NFG Season Two - The Mermaid

[Toggle Names]

Description: As fighting stars new and old board The Mermaid Cruise Ship for the first time, friendships are formed, secrets are revealed and chocolate is consumed!

Roxana's first impression of The Mermaid is that it's huge. Her second impression is that it's incredibly fancy. She boarded the luxury cruise ship around thirty minutes ago and is still standing in the atrium staring in awe around her. A polite and very smartly dressed young man, not much older than herself had taken her sleek black suitcase from her. At first she had thought he was stealing it but he had calmly explained he was simply carrying it to her cabin and that it was all part of the service.

She was booked into one of the seaview rooms. As someone who has never been in the sea, she thought it would be a sublime experience to be able to see it every day from the place that she sleeps. After all, she does have a natural affinity with water.

She looks up at the thirty five foot sculpture of a mermaid that serves as the centrepiece in this spectacular area. Something about her is soothing to Roxana. Should things get too much on this new and exciting journey, she will return here to visit her and feel her watchful and still gaze.

As she stands, waiting for who knows what, Roxana's appearance draws several admiring gazes. She's certainly dressed to stand out in her skin-tight gold catsuit paired with high-heeled gold sneakers. Her shiny black hair is striking too, pulled back in to a long scorpion-style braid and interwoven with gold thread. Despite this eye-catching ensemble, nothing about Roxana's demeanor suggests that she seeks attention. She stands still, appearing serene and self-composed as she surveys the ship's surroundings.

Entering more-or-less directly from the loading ramp comes a young lady in a white blouse, a green skirt, a red sweater vest, and stockings and boots. Her bronze-coloured hair is worn loose to spill to her shoulders, and wide amber irises sweep over the atrium in awe. Almost immediately upon entry, she slides a flute out of the leather satchel that hangs against her hip and raises it into position, preparing to blow across the embouchure, when something reaches her ears, causing her to hesitate, tilt her head, and then finally start tucking the instrument away again.

"It's alright, Winn! They've got their own music! It's very fancy!"

She starts to rove across the floor as a somewhat heavyset, bald middle-aged man staggers in in her wake, a heavy-looking bag dragging along on wheels after him.

"Can I get that for you, sir?" a porter asks as he approaches the aging Welshman.

"No, that's my books and my gear! We might need them!" Tanwen declares, turning with alarm, her eyes full of scandal at the suggestion, hands balling with tension to either side of her.

"It's giving me jip, it is, Tan," Winn says, panting for air. "He'll be taking good care of it. Don't you want to come along to the room, anyway, Tan?"

The girl looks uncertain, teething her lower lip for a moment before saying, "Let me just get one out, first."

She comes over and opens the case, rummages around for a minute, then pulls out a hardcover book.


She wanders back across the floor toward the enormous statue, flipping through the pages of her manual as she keeps her eyes turned up toward the thirty-five-food mermaid.

"That's the biggest mermaid I've ever seen, it is," she comments as she steps up alongside Roxana, the open book cradled across one arm as she flips to a section labelled 'Deities.'

"Do you reckon that's Umberlee? She looks a bit friendly for an evil sea goddess, but I don't know any other sea goddesses they'd make a statue out of."

Among the gallery's vast pastel colored walls, muted tones of white and brown meant to promote feelings of relaxation and comfort, there creeps a saboteur. Though she is not aware of her status as such, this vile fiend's mere presence proves to be such a contradiction in ambient tone that to gaze upon her invokes feelings of artistic vertigo, as if someone painted over the Mona Lisa with brilliant neon phosphorescent acrylic.

For the moment this walking flashbang slinks quietly among the lower deck, navigating the brass jungle of fancy chairs and tables like a predator stalking through the underbrush. She keeps low and out of sight, offering only momentary flashes of bright pink to betray her presence as peers over the backs of chairs or pokes her head out from beneath the fancy tablecloths.

Despite the atrium being the primary hub of activity as the cruise liner's passengers steady begin to board for their long journey, everyone's attention is distracted, either by the incredible decorations or fussing over their luggage. As such she moves quiet and unseen, skulking like a thief in the night with feline grace towards the stairwell that leads to the second story. Here there proves to be far fewer obvious places to hide but at the moment she has the entire deck to herself, save the handful of attendants manning the various stores, who are likewise too busy with their own prep work to pay her any mind.

Making a quick pass around the circular strip of shops, her nose is suddenly bewitched by a delicious smell. Creeping quietly towards the source, she finds a palette of fresh chocolate bars being loaded into a glass display by a lone attendant. It takes little effort to sneak up on the busy clerk and 'liberate' a couple of said candies for herself before darting back out, prize in hand and pleased grin on her face.

Finding a secluded spot on the balcony, she munches away at one of the candy bars while peering down at the steadily growing crowd. The majority of the people seem to be milling about the entryway, distracted with the task of getting their luggage and rooms sorted out. But a few interesting individuals are starting to congregate around the massive statue.

She allows her gaze to sweep over the giant fish-woman, head tilting owlishly to one side in confusion. Are there humans who look like this? All of the ones she's seen have legs not fins. Or maybe it's a type of fish? She's caught lots of fish in the pond back at home but none of them looked like this. She'll have to ask someone about it later.


The sudden call of a familiar voice makes her duck instinctively behind the railing. After a few seconds, she slowly peers over the edge, scanning the crowd belong until her eyes fall upon the source.

A young woman, perhaps in her mid-twenties, stalks through the crowd with purposeful intent. Her pretty features, normally calm and detached, are scrunched up in a tight scowl as her gaze sweeps across the lower floor. Slender fists ball up and come to rest on her hips, the first sign that she only has a short time before the woman's annoyance levels up to the point of being unpleasant.

"Come back here this instant, young lady!"

Stuffing the rest of her plundered chocolate into her mouth, the young lady in question allows her lips to twist upwards in a mischievous smirk. Her caretaker is drawing closer to the people gathered around the statue. This is a fantastic opportunity to introduce herself! And, maybe, give them a little scare in the process.

Waiting until everyone's attention is elsewhere, the girl casually swings her legs up over the balcony railing and plummets straight down to the lower floor. Her impact with the ground is significantly less noisy and bone-crushing than it should be, her legs transforming into a pair of fuzzy cat-like analogs beneath her dark pants that absorb the landing in almost utter silence. An instant after she hits the ground, the girl rolls into cover behind one of the tables, her anatomy shifting back to 'human' just as quickly as it changed.

"Excuse me."

Making her way to the small group gathering around the statue, the young woman speaks up to get their attention. Short of stature and soft-spoken, one might be forgiven for missing her in the subtle chaos of the boarding. However, once noticed, she is impossible to ignore.

Dressed in a loose open lab coat atop a short yukata, Dr. Maeda wears both her job and her heritage on her sleeve quite literally. Long brown hair is pulled into a pair of neat tails that hang over the front of each shoulder, a pair of large scientific goggles resting across her forehead like a hair band. Almond-shaped brown eyes meet the gaze of both Roxana and Tanwen without shyness as she draws near, her annoyed frown shifting into a neutral mask. Though her voice is soft, she speaks with sort of confidence of someone used to being listened to.

"Have any of you seen a young girl? Short pink hair, blue shirt, unable to stop talking for more than five seconds."

As if there weren't plenty people standing out already as is, amidst the crowd of people embarking onto this ship is, then... someone in armor.

Not quite full-body armor, thankfully. But still eye-catching enough-- especially since it is very distinctly not *modern* kind of armor. At least that could be easily mistaken for someone working as security instead!

No, the young man ferrying two suitcases - one large travelling bag and another clearly lighter one, like a carrying case for an instrument - clearly has what appears to be almost medieval armor straight out of a fantasy RPG or the sorts, with a breastplate strapped over his chest, with metal gauntlets and sabatons at his arms and legs respectfully, all over loose brown pants and a smiliarly medieval-looking blue tunic with a hood.

...Although that being said, closer inspection of the 'armor' in question would pretty quickly reveal that it's all just plastic. It at least looks high quality enough to fool people from a distance.

While people around the messy-haired young man look on to him like he doesn't belong, the young man himself is letting his gaze wander around with an almost child-like wonder, as if though the interior of the cruise ship around him is something completely alien and fairy tale -like. He even goes "Wooooooow..." in a dreamy-like voice. His eyes might as well be sparkling.

A porter does stop the faux-armored youngster, too, to take care of his baggage. The larger bag the youngster does willingly give away with a cheerful "Thank you, kind sir!", but the lighter bag? THat he very much insists on keeping to himself for now.

With only one bag in tow now, the armored youngster continues on further into the atrium, all-too-excited to keep exploring what is to be found within this bounty of modern industry that most people in the little farming village he came from would only dream of seeing! Eyes gazing up and down, side to side while he wanders with dance-like steps further, studying the architecture around him. And stopping, then, amidst the tables, to gaze with wonder at the mermaid statue.

Which just happens to be close enough for him to overhear something curious. His eyes snap right over towards the curious mix of labcoat and yukata. His ear twitches underneath the mass of hair. The question over there might not have been directed to him at the time, but...

Sounds like a quest hook!

"Excuse me!!!"

The over-energetic voice booms all-too-easily over all the ambient noise in the surrounding area, and the faux-knight emerges from amidst the tables to close further in on the statue, and the people already amassed there.

"I couldn't help but overhear, ma'am! Is that your da--eeeehhhhh--"

His words slip, left hovering in an akward, non-verbal vocalization while he reassesses things. And more specifically reasses Dr. Maeda and just how old exactly he thinks she is.

"--Little sister??"

Good save.

"I haven't seen her!" He goes on right after, however, as if the near slipping into a social faux pa hadn't even happened at all, declaring such in a voice much prouder than he probably should. "But I will help you find her!!"

One fist then goes *thump* square on the left side of his chest, and an immensely wide, bright smile stretches across his features.

"Don't worry! Albert Braendel is on the case!!!"

If only he knew just how close the lost child was already.

Roxana looks towards Tanwen as she realises she is speaking to her. "Oh, hey there. I'm not sure who Amberlee is." She admits. "Perhaps you can tell me about her."

Her face is soft, smiling, seeking knowledge of this mysterious woman. Soon however her attention is snatched by another, startling the gold clad girl and grabbing the majority of her focus. "That's an interesting outfit." She observes of Dr. Maeda, not unkindly. "I don't think I've seen anyone like that around here but she sounds kinda fun! Is she a friend of yours?"

Before the raven-haired beauty can get her answer, another body has joined their eclectic group. He charges in, verbally if not literally, although he is dressed as if for battle. "You seem very energetic." She observes in a matter-of-fact tone towards Albert. "You wouldn't all be here as part of the New Fighting Generation would you?"

Her expression is expectant and somewhat hopeful. It would be good to have some allies in this strange yet exquisite place.

The porter disappears further into the ship with Tanwen's bag, leaving Winn to slump into an open chair with a sigh of relief.

'Excuse me.'

When the woman in the lab coat addresses Roxana and Tanwen, the latter looks up from her academic work with a curious, wide-eyed expression. Her head tilts a little to the side.

"Pink hair? Was she wearing a tiara and jumping shoes and carrying a very big hammer?" After a beat, she says, "I haven't seen anyone like that, but I think it would be cool."

She pauses and sniffs the air for a moment, then, before turning about face toward the sound of unshackled enthusiasm that she usually associates with people at live-action roleplaying events. And, by people, she means herself. She starts to smile and swell with the prospect of mutual enthusiasm, but it doesn't last long before the corners of her lips droop in suppressed horror.

It's clearly that knight that she saw the interview with on the flight to the mainland from Britain. He even has real armour! At least, it looks real to her. Tanwen is more than passing aware of the bloody (and burny) history between knights and dragons. She's pretty sure that's why there's not a lot of dragons around anymore. Knights cheat, with spears and swords and armour and /oranges./ Her little dragon heart beats harder in her human chest as he approaches. She quickly turns away back toward Roxana, her face reddening, only looking out of the corner of her eye (albeit rather obviously if one were to pay much attention) at Albert.

'I'm not sure who Amberlee is. Perhaps you can tell me about her.'

"Oh, yes. She's, um, well, she's very big, and watery, and she likes to drown people. They call her the B-word Queen. Pirates like her, though. The bad kind of pirates, mostly," Tanwen starts to explain while trying to keep an eye on the unfolding actions of the knight that may be her nemesis.

'Don't worry! Albert Braendel is on the case!!!'

At that interjection, Tanwen adopts a determined expression. If there's a quest here, she can't let her designated rival take it.

"Just a moment, please!"

Slapping the cover of her manual shut with one hand, she bounces over like a prancing two-legged lamb to interpose herself between Albert and the scientist, book wrapped in her arms against her vest.

"Tanwen Carys Cadwallader is on the case, too! I'm very good at finding things, I am! Does your sister have any shiny objects?"

A young man standing at a little over 6 feet tall makes his way up the ramp with a large trunk trailing behind him. On his back, strapped across his shoulders is a long but narrow case. Under that is a red cape clasped around his neck. Such is the beauty of having one of his weapons be wearable even if wearing it draws more attention than would be good for him in most situations.

Under the previously mentioned cape, the man wears a teal silk shirt, black trousers, and black leather shoes. Without the cape, he'd look stylish. With the cape, he looks gaudy but that's the price he pays to keep at least one of his weapons in easy reach.

A porter goes to take his trunk and he lets him with no resistance. The case on the other hand, that's staying with him. The contents were custom made and he was not going to travel anywhere on this ship without it.

Rodrigo, having been relieved of trunk, moves towards the group gathered near the giant mermaid.

"What's going on over here?"

The first response that Dr. Maeda receives has absolutely nothing to do with the question she asked. This annoys her slightly but she keeps the irritation from showing on her face. While engaging in pointless social pleasantries was something she had anticipated to be on the agenda for the initial meetings, her primary focus is locating her wayward trouble-magnet of a ward. The longer that girl is out of sight the more likely she's getting up to something foolish.

"It's practical and comfortable," she offers in response, her voice a soft monotone.

Tanwen is next in line to vie for her attention. The Japanese woman turns her head to stare uncomprehendingly at the dragon-girl's pop culture reference. Obviously she isn't a gamer. Well, at least people are showing enthusiasm to meet her little hellcat. She has to wonder how long that will last once they actually get introduced, however.

Maeda's eyes close and she lets out a short sigh of exasperation at receiving no useful information. Curse that girl! She can't even wait five minutes to start making a nuisance of herself.

She's about to turn and resume her search when a boisterous voice calls out to her. Quirking an eyebrow upwards, the doctor turns to regard the person responsible, at which point her expression becomes one of incredulity. Narrowed eyes sweep Albert from boots to breastplate and her mouth presses into a thin line.

"I believe the cosplay convention was on another boat."

But, here comes a new challenger?! Now people are actually throwing themselves at the opportunity. She feels strangely pleased about that. Now all that she has to do is actually -find-...

The hair on the back of the scientist's neck suddenly stands up as she feels the familiar tingle of magical power in the air. Her eyes widen in apparent surprise, as if seeing something that no one else can. Whirling around on her heels, she pulls the goggles on her forehead down over her eyes and scans the room intently. She has only a few moments to notice the flash of pink hair only a few feet away as the miscreant in question draws within striking distance.

"Max! Don't you--!!"

But she isn't fast enough. From behind the cover of one of the sitting tables, there is a sudden rumbling growl. The noise is deep and ominous, the kind of sound that no human could make even if they tried. The kind of sound that cuts through the background din of chatter like a blade and stabs straight into the primal part of the brain that registers danger.

Moments later the growl is drowned out by something far more disturbing. It's hard to nail it down precisely but the effect comes across as something between crunching bones and wet meat being ripped apart. From behind the concealment of the table, a monstrous shape begins to rise up.

Vaguely humanoid in appearance, it looks like the demented love-child of a Cthulu demon and a purple gorilla. It's face is a distorted nightmare of teeth and eyes - mostly teeth, protruding like small swords out of a ring-shaped maw. Massive heavily muscled arms covered in purple fur and tipped with human-like hands sporting razor sharp claws droop down to the ground, supporting the unwieldy bulk of the monstrosity's barrel-shaped torso. A huge fuzzy tail swishes vigorously behind the creature, smashing several chairs and tables over in its clumsy flailing.

The demon or whatever it is, continues to grow, stomach-churning crunching noises filling the air until it looms a good eight feet tall. With an almost purposefully slow dramatic movement, it twists its lumpy head towards the knight and the dragon, both so eager to throw their support into the search. A pair of large bulbous slitted eyes shift down to glare at them, solid black pupils floating in a sea of faintly glowing fuchsia.

Lowering its horrific lamprey-like mouth down towards the two would-be adventurers, the creature's chest starts to expand as it slowly inhales a massive breath. A bellow forceful enough to rattle the furniture and flutter their hair explodes from the monstrosity, hot fetid breath and sticky saliva alike washing over them in tidal wave of noise and stench.

