Description: After a Neo League fight, two fighter indulge in some R&R that turns out to have been sorely needed by both of them.
Whenever the Corporal returned to consciousness after the on the hellishly-frozen mountain, she found a simple message left for her.
"After the crew clears you for leaving, there's a drink waiting for you in payment for a good fight."
Very to the point.
The attached directions lead to a small town that, thankfully, isn't too far down the mountain from the site of the fight (though perhaps still far enough to warrant some further cussing out of the fight organizers) -- and what may well be the only drinking hole within a several mile radius, for that matter. A homely little traditional joint of a japanese mountainside town, with dim lighting -- and one that offers a welcome sanctuary from the cold for a stranger in town. The instant the Corporal steps inside, a middle-aged woman who may very well be the owner of the establishment itself is quick to greet her at the door with a cheerful, "Evening, evening! Table for just you, or are you expecting company, dear?"
But more importantly, she may well notice something beyond the woman before she even gives her answer to her. A hand lifted up with index and middle finger extended, in a clear effort to catch her attention. The dark-red, partially-unbuttoned dress shirt might be unfamiliar, but it's not enough to make the man uncrecognizable. Not enough to mismatch the memory of the man she'd stared down after backing him up against the edge of a cliff, now sitting there in the far corner booth with a glassful of alcohol cradled in a hand lazily draped over the surface of the table mostly taken over by a large platter of fingerfood.
Corporal Panesh grins back at the charming woman greeting her. "Meeting someone..." And then, upon noticing a pair of upraised fingers, she nods her head in Tairyu's direction, growing her grin a bit more.
Now that she's 'off-camera', the corporal is happy to dress down a bit. And more importantly, to dress warmly for the climate. A black turtleneck, dark gray denim pants, and a big fluffy down-filled jacket in white, purple, and cyan. Bright and distinctive, to stand out if one were to get caught in a snowdrift.
"In America we call this kinda stuff 'finger food.'"
Mint pointedly drapes her prosthetic right hand over the top of the booth seating. She had, to wit, left the big, bulky gauntlets back at the hotel, opting instead for a pair of prosthetics that more closely resembles the pair of hands she'd been born with. The plastic is colored similarly, though the gloss and the not-subtle joints give them away.
"Which, yeah, /finger/ food? That hurts a bit, y'know?" She looks wounded for all of three seconds, before cracking a big smile. "Thanks for inviting me here. Woulda never known this place existed!" She slides on into the booth, glancing over the spread. She angles her head toward the glass: "What'd you start off with there?"
"Mmm. Well, I figured--" The japanese man starts to say in explanation for the presence of the food spread on the table... only for him to be cut off by the faux-wounded statement.
A slow, confused blink, and his eyes turn to actually get a proper look at one of her hands. From a quick look they may well be mistaken for the real thing, but once Tairyu gets the proper, focused study in, the unfortunate realization hits in.
"...Oh, I didn't..."
But then there's that smile that puts him off the impending apology, and instead leaves him to flashing a vaguely-suspicious look at her. "...Oh, I see. You're messing with me, huh?"
The spread of food itself is pretty comprehensive. Perhaps not exactly *all* the items on menu, but it does very much speak of the sort of decisionmaking that speaks of the man having invited her having no idea of what she would actually like, so... a bit of all kinds of things. Slices of fish, bites of fried chicken and pork, fired vegetables, edemame...
"I have to admit, I wasn't sure if you were going to come, Panesh-san," Tairyu notes, once she's sat down. "Surprisingly many people seem to have something against having a drink with the person they just punched a few hours earlier." A faint, wry smile plays at his lips with that, before her question brings his finger tapping lightly to the rim of his glass. "Locally-made sake, as it turns out. Good enough I'm kind of wondering why none of this stuff has been imported back to my corner of the country." One hand takes hold of the decanter left to the table, pouring some more of the rice wine to top his own glass off, before holding the container out with a nudge of his head made towards a second, very much empty glass. "Would you like to try it? They have a pretty good selection here otherwise if it's not your kind of thing."
Mint just figured it'd be better to get the mention of her hands out of the way first and foremost. That grin in full bloom, she clarifies, "Yes, I'm messing with you."
As Tairyu talks, Mint takes the opportunity to glance over the spread in greater detail. She takes note of the variety of foods, sliding over an empty plate and starting to load it up with a few edamame, a few of the chicken and pork bites, and one of the slices of fish. But she also slides over a canister of red pepper that had been left on the table. She doesn't sprinkle any of the spicy stuff on -yet-, because she wants to taste the food first.
Doesn't stop her from making eye contact though, from time to time. "-Those- people are missing out, because this looks amazing. I alwyas try and grab something local, no matter where I go. What's the point of hopping across the world if you're not gonna enjoy it?"
Her right hand fumbles around with the chopsticks for a moment, before she taps a small sensor at the base of its palm. Then the hand adopts the gesture perfectly.
Looking up, she nods cheerfully. "Oh, and sake! I can try a little, sure!" She slides her glass over, holding it so that the sake can be poured. With her free hand, not the one that just had an interface module activated so that it can hold chopsticks properly. "So, like... do you extend invites to -every- person you fight?"
"Well, good game on that," Tairyu concedes on the successful messing with of him.
And his own smile grows a bit more, seeing the eagerness of the off-duty corporal. "Very little point, yes. It's good you're happy to try out new things, too, Panesh-san. Much too many people are... picky and unwilling to face the unknown."
Though he was initially going to forego commenting on the matter of her fingers any further, he does clearly watch her hand struggle with the chopsticks. He doesn't offer any help, though, no. Or say anything for that matter. And his lack of interference is thus rewarded with the most interesting sight of her manipulating the prosthetic's inner workings -- and getting them to behave just as they should with the eastern utensils. And having seen that, he can't help but ask, "Did you design those yourself, as well? I might not know much about such things, but it seems like fine craftsmanship regardless."
