Hitomi - The Invincible Dragon.

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Description: A possible new disciple arrives at the Kyokugen dojo. The wounds are still raw, scars of battle yet to heal and theres a tremendous sense of unease and tension in the air.

To say that the Kyokugen Dojo has seen better days is a statement that rings true on a number of levels. The grass to one side of the concrete lot is gouged deep with tire tracks, leading up to a large charred circle of barren earth, where a burnt out husk of a vehicle sits, blackened and forlorn. The wooden deck that surrounds the dojo, and in fact, some sections of its walls, are completely demolished. Smashed. Splintered. Cracked. Collapsed. Rubble is strewn about the exterior of the building.

More than that, however, there seems to be a pall hanging over the dojo. It's too still and lifeless. It seems lachrymose. Desolate. The shift in the air even feels tangible, as if the heat of the summer day is more oppressive here, in this place. More humid and bleak, while the sun doesn't seem to be shining as bright, hidden behind a cloud that lingers just over this solitary structure.

But, a stir of life does appear. Ryo Sakazaki moves out the front door, striding out onto the deck of the building itself, or what little remains of it. He is the primary instructor here, after all, in light of frequent absences on the part of his father Takuma, who is known for going on extended training missions in solitude, or, as he approaches his golden years, frequent issues with his health.

Ryo looks worse off than the dojo itself. His face is bruised and swollen, with one brow looking as if it had been opened up and had a baseball inserted under the flesh, obstructing his eye. He doesn't wear a shirt, but bloodstained bandages wrap nearly his entire torso, one shoulder, and around his arm. From the waist down, he wears an old, beat up looking pair of orange gi pants, held to his hips by virtue of a black obi. The ends of each leg are tattered and stained brown from years of accumulated dirt and dust that even washing them, at this point, does little to restore them. His feet are bare, despite the debris scattered around.

But there are no students. The dojo was closed, for now. Even when it does reopen, will the Kyokugen school have many students return? Will any? It is difficult to say. With Ryo being so utterly defeated and ineffectual against the Syndicate monster Duke, it is certainly going to scare a number of his students off. They'll be worried that Syndicate enforcers might target them and their families, and confidence in Ryo's ability to protect them is minimal at best. Morale. That was the real casualty of Ryo's defeat. Morale's specter is the miasma of gloom that hangs over the dojo now.

Fingertips curling around the edge of the streetlight pole Hitomi draws herself into eyeshot. The top of her head peeking around the column while the rest of her craned over body is near plainly in view. A strange tension felt across her shoulders and buried deep within her chest, if felt like she was cheating somehow. Combined with factors like; there being a worrisome atmosphere and fragile quiet hanging over the area.

She picked up on a mood, but not the messages assosciated with. The disrepair and damage somehow didn't faze her. She was unfathomably curious, and a little cautious and worried but that wasn't stopping her.

This half-Japanese girl and foreigner often running errands around the Rindoukan dojo. That seldom mentioned school which had fallen into obscurity and disrepair since the Master of the school passed years back. Even in its prime it would have been orders of magnitude smaller than the sheer size and scale of the Kyokugenryu dojo.

Looking left, right and scanning around for more discernible signs of trouble, she fails to spot anything threatening enough to discourage her approach. A short white tank top and scuffed and worn stonewashed jeans a college aged girl comes jogging up the central path towards the dojo. Thumbs looped through the straps of a school backpack jauntily and generically moving while openly expressing interest and all of her attention directed toward seeing some of the damage, like the vehicle and debris up close.

She was not one to really gossip or keep up with news, Hitomi hadn't heard anything about an attack. It looked like a car had had an accident or perhaps there had been a police chase.

The girl diverts around debris or carefully hops over it more out of a desire to not step on or break anything further. By the time she makes it to the foot of the front stairs her run peters abruptly and she release her hold on her backpack straps to let her arms swing freely.

"Good afternoon! Pardon my intrusi--Uwhoa. You're hurt!"

Hitomi would have to look up to Ryo even on level ground. From down here the swelling over his eye didn't look quite so bad and yet it and the bandages on his torso is enough to set her into a momentary and ineffectual panic mode.

Think! For swelling it called for a cool compress to be applied. Hitomi abruptly veers away at a run, already swinging her bag off her shoulder and rummaging around for some kind of cloth, searching for an exterior faucet she turns the water on for a few brief seconds until it runs cooler and soaks the cloth, wringing it out and then catching just a few more drops and comes running right back. An entirely apologetic and sincere look on her face she proffers the cloth upwards.

"Please take and use this."

Ryo, of course, spots the movement before his focus settles on the approaching girl. His head raises, and he... carefully... leans against a nearby pillar, watching her draw closer up the path to the dojo, one gunmetal eye fixed upon her. There is something vaguely familiar to her, but he cannot quite put his finger on it. Still, why would a young girl be coming up to a place like this right now? Shouldn't she be more concerned about her own safety?!

Maybe she's a brave and adventurous sort. A potential new disciple!

"..." He starts to open his cracked and swollen lips to speak, but she's already running off to the spigot. Ryo just furrows his brows, which creates a dull, throbbing pain in the swollen one that covers his eye, but he watches after her. By the time that she's finished and returning, Ryo's wearing a grin. Reaching down, he takes up the offered damp rag. He hoists it up and bows his head, giving a small, "Domo" before he lays it on the top of his head, pushing his wild blonde locks down against his scalp, but also cooling his forehead. It is a comfort, if not necessarily the one she had been expecting to deliver, perhaps.

"Uh... So..." Ryo asks then, looking over her from head to toe, and then to her bag, and then back to her. One can practically see the gears grinding behind his eyes as he tries to process what exactly is her purpose for being here. With a snap, he stands up straight, expanding his chest, and clapping his hands against the outside of his thighs. His expression, with what little of his face is not too swollen to move, anyway, becomes stern and earnest as he gives a boisterous:

"Welcome to Kyokugenryu Karate's headquarters and home dojo! I am Sakazaki Ryo, Kyokugen's very own Invincible Dragon and primary instructor! Under my care, one will learn such amazing martial skills such as Bare-handed bottleneck slicing! The world famous Zan Retsu Ken attack! The lgendary Haoh Sho Ko Ken! With such deadly and efficient karate skills at your disposal, you will be able to protect yourself from city burglars! Mob Dealers! Crime Lords! Unscrupulous and aggressive bill collectors! And many more!"

He snaps forward at the waist into a deep, fully 90 degree angled bow, his eyes falling closed and his posture rigid and formal. "Please accept our humble school to teach you the Art of Fighting! There has never been a better time to join! We are currently offering discounted subscriptions. Twenty-five percent off!"

As he stands back up, Ryo points to a paper taped up to the pillar just off the side of the steps. It features a serviceable, but clearly amateur drawing of Ryo himself, along with a young girl about Hitomi's age, a king of shady looking fellow with a slicked back ponytail rocking the chain and turtleneck look, and a karateka with a red face and long, bulbous nose. It looks like it was crudely put together with text in MS Paint, as well, to advertise pretty much the same stuff that Ryo had said to her.

Hitomi looks on and upwards, peeking out from under her fringe with eyes a perfect clear springtime sky blue, clear of mind and purpose with a smile warmer than the gentle sun. It's required to tilt her head back to maintain direct eye contact. A touch dumbfounded she pauses in reaching up as if to take back the cloth, a flutter and momentary delay while Ryo settles it atop his head. She links and interlaces fingers behind her back. Hitomi swallows her words, her unasked for advice and aid and stills her hands to prevent the obvious tell showing. She had intended the cool and pressure to be applied to reduce the swelling. Sometimes, it was important to just smile and let things lie.

Pride and face meant a lot.

As the large instructor begins his spiel about Kyokugen where she might learn such famed Kyokugen attacks as - She felt a little bad she didn't know the first one. It was 'World Famous' and she hadn't encountered mention of it yet. But the world of Karate was much broader and filled with interesting characters than she had ever imagined. Wait! That last one just now... she HAD heard of 'Haoh Sho Ko Ken' somewhere, it sounded incredibly familiar, but not as if she'd picked up that knowledge while wandering locally or as a famed technique people had mentioned. Somebody had been screaming that out as they threw a BIG fireball at her... who was it?

There is a heavy and wet sounding thwap!

Hitomi's vision goes sudden and abruptly dark, her face stinging ever so slightly there is also the sensation of dampness, her nose clogging and mouth covered mid panicked gasp. Lifting her own hand to her face she encounters a veil of damp cloth. Lifting it with the back of her hand as if saluting she stares at Ryo blank faced as if she has not yet processed how to react until he has returned to standing.

