With You I Will Leave I

Where Dema dreams. Home. Or at least the better parts of it.

Hills that stretch farther than the eye can see contain pockets of mist in their valleys. Fog that rolls like a river between the rocky peaks of green, dotted with the occasional crooked evergreen. Curls of white edge closer to a three story house in the middle of this vast and otherwise empty space. It's painted white, a place that's existed only in Dema's fondest dream, a place that he'd likely retire to if he led a quiet life away from civilization. Something that has eluded him thus far.

While he's frightening to his prisoner, he's left her alone for the moment, locking her away in his home from the inside and out and no matter how hard she tries, Delia just isn't experienced enough to escape. His prisoner, until they can make her whole again. Looking out one of the third story windows, the redhead stares up at the cloudy sky that hides the moon, a wistful expression on her face as she contemplates her next move. Just how hard is it to control a dreamer who can do more than she can? She has trouble with even the less experienced non-evolved.

The dark shadows under her eyes are only getting larger, her face becoming more skeletal and gaunt as time passes. She's suffered the past few weeks, not that she's complained at all. Locked away in Nick's mind, she was able to rest and not worry about running or searching— trusting that he'd bring her back. In the end, she failed.

The peaceful white dacha of Dema’s dreaming, nostalgic for what never was, can keep without his manifest presence, and luckily so, because there is only so long one man can keep his cohesion after hours of artificial sleep. As inert as Delia’s own empty form, the Russian dreamwalker has been heavily sedated, large doses of sedative pumped into his great, prostrate shape. Beneath his eyelids is the telltale flutter of REM.

So while he’s not in the dacha, he’s certainly somewhere.

Beyond Delia's prison, in the hills that stretch forever in a land of misty valleys and rocky peaks there is a semblance of waking. Emerging through fog is sometimes viewed as a similie for waking from dream. More confusingly, there is a certain urgency to the emergence through the fog that the people striding out from it feel in their hearts. A worry, a pang, an uncertainty not their own, but shared with the one that has brought them this far.

Without warning.

Hokuto Ichihara stands on the crest of a hill, two of her. One dressed solely in black and white, a voluminous flowing robe in traditional Japanese styling, printed with white sakura branches across the sash bound at her waist and the trailing sleeves that enshroud her arms. Black hair flows like living snakes, or hair held aloft between water.

Golden irises peer out from this phantom woman to the two emerging from the fog of waking and slumbering. Beside the phantom rests another, a lady dressed in a three-piece business suit and slacks of varying red shades, brighter on the outer layers with dark pinstriping. Her ink black hair rests swept to one side, partly hiding one of her yellow eyes.

The last that Brian Winters, Jaiden Mortlock and Catherine Chesterfield knew, they were wide awake. The sudden pall of drowsiness that overtook them both is more than just sleep claiming them, more than just tired bodies and minds demanding rest. It is the work of an oneiromancer who has learned — perhaps too well — how to bridge the division between awake and asleep in her bodiless form.

"I apologize for the abruptness of this summon…" Hokuto calls out to the figures still shrouded by the fog, her voice guiding them on which side of the veil of waking and sleeping they should be in. "But I did not have any more time to spare." To all but Brian, the paired dreamwalkers are familiar specters, to Winters' boy, she is a haunt that Delia Ryans may have only spoke of before.

"I was wrong to wait this long before doing something," the red-clad Hokuto states, her gold eyes partly hooded by lowered lashes. "Delia Ryans needs your help, now, and I can only do so much myself."

It's lucky that Jaiden owns his own business. Being able to take respites from the day-to-day grind to check on your comatose girlfriend to give Brian a bit of a breather from acting as living beacon is something not normally available if you're an assistant manager at GameStop. Still, when the wave of drowsiness overtook him, it was a simple matter to curl up on the bed next to Delia, put his head down, and then find himself here, striding out of the fog toward a severe-looking Japanese woman that he's come to notice, now and again, in sleep and in waking, but only if she wants to be seen. How many of those glimpses were Jaiden's imagination? We may never know.

Jaiden appears to be dressed for a bit part in a realistic western movie. Brown pants, cowboy boots, button down shirt and vest with a trail coat over the whole mess along with a gunbelt with a six shooter, gleaming brass ringing his waist. A lever-action rifle is slung over his shoulders along with saddlebags containing god knows what…perhaps it's a bit of him knowing he's in a dream. Having a bag allows you to improvise things you have with you…

"As long as we get her out, Miss Hokuto, it'll be forgiven. She's getting very weak."

Ensconced within her residence at the secret Phoenix headquarters, spending time watching Eli Manning nearly being sacked, Cat doesn't catch the end of that particular play. It's odd, she thinks in a fleeting moment, football isn't boring, so why is she nodding off? The impulse is nonetheless not resisted, she seeing no evidence of being influenced by drugs or some hostile party who might've found her comfortable refuge…

Then moments later she finds herself emerging from a bank of fog and climbing a hill with swift strides. Brown eyes settle on the double Hokuto as soon as they're identifiable along with the speaking voice one uses, and she immediately stiffens more than that feeling of urgency provides. In that same instant she's no longer climbing the slope alone. Next to her, looking feral and snarling, is the large black panther who travels in such situations with her. This dark beast does the talking.

"I see that for you, like Samuel Clemens and Richard Cardinal, word of your death was greatly exaggerated." Both Cat and her animal attendant regard the Dreamwalkers carefully, but also seem ready to follow their lead.

"What the—"

It was the word he was saying before he suddenly fell asleep. Brian was working out, now he is pinned under two dumbbells on the ground. He will have bruises upon waking. What the had been his words as he was dragged in. Now that he is waking into sleep his words are,

"Fuck?!" Thankfully for his telepathic connection with his other selves, as well as having experience with this whole dream thing, Brian immediately realizes what is going on. However he's not happy about it. Spinning this way then that, Winters slowly starts to take in the other dreamers.

A high collar trenchcoat frames the white mask that conceals Winter's identity. Under his large elegant coat he wears shirtsleeves and a black vest. The white mask is nearly entirely blank. With two large concave black holes where the eyes would be. Because of his mask his emotion cannot be seen, but it can be heard.