The decanter of sake, then, is brought over to the slid-over glass, and the faintly-aromatic rice wine is steadily poured in. "Mmm, not exactly, no," he confesses, in the meantime. "A lot of people I fight are... thoroughly *unpleasant*. Too many people are pompous and full of empty bragging. So I suppose you just caught my eye, you know?"
With the glass filled out for her, he's happy enough to grasp his own again, and draw it up for an easy, small sip from within. "Mmm. At the very least, after the display, I thought you'd deserve a drink at minimum."
"And yeah. They miss out!" With the new setting, Mint could almost convincingly pass for someone who's used chopsticks all her life. And she uses this dexterity to sample a piece of pork. Which she seems to enjoy, at first! "Yes! The big ones are obviously a bit -too- big to use day-to-day. I'd use these lil' scraps more, but they kinda... fall to pieces when I punch." She laughs gently, bowing her head in thanks. "Thanks, though! And yeah. I... also had to add a sensitivity selector, for the times it can't just automatically -know- when to switch. Human-machine interfaces always take a little hocus-pocus to get working just so!"
Mint is a bit calmer in this setting than on the fight stage. Which is good, because excitable doesn't mesh well with glasses of sake. She draws the sake close for a sip, swishing it around for a moment before giving a bionic thumbs-up of approval! "Well, I'm glad I earned that much, at least! I... man, though." She laughs, lowering her eyes. "I didn't think I earned much else though. I feel like you totally deconstructed me out there." Lifting her gaze again, she grins. "It's one thing to boast, but there came a point where I was like, 'who am I kidding?' You obviously knew how to handle my sick strats."
She eyes that pork again. And she tips some red pepper onto the second morsel. Upon tasting it, her bigger smile shows that yes, it's an improvement.
Tairyu's head tilts to one side curiously while she speaks on the nature of the prosthetics. He probably doesn't understand much of them, but he's at least clearly listening attentively regardless.
"Hm?" Both of his dark brows arch upwards slowly, right with that initial lowering of her eyes. His own smile fades away slightly with some different consideration of her, lips even pursing for a moment in thought while he processes her words.
"Ignoring for the moment that your other hands felt like they were going to snap my arms..." He murmurs with a slow sigh while drawing a pair of chopsticks for himself and using them to draw up several thin slices of fish. "You had a lot more fire in you, in that fight, than most people I've met. It burned brightly, you know? And never through it did you back down even a little. Never did you feel the need to taunt your opponent, never did you grow sour over how things were going. You just faced it all directly."
The bitefuls of fish between chopsticks are slurped up, and soon washed down with a healthy dose of sake, before he continues. "I admire that kind of spirit. It's something I'm sure is going to shine all the more brightly."
The chopsticks and glass both are set aside for a moment, and he leans slightly in against the table, thick arms wrapped into the red fabric of his distinctive shirt folding along it. "Besides... Tell me, Panesh-san." Still calling her formally even after she already gave him a nickname to use. How so very japanese of him. "When it comes to a fight that isn't to the death... Is it a zero-sum game?"
Mint laughs. "Well, I mean, I wasn't -mad-. It's a fight, and it's... a challenge, a good -puzzle- to figure out how I was gonna break through and bop you around a bit. Not that I -did- of course, but you got the gears turnin'."
She pauses to take a longer sip of her sake. This one, she closes her eyes, feeling a bit more of the warmth as it goes down.
"A lot of it's just... the way I fight. I gotta talk a big game to keep myself psyched up. Otherwise I'd just shut down an' all, and that's no fun for anyone." She grins, sprinkling a bit more of the red pepper on the other morsels of meat. "Though, you were a perfect gentleman, let's not ignore that! If you were trash talkin' me, I'd be throwing it back in your face a mile a minute!"
She appears to shrug off the 'Panesh-san' name, as she breaks open a few edamame pods. "Mmm... zero sum how? Your side is heavier than mine, I'd say, so how could that be zero sum?"
"Workin yourself up, right?" A corner of Tairyu's mouth tugs up, subtly, though the smile that forms as a result is hardly a derisive one. "Engines like us do need a good rev first, no?" ... Well, it's clearly not the kind of metaphor he's tried to employ much in the past, but he's trying.
Getting accused of being a gentleman is mostly waved off, though the instant the particular syllables reach his ear, there is a low, sheepish cough in his throat. One that's quickly attempted to be camoflauged by another swig of sake... nevermind that he very clearly took that drink *after* the cough. And it's not like he seems to have any difficulty handling something of this strength anyway.
"Not... precisely what I meant." The emerald orbs of his eyes flick, purposefully, to establishing eye contact -- almost seeming intensely bright within the dim lighting of the bar while they gaze at her. "At the end of it all... Did you feel like you gained anything at all? Or do you feel the only thing you walked away with was the sensation of 'I lost'?"
"Right!" Mint leans closer, as if she's expecting Tairyu to keep going on with the metaphor, but ... well, that's her moment to step in. "And once we get up to speed, that's where the fun starts!" Unfortunately she can't think of a good analogy for what happens when the metaphorical engine is steered off course. "I'm just amazed at how you could keep staying one step ahead of me."
She listens attentively, even as edamame continue disappearing from her plate. "Oh, oh, I see. Uh..." She nods enthusiastically: "Pfft, nah. That's quitter talk! Every fight's an opportunity to learn something new. It's clear I'm -faster- than you, my engines run a little hotter, but you managed to put a stop to me anyway. I could tap out, but like... you're putting a challenge in front of me, a challenge I -need- to solve to jump to the next level."
She takes a swig of her sake. "So now I have something to train for. What about you, do -you- think it's a zero sum?"
"That's it." Tairyu's smile grows with Mint's answer, enough that the whites of his teeth briefly flash from between his lips. "People take defeat in different ways. Some fall to despair, some to frustration that they curse their opponent with... some can't see past any of that. But as long as you're still able to get up again, there's importance in the ways that defeat makes you push yourself up to your feet afterwards. You have to overcome. Find boundaries and push against them until they shatter into pieces under you."