As all of this goes down, the young Dr. Maeda's face adopts an entirely neutral mask. She slowly lifts the goggles back to her forehead, eyes closing and nostrils flaring as she takes in a long slow breath. Her dainty hands lift to pinch the bridge of her nose, rubbing at the corners of her eyes as the damned bio-weapon decides to introduce herself in perhaps the most unadvisable way possible.

Once the ear-splitting roar has died down enough for her to be heard, Dr. Maeda turns on the hulking beast, puts on her best 'angry mother' face and points at finger accusingly.


The giant gorilla-lamprey's bellow cuts off mid-roar, her bulbous eyes going wide as they shift down to regard the tiny woman. Dr. Maeda's scowl makes the fuzzy beast actually flinch visibly.

"What did I tell you, young lady?"

The creature shuffles in place, somehow managing to look worried. The voice that comes out of the lumbering beast is entirely incongruent with its appearance, sounding very clearly like that of a young girl, if distorted a little.

"But... I just wanted to give them a little scare..."

"WHAT did I tell you?"

Max hunches down, her muscle-lined shoulders bunching up around her mutated head.

"No Class-IV combat transformations without permission..."

The scientist's eyebrows lift slightly, her hands resting on her hips.


There's a huff of childish resentment from the beast but after a moment it starts to shrink, once more gracing everyone's ears with the sound of t-bone steaks being fed through a meat grinder, bone and all. After a few seconds of ASMR from the sixth circle of Hell, a young teenage girl stands where the horrific creature once did, looking bashfully down at her feet.

In her 'natural' form, Max strongly resembles a human. The only two major features that stand out are her eyes, whose irises are an impossible neon fuchsia in color, and her skin which is likewise a shade of light purple unnatural to any human. Bright pink hair cut short and pulled back in a messy ponytail gives her a very punky sort of appearance, though she lacks the excess of facial piercings to really nail the look.



Albert's head tilts into an exact fourty-degree angle from Dr. Maeda's deadpan statement over his arrival.

"...Why would I want to go there?"

He truly sounds like he has absolutely no idea why he might give that impression. No idea whatsoever. He seems pretty confident about his offer to help still.

But someone else is trying to cut in on the quest, too! He might have missed Tanwen's initial reaction to his appearance completely, but it's hard to miss her quite literally imposing herself in between the two. His eyes widen visibly in surprise, and after roughly three seconds, he's suddenly trying to step around Tanwen all over again.

"No worries if she has no shiny things!" He offers, promptly. "I can find her without any! But, hey--"

He's turning, suddenly. To face Tanwen directly. He even reaches one hand over to place it onto the girl's shoulder, as he presents her, now, another smile bright enough to outshine the sun itself. "Together we'll be sure to find her!!"

He *probably* heard about someone claiming to be a dragon to be in the lineup for the whole tournament. But he didn't watch any of the interviews or anything, so... he doesn't recognize the girl as the dragon in question.

"Let's go, and we can--"

Whatever words of encouragement he was going to offer there get lost in the face of a RANDOM ENCOUNTER!

Wait, why is there a random encounter with an enormous monster straight out of a John Carpenter film on a cruise ship?! The absurdity of that occurence might be what hits Albert at first, with the ensuing initial reaction of a mouth-agape stare.


But past that, he yanks the latches on the case in his other hand open, letting it fall open and for him to pull out... a sword. A very ornate sword, at that. It very much looks like something that a knight from a fantasy story would wield!

...Too bad it's really just an ornamental sword. If you happened to get a close look, you'd find it actually has zero edge to speak of. But hey, at least he wields it confidently!

Mostly confidently, anyway. Even when he steps forward to impose himself in front of the beast, there is just a *slight* shake at his legs.

"D-d-don't worry! I'll--"

The voice of the one reasonable adult present freezes him just the same as it freezes the beast. For the moment, the faux-knight finds himself unable to do much more than to follow the interaction between the beast and the good doctor.

And watch the beast transform down to something much smaller. A girl. Albert blinks once. Twice. Three times. After that, his posture relaxes, though he still keeps the fake sword in his hand.

And now, completely calmly, he steps forward, to bring himself standing right next to Max. There, he turns to facing Dr. Maeda, and...

He points at Max.

"Found her!"

As the chaos unfolds around her, Roxana remains calm and composed. She can't help but find these other people somewhat exhausting but they're exciting too and so enthusiastic!

"Amberlee seems like a bit of a menace." She observes, still not realising she has said the deity's name wrong. "Unless people wronged her of course and then she would be perfectly within her rights to get her revenge."

Further conversation with Tanwen is thwarted by the Welsh woman's budding rivalry with Albert. "Is there a prize for completing quests?" She wonders aloud.

As Rodrigo arrives and asks his question, she gives a slight shrug of her slim shoulders. "I'm not quite sure what's going on." She confesses. "Something to do with a missing girl I think."

The mention of the name Max has Roxana a little more interested in the situation. That's what they call one of the other competitors. The one she's most curious to meet. Suddenly she's searching herself (albeit from her standing still position) for a hint of pink hair amidst the cruise ship's clientele.

Be careful what you wish for could be the message here. As Roxana gets her first glimpse of her potential friend, she is somewhat surprised by the size of her. Not quite as much as might be expected however. She has witnessed such transformations before in the haven of her own home.

Once Max has returned to more manageable proportions, Roxana takes a step forward and offers her a soft-skinned hand. "I'm Rox." She introduces herself. "I've been hoping to have the chance to say hi."

Tanwen's hands are holding her book behind her back and she's sizing herself up against Albert (and clearly finding herself on the losing side) as Rodrigo approaches.

'What's going on over here?'

The Spanish fighter's voice cuts through the once-sheltered Welsh dragon's focus and draws her wonder-filled eyes his way.

"Oh! Hello! We're taking a side quest!" Tanwen greets the young man with a friendly smile, raising one of her hands to give a tight but energetic wave. She then quickly turns back to Dr. Maeda. "Not that your quest isn't important, but my main quest right now is obviously finding our cabin! Winn doesn't like me getting distracted by too many side quests, but now we're on a real adventure, so we're not in any hurry."

The middle-aged man sitting nearby lets out a deflated sigh before giving a curious look toward the second floor of the atrium.

"I like your cape," Tanwen turns back to say enthustiastically to Rodrigo, before suddenly whipping back to regard the doctor with a heartbroken expression of shock. The corners of her eyes seem to glisten with the threat of tears. "There's a cosplay convention... on /another boat?!/"

Before she can even get a start on the first stage of grief over this news, Albert is placing a reassuring hand on her shoulder and smiling a thousand-kilowatt smile, which causes the girl no end of inner turmoil - and then, to top it off, the pink harbinger of doom makes itself known, apparently appearing from a table with an uncanny growl before looming like something straight out of the Monster's Manual.

Tanwen shrieks like a little girl.


Suddenly, the young lady disappears -- apparently somehow sucked into her clothes, which start to float down to the floor, before the shirt and vest combo starts to suddenly float upward as if possessed. Moments later, a small, red winged creature escapes from the collar, leaving the tops to collapse back down atop the rest of the garments as the crimson winged creature flaps in an ascending spiral up the atrium and away from the rampaging bio-beast.

Picking himself up from where he's fallen off his chair as Max starts to turn back to - well, normal's not quite the word - Winn the Welshman turns his eyes upward, shielding them with a hand. "Tan! I told you not to change in public, I did!"

Rodrigo himself only had enough time to register Dr. Maeda's comment before he suddenly lays eyes upon the giant monstrosity. It wasn't the first time he had to fight something that outweighed him by a significant amount. It was just the first time it was so fugly.

First thing he does is note the reactions of the people that are around. There's the other weapon wielder judging by the weapon case and then there's Roxana who's clearly surprised. Finally there's the good doctor who was the first to spot her.

Rodrigo shrugs his case off his shoulder and whips cape from around his neck and readies himself to use it. Sure, his sword wasn't readily accessible due to his own case but his cape was a weapon in its own right.

After Max is chastised and in natural form does Rodrigo see fit to comment.

"You're on a boat with several fighters as participants, and possibly even more as spectators, none of whom are familiar with you. All you would need for everything go wrong is one or more people with a hair trigger attacking you before you even get to fight officially. It's fortunate that she spoke to you when she did."

To further emphasize the point, he glances at Albert's wall-hanger even as he puts the cape around his neck once more. And that's when he sees a tiny red dragon taking to the air.

Yeah... This season is going to be a weird one.

All things considered, the reaction to Max's little stunt is fairly mild. Only one weapon gets drawn, no one got trampled, and the only person to completely freak out turned out to have wings. The only real damage done was to the girl's reputation. Though, considering one of the primary reasons for even joining this tournament was to make Gears -not- look like unhinged psychopathic monsters, it's not the greatest way to start things off.

Dr. Maeda sighs heavily again, something she suspects will become a new habit on this trip, and crosses her arms. With her little trouble-maker located and back to normal the situation is mostly under control. Now all she has to do is calm everyone down and make it clear this was a foolish one-time prank.

The wanna-be knight with his plastic sword is the first to break the tension and for once she's somewhat glad that he seems to be an idiot. Idiots have a way of being charming, like watching week old puppies stumble around and trip over their own feet. Her own ability to sway a crowd relies on oratory and logic, something that doesn't always find purchase in a panic-ridden mob. Laughter, on the other hand, is a universal salve.

The scientist's expression twists into a wry smile at Albert's declaration, doing her best to help steer the current away from further panic.

"So you did."

Others prove quick to offer their own commentary. The dark-skinned woman seems completely unfazed by the entire ordeal, which the doctor notes as mildly interesting, and is quick to move in for an introduction. Noticing the hand thrust her way, Max turns her face upwards to regard this offer of friendship with a curious stare. While she's never actually shook hands with a stranger before she's familiar with the custom.

The girl's gaze flicks sideways to take note of the expression on her caretaker's face then back to the proffered hand, internally trying to decide what the proper mix of contrition and enthusiasm should be in this situation. After a few seconds of silent indecision, she throws caution to the wind and reaches out with both hands to engulf the older woman's fingers in her own slender mitts. Roxana is treated to a big toothy grin as the girl enthusiastically jerks her arm up and down.

"Hello! I'm Maximum!" She pauses, suddenly unsure. "Or... is it 'hi'? What's up? How ya doin'? Wow, I've never had to introduce myself before! I hope I'm doing it right!"

Her attention is drawn in a new direction as someone she hadn't noticed before chimes in. The teen swivels her head to regard the fancy Spaniard with a blank stare, listening in silence to his well thought out rebuke to her actions. Her hands continue to wiggle Roxana's arm up and down while he talks, as if she forgot what they were up to when he distracted her. She soaks up his words, staring at him with an unsettling gaze that never seems to blink.

When he finishes speaking the girl continues to stare for a few long seconds before suddenly letting go of the handshake so that she can lift her arms in an exaggerated shrug. Pretty much all of the contrition has evaporated at this point, as evidenced by the carefree grin that she gives him.

"Meh! They'd have to catch me first!"


The girl goes rigid at the sound of her name, eyes wide in surprise, as if the doctor had just jammed a cattle prod into her spine. Her expression falls back into something more remorseful and she clasps her hands behind her back, scuffing one pink sneaker across the floor.

"I mean... sorry..."

She's not actually that sorry. Their expressions were priceless.

Albert positively *beams* over Dr Maeda confirming that he did, in fact, find her lost friend. Nevermind that the friend in question basically just showed up and all he did was point at her after she transformed into a humanoid form.

"Crisis averted!" He declares nonethless.

The faux-knight is left to listen to everyone else introducing themselves to each other-- and chastising Maximum, as it happens. Even with the perfectly reasonable reasons for why what she did was wrong, he can't help but feel at least a bit sympathetic towards the younger girl at least a little bit.

"Well, worry not!" He goes on to declare, stepping up from behind Max now to give a few companiable pats onto her shoulder with a (plastic-)armored hand. "I will be sure to give merry chase to her if it comes down to it! I'm sure she'll be a good sport about it, too!"

He might be making just a couple assumptions about this girl. Still, he tips his head down to flash an almost blindingly bright smile down at Max this time.

"Ain't that right?"

He's pretty jolly about all of it, even in spite of the girl basically throwing a Lovecraftian image out as a first impression.

He is, however, distracted, when he hears Tanwen's attention yelling out. He perks up, even if he might not had fully comprehend the whole "transformation" bit there, too. His eyes, either way, move to sweep over to Winn, and the ntracking where he is looking, to spot...


Well, a tiny dragon, but a dragon nonethless. Maybe?! It looks enough like a dragon for the faux-knight to react, anyway.

"DOn't worry!!!" The young would-be-knight declares, raising his blunt sword up high. "Albert Braendel is on the-- ah?"

Some of the air and blunder leaves him. He frowns upwards.

"...How do I get up there? HRRRM..."

Akito Ishida was an hour early to board the ship. His baggage was already delivered to his cabin. Having allotted himself proper time to recover from the long cross-continental journey, the young Japanese man is well-rested and alert.

And also quiet. For he had observed most of the goings-on from a distance, having been perched on a fourth-floor balcony overlooking the mermaid sculpture. He'd observed most of the goings on with the bare flicker of a smile, as his gaze fell upon the the gold-clad beauty, the Welsh gentleman and his charge, the doctor, and the knight errant. As Rodrigo enters, though -- he draws in his breath, nodding with approval. He... starts to consider making his way down to a lower level.

His hair is a crewcut; there's no hint of stubble on his clean-cut features. Robes of rough, tan-colored silk, not unlike those seen in China during the Qing Dynasty, seem to be tailored well to match his short, somewhat stocky build. Over these robes he wears a coat with wide, billowy sleeves. Hanging from his left hand is a small shopping bag full of merchandise from the gift store.

The arrival of Max is met with an arched eyebrow, and a distant smile. From his vantage point, it doesn't seem as scary. But as the situation plays itself out, he finds more cause to smile.

He's made his way down to a third-level landing by the time a little crimson dragon spirals its way upwards. Attempting to make eye contact with the lizard -- with an apparent lack of anxiety of any kind at the notion of communicating with a literal dragon -- he nods his head briefly, and then bows stiffly at the waist in greeting.

In sharp contrast to the man who arrived an hour early, Skye's entry is best described as "tardy," a common theme in her life as it turns out.

Having missed not one but TWO chaotic transformations, a young woman walks through the from the direction of boarding. Her blonde hair, streaked with pink, is tied up in long twin ponytails that extend well past her shoulders. Her eyes are a bright blue, though presently narrowed with concern. The white t-shirt she wears is a bit of a tight fit, as though it was purchased a few seasons ago, and the the spot or two of yellow and red slightly above the bustline corroborates that narrative. Her white-striped blue track pants and open matching jacket equally seem to be a bit worn. Over her shoulder is a black bag that would be generously called a "duffel." It instead looks like someone's gym bag, packed to the brim and still smelling slightly of gym socks and sweat if someone is too close.

She is, quite rudely, pressing a phone to her ear.

"Yeah, so, the boat is SO cool and I have NEVER been on a cruise because they're super expensive, like, more than I make in a month, but are you sure this is going to be OK with work, Tyler?" Skye walks toward the group, still wrapped up in her conversation with someone not there. "Oh, you'll take care of it? Cool. Cool cool cool. Of course! I trust you to take care of it. You're so ... smart, and stuff. Oh, hold on. There's a lot of people here. Can I call you back?"

Skye smiles awkwardly at the group, looking over at Roxana, Ishida. Her eyes move to the more unusual characters. Max. Albert. Rodrigo. Dr. Maeda. Her pupils dilate, and she bites her lip. "H-hey, it's not you! It's just I feel really rude, and ... please, Tyler? Thanks bye!" Skye hangs up as someone on the other end is still talking, then turns, her eyes following the crowd and taking it in until suddenly seeming to interrupt herself.

"Um, hi. I'm Skye. How may I h--uh, it's nice to meet every--ohmygod is that a dragon?"

Roxana can't help but wonder who the man with Tanwen is. Max has a companion too. She didn't realise that was an option for the competitors. Not that she had anyone to bring along with her.

She smiles warmly as her hand is welcomed by Max, not seeming to mind that it's being wiggled about a fair bit. After an appropriate time has passed she lets go of the other gear and takes a step back to resume her previous position. "I think you're doing wonderfully well, Maxiumum. Hello or hi both work for me. Whichever you prefer. It's kind of you to ask how I am. I'd say overall good right now. I'm excited to be here with you all but there are a few butterflies in my stomach too, I have to confess. Not literally though, that would be really weird."

She giggles and then adds. "Or maybe not so much, given that there seems to be a dragon flying around."

She follows the path of Tawnwen with her dark eyes as they widen at the strange sight. For not the first time today Roxana is wondering what she has got herself into. Rodrigo appears fairly rational at least. Perhaps she can take the time to talk to him when she gets a chance.

