Description: Her record speaks for the potential potential of Asamiya's power, but what of her control? Left unchecked, the gift she and Kenshi Takahashi share can be the spark calamities are born from. With restraint, control, and patience, however, it can be a tool from which a better future is forged.
The balmy evening air is alive with the sights and sounds of summer. Youthful voices call and shout, water splashes. The mechanical whiz of bicycles echoes through the trees. It is a perfect day for a trip to the park, and many students from around the city are taking advantage of that, no small amount of them from nearby Seijyun High.
Down one particular winding bike trail, off the beaten path and along a rocky downward slope toward the nearby river, one figure stands quite out of place from today's youth. Hair a salt and pepper shag that grows longer every month, beard untrimmed, crimson blindfold matching the loose crimson coat that hangs open over a travel-worn white gai. Kenshi Takahashi's youthful days are long behind him. But judging by the faint laugh lines beginning to form around his mouth, and the way one corner of his lips is quirked up at the distant sounds of merrymaking, they are not forgotten.
Surrounded by a circle of tangled branches perhaps 15 feet across, the swordsman has taken up his vigil in an area most local teenagers come to explore the first innocent buddings of romance. Colloquially known as the Kissing Stones, the clearing is home to two large white boulders imbedded deep into the soft earth, their sides steeply sloping toward mostly flat tops that two, or possibly three teenagers could sit upon, facing one another nearly knee to knee. It is between these stones that Kenshi now stands, a shapeless cloth sack lying in the grass at his feet. Facing out toward the river, hands folded behind his back, he enjoys the warm summer sun filtering down through the branches.
Sento, the legendary sword passed down through his family, rests in its typical sheath propped against the stone to his left. Close enough to draw if need be, but not currently riding his back.
This is not the first time Kenshi has come to this spot. Though he is often off traveling the world, every time he swings this way he contacts his one and only apprentice, almost always psychically, and arranges a meeting with her. usually those are here, though a couple of times they've had to divert their path elsewhere when the clearing was being used for its usual purpose. It would perhaps be nice if he called ahead more often to check on his student, but, well, he doesn't have a phone, and that may be the weirdest thing about the blind Ronin in the eyes of today's youth.
The world today is a connected one - texts, emails, phone calls, instant messages, all transmitted through devices available readily everywhere one looks. Even the neglected destitute have access to free services that allow them to enjoy in that same digital connectivity taken for granted by today's youth. A miracle dream of science fiction only two decades ago, now so commonplace that to not participate in it marks one an outcast, an outsider of modern society.
Certainly Athena Asamiya has chided the wandering swordsman about it from time to time, the way he can't seem to get a hold of her via the convenient, conventional means available in abundance. If it's a matter of money... she had hesitantly touched on the question only once.
But in spite the manner of his contact being unorthodox to most, and the high probability of the times conflicting with the extremely busy girl, she always showed up just the same. Meeting alone is more difficult now days than when he first met Asamiya studying in the library. Since that quiet encounter, she has become a world wide phenomenon. As if her fighting career hadn't already earmarked her for special attention, the girl had finally pursued her other dream to remarkable success. It started with smaller performances but blossomed quickly into an entire brand, with large capacity, sold out concerts being a common thing for her.
No longer living in the third floor, run down flat in Chinatown, she has moved to a nice place in Southtown Village - a place with a large enough lot that the paparazzi can be kept sufficiently far enough away from from the actual home to afford some peace and quiet with the help of hired security. She also gets a reprieve when she goes to school. Any aspiring photographers or gossip mongers that wish they could get a scoop on the young idol during her days at school have the school's ursine Principle Raizo to deal with... and he doesn't take kindly to anyone trying to photograph his students.
But then there comes times like this, where the walls of her home, or the intimidating reputation of her principle isn't going to prevent her from getting mobbed when she goes out. Actually meeting Kenshi without an entourage is a challenge in and of itself and requires a small degree of deception along the way. Taken by car to an expensive club restricted to media elites, Athena passes straight through, meeting a second scheduled driver that can be trusted out back.
Dropped off at the sidewalk adjacent to the park, Athena quickly scans her surroundings, making sure that she hasn't caught the attention of anyone, then quickly strides toward the agreed upon meeting spot. Never certain what kind of training the wandering master has in store for her, she's dressed comfortably yet fashionably. A pink, short sleeved blouse is worn beneath a crimson sleeveless tunic that falls down to mid-thigh. A pink sash belt is tied snug around her waist with the ends of the sash swaying against her right hip. The belt causes cause the lower half of the tunic to appear more like a fold-over skirt. Pink socks matching her blouse reach up to a few inches below her knees and her feet are covered with ankle-high crimson shoes that look both stylish and comfortable to move about in. As usual, her dark purple hair is worn long and straight, behind her ears and off her shoulders, kept in check by a red hair clip that divides out her bangs. In the evening light, the color of her hair is nearly lost, leaving it looking almost black.
