Description: Coming down off her very first public fighting appearance, Aya Hazuki returns home to Kyoto for some R&R: rest and reflection. Some impulse drives her to visit Ginkaku-ji, the Silver Pavillion, where she has a chance encounter with another first-time SNFer. But is it their first encounter? If that's so, why do both seem to have some lingering feelings of familiarity...?
Considering the picture-perfect peace of the place where she currently stands, one wouldn't guess the turbulent thoughts drifting through Aya Hazuki's heart. She currently stands on the shore of the pond at Ginkaku-ji, the Silver Pavillion, which means that she's returned home to Kyoto after her excursion to Metro City for this... "Saturday Night Fights" business. And oh, what a business it was. For the young swordswoman it was her entry into 'professional fighting,' and a tiny part of her wishes she'd... eased herself in more. That entire situation was a bit much to take for a first outing.
She can't necessarily be displeased with how she did, given the circumstances: interference from a brawling, drunken crowd made things... complicated, after all. And it's not as if they set her up with a straw dummy to cut down; Makoto was a trained combatant in her own right with prodigious strength. That it ended in a draw is no real shame, though a couple bits of Aya are still vaguely tender after that finishing blow. 'Going out with a bang' is the understatement of the year.
No, the complication in her thinking has nothing to do with the outcomes and everything to do with the motivations. It was an impulse, nothing more... or so she thinks, and so she told that curious American she met in Southtown. Her study of the sword might be one of the only things that's brought Aya anything approaching joy in her life, but it was never about 'combat'. It was about... well, art. About the perfect line of technique, about the ephemeral grace of a kata excuted with the perfection of a master. It was about the fusing of blade and wielder into a single weapon with a single purpose and will.
When the dreams started was when she started to wonder if that's all there was.
And that was the first domino: the dreams, the sudden spiritual awareness. A vast, murky world unlike the bright and orderly routine of her existence to date. But it's like Plato's story of the cave; once you've stepped outside and seen what causes the reflections, you can't go back to where you were before.
But what does it all MEAN?
As she sits -- dressed rather more sensibly than her typical combat 'costume' in black slacks and a dark red camisole worn under a somewhat too-large white button down left open to mid-chest -- she stares out over the pond at the temple, gathering her thoughts. Yet for whatever reason, the finely lacquered saya with her katana in it is leaning against the bench she's sitting on. Apparently it doesn't leave her side for long.
Honoka Kawamoto was... well, for one thing, a false name. An identity borne out of the simple need for a name that sounded like a perfectly nondescript Japanese name.
And this visit... is borne out of the simple need to get out of Southtown for a bit. Her passions have been running a bit too hot, and the young woman has lost her focus. The young woman almost lost herself entirely in the moment... something she promised herself she wouldn't do, out of the operational necessity to make her plan -work-.
But something's been driving her mad. An itch she can't scratch, a sneeze that remains ever on the periphery without forcing itself out. And it all began with a postcard she happened to see from another cast member's personal belongings. A postcard of this... foul... place.
No records show that Ginkaku-ji has burned in the past six hundred years or so. So why does Honoka have such a vivid memory of this place erupting into flame? Why does she remember standing on the wall she's staring at now, looking at the elevated pagoda behind her... flames reflecting in her eyes as she watched it burn?
Honoka turns away from the wall, lips creased in a frown as she looks back to the kannon. And beyond... the flash of red... a gaijin with a sword... kneeling before a reflective pond.
The image is overwhelming. A hand clasps to her forehead as she staggers, visibly. Why... why is this imagery so overpowering?
Calm, she chides herself. Drawing in long, measured breaths, she resumes her full height, and releases the yo-yo from her wrist. Like her breathing, the yo-yo undergoes long, measured transits from her hand... as the young performer finds herself walking towards the mysterious swordswoman. Not to talk... but for a closer look, as she pretends to be interested in the temple complex. Admittedly, it's hard to look interested in ANYTHING while slinging a yo-yo, but.