As she continues to watch the Welsh wyrm, she spots another figure up on the third-floor landing. He seems to be dressed in some sort of robes but Roxana can't get a clear look at him to decide whether he is likely to be another fellow fighter.

Before she can ponder the matter further, suddenly there is Skye with her colourful hair and chaotic clothes. Roxana studies her, staying silent until the blonde is done with her call and chooses to approach the group. "Hi Skye!" she says cheerily, sensing the other girl's awkwardness and sympathising. "I'm Rox, we've also got a Max. I'm... well, I'm not actually sure of anyone else's names yet. I could probably have a go at guessing who is who but I don't want to presume."

The next person to make it up the loading ramp and into the atrium doesn't look all that impressed by his surroundings. It's not that he's unimpressed, it's just that to Henry it really isn't anything all that special. Just another luxury cruiseliner. He looks approvingly around him, nodding slightly, but other than that his reaction is minimal. He's more concerned with the eclectic grouping of individuals in front of him.

He's dressed in his school uniform, still. Maybe at the behest of his school or maybe at the insistance of the NFG, but the white slacks are neatly pressed, the red vest buttoned while the blue jacket is left open, and the logo of Pacific High is clear on the breast. Of course his mop-like shock of blue hair might make him stand out a little, but not as much as some of the characters already on the boat. What does stand out is the sheathed longsword he has propped on his shoulder, and the shield that is strapped to his luggage as he rolls the suitcase behind him.

As the porter comes up, he relinquishes his suitcase with a simple nod and then shakes his head as the porter offers to take the sword as well. "This stays with me." He says simply, though not rudely. He even pulls out a couple Euros from his pocket to hand over to the porter, almost a reflex. "Please have someone load the ice bucket and put some more bottled waters in my room." Then after a moment's thought adds another bill. "Thanks." He's polite and formal with the porter, but it's obvious he's used to this sort of thing.

Now freed of his luggage other than the sword his still holds up on his shoulder, he walks towards the assembled group, his stride slow and easy. He's taking the time to let his gaze wander across each one for a moment seemingly trying to assess them before even introductions get underway. His gaze lingers longer on Albert perhaps than anyone else other than Rodrigo. Of course he missed the commotion of only a few moments prior to his arrival or else that gaze might have lingered on very different people. However as he moves in closer the look to Albert comes with a small frown once he's able to get a real look at his equipment.

"Well, is there some gathering request I missed or is everyone just lingering around to get acquainted. I'm worried I'm arriving a bit later than I expected to." His accent is pure American, southern California for those with more of an ear for accents.

He traces a few eyes upwards to spot the dragon above finally, and his expression turns into a small smile. "Well, that's something different." He says turning on spot before bringing his attention back down to the others gathered about.

The mighty (small) winged lizard that's been loosed draws a number of gasps from the passengers filtering through the space as they look up.

"Has someone let a bird in here?"

"Is that a parrot?"

"I think it's a cardinal."

Ishida is one of the few with a close enough vantage to get a good look at Tanwen the dragon as she flaps about in a tizzy. The unusually calm figure draws the creature's attention, and it interrupts its frantic evasive maneuvers to flap over and perch its talons atop the brass railing next to Ishida.

The creature is a plump, scaly little thing, and a dead ringer for the typical Western notion of a red dragon, albeit only a bit over a foot long from tip to tail. It gets its balance before perching on its haunches, a faint glow in its chest as it takes visibly heavy breaths before finally exhaling a small, harmless gout of flame.

It's definitely a dragon. Just a very small one.

The creature gives what looks like a little imitation of the bow that it received in greeting.

And then... it speaks.

Or rather, squeaks?

"Sorry. I get a bit windy when I'm nervous."

The creature's voice is high-pitched, but otherwise seems to retain its owner's humanoid inflections and accent, as though it were being passed through a filter. She turns around to peer down over the railing.

"I wasn't thinking very clearly when I called it a Barbazu," the dragon admits, tilting its head. "It was more like a big, furry quasit, really. Sorry!!!" The dragon's voice is raised as the last bit is called out down toward the bottom floor of the space.

Winn stumbles over into the space where the others are standing, positioning himself as the attendant of the pile in which the dragon-girl's belongings now lie on the marble tilework. He starts awkwardly scooting the garments closer together with his shoe. "Sorry. This excitement is just a bit much for her, it is," he tries to explain.

As more and more people start to arrive, drawn like magnets to the steadily expanding congregation around the massive mermaid, the little Gear soon starts to find herself a little overwhelmed.

Before making this trip out to the ocean, she'd more or less been completely isolated from the rest of the world. Her mother - or the closest approximation to one that she has - Dr. Maeda had been concerned that her behavior would be influenced by the methods of her creation. Like most Gears, she had been created for war and little else. Learning how to behave like a person instead of a weapon had been a lengthy process.

Max had spent nearly three years hidden away in the countryside, studying language, philosophy, history, and all manner of other things that her caretaker considered necessary to help her become 'well-adjusted'. Whatever that meant. She had watched movies, read books, and even scoured the internet, absorbing culture and modern social etiquette until she thought her head might burst. So, in theory, she knows how to be 'normal'. But this is her first time putting all of that into practice.

Reactions to her little prank to break the ice have been quite diverse. Her mother, always the pragmatic and analytical mind, seemed to be annoyed at first but from the neutral expression on her face Max can tell that she's gone into observation mode. Watching and comparing the various responses, looking for data to parse so that she can come up with the best hypothesis on how to proceed. That's Dr. Maeda in a nutshell. With people vocally chiming in both to praise and chastise her, the jury seems to still be out, which means she isn't really getting any cues to follow from her most trusted source.

Left to sink or swim on her own, the small girl's eyes are slightly wider than normal, her pupils narrowed down to tiny black dots as she searches the faces of those present in an attempt to get her bearings. Emotions are still something that she struggles with in many ways. While her body might have largely been modeled on human anatomy, she is an entirely artificial creature. The magical amalgamation of man and beast that composes her mind often leaves her playing an inner tug-of-war between conscious decisions and animal instinct.

Fortunately, those unbothered by her stunt seem to be outnumbering the others at the moment. Or they're more vocal about it, at least.

The sudden presence of a mailed hand on her shoulder causes the girl to flinch, her reflexes keyed up from information overload. She turns to peer up at the friendly knight errant and gives him a Cheshire-sized grin in response to his Colgate smile.

"No way you'll catch me wearing all that! But it'd be fun to watch you try."

Roxana regains her attention with fresh conversation and the girl's head pivots to regard the woman with her unblinking stare.

"I am? Great! Or... cool? Neat? Radical? Groovy! Righteous! All of that!"

It soon becomes apparent that almost everyone's attention has been drawn to someone else, however. Tilting her head way back, Max peers up into the vast dome of the atrium to see what all the commotion is about. Her eyes narrow as she spots the flying lizard, unable to make it out very well at such a distance. She's never seen a bird that looks like that before in any of her books. Birds don't have scales, for one thing. Do they? Everyone else seems to know what it is though so it must not be that unusual.

"Oh, a dragon," she says, trying to sound like someone in the know. But after a few seconds of glancing back and forth nervously, she turns to Dr. Maeda and cups one hand around her mouth, whispering loudly.

"What's a dragon?!"

Rodrigo, on the other hand, was close enough when the transformation happened to see both what Tanwen started out as and the dragon that she currently is. He then realizes that another has joined them. He takes a moment to size him up and he notes the longsword and the Pacific High Insignia and nods in acknowledgement before looking up to the now resting red reptile.

"I believe that was one of our participants and she really was a dragon... I thought that was a joke."

He then glances at Albert before following up with, "And I don't think you'll want to slay that dragon... At least, not literally if you want to make it to your first fight in the NFG."

He then looks around at those assembled near the giant mermaid statue and figures he might as well introduce himself.

"I am Rodrigo Gallardo."

"Really now?!" Asks Albert of Maximum with a boisterous laugh, clapping his hand lightly on the girl's shoulder again. "Sounds like a challenge! I'll beh appy to try!"

But yes. Most people are looking at the dragon. His attention was very much up there too, and Max's (not-so-quiet) whisper for her handler does have him suddenly declaring, for her benefit: "Dragons are powerful beasts! Lifelong foes of humanity! But don't worry!!"

He sweeps his (fake) sword up before lowering his stance in preparation for what might very well be a leap. Towards the statue. It's tall enough one might reasonably be able to vault to the balconies up above there. Is he really thinking he's gonna...?

"I will--!!"

He's setting off! His feet kick at the floor to start his mad dash to gain speed--

'That was one of our participants'


Albert's head snaps to look back over his shoulder to Rodrigo, right in the middle of his first leaping step. His motion through the air almost seems to slow down.

'I don't think you'll want to slay that dragon'


His focus split, the faux-knight's leap ends up leading not so much into a followup leap, but him tripping over his own feet and falling chest-first onto the ground with an *oof!*, sliding all the way across the (probably recently-waxed) floor towards the statue he might have been initially planning to use as a stepping-stone. Thankfully the velocity of his slide does lessen considerably on the way there, but it's still enough for the top of his head to end up coming to contact at the base of the statue with an audible *THUNK!*

Thankfully, he does seem to be okay enough in spite of all that to roll himself over onto his butt right after, even if he does kind of go "Awawawawa..." with a rub of one mailed hand over his scalp through the mass of hair there.

"Well, well, well! We livin' it up! Champagne kisses and caviar dreams, baby!"

A heavy deep voice rumbles its way through the atrium like an incoming thunderstorm. Heavy footfalls soon follow and before long the towering presence of the beastman, Braun, is quite visible as he swaggers his way into the opulent chamber with a big fanged grin and a repeated nod of his head as he looks around, clearly approving of the accommodations summoned by the Neo League organizers. Dark sunglasses hide the immense bruisers gaze but his brow is visibly furrowed as he swivels his head from side to side, studying the room as he treads forward with pounding sturdy footfalls.

He raises his arms to his sides, turning abit at the waist to take in the fullness of the room and then comes to a stop near the base of the massive mermaid statue and tilts his head up to look upon it with an ever widening grin. He then fainlly reaches up and pulls his sunglasses free, revealing his squinted gold-brown eyes. "Looks like the NFG didn't get sued into the ground and got some cash to throw around! Maybe I shoulda charged for my presence instead of gettin' paid with good thoughts, well wishes, and experience." his deep voice drawls out as he begins leveling his gaze on each of those present.

This is all just in time for the knight to come sliding towards his general position and the huge man tucks his glasses into his vest as he watches Albert slide closer and close to ultimately thunk against the base of the statue.

"What, we got cosplayers now?" he muses, voice becoming more languid now after his initial bellow. "Man...this is about to get wild and out of control fast. Can't wait...."

At least this swordsman doesn't seem intent on slaying the dragon, especially as it speaks, which only draws an arching of one of Henry's eyebrows in response. His eyes do follow Alberts start of a leap though, his mouth pressing into a thin line as he watches the plastic-armored knight go sliding right into the statue. He just sighs and shakes his head to begin with but then takes a few steps over and offers his free hand to Albert, a tacit offer to help him back to his feet.

"I couldn't agree more." The blue haired teen states as Braun speak up, his eyes lingering on the imposing beastman thoughtfully. Even the season one mentors don't seem to fully escape the once over glance he's been giving everyone, seemingly trying to sum them up in that one glance, or at least make a calculated estimation, but of what isn't completely clear.

"Henry Smithson-Powers." He finally states after he peels his gaze away from Braun, following after Rodrigo offers his own name. He raises the hilt of his sword as if to wave with it before lowering it back down to a more comfortable resting position.

The young Japanese man studies the ferocious(?) dragon as she alights upon the railing. He seems... pleasantly amused, more than terrified -- most likely due to the dragon's petite size. It isn't -quite- as large as dragons of yore.

"It is quite alright. ... But I think you have little to be nervous about." He laughs softly. "You are making friends quickly."

He steps back, giving Tanwen a little more space to move without giving the sense of crowding her. And in doing so -- he's able to hear a bit more of the goings-on downstairs -- Skye talking to someone on her phone, Rox introducing herself to Max.

Ishida bows once more to Tanwen, in appreciation. "I am Ishida. It is a pleasure to meet you, Miss."

Not long after, he hears Mr Smithson-Powers' arrival -- and Rodrigo's reply. Both gentlemen who the young Nihonjin had mentioned in his interviews. Here -- he steps a bit closer to the railing, peering over just in time to see Albert careening face-first into the sculpture -- and drawing the first true look of -surprise- from the even-keeled Ishida.

"We have such a colorful cast here..." he states, just as Braun makes his appearance. Someone else he might want to speak to! Though, he smiles warmly, not wanting to step away from Tanwen until it looks like she is ready for it. "... This will be an interesting voyage."

"Oh, hi Rox!" Skye's light up when she's addressed. "Nice to meetcha. I don't really know anyone here yet, so I'm glad someone took a minute to--"

Skye's focus is taken by Alfred's display of heroism, or the intention thereof. When he instead takes a spill and slides to a sharp stop, Skye blinks a few times.

"Is that some kind of...comedy routine?" she whispers to Roxana. At least, her intent sounds like it was meant to be a whisper were it not for terrible volume control.

"Wow," Skye adds afterwards. "A dragon, and uh, a cat-person, and, wow, another, different cat-person. I feel like I'm getting so much culture here. This isn't anything like back home."

Skye pauses. The wheels seem to be turning.

"I mean, um, it's a good thing I've traveled around so much before! Ha ha ha!"

"They are?"

Max turns to stare wide-eyed at the young knight, intrigued. This is news to her! Strange that she didn't come across any references to these terrible foes of humanity in her research on humans. You'd think mortal enemies would get mentioned every once in a while. She tilts her head back to peer up at this 'powerful' beast and the only thing that comes to mind is an over-fed scaly turkey. Considering how many sandwiches she's demolished in her short life the odds don't seem to be in its favor if that comparison is accurate.

"Isn't it... kind of small?"

She must never have come across that idiom about rocks and glass houses either.

Albert's heroic attempt to defend the ship against this terrible threat draws the teenager's gaze again. She watches him heft his 'mighty' sword and her eyes widen a little as he prepares to leap into battle, mesmerized by the idea that he has some actual method of taking the fight to such a distant foe with nothing but a blade. Needless to say, the outcome of that attempt leaves her a little confused and greatly disappointed.

"Dragons are creatures of myth."

Dr. Maeda's soft voice interjects into the empty space left by Albert's embarrassing flop. She wanders over to stand at Max's side, arms crossed loosely at her waist, peering up at the miniature legend squatting on the balcony railing with an inscrutable expression.

"They aren't supposed to exist."

After a short pause she lowers her gaze to meet the young Gear's unblinking eyes and offers a faint smile.

"However... the events of the past decade have forced us to challenge our ideas of what is possible and what is not. The nature of the universe is far more complex than we could ever have imagined even a short century ago. Much of what we once thought primitive superstition is proving to have far more basis in reality than most believed. It's all rather exciting."

Her tone of voice fails to match the supposed enthusiasm of her words, the scientist's soft monotone coming across as disinterested and unenthused. But, for those who have been around long enough to hear her speak more than once that just seems to be her way. Cursed with the dreaded academic professor's oratory power to put people to sleep regardless of the topic.

Seeing as a fairly large crowd has managed to gather and people are starting to go about introducing themselves, this seems like a solid opportunity to do the same. Especially in light of Max's poorly timed stunt, there are a few things she needs to make sure everyone understands about her young ward.

Striding confidently to the front of the small congregation, the Japanese scientist lifts a hand to her mouth and softly clears her throat. A quick beckon to Max brings the small teen over to her side and the two of them turn to face the crowd.

"Ahem. Ladies and gentlemen, if I might have your attention for a few moments. There is some information that I believe is relevant to all of you that must be made clear before this contest is officially underway."

The 'other cat person' turns slightly, ears seeming to wiggle ever so slightly as he overhears pieces of the conversations swirling around him. His eyes are dragged from Albert as the scientific woman speaks and he blinks a few times before shrugging with a slightly bemused scoff as he listens though as she continues he gives a light shrug and rubs his hairy jaw, "..Riight...aint much of a myth when it's starin' right at ya. More of a...misundrestood fact."

The beastman then prowls away from the statue, moving more towards the center of the room, "What do you wanna share? You one of the organizxers?"

Braun turns his gaze from the woman and levels his eyes on Max to study her for a few seconds and then he looks over the rest of the room in search of more familiar faces...and sees none.

"Huh. I guess I'm the only 'oldbie' that bothered to show up this early. I'm feelin' all 'fatherly' and responsible right now and here I was lookin' forward to being the bad influence. No fun without the good influence types around to play off of...."