He might sense her before he hears her. Even as much as she practices trying to restrain her aura, there is an unmistakable presence about the girl that particularly skilled sensitives will inevitably pick up on. There would be a slight surge in her presence followed by the sound of her feet smashing the grass adjacent to the left stone, a soft exhale from his apprentice as she glances behind her. A short ranged teleport? Perhaps she thought she was about to be noticed.
A step around the stone, a lean, hands clasped behind her back.
Out of all the people currently crowded into the park, Athena's sensei is probably the least likely to be snuck up upon. Some of that comes down to the thin psychic lines that extend out from him, his shared connection with Sento allowing him to feel the world around him out to a distance the young star has not yet determined. His psychic touch is so light that it is sometimes impossible to feel at all, though he has assured her more than once that greater clarity will come from time and training. But more than once his young student has witnessed him dodge a blow without the use of Sento, or react to the presence of intruding teenagers well before she heard them coming. Though he lacks sight, his senses remain sharp.
"Ms. Asamiya," Kenshi replies, faint grin unchanged, face angling toward her in the suggestion of attention, though he does not complete the turn. "I arrived early so that the teenagers would not steal our spot. It is a beautiful day. I am surprised you were not already out."
Of course the sword sage understands her schedule, even with the shielding they keep in place, 2 minds such as theirs this close together have a habit of sharing things. She knows from experience that if the psychic wished to convey his thoughts he wouldn't need to use his words, telepathy being a particularly potent gift of his, but it is better this way. Better to have firm rules and boundaries, so that neither of them slips up around someone less able to defend themselves. A rule that her first master has done well to drill into her, and that Kenshi has supported.
"I had a chance to talk with an ally of mine in America," Kenshi continues, unfolding his hands and lowering himself into an easy crouch before the sack in the grass. As he speaks he reaches down with sure hands to unknot the mouth, pulling it open and slipping a hand inside. "You came up. He did not have much to say about your music, but, he did have a suggestion about your power. One that I have been considering for some time."
Hand emerging with three colorful pool balls caught between his fingers, he turns his slight grin up to her, then tosses the balls in a lazy underhanded arc toward her chest. For a man of his size, holding 3 or more pool balls in one hand wouldn't be much of a feat, but for a girl Athena's age?
"You have more potential locked within you than anyone I have met." he informs her, hand going back into the bag, "That is a good thing, but it means you will struggle in ways that I did not. For most of us, we started with very little strength. A limited amount of potential that we could call upon. To move a bucket, or lift a rock, would take great concentration. To manifest our energy visibly? That is something that would take much longer."
Pulling free his own set of 3 balls, Kenshi pushes upright with a soft rustle of cloth. Settling back onto the rock behind him, he motions Athena toward the seat across with a wave of his free hand while Idly clacking his balls together in the other.
"It is not the same for you. You have started with so much power that it spills out. We, your masters, have had to train you in reverse. To not let it out, and then to let it out in certain ways. But you are still very, explosive. So today, we will focus on telekinesis. This is good for you, because I happen to be very good at it, and it is a perfect way for you to practice three things."
without even a flicker of strain on his face, Kenshi encases the balls in soft blue energy and levitates them out of his hand, starting them spinning in a slow circular orbit above his palm. There they hover, turning slow circles, while he continues to speak.
"First, this will help you to practice sustaining power at an even amount. If you wish to hold a ball steady in the air, you can not explode it there. Second, it will teach you greater restraint. To lift something this heavy takes very little power. Use too much, and we will have to find you a new ball. Finally, it will help you to learn finesse. With your power steady, and your control firm, you can direct it as I do these."
That is the swordsman's way. Explain the lesson, explain the goals, then show her how to meet them. It is perhaps not the fanciest way to teach someone, but if he has to leave her, as often he has, at least she will understand what it is she is trying to accomplish. In that way he can give her the tools to self teach without fearing she might break something or someone while unsupervised. And if she struggles, or can't figure out how to do it, well, often they've had to improvise. One psychic's lessons don't always translate so well to another.
"You should start with one for now, and point it over there," Kenshi advises, lifting his free hand to point one callused finger off toward the river. "There is less risk of you putting a hole in someone that way."
At Kenshi's comment about about reserving the location for the two of them, Athena quirks a grin, standing up straight out of her lean, hands still behind her back, "I can only imagine that you must be quite the deterrent, certainly." There is definitely a look about the swordsman that would cause anyone to reconsider approaching closer upon noticing, and complimenting that, a presence that would discourage most from interrupting his contemplation in solitude.