Her eyes drift from Ryo in the indicated direction. The sign plastered to the pillar did depict four figures, one a poignant and timely reminder. Yuri! The young karateka that she'd faced in her debut match was top and centremost. One of the others really closely resembled either Ken Masters or the Instructor in front of her. Truly, Hitomi thought the artwork was actually pretty good, she couldn't draw well to save her life. But she still couldn't be absolutely certain that wasn't Ken Masters.

The half-Japanese girl, still outwardly blank faced turns back to looking at Ryo. Gently and carefully lifting the fabric off her head she clutches it between both her hands, a tremor running through her body as she tries vainly to stifle and subdue it. Giggling through her nose, snorting adorably the dam bursts into flat out uncontrollable laughter. A fair sweet sound, constant and lengthy as there were endless amounts of funny things occurring to her in this moment.

Why did the poster say 'present this ad' for twenty five percent off when it was present at the door? Why was that advertisement at the door when it was so far from the street? Only people already at the stairs could possibly see it. The fact she already knew someone on the poster and the fact the cloth had flown into her face form the top of Ryo's head.

What tension she felt evaporated in an instant when she finally had something to laugh about. She didn't have any of the answers. Perhaps that was a good sign since this was a school.

Luckily, Hitomi would not see the way he pats his head when he realizes that he's flung the cloth from his scalp by bowing. Perhaps even more lucky, he doesn't notice that it smacks her in the face. He just quickly puts his hand back at his side, regaining his rigid, bowed posture as if there had never been any interruption.

And then she starts to giggle. Ryo looks from her, and then to the poster, and then back to her. A bemused look overwhelms his bruised and distorted features, as he tries to figure out what was so funny. But, in the end, he's pretty much lost on it, and all he can do is start to laugh himself. Laughter is infectious, after all.

And she has a pretty laugh. Other than the snorting. The snorting was just icing on the cake. The rest, though, actually makes him feel his face turning warm as the color sets in.

"Ah ha... uh... sorry... I'm not really sure why we're laughing right now!" He says, as he steps down off of the half-shattered deck and onto the earth in front of her. His one good eye opens, peering down into her face, searching for a hint as to her... well, her anything. Her intent. Her laughter. Who was this strange girl who had appeared on his doorstep at a time like this, anyway?

"So... uh... what should I call you, Miss? If you are interested in learning Kyokugen, I should definitely know your name! And please! Come on inside. If you are hungry, we have plenty of food. My father loves to cook, perhaps more than he loves karate, which is saying quite a bit. He's famous in the fighting world for his barbecue beef dishes and his wheat noodles! We can eat while we go over the terms of becoming a student here at the Kyokugen Dojo!" he implores, while reaching out one hand, making an unspoken offer to help her with her bag.

"My apologies!! My name is Hitomi."

Offering no family name or form of address she provides little opportunity for formalities. Her lighter brown hair and blue eyes were the most obvious markers she were a foreigner or only half-Japanese. Her mannerisms and openness are decidedly and demonstrably more Western, her clothes casual and rugged but they were form fitted and contouring to every curve, shirt exposing her navel. Wide grounded stance, feet flat and good posture bit the way she swings her arms about energetically and moves without looking in a given direction... hazardous, Someone used to operating in an environment where they had a lot of personal space to move and express themselves.

"I am Interested! But I'm not sure how much the full price is before the twenty-five percent discount applies."

A imperceptibly small lie.

It was not her original intent in coming here to enrol; there was a vague sense of unease in the pit of her stomach as she switched tack to concern with how much something such as enrolment at a famed martial arts school might cost. For an actual college student this was the kind of thing of super top-notch import. How great or little was that discount?

Blinking at the offered hand her eyes wander over it. Hard calluses and very minor scars, those were the hands of someone who had been practicing karate much more seriously than she had. His fingers were broader and longer compared to her own, his fingernails trimmed short and knuckles a little knobbly and built up from years of training.

Hitomi lays the cloth in her own hands down in Ryo's own with both her own. Of course, it had fallen when he'd bowed and she had already leant it to him. It would probably be better if she freshened the cloth up but it would ruin the flow for a moment to go suddenly go running off again.

Now free of the cloth she returns a bow of equal magnitude and formality. The same style and posture with her hands at her sides.

"I Hope I didn't seem rude or cause offense. ...And I could most definitely eat."

The bag clunks onto the back of her head with the severity of her bow, worn over one shoulder she has to right herself just to prevent the still open bag spilling its contents at their feet.

"If you can pardon my intrusion."

"Hitomi... Ah! I like that name!" Ryo says with a nod of his head. "You must be born of Japanese and Western parents, much as I am. My mother was American, and my father Japanese. I get my eyes and hair from my mother, though I certainly have my father's features. My sister on the other hand looks more Japanese than Western. So what characters do you use to spell your name? I am betting the character for wisdom and the character for beauty, right?"

Of course, most Japanese people would actually find her casual form of dress to be flippant and uncouth, the way they cling to her form and expose her midriff. Ryo, on the other hand, doesn't even seem to notice. He has enough exposure to American culture to not be hung up by the super conservatism that is a defining trait of the Japanese way of life.

"The typical monthly fee is 12,000 Yen, so with the discount, it would only be 9,000 yen a month! With further discounts available based on dedication and service to the school and to the community." Ryo responds to the question of cost. The cost is neither high, nor low, running just over $100 in USD, and just over 90 Euros. Cheaper schools tend to run for half that price, but they are certainly a matter of you getting what you pay for. Sadly, most schools that tend to run more expensive than that are either belt factory schools for the children of the wealthy, or con men taking advantage of the unknowing victim who has a true and earnest interest in the martial arts. Some, of course, are the types that churn out Olympic athletes, and other top notch fighters, and Kyokugen's reputation, especially after having two contestants in the World Warrior Tournament, could place them in that category. Yet, they seem to remain rooted in their humble niche.

He clutches the cloth placed in his hand for a moment, blinking down at it before he realizes that it's not on his head. Another flash of color tinges his cheeks under the layer of thick, coarse stubble, and he places it back on his head as she starts to bow to him.

"Oh, oh no. You have not been of any offense. Please, come inside. We have plenty, and you should take that bag off and ease your burden for awhile! You won't be intruding at all!"

Christ no. So many students lost over the course of the last few days, and Ryo is hungry for all the company he can get. With Robert off galavanting around the world, Yuri... doing Yuri things, and his father being a fly by night kind of guy who takes his retirement as a chance to totally shirk any real responsibility, Ryo is left largely by himself at the dojo. Even Daisy, who had returned, has been largely absent, probably just living her normal girl life, which is good for her. She seems like she needs to enjoy herself some.

But, after having been stabbed and sliced open by a monster, just to have a two bit thug come and capitalize on his wounds to injure him further, it is hard for Ryo to keep the dark clouds away. Without students to instruct and relate to, he feels the weight of that loneliness even greater. He's had nothing to do but to stew in those dark thoughts, to feel the burning anger in his chest and to feel helpless in face of his injuries.

So Hitomi has shown up at just the right time. No intrusion at all.

Hitomi smiles as if Ryo were continuing to be funny and flattering her for the sake of being funny. It would be nice if that were true but her name was just one kanji. She could meticulously start drawing it into the air but that'd feel really strange. Instead she turns the single pointing finger she was considering doing so with directly at her eye. 'Hitomi' as in 'Eye', not so poetically yet misappropriately named for wisdom or beauty.

"When I was very little, I always practiced writing it in Hiragana because I liked how it started with a smile."

So explained, She showcases a cheery smile. It had felt good to have had something to laugh about for once.

"Really! You're half Japanese also? My father is German. It's where I've lived up until I was allowed to travel abroad and come to Japan."

That was something of a relief! Not only did they share something in common but she now knew his hair was naturally blonde and not bleached in delinquent fashion. She wouldn't have to practice any of the helpful advice mother had given concerning 'boys like that' into practice.

Her awareness turns inward at mention of prices, eyes roaming and glancing up at nothing as she mentally pulls up a copy of her budget. What bills were due this month, was she aware of anything big on the horizon, part of being an adult and taking care of herself were all the responsibilities that came with that. All but counting and tallying it out on her fingers as she factors.

That sounded close to around a third of her weekly wages and tips combined, per month. Waiting tables at the DOAtech building wasn't an incredibly well-paying job but it was malleable enough to work around her studies and availability. An amount that size would strain her budget a little, she wouldn't be saving money anymore. Yet it was affordable, nowhere near as daunting or high priced as she might've worried it might be.

"I'm pretty sure it's within my price range and budget."

Which was a pretty big relief.

"Oh! Eye! Haha I guess that makes sense!" Why does that make sense? It'll be a mystery for the ages. Ryo just nods his head, and looks up as he imagines the hiragana version of it. It does start with a cartoony smile. That makes him chuckle, a deep, rumbling sound from somewhere in the pit of his stomach.