The relative silence and peacefulness of this place *should* be putting Aya at ease. That's technically what these sort of meditative spaces are good for, right? Free of earthly distractions, they allow you to turn your gaze inward, examine your thoughts, focus totally on the self. Sadly, Aya is discovering that this isn't actually the case. Sitting here doing nothing, watching a building, does nothing to help in her internal search for answers. It just makes her feel restless, stifled. Like she should be DOING something.
And so she does.
Standing, the Hazuki heir glances down and to her left. On the one hand, there's a small black bag. Inside it are ink, paper, and brush -- calligraphy tools. Next to it, her katana. There's a moment of indecision while she considers, but in truth, the answer was never in doubt. Within a moment or two she's tying the sageo cord to her belt loops, improvising, until blade -- looking out of place with her 'modern' outfit -- hangs loosely at her side. Were she less conflicted and inwardly-focused right now, she'd almost certainly note Honoka's arrival. As it is, though, she has a lot on her mind, and her focus is split between the iron discipline required of battoujutsu and the need to keep her thoughts in order.
This means that Honoka gets a pretty good show as the brown-haired swordswoman demonstrates the sword-drawing art. It might be interesting to watch, at the very least -- treading a line between stillness and action, each sudden, lightspeed-like draw of the blade flashing a silver arc in the air, a fraction of a moment before the blade is slowly sliding into place once more.
Honoka realizes that if she's going to look the part of a tourist, she should probably bring a camera. Her phone would do, of course, but... maybe it's a bit late for that now.
At this point, though, it seems that the need to -not- stare is overridden by what seems like a compulsion -to- stare. Honoka knows the feeling well, the need to "show off" from time to time. The rush of having people moved by her actions is irresistable at times -- in part, that's =how= she'd formed the compulsion of slinging her yo-yo about whenever she's stressed. Pleasing people just... has the effect of displacing her stress.
So maybe, she rationalizes, this master of the iai wants attention too? Honoka is more than welcome to give her that. The yo-yo snaps back to her palm, and is replaced onto her wrist, as she finds a section of fencing to lean against while she watches Aya step through the motions. Temptation would compel her to find an apple to throw into the path of the drawn blade, but... she's all out of apples.
While Aya is distracted by thoughts, Honoka is an unfelt presence. With a sword in her hand, this is a much different story. Even before all this... *this* started happening, when she enterted a mental space of focus on her art, there was some calm center in Aya's heart that extended her awareness, suddenly made even the tiniest sensory disruption around her noticable. In truth, the probability is much greater than her latent facility with chi manifested itself during those periods, expanding her awareness subconsciously in ways she didn't understand.
Either way: Honoka cannot watch unnoticed for long. The blade makes one last bright, whistling arc through the air, and this time as it comes back to the saya to be sheathed, Aya half-turns, zeroing in on the circus performer's location and giving her a curious glance with a raised eyebrow. "I hope," she says evenly, "that you enjoyed the show?"
Her voice is a throaty alto, almost a mismatch for body, and while her tone is serious, she doesn't seem particularly upset or annoyed at someone watching her. If anything, the upward intonation at the end of her statement suggests it's a question, rather than a statement.
Honoka isn't... sure what she expects by entering conversation here. Closure? What kind of closure can one possibly by discussing what could charitably be described as a /dream/ with a complete stranger? Marginally better than moping about and staring at things, hoping for the answers to just resolve themselves out of thin air, Honoka supposes.
"... Yes," answers Honoka, She hadn't immediately realized she was being spoken to. The moves were so quick and abrupt that she had assumed the turn would be equally quick -- hence her hesitation. But, like Aya, she's... not particularly embarassed at being spotted, not upset, or annoyed. Just... present.
Proper decorum demands a compliment, though, and Honoka adds, "You have a very powerful stance. I'm not much for swords, myself, but even if I were I would be terrified to face you in combat." She smiles faintly, bowing her head in belated greeting.
And once more, in apology. "I am sorry for watching without announcing my presence. I did not wish to disturb you."