The gold wearing girl's gaze notes Henry's arrival. Firstly focusing on his school attire and then the sheathed sword, she's pretty sure who he is. If she's correct then he's only a teen like herself but he seems confident in the classy surroundings of the cruise ship. As the child of celebrities, this is to be expected.

"Nothing formal." Roxana responds to his question. "We've just all kinda found each other. As far as I know we were just expected to arrive this afternoon."

Winn's comment has her nodding her dark head. "I imagine it would be overwhelming for most people. How long has Tanwen been able to transform that way? Was she born with the ability?"

Meanwhile Max is talking to her again and Roxana responds with a confirming nod, that sends her braid bouncing against her back. "All of those things!" She laughs, as the cat-girl tries to find the right word.

Rodrigo confirms the identity Roxana suspected. "Good to meet you. I like your shirt." She compliments.

It's hard not to have her attention pulled away however by Albert's antics. She cringes as he comes crashing to the floor. "Are you okay?" She calls out in concern.

Thankfully an adult of sorts shows up. She recognises him right away. It's Braun the Beastman of Team Blaze! Her hand moves to slip into the small purse she carries, starting to pull out her phone. She's intending to try and get a selfie with him as soon as possible!

She doesn't want to come on too strong though, so for now she smiles back at Skye and speaks in a soft tone. "I'm not really sure. I have a feeling he's just excited." The idea of someone actually taking the time to put on a routine seems exhausting to Roxana. At least outside of the ring. "It's amazing you've got to travel so much. I've never been outside of America before." She admits.

It seems the time for idle chitter-chatter is over for now though, with the scientist stepping up to deliver her speech. Roxana readies herself to listen to whatever the woman has to say.

Even high above the atrium floor, Tanwen the tiny dragon can hear Albert belting out his declaration about dragons.

"Well, that isn't very nice to say, is it? I'm not a foe of humanity! I'm a good dragon, I am!"

The little lizard's head calmly follows the would-be knight as he aspires his way up toward the statue - and then collides head-first with its base.

"I think I'm starting to understand why knights are also an endangered species," the red creature remarks ruefully, before turning its head to a hirsute new arrival. "Oh! There's Mister Braun! I recognize him! I hope Mister Rogers is coming too!"

The dragon's amber eyes sweep the area for whoever it is she's referring to, but come up with nothing.

"There's so many sword fighters. I hope I can get one of the ones who's been before to teach me how to use mine better!"

She turns back around to face Ishida when he speaks to her again.

"Oh! Really? Do you think some of them are wanting to be my friend? That would be lovely! I think one of them wants to hit me with his sword, though. Unless... maybe he's just roleplaying? It's lovely to meet you too, Ishida! You're one of the new fighters too, aren't you? I didn't realise it was you without your iron shirt on."

She turns back around to scan the gathering crowd below as she contemplates Ishida's comment. "You're right. I'm red, that one's pink, and there's lots of different human colours, too."

She leans down curiously as Dr. Maeda starts to raise her voice.

"Oh! I think she's one of the teachers. I'm going to go down so I can hear better. It's probably okay anyway."

Tanwen leaps off the edge, diving down toward the bottom floor, circling once in search of a place to alight before settling gently atop Albert's head. "Hello! I'm here," she declares her presence, turning her attention to the Doctor who seems to be the de facto supervisor in this situation and resting attentively on her haunches.

"Apparently, she just learned it herself one day," Winn says to Roxana with a lift of his shoulders. "I mean, she was always a clever lizard, but she grew wings when she got a bit older, and then one day she was a human girl." He frowns slightly. "She ate all me fish, she did." He frowns more when he spots what the dragon is up to. "Tan! Don't be a nuisance to the poor boy!"

"Tthhh," the dragon chastises Winn to pipe down for Dr. Maeda, its serpentine tongue fluttering sibilantly.

Rodrigo raises an eyebrow at Roxana, not expecting to get a comment on his shirt right then and there but the raised eyebrow quickly gives way to a winning smile. One could imagine a tooth ping added in post if it was caught on video. "Thank you very much," he says in response as he gives one last glance to his shirt.

He then glances to the ground where Albert was helped up by Henry. He starts to take account of the personalities of the participants he's met so far. Max a practical joker who might need to learn things like context and timing in order for her pranks to go over better. Roxana seems nice enough so far on first impressions. Tanwen seemed understandably jumpy given the weird transformation. Albert struck him as a goof ball. Ishida was someone he didn't get much of an impression of yet but that was mainly due to him just getting close enough to be seen. And then there's Braun, the first of the returning members of the first season to be seen. Out of all of the members he was one of the last people he'd expect to be a good influence. He was expecting him to be a bad influence in most of the best ways possible.

The doctor asks for everyone's attention and he looks her way but out of the corner of his eye, he watches the dragon descend down upon Albert's head. It is a bit of a strain to prevent himself from laughing at the fact that Albert went from potential dragon slayer to dragon perch in less than five minutes. He manages it... Just barely.

"Ah..." Goes Albert upon seeing a hand reached down to him for support, his eyes turning up the shine again over this show of kindness. "Thank you, thank you-- I'm okay, though!" Even with that insistence, he does give one more quick rub over the top of his head before grabbing onto Henry's hand, to help hoist himself up with.

Once on his feet, the faux-knight gives a baffled look at Braun. Partly because of the fact that Braun appears to be, in fact, a big ol' beastman. But also because of waht Braun *said*.

"I'm not a cosplayer!" He declares with just a *little bit* of a huff, tapping the palm of his free hand against his plastic-covered chest. "I'm Albert Braendel, and I'm on a journey to become the strongest modern knight!" Is... is that why he is dressed like that, then? To try to manifest into the part?

He does suddenly straighten up in his posture when the woman clad in a lab coat speaks up. Like a student called upon to attention. He might be full of energy, but he apparently does have at least a good sense for understanding when the time to shut up and listen is.

...Which is right about just before the tiny dragon perches on his head.

His eyes go turning up, up, as much as they can without rolling into his skull completely, in an effort to look up at the scaley beast without turning his head itself.

"Um, excuse me?" He chimes out with a rapid series of blinks, but... Before he can make his protests known, the shushing from the dragon directed at Winn ends up jolting him right back to standing at attention, and redirecting his now-widened eyes to Dr. Maeda, standing as straight as a telephone pole and all.

Ishida nods quietly in response to Tanwen from his third-story vantage point. He... hesitates for a moment when she mentions his 'iron shirt', though. And then he puts on a broad smile.

"Ah, I see. I do not actually own an 'iron shirt', for it is a metaphor for durability and not a piece of clothing."

His brow knits as he glances over the edge to Albert. "I believe he may... -try- to hit you with it."

As Tanwen announces her departure, Ishida bows his head: "Of course. A pleasure to meet you."

And he begins to make his way down as well. If anyone is noticing, they may notice his pace to be... quick. For he's arrived at the bottom floor not long after Tanwen makes her new perch upon Albert's head. It also seems as though he was paying attention to the introductions along the way -- as he positions himself near Rox and Rodrigo. "I, too, like your shirt. It is rather eye-catching." Clasping one hand around his fist, he delivers a bow of greeting. "I am Ishida. It is a pleasure to meet you."

He seems like he would say more -- but pauses, as Dr Maeda makes a call for attention. Though, he would turn to offer smiles to Skye, Henry, Max, Albert, and Winn, should they look his way.

"Oh, OK," Skye seems to accept this response, nodding. "I can get that." Something seems to click, and she nods again. "Yeah. Totally get that." She does not elaborate.

Skye takes a few moments to look over Braun, her eyes moving to other people who are looking his way. The panic in her eyes invokes that of a student who has just been called on to answer a question about a book she did not even know she was supposed to read. She glances to Roxana, then Albert, then to Ishida, then back to the dragon that is definitely on Albert's head (she one-hundred percent noticed it the first time. One-hundred percent.)



Oh, good going, Skye. You read over all the fighters like Erin, but you missed that guy. How did you miss that guy? He's HUGE and he's like a pumaman. Pewmaman? Well, more of a lion, but...

<Oh my gosh, they're going to think you're PREJUDICED against Darkstalkers, SKYE. You idiot. Come up with something.>


Skye laughs loudly. Too loudly. "Oh, so someone from last season IS here! Cool! Your semifinals match was so awesome!" Skye punctuates this with the same smile she used at Texas Roadhouse when that one guy with the Rolex had too many Long Islands and asked her if she'd been in any movies after telling her she has a great butt, and she totally did not realize he meant THOSE movies which was SUPER gross when she realized it later.

That it is to say, it is, like the movie she was in, very poorly rehearsed.

"Oh, is she like a teacher or something? I should shut up before I get asked to leave like that time in history class."

Dr. Maeda's waits a few moments while everyone gathers around and settles down. Her eyes flick to Braun, the only person to address her directly. She regards the beastman with a quiet stare, only answering his question once everyone has grown quiet enough for her soft voice to be heard.

"No," she says, shaking her head. "I am not one of the organizers. I suppose a proper introduction is in order. My name is Eiko Maeda, former U.N. scientist, and lead researcher of one of the Special Projects divisions."

She pauses briefly at allow that information to sink in, watching nonchalantly to see if it evokes a reaction in any of the listeners. She very much doubts anyone in this particular crowd will understand the significance of that title. Special Projects was in many ways more secretive than most country's clandestine black ops organizations. C.I.A., KGB, MI6, Delta Force - while the average person has no idea what these groups actually get up to they have at least heard of them. Not so the Special Projects division. It was only in the aftermath of the catastrophic rampage of Justice that their existence came to light and the Gears project along with it.

"I have no direct affiliation with the NFG," she continues. "I have, however, spoken at length to those in charge. We both came to the conclusion that transparency regarding certain facts was important in light of recent issues within the tournament."

A vague statement but one which no doubt evokes memories of a particular individual for those who either participated in the last season or those who studied it. It seems unlikely that anyone willing to sign up for such an event wouldn't do their homework but just for the sake of clarity, the doctor elaborates.

"Due to a failure in both the vetting process and lack of communication, the girl known as Junko was able to wreck an extreme amount of havoc. Both spectators and participants received extreme injuries and vast amounts of property damage were inflicted. Understandably, those in charge have become far more cautious in deciding who they allow to participate. While there is always a risk of injury in a full-contact competition such as this, they felt it important to disclose exactly what sort of threat you will be facing when it comes to individuals who represent an abnormal risk."

A small lilac-hued hand shoots up at that statement, interrupting the doctor's speech. With a wide grin on her face, the young girl standing at her side waves enthusiastically to the crowd.

"Hello! That's me! I'm the risk," she crows, sounding strangely proud of that statement. "My name is Maximum and I'm a big scary Gear! That's a bio-weapon, if you didn't know! We were made to exterminate all the dark stalkers but then this -really- scary Gear called Justice was like 'nuh uh, I'm gonna rebel!' and she started going around blowing up all the--mrph?"

The doctor's hand clamps firmly down around Max's mouth, muffling her mid-ramble. The girl peers up at her caretaker in confusion but, upon seeing the storm cloud gathering over her head, hunches her shoulders and clasps her hands behind her back. Once it's clear that her ward isn't going to blurt out any more caustic 'facts', Dr. Maeda removes her hand and runs it over her face with an exasperated sigh.

"As I was about to say, yes, this is Maximum and she is a Gear."

Turning her face back to the crowd, the scientist once more scans for any adverse reactions. Fortunately, not many people had direct contact with the army of rampaging monsters that was unleashed by Justice's rebellion but it's not an impossibility. At the very least, everyone should have heard of the destruction of Mt. Fuji and the brief war that was waged to bring the rogue bio-weapon to heel, unless they've been living under a rock for the last few years.

"My purpose in bringing this fact to light is two-fold - transparency and reassurance. While Max's origins may be questionable to some of you, she and I have taken great pains to ensure that her behavior during this contest won't result in any further tragedy. If you have any questions, I am happy to answer them."

The beastman offers a close slightly lpsided smirk to those that do recognize him but as the conversation ebb and flow lulls enough to give the scientist the floor he turns his attention back to her as she answers his inquiry as to her status.

Curiously, he doesn't respond with a dismissive remark.She requested the floor, she can have it. But he does incline his head as she begins speaking and brings up past issues with the tournament. This leads to a quirk of his jaw, a slight roll of his eyes and then both of his hands resting on his hips as Max comes forward and properly introduces herself. His eyes linger on her and then glances over the rest of the crowd of newcomers and then he scratches his nose and sniffs slightly.

"Yeah, well, I guess there's no harm in bein' transparent the same time, let's not put to much emphasis on somethin' that honestly...ain't important. It wasns't what Junko was or could do it was her lack of control and acidic behavior that proved the problem. Otherwise aInt nobody give a damn about her origins so let's not make it about her. "

He looks to the young Gear and grins, " Way I see it, she's the same as everybody else here. Givin' assurances' ahead of time and bringing up her origin just poison's the pool and folks expectations, lady despite yer best intentions. Folk don't need the baggage hanging over their heads."

He studies Max a second longer and then looks away, starting forward further into the atrium with an absent wave to it all, "If she's here t'make friends and try and win a tournament while becomin' a world class fighter? She's in ther ight place." His deep voice then increases in volume as he looks about, "Now what deck's the buffet on?? Oh--and--" he pauses and gestures towards Albert, "I get wantin' to embody the role y'want but...maybe let's work on at least makin' yer outfit a little more...snazzy and intimidatin' and less ....cosplayer like. Sheesh, whole lotta sword users this time around. Ichika, Buford and Zarine done started somethin'..."

No need to question how Kenzo got here without anyone noticing. The easy justification can be summed up with a single word. 'Ninja.'

Having gotten here somewhat earlier, Kenzo gave his particular porter the easiest travel to guest quarters ever. He programmed his hover platform drone to carry his huge metallic trunk of odds and ends as well as a suitcase stacked on top of that as well following behind a disc with a beacon. Once it idles in the same location in relation to the beacon for a certain period of time it lands and then shuts off.

As for now, Kenzo finally makes his presence known by stepping out from behind a support pillar for one of the upper decks. He looks to have a contemplative pose with one hand supporting the other arm's elbow with the other hand stroking his chin.

"Would you say lack of control or lack of inclination to exercise control? As for the behavior, she was awful to be around when fighting her and awful to be around in social situations and in the midst of being awful seemed confused that no one wanted to be around her. If I ever find myself in the same room with her and I'm not obligated to be there, I'm leaving. No point torturing myself by being around someone I don't like if I absolutely don't have to." He pauses and shrugs before continuing by saying, "But I might be biased. She was going to attack me after my defeat until the Fulgores provided a counter argument."

He then turns back to Braun once more to nod in acknowledgement and then saying, "As for the buffet, I think it's on the deck above us but I need to look at the directory to be sure."

As the dragon descends and finds a place perched on Albert's head, Roxana starts to giggle girlishly. She feels like she's found herself featuring in some funny fantasy film. The whole thing is a bit of a farce. She waves over at the Welsh fighter and comments to her companion. "Well, fish is very tasty. I prefer steak myself though."

She brushes off Rodrigo's thanks lightly. "I'm just telling the truth. Teal is a lovely colour." His sparkling smile is met with one of her own as she flashes her flawless teeth his way.

When Ishida joins them, he too is greeted with a grin. "It's good to meet you. I'm Rox, if you didn't already hear."

She doesn't correct Skye on the fact that Braun didn't make the semi-finals. She recalls that he was knocked out by Chevy in an earlier round. The four semi-finalists were Chevy, Ichika, Djamila and Junko. "I think she's a scientist or something." Roxana remarks. As someone who was raised by two scientists, she's more than curious what the doctor has to say.

When Eiko Maeda finally speaks, Roxana's honey coloured skin seems to become a shade paler. She doesn't totally understand all that the Japanese woman talks about but she can tell she's someone important and that the information she is giving is something that she should know. As the risks are referred to, Rox nods her head. She was fully aware what she was getting into when she signed up for this competition. The element of danger was part of the attraction, though she doesn't wish to end up like Coco and be injured by someone whose powers are out of control.

When Max steps into the spotlight and states that she is a "Gear", Roxana feels her stomach flip over and the corner of her mouth starts to twitch. Something is tugging at her mind but she can't seem to make out what it is. Should Maeda see her face amongst the crowd, she will be met with a blank expression from the black haired girl. When she speaks up, her voice seems to shake a little. "I'm happy to have you here with us, Max. We all have pasts and they shouldn't stop us from pursuing our dreams in the present."

Roxana feels like her throat is about to close with thirst. "Is there any water around here?" She wonders. "Other than the sea outside I mean."

She's distracted from her discomfort when she suddenly spots her favourite fighter from the first season of the New Fighting Generation. Sidling up to Kenzo and Braun, she produces her phone and says. "Sorry to bother you boys but can I get a selfie with some of the stars of Season One? I've made it my mission to get a picture with every single one of you that is coming back this year."

