The Appearance of Yatagarasu



Scene Title The Appearance of Yatagarasu
Synopsis Emily retreats from the crowds at Yamagato Industries' charity gala in search of some alone time.
Date April 7, 2018

Yamagato Fellowship Center

Even on a night alight with festivities, there are areas of the Yamagato Fellowship Center that remain dark. Take, for instance, the rotating exhibit space currently dedicated to a collection titled Birds in the Art of Japan.

Sconces lit a pale blue are designed to illuminate corners and tripping hazards during the hours that the museum is meant to be closed to the public, making it impossible for anyone who wanders away from the celebrations to properly appreciate the pieces showcased here.

And that’s fine. No one who has tucked themselves away in this corner of the building is here for the art. Still, Emily can make out the less intricate details: the ink-painted screens showing a flock of mynah birds scattered in flight; ceramics and lacquerware and contemporary textiles behind glass; and enormous panels twelve feet high, each featuring a different bird of prey native to the Japanese Archipelago.

There’s taxidermy, too, more modern pieces mounted on intricate sculptures fashioned from all different kinds of junkyard salvage. Lifeless eyes glitter black in the dark and flatly meet the blonde’s gaze when she happens upon them.

Art isn't why Emily came to the party, and isn't why she ran away from it either. Currently, she's cursing herself for having even asked to come, feeling foolish in her gown, and out of place in the crowd. Too many people, all too pushy, all wanting to tear down each other's walls.

Yeah. Count her out.

She had to turn aside a polite 'Do Not Enter' sign in order to squeeze through the doorway, muttering to herself "Or not. I'm a sign, not a cop." while wheeling past it and into the blessedly darkened space. As the sound of the party fades to a dull roar with each foot rolled further into the exhibit, Emily finally rests a hand on one wheel to slow herself to a halt. Head tilted back, she takes in a deep breath held for only a moment before being let out into a slow sigh.

Rolling her neck and shoulders to try and relieve some of the tension that's gathered there from the stress of the evening (without much success), she finally pauses take a look around the exhibit she's sought shelter in. Figuring it wouldn't do her any favors if she accidentally knocked a display over, she absently works the aviators off her face, pushing the temples of them closed by folding them down against her clavicle.

She's mildly interested in the art surrounding her, and examines the general area with a slow rotating glance. When she finally gets to turning to her right, the beady eyes of a formerly-live crow are what feel like inches from her own, and she starts in surprise, leaning away. A small light focused on a placard below the apparent taxidermy highlights it as a representation of the Yata-Garasu. 'The three-legged crow represents, and inhabits the Sun. In Japanese mythology, the appearance of Yatagarasu is construed as evidence of the will of Heaven or divine intervention in human affairs. According to the Kojiki, Yatagarasu appeared as a guide for the first emperor Jimmu to guide him through the mountains and establish his country.'

"Figures. Representative of the sun," Emily mutters derisively at the crow. In the dimmed light, she can squint and see a third leg settled down on its perch. Maybe it's not an ACTUAL stuffed crow after all.

Letting out another more exasperated sigh, she rolls further into the hall, closer to a sliver of moonlight coming through a skylight in the middle of the ceiling. Letting the chair come to a slow halt on its own while she pulls out her phone from its wedged position between her thigh and the side of the chair, she brings back up the game applications, scrolling quickly before settling on a quick game of Snake to occupy and calm her mind. Just forget about those creeps. she tries to encourage herself. No need to call Julie and bail just yet. Catch your breath, maybe try again in a minute … you were the one that wanted to get out for a bit, remember?

Hopefully here of all places, she'll get some of the peace and quiet she's so desperately looking for.

“I’m not one for parties either,” says a voice.

So much for peace and quiet. On the bright side, the voice belongs another woman and is soft-spoken, easy on Emily’s ears; it sounds like a violin just slightly out of tune, or how crushed velvet fraying at its edges looks.

The speaker, who steps out from behind Yatagarasu a moment later, could be mistaken for a crow herself. A long black gown made of a silk-like material conforms to her body’s shape, making it difficult for Emily to distinguish her from the other shadows in the room. She wears her dark hair twisted up into an ornate bun at the nape of her neck in a style more complicated than her dress or even the bird-shaped broach that’s meant to bring the ensemble together.

