a result of my actions, of making me her prisoner, in all the little torments that she can add on in the game of blackmailing me? Or do you not? No matter what I do, she will be continually capable of altering the terms to suit herself."

She then calmly relates, "None of this is a threat, but either you end up with my resignation in your hands, a prisoner with ethereal chains, or a happy employee who would never dream of betraying you. Where do we stand, Souji?"
Souji Murasame Souji frowns. "The first mistake is thinking that this is a game, Hyral." Souji looks directly at her, then. "You appear to not understand the stakes we are playing for. This is about our entire world, Hyral. And if not our entire world, ensuring the pathetic remnants of what we used to have don't die out like a candle in the wind."

Souji leans forward. "If murdering your friend will restore our would, would you do it? Are you capable of making those kinds of decisions, Hyral?"

Souji closes his eyes, sighing as he pushies his glasses up. "Abramson is testing you. She is trying to find out how far you are willing to go to achieve your goals. She is trying to teach you what you need to know. Are you willing to just sit there and be used and abused? Are you going to just take people at their word without doing sufficient analysis? Are you going to not ask the questions that need to be asked? Or are you going to begin doing what it takes?"
Alma Hyral "My theories have been proven, and my research has developed us a way to restore worlds. Ours.. may soon come, once I have more data, but for now, others. At the moment, with the impression you are giving me. I'm beginning to believe that I'm the only one in this Zaibatsu who understands the stakes"

She pushes her own glasses up on her face, her expression still livid. "To answer your question. No, I will not countenance murder. And, yes, I can make those decisions. We're in the endtimes, there are sacrifices that will have to be made. Except my life would be the first that I'd sacrifice to restore our world. If I am not willing to put my own on the line first, then how can I ask anyone else to do the same? It is not the same, as asking me if I will allow a helpless life to be murdered by a twisted individual with a button. A button. Does that not offend your sensibilities, you who adheres to your forms so honorably? You are a man who would never.. stab someone in the back."

"What she is trying to do... is turn me into her, Souji. I'm fully aware of this fact. She makes it perfectly clear. She thinks I have.. potential. But that is not a potential I wish to explore. So you ask if I'm willing to sit there, to be used and abused, if I'm willing to commit myself to this campaign of torture for a life of another? The answer is yes. Why think otherwise of the demure little sister of your once fiance who never once stood up for a single thing she believed in.. save one thing."

She stands up, and just stares at Souji,

When Garland comes. You will see me stand up to him. And you will watch this Hyral perish for what she believes in, without a second thought. And now you must be wondering, what possesses her to take all of this abuse from mortal bullies, and yet be willing to stand up to the manifestation of Chaos? To do what it takes, to defeat him, while allowing herself to be willfully oppressed by others. The answer is Tira. Now for the love of all that is holy, Souji Murasame, tell me if I am your prisoner, or not.
Souji Murasame Souji listens to those words. Those words in which Alma questions him, demands of him. Those words where she makes implications, and then offers herself up.

Souji betrays the depths of his emotion with the clenching of one fist. "You're a fool, Alma Hyral." Souji replies. "As you are now, Garland would obliterate you without a second thought, and everything you are would not make a single bit of difference. Why do you insist on martyrdom, Hyral? What kind of stupidify infects people like you? What does throwing your life away achieve? Nothing! You will be dead and your research and everything else will be completely wasted. Millions could die because of you."

The chair creaks as Souji stands. "Were you do continue on that path, it would be kinder if I killed you myself. It would be less pain, and I could donate your corpse to Abramson to have her /study it/ to find out what kind of /retardation/ people like you have." He leans forward on his desk. "Your death will not stop Chaos. Your life might not either, but it is far more... /disrespectful/ to your sister that you profess to love so dearly to just /throw/ your life away. Now stop acting like a fool." He levels a finger at Alma as he straightens. "The one who decides whether you are a prisoner or not is yourself, Alma Hyral. I frankly don't give a damn about this girl lives or dies. She is not a resource to the Zaibatsu and she possesses no resources or skills I wish to acquire. The question you should be asking yourself, Hyral, is if you're going to do anything to stop her. If you can resolve this without damaging the Zaibatsu, I will have no problem with it. If you bring in a horde of people to trash our laboratory, I will push the button myself."
Alma Hyral She looks at Souji, listens to him, watches him entirely impassively as he shows her the most emotion that she has ever seen out of him. And yet she remains entirely calm. Her voice, remains serene, there isn't the slightest flicker of emotion on her features.

I already know that I'm a fool, Souji Murasame. You have just proved it to me. Thank you.

She turns ninety degrees, Not long ago, I was told that if there is any light left with the Murasame scion, then I will have to fight for it. I will have to believe even as I did not before. I will have to believe in your light, like I believe in the light of the Creatrix. A deep and bone-numbing, and heart-stopping belief to shake loose that spark of light within you, and shield it. Because you would fight me, and your minions would fight me, and that you would heap any punishment or doubt they can think to make me let go of the spark Tira believed you had. And then, if I ever truly did get close to reigniting the fire within you...

She would look sidelong at Souji briefly,

..that you would kill me for it. That, that, would be my reward for my suffering, for my crusade.

And now there is a smile upon her lips, though it looks sorrowful,

I was also told that the far more difficult truth for me to accept might be that if I looked so deeply into your heart.. that if I stared into the abyss, that I might see nothing but darkness. Not only of the present, after her death.. but in the past, where darkness wore a mask, and masqueraded as sanity and love and friendship. It would have been a hollow ruse, but one that would be stable should noone inspect it too closely.

She looks Souji in the eye,

I don't know which possibility is more frightening, but in either case, you have taught me that I am a fool. For this is hollow. Whether you are the man you have always been, as you are now. Or whether you have changed.. She would still be ashamed of you.

She then turns to face Souji fully again,

I resign. Tell Abramson that our deal still stands, and that I will not bring a /horde of heroes/ in to trash what she considers playthings, since at least one person in this room knows the value of life.
Souji Murasame A lesser man would have struck her for those words.

Souji is not a lesser man. He turns his back to her. When he speaks, his voice is simple. Businesslike.

"I accept your resignation." Souji says, simply. "You are dismissed."

He will be damned before he shows weakness to this woman. Of course, the status of his damnation is what's in question as it is, isn't it?
Alma Hyral She takes a step towards the door, then stops, still staring forward, "I'm still sorry that it had to end like this, Souji. I was hoping.. well, you know what I had hoped."

She closes her eyes, "Either I was too weak to find the spark, or you are more vile than I could ever imagined. I choose to believe the former. May she forgive me for my weakness. And you.. for yours. Her shame for me is simply one more burden that I will have to weather..."

And then she walks out of the room, with the same slow, measured steps, her dignity still intact.

This scene contained 18 poses. The players who were present were: Souji Murasame, Alma Hyral