"Cat.. Cat! Could you stop being a fucking nerd for one god damn second." Flinging his attention to the other dreamer and then finally to Hokuto. Finally falling silent and listening he ends with a, "It's about fucking time."

The last addition to this crowd is running late, apparently. There's a distant ring ring of a bell, before the rattling sound of bike chains and wheels heralds the appearance of another. Bumping down an incline of grassy knoll and cruising through the fog that whorls away like parting water, a figure on a bicycle is gliding towards the group. For a moment, it could almost be Delia, with that mass of red hair unbound around her shoulders, but there is a certain skinniness that indicates otherwise.

Bare feet and a floaty white summer dress are not battle garments, but when you're a dreamwalker, that likely doesn't matter. A half-mask rests on her upper face, feathered brown and white, blue eyes peering out almond shaped holes as she rattles to a stop on the tricky terrain, long legs touching naked feet down on the grass delicately, remaining straddled on the bike. It has streamers.

And injured. Gouges like big cat claws are sunk into her right leg, with blood unabashedly making ruby rivulets to her ankle, a steady drip. "Sorry," Jasmine says, breathlessly. "I had to take a detour."

The sudden presence of more minds catches the fledgling's attention. First a twitch of her head as she stares off in the direction of whoever might be here but for the immense fog and darkness, she can't see a thing. Slowly, she rises from her perch at the window and run across the room she's sequestered herself in, away from Dema, to listen at the door. It might be that her sudden excited movements have alerted the slumbering Russian Bear, if he hasn't already noticed the others arriving. Subterfuge has never been one of Delia's more practiced attributes.

Whoever it is, she feels a dual need to hide and be noticed. Hiding might be a wiser choice as she doesn't know if these are the people come to kill her, even though he promised to try to find her body first. Jumping up, she tries to ricochet off the ceiling and barrel through the wall of her prison… only it doesn't exactly work. The result of her jump is a hard landing and a skinned knee. A sting of pain causes her to curl on the floor, hugging her legs to her chest as she inspects the damage she's just inflicted on herself.

So far, there's no sound from downstairs, not that she can hear. The bogeyman is either not concerned or making quiet preparations of his own. Either one wouldn't surprise her in the least. "Daddy…" she whimpers, hoping against all hope that somehow her father will find a way out of this mess for her.

The lines between savior and slaughterer are getting sort of blurry, so Delia’s confusion can be easily forgiven. As befits a space as thoroughly subjective as that of dreams, the bad guys and good guys are really a matter of perspective. Dema has no illusions as to the quality of his employers. From apparatchik father to Soviet army to bratva to Company to Institute, he has served under brutal, wicked people for the entirety of his life. But Dr. Brennan doesn’t seem to be one of them

And however bad his commanding officer in Afghanistan was, Dema would draw no comparisons with the Hokuto Ichihara of his understanding. It would safe to say he loathes this creature. Brutality and exploitation he knows, but even the Party was unable to make slaves of its people in dreams. Iron fists without mean nothing next to iron fists within, and such a fist is attributed to the unleashed dreamwalker by Dema.

Fog is his barrier, quietude his prison, routine his locks. His chains are chains of signification. And while he is not here, the pale twilight of the sky turns the slightest shade darker in instinctive distaste as intruders enter this place. A place meant to be away.

Far from where the dreaming princess is being held, Hokuto Ichihara's twinned self stares down at the few gathered on the hill. "I would have ventured for preparation, but circumstances outside of my control have put Delia in grave danger." The black-and-white clad version of herself takes to the foreground, striding down the hill and offering a nod of greeting to Jasmine while her Other eyes the injured leg thoughtfully, memories of frailty of flesh causing a tremor of emotion to flash through her features.

"This is the dominion of a man named Dema, a dreamwalker like myself in some respects. He is a hammer, a blunt instrument and a dangerous one. The people he works for are attempting to wrest physical and psychic control over Delia's divided body. I had hoped to return her to her… rightful residence," Hokuto admits sheepishly, revealing that — in the beginning — she could have fixed this all herself, but had chosen not to.

"But now her consciousness is trapped by Dema. I am exerting much of my strength to bring you all here, to find Delia while I use what little focus I have left to confront Dema in his own domain. This…" She unfolds her arms, gesturing with one sleeve-shrouded hand to the rolling hills. "Fog shrouded land is his bastion, his inner sanctum where all laws are bend by his will. As I am not strong enough to fight a battle on two fronts… humility," she glances to her red-clad counterpart, "has inspired me to entrust your safety to another."

Hokuto motions towards Jasmine with a pale hand. "She will be your guide, to which I owe apology for not seeing her clarity of wisdom in my eagerness to hone my pupil under this… situation." Hokuto glances down to the grass, then back up to Cat with brows furrowed and gold eyes partly lidded.

"Reunions heartfelt in one way or another will need to wait until Delia is safe," Hokuto reluctantly admits. "I wish I had not been so blinded by my own ego as to not realize the severity of this situation."

Reasons aside, Jaiden grits his teeth and flicks his gaze from the twinned Hokuto to the domain surrounding them. If this is Dema's domain, then he has control - mostly. Distractions on the outside may allow them to slip in with a minimum of conflict.

He hopes, at least.

Striding forward, Jaiden lowers his rifle to an easy cradle in his arms - at the ready, but not pointed at any specific person or direction - and stops in front of Hokuto. "So we find he and get her…where? to the fog bank?" The muzzle of the rifle is used as an oversized pointer. "And then she'll wake up, right as rain? You can get her back?" Left unsaid is the comment 'like you should have a month ago.'

Mask or no mask, she recognizes Brian, would even if she hadn't such sweeping powers of memory. She's seen editions of the man die, fought alongside him on occasions, and even once left him to be captured by Rupert Carmichael's brother. But for all that, the clone's insulting words don't cause her to do more than glance briefly in his direction and cover her mouth in politesse of hiding a yawn.