He steps off to the side, motioning to her to step up onto the deck, and before she can go any further, he strides to the door to pull it open for her, still continuing their conversation. "Germany, huh? It's a beautiful country. I was there not so long ago for a tournament. I'd never been there before up until then. Mostly, I tend to stick to Japan, Mexico, America and Brazil. Sometimes I'm drug off to Italy because my best friend has family there, but it's never a very exciting or enjoyable stay. His family are all stuffy business people and if they call him home, it's usually just for business stuff, and we get stuck either in an office building or on his family estate the entire time."

He did notice the gears churning away as she calculated her budget. He knows that look all too well. It's one he wears all too often, himself, as the student body of the dojo tends to fluctuate wildly with every passing moment. Feast or famine, with famine tending to win the battle more often than not. Especially when you have people always coming to the dojo and tearing it up just to fight him.

"If it is too much, we can surely work something out. There is always some work around here to be done, so, in your spare time, you could come do some chores and we can knock off more of the price. I'll make sure to even train you while we work. Kyokugen, after all, is not just about the physical aspect of fighting. It's an all encompassing philosophy for how to live one's life."

The inside of the dojo, at least, looks to have fared better than the outside. It's a very traditional looking space, with a hardwood, open floor. A shrine rests against the center of one wall, bearing trophies, a sword stand, a family picture of Takuma, Ronnet, Ryo and Yuri, and a red faced Tengu mask. Flags of Japan and America hang on either side, with Mexico and Brazil flags opposite them on the other wall. All around are scrolls and wall hangings, framed certifications, and faded old flyers and posters for fights past, covering nearly every inch of free wall space. There is also, of course, all the equipment one would expect of a dojo. Padded shields and mats, punching bags and speedbags and a rack full of padded sparring gear.

"So, Hitomi, have you ever studied martial arts before?"

Hrm, already at the point he was travelling the world to promote the dojo and compete, odds were there were some serious accomplishments just going off the size of some of the trophies. What trophies she had ever won in tournaments were the kind she kept in her bedroom on a shelf... And he's lost her. As soon as the door started creaking open she was leaning aside and peeking in trying to see as much as humanly possible.

Hitomi brightens; she was no stranger to hard work and chores. There was more hard work and repair work to do at the Rindoukan dojo than there was time to train. Gawping at nearly everything in the room in turn, all that was so different to what she was used to. The walls here were adorned with so many things! Back home the walls were pristine but bare, naked concrete cinderblock walls with gleaming wooden pillars and support beams overhead a hardwood floor polished to a mirror shine.

Canted forward at the waist, and leaning around and turning her whole body this and that way to get better line of sight. he doesn't have time to read or taken in any of the meaning of most of these trophies and accomplishments so much as try and develop a sense for just how different a karate school generations in the making differed from her own family dojo. The differences were too extreme. Even if some of the equipment was older or showed some wear and tear it was still lovingly and well maintained. There was an unfathomable amount of money, time and hard work invested here.

"Since I was about four. My Papa started teaching me when I was small. His father taught him, but he still had to travel to Japan a few times and study with some other schools and Masters."
In a lot of ways. Having an underdeveloped form of karate meant they were free to develop upon it, filling in the gaps. Grandfather passed down his values and wishes to his son, her father added to the style and in time she would be expected to do so as well. They had no grand overarching motive and way of life prescribed by the art. Karate was a part of their lives, it brought this family together and made it happy.

She leaves her connection to a family school a mere implication.

"I'm also a student at the Rindoukan dojo."

The only one at the moment.

Quite a feat given that the pre-requisite for being accepted as a student at that school was you had to defeat Makoto Kato to join.

Ryo lets her wander, taking in the sights of the school. If she were going to study and train here, she should become acquainted with it, after all. If there is some sort of pride in the way she examines the trophies and various testaments to the accomplishments of the Kyokugen school, Ryo stays surprisingly humble about it. You'll not hear him brag about past glories, or being the first to champion the original King of Fighter's tournament, back when it was a single fighter affair. No. Ryo has never been that type of guy. He still thinks of himself, in many ways, as still a student.

"Since you were four? Got an early start! That's great! I started early, too. A little earlier than you, but, my father... Karate is his life. He founded this school and the principles it is built upon from nothing. He had no dedicated formal training beyond the most basic of precepts of karate do. But he was determined to find the secrets of karate by testing them in true combat. It was during that time that he developed his own style of extreme unarmed combat, and the thinking that really sets Kyokugen apart from other schools. It's a school about living one's life to always overcome their own limitations. Endless growth. Always pushing yourself in everything that you do to the extreme."

Ryo puts on a faint smile that looks somewhat nostalgic, and he looks to that picture of himself as a child, with his family. It was the only picture they had of them together, as their mother died shortly thereafter in a tragic car accident. From that point on, Takuma had left, and Ryo and Yuri had been left to their own devices.

"Rindoukan. I haven't yet had the chance to test that school, but I have heard that it is a hard hitting school. The master, though... Didn't he pass away some time ago? Was his daughter able to complete full transmission of the art from her father before he passed?"

There is no accusation in that question. It was not a pointed one. If anything, Ryo sounds truly concerned and hopeful that the answer will be positive. Martial Arts are his entire life, after all, for good or ill, and to think of one that had such promise and seemingly similar outlooks to Kyokugen actually would truly hurt him on some sympathetic level. As for the requirements to join, he hadn't heard of such practices.

"Mostly, I don't get to keep up with most of the "inside" news among the world of martial artists and their schools. I'm too busy with trying to keep up with the tournament circuits so that we can keep the Kyokugen dojo going strong, and spread it across the world. I cannot rest until the Kyokugen way of life has spread to every corner of the globe. I believe that it will help the world to become a better, more harmonious place for all of us."

His eye turns, settling back on to her features in profile as he stands beside her. "So, what about your family style? What can you tell me about that?"

Hitomi still with her arms folded up behind the small of her back, nestled in and seated in a natural shelf, she leans in to zoom in on the photograph the tip of her nose in danger of touching the frame. Look without touching, take great care and be mindful of all your movements when you're close to something valuable.

The trophies and achievements intrigued her, they were records of the accomplishments and power the school was recognized for having. She passes over the inscriptions for a prolonged and in-depth study of the faces in the photograph. She recognized the children; they were not so different from their teenage (Yuri) and adult (Ryo) selves.

Turning back she wheels and comes about with a heel turn, straightening slowly, all smiles that they shared something else in common. Getting a start in karate while young was a solid foundation to build on. Most of the students who attended her own dojo were also younger than her.

Her smile falters and she quirks her head to the side. An inquisitive puppy catching sight of something new and freezing, some emotion had passed across Ryo's face but it was difficult to understand what that was. There was the swelling and they weren't familiar with one another. There was a faint smile but could that have been.. sadness?

In any other moment it wouldn't have bothered her but it was right on the heels of explaining the grand philosophy and life lessons that Kyokugen imparted to its students, its virtue: was Endless growth. What then was the source of that look?

It's almost a relief when he changes tack to discussing the Rindoukan school, she hadn't had time to process what 'endless growth' might even be like but it was a welcome distraction. Animate and moving once again instead of furrowing her brow and starting to give Ryo confused puppy dog eyes. The Rindoukan dojo itself was in better shape, cleaner and with some repairs but most of their 'training' was repetition of fundamentals and strength and endurance training. Hitomi had no idea how complete Makoto's grasp of the style was and had been imparted to her byc there's a discordant record scratch in her head.

Makoto Kato... was a girl?

Well, Hitomi supposed that meant a few of the things she'd seen at the dojo made a little more sense but somehow that had never really cropped up. Makoto being that powerful while still that young a GIRL was even more impressive.

"Ah-hahah-hahaha. I guess I don't know too much about Rindoukan itself rather than training with and liking Makoto-sempai."

She missed the presence of other students though, structure and teaching as well as learning. She listens quietly, takes a moment to comb her hair back. It was finally growing back to a decent length but no let long enough to stay out of her face. A habitual move to comb stray hairs out of her face.

"I have no objections to talking about my family style. But it might take a while. Perhaps over tea?"

She didn't want to inflame his injuries by having him stand and listen to her talk, or put him in a position where her talking to him might be a drain on his temperament or stamina. She wasn't confident she wouldn't bore him or wind up making him hate her. She was an unlikeable girl after all.