Violet eyes blink as he mentions talking with an ally across the ocean. It's likely it means he was actually there, as around the globe may be too far even for his powerful telepathy to reach... and the thought of him using something as common place and convenient as a phone to have said conversation strikes her as unlikely. Her grin melts into an expression of conflicted bemusement, as if trying to stifle a giggle. The thought isn't so buried that he wouldn't pick up on it - his student imagining the swordsman trying to get onto an airplane in today's security conscious world. However he gets around is truly a mystery for her to contemplate.
The moment passes as he continues on to speaking about a thought he had concerning her gift, the girl's expression shifting to being more attentive. Focus switches to the pool balls he produces when suddenly they're being tossed her way. Not having anticipated that sufficiently in advance, her job at catching them all is far from graceful, both hands coming up from behind her back in a scramble to react in time. Two are caught by hugging them against her chest with one arm, while the third is caught by her right hand as it bounces off, leaving her leaning forward awkwardly for a moment as she fusses with moving the first two into her left palm, a confused look on her face.
She's quiet as the swordsman speaks of her potential. Certainly the world saw that when she first took to the fighting circuits. And if there were any doubters, her performance in Krauser's brutal tournament would be hard to dispute... Potential indeed.
The master situates himself on one rock and within a moment, Asamiya has sat down opposite him, still holding the three balls in her two hands. There is a slight nod as he speaks of how explosive her power can be and how much of her training has focused on reigning in it, developing precision and control. He says she's very explosive and her cheeks warm a little. She really had very little experience with anything that wasn't big and flashy. Her fights are certainly sights to behold. But what of the finer points of controlling her gift?
He mentions telekinesis and Athena cants her head to right slightly. She had been able to generate psychic force enough to move opponents around, but it was a violent and immediate. Explosive as anything else she did with her power.
Her focus is on the three balls in his hand as he begins to levitate them with seemingly the greatest ease, mouth pursing slightly as she looks uncertain. Her look of uncertainty gives way to chagrin as he suggests she try learning it in a direction that is less likely to launch a ball through anyone. "I wouldn't do that," she replies confidently.
Settling two of the pool balls in her lap, legs pressed together to keep them from going anywhere, she pivots toward the river slightly on her rock seat. Holding up the one ball in the palm of her hand, she stares at it intently, sucking in her breath then holding.
Power swells, the aura of psychic energy around her building with all the visible glow her combat attacks have. Yet as powerfully as it builds, the ball doesn't move. More and more she draws upon her incredible potential and more it builds until at last it trembles slightly in her palm. Leaning forward slightly, she presses her lips into a thin line, glaring at the defiant pool ball.
When it rockets off in a horizontal trajectory, it seems to surprise her more than anyone, Asamiya sitting up straight, eyes widened in alarm. The sound of wood being impacted by concussive force echoes around the small clearing an instant later as the ball wedges itself into the side of one of the trees.
Athena looks after with with an alarmed expression. "Oops."
Lounging comfortably upon his rock, Left hand resting on his thigh just inches away from Sento's hilt, Kenshi does his best to suppress the amusement welling up inside him. Perhaps it is an echo of Athena's own smothered giggles at the thought of him trying to pass Sento through an X-ray machine, absorbed and recycled. Or, more likely, it is the chiding amusement of a master who's impassive silence still somehow shouts 'I told you so.'
Slowly, one dark eyebrow quirks behind the swordsman's crimson blindfold, head shifting slightly to one side. At the edge of the clearing, bits of shredded leaf drift down through a light puff of powdered bark, marking the potentially deadly path of the projectile.
"Very good." Kenshi offers with easy good humor, turning his right hand palm down so that the balls orbiting above his palm drift down and apart, forming a triangle around his hand. Thus arranged, they begin to rotate once more, blue-tinged moons around the planet of his loosely closed fist.
"However," and here the humor fades, replaced by the relaxed tones of the master, "There was hesitation. I know this is an area you do not practice in often, so we will take one slight step back. you must be mindful of your force, but focus more on the intent. Find that place within you that allows you to reach out and move the ball, and focus on that. There should be no time between the desire to throw, and the throw itself." The advice is given with his typical relaxed ease, never shouting, never losing patience. Similarly, the thoughts behind the words remain light and inconsequential. Attentive, but not deep. So rarely have the walls of his mind pulled back enough to show those depths.