At that response, Aya grins, closing her eyes for a moment and tilting her head down, not exactly... looking AWAY from Honoka but not making eye contact either. "That's awful complimentary modesty for someone you've only seen do some practice forms," Aya responds breezily. She doesn't mean to be rude, but it's clear that this is an individual who values directness over the niceties of hyper-polite society. One eye -- the eye facing Honoka -- opens, and the green-eyed woman's lips curl into the ghost of a wry smile. "I mean, it's nice and all, but I don't think I want to be associated with inciting terror. But in the interest of not being totally graceless: it's nice of you to say so."
Now Aya turns, ready to take in Honoka's countenance for reals this time. Perhaps out of habit, the young swordswoman stands like a ronin, torso tilted to one side, hand gripping the place where her scabbard cord meets the saya itself. It's a casual grip -- no intent to try and cut a stranger in half -- but it'd be very easy to interpret it as, well... an aggressive move. For her part, Aya observes the young woman standing before her, taking in the clothing, the streaked hair, the--
...girl walking away with her mother and father, all in traditional Ainu garb...
It's a dead giveaway, but she can't help it: Aya sucks a quick breath in through her teeth and brings her free hand up to her temples, masking her face for a moment. What WAS that just now? "You..."
There's a pause, and then the Hazuki heir abandons whatever she was going to say, shaking her head and pulling her hand away. "Don't apologize. This is a public place. To be honest you probably have some sort of social obligation to carefully watch anyone who sits on the grounds of a Zen shrine and then starts doing forms with a real blade."
/ Don't want to be associated with inciting terror? Then perhaps you shouldn't worry about how clumsy you will look carrying a sword in public, and just leave it at home... /
It's a passing thought of Honoka's. But with a pointed glance to the sword, perhaps the sentiment can be communicated anyway... well, it would be easier if Aya were actually looking her way. Besides... it's too crude, too unrefined to tell a complete stranger how to carry their weapons without alarming the public. Unless, like Satsuki, they come right out and ask.
Suffice to say, Honoka hasn't /said/ anything, just tilted her head to one side as Aya has a... sudden migraine attack. Or some such. Honoka draws in her breath as well, her heartrate beginning to accelerate. She -should- know the significance of this place. Of that swordswoman.
On talk of obligations, Honoka simply nods her head. Smiles a bit more broadly. "Well, yes, that was the general idea. I... had just been passing through."
Honoka turns, as if to continue on her sightseeing, but stops for a moment. "... Something about you does seem familiar, though. Were you on... TV recently?"
Well. There's nothing to pull you out of a confusing reverie like reading body language. Honoka doesn't say it aloud, and so the *particulars* of her thoughts are obfuscated from Aya, but... let's just say even if she can't read the article, the headline is pretty clear. It doesn't bother her, really; having known this girl for perhaps only a handful of minutes at best, Aya isn't going to get hung up on one incredibly momentary unkind expression. "Worried I'm some historical otaku bravo who's watched too many period dramas?" she asks, crossing her arms over her chest, waiting for a response with a raised eyebrow. At least she's in good spirits?
Most of that is on the surface, however. There IS something hauntingly familiar about this young woman, yet at the same time, something... very different. She had a similar feeling meeting the American, Howard Rust, but in that instance there wasn't this feeling of... what IS it called? And thus, the problems with this situation become apparent. Aya doesn't HAVE words for these feelings, these thoughts. They're already so distant and hazy that even acknowledging them at all is a feat.
Breathing out, the Hazuki heir shakes her head. "As a matter of fact: yes, only recently. The... interesting start to a professional fighting career. Or maybe it's more of a hobby?" She shrugs, glancing off to the side, over the still waters of the pond, watching a ripple form and spread outwards as a single red leaf drops gently onto the surface. "Either way, I humbly request you don't judge me by whatever the editing interns at FightTube think is worth putting on the internet."
Honoka's been very patiently watching. Perhaps a bit too long, if Aya's response is any indication.