Ryo looks a bit surprised when Hitomi mentions that she had trained with Makoto, even calling her sempai. But yet, she doesn't know much about the school itself? That actually concerns Ryo just a bit. Learning the techniques and maneuvers of a karate dojo... or of any fighting style... rarely takes any real talent or skill. It's a matter of repetition that can be achieved in a matter of months. The truth of a style is found in its philosophy that lies behind the art. It is what informs the way that the school makes use of its techniques in the manner and situations in which they do. And key to understanding a school's philosophy is understanding its history and its present form.

He pushes it aside for now, as she offers to speak of her own family's school. That seems very interesting to him, indeed! And as she mentions tea, he remembers that he had offered food, and she had affirmed that she was hungry. Stupid, Ryo! His face turns a deep shade of red, and he nods his head briskly before bowing deep at the waist once more.

"Aha! Forgive me! I had offered to feed you, but I got so caught up in our conversation that it slipped my mind. Please! Make yourself comfortable as I go prepare a meal and some tea!"

Without even waiting, Ryo turns on his heels and limps back through a sliding shoji door that leads deeper into the building, where Ryo makes his actual home. As he dips into the kitchen, he curses himself for his clumsiness. The excitement of having a potential new student... and one who has a background in karate, no less!... has him too excited. Like a dog being given a new rawhide bone to chew on. If it weren't for that encounter with Duke, coming so soon after he had been stabbed and sliced up by the Gear, he wouldn't be so concerned with a single new student. But then again, she is pretty charming. And she has pretty eyes.

Pushing that dangerous line of thinking right out of his head, Ryo warms up some Korean style BBQ kalbi and harami, along with a bowl of a salad made with cabbage, daikon radish, cucumbers and his fathers special house dressing. Of course, there is steamed rice, as well. As he's warming and preparing everything, he's got the tea on and going, so that when he's finished setting out the selection on a tray, the pot is ready to go.

Hitomi watches after the retreating but still broad back, it was covered in bandages and he was limping all the while, that-- after apologizing sincerely when she had reminded him. The plain brown girl left alone in the dojo draws in a shuddering breath, she really was an idiot. She didn't want him to strain himself and instead she'd prompted him going off alone to prepare food.

The hand tightening and clutching the fabric over her heart continues to scrunch and twist up the fabric tangled between her fingers, holding to the pain in her chest.

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean-"

Addressing a now empty space.

Hitomi hesitates, awkwardly moving to her bag, lifting out the heavy denim jacket folded in the same style one might fold a karate gi she unfolds and slips into the jacket, one arm at a time as though punching into it. If she weren't concerned what the instructor here would have thought she might have slapped herself for causing someone else hurt and pain. Armoured in the jacket she lays a hand over her left breast and the jacket itself. There was something precious there, reassuring.

Striding back to the centre of the dojo Hitomi on the spur of the moment; She bows apologetically to the shrine. It wasn't pointless to apologize, not to the school or because she acknowledges herself that she'd done something thoughtlessly and wrong. Be sincere, true to yourself and grow from your mistakes.

When Ryo does return it spurs the German girl into action, Lucky! With a tray in his arms she very clearly has a role to play in setting out a table or something.

"I'm here! Just let me know where to get something to set the tray on."

Brighter and even more energetic than before, the worse she felt the harder she tried. She didn't mind being used as muscle or told to fetch something. It was reassuring to be useful to people. The food itself looked like it was worth the wait and she'd never seen these dishes before. It was a promising opportunity and delightful looking food.

"The presentation is really nice."

That took some artistic skill, enough that she could recognize it and also how difficult it was to not just have a messy plate served up with food. Preparation and presentation took effort.

"Ah! I bet you're the one who made the advertisement!!"

Flattery, but also genuine awe. Some people were blessed with artistic talent, for others it took a lot of time and persistence. There were many different kinds of art.

Ryo about breaks his face as he smiles, thanks to Hitomi's eagerness to be of help. Still, the blonde haired, battered karateka gives a shake of his head, as he carries the tray of food and drink over towards one of the walls, where a series of small squared tables are leaning, propped up and out of the way. A swift but light kick to the back side of it, and one of the tables flips end over end in the air, before landing squarely on its feet.

"Ah thanks, but you're a guest. I cannot ask you to help out. Besides, I can at least do this small thing."

Japanese hospitality. There is rarely anything more insistent. As Ryo descends to his knees on on side of the table, he deposits the tray of food carefully onto the table, and then motions for her to take a seat across from him. "I apologize for the inconvenience. We often eat our meals together here in the dojo with the students, so we don't have a proper dining room. Also, I'm afraid that this is all leftovers. My father, when he cooks, cooks a lot of food. We often have to freeze it so that it doesn't go to waste! I hope that you will find it agreeable."

Her compliment about the setting brings forth another smile, and Ryo reaches up to scratch the back of his head while waving off the praise with his other hand. It might be said to be traditional for the Japanese to act humble in the face of praise, but for Ryo, it is truly a moment where he feels embarrassed. He has always known that he is not a man who is skilled, or talented, or very smart, and is just grateful that he is able to get through the day and accomplish what he can. Especially when he's always surrounded by those who are more skilled (his father), more talented (his best friend) and more intelligent (his sister) than he is. "You are too kind! I just threw the food on the plate. This is the work of an amateur!"

A gracious bow of his head, and Ryo confirms her suspicions about the advertisement, speaking as he pours out a cup of tea for her. As for himself, he has a small bottle of Ramune, branded with the characters of some shounen manga on the label. "Hai. I did make that flyer on my own. I've spent the last few days posting them up all over town. I'm just afraid that they're not eyecatching enough to draw the attention of prospective new students. I've never been great at art. I've mostly worked in construction since I was ten years old. It would appear that fate has left me only good for manual labor."

He looks away momentarily, as if he might feel a ping of shame to that, but he quickly snaps right out of that moment by clapping his hands together loudly, and bowing his head, giving a rough and brisk, "Itadakimasu!!!" before picking up his chopsticks.

Hitomi awkwardly mirrors Ryo's seating. That was an impressive kick, practiced like he was confident in his ability to do exsactly as intended. She's a little more stiff and clumsy as she moves to seat herself in similar fashion to Ryo but much of that was snug fitting heavy denim jeans rather than his loose fitting Gi. Likewise following his declaration it was time to eat with just a short lag.

Nibbling lightly and chewing thoroughly she handles her chopsticks and doesn't drop so much as a grain of rice. Hitomi eats, outwardly grateful and eager to sample everything, despite not actually having much of an appetite right this second. The dishes themselves were still really good, despite how her stomach was betraying her right now. All she could focus on was that this certainly wasn't the full measure of the chef's skill. Being frozen and reheating did a lot to the ingredients in a dish, this taste and texture wasn't representative of the dish at full power and freshness.

A formidable talent.

She focuses on the food itself in order to avoid looking Ryo in the eye. Periodically she does glance up to see which dish he was aiming at so as to minimise the few times is there an awkward clash of chopsticks. This man, he was disarmingly humble and giving, it stung.

She didn't know what to say. His talk of being only good at construction and for the purposes of manual labour ripped her heart right out. Instead she was searching for a way to be diplomatic, no more thoughtless moves and hurting someone who was deserving of care and compassion.

"I was thinking... the posters said that the student should bring it with them to receive the discount!"

Restating the obvious purpose of the fliers. Which she hadn't done, yet was still being offered a discounted rate, another charitable act.

"Uhm, wouldn't people who were interested tear them down, or maybe worry if they damaged one tearing it down they should try and get another one? People who were interested would be tearing down your advertisements. It might be a reason they aren't visible."

As well as others being damaged by weather, hooligans or people who tore down the advertisement on a spur of the moment impulse but later decided against pursuing it. The Prices for enrolling at the famed local school weren't listed.

"Just a thought."

She wanted to bolster his confidence, maybe there was a flaw in posting advertising that wanted to be torn down, but then again maybe it became a very personal memento and souvenir to that applicant. She sat her chopsticks down with a modest click back upon the tray.

"But I did promise to tell you about my family style... which originated here in Japan. It was only part of a style we don't even know the name of. My grandfather served with the Luftwaffe in-. Uhm, German fighter pilots." She thinks to explain the German word in Japanese in case it's unfamiliar or unknown to Ryo. Raising a hand to her breast again and laying the palm flat against her jacket she pinches the inside of the edge with her thumb and lifts it away, turning the inside of jacket towards Ryo, where a ribbon is pinned and from which a tiny black cross adorns. A medal of sorts.

"It's called The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross, Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes."

Rattling off the name with sudden switch in her accent if not her demeanour or expression.

"He served in the second world war, und- sorry! And at one point during the war he was in a terrible accident. The nation of japan was an ally at the time and for the duration of his recovery he was shipped to the closest allied nation. Not speaking a word of Japanese."