Henry helps hoist Albert back up to his feet, but then reaches out to tap on of the plastic pauldrons with a finger. "You know, while this might be good for walking around faires and the like, but you should really look into a real set of armor. Moving in it is an entirely different mindset. Good strength training, too. I'm not a fan of wearing it in combat myself, though." He smiles softly at the other swordsman, perhaps the suggestion his way of trying to be friendly.

He turns as the scientist begins speaking, listening passively with that same slight smile on his face, hiding his thoughts behind that polite if somewhat blank look. Though the smile turns a tad more genuine as he catches Ishida's eyes, a nod of greeting added as well.

As for the announcement of a Gear being present, well, his head just bobs along with Braun's words. He came here to prove himself, and that just sounds like an obstacle to be overcome than a problem to worry about.

And then there's the ninja, and an alum of Justice High, which makes him a particularly interesting individual to Henry. His eyes lock on Kenzo and he turns sligtly towards the ninja, making sure Pacific High uniform is well in the ninja's field of vision, even if his school was more on the periphery of the antics with the other schools, it's a sticking point.

Ishida meets Skye's look with a brief nod. And to Roxana, he offers a muted smile. "Rox, yes." He seems like he might say more -- but then he just... doesn't. Maybe he just doesn't have much to offer in the realm of small talk. Or perhaps he just prefers to listen.

Which isn't a bad thing -- as Dr Maeda seems to have a lot to say. He listens carefully, as bidden, absorbing the stream of information with a disarming stare. He's not disinterested -- far from it. He knows that Dr. Maeda means every word she says, and it's not with the intent to disarm or confuse. Just open honesty.

Similarly -- he turns towards each other speaker in turn. Braun -- the strong, burly warrior he had voiced thoughts of studying with -- gains the lion's share of his attention, naturally. The sudden appearance of Kenzo is taken in stride -- it isn't clear if Ishida even knew he was there or not, as he just turns his head slowly towards the new sound.

But when Rox speaks again, with that slight waver in her voice -- he regards the latent tension in the air with a brief nod.

He directs his attention to Dr Maeda.
"You affirm she is safe. This sets my mind at ease."
His tone is calm and measured.
His expression is a blank slate, nigh unreadable.
He yields no clue to his true feelings on Dr Maeda's revelations.

Conversely: he gives Roxana a brief smile as he addresses her request. "A cooler is nearby. I will return momentarily."

And with that -- he gives a brief nod towards Henry and makes his way towards the side passageway where he'd seen a water cooler earlier. Thinking all the while about... that odd sort of rivalry among the Southtown schools. As a resident of the Nara area, he was thankfully immune from those petty rivalries. But he does begin to wonder if they will affect the situation here, on the other side of the world.

This is a big party. In the daylight. This proves to be a slight problem. While Zarine is made of fairly stern stuff, the sun runs the risk of her igniting. This would be horrificly embarrassing. Thusly, she adapts and overcomes.

The White haired vampire is present, milling around the party dressed for a funeral. She's wearing a long sleeved floor length black dress with a little lace at the cuffs of her sleeves. The neck is very high, almost seemingly uncomfortably so. Her hands are gloved in black, and she's carrying an open parasol over her shoulder to further shield her. To cap the look, she's wearing dark, round lensed sunglasses over her red eyes.

For the moment, she's stalking the room, taking in all of the new faces, trying to evade fans, and just vibe. At least until something interesting happens.

Albert is not given the opportunity to excuse himself by Tanwen. After all, she needs him to stay still so that she can hear what Dr. Maeda has to say.

To be honest, it goes a bit over her head, mostly. She knew about the Junko situation; she has a lot of respect for her ability to roleplay as the bad guy. There's just one part she hadn't been familiar with.

"I didn't know that Junko needed a vet," she comments quietly. "Maybe they should have tried using a real doctor instead? Lucky, I don't get sick, really, so I don't need either. Except that time I ate all the fish."

She has a feeling that she should join in and introduce herself properly, but they might all have trouble seeing her (or hearing her) in her current state. The logical course of action, then, would be to change back.

The little dragon hops off of Albert's head as Dr. Maeda opens the floor to questions. Tanwen drops easily down to the ground, little claws scrabbling across the floor to the pile of garments near Winn's feet, then crawls into them as if nesting. After a moment, the clothes start to shift and fill as the creature expands inside them. By the time that a head of bronze hair and hands and feet emerge from inside, they're halfway between scaly red lizard limbs and pale Welsh girl appendages - pinkish, with claws at the ends, stretching until they reach their former length. By the time that she lifts her chin off of the floor, Tanwen's face has returned completely to its former appearance, save for the reptilian sclera in her amber irises - which quickly resolve themselves into humanoid shapes - and a pair of curled horns flanking her face. The talons at the tips of her toes and fingers reform themselves into nails as the scales disappear.

Wearing her skirt and shirt and vest, Tanwen rolls over onto her bottom and starts tugging her stockings on, a long, lingering red tail sweeping back and forth across the tiles absentmindedly behind her as she does. From that vantage, she has an up-close view of the golden heels that Rox is wearing. They cause her eyes to grow wide with envy.

"Can I have your shoes?!"

The question escapes Tanwen like a slingshot releasing its tension.

"Tanwen," Winn chastises, rolling his eyes.

"Sorry," Tanwen says with a flinch, before correcting herself, "Can I have your shoes, pretty please??"

"Tanwen!" Winn chastises again, scowling slightly.

"Sorry! It's just, I thought it was better I make sure before I put mine on, I did," Tanwen says mournfully as she finishes rolling her stockings up and starts pulling on her own much-less-shiny boots. "They're lush, they are."

"Tanwen," Winn interjects, "You're back to front again, you are. And your tail..."

"Oh!" Tanwen turns her neck to look over her shoulder, quickly confirming Winn's warnings. "You're right, you are. Sorry, Winn."

She pulls her arms into her shirt and pushes up to her feet, wobbling a little in her boots as she starts twisting her tops around to face forward without taking them off. Since she's standing up, she decides that now is a good time to make her own announcement and staggers up to stand in front of the mermaid, turning around to face the impromptu assembly, her vest still squirming as her limbs shuffle it around from the inside.

"Hello! I'm Tanwen. I'm a dragon! We're very dangerous too, except I'm the only one anyone knows of for a few years now! And I'm not as scary as I look. I promise!" The now-horned girl's tail swings back and forth from the back of her skirt. Her sleeves finally start to fill before human-looking hands pop out of the ends of them and rise up to wave in greeting. "See? I'm friendly, I am! I hardly ever get up to mischief! And when I'm older, I'll let you all have rides." She smiles sincerely to emphasize the point, but the smile fades after a moment. "But, only if nobody slays me first. Then I'll be a dracolich, and they're no good for riding."

She stoops down to grab the strap of her satchel that's still lying on the floor and pulls it over, fishing in it for a hardcover book. "If anyone wants to know more about dragons, I've got a book here that's mostly pretty good and only wrong about a few things that you can borrow. It's in Welsh. Does anybody want to borrow it?"

She holds up the cover, which reads 'Dwnsiynau A Dreigiau' at the top and 'Llawlyfr Anghenfilod' below.

Roxana steps right up to Kenzo to ask him to take a picture along with Braun causing the man to smile slightly. He remembers reading her interview about him being her favorite fighter from the NFG but the part about him being dignified did elicit a laugh from him part amused and part bitter. There was nothing dignified about him engaging in haiku diss battle with Buford (even though that was done more as a psychological tactic) or the break down at the end of the fight with 'Kunoichi Inazuma.'

Kenzo seems like he's about to respond to Roxana's request when he sees Henry making eye contact and then turning to show off the Pacific High uniform. That right there gets an eye roll. As he said at the end of the said fight with that particular kunoichi, 'The rival schools bullshit ceases to mean anything when you go to school with graduates from those other schools.' The only reason his friends who graduated from Taiyo didn't give him shit about that fight was because before he went down he was struck by a spectator and that was the point where he started just going through the motions rather than actually fighting. That and the tortured scream from experiencing her last move.

He then turns to direct his attention back to Roxana to respond with, "I'm willing to take one with the three of us if Braun is."

In the wake of her revelation, Dr. Maeda lapses into silence, observing the crowd's reaction. Even Max settles down from her constant fidgeting, her unblinking gaze rapidly darting from one face to the next. For years now they have both been preparing for this day - the mad scientist and her creation stepping out of the shadows and into the light of public scrutiny.

As she suspected, Braun is the first to respond, the impatience growing on his feral features plain to see as she talks. His casual disregard for the supposed threat of a creature literally designed to eradicate those like him is likewise within the realm of what the scientist had expected. As one of the original participants from the previous round there was more than enough data on his behavior and mannerisms to map a decent prediction. Despite his crudeness, both in behavior and appearance, the man seemed to have a sore spot when it came to people pointing out his appearance. That he would desire others to ignore preconceptions and accept the young Gear based on her actions rather than her origins seemed a likely outcome.

As such, the scientist remains impassive in the face of his rebuke, offering neither defense of her actions nor rebuttal to his claims. Regardless of what he thinks of her decision, his reaction is precisely what she wants. The more people willing to accept her young ward at face value the better.

Max, however, seems to hang on every word out of the lumbering brute's mouth. The teen's fascination with the beast man had been made plain from the start of their research into the previous season. Her mother had voiced neither approval nor disdain for her choice of role model, leaving it up to the young Gear to determine for herself who or what was worthy of her admiration. Perhaps she saw something of herself in his feline features, finding a sort of spiritual camaraderie in another individual who stood out like a sore thumb among the humans. If so, that was good. Empathy would be an important part of learning how to fit in.

Despite the gruff warrior's claims, however, there is a sizable portion of the populace who hold rather strong feelings about Gears. Better to lay all the cards on the table and allow the other participants the opportunity to display their lack of prejudice than try to keep it hidden and risk igniting an incident. As the doctor's gaze sweeps across the room, she finds herself oddly disappointed that everyone seems to be in agreement with Braun's sentiment. Having at least one person vocally opposed to the presence of a bio-weapon would have made it all the more impactful when Max proved herself a worthy ally of humanity.

After offering a reasonable period of time for each person to voice their opinion, Dr. Maeda finally allows herself to crack a faint smile. Bowing slightly at the waist, she offers thanks to those present for their understanding and open-mindedness.

"I am glad to hear it. Both Max and I will rest easier knowing she is among such agreeable people."

Max starts to lift her hand to offer a friendly wave to the crowd but her attention is drawn sideways like a magnet as Tanwen decides to put on her little magic show. The teen stares at the pile of discarded clothes, her eyes steadily growing wider as they fill out with the tiny dragon's human proportions. That's a lot like her own transformation! Well, she can't make herself nearly that small. Or grow wings and horns. But both of them can change shapes so maybe they can be friends! That's how that works right?

One lilac-hued hand goes up in the air as Tanwen offers to lend her book on dragons to anyone interested.

"I have no idea what a dragon is! Or a draco-lich! Or a Welsh!"

There's... quite a bit of stuff that goes over Albert's head, truth be told. The thing that really made the most sense for the young man was Henry's advice on his armor, which...

Well, that just kind of made him look sheepish.

"...This is the best I could afford..." He ends up admitting in a shameful whisper. He'd even lower his head, but he doesn't want to tip the uninvited guest perching atop his head over.

At least being relegated to being a perching point for a dragon means he has plenty enough time to mull over all the complicated stuff. Even if that mostly is channeled into him staring (with a very confused expression) at Dr. Maeda and Maximum both.

"...I don't really--" he starts to say, but the dragon hopping off of his head does jolt him a little bit. Enough for him to blink and focus to following the small scaled beast's path to the pile of clothes.

THe whole matter of the Gear presented by the important-looking scientist is almost completely forgotten in favor of watching the transformation that takes place within the concealment of the clothing pile with great fascination.

Albert does have the sense, for the record, to not call her out on the little blunder with her clothes. And tail.

That being said, he's not entirely sure what to think of this. All the fantasy stories he read and watched that involved dragons usually cast the dragons in a villainous role opposing knights. Well, save for a couple stories that... frankly, he will vehemently refuse to admit to have read. But either way, Tanwen does not seem dangerous. Kind of friendly, even?

Albert's lips purse for a few seconds, but eventually he does decide...

"You don't seem scary at all."

That... might be taken in the wrong way pretty easily, but Albert does mean well by it, honestly! He does step over to kick the previously-discarded carrying case for his weapon up into the air, catching it amidst it's ascent with one hand so he can smoothly slip the edge-less sword into it, snapped close right after. With that done, he turns to flash another big ol' smile out that might as well light up the whole room, as he... thrusts a hand out to Tanwen, in apparent offer of the universal gesture for friendship.

"I'm Albert! It's nice to meet you!" Nevermind that he more or less announced his name several times over to practically the whole ship already. "Let's be friends, okay?"

Apparently this is something he has just decided.

But speaking of becoming friends. The attention given to the dragongirl by the diminutive Gear does remind the faux knight of what he was going to say before this whole distraction. His lips purse slightly towards Max's 'mother' for a second at first, before telling her, "I don't really understand any of it... But she doesn't look like some monster or anything like that to me."

Well, she *did* very much look like a monster a moment ago, but apparently he has chose n to either forgive or forget that. Possibly both.

"Besides!" His smile returns quickly, as he turns to lean just a bit lower into Max's direction. "I'm sure she'll be friends with everyone too! Right?"

Henry looks thoughtful for a moment at Kenzo's reaction to his uniform, rubbing his chin with his free hand, then nods to the ninja. A polite greeting, it seems if who he sees as a representative of one of the other schools is willing to let the rivalry lie, he might be as well. For the tournament, anyway.

As the little dragon flies off to the pile of clothes and Henry realizes what is happening he turns slightly away, making sure his gaze is turned in another direction, Albert does for now, without appearing as if he is trying to look away from a young woman putting on her clothes, even if she is hidden in the pile of garments.

The words from Albert are the first thing that actually seems to flummox Henry, and he has the grace to look a little embarassed. "Sorry, sometimes I forget my.." He coughs into his hand and lowers his head. "You know.."

Henry pauses for a moment in thought, then speaks on. "My family has a bunch of stuff we use for training and the like, I might be able to get my hands on a some pieces."

He just lets the offer hang there as he returns his attention to the know adequately dressed Tanwen. The offer of a book does seem to catch his interest at the start, then he looks a little crestfallen towards the end of the spiel. "I, sadly, do not know how to read Welsh. Or speak it." He taps a finger on the hilt of his sword, then nods. "Well, I guess I'll just have to learn about dragons in a first-hand manner." He says with a slight motion of his hand towards Tanwen. "Good thing I'm trapped on a ship with one, then."

The good scientists read on Braun isn't entirely...accurate. He has no such sore spot and never demonstrated such. Ironic humor on it, perhaps, but it's otherwise water under the bridge. His reaction is purely driven by one simple reality: Level playing fields. To him this revelation, nigh implication, that Max is potentially a 'threat' that must be warned about because of her origin is a problem when in truth, as far as Braun sees it, she is no -more- or -less- a threat then anyone here on account of being part of this tournament. Just as vulnerable, just as able to succeed. Her origins are besides the point. as are the history of the Gears as, well, frankly they aren't on much better terms with the populace then the Darkstalkers they were designed to fight.

Which leads to the real source of his annoyance. Her so called 'transparency' has shifted the atmosphere. Hyper senses and awareness makes Braun very keen on the even the most subtle reations and attitudes in the competitors at the revelation of Max's origins and nature as a Gear. His eyes narrow slightly and a mild frown touches on his featuresbut he simply watches and lsitens as the others work out their confusion or disregard until he hears Kenzo.

"I believe my phrase 'acidic behavior' covered all that." He doesn't seem surprised at Kenzo's presence. DId he sense him or did he just put on a good poker face? He certainly isn't telling! Still: Dang ninjas.

"Wasn't on yer team though I had enough words with Djamila about her to last a life time. My point is that what she was, wasn't as important as what she did so I don't much give a damn if Max is a Gear or not. It's a big world they're entering. A bioweapon can go down to martial artist usin' old fashioned ki and jump kicks. If miss professor here is tryin' to imply otherwise....then she and her charge can bounce right on out. Otherwise it's a level playing field and that's what matters."

Braun slowly grins, returning his attention to Max herself as if noting the Gears interest in him and his brusqueness softens a bit, "Course... given where I'm from maybe I've got a broad perspective. "

With all that said, he turns towards Roxana and his response to her request and Kenzo is to simply reach out with both of his massive arms to try and draw both Kenzo and Roxanna in towards him for said selfie!

Zarine finally seems to catch up to what's going on and she snorts, stepping forwards to join the little group focused upon the doctor. She lowers her sunglasses to the tip of her nose, bloody red eyes haughty as she regards the doctor. The vampire is petite and slight, not at all threatening seeming.