Fortunately, her skin is pale and reflects the moon seeping in through the skylight. There’s no hiding anymore now that she’s made her presence known.

Only after the short line eats up a single dot on her screen does she hear the voice. It doesn't startle her — she's already too amped to be taken off guard again so easily. She does turn back, one hand parting from the screen of her phone to grab a wheel and turn her to better face the voice. It's hard to be annoyed someone else is already haunting her new hiding spot, at least with the excuse they've put up. The comment seemed more earnest than creepy … at least a first glance.

Thumbing the side of her phone to kill the screen, her brow arches as she looks the other woman over. "I'm not much for company right now in general. Do you mind?" she asks, even as she's thinking to herself that the woman looks far more suited for the bird-themed room than she is herself. Emily picks up the aviators from her lap, threading one temple over the bustline of her gown to secure them to her person a bit better.

The woman tips a glance down to the aviators — and by extension her warped reflection in them. “No,” she admits, “but I suppose I was hoping for some conversation to go along with my wine.”

The more she speaks, the clearer it becomes that she isn’t American, although English is plainly her first language. She moves around the sculpture, pausing to reach up and skim fingertips along the crow’s outstretched wing. Her other hand cradles the glass of wine to which she’s referring, already drunk down to the dregs. A smudge of lipstick soils its rim.

“That’s difficult,” she adds, “seeing as I’m not supposed to be speaking with you at all.”

Emily's first and only assumption is that the comment is referring to the fact that she just requested to be left alone. Indirectly, anyway. It's interesting to her that the woman apparently does as she pleases and directly interferes with the art, but for the moment, Emily doesn't question that maybe she and this stranger can just share their space in silence, at least for a minute longer. "Well… if you stick around long enough, maybe I'll change my mind." she relents, thumbing the screen of her phone back on.

The intake of the simple game, and the small stick of a 'snake' devouring its prey provides a simple objective to be won over quickly. Turning, circling, snacking. It whirrs about the screen at all too fast a speed, the game apparently set to a high difficulty level. As a result, she doesn't last more than a minute before the winding snake is stuck in a corner with itself, crashing into a knot … or whatever is presumed to happen when you run into either a wall or yourself. Her grasp around the phone almost seems to hesitate, thumb quivering before deciding to settle on returning to the main menu rather than playing again right away.

Apparently content with herself for the moment, Emily looks back up at the woman, screen still on in her lap. "Emily." she greets shortly, hardly in the mood for conversation. Still, being entirely rude isn't the goal here. "You?" She settles back in her chair, ankles crossing together beneath the length of her grey gown.

“Eileen,” sounds very British, although not as poshly as she’s dressed. Emily’s father has passed onto her the attention to detail that landed him his job with the Central Intelligence Agency in the first place. She can tell, even in the dark, that Eileen was not born into wealth.

She probably can’t even claim any.

As she moves closer, Emily smells the stale cigarette smoke beneath the bruised florals of her perfume. Any grace that she possesses is practiced; none of this comes naturally, even if she’s very good at pretending.


“Let me guess,” she says, “your friend— the little blonde. She thought it would be good for you to get out of the house?” Her tone is careful, one of shared commiseration rather than teasing.

As the woman steps further into the light, Emily quickly realizes that she's not the ONLY person here tonight who probably doesn't have a 'right' to be. She doesn't carry herself like one of the star-studded individuals who were worthy of shouts for interviews as they came down the red carpet. Not the confidence of someone famous who embraces it, nor the grudging acknowledgement of someone thrust into the limelight despite themselves. No — the woman looks just as out of place as Emily herself does. She fills out the gown and wears it well, but ultimately, the both of them aren't people to whom finery is a second skin.

It's something that drives an interest, as she finds that to be a shared trait between them. Getting into the event at all meant knowing someone who was someone, so immediately she wonders just how Eileen's ended up here at all. The casual question is a potential clue into it, so despite herself, Emily finds herself leaning into the conversation. She lets out a sigh and breaks eye contact, looking back down at her lap in the interim, though her eyes aren't focused on her phone. "Yeah, something like that." she says, the breath of laughter accompanied by a bitter edge.