The bulk of her attention is instead granted to Jaiden and Jasmine, in turn, and again it's the large ebony panther which does the talking in a voice similar to Cat's own, but marked with traces of snarling.

"Hokuto can get her back, just as she came to find us for this task, Mick. Perhaps you can also, Miss."

Soon as the odd voice ends, that dark beast rises up onto her hind legs and faces Jasmine, intending the way she examines the claws on her right front paw to be a signal of readiness to begin.

Perhaps it's good that he's wearing a mask. No one can see all the scowling and glaring he's performing. Taking a single step back at Jasmine's arrival, Brian recomposes himself and stands still. But then something unseen has the man pausing. "We might have problems.." He pipes up quietly, and with a flair of the dramatic.

"It's fuzzy. Because I'm asleep. But things are going on in the waking world. I don't think we have much time." He gestures with one hand. "So we better get to it, partner." It's said dryly, and most likely directed to Jaiden.

There's a flutter of white skirt as Jasmine pulls her injured leg over the bike to stand beside, although letting go of the handle bars has it falling to its side and simply vanishing before it can hit the grass. She shares a small smile towards Hokuto, hesitant and somewhat weary, hands coming to clasp together and looking about as threatening a guide as, say, a house cat. One that is bleeding, for all that the injury doesn't seem to bother her.

Or she's pretending it isn't. "I can try," she promises the upright cat, like talking to such a being were the most natural thing in the world. "This place is memory. Memory is information and intuition, and has a focus. A core. It's where the dream becomes most powerful, the centre of the dreamer's focus — and it's probably where we'll find Delia."

She lists a step to the left. "We'll try to be swift," she promises Brian, after minor hesitation, before looking to Hokuto, as if for a sense of direction.

She can't see them but she knows they're there. Familiar patterns, people she's visited before, people she knows and two more? Rising up from the floor, Delia slinks to the window and feels along the edge with her fingers, looking for a place to grab onto it. She tests it, rattling the pane a little as she tries to rip it open. Like it's painted shut, or glued somehow, the wood doesn't budge in the slightest.

"Zombie christ on a pogo stick…" she curses under her breath and then quickly makes a sign of the cross to make up for her blasphemy. A sound from below has her turning her head in a panic. Then with her blue eyes opened wide, she tugs even harder at the window, trying to open it. "Come on… stupid… window…"

Two floors below, the slam of a door heralds the exit of the bogeyman. Someone knows they're there.

Without looking to see if Dema left the house, Delia pounds across the wooden floor and rips open the door. A hurried patter of her bare feet against both flights of stairs prequels her arrival into the common area of the house. The empty house. "Sweet baby Jesus, he's gone!" Another sign of the cross.

"Delia needs to get out of this dream." It is an insistence from Hokuto that resonates from one end of this dominion to another, a warning to Dema if one could be delivered as such and a promise to Delia, one that does not come with the latter clarification of: "If not by myself, than Jasmine…"

There's a certain dubiousness about her confidence in that statement, a hint that she may consider this conflict with Dema to be one she may not have the opportunity to walk away from unscathed. "Your destination is across these hills, for as long as they remain so. Jasmine should be able to feel Delia's presence, but there is no telling what Dema will bring to bear against you. Hopefully no more than you have brought with you," and to Cat in particular, that notion has a heavy sentiment of severity, implications of the Nightmare Man's own resonance of personal guilts and shortcomings in dreamscapes.

"He's coming," the red-clad Hokuto interrupts, turning to look behind the hill. "We need to go," is addressed down to her monochromatically dressed counterpart. That Hokuto nods in wary uncertainty, then turns her gold eyes up to the few she's gathered, apology unspoken in her expression before those gold irises square on Jasmine.

"Keep them safe," Hokuto requests of the strange dreamwalker, before dissolving into inky strands of brush-stroked paint that slither into the grass and fog. Her counterpart doing the same, resembling threads of hair breaking up underwater and dispersing into the mist, leaving the dreamwalkers alone with Jasmine on that foggy hill.

Pardner. hah, very funny. Is it Jaiden's fault he saw True Grit (the remake) recently, and since then his dreams have had a decidedly western flair? Jaiden turns to Jasmine, checks his rifle to make sure a round is in the chamber, and lets out a breath. "We get her, we get out. As long as she makes it out, I don't care what happens to me."

"What's happening in the waking world, specifically?" the speaking panther asks Brian, while waiting for Jasmine to lead the way and get this rescue mission started in earnest. It's not her only question, a second is directed to the dreamwalker who remains after Hokuto's departure. "And who are you, exactly?" That examination of extended claws ceases as both Cat and panther take two steps toward the hill's top.

"I told you. It's fuzzy." Brian reiterates with a little agitation. "There's some guy.. I don't know who it is. Can't really make out his face through the sleep. But.. I'm pretty sure I don't like him. A doctor. He's trying to take Delia somewhere. I.. think." He gives a light shrug as he looks out towards the hills. Motioning with his chin to Jaiden. "You're a real hero, buddy. But we'll have time to think about how selfless you are later, when you're probably dead. Right now, we should get to work."

Brian takes a few steps in the direction he thinks he needs to go before looking at Jasmine blankly. (Because of the mask). "Is this the right way?"

"Oh," Jasmine breathes out in response to Jaiden, smile rueful, "but I care about what happens to you." She stops at that, vaguely uncertain, a hand up to fidget her mask into a solid sit on her face before she twitches a look towards Catherine and Brian, the latter of the which gets a vaguely up and down eyeing before she nods to the feline. "My name is Jasmine," she answers, which could be all the answer that is needed, or no answer at all. When it comes to Cat's kind of mind, probably the latter.

Regardless, that's where she leaves it, looking back at Brian. "Slightly to the left," is light jest, before she points, arm as straight as a weathervane. "I'd suggest we can fly, but flying dreams take a certain amount of, uh. Finesse. And balance. Let's go."

And she makes for the hills, with each foot step seeming to echo and almost move the land beneath her feet as if it were one big rolling treadmill. The urge to follow her grips all three dreamers like vertigo, and when they move with her, they'll find speed is at their command as well, as if each step wheeled the world beneath them to bring their destination closer.

