"Are you... all right?" Ninoya asked, pushing back a strand of her orange hair as she watched the man before her wince as he touched his forearm.
Kokuei looked up from bandaged arm. "What? Oh, yeah. It's fine. Just some frostbite." It had been a few days since his encounter with the ice queen, but there were some residual wounds.
The archer nodded. "Out here, frostbite can be a killer. You should probably get that checked." Ninoya knew too well about frostbite. It came in all sorts of manners.
"Yeah, well, in due time. I didn't invite you out here to give me medical advice." He said coldly, pursing his lips. Elodie gave him a sideways glance at his remark.
"Well." Ninoya wasn't one to take crap. "If your request wasn't so serious, believe me, I would have called for backup to bring you in. You know you're wanted, right? Like, 'Fire Country's top ten most' wanted? Your status was pushed up yesterday. White Ops is on the lookout for you."
Elodie and Kokuei traded looks. "I... suspected. I've been off the radar until recently." Until a certain young Nara ratted him out, he presumed. "But I know you're a loyal shinobi. This matter with Decay is far more important than my crimes. Though, my vendettas and bringing Decay down are very much one and the same."
"Great. I don't care." She said bluntly, leaning back in the hotel room chair she sat on. She took her hot cup off the side table before sipping it. "Me doing this is so off the rails. Only because I recognize it as a means to an end am I doing this. My superiors, the Yuki council, no one will believe me about Decay. They see the threat, but they don't think it's worth the time."
"And you think time is of the essence." He leaned toward her from the bed he sat on the edge of.
"They took blueprints from the state of the art power plant we had built. It was only sheer luck that I even caught Decay in the act. Who knows what else they've stolen. With the Snow Country the technological state it is, I wouldn't be surprised if Decay is trying to take information anywhere it can." Ninoya explained, one hand waving while the other balanced the cup.
"Like the ones they're building in the Westlands." Elodie said, sitting back in another chair, fingers tapping against her chin. "You were right, Kou."
The man's eyes unconsciously snapped to Elodie before letting them wander again. "Yeah. That makes sense. Although, it's been about a year since then. They have their own scientists now. They can back engineer and push forward just about anything."
"So they have a power plant built in the Westlands? You told me in our letters that Suna was refusing to do anything about Decay. That seems like a pretty big statement from an underground organization that's just going unnoticed." Ninoya said, nearly losing her focus as she noticed a loose garment across the room. She couldn't make out if it was woman's underwear.
"Decay's sneaky." Kokuei said. "They work through other groups. Sienna is just one example, they are using the various groups in that city to hide their own endeavors. The power plant is an... 'efficient source of energy to aid Sienna in becoming a beacon of hope in the ravaged Westlands.' So says the president of Windy Wares."
"Yup. Just Decay at work in the shadows." Kokuei shrugged, swirling the amber liquid in his glass cup. "A cover. The power plant on the surface is helping the city, sure, but the bigger one underneath? That's all for them."
"Whoa. Underneath? They built a whole power plant underneath the city? For what?" She laughed nervously. They would need an awful lot of coal for a bigger Igloo.
"I don't have a lot of concrete evidence, but weapons. Most likely. They have a serious anti-shinobi ideology. Maybe it's better guns, cybernetic enhancements, I don't know what. For a group who sees shinobi as a threat, they sure don't have a problem using serious violence to snuff us all out. Never mind there are shinobi who are actually working for them. Money? Manipulation? Maybe they'd like to see an end to the era of shinobi as much as they do." He took of a sip of drink, hissing a bit after swallowing. "They are bursting at the brim, though. There's only so much longer they're going to keep hidden. And they aren't stupid. They'll make a big move and announce themselves. We need to be ready for that. We need to reveal them to the world first. I think that's our only chance."
"That's quite an assumption." Ninoya said, brow furrowed. She was still processing the reality of the threat that Decay posed.
"I wish it were. I've seen what they're capable of. You have too, haven't you?" The glass clinked against the side table, Ninoya nodding. "So we need to work together. Keep in contact. I don't think Decay will stop at the Westlands or the Wind Country. In fact, I don't even think that's where they have isolated themselves off. I'm sure they have their roots all over the continent. They are playing the long game. They're so smart. When the time comes, they will want all their bases covered."
"I can do that. Whatever I can do to help." Ninoya found herself beating her drum to a different rhythm. Whether the duo before her were a classic Bonnie and Clyde or not, she knew they were speaking the truth. There was a serious and noble tone to them. "But... you'd really like me to keep this to myself? I get not telling higher ups, they could be collaborating with Decay for all we know, but there are some people I trust. Kurado, you've heard of him I'm sure. I think this sort of thing would be right up his alley."
"Kurado Akido? Don't trust that man." Elodie snapped. This time it was Kokuei to give her a sideways glance. Had she been looking at him, he would've mouthed 'cut it out'. "He's a monster. He is no more decent than--"
"Elodie." Kokuei interrupted, Ninoya's confused expression leaving as she looked back to Kokuei. "Needless to say, the people we can trust are far and few between. So that's why we are trusting you. No one else. Until the time comes, until we find it safe, no one can know we are working together. It'll be the safest that way, for all of us. We will be that much more secretive than Decay. Do those terms sound agreeable?"
The hothead let out a sigh, fingers running along the warm mug in her lap. "Yeah. Yeah, I understand." She nodded, orange curls bouncing. "So what now, how does this work?"
Kokuei shook his head. "For now, nothing. Just wait. A few weeks from now I'll reach out to you again. I'm pushing plans forward from my end to bring Decay into the light. After that snap, that's when I think we'll see the reverberations across the continent. Snow Country included. We'll make plans and moves then, once there's movement." He took another sip of his drink.
"You have a plan that will... do that? Given Decay's reputation... or rather a lack of one I suppose, I can't imagine how you would accomplish that." Ninoya questioned. Her piercing blue eyes examined Kokuei's expression. She knew criminals. She had tortured a few herself. She knew the look of a devious man, and the person before her was certainly an example. But something about him let him have her trust. She couldn't quite pinpoint it. Maybe that was just his personality, manipulative.
"I can't imagine it either, honestly." He smirked, thoughts of what to come running through his mind. "I just have a good feeling. I don't think they'll be expecting it. More than that, they underestimate threats that oppose them. I know it." Ninoya shifted in her seat, Kokuei's smile almost startling her. Elodie's green eyes examining the archer, thoughts of gutting the Akido were poisoning her mind now. "I have faith. I do. Do you believe in destiny, Ninoya?"
[ End ]
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