Her gaze trails up again, almost sheepishly meeting Eileen's. "What's your excuse?" she asks genially enough, gesturing loosely at her with her phone. The screen winks off, the idle timer preserving the battery. In the dark, though she's acting friendly enough, her eyes are sharp as she studies the woman's reaction to the question.

Eileen polishes off what little wine is left at the bottom of her glass with the expediency of someone who doesn’t actually care for its taste, and sinks down onto the edge of an exhibit opposite Emily, disregarding the sign that politely requests her not to in both English and Japanese.

“Welcome to my gilded cage,” she answers, and gestures to the room with a sweep of her arm, empty wine glass still held aloft. “I’m not allowed to socialize with Mr. Egami’s guests, but he felt badly enough about excluding me from the celebrations that he gave me a shitty bottle of red and permission to freely wander around the rest of his museum.”

Judging from her candor, the last of the wine in her glass might also have been the last of the shitty bottle. Eileen sniffs, once, and looks down at the sediment clinging to the glass’ elegantly-curved sides. “Asshole.”

Emily's not particularly bad at hiding her reaction to things normally, but Eileen's explanation of her position causes her to turn her head slightly to one side as she bites back a kneejerk desire to pass a particularly strong comment. She doesn't know what exactly she expected out of the response, but she wasn't expecting one that bothered her so badly. She sits in silence, resisting the urge to immediately suggest that they both go out and rejoin the party. 'Fuck the gilded cage' is a rallying cry that Emily would more than happily get behind.

She's smart enough to know that wouldn't be wise, probably for either of them. She didn't pay enough attention to EXACTLY who was throwing the event, by name, but Eileen referred to the museum around them as Mr. Egami's museum directly. That's the sort of influential asshole Emily probably didn't want to cross this evening.

Short of suggesting full rebellion, all she can do is let out an eventual exasperated sigh as she looks at Eileen from her position of power and captivity both. "That fucking sucks, man." she expresses boldly, her nose wrinkled. "Sure, I don't want to talk with any of those assholes, but at least I've got the choice to turn them down."

And that about does it for the cautious part of the questioning. The faucet's been turned, and there's curiosity running rampant now. Emily nods at Eileen almost conspiratorally, determined to learn more about her and converse with her openly especially now that she knows it'll piss some rich control freak off. "Where are you from? You don't sound like you're from here, but you're not Japanese, either." Her eyes narrow as the stream of consciousness spills out and she asks before she can stop herself, "Why're you under his thumb?"


Humour of the sardonic variety flavours Eileen’s answer as she reaches behind her ear and produces a cigarette. It appears as though she has nothing to light it with until she goes fishing down the front of her gown and hooks a lighter between her fingers.

“Originally?” she asks. “London. Not the one you see on postcards with perfectly manicured gardens and dazzling bridges and clock towers lit up at sunset. The one where everything is covered in a greasy film of rainwater and the air smells like kebabs and cigarettes.”

She sounds like she prefers the latter. Maybe because she herself is a smoker.

Flame springs from the end of her lighter and flickers gold in the cradle of her palm.

“You’re American, though,” she says, lips pinched around the filter of her now-smoldering cigarette. “Can’t say I can place your accent either, but I’ll try. East Coast? Virginia?”

The description of her London is brief, but telling. One that confirms again, this time out loud, that she'd not really have a place at the party … but that's just fine with Emily. It cements their current status as birds of a feather. There's some incredulity in the girl's gaze as she watches the cigarette light up, already thinking ahead to the fact there's not exactly ashtrays just laying around here. Not to mention, smoking so close to the stuffed bird … who knew what it was actually made out of, and how it might react to an unexpectedly adventurous bit of ash touching its feathers? Talk about political suicide. Eileen must really despise being here, and despise her keeper. Or it's the wine, she counters herself in silence.

Since the woman's taking her time with a vice of her own, Emily slowly rotates her phone about in her hands, thumb and middle finger pinching it as she spins it using her ring finger. She doesn't go as far as to turn the screen back on, at least. "American, yes. I grew up here, actually." After a split second pause, she jumps almost on top of herself to clarify, "New York, that is." As soon as she's done speaking though, the comfortable silence comes back as she decides that's enough being said. With a flick of her ring finger, the phone goes spinning again in a lazy circle.