The intensity of his gaze fades away with that - no need to be challenging her now afterall - when he leans back, and drains the last of the sake in his glass. "So... No, I don't really think it is," comes his answer, over the sound of further sake getting poured into his glass. "What I gained was not at the expense of you being able to gain anything at all." Glass refilled, he holds out the decanter towards her, with a little shake, in non-verbal offer of a top-up. "And I'll happily be looking forward to how you will be challenging me in the future to make up for not having similiar rocket boosters in my own arms. And just as happy to share a drink with you again regardless of the outcome."
A brief pause, and a slow blink of the eyes. "... Though, hopefully the next time will be somewhere... more hospitable."
"Right, right! See, in engineering, we -totally- miss the mark sometimes, so if we weren't willing to just... try again, we'd never get -anything- done."
Minal happily takes a moment to devour a few of her spiced-up meat morsels. They tasted plenty fine before, but with the added pepper, they're much more satisfying to her palate.
The corporal nods cheerfully as she savors her appetizers, sliding her glass over for a refill. "Yeah. I'm glad you got there when you did, I just about had to add some extra fuel before the fight. The turbines are nice and toasty but -man- they're expensive to operate sometimes..."
Reluctantly, she uses her chopsticks to liberate a few of the mixed vegetables. Her smile diminishes somewhat as she leans closer, speaking at just -barely- above a whisper: "... So is it Katashi or Tairyu? Which... would you prefer I call you? Dumb Americans, we don't know anythin', right? And... what do you -do-, other than look smokin' hot all the time?"
"That right?" Tairyu can't help but let his grin grow wider, now, over Mint's comparison. "I suppose good engineers share more than a few traits with good fighters then, huh? No I wonder I like you already."
The continued addition of pepper isn't commented on, but the few looks he gives over the food she indulges in does suggest he's at least taking note of it. Not judging, perhaps, but noting regardless.
With practiced ease, he tips the decanter until the sake's refilling her glass, and he nearly looks apologetic over her woes on the fuel. As if somehow it was his fault for not being there sooner. "...Well. Maybe the league organizers are willing to recompense at least some of that? ...They... Do they actually use jet fuel?"
The further leaning is initially met with a subtle upward quirk of a dark brow -- right before some amusement glints within one green eye. "Tairyu is my family name," he offers to her, for clarification. "Though even most of my friends call me that. I guess it rolls off the tongue better than 'Katashi'... And has some more weight to it. But, well... I think I'm alright with you calling me whatever you wish to call me."
But come the followup question, or... rather, the latter addition to it, and he seems to genuinely be taken off-guard. Hesitating for a few seconds with a low "Uh..." as a result, before murmuring, "...I run a club. Well. Two clubs. A host and hostess club. ... It occurs to me that I don't know if there are equivalents in America; they're very japanese things."
Nevermind that he is more than just a business owner by profession, but *that* isn't the kind of information one gives out on the first date, is it?
"Oh." Mint is momentarily taken aback by the idea that the Neo League might pay her extra for jet fuel. Waving it off with a half-grin, she answers, "Oh, no, it's... it's my own dumb ass that was running the engines rather than just stayin' in the warm tents like the rest of the League officials. Besides, it's not -that- bad, the tanks don't hold much."
But since Mint is already leaning in close, she grins, "Little known secret, tai-ri-yuu is a bit harder to say than kah-tah-shee." Now that she's slowing down her syllables rather than crashing them all against one another, it might be a bit more obvious that she wasn't saying 'ryu' right all along.
Still. As she tastes the vegetables, she nods to Tairyu's murmuring. And raises both eyebrows.
"Well, I'd -seen- some, at the airport. Never knew what they were all about, they didn't really seem like places meant for me." She pauses. "I mean, not that... not that I wouldn't go in, but..."
She prods at her vegetables, struggling for a moment. "Well, geez. What -is- a host and hostess club? I guess I never figured that part out!" So much for murmuring.
With her saying it slower, Tairyu can certainly tell how she's saying it not-so-accurately, and his eyes narrow momentarily with it. "...Huh. I mean, I suppose, if you're not used to saying it..." That'd be on him for not taking into account how differently the pronounciation happens to work for the english-speakers. He might speak english rather fluently, but surely his pronounciation slips with certain syllables regardless. Either way, after freeing his other hand from the decanter, he flicks his hand in a gesture of dismissal before offering, in repeat, "You can call me whatever you like."
Surely that will not come back to bite him in the ass.
Something about Mint's initial response to the notion of a host/hostess club brings some concerned curiousity rising up into his expression, but he elects not to ask her about it, in the wake of her own question.
"Mmmm... A hostess club is... well, a club mostly staffed by women, where a customer is seated at a table with a hostess to provide company to them. You know, pour drinks, light cigarettes, make conversation... things like that. A host club is more or less the same, but staffed by men, instead."
Both of Tairyu's brows lift upwards then, while watching for how the off-duty corporal takes this particular information. He may be purposefully not making the particular distinctions away from the easy misunderstandings there regarding the nature of the clubs.
Mint nods, giving serious consideration to the earnest explanation she's been given. "Huh. Well, since 'whatever you like' is too many syllables, I'll just stick with Katashi then." And with a broad smile, she nods her head cheerfully. "And you can keep calling me Panesh-san, or Mint, or whatever -you- like."
She... is a bit reluctant, but she tries the fish. It... takes a moment for her to consider this texture. "... What kinda fish is this, is it raw? It's not bad..."
She listens quietly to the explanation of the host/hostess club concept. She nods intently, digesting the information as she brings the sake glass close to her. And her response is blurted out without any filtering.
"Oh, so it's like a strip club?"
Marines are only -rarely- accused of of dancing around an issue. And Mint is no different, for she keeps holding eye contact with Tairyu as she drinks from her glass.
Tairyu definitely walked into that one. Eyes narrow at Mint regardless, before he shakes his head slightly. "...Katashi is fine, yes. But, I think... Mm. Yes, I'll go with Mint, for now. At least until I come up with something I like calling you more." A bit of uncharacteristic mischief glints within his eye with that latter part.