Hitomi closes the lapel of her jacket but then also starts shrugging out of it, stripping it off at the end of dinner in order to turn the back of the jacket towards Ryo. An eagle with wings spread in flight, talons gripping a rippling banner with Hitomi's name spelled out in English letters. The massive motif covered most all the back of the entire jacket, embroidered by hand and with obscene amount of practice.

"He returned to the war and eventually home to Germany, but he had a persisting love for Japan and the karate he practiced for his health he also wound up teaching to his youngest son. My papa was the one who travelled back to Japan and sought out the connections my grandfather had mentioned. Learned more form other styles and met the girl who would eventually be my mother."

She lowers the jacket into her lap, hand reassuringly stroking the eagle motif now the medal was also in her lap. She felt kind of naked without it right now.

"That's really all I can tell you, we have a dojo in Offenburg, a college town that's right next to the Black Woods.. kind of like how this place. Karate is very important to my family but it's not a very long history. The only clue we ever had to go on was that its original name might have begun with Uns or Ans. My grandfather only knew recorded much of what he experienced phonetically and much of it is German."

Whatever style it once was is different now since father filled in a lot of the gaps. She learned his style as he taught it to her, she would not likely recognize the origin style. All karate's were like her karate, and she should learn from them.

"I guess -- it doesn't take as long to tell as I worried it might."

As Hitomi speaks about the flyers, Ryo pauses in midbite, chopsticks held in his mouth as his eyes roll upwards in thought. Of course, she was right. He winces at the thought of how foolish he had been, that it had never occurred to him that each flyer getting torn down is an advertisement lost. He should have made those little ribbon thingies people could pull off, good for the discount. With a slap to his forehead, Ryo groans, and then places his chopsticks back down. Placing his hands on his knees, the large, blonde fighter bows his head deeply at Hitomi.

"Thank you for your insight! You are right. I'm so foolish. Hahaha I guess I couldn't even advertise correctly! I should have asked Yuri to do it. Or Robert! But Robert would have us doing television commercials, and I'm afraid I don't have the proper face for that!"

Utterly deflated after having his folly exposed, Ryo lifts his head and puts on a smile again, as Hitomi begins to lay out the history of her family's connection with Karate. The roots going back to her grandfather being in World War II truly intrigues him. There are so many stories of Americans coming to Okinawa, the birthplace of the art, and learning it while there, during and after the war. He had never heard a story that involved those of the Reich learning from their Imperial allies during that period of time.

Of particular interest to him is the medal that she displays. He leans forward over the table that separates them to get a closer look at it. His own father was not even alive during the time of the war, and Japan having been forbidden from having any true, standing military, he had never seen such a medal up close and personal. With something akin to reverence, the Sakazaki heir whispers, "Oh man, that is so cool!"

"And the eagle. Is that your family symbol? That's really cool! We of the Sakazaki family do not have such things. As my father likes to point out, we came from nothing. In fact, our family originally comes from Korea, but my father could never be anything other than Japanese. He changed his Korean given name when he was still young. But, until he founded Kyokugen, we didn't have much of a legacy."

He turns one steely gray-blue eye up to her, once again. "It seems that we both come from families that are relatively new to karate, but have made it into the thing that forms and strengthens our family bonds. I would very much like to see your karate, and visit your family dojo! Perhaps you can show me a few things while you study under us here at Kyokugen!"

Hitomi attempts to stills her face to mask that microsecond long wince. So much for trying to be helpful and avoiding hurting him any further. As he leans in closer to get a better look at the medal she attempts to display it better, also leaning his way and turning her lapel away from her body further. It was a weird situation; she should have just taken the jacket off. Having someone leaning in to stare at your breast didn't feel particularly comfortable but this young man, Ryo couldn't be further removed from a creep like Hei.

Oh, the eagle on the back! She really should take it off to show him. While Ryo calls the medal cool she smiles prettily but starts shucking the jacket in order to show it. The same one was emblazoned across the back of her karate gi though the writing in the banner was different. Her head inclines forward in equal measure lowering her head as fixing her gaze on the eagle in her lap. Fingertips traces some of the embroidery.

"Family Symbol? No, maybe? No! It's more of a personal one. My grandfather lived long enough for me to meet and remember him. The eagle in some of his old photos and mementos, it reminds me of him."

He started this tradition, without the interests he fostered in his youngest son, Hitomi wouldn't ever have been born. Sometimes she also dreamed of flying freely and uninhibited. It was a pleasant dream.

"Is that so? Our families have lots in common then."

She was rather surprised, still saddened and a little numb with how this whole encounter had gone and backfired on her. The implication however that Ryo's father had created and fostered a style to grow as far as Kyokugen had?

"Kyokugen is pretty amazing huh? In just two generations to accomplish and build all this."

She looks around the room to take it all in, not just for emphasizing her point. In fact, most all the amazing karate practitioners she'd met, like Makoto with her power and fundamentals, the charming and strong Bob who'd invented an entirely new style of karate fittingly using his physique and speed to generate even more power. Yuri and Ryo both expanding the reach and media attention of a style their father had created and was already successful and recognized. They were all trailblazing new kinds of karate for different reasons unique to each of them.

"Mhm! Anything I can show you. I look forward to learning from you. Sensei."

"More of a personal symbol, huh? I like that," Ryo says, as he furrows his brows and puts a finger to his chin, scowling in thought. "I should come up with some sort of personal symbol, maybe. Something memorable like that. A dragon would work, I suppose, to play on the name people call me by. Kyokugen's Invincible Dragon!"

He pauses for a moment, and then shakes his head.

"But then, someone like me shouldn't wear something so flashy. I'm just not suited for it. I'd look like a complete fraud. That's something that Robert might get away with, but not me."

He shrugs his broad, bandaged shoulders, giving a slight wince to the pain as they shift, but then offers a nod of his head. "It is good to hold on to things that remind us of those we care about the most. I think it's really cool that you wear that as your symbol to remind you of your grandfather. It's also very cool to honor the elders of your family."

The compliment that follows, for how amazing Kyokugen is does elicit a response from Ryo. Again, he's left smiling, and a hint of color tinges his bruised and lumpy face. If there is one thing he does take pride in, it is Kyokugen. He believes wholeheartedly in the art, and in his own strength because of it. While he might not think of himself as skilled, or smart, or talented, he does know that he is strong, and that he attributes solely to the hard work and dedication he has put into Kyokugen karate.

"Kyokugen is absolutely amazing! You'll be hard pressed to find another style that is as strong, as versatile, or functional as our art! And this dojo isn't the only one we have. We also have a school in America, one in Mexico, and one in Brazil! My goal now is to spread Kyokugen into Europe. I've been considering trying to get into some European based tournaments to try to show it off some."

For a moment, his brows... or brow, as one is swollen so much as to be an immobile lump of waxy, purple flesh, furrow down and he adds, "But with everything that has been going on here at home, I have too much responsibility to take care of here. I shouldn't leave Southtown while gangs are fighting in the streets and innocent people are getting hurt. If I can't use Kyokugen to help my own home, then what point is there to even having this kind of strength, right?"

He shrugs his shoulders again, shaking his head ever so slightly as if to push off that particular thread of conversation. It's not exactly the best topic for a prospective student to listen to, and with his recent setbacks and injuries, there is a deep rooted feeling of failure that has gripped the usually unassailable heart of the Kyokugen fighter. So, instead, he focuses on Hitomi. She had just called him sensei, and that causes a feeling in the pit of his gut that is light and tingly. That actually has him confused. Is it just because of having a new student enroll after having just lost so many?

"Ossu!" he says, bowing his head in a short and abrupt manner. "Let's learn a lot from each other, Hitomi-kun! When you feel up to it, I'd like you to show me some of your family's style. I'd like to know what level of skill you've reached, so that I'm not going to try to make a fool of myself by trying to teach you things you already know. I do a good enough job making a fool of myself pretty much any other time! Traditionally, we at Kyokugen make extensive use of kumite to show and learn, but if you'd feel more comfortal demonstrating kata, that is totally fine!"

"I. That's not tru--cmrm! I ... mean ..to..say."

The girl begins a strongly worded and emphatic objection and suddenly trails off as she trips and stumbles over words, and just what she intended to say to him. A fraud; and that was after admitting 'people' were the ones calling him by such an affectionate and proud sounding title. How was he so ridiculously humble?

Her gaze slides off him. All these things she needed to borrow from to have the courage to keep moving forward. She looks away as if it was only when talk turned to the success of Kyokugen, it's only when speaking about the style itself and its accomplishments he really shows any modicum of pride and self-respect. Taking joy in their accomplishments alongside measurable international spread and looking to open yet further dojo's.

Starting and running their own tournaments?

"That's absolutely amazing. Back home? Most of our students are school children. Most of the classes I took were the under six and under fifteen year olds. There weren't really any tournaments to go to and I mostly had school the next morning."