“It must be difficult,” Eileen murmurs around the end of a drag from her cigarette, “to see your childhood home destroyed and rebuilt all in the span of your lifetime.”

Smoke leaks from her nostrils and parted lips as she speaks, dissolving harmlessly into the cool, climate-controlled air. She’s unconcerned with its effect on the artwork around them, whether flammable or not. A flash of movement and colour catches Emily’s attention before the Englishwoman has the opportunity to say anything else, accompanied by a thrumming noise that sounds like the world’s smallest motorboat.

A hummingbird that had been, until a moment ago, balancing static and aloft on a wedge of scrap metal zips into view and hovers just a few feet to Emily’s right.

Emily doesn't know what to say for a moment after the comment is passed, her grip around her phone shifting to cause it to stop spinning as she considers it. Yeah, it had been difficult to feel like the entire world was ending, to see the streets torn apart by strife, and to have come home after the civil war ended to see it even more changed than before. It had been dysphoric to return to New York expecting to see anything remotely familiar, and to find either ruins half-reclaimed by nature, or entirely new structures. But she wasn't exactly sure she wanted to share all of that with Eileen. She was still almost a near-perfect stranger.

"Well, it's—" she starts to explain before sensing more than seeing the hummingbird go past her at first. The sound of it quivering in the air causes her to turn and see the bird floating next to her after her eyes adjust to the dark. The bright bird floating peacefully leaves all previous thought suspended, the usual ice in her eyes softening for a moment.

"I didn't realize this was a live exhibit," she says in an awed whisper.

The hummingbird drops down onto the arm of Emily’s wheelchair and perches there, pausing to rest its wings and survey its surroundings with precise, microscopic movements that are only noticeable up close. Its sides flutter with rapid little breaths, and the bejeweled feathers on its breast quiver in tandem with the inaudible drum of its heart — which can’t be much larger than a grain of rice.

“Tonight is just full of surprises,” is Eileen’s mild observation. She shifts in her seat on the edge of the exhibit and crosses one leg over the other, stiletto dangling off her higher heel.

She looks around for a place to tap the ash off the tip of her cigarette. Deciding, perhaps, that she’s tested enough of Egami’s boundaries this evening, she opts to use her wine glass rather than surreptitiously dispose of it somewhere less appropriate.

“I bet he’ll let you touch him.”

The bird having such an interest in her is pleasant, but causes some caution to rise from Emily. She doesn't look like a flower, or anything that should be attracting it to her. She's pale, draped in black and gray, and hasn't entered a stage of rebellion involving dyed hair. It leads her to question if the bird is somehow mechanical instead of a living creature, but it's not something she wastes time worrying about.

"You think?" she asks in a whisper, eyes on the hummingbird as it cocks its head and adjusts its perch on the armrest of the wheelchair. Emily would love to take a photo of it to show Julie, or to have as probably one positive keepsake of the evening, but she knows it's much too dark for that to work, and who knows how long the hummingbird will remain on its perch anyway? She cautiously shifts her phone from her right to her left in silence, movements slow as to not startle the creature, assuming it's a live one and not some high-tech trick.

Oh, come on. It won't hurt you. Emily chides herself in silence, head tilting as she slowly reaches out with two fingers to attempt to brush the side of the bird's head as it meets its back, admiring the sheen of its plumage. The green shimmer coming off of it is almost surreal, and captivates her attention.

The hummingbird certainly feels real.

It leans into the crook of Emily’s finger and lids it eyes halfway shut, warming itself against the heat of her body. Rainwater glances against the skylight over their heads.

Whether or not it’s a part of the exhibit, it’s certainly happier to be inside than it would be weathering the— well, weather.

“Never had the chance to see the old New York,” Eileen says, “only in pictures, before the bomb, before the Midtown Man.” Before Sylar.

As the little bird leans into her finger, Emily's eyes soften again even more than before. Was this normal? This was not normal. How did this bird get here? She could feel its little heart fluttering inside its chest ias it nuzzled itself into her.