Until she is.

Something in her body language changes. Still regal and refined, but somehow -hungry-, and making it known that others are potential prey. "Nonsense. If she needs a warning, than surely my presence should have required one. I am centuries old and have killed more humans than are on this ship to slake my hunger for the blood of the living. I was not created to be a weapon, I was -honed- into one over the years I have existed. I am an apex predator. A vampire. A literal monster, and yet..."

She trails off, shaking her head. Her body language, her presence, changes again and she is simply a pale young woman suffering from albinism. She pushes her sunglasses back up.

"This is then a ploy. A plot to sow fear in her fellow contestants. To gain some kind of unfair advantage. And I find it disgusting. Peddle your fearmongering elsewhere, human, lest I decide that my hunger is best sated on -you-."

The vampire gives Braun a slight nod, and then she takes in the rest of the new crop of contestants. She smiles gently at them, to try and put them at a little more ease. "I look forward to seeing what you all are capable of. Should any of you wish me to be your mentor, all you must do is ask."

"Thank you. That's really thoughtful." Roxana says to Ishida, grateful for his assistance. "I'll just be over there." She gestures in the direction of the two returning male fighters. Before she can find out whether they are fan and fresh fighter friendly, she is disarmed by the dragon girl's request.

"My shoes? Oh, well, I kinda need them myself. All my others are in my room and these ones go perfectly with this outfit. We might not even be the same size." Roxana reasons. "If you want though, I could probably help you order some from online. Although, they probably don't deliver to cruise ships." She looks thoughtful. "I tell you what, once we dock somewhere we can go shopping together and search for some gold shoes for you. They may not be exactly the same but they will still be...lush. Did I say that right?" She checks.

Soon Tanwen is caught up in the complicated task of getting dressed with a tail. This is something that Roxana can definitely sympathise with. She's not quite ready to perform her own show and tell at this stage however. She can't help but smile at Tanwen's introductory speech. Her promise of a future ride for her fellow contestants and quirky pattern of speech both add to the plus column in Roxana's assessment. Despite this positive impression she has no interest in the strange book that's produced. Staying silent as the offer is made, she looks around, wondering if anyone else will take up the chance for some Welsh reading matter.

Once Kenzo gives her his attention, she's almost giddy with glee. "That would be perfect!" She enthuses. "Two for the price of one. Not that I'm paying but you know what I mean." Before she can say anymore, Braun's big arm pulls her towards him and she has a sudden realisation that this might not go as smoothly as she suspected. Looking up at the furry fighter she starts to giggle, gesturing to the height difference between her petite form and his own vast size. "I'm gonna have to really get good with angles here or you're gonna have to crouch to fit in the shot. That wouldn't really be fair on you though." She muses. "Alright, let's see here." She holds the camera as low as she can and checks the screen to see if she can capture all three of them without chopping off Braun's head. "Okay, got it I think. Thanks so much for doing this, both of you."

She snaps a couple of shots to be on the safe side and then is about to slip her phone away when she sees Zarine. "Zarine! Can I have a photo with you too?" At least there shouldn't be too many concerns about size difference with the vampire being only an inch shorter than Roxana. She also seems strangely approachable for one who is undead.

Fortunately, no one was subjected to any particular indecency by Tanwen's transformation. Just some light body horror for those who were looking closely.

Tanwen smiles as Max instantly takes her up on the offer of the light reading that is the Welsh version of the Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 Monster Manual. If nothing else, it at least has some nice pictures. She holds it out for Max to take.

"There you go. I'm so excited that you're interested! You know, if you guys want to start a group to play while we're on the cruise, I'd be happy to. Winn's a very good Dungeon Master. He would love it, he would."

Winn seems to be sucking air through his teeth at the idea, but puts on a smile when Tanwen turns a look over her shoulder for confirmation.

"See?" she says, looking back to Max and Albert.

"A draco-lich is like a dragon that's a lich! And a lich is like a zombie that's a wizard! And a dragon is like... me. So a draco-lich is like me, except if I was also a zombie and a wizard."

Tanwen seems prepared to take a deep breath and dive deeper into what zombies and wizards and Welshes are, but she's mercifully interrupted by Albert's comments.

'You don't seem scary at all.'

Tanwen inhales sharply at the comment. Not scary at all?

"But - but I'm only a juvenile dragon, I am! I'm not supposed to have a frightful presence until my next growth spurt, and that won't be until I'm fifty! I promise I'll be scary then! And probably even medium-sized!"

Somehow, the comment seems very cutting to the dragon girl, despite the fact that only a moment ago she was saying she wasn't as scary as she looked. Apparently she must have thought that that was pretty scary.

It isn't. Seriously. She's presented so far as a very tiny dragon, a sweet-looking teenage girl, and somewhere in-between. But it's true, dragons are supposed to be fearsome, no matter how nice they are, and being the only dragon she knows, Tanwen feels the weight of that responsibility. Her eyes glisten on the verge of tears when Albert thrusts his hand and insists that they be friends.


She reaches out and takes the hand in hers, then smiles, before suddenly lunging into Albert with a surprisingly strong hug.

Dragons don't shake hands. Dragons glomp.

"Okay! Friends! Except when we fight. Then we can roleplay that we're archrivals!"

After all, it's no good throwing away seventeen centuries of tradition.

She quickly releases Albert and turns around after Henry comments on learning about dragons first-hand. Her eyes go wide. "Trapped?! Are we trapped on the ship? I thought we were going to go off exploring, I did! Did we get tricked?"

Then, suddenly, Zarine.

Tanwen refrains from involuntary transmogrification this time at the sudden social jump scare, but she does shrink back, once more wide-eyed and wishing that she'd saved that holy water from the bartender in Wales before remembering that it wasn't actually holy water anyway and it was probably just as well that she drank it.

"Now, she is definitely scary," she murmurs to Albert, half hiding behind him from the creature of the night.

'I am centuries old and have killed more humans...'

At that moment, a passing group of paying passengers being led through the atrium by tour guides Tom and Lou stop to gawk at the speech being given by Zarine.

"And here you have the Mermaid statue, which, uhh..." Lou trails off, slightly dumb-founded.

"Which serves as a convenient gathering point for parties from separate cabins. Speaking of which, here's our popular vampire cosplayer and New Fighting Generation fighter, Zarine!" Tom interjects.

"Who wants to see the casino? There's a Bond-themed cocktail bar," Lou suggests, eliciting universal nods of assent from the party before they shuffle off to avoid sating any cosplayers' hunger.

"Is she really a cosplayer? She's very good at getting in character," Tanwen murmurs with wonder. "And yes, shopping sounds lovely! It doesn't have to be gold shoes, though. I like anything shiny, really."

Apparently she does conform to at least /some/ dragon stereotypes. Whether that's by nature or because she was raised by the SRD is another question.

Someone else is here too. Who could it be?

Hint 1: She hails from the Manchester region of the United Kingdom.

Hint 2: She's a well known DJ who practices her own unique style of capoeira.

Hint 3: She's blue eyed and blonde haired, although the latter of which is mostly seen from underneath her trademark baseball cap.

If you guessed Sarah Ashley Kuzumi, you're right!

So why did she take so long getting here? She had way more equipment than the usual fighter, obviously! Now that it's all taken care of, the spunky and barefoot tomboy has arrived with her usual smile on her face. She stops to do a quick twirl before tipping her hat briefly as she greets everyone. "Hello, one and all!" She says cheerfully. "Looks like a great spot we got here!" She looks around to see if there's anyone she recognizes.

Ishida is -- for those who may not have noticed -- not the most talkative of individuals. So it presents a certain conundrum as a roving tour of fighting aficionados is brought directly in his path, headed by Tom and Lou as they make their way through the atrium. He holds two cups of water in his hand -- and waits patiently for them to walk past, before passing by.

Of course -- in waiting, he has a bit more time to take note of his surroundings. He spots the returning DJ Supernova -- and offers a wave, though the quiet Japanese man's gesture is likely lost in the crowd.

A few moments later, he's able to finally make his return to Roxana's side. He offers her one of the cups of water; the second is for if she'd gotten -really- thirsty.

As he waits patiently for Roxana to avail herself of photo opportunities, he steps sideways to address a second cluster of fighters. He bows his head to Tanwen, and then bows with a hand clasped around his fist to both Albert and Henry.

"Friendship is preferable to animosity -- as the latter can blind one to even simple truths."

He smiles briefly -- and turns to address Braun, Kenzo, and Zarine once they have a moment. "I am Ishida. I am happy to meet the pioneers of the first generation, and thank you for all you have done to set the pace."

Max accepts the proffered book as if taking a holy relic into her possession. She's never been given a gift before, at least not by anyone other than her mother. And while it might just be a loan, it's still a unique moment for the young Gear. She looks at the colorful cover with wide eyes then hugs the book to her chest, grinning like the cat who got the cream.


She pauses, looking thoughtful.

"Or... is that too informal? Should it be 'thank you'? Thank you very much? I'm not sure..."

The girl's musings trail off as the excitable young dragon carries on. She throws out a whole lot of words that make Max's unblinking eyes go a little unfocused as she tries to assimilate all of this new data. Even after all of the responses she got regarding her initial question, she still has no idea what a dragon is, much less a lich or a wizard!

"I... see."

She doesn't. She really doesn't.

However, somewhere in that verbal avalanche she's pretty sure the word 'play' was spoken. And there's nothing she likes more than games! There's a few good ones that Dr. Maeda taught her, like Hide-and-Seek or Catch the Ball. She's never played anything that involved dungeons though. That sounds sort of odd.

While Max would have very much appreciated further elaboration on all of those things, Albert's untimely interjection bursts the young dragon's bubble, sending her on a tirade about yet more things that fly right over the Gear's head. She refrains from commenting on whether or not her new acquaintance looks scary or not, herself unsure on that point. The plump little winged thing didn't look all that scary from afar but it did bear an unsettling similarity to a snake upon closer inspection - she isn't fond of danger noodles in the slightest.

Albert's desire for friendship and subsequent glomping makes her grin. She doesn't throw herself at the knight like Tanwen but the little Gear scampers over close enough to extend one of her fists in a gesture of friendship. She saw it on a few videos on the internet.

"Yeah! Friends with everyone! That's why I'm..."

The cheerful voice trails off as someone new emerges from the crowd. The Gear's entire body goes tense, her instincts suddenly keyed up. Something about this woman is different. The way she moves, all unnatural grace and fluid motion. The way she holds herself, scanning the herd as a predator might, searching for any signs of weakness to exploit. The way she... she /smells/.

Max's nose wrinkles up as if catching a whiff of something particularly awful for the first time. This woman stinks. She can't place exactly what the scent is at first, having never encountered anything like it before. For some reason, however, she knows it's bad.

The girl's attention focuses in like a laser on the petite and regal woman as she interjects herself into the conversation. To complain about -not- being singled out as a monster. What a strange thing to be upset about, Max thinks. Her expression starts to sour as Zarine lays out all of the reasons why she is more deserving of special mention, bragging about being a blood-thirst beast.

And then the vampire goes a step too far.

The book is suddenly thrust into Albert's chest, now serving as a bulwark against the unholy abomination for its owner.

"Hold this," she growls."

The Gear starts to change. It's a subtle shift at first, starting in the eyes. Her pupils stretch out, narrowing into a pair of feline slits. The edges of her irises start to fade and as the dams crumble a flood of brilliant color rushes out to stain the whites of her eyes drowning them in neon fuschia.

Crouching down slightly, the surface of the girl's loose jeans ripple and expand as her calves bulge with thick cords of muscle. A single leap sends her exploding into the air, nearly clearing the entire distance up to the second story as she hurls herself at one of the massive marble pillars. Max hits the side of the towering edifice and clings there in defiance of gravity long enough to shift her legs underneath her body and redirect her lunge directly at the haughty vampire.

A blur of purple and pink rips through the space just above the diminutive blood-sucker, missing taking her head off by mere inches. A deliberate move, one meant to be a warning. The Gear lands with unnatural grace of her own on the railing of the fountain a few short feet behind the vampire and spins around to face her, lips peeled back in a feral snarl. A disturbing crackle fills the air as the girl's arms begin to shift and swell, ballooning outwards with muscle and fur. Long black claws, nearly two inches in length, extend from the tips of her brutish fingers. At her back a freshly grown feline tail whips furiously back in forth in warning.

Rising to her full height, Max looms over the small nosferatu, claws poised menacingly. She bares her teeth in a growl, her canines grown long and deadly. Her entire demeanor has changed, all of the playful childishness replaced with aggression and fury as she bellows a challenge in reply to the creature's threat.


The girl with the scorpion-braid is feeling somewhat starstruck. Firstly she's faced with three of the first season fighters and now there in the flesh are Tom and Lou, the legendary commentators of the New Fighting Generation broadcast. Oh how she had studied their rundowns, wondering about every word they said and if there were any hidden meanings. She'd lapped up the gossip, rewound the highlight reels and gushed over their guests. She's tempted to chase after them and their tour group but there'll be time enough for that. After all, she'd heard them say there were going to be staying on the cruise ship.

Spying DJ Supernova, she calls out to the Mancunian. "Hey, Sarah! Wanna get a picture with Zarine and I?" The vampire hasn't actually agreed to one as yet but Roxana can't see why there'd be a problem.

She notices Ishida's return with the water and waves in his direction. "I won't be long. I'm just grabbing people while I can." Her voice cracks a little as she calls out to him, emphasising her need for hydration further.

All around her people are making each others acquaintance and Roxana is really starting to feel part of something. It all seems to be going well for the most part until..."STAY AWAY FROM MY MOTHER, CREEP!"

Roxana startles at the sound, her head swinging around to seek out the source. There is Max in full monster mode and she's going for Zarine! Surely it's too early for the fights to be starting already. She steps backwards and stumbles on her stacked sneakers, sending her tumbling to the ground.

Certainly Zarjne was not just openly talking about having killed many humans over the years infront of...alot of humans. Of course she wsa! But she did have a point. She was let in before along with Braun who has himself remained largely mum about his own past and has never been really asked. Yet despite all that they never did any harm to anyone during the first season so...there is that..

Still, he finds her words amusing but also winces slightly on the inside...before he is forced to remind himself of the Team Frost attitude, of which at -least- one of the mentors absolutely was a killer that was just taking a break from her duties to ';mentor' people' and another was, basically, a super villain enforcer of one of Metro City's most nortorious criminal gangs before deciding to become a mechanic.

"Can take 'em out of the scrapyard but can't take the Team Frost out of 'em." he muses while giving Zarine a light smirk as she acknowledges him.

His overall mood remains unspoiled as he does his best to get into a proper posing position and flashes a big fanged smile and thumbs up while leering into the camera for Roxana's selfie with him and Kenzo. As she pulls away he gives Ishida a good look now, beginning to study the young man and then his gaze shifts more properly to Henry as well and then Skye. His smile remains but his gaze is clearly focused, appraising and studious...attempting to size them up and filing away whatever information his senses ping about them into the back of his mind for later reflection and consideration.

That is until he Max's bellow fills the room and his gaze cuts in her direction slowly.

Yet again, he doesn't seem surprised. He would have been -more- surprised had Max been restrained in her reaction given the prior words of the scientist.

And suddenly he's there, easily slipping a huge arm between Zarine and Max and interposing his gigantic frame between the two with all the smoothness of a gigantic lion boredly prowling between two ready to brawl lionesses. A sort of high-speed languidness.

"Hey, hey, hey. Calm down, calm down," he rumbles at Max, "She aint gonna do nothin'....and neither are you. Chill."

He holds his gaze on her, still grinning and then glances over his shoulder to Zarine and then glances past Max towards her 'mother' and then sweeps his eyes over the rest of those present.

"I'm sure folk don't wanna get bounced from this thing before it even starts, right? Plenty of time to make yer mother proud in the upcoming matches."

Honestly, almost as soon as the words left her mouth, Zarine had passed over them. They were said and were now unimportant. Still, she's quite aware of her surroundings. She hears Max's rumblings. She feels the swell of power. She does not move. Her body language still nonchalant and relaxed. The air itself ripples as Max swells and then explodes, ricocheting from the ground to a pillar and then straight for her head.

Time slows for Zarine as her preternatural senses crank on to the threat, however minor it may be. The vampire moves her parasol, swinging it down towards the floor and merely tilts her head to the left, her long white hair fluttering in the wake of the assault. The parasol swings back up to her shoulder and, like nothing happened at all, she continues to speak.

"Of course, I would be happy to be in one of your photos," she replies to Roxana with a smile. "After all, this whole event is a show, and they keep telling me that I need to 'solidify my brand'. Whatever that means."

Braun steps in, a massive wall of Meat Miracle to stand between Zarine and Max. Now she blinks, almost as if surprised. "Oh. Braun. That's not necessary. I am not threatened at all by someone completely and utterly proving my point."