There were only two people enrolled that she could ever spar with. Her father rarely pulled his punches; Ein had been the only other person she could dig down deep and use absolutely everything she had. Neither defeating him nor really worried she was going to hurt him. She wasn't confident she could hurt him, not because she was weak Hitomi maintained that she was strong. it was because he was superhuman and amazing, with talents that were a gift.

"I think... that would work. There are certainly larger schools that might be able to field teams or send people."

She was fidgeting and toying with the jacket in her lap, plucking gently at seams and toying with the dome buttons, rolling it between her fingertips.

"It's not really a 'way of life' in Germany. A lot of people where I live... believe my family and I are just weird. That we run an odd business and just take it much too seriously."

Foreigner Otaku, her father the imposing and large German karate master and his teenaged daughter who dressed in her western clothes and spoke fluently, the public saw the German in her because that's what they recognized. There was a wall there which would have to be eventually overcome. Changing public perception of what karate was about and making it appealing to more than after school classes and health or self-defence crowds.

"I'll be glad to demonstrate what I know with exhibition of some kata. I don't have much experience with kumite since most of my classes would end in tears if we did things like that."

That and she really didn't want to cause any further harm. It'd be a poor showing if she were too concerned about his injuries to even throw a half-way decent punch. She'd just embarrass herself.


Hitomi slaps both her palms against her cheeks, she needed to focus on the task at hand. She sweeps the jacket up and out of lap, punches her fist through the right sleeve and shrugs into it.

"I'll borrow a bit of floor space."

Striding away a few feet she wants to remain close enough her form can be seen properly without unsettling the table and setting too much. Bowing formally towards ring, then again directed towards Ryo and finally a third directed towards the shrine located inside the building. Please forgive the intrusion of another style and way of doing things.

Bog standard advanced form karateka karate, Hitomi herself is quick on her feet and to strike but the kata have a measured and prescribed pace. She holds to that. Drilled countless times she could be doing it on autopilot but instead considers each movement. Evaluating her performance but also the feel for the dojo, the feel of the floor under her feet and measuring the spacing of her steps such that she shouldn't impede another students space either side of her.

By the time she breaks into moves in her own style it's abundantly clear that all of her strikes are tournament legal. A leaping axe kick, advancing punches and overhead strikes she's almost always aiming at chest, shoulder, gut or occasionally head height. She digs her feet down and widens her stance when throwing something big and the style contains at least a few moves with impractically long windups. A long focusing punch that would be unlikely ever to strike an opponent and when she does the same but draws her fist downwards hunkering, Hitomi spikes almost straight up vertically into the air, revolving gently in mid-air before dropping lightly back to the ground. That kickoff strike though, it's enough to reverberate and carry through the floor, a strong uppercut strike... there's no telling how hard an opponent would've gotten hit or how high they would be sent flying.

A light sheen of sweat beginning to show Hitomi was enjoying the act. Her jeans pulled tight and tugged in weird ways, they felt like a tiny handicap and that only made her try harder, the jeans jacket flapping behind her snapping and slapping against her back or the bare skin of her arms as she moved. It snapped and rasped in a way like a Gi should and conveyed the right responses, a sense for speed and power. How sharp the snap on her punch! How fast her recovery and the speed of her rotation.

It was comforting and fun. When a blow isn't up to the standard she keeps in her head, that she knows she is capable of -- she drills it again. Polishing her movements and refining over the next as though she's forgotten her purpose or Ryo's presence.

Because she had. She was in her groove; focused purposefully it doesn't seem she'll stop anytime soon of her own volition or without reminding.

School children are the bread and butter of a dojo in most places, even today in Japan. Karate has become increasingly less and less popular with the teens and young adults over the last several years. Martial Arts in general have, replaced instead with interests in technology, games, and more and more focus on exams and academia. Karate is often seen as a juvenile pursuit, or an antiquated joke. Should one be interested in Martial Arts for whatever reason, these days, they all want to go to an MMA gym. So when Hitomi reveals that school children are their primary students, Ryo is not surprised. He simply gives a nod of his head, and utters, "School children are the future of karate. If we can instill in them the passion for it early, karate will survive for generations. Your family should look into organizing a junior's competition, with weight classes rather than belts, so that the children can learn to compete early. It'll be a lot of fun for them."

Meanwhile, if he is to take Hitomi's comments about the state of popularity of martial arts in Germany as a standard for Europe, then that certainly will change whatever plans the bruised and battered fighter might have for participating in tournaments there. Perhaps, rather than a karate tournament, Ryo should see about signing on to fight in one of the many MMA stables that come out of western Europe. It'd serve to get his name, and Kyokugen's name, out there in that part of the world with more prominence, while also showing that true, fundamental karate is an equal to MMA. That, in fact, the essence of a martial art is in its philosophy, and not in the individual strikes, grapples and defensive techniques. To exercise mastery of a style, one incorporates things learned from personal experience, and that all true masters of Martial Arts mix and match their styles to suit themselves. True Mixed Martial Arts.

Ryo was thinking too deeply, and nothing good ever comes of Ryo thinking too deeply. Sometimes, it even hurts his head. Like now. Thankfully, he's snapped out of it when Hitomi slaps her cheeks. The eye that isn't swollen shut flutters rapidly as he looks at her and gives a nod of his head to accept that she can use the floor space. As she strides out, the Kyokugen Dragon slides both himself, and the table they had just been dining at, back, out of the way and against the wall. He rests back against the wall, letting his head lean back against it, relaxing as she starts to demonstrate her kata. At first, it's suitable enough. He understands well that kata is a rote demonstration, its timing is predictable and not really reflective of true ability, but more of demonstrating awareness and form. It's all very mundane, but he can tell she has knowledge, skill and most importantly, muscle memory. Most of her strikes are delivered in a way that conforms well with the Kyokugen style, as well. When executed in a real, true scenario, she should be able to make use of her entire body's strength in order to get the most out of each of those front kicks, and each of those straight punches. Nevermind that most of them are delivered at body level.

"That's good... Very good," Ryo encourages. "Strikes to the torso are not fancy or flashy, but they wear down your opponent's stamina and resolve. It robs them of their strength. You target the legs to weaken their foundation and disable their mobility. You target the trunk to cripple their power and their endurance. You target the head for a killing blow."

For Ryo, giving such explanations is second nature, as rote as performing a kata. Such is the life of a dojo instructor. However, he soon falls silent as Hitomi seems to find herself, and begins to let loose. That uppercut has him smiling, in spite of the pain of a sore face. It's a good start for her to work with learning the dreaded Kyokugen Koho uppercut. He could teach her how to increase the speed of her powerful straight punch, as well. Turn it from a simple punch into a Tenchi Haoh Ken. But so far, he hasn't seen a sign of any mastery over her ki. Perhaps her family style is solely focused on the physical and external. That might be a discipline she'll benefit from.

In the end, though, as Hitomi's true spirit starts to escape and she loses herself to simply flowing with her form, Ryo's own analytical thoughts as a dojo instructor trail off. He's left watching as a pure spectator, completely rapt. It's an infectious thing, that simple process of turning oneself over to the elation of indulging, of finding your groove and simply riding the wave to wherever it takes you. It has him leaning up, off the wall and leaning forward, with his legs folded up, and his hands covering his knees. Slowly, his lips start to pull upwards at the corners, forming dimples in his cheeks as a closed smile takes root and doesn't relent. The sounds of her jacket are like a beat, and they instill within him a sense of the force of her blows, adding weight and force to the passion she displays. The sweat on her brow, and the look in her eyes draws him in. Even when she does misstep or simply delivers a sloppy technique, the earnesty with which she takes it in stride and keeps going, it all bleeds in to Ryo. He feels his heart racing in his chest, the breath quickening in his lungs, and the blood rushing through his veins. His fingers are digging in on the hardness of his kneecaps, pressing so tightly that the tips have blanched the same shade of white as polished bone.

You ever see that guy who gets way too into watching something on television? The sort of guy who shadow boxes when watching a boxing match? Or who leans to the side when watching the racers go around the curve of the track? That is Ryo in this moment.

Warmed up, just a hint of embarrassment at how she was performing gradually fades away as her focus shifts. She could do better! She can distantly hear and acknowledge the voice of the instructor, dimly aware that she agreed with what was being said she responds with an enthusiastic affirmative.


The Rindoukan karate approach was to commit, utterly. Both fierce and fearlessly at any moment!! Hitomi rolls her shoulder forward into the swing, leaning into a heavy straight at the same time her head bobs up to keep trained sight of the phantom opponent. Makoto had drilled this lesson so deeply into her own training regimen such they could strike thusly with a ridge hand, to better punish a fighter who thought they had him-No... her! Outmatched or at disadvantage because of her youth and size.