"I'd like to tell you you didn't miss much, but things definitely looked better around here before then. You know, when all the buildings were still standing." she says with a little more volume to her voice than before. The bird doesn't seem put off by the human presence, and she's decided it's… probably a real bird. Her hand turns, moving to pet three fingers along the hummingbird's back. She almost wants to try picking it up and holding it, but doubts the little bird's trust for humans goes THAT far.

"Though for what it's worth, it's like how you explained London. There's what was on screen, and what it was like in reality." she carefully tries to turn on the screen of her phone to access the camera, the minimum-brightness screen turned away from the bird as it comes to life and she fumbles with it to try and get a good shot of the bird from her lap. "We're averaging about the same smells, if not better ones now, though…" she says absently, her attention mostly on the other half of what she's multi-tasking about.

The hummingbird balks at its reflection in the phone’s case as it’s turned away and lets out a warbly trill of alarm, but does not burst from its perch on Emily’s wheelchair; instead, it puffs out its feathers, doubling its size in a casual display of bravado.

“My mum used to keep these old VHS cassettes,” Eileen says, “the ones that come out of the sleeve blank, so you can record shows off the television.” She takes another drag from her cigarette, smiling at either the memory or Emily’s interaction with the hummingbird. “I remember we had Breakfast at Tiffany’s, commercials for Cadbury’s and toothpaste and all. I used to think your city was so glamorous, like Audrey Hepburn was glamorous.”

A shutter click emits once, twice, three times as Emily snaps as many photos of the brave little bird as she can. She doesn't even bother checking to see how poorly they look due to the darkened room they're in, she just feels better that she'll have something to look back on later to remember the crazy event by. The screen goes dark again as she looks back to Eileen with … an actual smile on her face. She even chuckles as Eileen recalls the videos of New York.

"VHS tapes… God, I can't remember the last time I saw a VHS player." Emily sighs, looking down at the bird with that same smile still plastered to her face. "Disney movies made up the majority of the ones at home. I didn't even know you could record with blank tapes." Granted, she was born right when DVDs took the limelight.

She looks up at Eileen, asking while still stroking the bird's back, "So what did you want to see most? Was it Central Park? Empire State? Times Square?"

“Central Park,” Eileen affirms. “Miniature sailboats floating on the pond. All things that are green. I’ve a soft spot for wild-seeming places. Once, my husband even took me—”

She stops herself there, fond expression clouding over into something darker and more difficult to read. Her brows pull together. “Never mind my husband,” she says, then, a little too hard, a little too abrupt, although she’s mindful not to direct any of this bite at her companion.

The hummingbird must sense it, though, because Emily feels it stiffen under her caressing fingers.

Eileen taps another dime’s worth of ash into the wine glass. “What do you do to keep busy, Emily?”

Emily is smiling right along still until Eileen cuts herself short. Husband? she wonders to herself, and then there's a near-imperceptible twitch to her brow in the dark. Oh. Bet she's not seen him in ages, what with this situation she's in. That's… got to suck.

Normally, she's not one for answering questions so freely, but Eileen is clearly the one with the greater burden needing distracted from at the moment. She makes an exception.

Emily holds up her phone lazily to indicate it's what she focuses on. "Mostly? Keep my head down. Try to keep from going crazy by finding little things to while away the time. The blackouts make sure that I have as miserable a time as possible in getting that opportunity. The lack of infrastructure makes it impossible to stay regularly connected to the outside world."

As nice as it felt to be back where she grew up, acknowledging the insufferable lack of utilities out loud makes her momentarily regret not moving to Kansas City more than usual. Third-World New York City wasn't what she had hoped to come home to, after all.

She's careful as she lowers her hand back down to her lap to try and not disturb the hummingbird too much, trying to make sure she doesn't accidentally apply too much pressure on it. "Aside from that … pick up books, whenever they come by. Writing, when there's not the aforementioned electricity problem preventing it." Paper was out of the question of course.

Fair is fair, even if she knows returning the question could ruffle some feathers. "You?"

“Mostly,” Eileen says, “I consult.”

Which is probably a euphemism for something else, as most words like consult often are. The hummingbird trills again, more mellow, although still in protest. It’s followed by a demure peep: a polite request that Emily immediately resume her pets, if she would be so kind.

