I stood at the bottom of the stairs at the Franklin Mansion, listening and feeling the dense energy of the crowd, strangers and couples enjoying themselves. It always takes me a few minutes of breathing and concentration before I can make my way to the second floor.
Yaksha walked in through the front door…and he looked so different. I was used to seeing a confident man head to toe in a red suit, cunning and charming, self-assured. My face fell to worry when I saw him, pale and underweight, unkempt and dressed heavily in black, his red trilby exchanged for a strange cap. He never did like it when I, or anyone else really, touched his hair.
His appearance wasn’t the only thing that changed; the enigmatic cynicism I always knew him for was magnified nearly tenfold as he approached me. His green eyes contrasted heavily against his mask, their expression taut between despair and relief. It’s never quite clear with him, but he was a mentally heavy presence to behold, depressed with unanswerable questions, not so much a shade of who he ‘once’ was—simply different, changed, shifted.
He was agitated at the crowd’s edge, so we retreated to the adjacent room to talk. Nothing I could say, whether helpful or exploratory, seemed to change his disposition. How do I describe what he endures? How do I articulate his pains, his mysteries? We spoke and held each other the way several months of distance could never change–with care, secrecy and grace.
I know he no longer sees in me the lost Bee losing her mind in Kaidan, and I no longer saw the confident mentor who took it upon himself to save my soul.
Perhaps we never changed at all. Perhaps we only grew closer to who we were meant to be.
Matsunaga Toru’s last emotional traces as a sane human were detected here. Kan’ami implored that I equip his mask and gather a more detailed assessment together, where we then found ourselves surrounded in near-opaque swirls of deep blue, turning to black.
I was temporarily stunned by a sharp, cranial pressure typical of when I encounter Filth, and Kan’ami was unable to help directly, choosing to recite poetry in old church slavonic just to keep me from fainting as I doubled back to the safehouse. I wish I could always have him around, for he provides a sense of order to the otherwise colorless, intangible disorder of emotion that Gaia assumes I should be able to curate on my own.
What I saw in Okinawa that night was true, only now confirmed by the discovery of the cot in the alley: Toru ran, hid there, and eventually succumbed to his infection alone. The Filthed man I met elsewhere in Okinawa was true. The man speaking as a survivor to that insipid talk show by QBL was not true. The man talking to QBL must have been carved, sculpted, and socialized to act like Toru. I’m sure of it…at least, his children don’t seem to notice.
Kan’ami is not the first consciousness I have met that now inhabits material culture. I doubt he will be the last. But he has helped reinforce in me the importance of an empath’s utility, when others would pass me aside in favor of a more shrewd or stoic combatant.
“Describe your character as a villain, which may not necessarily mean ‘opposite’ if one’s character generally has ‘good’ motivations, which can be completely subjective.”
My fleeting idea of a more villainous Elana may include having her bee, but a different organization finds her first. One that isn’t so much about an uncompromising deliverance from evil–actually, maybe they are, but they articulate it in a prophecy of their own making, of which she is tasked to be a bringer of such sacred deliverance to only the most particular of folks. She never receives a Conduit from any stationmaster, is never brought to Agartha, and is educated in a very specific direction on what her abilities entail.
Because her empathy means she has no barrier to others’ constant, ambient moods, she has a pathological neuroticism out of the belief that she is responsible for the malcontent of others around her (when really, some of us just have bad days), and a near-obsessive desire to be accepted, even trying to ‘bend’ others’ moods around her in hopes they will affirm her.
Her mentors know this, and they are vigilant to keep Elana’s self-esteem at a minimum through gentle reprimanding tactics as well as hiding the fact that she could ever ‘block’ emotional signatures–if not conditioning her to feel nausea at her attempts to stop incoming emotional attacks.
Because her empathy is Buzzing-based, forcibly trying to change the emotions of mortals leads other factions on Investigation missions trying to pick up the pieces regarding trails of victims lost to irrevocable psychosis or catatonia. “Frequency of their meat”, or so they say in Lore.
Through her faction they teach her all methods of hypnotic suggestion, neuro-linguistic programming etc, combining with empathetic sensing (but not projection, unless a particular target runs astray of the Great Message)–and she slowly but surely works her way up the ranks to become one of the top recruiters, and loyalty enforcers, of the Morninglight.