Tanwen continues to cower (even if she wouldn't admit that that's what she's doing) behind the cover of the could-be crusader as the temperature in the room seems to fluctuate wildly from fiery to frosty. "Gosh, she's really tamping now - wait. Is she really her mam?" she asks, peering back at the doctor before looking back toward the unfolding fracas. Roxana topples backward next to her, and Tanwen flicks her tail around to offer an appendage worth of assistance in the gold-clad girl getting back to her feet.

"Everyone's getting a bit poody, they are. It's alright, Max! There's no need to get chopsy! Zarine will just be role-playing. She's not really going to bite anyone's mam! She's just acting like a bit of a bad egg," she tries to explain to Maximum, before adding aside to Rox, "Those daps really are amazing. Are they hard to walk in?"

She starts to edge around Albert and Rox toward the monster-y trio.

"That's right. We should keep all our bouncing inside the boat. But not too much, 'cause we won't want it sinking, now."

"Maybe we should be going to put our things away now, Tan," Winn says, now hovering well on the periphery of the group and as close to the nearest exit as possible.

"But I haven't got to meet Buck yet and ask him if he's a dragon who pretends to be human or a human who pretends to be a dragon yet, I haven't," Tanwen sulks, her shoulders slumping.

"You can ask him tomorrow, Tan. You're all on the same boat," Winn says, hands on his hips.

"Five more minutes?" Tanwen bargains, folding her hands behind her back.

Winn heaves a heavy sigh.

For a long moment, Skye is distant from the conversation even as Dr. Maeda explains the dangers of an experimental Gear, and Max's intent to be accepted by humanity and see as more than a dangerous monster. She remains detached as Zarine asserts her own power, and as Braun, Tanwen, and others try to defuse a brawl before it happens. Is she traumatized? Afraid? She is a rookie, after all. Not a Darkstalker, a Gear, a ninja with a lengthy heritage. Not really anything, special, really, other than a girl with ambition to move out of circumstances and do whatever she must to clear that plateau.

Tap. Tap. Tap.

But at this moment, she is a young woman distracted by her smartphone.

Tap. Tap. Tap.

"Gosh, Erin, you pick really awful times to text a gi--" Skye looks up, looks around, tries to parse what all is going on.

"Oh, shoot. I missed something really important." Skye says under her breath. "Shoot, shoot, shoot." She shoves her phone in her back pocket and tries to look like she was listening the whole time.

Boy, things sure took a turn in here, didn't they? A lot of observers aren't entirely sure who said what about who's mom but frankly that is a situation guaranteed to start a fight in even the best of situations, let alone the GenCon's worth of monsters, supernatural beings, and other spec-fic miscellany in this here ballroom. Someone entering into this situation must be scrupulous to read the room, taking in the tenor of the moment, the feeling of the atmos--

This is when a young American woman appears over Albert's shoulder from behind, because she has in fact put both hands on the wannabe knight's shoulders and is basically using them as a pull-up bar for a moment. "AAAAAAAAAAAAA THERE WAS A DRAGON? SHE TURNED INTO A GIRL?! THAT'S _RAD_."

Thankfully for Albert's cervical vertibrae, Arisa -- for it is she -- drops back down and ducks out and around him (where did she even COME FROM), looking at... well, if Tanwen is still here, then her, but if not, this room full of whatever the hell is going on. "We do not have dragons in Texas," she says, in a 'to anyone who'll listen' kind of way, before amending that sentence with "not since the accident, anyway."

Turning her fair-haired head, she looks up at Albert the Don't Call Him A Squire and tosses off a jaunty salute. "Nice costume, brah."

Ishida has trained in the art of Qigong -- a way to strengthen his connection to the qi within and around him. He can sense the wellspring of energy rising up from within Max as she shoves the book into Albert's hands. The call to urgency rises within him.

The qigong practitioner looks down at the cups in his hand -- and as the atrium deck quakes from a violent leap upwars, he sees the ripples form. Around him, he can sense the tides of qi rising around him. Tides that -- left unabated -- would crash against one another in a complex, violent reaction.

He looks up. And he sees Roxana starting to list to the side.

Ishida is not, in the strictest sense, a martial artist yet.

And he can sense that obstructing Max is a task best left to the returning members of the NFG.

Instead, he makes a decision to assist the one person in most apparent need. And despite the space Roxana has placed between him and herself, he's able to clear the distance to her with surprising alacrity.

She may fall. But Ishida will be there as quickly as he can. And if her fall trajectory places her at the potential risk of hitting the deck poorly, she would find the open palm, and the broad, unyielding chest of the Japanese entrant, to bring an end to her fall.

Even upon that slight an impact, the two cups of water will balance perfectly in his free palm -- with no spillage.

He notes quietly, perhaps in response to Braun's statement:

"For the unskilled, this event is an excellent chance to learn. For the undisciplined, it is an excellent chance to practice being so."

he tiny Gear recoils mid-snarl as a furry tree trunk suddenly interposes itself between her and the vampire. Her cat-like eyes shift sideways to Braun's broad face for a brief moment, unsure how to react. One the one hand, her personal idol has stepped in to tell her to cool her jets which makes the young girl doubt the wisdom of her actions for a brief moment. Even Tanwen seems to think she might have overreacted a bit. But her anger quickly flares again at the haughty mockery flung her way by the ancient monster.

"You heard her! She's a murderer! A villain!"

Leaning forward, Max rests her oversized paws on the massive bicep in front of her and glowers down at Zarine with narrowed neon eyes. Another menacing growl rumbles in her tiny chest as her fluffy tail continues to swish back and forth with manic energy.

"And she threatened to hurt my mom!"

From her position near the fountain, Dr. Maeda has remained silent during this brief altercation, observing as always. She was confident Max wouldn't actually attack anyone without provocation. That had been rule number one that she had drilled into the Gear's head. But she had never said anything to dissuade her from trying to intimidate someone into backing down. The moment Max's first attack had missed its target by such a wide margin she knew that's all this was - posturing.

As much as she wants to praise the girl for her self-restraint and desire to defend against the predations of a professed monster there are rules to this tournament. And, as stupid as it might be to allow someone who openly brags about being a mass murderer to compete, she isn't the one calling those shots. The world isn't always fair and that's a lesson the girl needs to learn if she's going to mature.


The scientist's voice is soft but firm as she stalks over towards the stand off. She makes a point to remain calm and non-chalant, hands resting loosely in her pockets, expression neutral. The Gear responds strongly to body language and seeing that doctor is calm eases some of the tension out of the angry girl.

"You need not worry. The vampire was simply engaging in what is known as 'blowing hot air'. She wouldn't be foolish enough to actually make good on that threat."

Stopping a few feet away from the trio of monsters, the doctor fixes Zarine with a level stare for a few moments then allows the corner of her mouth to quirk up faintly.

"But if she attempts to prove me wrong, you may feel free to reduce her to confetti."

Max's chest rumbles again with another growl, her gaze remaining fixed on the vampire.

"Yeah! Confetti!" A pause, her eyes darting over to Dr. Maeda furtively. "What's confetti?"

"Pieces of shredded paper," she says, her smirk growing ever so slightly wider. "Very very tiny pieces."

Mimicking her caretaker's wry grin, the Gear turns her gaze back to Zarine. Her tail's frantic whip-cracks slows to a more lazy swishing but her predatory stare remains locked, like a mongoose waiting for a snake to foolishly attempt to strike.

With that bit of banter out of the way, Dr. Maeda lifts a hand to her mouth and clears her throat again. As much fun as it would be to continue exchanging chest-thumping bravado with a bunch of people capable of casually murdering her it seems the more useful thing to do here is to try and soothe the egos she has inadvertently bruised.

"Ahem. In any case, it seems that there has been a misunderstanding of intent here. I did not bring up Max's origins to try and instill fear nor suggest that she is more dangerous than anyone else."

She looks pointedly at Zarine then Braun.

"Only to impress upon you all that she is not human. Unlike the rest of you..." Her gaze shifts to Tanwen momentarily. "Well, most of you, she never was. She is an entirely artificial creation, a mixture of man and beast. Her mind is as much instinct as it is conscious thought. And, despite her appearance, she is a mere three years old."

Still glowering at the vampire, Max chimes in cheerfully, "Three and a half!"

Dr. Maeda inclines her head acquiescently and smiles.

"Three and a half," she corrects. "The creation process allowed me to instill her with basic knowledge - how to speak, how to read, how to walk. And I have spent the last three years doing what I could to expand that knowledge. However, what she does not have is experience and the maturity that comes with it."

The woman gestures at the scene as if to indicate her point.

"She doesn't yet have a good grasp of social cues or how to react to things that most of you consider idle banter. So if you could spare a measure of understanding while she gets her bearings, I would appreciate it."

"For a scientist you don't really seem to pay attention well...."

It is not Max that Braun is irate with, despite her spontaneous actions in which...perhaps it was a bluff, perhaps it was not. as the simple fact remains Zarine is the more experienced fighter here and a scientist attempting to judge the accuracy and skills of two competing supernatural beings might not be wholly precise.

But these factors are, in part, what Braun is speaking to and he holds the woman in his steely golden eyes now, brow furrowing. "You didn't need to bring anything up at all. By doing so all you did was unsettle the level playing field and expectations of what to expect in a fight with her and folk -did- react . That was Zarine's point....That by not conceding her existence or hell, mine, as not needing 'a warning' by the NFG organizers...could imply you were trying to deliberately shift the mood and so she countered. "

Braun lowers his arm and then glances toward Zarine and mutters, ".....Course I can think of a few ways y'coulda worded yer response better but whatevah...."

He glances back at the other woman and smirks, "Maybe next time -lead- with Max bein' impulsive and askin' folk to bear with her as she learns the ropes . Probably a better option over 'oh by the way, she's a bioweapon' and lemme tell you about how Gears almost destroyed th'world.....'" "

At this point he finally addresses Max, his lopsided smirk returning, "..Don't worry about Zarine..or any other scary folk you might run into. Just think of it as ....another game. Folk trying to get into peoples heads." He taps his forehead and grins before starting to walk away, "Maybe now let's focus on findin' some good food and more selfies.."

Kenzo goes silent when the powder keg of emotions go off. Not because he shouldn't say anything but rather because he doesn't know how to react to it.

Thankfully, he didn't need to because Braun does and does so in his opinion pretty well. After their fight, Kenzo already had a high opinion of the beastman. After watching Braun be the voice of reason, calling out the mistake that the scientist made while also noting that Zarine's choice of words weren't the best either, elevated Kenzo's already high opinion.

After a moment Kenzo decides to hang back with Braun seeming to have the Zarine and Max situation in hand and Ishida taking care of the Roxana's fall situation.

Things could have been a whole lot worse. Although she did still take a topple, Roxana is saved from a more serious injury by the rapid reaction of Ishida. She blinks up at him, her black eyes full of gratitude. "Again you're here to rescue me. That was pretty impressive." She reaches out for one of the cups on his palm, quenching her thirst with the chilled water. Immediately she feels better. She takes another drink, soon draining the entire contents of the cup.

Somewhat recovered, she takes advantage of Tanwen's tail, using it as leverage to lift herself upwards. "My sneakers aren't usually hard to walk in." She explains to the Welsh woman. "I think I was just feeling dehydrated and a little overwhelmed."

As she looks around the room she sees that Braun has positioned his burly form between Max and Zarine, acting as their unofficial referee. "A photo would be great." She calls out to Zarine as she agrees to have one taken. "There's no rush though. Just as soon as you're ready."She suspects this may be a while yet, since the tension in the air is still very apparent.

As Arisa makes her arrival, talking of Texas, Roxana realises who she must be. It's the girl she gave as her answer for being a potential rival. Not that she has anything against her. She just had to choose someone and the guns gave her something to latch on to. If the blonde looks her way, she will receive a cheery wave and a warm smile.

When the doctor discusses humanity, Roxana starts to fiddle with her braid. It's not like she's made a secret of what she is but she's not been broadcasting it either. She figures people who don't already know will find out soon enough once the fighting starts.

It's been fairly subtle - the modus operandi of the Mermaid's security detail, like that on board any other luxury cruise liner, is to maintain virtual invisibility at all times - but there's been the occasional sound of radio chatter on miniature walkie-talkies, glances from otherwise innocuous crew members toward the atrium floor while speaking in hushed tones - and finally, a woman in a jacket with the word 'SECURITY' has shown up, speaking to one of the crew and a nervous-looking passenger.

"No, ma'am. Trust me, we don't have any killers on The Mermaid, undead or otherwise," the officer is saying, a pleasant, if faint smile on her lips. "We've screened all of our passengers. Miss Cernik is a performer, first and foremost, and this is just some improvisation."

"But what about that... monster?" the passenger says.

"She's friendly, and under direct supervision by Doctor Maeda. If any issues arise, we won't hesitate to remove any problem passengers, or to issue refunds. Listen, I'll have a word with them."

The officer turns on her heels, her expression instantly dropping as she saunters on over to the increasingly-crowded space in front of the Mermaid and places her hands on her hips.

"Folks, I'm Security Officer Sullivan. I've been getting complaints about monsters jumping around the atrium and people bragging about body counts. I get that you're all excited, but can I just briefly remind you all that you're on a cruise ship and likely to be surrounded at any given moment by civilians? After the snafu at the end of the last season, P.F.W.'s planning on keeping the leash tight if prospects start stepping out of line on this ship."

She steps in a bit closer to where Braun and Zarine in particular are standing, speaking a bit more quietly. "Look, you two. You're getting grandfathered in because P.F.W. would rather let a possible undead serial killer and a giant werewolf stay on their ship than admit that Junko Daidoji wasn't their only fuck-up last season. Otherwise, they're insisting on transparency this go-round so no princesses can say they didn't warn them when they get their face clawed off - at least, when it comes to the other fighters."

The brunette turns and nods to the doctor. "You're all aware by now, I'm sure, of Maximum and Cadwallader. That just leaves..."

She turns to face toward Roxana. "Page. I'll leave it up to you to introduce yourself properly, but please, show some discretion when you do."

The woman starts to turn to leave, but pauses. "Oh, and if anyone feels the need to escalate, ask for me first. I've got a space belowdecks where you can blow off steam without collateral."

And then, the security officer starts to drift away like a storm cloud.

"Well, okay. You'll call me if you get lost, won't you, Tan?" Winn says as he prepares to shuffle off.

"Promise!" Tanwen says, bouncing on her heels a few times before whirling about-face and returning her attention to - well, turning to Arisa, actually.

"I'm the dragon! I'm still here!" she informs the American, in case the horns and the red lizard tail trailing from beneath her skirt weren't already a dead-enough giveaway. Then, she suddenly looks aghast. "Accident?" Again, the girl's amber eyes appear prepared to precipitate at this off-hand mention of some sort of cataclysm. Tanwen's pretty sure that anything bad that happens with dragons is usually called that. "W-what happened to the dragons?" she asks meekly.

Her attention is drawn away, though, by the conversation continuing between the doctor, Max, and the others.

"Wow! Is that three and a half in human years, or three and a half in dragon years?" she wonders. "Winn reckons I'm probably about sixteen in dragon years most of the time, he does. Sometimes he says I must be six in dragon years. I don't think he's very good at dragon maths."

She turns when the security officer walks over and tilts her head, letting the woman speak before turning to the others as she starts to depart. "Doesn't she know I'm Tanwen? Cadwallader is my adopted name, from Winn," she says with a bemused look. Then, she suddenly brightens. "Did she say she has an escalator we can all ride on? This ship really is amazing!"

The burly beastman narrows his eyes as he hears Veronica's quiet address to him and Zarine before they can fully disperse and he turns to look her over as he listens.

He then laughs, a rough chuckle buried in throat as he runs a hand through his tossled hair, "Riiiiiiighhhtt...IF they didn't want us here then when I put my name in the hat they coulda just said no. Same to Max. Nobody woulda someones priorities are a bit off. Whatevah. Shouldn' call folk werwolves tho'. Might hurt Buford's feelin'."

He gives a absent minded wave and turns to start to make his way in the direction of the elevators.

"Good t'know about a place to blow off steam tho'. Hope it's reinforced!"

With that he begins a slow languid departure though there's plenty time to address him if one will though he does slow just enough to give Roxana a quick glance, looking on curiously.

Closing her eyes, Dr. Maeda inhales slowly through her nose and lets out a soft sigh. Dealing with people who think they know the solution to a problem without having all of the details is exhausting. Especially when they're so smug about it. Why is it always the people who are the most uninformed that are always the most confident?

As Braun turns to wander off, the scientist sucks in another deep breath as a precursor to a lengthy explanation about precisely why his argument is completely off-base, starting with the irony of accusing her of failing to pay attention when he apparently missed the part where she specifically said the company requested she disclose Max's origins. While it would probably be wiser to just let him believe what he wants, she can't just let the oaf undermine her credibility like that. Her mouth is halfway open, the first syllables of a detailed retort forming on her tongue, when someone saves her the trouble.