The man who sits across from Athena has killed people. During Mortal Combat, certainly. He was there alongside her. Was publicly acclaimed for executing two of their fellow combatants. But more than that. He is a ronin. Sento is no ceremonial blade, and though he often has told her where his travels have taken him and bits of what he might have experienced, the topics remain as light as his surface thoughts. Even now, the twist of his own mind, that private thing that he uses to keep his concentration, remains hidden from her. Whatever focus the swordsman must maintain to keep the balls spinning around his hand is not visible in his surface thoughts. It is part of that deeper self, the part of him that might cause teenagers to avoid him in the woods despite the manners he has always shown Athena.
"Again." Kenshi instructs, before continuing in a less masterful tone,, shifting topics completely, "The King of Fighters is beginning again. Your name was not mentioned. Has the life of a star consumed so much of your time? I am surprised you did not enter." The words themselves are genuine, but beneath them can be felt a somber concern that is out of all proportion with the topic. An emotion that he tries to hide, but one that slithers through his thoughts none-the less.
When he speaks, his student looks from the embedded pool ball down to her palm, then glances sidelong toward the demonstration he continues to maintain with seemingly no effort. A disgruntled look crosses her face. No one likes a show off!
But when he continues to provide further guidance in performing the exercise, she's paying rapt attention once more, taking a second pool ball from her left palm to cradle in her right before holding it out in front of her again. A look of determination flashes across her features before she glances back toward Kenshi's ongoing manipulation. She can generate force, there's certainly no doubt of that. But her attempt at raising the ball out of her palm sent it off at a ninety degree angle straight away from her. Even if she had sent it in the right way, it would have flown clear up into the sky before landing who knows where.
It isn't as if she always goes full tilt in every combat technique either, so there has always been some ability to throttle the power she draws upon... but even her lightest attack is vastly stronger than what is needed to bring a simple round object a few inches into the air. And then to sustain it so requires another form of control.
There is a soft huff. He would easily know the sound isn't born of exasperation. She certainly isn't one to throw in the towel after only one try, after all. But there is that sense of disappointment in where she's starting. Expectations on the young star abound. She's expected to create music effortlessly, excel in her courses as a model student, and perform at world class levels in fighting competitions. All of that, and she can't make a mundane pool ball hover? The frustration of youth is palpable but so too is her resolve to succeed at this task.
Her brow furrows as she focuses on the pool ball with the red stripe in her hand. He would feel the power swell again, a magnitude beyond what should be necessary for the task. But then his question comes and it ebbs, Asamiya looking up from the object of her vexation to look toward Kenshi briefly. She turns her focus toward the river then.
"The last time I participated in the King of Fighters, I found myself 'invited' to Mortal Kombat as my prize. The next King of Fighters tournament seemed the spark that ignited the war." Her shoulders fall slightly, eyes closing. "I do love what I do - the concerts, the music, the chance to instill hope, to answer pain with peace rather than violence." Her fingers close over the ball in her hand, her violet eyes opening again. "But I also know that there comes times where we must fight. If this event proves to be the same as the others, I will not shy away from acting. I hope that I will not be alone in that." she finishes, glancing toward Kenshi for a brief moment before focusing once more on the pool ball.
Sucking in her breath then releasing a slow, controlled breath. That power swells again, answering her call. If her goal was to obliterate it, she is already channeling more than enough raw potential to do that. But the swordsman's ask of her is not to use her will to destroy, but to touch, to gently lift with her mind. And that, right now, seems to be the greater challenge.
Her psionic aura diminishes again after a moment. He said there should be no time between desire and outcome, yet she finds herself desiring for seconds without any outcome at all. But if she pushes harder, she runs the risk of putting another tree in harm's way!
"Did you compete in competitions... I mean, other than... you know." the girl asks with a slight shrug. Once again, she tries to turn thought into action without overdoing it. Every time the ball starts to tremble, as her psychic force begins to glance against it, she withdraws again, trying to prevent from launching it into space should her accuracy zero in better.
Round and round the blue-tinged balls circle, Kenshi's bearded face having lost all signs of a smile. Waves of youthful frustration emanate from the young woman, as easy for the older psychic to perceive as the warm summer air that blows through his long salt and pepper hair. But even still, she restrains herself. A skill that the sword sage did not learn until it was far too late.
Somehow the ronin senses when Athena glances toward him, her look catching the faintest downward twitch of his lips. Externally he appears little more than troubled, but internally she can feel strong emotions boiling just beneath the surface of his thoughts. Strong feelings, mostly negative, but hidden just far enough out of reach that to pry any deeper would certainly attract notice.
"Mortal Kombat was a poor prize for the work you put in." Kenshi states a touch bitterly, sightless gaze staring off passed the purple-haired girl. "You should not have been there. To help the world is a worthy goal, but some problems can only be solved with death. That is a lesson that I wish you had learned much later in life. However, neither of us has the power to change the passed. If this tournament leads to events such as the others, I will be there at your side. It is part of the reason I am here."