As for the fish? "Raw salmon. Eating like that is kind of an acquired taste, I admit. Try dipping it in the soy sauce though, mm?" And as if to demonstrate, he gathers a couple of the thin slices betwixt his chopsticks, and dips them into a seperate little dipping bowl of sauce before guiding them to be slurped up.
And there it is. That very easy misconception. Or at least one of them. She could have gone with 'brothel'. He must have been prepared for it, considering he doesn't flinch over her saying it either. Just keeping his eyes on hers for several quiet seconds, with a perfectly straight face...
Until it breaks with a faint snort.
"No, no... Unfortunately, you will have to go... elsewhere in the city for that kind of thing. Hope you're not too disappointed." The last words come with an obviously teasing tone, even with him still resolutely maintaining that eye contact with her. "Though I suppose you could always try to seduce someone from the staff..." Slowly, his own glass of sake is brought to his lips, green eyes peering at her over the rim of it while he indulges in the wine.
Mint flashes Tairyu a smirk from the across the lip of her sake glass. "Fair's fair, Katashi. But if the name's too weird, don't be surprised if I don't answer to it."
The dark-skinned Marine seems to be okay with the idea that shed' just had raw fish. "Millions of people eat it," she reasons aloud, "you guys gotta be doing something right." She does, in fact, dip it in the soy sauce afterwards. After a try, she nods with wide-eyes, noting, "Ahhhh yeah, that's much better."
But... the question. And the answer. "Disappointed? Nah, I just..." She trails off, as Tairyu starts winding her down a path which she can only believe is part of the playboy's sales pitch. "... Listen, it ain't like that, now. Sometimes I just wanna window shop, right?" She downs another gulp of her sake, grinning, "And you just got done telling me it /wasn't/ a strip club, but here you are tryin' to hook me up with your staff? C'mon, man, pick a lane."
She sets the sake glass down, helping herself to a few more pieces of salmon. And dunking them in soy sauce, in turn.
"Is it fun? The twin bar thing. You get a bunch of repeat clients?"
"Just means I'll have to come up with a name you also enjoy being called by," Tairyu is prompt to add in as a factor.
And she may not realize, from the short time she's known the man, just how uncharacteristic it is to hear him drawing out a genuine - if quiet - rumble of laughter. "Ah... Forgive me," he murmurs, smiling with unrestrained amusement while giving a shake of his head. "I am mostly just prodding at you. It's been a while since I've last sat down for drinks with someone like this and not have it be about business."
He sets his chopsticks aside for the time being, now, and props his elbows on the tabletop, fingers of his hands lacing together with each other. "... Fun? Hmm. Now that you ask it, I suppose it is, at that. More fun than a regular job, anyhow. And yeah, repeat clients tend to be what bring the most revenue with places like that. Kind of... part of the job for the staff too. Tempting customers to come back and see them again."
While Mint might not know a lot about Tairyu in particular, she's dealt with a lot of club owners. Mostly because, despite her small size, she knows how to hold her liquor better than the grunts assigned to her fire squads, and she's had to bail them out of tough spots every now and again. "Yeah, it's cool. You fit the template -- gotta act strong for the employees, otherwise they fall outta line."
... She seems to be enjoying the fish more than the other entrees, perhaps because she feels like the pepper isn't as essential with soy sauce right there. But more on that in a moment...
"More fun than a regular job? If you don't mind my sayin' so, you don't seem like someone who's -done- many regular jobs." She nods amicably, adding, "And yeah. We... yeah, I'm sure the US -has- something like that, but... most of the time folks just go to a plain ol' bar. And everyone can just compete for the one or two ladies at the bar." She pauses. "... So like... is there an entry fee? Can folks just hop back and forth between the two clubs once they're in?"
And then Mint ... seems to have eaten the rest of the fish. "Okay, are there like... more fish we can try? I didn't think I'd like it, but like, it's pretty good!"
The accusation - such as it is - is taken in well enough stride, even if Tairyu's expression does get a sheepish smile tugging at his lips momentarily. "...Well, you wouldn't really be wrong. Hope you won't hold that against me."
A single finger taps against his own cheek, and with a shrug, he elects to refill his own glass with sake once more... just to find the decanter emptying out by the time the glass has been halfway-filled. ":..You know, when you put it like that, the idea of going into a club to talk to a girl who is specifically paid to flirt with customers and do *nothing else* with them sounds kind of insane. And yet there's still a customer base for that kind of thing. The joy of varying cultures, I suppose?"
A hand drawn up to get the owner's attention, both for more wine and a new platter of fish. "I fear they only have salmon here, though," he notes, wryly.
As for the matter of the club, still? "Ah, there's an entry fee. Most customers don't really... usually go jump back and forth between the clubs. If someone wants both female and male company, though, that *can* be arranged. We're not too fussy about that kind of thing. In all seriousness, though, if you ever end up wandering into Southtown, you could come check it out for yourself, if you'd like."
With a new decanter of of sake and platter of sashimi brought over, Tairyu pauses just long enough to give words of thanks to the charming old lady, waiting until she's out of earshot again before murmuring to Mint, "Or I can show you another bar like this, too."
Hold it against Tairyu? Mint arches an eyebrow and flashes a lopsided smirk. "Nah, just psychoanalysis-lite, this time. Didn't mean nothin' by it, sorry Katashi!" She claps both hands together and bows her head and shoulders, just like she's seen native Japanese folks do.
Though, as Tairyu starts musing about other club formats, Mint just... nods along agreeably. "Oh... it's different! That's all I'm saying. Bars are so low-effort in the States, for the most part. Someone stands behind a counter and pours out drinks... And there's usually also like eight jillion TV screens around so folks can keep up on sports and crap. Conversations don't tend to be all that, uh, deep."
Mint shrugs again -- though the thought of going through a second order of salmon doesn't seem to deter her, gauging from her smile. "When in Rome, man, it's all good!"
The corporal does, however, give a pensive half-frown at the implications of the story Tairyu is teling. "So like. You have ... how many tables? And you have a host or a hostess for -each one?- That's gotta be murder when it comes to paying out, haha."