Brisk lunging steps, every thrust and strike carries her forward, lunging and darting in the direction of her intended target. An overhead chop, fast step-in and punch to the gut, then a straight vertical uppercut into the underside of the chin. Hitomi's breathing was laboured, she was gasping for oxygen, feeling a little faint and embarrassing sense of triumph as she actually visualized that series of blows just now landing. The splintering crash of an opponent vanishing upwards through the Rindoukan dojo's rooftop was indelibly imprinted in her mind. It was no wonder the dojo was in such dire need of repair, Makoto was a harsh as both a teacher and a protector of the school. Challengers often leaving the ground by unconventional means.

She felt good though, satisfied for just a heartbeat, a moment, though -- something deep down inside her warned this feeling wouldn't last. The teenager throws herself into a back handspring, arcing back and over once again come to a halt down on her knee. The opponent her mind conjures up and throws at her genuinely startles her for a moment. She knew it was coming, there's always a next hurdle to focus on after you pass the last.

Scrambling back to her feet Hitomi continues to bounce on her toes in place, keeping her feet light and her centre of gravity high she reacted by stepping away, a bob and weave where subtle shifts in her foot placement and bending of her leg augments the range and speed with which her body can move, swaying left and right to evade would be one thing. Hitomi was more concerned with not taking the full frontal brunt of a meaty blow.

This phantasm that plagued her was as big and physically imposing as Creg Marduk. Hitomi steps lively, moving around an imperceptible attack with an urgency that suggested it were very real, she suddenly and abruptly changes tack, setting her stance and digging in for another heartbeat. She swings for the fences, right into those packed abdominals with what would be a forceful hit and kiai and then she's gone again.


Trying to stay evasive, light on her feet so she can slip away, roll with the punch and pick her moment or opening to attack, only digging in to try and bring out what power she had the instant it was needed. It was a poor imitation of Bob's style of karate, Speed and Weight!! Hitomi was quick, but didn't really have the weight to really use the style as intended. Bob was faster, his blows were heavier and seamlessly he could artfully deceive an opponent with those acrobatic manoeuvres that were so graceful in appearance, as though he were floating.

The sweat rolling down her cheeks, it touches upon and rolls across her lips a salty sweet taste, it gathers and falls in large drops from her chin after glinding down and tickling the underside of her jaw. She was caked with sweat, muscles burned hot but for the ice in the pit of her stomach and chill in her spine. Marduk still scared her. He'd supposedly killed in the ring before. And he wasn't really here right now. The phantasm fades away in the midst of an expressive hand gesture that felt entirely too authentic and realistic.

Focsuing on regaining her breath Hitomi scrubs the back of her hand across her lips and chin. Realising there's enough of a heavy sweat to dampen the cuff of her Jacket the German girl gives it a pained look. Ugh, she didn't want to get her jacket all sweaty. Bowing once again to the dojo hall, the shrine and then finally Ryo she appears to have run out of steam. The remainder of that tea would really hit the spot right about now.

Hitomi carefully shrugs out of the jacket, turns the collar towards herself to check and see just how badly the sweaty patches were on the interior of the jacket. Draping the jacket over her forearm to minimize it's contact with her and making her way back.

"My apologies, I got a bit carried away."

A deep bow.

Sweat glistens on bare skin, the plain white belly shirt however fared little better than a diaphanous pale filter, showing though a same pink skin colour to her exposed abdomen where it clung directly to bare skin. Heedlessly or unbeknownst to Hitomi she was advertising the cut of a black brassiere beneath that was previously just two slim black straps visible against her collarbone. She starts back towards the table, she hadn't finished her tea and was a little hopeful it had cooled somewhat.

From where Ryo sits, he has a good vantage point to examine the shifts in Hitomi's style. Even as subtle as they are, the difference to a trained eye is obvious, and frankly, a bit jarring. Ryo finds his brows knitting together as he watches her shift from the relatively easy flow of the style she was born into and raised with, into the facsimile of the Rindoukan karate form with that combination of strikes, ending with that vertical punch.

Ryo tilts his head to one side.

Then, she starts with the flipping, the bouncing and weaving. Ryo has seen this style before, as well. He recognizes it almost immediately for what it is. Robert Richards was someone that Ryo respected tremendously. A man possessed of the fire and passion to take any means to perfect his art. Sadly, Bob's style is specifically designed to utilize the unique properties of his custom tailored body. Hitomi lacks the proper qualities to replicate it with any real efficacy. For Bob, these moves throw a lot of weight behind them. Weight that counterbalances itself so that he doesn't wind up throwing himself completely off balance when overcommitting to a blow the way he does. Hitomi doesn't have a load of extra weight at her center of mass to help that balance, so when she does these moves, Ryo can see how a crafty opponent might easily take advantage of her lack of grounded footing and put her on her face.

Ryo folds his arms over his chest.

Still, this is not to say that Ryo isn't drawn in. Far from it. He is focused so intently upon her, her movements, her reactions that even he sees the spectral silhouette of her opponent in this phantasmal battle. His heart races with every blow ducked, avoided, countered and delivered. He finds himself wanting to shout out a correction, a strategy, to coach her into the next move that might capture the imaginary opponent off guard. But he still his tongue. This is for her to demonstrate that which she has learned, so that Ryo, in turn, can decide how much he has to teach her.

The ultimate determination is that he has very much to teach her, and yet only one true fundamental thing. Hitomi just might turn out to be the best kind of pupil Ryo Sakazaki could have ever hoped for. Passionate. Skilled. Able to pick up new tricks and assimilate them. Eager to learn.

But she needs to conquer that fear. He can feel it radiating off of her like a miasma. A dark cloud that spills from her and chills his blood as if he were touched by a restless spirit. The opponent that she was facing was someone that she had faced before. Ryo could have no way of knowing who that might be, as all his mind could visualize was a silhouette, a faceless and amorphous image with no discerning traits outside of "giant". But he knew that it had to be someone she had faced. Someone who had broken her in some way. And that right there? That is why she needs Kyokugen.

"It was fate..." he half mutters to himself as his mind processes all of this, just as Hitomi breaks from her shadowboxing to come back to reality. "Fate brought her here to this door on this day."

What else could it be? With the dark cloud that was hanging over the dojo... the sense of utter and complete defeat and demoralization that Ryo was feeling in the wake of losing to Duke so soundly, and in turn, losing the greater part of his student body, Ryo was in grave danger of giving in. Of forgetting the core tenet of Kyokugen, which is to push on past all limits. If you fall, you pick yourself back up. If you are broken, like a bone, you just heal stronger. He needed to see that fear in Hitomi, and thus, the need of him to teach her how to push past it and grow, for himself to see that he, too, needs to push past his own circumstances.

"Huh? ...Ah!" Ryo snaps out of his deep thinking when Hitomi delivers her apology, and his eyes snap back up to her in the process. "Please! There is no reason to apologize! I have learned a lot in your demonstration, Hitomi-kun!"

Sweat. It makes her glisten and glow. Her cheeks are flushed. Her eyes are so bright. Her lips look glossy and pink. He spies a bead of sweat, trailing down the curve of her cheek, tracing the line of her jaw, and down the slender column of her throat. His heart jumps into his throat.

His gaze is drawn to the line of black, following it down before realizing what exactly it is, before he starts to notice how soaked her shirt has become, how much it clings to her form, accentuating her very definitively feminine curves and dimensions. And how very transparent it has become. His lips feel dry, his tongue like sandpaper. Almost ashamedly, his gaze lowers, but this in turn, only draws his attention to her bared midriff. The way the lines of her abdominal muscles are just barely discernible under her skin. The sinuous movement as she draws in air and expells it. The sweeping line of hips just starting to form before being cut off by her belt and the jeans that it holds fast. His palms are clammy and sweaty. His face, on the other hand, is burning.

Ryo's head snaps down and to the side, and his face turns a shade of red that Ken would likely pay him for the rights to dye his next gi. He reaches up, scratching the back of his shaggy blonde hair as a nervous quirk. She didn't see that, did she? She didn't think he was some sort of creepy leering pervert or something, right? What the hell is wrong with you, Ryo? You have seen many cute girls. It's not difficult to ignore that a girl is cute. You just have to remember that she's not here for you to admire, she's here for karate. Cute girls don't go for guys like you, Ryo. They go for the guys who are smart, good looking, and talented. They go for Roberts. They go for Kens. They go for Bobs. They don't go for dumb, big brutes who are only good for fighting. Get it together!