While the unlikely gaggle of travelers make their way across the landscape like Puss in Boots, Delia is jerking at every door and window on the main floor of the house, trying to find a way to free herself. Dema is gone somewhere but his prison still holds much too strong for her. "Come on!!" Her frustrated yell is an indication of her renewed strength of will, even if her body has none.

A limp fist hammers on the front door, from the outside nothing but a tiny piff can be heard. Louder is the exasperated whine of the young woman as she slides with her back against it to the floor. Giving up as she's been so prone to do lately, something very unlike her. Closing her eyes, she gathers her knees against her chest again and rests her cheek against them. "I'm here… please find me… I'm right here." She's too afraid to look for them, she might lead Dema right across their path in her attempt.

I'm here… please find me… I'm right here.

The whispered words echo in the wind across the hills as they approach. They repeat, like a skipping record, growing louder in the ears with each round until it seems like the voice is resonating from inside of their minds.

It's rather uncomfortable having one's internal speedometer controlled, but for this occasion, it's probably best. Still, being steered, having to put one foot down in front of the other at the behest of Jasmine, the other dream walker, is a bit unsettling. Jaiden moves as commanded, rifle at the ready, breach loaded with a bullet of pure crystal, since lead probably won't work nearly as well here as it might in the real world, if at all. He's paying attention to the terrain, to the surroundings, just in case he needs to grab Delia and run, what landmarks there are, or at least how long they travel and in what direction. What he wouldn't give for working GPS in a dream.

The iteration of Cat manifested in this dreamscape as her human self jumps onto the ebony panther's back and is carried forward by her, the travel made swifter by Jasmine's assistance. Neither of the pair say anything at this moment, they choose instead for silence until circumstances call for more words. The dark beast snarls as she moves with the passenger aboard, feral demeanor and ferocity seeming to increase with each bound.

The black holes in Brian's mask return Jasmine's look without much response. But when it's slightly to the left, he positions himself slightly— Oh she was kidding. Well… But soon they're rocketing off. While he may be mumbling to himself about how he always is on the stupidest rescue teams, he remains mostly silent.

One foot then the next, his attention mostly given to the space ahead of him and occasionally the mysterious Jasmine. Who incidentally was his favorite Disney princess. And he might have had a crush on her until he was seventeen.

Bare feet speeds them all in formation for the point in the hilltops that Jasmine allegedly senses Delia. It's affirming, then, when the woman's familiar voice comes drifting through the trees, flagging along the wind and rustling leaves, and it only spurs her on a little faster. With a run that seems to rotate the earth beneath their feet, they head for the core of the dream, the hillside breaking up into rockier terrain, ribboning their trajectories through trees, patchy earth blurring by.

You don't get tired in dreams. Fatigue might be imitated in gravity, a slow down of time and brain processes, slow motion as dramatically appropriate, but in here, the group of humans— and cat— run like wolves with no sign of tiring.

There is really only one place in this place. The very security provided by this nook of Dema's psyche relies on limitation. The white dacha has a view extending to the very extent of this realm's existence, whereafter the fog thickens into opacity before leading a traveller back to the center again. Back to what this dream sees as home. A fundamental fantasy, where you never have to leave.

So navigation isn't so very difficult. Perhaps Dema didn't count on other dreamwalkers making an entrance. Burbling brooks, small glades of conifers, ponds - these are the most obstacle the party encounters as they make their way towards the only real and constant landmark, which lies at the dead center of the dream. But as the intruders draw nearer, the mists that veil this place begin to swirl with less laziness, the languid curtains of white shivering into flickering sheets of torn lace. In the distance there is the sound of wind chimes.

Not so distant to Delia, though. And that sound is one she recognizes. The dream's owner is stirring, waking into it. There is a creak from the attic stories above, a sound of a trap door swinging open, and the sound of heavy feet treading lightly. Dema descends from the stairs, dressed in the simple, drab garb of a son of Soviet Russia, his brow furrowed. His deep set blue eyes find Delia, slumped against the door.

"What are you doing?" Dema asks, moving over to her, then sidling over to look out the window. The chimes are still ringing, and he peers at them like a farmer examining a barometer. A warning, perhaps, as much as a herald. "…guests," he says, "something else also," the big man turns to look at Delia, "stay here. It is safer. I do not like this. If there is trouble… I will get you out. But stay in the house."

Dema doesn't wait for a reply. He's gone in an instant, no longer in the house but instead outside the door. He wraps a long coat around himself, though he pauses when he notices just which coat he is donning. He remembers it. His father's. It makes him frown. But he has no time to worry about significance. He has company. Each step he takes whisks him across large spaces, until, in a gust of mist, he appears before the galloping brigade. Massive, imposing in dream as in the real world, the dreamer-dreamwalker lifts his hand, both a greeting and a request that they halt. The mist thickens around them, encouraging a cessation of movement though not demanding it. He takes a moment to examine the motley crew. A strange, phantasmagoric parade, bold as anything.

"I forgive," Dema says, voice crisp and clear despite the wind that still tugs at his coat's hem, "most of you for not announcing yourself upon entering my dream, because you did not come here yourself. But you," his gaze falls on Jasmine specifically, "I have met. I expected more courtesy. Still," he parts his hands, in a benedictive gesture, "I will be the good host if you are good guests. It is she that brought you here, yes?" Dema points to Jasmine.

Only the moment he does so, he checks himself. And he finds… that there is someone else here. In a single instant, it's as if ink has been spilled all over the sky, bleeding out dark and at first uneven across the grey twilight. The wind picks up, gaining a faint howl, and Dema visibly bristles.

"No," Dema says, answering himself, previously cordial tone now laced with venom, "you come with the thing. The ravager. This… is not acceptable. You may stay, but it must go. I do not permit rapists in my home."

Thinking the Russian bear already gone from the house, Delia gives a little squeak of surprise when he makes his appearance, scrambling to stand with her back against the door. Her hands are pressed behind her as she stares at him wide eyed and silent. He doesn't need an answer from her, not that she would willingly give anything but a small token of everything that she knows. Again, she's afraid.