As to whether she's like another? Two plastic hands come up in defense -- the gesture a clear read for "No need, this is fine!" For every so often Mint has a rare moment of tact.
Apparently, Tairyu isn't inclined to hold the bit of amateur psychoanalysis from Mint against her, either. If nothing, there's faint amusement playing in his eyes, and all the more so when the apologetic gesturing comes from her. He might even find that particular mimicing of japanese mannerisms cute in a way, but he's not going to tell her *that*.
The contrasts between the bar cultures is an interesting one to the man, however, and he mulls over the image the corporal paints. "Hmm... It might not be too different in some cases," he allows, with a subtle shrug. "But there's a certain deep-seated cultural effect to drinking and bar-going here in japan. In many cases, places like this and clubs like mine are important for cultivating professional relationships just as much as casual ones."
His hand's already pouring more sake for himself while he says that, though-- he does visibly hesitate with some minor realization. "...Nevermind that it's easy to overdo things. Suppose that's the test of character for your business partner, too. Wether you can indulge in drink with them without making a fool of yourself... things like that."
Even in spite of that, the decanter is vaguely wiggled in the direction of his current drinking buddy's glass, too, in offer.
"I'd be lying if I claimed it wasn't a logistical nightmare at times," he confesses, with a subtle wince. "But that'd be the reason places like that tend to lean on the pricy side. But enough about me and mine. Judging from the outfit you wore back there, I figure you're a military type? So what exactly do you do, other than lo-..." There's a sobering beat there. No, he can't quite ask that the same way she did earlier with the same kind of casual ease, so his mind ends up taking a different road on it. "... Honoring a humble businessman with your company?"
Ugh, that just sounds so stilted after the pause. Too late to beat himself up about it though.
Minal breaks into a fit of chuckles over the words 'deep-seated cultural effect.' "Okay, so I'm playing psychologist, you're playing sociologist over there. " Grinning broadly, she drains what's left of her glass and pushes it over for a refill. "I'm picking, but I get it. It's just that in my line of work, if there's any 'team building exercises' to be had it's gonna be done in a restaurant or on the golf course. It's not... well..." She laughs. "Okay, to put it a better way? I swear, with most of the squadrons I've worked with, all work stops when a pretty girl walks in. They'd never get -any- work done if there was one at every table, and they would -definitely- not be working together as a tight-woven team."
Mint takes the opportunity to polish off some of the salmon as she considers the logitistics of running a host and hostess bar. "Ahh, yeah, price -- that was another reason I never stepped in. Money was always tight for our family, growing up, so I tend to keep a tight grip on it."
Minal casually interjects, "Yeah." And then she hear what -might- have been a return of her compliment, only to realize it was... cut off. Mint blinks back at Tairyu, momentarily stunned.
"... Yeeeeah, I'm military. Used to be a combat engie working on tanks, now I got an upgrade to work in air-conditioned labs. We're working on next-gen soldier tech. 'Can't tell you or I'd have to kill ya' kinda stuff, but it's been fun for the most part." Her tone is a bit more subdued from earlier -- cheerful, just a little less so.
"Working on tanks -was- pretty fun too, to be fair."
"Weeellll..." Tairyu's own throat rumbles with a chuckle while he's pouring a refill for Minal. "I suppose we're both trying new jobs today? I can't imagine anyone would want to pay me for that, however. And I do understand what you're getting at, there. It's not really like japanese businessmen get work in it's direct meaning done at a place like that, either. It's more about... greasing the wheels, so to speak."
The stunned reaction, however brief it might be, clearly doesn't slip past Tairyu's notice, either. His brows furrow into a concerned frown for a moment, while he mutters, "...Something the matter?"
The explanation on her current working situation draws a slight lift to his brows, and he murmurs, "Best I don't try to ask you about that then," though the tone is a (mostly) joking one. Still, her own tone has shifted slightly, and ultimately, he ends up taking a moment, now, to just consider the dark-skinned woman while quietly sipping at his own serving of sake. Maybe he's starting to wonder if he's accidentally brought himself poking close to some subject that, for her, is unwelcome.
"Oh." Mint seems chastened, for a moment -- as if her read of how business is conducted in Japan were -radically- different than America's, and Tairyu's reframing of the issue makes that a bit clearer. "Yeah..." she offers, drifting off for a moment.
But then... Mint looks surprised that Tairyu picked up on... well, anything on her face, subconscious or otherwise. "Huh?" She blinks a few time, and then cracks open a wider smile, much like before. "Nah, I'm... I'm good!" She lifts up the glass, explaining, "Just kinda spacing a bit. This is some good sake!" And then she takes another sip.
As for her job, and what exactly she does... "Ah, it's cool! I mean, I can talk about it, just that I can't get -specific- about it. I work with vendors, price out parts and supplies, get all the ducks in a row so I can make cool shit for soldiers to use in the battlefield." She sets the glass back down eyes crossing as she looks at it for a moment. And in the momentary silence that follows...
Mint looks back up at Tairyu abruptly, as if he just said something. Her pupils dilate as she sits, alertly. "Hey, this is strong, actually...!" With an amicable laugh, she pushes the glass just a -bit- further from her, more for effect than actual need. "Which glass is this? I should probably stop."
Another laugh. "I was just thinking about what you said, about... people making fools out of each other. Cause like, I ... I'm great at that -without- the sake, right?" She laces her fingers together, with the sounds of plastic clicking and sliding against plastic.
"It's... it's just that you're relaxing. Easy to talk to." She flashes a giddy smile. "I've had a lot on my mind lately."
At minimum, Tairyu seems unconvinced enough by Mint's assurances of her simply spacing out to give her a brief, vaguely suspicious look. Then again, she has been drinking nearly as much as him, so it's not like it's an entirely unconvincing claim either.
"I mean, to be fair..." He gives a low chuckle of amusement, then. "It's not like I was really expecting you'd have to assassinate me just for getting you to tell me that much, either. I'm sure I'm not the first one to get all curious about that, either; it's the kind of thing that inherently sounds interesting."