"Ahem..." he clears his throat, still wearing that shameful face and refusing to look at her directly as he speaks in a slow, curteous manner. "I noticed that you were using forms and styles that you have picked up elsewhere... They didn't look like the style you had been demonstrating..."

He finds himself with his gaze focused squarely on his lap, nodding his head as he speaks and gently tapping just the tips of his forefingers together. "It is good to learn from other styles, but you have to be able to discern what works for you and what does not. The trick is not to learn a move wholesale and try to imitate it, but to take the essence of a technique, and determine if it bonds with your own fighting spirit. If it does, then you adapt the spirit of that technique into your own way of moving. You make it your own, rather than an imitation of someone else. That... the combination you did, that ended with the vertical punch? That was good, and with little work, that could be something that is your own. But you need not copy it directly, as it didn't seem like you in movement, Hitomi-kun. It was someone else. Instead, you should seek out how to take the moves that you are comfortable and familiar with that serve the same function and purpose, and string them together in a similar fashion. The uppercut that I saw you deliver earlier was amazing, for example. It came from you effortlessly, and naturally. It was fierce and beautiful."

He looks up, though he keeps his gaze focused straight ahead, still unable to look at her directly, as if she might blind him as sure as the sun. Instead, he focuses on the shrine set in on the opposing wall.

"Then you were trying to imitate Robert Richards' style. It is a style that will not suit you well. You're not built for it. It is a style that is very reliant on that man's unique build. His style is a true expression of style as an expression of one's soul. It is something that only he will truly be able to use, because he has dedicated so much to transforming himself to bring that spirit into physical reality. A woman with such a feminine and graceful stature such as yours could never hope to recreate it."

A pause, and Ryo continues speaking. It's not often that he has this much to say! He tries not to talk so much, because he feels that his words are clumsy and rough. His voice is too deep, too uncultured. His accent makes him sound inelegant, like some country bumpkin, and his vocabulary isn't as extensive as others who are better speakers than him. But here he is, in a position where he feels he actually has valuable insight to offer up.

"Among those of us who have dedicated our lives to Kyokugen, you will find no two of us fight alike. The basics are there, on the surface. We all use the same general techniques and principles laid out by Kyokugen's style, but the way we use and execute those techniques are all vastly different from one another. My father's Ko'oh Ken is instant and invisible. My training partner Robert likes to create them with kicks. I used to like using that technique as a way to keep my opponent from rushing in at me. Now, I prefer to use it in close range to amplify my punches. My sister has developed a completely unorthodox way of fighting, while my student Marco excells at the basic fundamentals of karate, so his style looks and feels very rigid and traditional. We have each learned the same moves and techniques, and we come from the same school built by my father, but we have each taken those teachings and applied them in ways unique to us, to fit with the nature of our fighting spirits."

Another small nod, and Ryo finishes, saying, "I would love to teach you, so that you can take the teachings of Kyokugen and make them your own. I wish to help you to find your fighting spirit, and to bring a lasting legacy to contribute to your family's karate, Hitomi-kun. I want to see what comes of you transforming Kyokugen philosophy and techniques into your family style."

She was a little confused, worried when he turned and looked away. Had she offended or stunk up his dojo with half-assed techniques and drilling until she was a sweat soaked mess. Hitomi is really feeling this is an awkward silence as she starts making her way back to the table. As he boyishly starts scratching the back of his head weight falls away. He was obviously trying to think of some way to be diplomatic and kind in his opinions of her performance.

She takes her seat, a swallow of still warm tea while listening carefully to his each and every word, the truth was that she agreed with most all of them. Those truths still stung and her heart felt heavier for application kind and honest second opinion.

"Mhmm, It's something I've had to consider and fumble with. My father is a lot stronger, broader and taller than I am! I suppose he's really close to your build in stature. So he tended to have practiced and developed more against smaller or similarly sized opponents. I've..."

Beginning with a pitiable and spiritless acknowledgement acknowledging Ryo's point. Hitomi then chokes on her initial attempt to explain herself, swallows nervously after a hitch in her voice. She was advised to give no details, the police were emphatic that publicity or talking about things like that could be dangerous, the case was still open and the culprit still on the loose. She needed to leave those events in the past.

She forces a show of smiles and rebounding spirit. A beaming and well-practiced smile and lifts her hand to wave it off as nothing.

"There are some amazing and powerful opponents I can't afford to stand up against or trade blows with."

Opponents she was afraid of. Her confidence on that front was shaken and diminished, but there was little her body could do when the blows were strong enough to flatten her, or slice gouges into her flesh.. She knew for a fact the world was full of powerful and unforgiving monsters. There was Marduk, Gato, even Hei and that Kensou boy. All of them were various flavours of monsters with overwhelming powers she didn't really have an answer for; but all were as boy scouts when compared to Freeman.

There's an emphatic nod of acknowledgement and admission of the point that she could not hope to truly copy Bob's unique style of karate without his physique. She had however weighed the merits of converting to such a lifestyle herself. Instead she found herself here. Hitomi remaining seated and smiling, cradling her tea between her palms with a delicate and fragile edge to the smile she keeps fixed in place after Ryo concludes 'she could never hope to replicate it.'

A brief swing of her bangs as her head quirks and she starts mentally rewinding and playing back the conversation - what had he just said about her?

As the topic of the conversation shifts to the other prominent figures who've trained at the dojo Hitomi is actually rather at a loss as Ryo, playing catch up as though she was thinking about something else while he had been explaining eccentricities and differences between all the various students. They all were so different and developed uniquely despite learning the same style? She didn't know that could actually happen, surely people would have different talents that lead to different strengths -- but each person developing their own style independent of the other students and teachers?

That was pretty brilliant.

"I'd never heard of a school like this before. It sounds like it'll be a lot of fun! I'd be honoured to study here."

Brushing her palm across her denim clad thigh she rises into a kneel, up and leans across the table, offering her hand to Ryo. Deal ought to be sealed with someone's word or a handshake to officiate them.

As Ryo has stated to many people, many times, he is not the smartest, nor the most talented, nor the strongest, or most clever. He struggles with most things. His hard work and dedication are the only thing that allow him to keep up with the amazing people that have surrounded him in his life. But he is not without any merits whatsoever. Perhaps borne of his humble, self-depreciating nature, Ryo Sakazaki has a keen sense of empathy. That empathic nature is what gives him his spirit, his honor. That empathic spirit is a skill that he has unwittingly honed to a razor edge, in fact. It was through that skill that Ryo was able to visualize Hitomi's phantasmal opponent just then. And now, it is how he feels the way she hesitates. He can feel the shift in her, from uncertainty to fear and self-doubt. It is overwhelming how much this girl felt. Is it any wonder that she seeks out those with strength like Bob, or those who project strength, to imitate? She is clearly unsettled and frightened on some level to the deepest core of her being. He shivers unconsciously, as touching on that feels as if he were sinking into the deep, darkest parts of the cold, cold ocean.

Ryo has found her limit. The thing that he needs to help her push past. He might not know what face it bears, but he recognizes it for what it is. That fear will be the crux of her own Kyokugen way.

When she replies that she would be honored to study with them, Ryo, sadly, still cannot bring himself to turn his eyes on her. Every time they tick to the side, drawn to her movement, or her voice as is human nature, a fresh flush of color fills his face, and a gossamer sheen of sweat glistens on his brow. He looks strained, his back held rigidly straight, his chest barely moving with his breathing under thos tightly wound and bloodstained bandages. Even his arms are rigid, with his elbows pointing straight out at his sides,and his palms resting on his thighs, fingers pointed inward. He looks like a man who is about to announce his intention to commit seppuku to his daimyo, rather than a man accepting a new student at his dojo. It is easily apparent that he is taking great pains not to look at her, at all costs.

So when she offers her hand, Ryo doesn't see it.

Instead, the large bruised and beaten man swiftly shifts to his knees and swivels to face her directly. However, before he can make the grievous error of allowing himself another unchaste glance at the young girl, he is slapping his hands down on the mat,and his head is soon to follow. There, bowing in totality, his eyes held shut, Ryo Sakazaki speaks loud enough that she can hear his words clearly, despite him practically speaking directly into the floor.

"Thank you for accepting me as your sensei, Hitomi-kun! I will do my best not to let you down! As a student at Kyokugen, this dojo is your home. It is a place of refuge and safety! Within these walls, there is no judgment. There is no shame. You need not hold anything back from me. Only through confronting our limitations can we overcome them. As your sensei, I want you to feel confident in sharing with me the things that you feel uncertain about. All your doubts and fears. All of your insecurities. Together, I am certain that we will be able to surmount them and help you become a stronger karateka, and a person who never has to feel frightened again."

Log created on 00:50:47 07/18/2018 by Hitomi, and last modified on 20:05:01 09/18/2018.