Falling silent, the older warrior allows his young student some moments of quiet concentration. He can feel it as her efforts shift, moving from a simple push to little testing prods. While she experiments with this new tactic, his own trio of balls complete one final circuit and float up into his hand, palm turning up to receive them with a gentle 'clack.'
"competitions?" the sage muses, stretching the thought out into a question. Shifting his lean form upon the boulder, he plays his roughened fingertips over the polished surface of his pool balls, hidden gaze shifting as if to look more fully at his student. There is faint reluctant's within the hesitation, a gap that does not belong.
"In my youth, I would enter into any tournament that would take me. During my travels, if word reached me of a local sword master I would take time to challenge him personally." Pausing, Kenshi takes another moment to weigh his words, both thoughts and expression growing distant before he adds with a note of finality on the subject, "They were allowed to choose whether our duel was first to wound, yield, or death."
Curling his fingers tightly around the balls in his hand, face a mask of somber indifference, Kenshi takes half a moment for himself. Then, face relaxing, he allows the mental barriers that had tightened around his thoughts to retreat, once more allowing Athena access to the calm ramble of his surface thoughts. Whatever roiling emotions she might have thought she felt, he seems perfectly at ease, fully the master of his own mind. Relaxed enough, in fact, to lift his left hand, fingers spread, and cause the red stripe of her ball to glow purple as it is encased in blue energy.
"Do not worry about power. Focus on push, and stop. Immediate action."
Whatever trembling jumps had been vibrating through the ball have stilled, the ronin's focus clamped around the ball like a steel vice.
He mentions that she should not have been among those pulled to Shang Tsung's island and Athena looks away, giving the threatened pool ball a moment's reprieve in the palm of her hand. He adds that the past can't be undone and she nods slightly, making no audible sound, as if the agreement was for herself alone. The sentiment is understood, but it doesn't change the fact that she was chosen. Gods, fate, unconscious will of humanity... whatever it was, it had her stand there, among the other champions, to face death in the eye for the sake of the world.
"I wouldn't undo it even if I could," the girl replies softly, eyes shifting down to focus on the ball in her palm again, fingers closing over it briefly then relaxing. She smiles quietly as he speaks of being at her side should trouble brew once more within the storm that King of Fighters tournaments tend to be. "I'm glad." she speaks out loud after a moment, lot leaving it up to his senses to detect a nod of acknowledgment.
As he repeats back the word 'Competitions?' to her, she nods, "Fighting competitions," she adds, as if it needed further clarification. Of course, fighting for sport didn't explode into the global entertainment phenomenon it is today until the famous first World Warrior tournament years ago, but there had always been competitions. Local tournaments, niche leagues, and secret underground blood bouts.
He confesses to participating in said competitive fighting events when permitted and the young psychic glances toward him, pondering perhaps at the hesitation on his part. Its source becomes clear as he continues on to speak of another type of match he entered in another time. A frown crosses her lips, violet eyes glancing the swordsman up and down as if searching him for some kind of additional piece of information.
"What would be the point," she finally vocalizes the question clearly bursting to come forth, "Of fighting to the death?" Her tone is questioning, just shy of challenging, lacking condemnation yet seeking, desperately, for understanding. It's clear the victor of such lethal stakes is sitting across from her. Which means throughout the world, there exists stains in the earth where the blood of another warrior pooled. And for what?
She has not forgotten the lesson, however much her emotions might be conflicted in the moment, focus shifting to the pool ball as Kenshi grips it with his own power. There is a crash of ambient, potent psionic presence as once again, the student demonstrates her ability to project power while continuing to struggle with challenge of refining that power down to precision focus.
This time the ball doesn't tremble, held secure in Kenshi's own telekinetic grip. But the muscles in Athena's arm begin to strain, the ball pressing down harder into her palm, until once again she pulls back that aura, releasing a pent up breath. Closing her eyes for a bit, she tries to calm her thoughts. Maybe she's fighting it too hard, she thinks to herself. Maybe she needs to be more patient with it...
Kenshi's face remains neutral, emotions swirling only vaguely at the sense of resolve rolling off of his student. The firm conviction that she was put through MK for a reason, willed there by fate or the gods. She can sense the doubts there, the urge to disagree, but her sensei does not act upon it.
Instead, the conversation progresses on to matters of the Sword Sage's personal life. Details about his past, that part of himself so rarely shared, and the sort of man he may once have been. Her glance in his direction reveals the man just as she remembers him: shabby, aging but still vital, confident, and strong in a long-limbed sort of way. He certainly has the build of a swordsman, even the mannerisms of one. All that has changed is the slight downward tilt of his chin, sightless gaze focused more toward the girl's lap than her face while he suffers through her scrutiny, asking him why. Why would one man kill another for sport?