He disappears in a blink and she races to the window to see him pulling on the greatcoat to guard against the wintry wind. She has no such protection, with a frown she turns her palms up to examine them and then closes her eyes to concentrate. He's going out there, she's not going to stay.

In a fizzle of television static, a broken sword appears in one hand while a stuffed elephant appears in the other. She opens her blue eyes to gaze down at the elephant with a modicum of surprise and dismay. It's not what she was expecting and it's certainly not what she asked for.

Wait.

There's a no rapist rule.

"I should probably go too.. Then."

But let's rewind.

As one thick boot disrupts a babbling brook, the masked man looks over to Jaiden. Most likely about to say something encouraging and positive, Brian has no chance. Because there is a big Russian there all of a sudden. An initial step is taken back, defensive at the instantaneous arrival of Dema. But he doesn't seem to be attacking them or anything. And he forgives them, so that's great. But as he keeps talking the Masked Man's attention wavers. He has a thing when other people talk.

Black gloves clench before slowly flexing outward. Idly wondering why he chose to wear uncomfortable clothing in his dream, a black glove wanders up to the shiny gleam on his trench coat. Straightening the collar, it wanders down towards his vest. The coat is cool, and it feels like it could contain a billion things but..

Oh yeah. There's a big Russian, a friend in need, and a rapist flying around. Time to focus. "Oh.. Us? Oh, I'm sorry man. We were just looking for Justin Bieber's dreams. I have no idea how we got in here! This is embarrassing." The white blank mask flings over to look at Jasmine. "You." He says playfully, waving a wrist. Looking up at the ink spreading the blank expression looks rather.. blank. "If she's the thing I get to be the human torch." He pipes up quickly. "But anyways. If we're guests.. I will just be stepping inside real quick. Okay? It's scary out here.. Good luck with the rapists!"

Stepping gingerly around Dema towards the Dream, the mask flicks back to Jasmine and Jaiden. "By the way, I was kidding about being a rapist." He's not a rapist.

Slow down from her wolfish gallop comes in the form of Jasmine skidding to a halt, her bare feet running trenches in the soft ground wth her skinny arms flung out askew to maintain her balance. Unfortunately for this intrepid group of dreamers, she isn't immediately throwing lightning, summoning giants to fight this more man-sized one, or opening up the ground beneath him. Few things are more powerful than a dreamer in his own head, but still, she doesn't duck her own at the admonishment regarding rudeness. Red hair whips in the growing wind, hands going up to keep it out of her face.

And otherwise fixes him with an analytical stare through the almond shaped holes in her feathery mask, plain of colour choices and vaguely butterfly in shape. "Hokuto isn't my enemy today," she says, which is sort of a limp defense for the other dreamwalker. "And I wouldn't deign to try to make her go anywhere."

Beads of red blood land upon the roof of her bare right foot, from where still bleeding rivulets ribbon down her calf from the injuries there that looks like they could come from the paw of the big cat they travel with, but probably doesn't belong to this big cat. It's a weakness, if her bare arms and flimsy battle garb and weaponlessness weren't already considered to be so, but she ignores it in favour of staring the other dreamwalker down.

Save for that one flicker of a smile at Brian's commentary, but that's all he gets — as opposed to say, playing along. Her agenda is as apparent as her presence. Tension knots in her posture, watchful of Brian's path, even as she addresses the other dreamwalker: "You've kept Delia safe. Thank you. But please, if you feel the same way we do, step aside."

The ebony panther with the woman on her back comes to a stop before Dema, eying him with distrust and emitting low growls under her breath. Neither beast nor woman speak in acknowledgment of charges the Russian makes against Hokuto, Cat knows the truth of her prior behavior and will neither confirm nor deny it. She seems quite ready for battle, but holds ground and stillness in deference to Jasmine's negotiations, at least for now.

"Ogrysat'sya," Dema scoffs, voice harsh, as Brian tries to step around him, "Make a fool pray to God, he will hurt both his forehead and other people's toes." The wind kicks up, buffeting against Brian and providing a wall of resistance than halts his progress. Nice try, though, smartass. Dema lifts a hand to his brow, rubbing with frustration. "I see now. You came here to fight me. To take by force. You do not even know me. You arrive unannounced, brandishing your shapes, and when I greet you with courtesy, you treat me like I am less than nothing? Step aside? Where do you think you are? This is my dream, my mind, my innermost. You do not make demands here."

"As for that creature, I will not brook its presence. It treats people like dolls, dressing them up, playing with them, to no purpose but her own satisfaction. Bozhemoi, look at yourselves!" he gestures the assembled in their guises, Brian the masked man, Jaiden the cowboy, Cat astride a panther like He-Man, Jasmine in her gauzy dress and florid mask, "action figures, toy soldiers, lined up to play war. This is not a game. This is my mind, and you are guests here. You will show humility and respect and behave like civilized people or you will dream like animals, like a dog chasing dream rabbits, twitching and biting at nothing.

"I do not wish to do harm to you. And I will not risk the girl I am protecting. I do not know you, or your intentions, and I will not 'step aside' and let strangers rummage through my dacha or seize hold of my ward. Think, would you let such a band past your threshold, brought here by a creature who humiliates and disrespects people in their most secret places?

"So wear shapes that do not make you look like idiota, and I will consider inviting you into my home," Dema pronounces, crossing his arms across his barrel-like chest, "but do not presume. You will tell me your names and your purpose, you will observe courtesy and custom or I will show you what it is to make war on a Russian."

Speaking of dreaming like animals… The elephant is given another roll of the eyes and the redhead inside the house pitches it over her shoulder. The resounding crash that happens with the landing nearly shakes the young woman off her feet, causing her to spin around in surprise to see what exactly happened. Multicolored stuffed animals aren't supposed to be that heavy.

Delia's jaw drops as she spies the overturned kitchen table and the miniature mobile elephant that's currently racing toward her on four tiny cylindrical feet. "No! No!! Stay awa— aaaaahhh!!" Standing one foot high at the shoulder at the very most, the little animal paws up the dreamwalker's leg. Its high pitched trumpeting is a little too loud for its body, perhaps the only thing menacing about the creature at all.