"... That... was -quite- the logical leap, right there! I... I can assure you, that wasn't even on the Top Ten list of things that worried me right now."
Honoka takes another step closer, maintaining a more decidedly /cheerful/ expression now as it seems her suspicion is... suspected? She is definitely curious to learn more about this young woman and the interesting set of (false?) memories she'd had about this place. "... I've already made my assessment of your fighting skills, if you recall," she offers with a light shrug. "I have to admit, I'm a bit leery of the... organizers myself." Stepping into a range that makes conversation less of a shouting match, Honoka offers a curtsy. "I have been called Godzilla there. It's a pleasure to meet you, miss. But you may call me Honoka."
"That's good news," Aya says, raising her eyebrow once more. "Since that's a bit far-fetched even by my standards." Internally, she's not entirely sure WHY she's got this... urge to tease this girl, somewhat, but she does have it. Aya's hardly a "stiff" but she's not usually quite so glib and informal. Of course if you ask the household servants she lives with, more than a few would say they've noticed a considerable, if gradual, change in their employer's demeanor: notes of breezy, dry amusement in her tone that had been absent since well before her parents died and she inherited the estate.
Then Honoka indicates what dire humiliation SHE suffered at the hands of the SNF organizers, and the tumblers (maybe the Tumblrs? Who knows what fighting fans are like) suddenly click into position. "Ah, yes. You were fighting the avatar of capitalism, right?" Is there really any other way to refer to Lightning Spangles, shill for "Cruggs" among other things. Aya felt bad about her bout because its martial purity was sullied by a gang war; she felt genuine pity for Honoka because her fight turned into... well, a circus.
"She really put me in mind of the way the anime I watched when I was little portrayed Americans," Aya says, distracted by memories -- her own, this time. "Blond gunslingers with bad accents."
Honoka doesn't know why she's being teased either. Gosh! So mean to complete strangers! And when she'd even held her tongue. She knows nothing of any recent changes to the personality of the young swordswoman, though -- just what words come out of her mouth.
Though she may be learning more as the conversation progresses. "... Yes. I believe there is a special place in hell for people who break the fourth wall and then pitch angry fits for others to remain perfectly in character as their foils." She says this with enough of a smile to ensure that it's taken as a joke, and not just bitterness, though. "That said, I tried to have fun with it as best I could. Destroying Metro City was a nice touch." Okay, her smile just kicked up to high beams, at that.
Honoka seems more than a bit lost about all these references of anime and otaku. Is that what the sisam watched to waste their time while robbing the Ainu of their hard-earned trophies? Honoka smiles as if she gets Aya's reference, but she really, really doesn't.
"... Americans are cute. And direct, I've found. Which is rewarding in its own way." Honoka shrugs faintly. "But I have not spoken to enough to form any particularly enduring opinions one way or the other. Have you had the pleasure of fighting Miss Spangles, then?"
"Unlike the Japanese," Aya says with a smile, "who are rarely so." But then there's Makoto, who... is so direct it hurts, to put it one way. Taking a breath, the... well, Japanese woman walks back toward the bench she was sitting at and busies herself untying the sageo that keeps her scabbard attached to her belt loops. Typically, this would be more snugly fit to the obi of her typical fighting outfit, or the belt of her hakama if she were more traditional. Right now, it's something to do with her hands while she continues having what might be the most bizarre conversation she's had in some time.
"As for fighting her: no, I haven't. In fact, my appearance on... that 'show'... was what you would probably think of as my first public bout." There's something about the way she says that sentence, some tonal inflection, that emphasizes the word 'public,' too.
With the sword unbuckled, she actually has a seat back on the bench, leaning the weapon against it as before and reaching down for the small black bag, which she pulls into her lap before turning to look at Honoka again. "You... really do seem familiar. Have you been fighting long, Honoka-san? My name is Aya, by the by," she adds, realizing she hasn't yet, "of the Hazuki Ittou school. A pleasure."