"At one point, I might have had an answer to your question." the sage replies, hand remaining up, fingers spread. "But I no longer do. All I have are the justifications of a younger self, and they no longer suit me. There is a time for death. Sometimes it is unavoidable. But it should never be for sport, or pride. As I have said, the past can not be changed. Only studied."
Throughout his response, Kenshi has remained focused and ready, braced like a coach holding a boxing pad. When the psychic release finally comes, His young student can feel the mental wince that runs through his consciousness, her will powering forward into his. As always she is staggeringly strong, power only loosely under control. And though his entire face flinches at the impact, he narrows his focus and manages to hold the ball perfectly still. He does not have the young girl's raw talent. In fact, what power he does have is borrowed, channeled through him in a way much different, yet somehow similar, to her own. What he does have are nearly two decades of practice in honing his telekinetic powers, and an assured confidence in his own ability.
As the test of wills continues, their clearing is filled with a deep bass hum, the air around the pool ball vibrating with growing power. The intensity of the blue light holding it in space grows brighter, and brighter, matching the effort Athena's sensei must exert to keep the ball from rocketing off to join its friend.
A quiet sigh escapes both of their lips as the young idol relaxes her mind, one corner of her master's lips quirking up in a wry little half smile. Humming vibrations gone, blue light dimmed down to a faint glow, the ronin leans back on his rock and stretches out one sandaled foot, giving her an approving tap of toes against shin. His hidden gaze has returned to the side of her face, mind awash with easy approval. It appears he is much less stressed by the result than she.
"Good. This release was much faster. Less hesitation, but far too much power. You must stop building up so much within yourself before letting it out. it is as if you are filling a cup full, then dumping all of the water out at once. With more practice, you should be able to fill that cup and pour slowly. But for now, perhaps try emptying the cup before it is full? All of the power will leave you at once, but there will be less of it. That will make this far safer to practice alone."
In the distance, kids of all ages call and shout, voices carried to the pair upon the warm summer breeze. Rising above those sounds is a girlish shriek followed by a loud splash, then laughing. Kids at play in the river, swimming, no doubt.
There is a beat of silence, Kenshi's thoughts swirling around a hidden subject, gauging it, little smile having faded back to a firm line. She can feel as that swirl of thoughts quests outwards, a faint brush of his mind more directly upon hers, the mental press of hand to shoulder, checking.
"It has been some time since Mortal Kombat. You are dealing with it well?"
"Mn," Athena murmurs as he speaks of the past, the sound somber, neither condoning nor arguing against the actions of his violent youth. "Thank you," she replies as he reminds her the importance of studying the past. Whatever she might feel about his course through life, in the end, it has brought him here, to this place, where he devotes time and effort to further hone her own talent. She can balk at the path he traveled, but the destination is one she accepts. Whatever weight he carries from his past actions are his to bear.
"For being honest with me."
He could have withheld the detail, but he didn't. In that, she came to know a bit more of his integrity and his willingness to not hide from her the unpleasant things of life. Her smile warms with the expression of appreciation, then her focus is back to the ball in her palm.
The contest between her exertion to move it and his ability to keep it in check is an intense thing even with her trying to make efforts to temper her power. Were someone less inured to the frightful powers of the world, even trying to guide the powerful potential of the girl might be overwhelmingly intimidating. But the effort is critical.
Throughout the Earth lurk individuals with the power to change the world for better or for worse. Left without guidance, correction, counsel, their capacity for atrocity becomes incomprehensible. They are the monsters, the tyrants, the power mongering lords of the shadow cartels. Each of them started as a youth once upon a time, not unlike the girl the swordsman tries to guide now. Where might their paths have led if they had someone like Master Takahashi nudging them in the right direction?
Athena listens to his patient correction. There is stubbornness there, a hint of frustration rippling through her aura. Of course she's used to challenges. She encounters them all the time. But when it comes to being challenged about her control over her gift, it feels a bit more like a mark on her pride. She can face monsters in the arena like Azrael and Urien, but she can't make a little hard ball float an inch?
His metaphors are taken to heart, however. Beneath the blooming exasperation he would also find that quiet resolve that has seen her stand before devils and goliaths and resist the urge to retreat. Slower, don't wait so long, this isn't an exercise in force but control...
Asamiya closes her eyes and breathes in deeply before releasing a slow, calming breath. "Okay," she replies. Violet eyes open, fixing on the ball in her palm once more, corner of her mouth curving up slightly. On some level, this feels ridiculous, to waste time trying to master such a thing when she can do so much more with her gift. But she can't deny his assessment - she /needs/ this control.