Still, it's enough that the fledgling dreamwalker climbs up onto a rickety table nearby to get away from the pachyderm. "Go away! I didn't want you!!" Turning toward the door, she grimaces and lets out a small keening sound, "Someone help… there's elephants now."

"Now hold on there." No, Jaiden doesn't add 'pardner' to the end of that line, although with the way he's dressed, it would be fitting. He thinks that Hokuto dressed them up like this. The rifle is lowered, but still held at the ready, barrel pointing down and away. "You want to act civilized and all, that's perfectly fine. You want respect? You need to show some yourself instead of barking at us like a dog at the end of it's chain." Even in the domain of another's mind, Jaiden's voice is cool but hasn't lost it's edge, his gaze unwavering.

"What we look like really doesn't matter much, does it. After all, we're in a dream, same as yourself. But your 'ward' as you so eloquently put it? She's not yours to hold. She's been lost in the dream for far too long and we need to get her back to her self, otherwise she's lost to everyone. Most importantly lost to me." Jaiden takes a step forward, rifle still lowered. "You want to do introductions? Fine. My name is Jaiden. The girl you have? That's my girlfriend. I love her, and I need to take her home."

When Dema commands them to look at themselves, Brian does so. But he does not find anything that makes him look like a Bozhemoi. So his blank features return up to Dema. "I actually think I look cool. I will give you that though.." One black glove points a thumb over to Jaiden. "A liiitttle faggy." Brian's shoulders roll a little. "You're not the most important." It's murmured more to himself when Jaiden strides forward to introduce himself. Glancing over to Cat then back to Jasmine. "I don't think you guys look like idiota." He says consolingly.

The black eyes meet the forceful wind preventing him from getting into the house. An exasperated sigh is given. "Please let us get to Delia? I've been changing her diapers for like a month. How many diapers have you changed?" Brian asks in a challenging manner to Dema. In his mind it's kind of a valid point.

Jasmine's head tilts at what she can hear of Delia's voice, and distress is a subtle thing, shown only in her stiff posture, with her mask hiding most of her expression — though her jaw is tense enough that her molars might crack at any second. There's a glance for Jaiden and Brian and their negotiations, and then a look back towards Cat and cat both to see what she might think of it before exhaling a sigh. "You're keeping Delia as a prisoner. I can hear it.

"And that, if I may be so bold, is very rude."

With the boys making their very honest appeals, and Jasmine's own hesitation about where enemy lines are drawn, there is no immediate physical manifestation of her condemnation. Not a lot, anyway, but there is a sort of minor tremor that runs through the dreamscape, which manifests as a sort of physical uneasiness, a small frission of dizziness through the dreamers and dreamwalkers a like. Then nothing. For now.

Panther and Cat on her back both observe the verbal exchanges in absolute quiet, the ebony beast holding her ground. Hair on the woman and fur on the animal are ruffled by the wind Dema summons to keep them from entering his dacha, but these two don't seem troubled by it. It's as if the tandem instead enjoy it as a cool and refreshing breeze while eyes settle on each person in turn as they speak. Only after Jasmine looks their way in speculative manner and states to hearing Delia does the ebony one speak in a voice which holds traces of snarl.

And she chooses to do so in Russian.

"«Sir, we seek the release of Delia Ryans, that she may be returned to her body. You claim she is your ward, we have doubts. If this is true, then is there any reason not to let her emerge and speak with us in your presence, that she can recognize who we are and choose to leave with us? The Australian man is indeed her paramour, and the other man with us has been tending her body. For my part, I am her attorney.»"

Jaiden walks a fine line with Dema. Hokuto's presence, still nebulous but ever threatening and dreadfully powerful after so much time spent free from the constraints of reality, has put the big Russian badly on edge. Jaiden's intimations as to Dema's own lack of respect, and Jasmine's own concurrent assertion, cause a dark flame of indignance to flare in the big man's psyche. The mist around them becomes very, very chilly, and frost starts to cling to the blades of grass and even the fur of the great black feline Cat is/sits atop of. There is a moment where Dema considers teaching this insolent gang a lesson, to put them in their proper place. A man's home is his kingdom, and the man himself the sole czar.

Words from his childhood. His father's. And he, in his father's coat.

But now is not the time for tragic epiphany. There is pachyderm pandemonium breaking loose, a cry echoing out, a threat Dema knows he did not create. Elephants? This is exactly the sort of absurd nonsense he can't suffer. Suspicion takes the form of a bitter crosswind, whipping hair near horizontal with a vicious slash. If it's not his or Jasmine's work, he can only suspect the creature. Was this all a distraction?

But let's not forget, there is a fourth dreamwalker here. The girl herself. And it's easy enough to become victims of your own dreams. Dema gives a low curse in untransposed Russian and without a further word turns on his heel and disappears, skipping across the surface of his own dreaming. He's gone, but he's not the only one. Whether it was the lover's honest passion, or Cat's vouch, or some combination, there is one thing Dema does show respect to. A lover seeking a beloved.

Cat, Brian and Jasmine are left alone in the increasingly inhospitable exterior. Jaiden has been swallowed up by the mist. Taken with Dema.

The next moment, both Russian and Australian are inside the warm confines of the dacha. They are in the kitchen, the wood stove radiating dry heat through the sparse by homey surroundings. Dema gestures for Jaiden to follow as he strides over to find Delia, to locate the elephant in his rooms.

From near the front door of the house there's a high pitched scream as the ripple of nausea overcomes Delia and she tumbles off the little table she teeters on. When she's found by Dema, there's an elephant the size of a toy poodle feeling her face with its trunk. It's possibly trying to make her feel better, who knows with elephants.

She, on the other hand, is cringing in fear from the mini menace, frozen in place as though terrified it might eat her. The possibility might have crossed her mind when the tiny trunk curled around a handful of her hair, only to find its way into the beast's mouth. Omnomnom..

This was an unexpected turn.