The moment of silence seems like a weighty one, even if it is short. so much so that when Mint's eyes do snap to Tairyu, it's so sudden for him that he's actually visibly taken aback by it. "Oh-- Well, we have been drinking for a while, so perhaps a good idea..." Tairyu, himself, takes the last sip from his own glass before setting it aside. "...Sake can take you off-guard surprisingly easily. I promise, it wasn't my intention to get you irresponsibly drunk."
But, while she settles, the Japanese man sitting opposite from her finds himself just watching her quietly while she speaks. A sympathetic smile flickers along his lips at her own admission, and then--
A compliment, again. It's not as blunt as the one she made before, but this one makes his gaze drift off to the side, briefly.
"You are relaxing, too," he offers eventually, with a small smile that almost seems rueful. "I suppose I needed a moment like this more than I thought, too."
That brief moment of introspection passed, he guides his emerald gaze back to the Corporal, to settle back into eye contact. A few silent seconds may pass, where he merely holds her gaze, considering the woman sitting opposite from her.
"What's on your mind, right now?" He inevitably asks to break the silence, voice barely above a whisper, just enough to be audible for her.
Mint is usually pretty outgoing and forthright. And in that vein, it can easily seem like things are going awry when the firehose of words just... tapers off.
She stares back at the Japanese man as if he were the lone port in a storm, the one beacon of sanity in a world rapidly losing definition. Part of that may be due to the alcohol working through her system. But the rest...
Well, as soon as he breaks eye contact, so does she. Her plastic wrists clack together as she gathers her palms beneath her chin, propping herself up as she looks down at the half-empty glass before her, the plates dotted with drips and splashes of soy sauce, the discarded edamame husks.
And yet, when he snaps his gaze back to her, she returns the favor almost instantly. Her cheeks -- a little rosy -- dimple with a faint, detached smile. What's on her mind?
"Uhm...." A shy smile, a few more moments of deliberation.
"Well..." She closes her eyes for a moment, composing her words carefully. And then her hazel eyes open again, her gaze latching on to Tairyu's once more.
"You're... /dangerous/, Katashi. How can I be sure you're not just luring me into another trap? Waiting for me to commit, so you can sweep in and take me right off my feet?"
Concern plays more and more in Tairyu's features while Mint's silence continues, while her smile turns more shy, her own gaze wanders. His lips part, just about to say something, to ask if she's sure she's alright--
And then that accusation comes. Being called dangerous is something he can't really call as an incorrect statement, either, but somehow, with her saying that now hits in a completely different way, leaves him frowning faintly.
But the words that come after turn that frown into a more confused one, briefly. "What do you...?" He starts to ask, quietly, before some realization hits him. It brings his posture straightening slightly, and his eyes blinking once, twice, at Minal. "...Oh."
In spite of that, he manages to maintain that eye contact, even if some uncertainty plays in his own eyes now. Silence reigns again, for a short moment.
And then, comes the blunt answer of, "You can't, really," with a low sigh from him. "Especially not when you don't really know even half the things about me. ... Just like back in the valley, the only thing you can do is study the opponent ahead of you, make the judgement on what you've seen in the few moments until then... decide what you want to achieve, figure out if you can reach it through the path you're laying ahead of you, and if it's worth the risk of what could happen instead."
Subtly, he does lean his weight further to the table while he speaks, just enough for the closing of the distance - as much as the table itself between them would allow anyhow - to be noticed.
"But those are not decisions and answers I can truly give you, Minal."
Mint's eyelids begin to droop, ever so slightly, as she pays mind to Tairyu's reactions. His hesitation, his hedging over words -- and then his blunt, but honest, introspection.
Her elbows bump outwards by a centimeter -- as if her head itself is getting heavier. Perhaps she's getting sleepy -- or perhaps this is just a lot for the diminutive soldier to take in. But it probably isn't a -bad- thing, considering her shy smile remains fixed in place for the duration of her thoughts -- what might be a mere second or two.
Once more, her eyes cast downward. As if she might find the thoughts written on Tairyu's collarbones.
Once more, she looks up again. "Yeah. I like that answer." She smiles so hard her eyelids shut.
And then she draws in her breath, covering her mouth for a yawn as she sits upright again. "Sorry. Was just... -thinking-. Like I said... -relaxing-."
She brushes plastic fingertips through her hair. "You're normally... pretty busy, though, right? Who's, uhm.... who's running your club when you go gallavanting around inhospitable areas at the whims of the Neo League?"
Perhaps the moments of silence, themselves, are importnat to an extant. At least important enough that Tairyu isn't inclined to interrupt them, not after he has spoken his words. Not while the little corporal is mulling over her own thoughts.
And the smile that comes with her response is mirrored back to an extent. She may not realize it, but it's not the kind of smile that Tairyu shows often. It's not so much the polite smile of a businessman, no. Instead, there's genuine warmth in the small smile that he gives her now.
"Don't apologize. Both those things are good," he says then, drawing himself back away from his forward lean in favor of sitting more upright. "We don't get to do enough of either of those things, sometimes."
One shoulder rolled in a half-shrug at the question that comes after, while his arms fold loosely together along the edge of the table. "I guess I'm kind of busy usually... Though truth be told, that might be self-imposed. It's not like I need ot be hands-on all the time. The day managers usually have things under control... Just because I'm bad at letting myself delegate doesn't mean I don't have people to delegate to."
His head tilts slightly to one side, but even then he doesn't let his gaze wander away from her anymore, as if every little motion of her, every word was deserving of his full, undivided attention. "What about you? Does your work usually keep you too busy to go hop to a different part of the world to fight some guy and then have a drink with him after?"
Now that she's sitting upright, it's a bit easier for Minal to fall into her usual rhythms -- such as the inebriation would allow, at least. She nods in agreement -- few in their relative positions would say no to more thinking or relaxing time. She nods a Tairyu and his need to manage in person -- not a bad thing, by most estimations.
The dark-skinned Marine grins in self-effacing manner as she shakes her head in the negative. "It's... not, really. I used to think that's all I'd wanted to do when I was a kid, to have a workshop all to myself, without having to worry about the neighbors bitching... and I could build things all day to my heart's content."