Honoka notes the time Aya has spent tying the sageo to the belt, and though she is warming up to the young woman, it may still come across as too forward to offer a suggestion. Satsuki probably appreciated it, but Honoka does not get the same sensation from Aya. She'd likely be teased, and that might make her angry, and... that's something she wants to avoid, in her current state -- the reason for a hairline scratch of crimson across her cheek, nearly horizontal and barely visible -- until one gets as close to Honoka as Aya is now, of course.
"... I've done some fighting here and there for our circus... the Twilight Star Circus." She smiles humbly, lowering her eyes. "It is more of the stage-fighting variety though. This Saturday Night Fight was my first real one, and... well, I believe I did okay." Looking back up, she asks, "Oh, should I call you Hazuki-san, or Aya-san?"
"You can call me whichever suits you," Aya replies primly, opening the clasp on the black bag and reaching inside for the contents, which she carefully begins extracting and then laying on the bench beside her. There's no traditional inkstone, which rather ruins the effect somewhat, but instead a smallish book of thick paper, a brush inside an ink-stained case, and a bottle of rather prosaic black ink. "I live alone in a manor my family has owned for over four hundred years, Honoka-san," she continues, arranging the portable calligraphy set just so, before turning and giving a wan smile to the young circus performer. "If I stood on ceremony, it would mostly be for my own benefit, and that seems like a wasted effort."
As for her descriptions of her own fighting origins? That gets a specaulative 'hmmmm' from Aya, who seems to chew that over carefully in her head. "The circus? Must be an exciting life indeed. Some people might scoff at stage fighting, but I'm not one of them. Any fool can cut with a blade," she adds, nudging her head somewhat in the direction of her own sword. "But having the skill to make it all FEEL realistic without actually doing anyone harm? That's a lot harder. I'm sure your skills are quite formidable indeed."
Whichever suits her, hmm. Well, Aya opted against calling her Godzilla-san, so Honoka settles on: "Aya-san, then," with a warm smile.
And then she learns why Aya really doesn't care to dwell on her family name -- not unlike why Honoka has chosen to forego the names -she- was given. And the smile fades, as her forehead creases in concern: "... I'm sorry to hear that."
She peers down at the calligraphy set. Spending extra time writing for the effect isn't something the performer tends to bother with. She prefers directness, and when glamour and glitz are required, there are people in the circus who can tend to such matters. But that's not to say she isn't appreciative of those who can shape their letters, rather than simply inscribing them onto paper. Honoka eyes the calligraphy set with wonder... but also cataloguing this detail for future knowledge.
"... It's refreshing," Honoka affirms, "to hear you say that. It is not... considered 'real' to perform the same or similar acts every night, despite the bruises and stresses being very real. The show must go on, as they say. But yes... aside from those, very satisfying. We get to see all of Japan this way."
Honoka tries to rewind a moment, to recall the name of the school. Does 'Hazuki Ittou-ryuu' ring any bells? It's of little concern -now-, other than to ascertain exactly how much of a threat Aya may pose in the future. "You must... have practiced for many years. Do you tend to have trouble finding training partners, with a blade as sharp as yours?"
An endless series of bundles of wet straw, wicker and bamboo body-shaped targets, and perhaps most interestingly, the shadowy opponents she conjures for herself in her mind, which always seem to be better than she thought they would be. "I... get by," Aya responds carefully. She hasn't trained with a real live person since her parents passed away. Hazy afternoons as a child barely old enough to life a blade fade into adolescent years spent perfecting the basics... and then suddenly, that too is gone, and she is left with nothing but the art itself to guide her.
Until now, when the dreams, and the changes that came with them, made everything infinitely more complex.
"What is 'real', anyway?" she asks, and the question seems rather too suddenly out of character for her, yet despite that she continues, expression genuinely -- even guilelessly -- curious. "It's all about perception. Bruises might not make something 'real', but the lack of killing intent behind a thrown knife doesn't make it 'fake', either. An interesting question, don't you... think..."