One moment Jaiden is with the group and the next, warm inside a house with an elephant the size of a small dog. In any other situation this would be hilarious, but now, in Dema's dream, with Delia showing real fear? It's very serious.

"Excuse me…" Jaiden, still clad in his cowboy gear, moves to Delia, nudges the little elephant away and, if possible, lifts the girl into his arms. "Delia, Del…it's Jaiden. We're here. We're going to take you home…"

"God damnit he's mean."

The whining comes from Brian. Looking down at his gloved hands, an irritated expression is lighting the inside of his mask up with anger heat. "For a dreamer, this guy is the most boring motherfucker." He swings his hands arount in a wide flail. "This is it. You're in fantasy dream land and you have a coat and babbling brooks. Not even a river of chocolate. It's regular water-water." His arms fold in around him somewhat as the cold clings in around him.

"In my dreams.. Dolphin's are falling out of closets.. And I'm fixing airplanes with my third grade teacher." The vacant looking mask turns to Jasmine. "So when does the fighting part start? It's getting really cold.. If we had some kind of heat like a.." The mask seems to emit some kind of emotion to the woman. Which is silly because it's the most emotionless mask he had to choose from in his Dream Wardrobe. A slight tilt of his puppy dog head and…

Whoosh

Flames lick the black gloves, as fire starts to permeate from Brian's arms. A fire rages up from the black gloves, the trail of flame dancing along his arms, weakening until eventually fading at his elbows. Despite generating heat and fire, his gloves and sleeves seem to be impervious. Generating a little more fire, Brian holds his arms out towards Cat and Jasmine. "There. Human torch." He pipes happily. And then he's looking expectantly at Jasmine.. Or he's probably looking expectant.

If anyone can read masks, it might be someone who wears them next to always. Jasmine breaks eye contact from the dark holes bored into his mask, turning her own bright blue stare in the direction that Dema did not physically betray, but to her, it seems to streak through the fog like a set of traffic cones. Remember that thing she said about flying?

Fuck it.

With the cry of a banchee, she takes a leap, her bare foot pounding into the earth hard enough for it to make the immediate ground tremor beneath their feet before take off occurs in a corkscrew spiral, blood flung from leg wound like an injured bird taking to the sky. In this fantasy, you do not have to think happy thoughts to fly, as it feels more like a means of navigation as opposed to fantasical soaring. Brian and Cat, flame and feline and all, are yanked up along with her, exposed to the world rolling like an immense marble beneath them.

Inside the house in which Jaiden reunites himself with Delia beneath Dema's watchful eye, they will hear the cacophony of beings landing upon the roof with a certain amount of violence that does not bring them injury. Tiles crack beneath Jasmine's feet, go skittering over the side.

"I don't want to trap a fellow dreamwalker, Dema," Jasmine claims from where she gets out of her landing crouch, in a voice that echoes for all ears to hear, if not actually loud, just— surrounding. "But I will. I'll draw you somewhere more real than this pathetic mock-memory and you won't even have the presence of mind to imagine getting away. Let her go."

Stoicism is maintained, panther and Cat perhaps viewing Jaiden's disappearance with Dema as a positive thing, that it means he's entertaining the request to let Delia exercise free will. Eyes watch the worsening environment for some moments before she choose to utter words, turning toward the suddenly ablaze Brian.

But the words are cut off, silence continues, by the sudden journey to land atop this dacha.

A few beats later, words other than those she planned to voice are spoken. "Jasmine," she recommends, "a fight may be necessary, but the Australian may yet return with her. We should allow that chance before attacking."

And back to Brian. "I recommend reading up on Carl Jung," the panther urges, "his works cover situations like this well. Those principles are why I have two images here. Now, while we wait…"

"Have you gotten anywhere with the Unsolid Woman?"

Oh. It's a toy elephant. Dema was actually worried for a while there, expecting to return to find his strange, solitary paradise being trampled by a runaway Carthaginian warbeast. Instead the menace is plush and cuddly. Dema keeps his distance as Jaiden approaches Delia, witnessing the tenderness there. He recalls mention of this man. Lucille spoke of him. The big Russian eases back, to the threshold between kitchen and entrance, giving the pair some space. In another moment, he has disappeared entirely, his presence marked only by his coat, now quite suddenly hanging on a hook by the door.

His voice rumbles through the house, a groaning and creaking in boards and nails. "You are a brute like the creature, dealing in threats and coercion," the man admonishes, disappointment making the dacha's roof shudder under Jasmine, tiles clacking their disapproval, "another bully, stepping upon the sleeping. I will never bow to such tactics. I would slip out of your grasp, like water from a clenched fist. Presence of mind? There is no presence. We are caves, echoing with the clamor of the world around us. Fail to understand this, and you are only a tyrant. Tyrants fall."

The fog is rolling back, slowly, revealing the hazy, insubstantial edges of this dreaming. Jaiden has his lost princess. This place is losing its purpose. Not yet done with his moralizing, however, Dema's voice echoes around Jaiden and Delia, though his words are for the latter. "Do not be like these others. Do not mistake things for themselves, nor yourself for any real thing. Be wise, child. Tread lightly."

The windows shiver and hum like crystal struck with a near-high-C as a last word is cast out towards the phantom, shapeless Hokuto. "Creature. If I find you again, one of us will end the other, or both will die. As long as you are stopped, I will call it victory." Bitter, a little?

Sunlight starts to pour through the cloud cover in sharp rays, evaporating what mist remains.

As though she hasn't seen him in weeks, perhaps she hasn't, Delia stares at Jaiden as though he's some sort of foreigner (which he is). "Jaiden…" she says with something of a surprised tone in her voice, "You're dressed like a cowboy." Thank you Captain Obvious.

The tiny elephant isn't easily shoved aside, insistently nudging at the Australian giant's leg, it seems to be trying to garner its own bit of attention. Its tiny plush head squishing against the man in a rather sickening way only to spring back to its original form once it's backed away.

Glancing down at the animal, Delia points her sword at it and then catches it be one piece of its stuffed body, throwing it toward the door. "Put me down Jaiden, we need to get out." It's not said unkindly, more matter of fact. Once Dema awakens, Jaiden will be lost like she is.