She laughs, breaking eye contact so that she can snare one more piece of fish with her chopsticks, and dunk it in soy sauce. "It's fun. But I could definitely use more of my vacation time. Just... didn't ever know where I should go."
She locks back onto Tairyu, grinning. "Is that weird? That my only R&R is to go trade punches with people I don't know?" One more salmon, down the hatch.
"It's not that weird," admits Tairyu easily. He's not reaching for his own chopsticks again, himself, at least not yet. Content enough to let her indulge in the delicious treats on her own for the time being. "That kind of thing is part of what people like us end up using for channeling our spirits, you know? Though... Truth be told, I could do with indulging more in some... 'normal' fun."
Somehow, Tairyu might not seem like the kind of person who practices this particular part of what he preaches easily himself.
And with that, he can't quite help but let that newly-found warm smile of his spread into a subtly more mischievous grin. "And hey. We know each other a little better now, at least, so there's that. Maybe next time you can say you're trading punches with a friend, instead."
'Friend', he says. It might have come surprisingly casually amongst everything else, but there is still and undeniable weight in it.
Mint's right there with Tairyu for the most part. She grins and nods with each passing thought, right up until the end. The word 'normal' brings a lopsided smirk to her lips. "Okay, so -normal- is the weird part for us, is that it?" The thought amuses her; she gives off no signs of it being an insult, to say the least!
Still. Tairyu's suave tone of voice is enough to ease her nerves. Relaxing, one might say. And she finds herself leaning forward onto the table once again, propping up her chin with her palm. With half-lidded eyes, she flashes a broad smile. "Friend, huh. Yeah, I could get used to that." She remains in a comfortable silence for a long few moments, just... smiling back at that face of Tairyu's. For once -- she finds herself at a loss for words.
"Ah-- no, I mean, for me, anyway--" Tairyu's composure breaks for once with that, hands brought up to hold them in a slightly defensive gesture while his voice rumbles with an obviously more apologetic edge. "I didn't mean to imply anything! I-- My apologies."
With a cough, he at least makes an effort to recompose himself, even if his body ends up leaning a bit more lazily against the edge of the table in a half-slump.
That particular shift does, in the end, bring him a bit closer towards her again in time with her own forward lean. And he finds himself just looking back at her in silence. The brief moment of akwardness fades away, slowly, and warmth returns to his smile once more. Apparently happy enough to let that silence last for a moment -- or, perhaps, he's just as much at loss for words, now.
But that's alright, too.
But that can only last so long, too, before he whispers to her, "What are you thinking about?"
Tairyu asks a question -- and this time, her expression changes almost immediately. She blinks, as if startled out of a reverie -- and bites her lower lip.
"Mm," she concludes, "I was just thinking that unless the proprietor -also- runs an inn, we might need to hit the road soon." She closes her eyes, covering her mouth for a rather long yawn. "'Cause otherwise, I'm gonna be sacked out on the train ride to my hotel." Rubbing her eyes, she sits up again. One eye cracks open so she can watch Tairyu: "Did you come here by train, too?"
"Mmmh... I don't think she does," Tairyu observes with an *almost* disappointed tone over the notion that there's no sleeping arrangements readily available right nearby. "I'm not sure a town this small has anything of the sort otherwise either..."
And unfortunately, a yawn that long from Mint turns out to be infectious. It's a bit delayed, but Tairyu's own mouth draws agape momentarily to let out an equally lengthy vocal expression of fatigue. "Mh... I did, actually," he confirms for her. "I don't know what the scheduling is like at this hour... I guess I could call a cab if it's too much of a bother..."
Mint hehs, looking down at the back of her left wrist. Black glass stares back at her -- and she prods it with a finger. A holographic display is projected before her -- and before long, she's stabbing the air with her finger, sliding around one graphic element after another.
"Well... last train just left. And cabs, guh." Mint makes a face. "Just going one town over would run you nearly five thousand. Ridiculous."
Mint starts to slip out of her seat.
And then she -falls- out of her seat.
Peals of laughter break out from the little soldier now piled upon the floor.
"I guess we might need a cab and a room after all!"
UNder normal circumstances, the display of highly advanced technology from Mint's wrist would draw a much more impressed reaction, but Tairyu is, perhaps understandably, distracted by other things on his mind.
And the alcohol in his blood.
His eyes widen when he witnesses her suddenly fall over, and he's quick to shoot up standing (even if he ends up needing a hand bracing himself against the side of the table). "H-hey, are you--"
But the brief sting of concern leaves him, as if washed away by the sound of laughter from the fallen soldier.
"...Yeah, maybe," he agrees while he eases him closer to the stretch of the floor her body has claimed. "Hey, look, I got you into this mess in the first place so I can cover it..." That offer made in time with the offer of his hand, extended down towards her to take a hold of and use as an anchor point to pull herself up with.
"Ahahahaha! Yeah, I'm fiiine, it's just the -room- that's spinning..!" Mint continues laughing as she clings to the chair -- because really, that's the only way she won't be flopping around like a fish on the floor, with how much she's had, from the looks of it. Sitting up was one task, but standing is considerably more difficult at the moment.
Mint looks up at her dinner companion, flashing him a goofy smile as she reaches up. "Hey, it's my knight in shining white armor. Thanks!" Her hand clamps around his -- perhaps a -bit- snugly at first, for the thin plastic begins to creak under the stress. And once she's back to her feet, she will try to hook her arm about Tairyu's waist. It's not like the 145cm-tall woman is going to be wrapping her arm about his shoulders, after all.
"Excuse me, ma'am?" she says -- for the proprietress is -obviously- concerned about them. "Where's the nearest place we can spend the night without paying an arm and a leg?" Deliberate pause, though she can't hide the grin. "I mean, I tried that once, but you see where it got me, ahahaha!"