A brief pause, and then Aya briefly rubs her temples with the tips of her fingers, looking away from Honoka. "I'm sorry. Even for a mannerless woman like myself, that seems like it went a bit too far." The weird thing about this phrasing, of course, is the phrase 'seems like'... almost as if those words weren't her intention, or indeed even her FAULT, yet she rather clearly spoke them.
Honoka occasionally makes mistakes. She's just as quick to apologize if she's caught in one, but sometimes she says she wrong thing for the right reason.
And in this case, her line of questioning seems to be fairly on the mark -- by her reckoning, anyway. A positive response to her question would likely have given more details about the extensive training regimen to which this hypothetical person had undertaken. The quiet response from the loquacious Aya further explains the earlier idea of growing up in total isolation -- but more importantly, suggests that Aya's formidable skill was honed to razor sharpness without the benefit of a teacher. Or companions.
But then... a sudden uncharacteristic round of navel-gazing presents itself, one for which Aya herself apologizes. Honoka simply quirks an eyebrow at the slight shift in presentation, but when Aya apologizes, Honoka simply shakes her head. "Not at all. I appreciate your insight."
Each response is mentally filed, for future reference.
"Ginkaku-ji, hmm," states Honoka in a rather direct change of subject. It is not as isolated as your family manor seems to be. I... have never been here before, but... is this a place you visit often?"
There's a moment where Aya just stares at the actual shrine in question, the 'Silver Pavillion,' one of a pair in the Kyoto area alongside Kinkaku-ji, the 'Gold Pavillion.' Both are relics of a bygone age that have, despite their actual destruction by fire in at least one case, returns from the ashes like the phoenix. They are a symbol of endurance, and that's a thing that people seem to find some comfort in. There's a moment where she's about to take the calligraphy brush in hand as she answers, and then just as abruptly she starts packing it back up again. All that effort to set things out and... before she's painted a single stroke, back in the bag they go.
"No," she admits, to Honoka's question. And it's the truth: she DOESN'T come here very often. If she needs a quiet reflection spot, there are plenty of them on her own property at home that don't require travel or the potential of being bothered by strangers. But today she woke up and... just felt like coming here. "I usually don't. But, now that I think about it..."
Her calligraphy bag packed up, she grabs it and the sword and stands up, looking out over the pavillion. Afternoon has given way to the stirrings of evening, and though the sun still sits in a dusky sky, there is also the ghost of the moon visible, ready to rule the night once the sun sets.
"There are three families from this part of Japan, all of which were once related, bound in brotherhood as their founders were students of the Yagyu Shinkage style of swordsmanship. The Hazuki were one of those clans, you see. There were two others: the Shirayama and the Tsukitomi." She waves a hand at the shrine. "From what I'm told, the Tsukitomi clan had a special connection to this shrine. Maybe it's because the color silver and the Moon have some sort of connection? But that family and their style, Musou Tenkei, died out generations ago. Now there's none of them left."
She's carrying her things. She just told a very strange story out of nowhere. And for whatever reason, Aya looks like she very much *doesn't want to be here anymore*.
Honoka offers a look of resignation as Aya starts packing up her calligraphy set -- the one which Honoka had hoped to see more of. It looks like the chances of her finding out what this is all about just dropped precipitously.
She listens, powerless to keep Aya rooted to her spot as she goes through every motion of packing up her things and leaving. Did Honoka press too hard? Hew too close to the answers she'd desired? This... should excite her, being so close to the answers she seeks, but it oddly perturbs her. The inability to even know the correct question to ask perturbs the Ainu woman greatly.
And then the... odd history lesson is given.
The names do not ring a bell... at first. But Aya's growing unease does make the last of the three names rather... significant.
"I... I've upset you, and I'm sorry. Please accept my apology, Aya-san."
Attempting a small degree of levity, she adds, "I do fear for the day the fight organizers pit us against one another, but I'm sure you'll be a most worthy adversary." And with a bow... she appears to be all set to wander off to another part of the temple complex.
The name 'Tsukitomi' is filed for future reference.
Log created on 15:43:11 11/11/2014 by Aya, and last modified on 10:45:34 11/12/2014.