Again she tries. The build up is shorter, barely a blip, before she lets it go, attempting to compress that energy into moving the ball. Against her back, her long hair sweeps to the right, as if brushed through by an unseen hand. Pressing her lips into a thin line, she tries again. A pebble on the stone she sits upon goes rolling off the edge into the grass. Again - a psychic nudge against Kenshi's shoulder as his student keeps trying triangulate the faster discharge. Give her a moment to build up a cruise missile of psionic death and she can hit a bullseye from dozens of meters away, but the quick release of small sparks of will is another matter all together.
A bead of sweat rolls down her temple in spite the coolness of the evening air. Another attempt brushes against her skirt, sliding it up along her toned thigh before she nudges it back with the back of her left hand without a second thought, never taking her eyes off the ball.
The next time she tries, her right hand is knocked up a few inches as her tiny corrections bring her closer to the point of interest and her eyes widen, a sense of success rushing through her that seems almost incongruous with the perhaps unimpressive display so far.
Her heart is racing now, the mental exertion taking its toll, but she can't stop now. Not when she's so close. Again, she reaches into the depths of her psyche to pull forward a thread of power, attempting to aim it where she needs it to go.
The red striped pool ball hops up two inches and falls back into the palm of her hand and Athena releases a gasp of surprise.
"You are not so easy to lie to." Kenshi admits warmly to the girl, though what exactly it means is not entirely obvious. Sure she has psychic powers, but he has proven on multiple occasions that his intentions can be hidden from her. Perhaps it is her, the girl, that makes it difficult. There are some souls that by their very nature draw out the best from others, coaxing them away from darker futures. Just as Kenshi works to keep Athena from following his own path, his gravitation toward her may very well have kept him from another.
The lack of response about Mortal Kombat, however, draws a faint crease to Kenshi's brow.
Allowing Athena's concentration to go unbroken, he releases his hold on her ball and rises from his rocky seat, swaying a little under the gentle push of her mind. Sandals crunch quietly over grass as he steps carefully around Sento's sheath, over the sack on the ground, and out into the space between Athena and her first unfortunate experiment. He can sense it as her mind circles the area, pushing, nudging, attempting to hone in. The playful flip of her skirt even draws a slight quirk of the sage's eyebrow, though he doesn't comment on it. There's no point in drawing attention to just How sensitive his psychic awareness really is, but surely he's a gentleman about it. His young student has never picked up on any inappropriate thoughts directed toward her from her master, which maybe a miracle in and of itself, seeing as she is an attractive young highschooler living in Japan of all places.
Stopping just in front of his student, Kenshi shares the success with her, corners of his mouth tugging up into a proud grin even as his hand flashes out to slip between the red-striped ball and her hand, knuckles brushing her palm as he snags it cleanly out of the air.
"Very good." he informs her, moving the ball away from her and leaving her with only the final orb resting in her lap. "As with many other things, this comes quickly to you once you grasp the basics. You are a natural."
Closing his long fingers around the ball, he weighs it in his hand, turning away from the girl to drift a couple of steps toward the river side of the clearing. His long red coat swishes out behind him with the movements, the leather straps of his sandals creaking.
"But, before you continue. Again. Your time in Mortal Kombat. Your battle with Akuma." the sage pauses, back to her, and contemplates the endless expanse before him that only he can see, mind searching for how best to finish, which question to attach that might make this easier to breach. "You, have spoken to someone about it? Your managers. Do they send you to some sort of therapy? Surely they look after your mental health as well as your physical?" The concern that rolls off of the older man with this final question is almost fatherly, though he has never expressed any such thoughts in words. He does seem to have those instincts, though. Strange for one who has never spoken of having a child.
Athena looks up at Kenshi as he catches the ball she managed to pop up briefly. To the path from there to actually being able to sustain it in place with any kind of grace is a long one, but the end point is at least visible from here. Her breathes are coming a bit faster, the girl a touch winded by the exercise of thought. Leaning back, her palms against the stone's smoothed surface, she lifts her head to the sky for a moment. A deeper breath is inhaled before a calming, slow exhale is released. Her right arm lifts, wiping across her brow once, before going back behind her to prop herself up.
Looking at Kenshi, she's smiling then. The tiny success a relief after what felt like stumbling around in the dark, reaching aimlessly for her target. She knows she has a long way to go, but she can envision the objective now.
She follows the swordsman's movements with her eyes, staying put on her seat, propped up by her hands behind her back.
Once again he pokes at the question of Mortal Kombat and Asamiya's expression sobers, violet eyes darting to the right as she blinks a few times. He tries to figure out who she has spoken to about it, who could she let in on the harrowing experience, to share what she had gone through and be aided with the scars it left? The girl bites her lower right lip, eyes slowly shifting their focus back toward Kenshi.