"...Oh no, I really did have you drink too much, didn't I," Tairyu observes, a bit more on the worried side even if his voice are backed by the rumble of laughter. WHile one hand helps draw her up, the other reaches to fish out the thick jacket he left folded up besides his original seat. Though with Mint clinging an arm around him, he ends up delaying trying to put that on right away, instead letting his own arm wrap about her, pull her against his side.
You know, to keep her steadied. Of course.
"Alright, alright... Let's try to get through the day without anyone losing any body parts, yeah? Come on..."
It's surprisingly good cheer that Tairyu ends the evening with, for once. Even if it does involve getting a propably-expensive cab to ferry him and his companion down to town with the directions from the bar's proprietress
At least the cab ride is relatively uneventful. Though once the two do arrive at the destination - a rustic little roadside inn, probably mostly used frequented by long-distance travellers and truckers, Tairyu does make the point of helping Mint out of the car and wrapping an arm aroudn her again. For steadying purposes. Yes.
Inside, a scruffy man sat behind the front counter barely affords a look to the arriving pair away from a laptop streaming Netflix or something, though with the obviously disinterested tone of someone who really does not want to be working a late shift at a place like this, he does mutter, "Looking to stay the night? Lucky you, last room ain't taken yet."
"...Ah." Tairyu, having just gotten close enough to bring himself leaning against the counter, falls into a rather sobering pause with that newly-provided information. "Just the one?" He asks for confirmation, which is answered with the attendant's slow nod (still never breaking his focus away from the laptop screen). "Well..." A sheepish glance down to his companion. "I mean..."
All throughout the taxicab ride, Mint had spent the trip with an arm folded upon the windowsill, her gaze locked to the view out her window. It was all dark, of course. With most buildings having their lights out. But for some reason -- possibly the alcohol -- it all seemed so captivating to her. But, for the most part, she was a quiet riding companion, with little in the way of actual comments. She had kept her jaw set, her only responses being nods and shakes of the head.
The scruffy innkeeper makes his statement -- and Mint's plastic hand grasps at the side of Tairyu's shirt. She hears what he's saying, and she knows what's coming. As if irritated, she starts scanning the lobby of the little roadside inn, landing her gaze anywhere but onto that scruffy dude. And even in her inebriated state, she still tends to know exactly what she wants.
Her cheeks puff out. She lowers her head. And she half-whispers, "It's fine."
She breaks free of Tairyu's grip -- high-tailing it straight for the restroom. Definitely the alcohol.
When she emerges, a little more ashen-faced than before, she seems... sleepy. "Hey... s-sorry about that. One room's fine, we're gonna be asleep anyway..."
"Are you--" The question from Tairyu only makes it out by the first two words before Mint's making her escape for the restroom. Oh. Definitely should have cut her off earlier.
When she gets back from... her business, she finds him not only waiting for her at the counter, but still not quite reached the point of having actually paid for a room. She gives her assurances on the situation again, but his lips are faintly pursed and brows knit together with some vague concern while he's looking her over.
"...Alright, yeah," he relents, however, and turns to write down the few obligatory bits of information and pay for the overnight stay before he's provided with a key. A hand reached out to her after - either in a gesture meant to signal 'come with' or in offer of a steadying grip all over again - and he murmurs in a whisper, "I can, ah... Sleep on the floor, or something."
"Mm." Drowsy Mint is drowsy -- and even while standing in place with that little bit of Tairyu-offered support, she's starting to close her eyes. Turns out, maybe the pint-size pugilist -couldn't- keep pace drinking with someone a foot and a half taller than her. Even though, well, she -used- to be able to.
But when he mentions sleeping on the floor, the true import of his statement sets in. "... Uh... " One eye cracks open.
"... Oh." Shhe rubs her bleary eyes, tugging back on Tairyu's hand. The discussion can happen while walking, clearly -- she'd rather get to the room, wherever it is.
"Man, I'm so tired, I don't even... like... you sure about that, man? I'm a combat engie, I'm used to sleepin' on hard cots and cinder blocks if that's what it comes down to..."
The tug to his hand is enough to get Tairyu moving, and then stepping up enough to lead the little drunken corporal upstairs -- though after hearing the way her hands reacted to a tight grip before, he's a bit self-conscious about his own hold on her now.
"I mean... I can probably manage," he assures her, on the way through the hall. "Look, I'm not going to, uh... take away room for you to sleep in, too, after putting all that sake into you."
...Nevermind that the attendant very clearly noted that the room comes with a two-person bed, so it's not really so much a matter of not having enough room. And if Mint didn't hear as much, she'll at least see it once the taller man is working the key to their paid-for room and carefully leads her through and inside.
Mint groans as she walks through the door, snapping on the light and taking a look around. Rubbing her eyes again, she adds, "... pff, there's like... no space on the floor for you anyway, man."
Mint, at this point, is so tired it's evidenced in every motion. Her arms are heavy, her legs are heavy, her head is hanging low... in fact, she just pulls away from Tairyu, stumbling over to the bed. And untucks her turtleneck, snaking her hands under the back hem of her shirt. "My head is pounding right now, 'kay We'll talk in the morning.?"
She fumbles around. There's the sound of elastic snaps. And a moment later, she pulls her bra free from the shirt, slinging it onto the floor without a care in the world.
And she flops over onto the bed, landing on her side. Her hands brush against one another, and then in the next moment, the prosthetics automatically detach.
Five seconds later, she's sound asleep.
"I... guess," Tairyu concedes on the space issue, though he still seems to have enough of his senses left even with the effects of the alcohol to have some minor doubts. Enough that he delays while she's stumbling to the bed and even politely averts his eyes briefly while she... gets herself settled.
He hesitates even after she's already gonked out. But ultimately, he does let himself step further in after kicking his shoes off, shedding his jacket off on the way and undoing another button or two of his shirt before... well, flopping down onto his back on the opposing side of the bed. He might have handled the sake better than her, but it *is* still getting to him. And it's only a few moments of staring at the ceiling before he drifts off, too.
He can only hope she won't decide to hold this against him afterall once she's sobered up.
Log created on 07:30:58 03/07/2021 by Tairyu, and last modified on 19:30:23 03/10/2021.