“But I won’t be closed off here forever,” Eileen continues, diplomatic in her choice of words. She rises from her seat on the exhibit’s edge, taking her wine glass and all evidence of her cigarette along with. She snubs it out against the base of the stem. “If you decide you want to try your hand at something new, I hope you’ll come and find me again. There’s always a job for prideful young women who are sharper than they choose to let on.”

The response to the implied question was just as vague as she had expected, though she almost wished Eileen would have just evaded answering entirely. Instead of focusing on her unease at the cloud of mystery that is Eileen, whose shroud just became more apparent than before, Emily instead focuses down on the small bird that contentedly rests by her. Unable to resist any longer, she crosses her left hand over her lap to encourage the hummingbird to climb onto her index finger so she can hold it more in front of her while she strokes the bird's back, scratching behind its head with a single finger afterward.

Her brow crumples in on itself as the bird tilts its head into the scratch. Even a stoic, grumpy young person isn't immune forever to the power of cute animals making cute noises. She lets out a short sigh, pained by how rare and adorable an experience getting to hold it has been.

Eileen seems like she's ready to wander off, though. At the end of the cigarette, and at the end of her shitty wine bottle … it's not a surprise. Before she really knows what she's saying, she says to the woman as she rises, "Likewise, Eileen." at least in reference to the part of the comment about seeing each other again. She's not sure what to make of the rest of her offer.

"It's not like there's New York coffee shops on every corner like there used to be … but it'd be nice to see you again. Talk more." she says earnestly enough, a polite edge to her voice. She really tries, at least. "You've been the most pleasant company I've had this whole evening." Not at all a lie, and Emily IS looking for new acquaintances. That was the whole point of the night.

She looks up from the bird to direct her attention at Eileen, making a concerted effort to remember her face. The more likely chances are that they might never meet again, though, so she's only got one chance to say this: "I hope you rise above the politics."

Gilded cages are still cages. Bullshit that should be escaped from, and never looked back from. At least, that's what she wants to add, but she sticks with the more polite vague well-wish as that seems to be the tone conversation has suddenly taken. Emily's attention falls suddenly back to the bird on her hand, wondering what should be done with it if they're both about to part ways. "Do you know where he came from, so I can put him back?"

Coaxed onto Emily’s finger, the hummingbird hooks its little feet into the soft skin of her knuckle and shifts its weight to maintain its purchase there as she lifts it off the wheelchair and into the open space above her lap. It isn’t long before its eyes have squinted the rest of the way shut and its breathing slows into a more regular, protracted rhythm.

It’s asleep.

“I think he’s exactly where he wants to be,” Eileen confides, maybe a little slyly. Maybe.

She drops the spent cigarette into the bottom of the wine glass. “You know,” she says, “some people believe that hummingbirds are messengers between the spiritual and physical worlds. Tell him the next time you want to talk. He’ll make sure your words find their way back to me.”

If she’s playing a trick, it’s a very good one; her instructions are painfully sincere. So is: “Good night, Miss Epstein.”

By the time it occurs to Emily that she never shared her last name with her, Eileen’s silhouette has already disappeared behind the sculpture of Yatagarasu, consumed by the same shadows that produced her apparition in the first place.

Emily's sure that she hasn't drank anything herself, but in rolling forward to see just what happened to Eileen … she really is gone. Vanished, into thin air. The bird, however, is not, and she looks back to it with more suspicion than before. It's really a shame. It's not the bird's fault, after all.

"Sorry, little guy." she whispers, gently wrapping her fingers around his thorax to remove him from his perch. "As crazy as this is aside, I don't think they'll just let me back out there with a bird attached to me." She continues to apologize directly to the bird, having no idea why she feels compelled to. Probably out of that same misguided sense of wanting him to know it's not his fault.

The sleeping bird left beneath Yatagarasu's sculpture, Emily rotates and rolls away, for once ready to head back into the light after how surreal that experience just was. She unhooks her aviators from her gown and replaces them over her face in preparation for it, rolling her way past the 'Do Not Enter' sign again and back toward the sound of the crowds.

Silently, swiftly, and only seconds after … a blur of green darts through the doorway after her.

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