"No, not-" she stops abruptly before continuing, "They wouldn't understand. Those weeks we were all missing, our stories..." she shakes her head, "Even with all the wonders that have happened around the globe, I saw that those who spoke up weren't taken seriously."
She smiles, but it's a rueful thing, sitting up to rest her hands in her lap. "Master Gentsai and Kensou, they believed me. Momoko was there too and our account of Mortal Kombat distressed them. But it was over then, there was nothing that could be done. I hadn't started my other career yet, so other than missing a term of school that I had to catch up on..." she shrugs, smile fading. Were she to go missing for even one week today, the news would be all over the idol's disappearance.
"My managers... they're nice. They do worry about me, but I tell them that I'm fine- I mean, I am fine." she corrects, emphasizing the 'am'. A shake of her head, dark violet hair brushing against her shoulders, then she closes her eyes. Thoughts drift back to facing the demon at the pass, a battle to the death against Murder Incarnate. She might have survived, by the slimmest of margins, but the loss was still painful. But then there was the help she got later, the stability his presence provided during her remaining time on the hell island.
Opening her eyes, she smiles faintly then, "I've gotten better since then." There is something about the tone of her voice and the sentiment felt behind it that she isn't talking about her physical wellbeing, but something deeper, more intrinsic.
Her smile becomes a touch wry, "I know anything with a circuit is scary for you, but did you see any of the broadcasts of my World Warrior matches?" Her voice has gained new vigor, an enthusiasm for the hard fought, bloody battle she forced herself through not long ago. Any questions as to Asamiya's legitimacy as a fighter that lingered in the world were definitively put to rest for all but the most conspiracy-minded crackpots from her performance there.
"It is not fear," Kenshi chides gently, levitating his original 3 balls out of his hand and joining hers to the flock, all four balls rolling around one another in a complicated dance of interwoven patterns. The casual display of mental flexibility is done more absent mindedly than anything, the way someone might tap their fingers when posed with a difficult issue. "Have you not heard the voice of a computer? It is unnatural. A being without a soul should not speak." Funny that, despite all his powers, when it comes to reading a computer screen the swordsman is no more capable than any other blind person. This man who has slain evil, travels the world on a daily basis on some mission he has never revealed to her, thwarted by something as simple as an E-mail.
With a soft crack of splintering wood, Athena's lost ball is wrenched free from the tree to join the others dancing above Kenshi's upturned palm, the aging warrior turning back to flash her a cheeky little grin. It is moments like that when he almost appears young again, glimpses of the cocksure young swordsman he must have been shining through his ragged exterior.
"But no. I have heard only second and third hand accounts of your matches. I do wish to hear of them though. You can describe them blow by blow as you continue to practice." Pointing the finger of his free hand toward the single remaining ball in the young woman's lap, he makes his slow way back between the boulders to reclaim his seat, settling down upon the unyielding stone with that pleased sense of contentment that all long-time travelers seem to have when given a chance to sit. "
"Ahhh," breathes the sage, left hand dropping to rest lightly upon Sento's hilt, feet stretching out. Still smiling he adds, for benefit of Athena, and those souls that have been with him these many long years, "We would all like to hear. And," a slight pause is taken, sightless eyes seeming to meet Athena's even through the cloth that covers them, "We are all glad to know that you are OK."
The look Athena gives Kenshi as he mentions the violation of the natural order of things talking computers represent is a blend of bemusement and incredulity. She shakes her head, the expression lingering before giving way to a simple grin of quiet fondness for the man willing to guide her on her journey for... seemingly no benefit to himself that she can easily discern.
Her shoulders fall a little when he mentions not having experienced her matches in any form beyond references from others, but then brightens at the prospect as he invites her to tell him herself. This will be even better than any disconnected announcer broadcasting from at television. What do they know of the heart of battle, what do they know of fear, of defeat, of pain, of triumph? Who better to fill her sensei in than herself.
She is glad, after all, that he has not heard the account in great detail. "Okay," Athena replies, eagerness in her tone as she picks up the last ball from her lap and cradles it in her palm. "Well, it started with this swordsman. Blood. Kind of an ominous name, right? I ran into him right outside of school. Turns out he was dispatched by Wolfgang Krauser himself to assess whether I..."
The stories continue well past sunset, of her trials, of standing before the titans of the world and proving herself, against all odds, to be numbered among them. Punctuated, of course, by attempts to levitate the pool ball.
Not too many more trees were harmed this evening.
Log created on 21:51:42 06/09/2019 by Athena, and last modified on 23:58:55 06/15/2019.