As the elephant goes sailing out the door with a mournful 'fwheeeee' from it's velveteen trunk, Jaiden lowers Delia to the ground. There's the voice he knows. The spirit he grew to love. Yes, Jaiden is dressed like a cowboy but, as far as dreams go, that's rather tame considering what some people dream about. "Yes ma'am. Let's get the hell out of here."

"Sounds super boring, Cat." Brian says as friendly as possible in response to nerd people saying nerd things. The fire is maintained, his hands held out to his sides palm up as if creating a torch. Or torches. The black gaping holes take Cat in for a long moment before a friendly voice pops out. "Had a serial killer grab her and now we're dating. And having sex. She's solid now." Brian adds in just for Cat's brain. He's not having sex with an intangible, invisible woman. Standing on the roof, Brian goes into a crouch, his flame arms nearing the roof.

"God damn. I hate smart people." Brian reports as Dema lets out all his.. confusing shit. "Fucker just call me a cave?" Glowering at the roof, his hands go in front of him facing the roof. And the flames pour out of his hands… and before you know it.

Dropping in through a flame hole in a chorus of clamberig chaos. Brian raises one arm to shield himself from the own debris he created. A few stabilizing steps taken to balance himself. "Hey guys~" He greets, one firehand giving Delia a little wave. "We should probably go now." He pipes happily. Hey look it's an elephant.

Pointing one arm out, his firehand is pointed like a gun and a fount of flame spews out in a cylindral wave to engulf the tiny elephant.

Looking up, he motions for Jasmine. "Got her! Ready to go!"

Ridiculously, Jasmine looks hurt by Dema's words, despite the fact she just threatened him to some sort of eternal memory landscape of their own devising. Tyrant rubs her the wrong way, that much is true, and although her mask hides the way her eyebrows knit in worry, her mouth opens and closes in mute protest. But that doesn't mean she's about to stop Brian — nay, she closes her eyes and with the skill of a pyrokinetic— or just someone who knows burning buildings— she allows the flames still burning merrily at the hole he made in the rooftop to spread across the ceiling within, catch to furniture and drapes.

Got her! Ready to go! Hopefully it's that simple.

"Distract him. Cover me. Be ready. We take what we came for," she tells Cat, before she simply jumps down through the ruined roof in a blur of red hair and flowing white. Upon landing, she turns towards where Delia is, then holds out a hand. Time to run.

Maybe Brian will hear her, maybe not, after he's descended to the interior. Yellow feral eyes roll at his commentary as she replies. "Boring to you, maybe, but if this had really been a fight, without knowledge of Jung you'd be unarmed. Anyway," the feral creature offers, "congrats on solving her trouble. Is she a moaner, or a screamer?" Those words are punctuated by a snicker. "She's a lucky woman, if you get tired…" He can just clone himself and keep going.

After Jasmine's made her entry to the dacha floor, the ebony beast turns toward the apparent source of Dema's voice while debating words. "«Thank you for releasing Delia,»" the sleek animal offers in Russian with that same mildly snarling voice, "«we'll be on our way now.»"

Moralistic admonishments delivered, Dema displays no further desire to speak. Dr. Brennan may be disappointed to find he's given up Delia's ghost, but at the end of the day, Harve still works for the Institute, and the further away from that organization Delia gets, the better. Some hope is held out that she will not betray the strange and stringent principles Dema lives by. The dream begins to dissolve from the outside in, light suffusing the world, saturating it like a heartwarming film, colors bleeding out into their surroundings, blinding brightness chewing away at the edge of the imagined. The dissolution is slow, steady, a final if somewhat dubious courtesy. Time for parties involved to make their exit. Time for everyone to wake up. The world outside is crumbling, too, and is not so easily rebuilt.

As the fire begins to engulf the interior of the house, Delia's eyebrows set into a frown of dismay. Turning toward Jasmine she glances up at the fiery hole and grimaces. She holds up one finger in a just a moment gesture. She jumps from Jaiden's side to grab the greatcoat from its hook and raises her sword at the door. With a strong swipe, she brings the butt end of the hilt down on the latch to break it off. Then with a force stronger than her frail body can manage itself, she shoulders the door, forcing it open.

If everything else in the home gets destroyed, she at least saves the coat.

Once out in the wind, she turns to watch the plush elephant scream outside, still engulfed in flames. Her eyebrow quirks just a little, tweaking in the middle, as the beast careens down the hill toward one of the babbling brooks to extinguish itself. Then her eyes find the door again to watch and wait for the rest to come out. "Where's Hokuto?" she utters, looking around. The phantom can be felt but not seen, much like their host.

"Keeping our asses out of the fire, Delia, far as I can tell." Jaiden follows Delia from the flaming house. He would have gotten the door but it seems Delia has things well in hand.

The dream is breaking down, and it's important for everyone to get back into the right heads from whence they came. Lit by fire and the destruction of Dema's dream, Jasmine moves as Delia does, practically treading in the same steps as she but without the same panic — she has no fear for the fire that she spread through the dream house.

It is, after all, only a dream.

This is something Brian, Jaiden and Cat are all exposed to as the feeling of consciousness begins to fuzzy their periphery, filling up with the light that comes pouring in to break up the detail. It's a bit like falling asleep, in reverse, as their begin to erode their presence from this place and are sucked towards their own bodies as unstoppable as a tide.

But she isn't waiting for anyone. Hokuto brought the dreamers here and Hokuto will take them away again, and Jasmine's focus remains on Delia. As she moves through the door and into the outside, she doesn't have the presence of mind to answer questions about where the other dreamwalker might be. She only snatches onto Delia's hand and it turns out to be as simple as that. Physical contact in a place where physicality is imagined, and Delia is given a direct line towards what counts as home.

They disappear in a manner that feels like falling. But when Delia does, in the end, wake up, there's nothing much left of Jasmine, or Dema, or really any of the journey of swords and spirits and memories, but a fading notion that something just happened… but wasn't as important as what she opens her eyes to.

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