The sound of her name being mentioned cuts the woman short and she turns to regard the security officer with an appraising look. From the sound of it, the commotion caused by her attempt to make good on the requirements P.F.W. placed on her managed to unsettle the other passengers. Well, angry bio-weapons and boastful vampires will tend to do that. Rather than be annoyed, however, Dr. Maeda allows a faint smile to settle on her face. Now perhaps she can back up her claims with an official response.

Officer Sullivan gets right to the point, taking what would have been a long-winded and thoroughly detailed explanation from the scientist and putting it into a short digestible package. Her own argument to Braun about their exclusion from the show-and-tell exhibit would have been mere speculation but the P.F.W. representative confirms her theory outright. Not that it would be hard to guess the reason considering the massive fallout of the previous season. Companies often care about two things - profit margins and P.R., something she learned the hard way while working the private sector before joining the Gear project.

Eiko returns the officer's nod with one of her own, grateful for her timely intervention. Her gaze shifts to Roxana at the insinuation she might have her own secrets, eyebrow quirking curiously, but doesn't press the girl immediately. There will be plenty of time to get all the details.

"That probably won't be necessary, Officer Sullivan, but I may inquire about using that space to set up some sort of exercise room. Max tends to get restless and it would be better to have somewhere she can run around without getting herself into too much trouble."

Her eyes shift to Tanwen for a moment and her lips press together slightly in thought. She didn't expect another immature monster to be attending this particular party. Yes, it will definitely be a good thing to have a playpen for these two away from anything valuable or fragile.

"Either way, now that we have settled this topic... Max, I don't think you'll be needing those claws any more."

The small Gear, her attention still mostly hyper-focused on the pale vampire, lets out a soft huff and flicks her tail one final time.

"Yeah, okay..."

A few bone-crunching seconds later sees the young girl once more in here 'human' form. Hopping down from the marble railing, she scampers back over to Tanwen and Albert, retrieving the book from the knight and hugging it against her chest. She gives the dragon a broad grin and holds up three fingers.

"Three and a half in human years! I was created near the end of the war. But mom used magic to make me grow really fast."

A sudden rumble emanates from the girl, loud enough that it almost sounds like she's growling again. Max's eyes widen in surprise and she rubs the back of her head with an embarrassed grin on her face.

"Eheh. Guess I used too much energy! Want to find something to eat?"

She glances sideways at Dr. Maeda and cups her hand around her mouth, leaning to whisper conspiratorially to Tanwen.

"There's a whole pile of chocolate upstairs!"

Sarah gives a nod to Ishida and then smiles at Roxana. "That sounds like a great idea, sure!" At least that's what she's intending on doing.

Instead, there's a lot of action and Sarah's not quite sure what to make of things when all is said and done. Although she does start by saying softly, "Good thing I stored my equipment already; That stuff's mighty expensive!"

It's said that actions speak louder than words -- and Max's actions certainly said a lot. Some people are just better at acting than speaking though -- and that's a category Ishida finds himself in more often than not. He just doesn't have much to say.

It's better to listen, anyway. His words to Roxana are a simple acknowledgement of her compliment -- "You're too kind," -- and a nod of his head. He rises when she does, satisfied that she doesn't appear to have twisted an ankle or anything serious. That'd be a rough way to start a tournament.

The qigong student's brow furrows, as if he might be starting to form a response to Tanwen and Arisa -- though, just as he seems to have selected his words, Officer Sullivan's voice cuts through the air. He pivots to face her, remaining politely deferential and nodding his head when appropriate -- though, he does tilt his head towards Roxana as she's suggested to be in the same grouping as Maximum and Tanwen.

The barest hint of a smile crosses his features.

Though. Perhaps he feels as if things have gotten exciting enough. Roxana would like to get her photos -- and he finds himself once again at a loss for words.

He quietly takes a sip from the cup of water in his hand.

And it's here that his stomach begins to rumble. How long has it been since he's eaten, anyway?

He bows his head to Tanwen, and those close enough to hear without the need to raise his voice.

"Food sounds like a good idea. It was nice meeting you all."

And with that, he bows his head once more, folding both hands behind his back, and gravitating towards the elevators.

Zarine peers up at Braun and snorts lightly. "Why should I sugarcoat things? That would imply I cared beyond the blatant attempt at cheating via intimidation."

Veronica arrives to ... do whatever it is a security officer does, and the vampire snorts again. "I see it continues. Bioweapons engineered to murder my kind are perfectly acceptable, but I, once again, am being discriminated against for my ... dietary restrictions." With the haughtiness of centuries of practice, Zarine turns up her nose and gives a proper, ladylike sniff. "A performance -indeed-."

"Oh!" Skye looks to Roxana as she loses her footing, but unlike Ishida, Skye does not swiftly swoop in to catch her. In fact, she's a bit too slow on the draw to react at all before the issue has (mostly) been resolved.

But perhaps this is for the best as Veronica shows up to descalate the situation on behalf of the sponsors. Skye's eyes follow Max, Zarine, Veronica, and Braum as there's a back and forth. She glances to Dr. Maeda again following a particularly weighty sigh. When Zarine makes her proclamation, Skye runs a hand along her neck slowly.

"I, uh, I think I'm going to go find the buffet. Nice meeting everybody!"

She takes off at a good clip after Ishida, who seems to have a much better grasp of where he's going than she.

So Xander had a plan.

His plan was pretty simple. After he has been gathering information, preparing himself to announce all his findings to the other competition. But all this time, the round swarthy Dutch lad was actually lingering with the crew, not the fighters. He was garbed in a fisherman's cap and wool jacket, and almost passed off as Greek himself, so it was a clever disguise. But that wasn't why he was lingering. He was actually hoping to join the others, and make an announcement. But it wasn't a party, really.

It was a zoo.

Fighting was already breaking out between monsters, actual monsters, and the humans. Xander loathed how disorganized it was. Couldn't they sit down and settle this out? Maybe have a round robin where each person could introduce themes? Even Max barely seemed under control, and she even had a personalized babysitter or something. Xander was afraid the moment he spoke up, someone was going to lash out. Like Arisa, who might actually have a gun, he wasn't sure. Xander normally wouldn't be shy, but sticking with the crew when someone blew a hole in the ship felt wise. He almost wanted to keep quiet, keep his very important announcement to himself.But when he saw those two fighters already going to the buffet, he realizes the failure of his restraint. Was it too late? Could he stop it?


Xander blurts out, just as Skye and Ishida start to head out. "Stop! Please! Before you go!" The short Dutch teen surges out from the crew, stepping with the deliberate presence of a commander and captain. He raises a hand up, casting his gaze around. "I am Xander De Vries, student of Kojima Kyokushin-Ryu Karate! I am one of your fellow competitors!" He gestures to the scientist. "I too, have something very important to tell everyone!" There is a pause. Xander wipes his brow, his ruddy jowls practically shaking with intensity. And he finally speaks clearly and intensely to the others.

"Before you take advantage of the dining facilities on the ship, please make sure to talk about any special dining arrangements you need with the crew, if you have not."

Another pause, to allow the important message to take root, before Xander explains "In martial arts, a strict dietary regime is important and personalized, especially for exotic people, like from Texas. The crew will be very willing to accommodate special dietary restrictions, but if you do not tell them beforehand, they cannot guarantee. They have kosher and vegan options already, but I am very concerned that not everyone here has communicated any special dietary restrictions with the crew. They also will accommodate any special dietary requests, within reason, as long as they are not too far out at sea to restrict resupply. It's important to tell the crew of any special dietary restrictions before the food preparation, if you make the request at the dining time, then they cannot promise that you will have your special dietary consideration on hand." Xander inhales, and exhales. That was his prepared speech. But having watched the fighting, the dangerous tension in the room with violent monsters, Xander can't help but add one more at the end, looking first to Max, then Zarine, and finally Braun as he states. "And be civil. I know that the officials working here have everything planned and arranged, but the NFG is supposed to be an event of spirited competition, not cold blooded brawling! The only blood shed should be with joyful combat, not wrathful anger." The round Dutch teen crosses his arms before his chest, and nods decisively. "I am not done with my support. I will make sure that all the facilities related to physical fitness, training, and sparring are all up to the standards of the International Karate Kyokushinkaikan, especially in terms of safety. Fire safety." Xander adds almost as an afterthought. "If you have anything else you can think of, that is an important consideration or restriction to tale place while on the ship, you can talk to the crew, or to me if you are uncomfortable with speaking to the crew. I am a spirited competitor like all of you, but I want to do what I can to help guide and lead us all as proper students. Thank you for your time." Xander tips his fisherman's cap, and proceeds to walk in the direction of... Ishida and Skye. He speaks directly to them. "I would like to join you." Why? Xander helpfully explains.

"I do not want to have my head taken off before the event begins."

Security Officer Sullivan shows up and Roxana can sense her authority. She can't help but feel somewhat relieved that someone is taking charge of the escalating situation. She starts to smile at her but then...

"Page. I'll leave it up to you to introduce yourself properly, but please, show some discretion when you do."

That smile soon shifts to an icy glare. What right does this woman have to force her into this situation? She was going to show people what she was at the appropriate time. Not in the atrium on the afternoon she arrived.

The conversations of the other competitors drift and dance around her, coming in and out of focus as she tries to decide what to do. She feels Braun's eyes on her and gives a quick glance his way, wondering if he's ever faced a situation like this. Probably not, since he seems to always be in his furry form. Next she looks towards the doctor. Perhaps she could be someone to confide in. She's calm and curious and reminds her somewhat of her mother. Ishida too clearly heard the words. He seems sweet. Perhaps he'd understand. Before she can say anything however, he's heading off to fuel his hunger.

With terrific timing, Sarah consents to the photo, distracting Roxana from the distress she's feeling. The friendliness of the acrobatic fighter reminds her of why she came here in the first place. To be around these amazing people and prove her own worth. Nothing is going to ruin that for her. "Hey, Zarine. Let's go ahead and get that selfie." She suggests, slapping a sunny smile on her face." Perhaps it will serve to snap the vampire out of any further risk of violence. She moves over to the two women and prepares her phone and her pose to capture the perfect picture.

She's starting to feel almost serene again until Xander shows up. His call of "WAIT!" signals the start of what seems to be an endless tirade of talking. She simply stares at him, stunned by the speed and breath it must take to blurt all of that information out. Perhaps the karate training helps. She's definitely not a vegan and doesn't have any other culinary concerns, so she decides she will probably be fine dietary wise. Still, it was considerate for him to care about their needs. He probably meant well. "Thanks, Xander!" She calls after him, as he goes off to find food.

Braun had already begun the process of extracting himself from the situation and any further discussion on the more contraversial matters that have arisen. He'd long ago declared his interest in checking out the food services, the buffet in particular, and now he's making good on that...already by the elevators as the others begin attempting to take their leave as well. Given the number of dining options on a ship such as this one, it's entirely possible they may all ultimately end up going different directions but for now he at least wants a look at legendary buffet spreads on luxury cruise liners has to offer.

He does give Zarine one final glance and then Max and her minder...looking thoughtful for a moment before he is distracted by Xander's call for attention.

"What now..." he grumbles, looking that way towards the man while also reaching out to push the button on the elevator to summon it.

By the time it dings open, Xander has begun his lengthy public service announcement and Braun just...stares, annoyed expression replaced with being dumbfounded.

And then he grins again, eyes hooding and large fangs visible, "Weeelll...good advice!" he remarks with amused approval though, in part, he's mostly approving of, and amused by, Xander managing to push through any nervousness at taking the floor to get that all out to begin with.

At this point, the elevator opens and the large beastman ducks his head low and slips his frame into it though he moves slowly enough that if any wishes to brave the ascent to another deck with him they have a chance to do so before the doors close.

Despite having contributed little to the community discourse, Ishida appears to be a trendsetter -- at least among the NFG entrants. There is, of course, a strong possibility that Ishida was simply following Braun's lead -- which is very likely, as he'd named the wild warrior as a potential mentor in his NFG interview. He does offer a brief smile at the beastman, one way or the other..

Downing the rest of his water, he stops to deposit the empty cup into a trash can -- just in time to catch sight of Skye racing towards him.

He bows politely at the waist to her, hand wrapped around his fist. "Ah, hello... Rodriguez-san, if I am not mistaken?" He nods back towards Braun and the elevator. "We are... in search of the buffet. Would you care to j--"

Ishida cuts himself off mid-syllable as he hears Xander's call for attention. With his lips pressed together into an impassive line, he turns to watch the Dutch fighter's expression for his... surprisingly in-depth dissertation on the importance of healthy diets. The Japanese man watches him, with only the occasional blink revealing that he has not, in fact, turned to stone in his silent observation.

Communicate dietary restrictions -- and be civil.

"Noted. Thank you."

His understated smile returns, as Xander communicates both his intention to join them, and an understandable distaste of decapitation.

"Of course. 'The more the merrier,' as the saying goes."

He gives one more wave to those assembled by the mermaid sculpture. He has some concern for Ms Page in light of her reaction to Officer Sullivan's revelation -- but rationalizes that their time together on the boat is only just beginning.

Turning with no further ado, he hastens his pace to make good on the opening Braun has provided for them. "Thank you," he states as he steps inside. Presumably it's for holding the door -- but it's such a general-purpose phrase it could have likely applied to the beastman's prior actions as well.

Tanwen's eyes go wide when the phrase 'there's a whole pile of chocolate upstairs' is whispered in her ear.

She knows exactly what Winn would have her say in this situation.

'I'm not allowed to have chocolate except for special occasions, and then, only a wee bit. Chocolate makes me excited, it does.'

The words are on the tip of Tanwen's tongue as she turns toward Max, but she stops when she realises that Winn isn't here right now. Besides, she's forty-seven in human years. She's practically a grown-up!

"Let's get as much as we can and share it," she enthuses conspiratorially, folding her hands innocently behind her back as she decides to spend a minute taking in what's being said and daydreaming about a whole hoard of chocolate.

"Oh! Maybe you should tell the crew about your dietary restrictions," she suggests to Zarine after listening to Xander's speech.

Then, to Max, she says, "If we hurry, we can get some chocolate before anyone notices, can't we?"

She runs to try and squish into the lift before it takes off for the upper levels where, she presumes, the Lost City of Chocorado awaits the intrepid.

Furtively, the small Gear's neon eyes dart back and forth from Dr. Maeda to Tanwen as her new friend assimilates the opportunity that has been presented. Max does her best to keep her expression neutral, attempting to mimic the blank mask that her mother wears. But, as if often the case with young children, her attempt at nonchalance just makes her look even more suspicious.

Fortunately, the scientist's attention has been captured by the very loud and obnoxious entrance of yet another actor upon this comedic stage. The girl turns her head to regard Xander with an inscrutable stare, eyes unblinking as he launches into a lengthy tirade about diets, karate, and friendship. Nope, she has no idea what he's talking about. And while she would enjoy introducing herself to someone new, there is adventure to be had!

"Deal," she says, whispering back to Tanwen. The Gear scans the room, noting that everyone else seems to be piling into the elevator to go in search of their own lunch. Good, that means no one will be around to keep them from-

Her train of thought is interrupted as the hyper-active dragon scampers off on a direct bee-line towards the quickly filling lift. Her eyes widen in surprise and a bit of panic and she takes off at a sprint to try and catch up, secretly augmenting her legs with a bit more muscle to send her flying across the room. Max zips past the other girl and physically scoops her off the ground mid-run, hoisting the Welsh monster into a princess carry. Despite being a full two inches shorter than the older girl, she shows no signs of struggling with her weight and quickly darts behind one of the massive marble pillars obscuring the two of them from sight.

"Not that way, silly!", she chides and sets Tanwen back on her feet. "Everyone will see us! We have to sneak up the stairs."

Skye is mid-jog when a new face makes himself known. Though one among many that Skye has met today, Xander has a way to drawing extra attention with his particular proclamation.

"I didn't do it! I'm supposed to be here!" Skye immediately interjects, before, with a moment to think, she gets quiet. "Oh."

"Is that like, what the guy in the sun jacket practices? Or is it the man with the red headband?" Skye seems genuinely curious, misplaced as her guesses may be. "O-oh, dining arrangements. Right." Skye nods once. "Ty--my agent says I'm a human garbage disposal, and I don't have any food allergies I know of, so I think I'm good! Thanks though!" The wrestler continues to bob her head agreeably, if ever so slightly, as Xander continues. "--uh, yeah. Sure!"

"That's me!" Skye bobs again toward Ishida. "Just Skye is fine." She pointedly does not add the other name on her registration form.

Once the photo is taken, Roxana thanks Zarine and Sarah and then decides to make a retreat to her cabin. She probably could do with eating, but for now the desire for solitude is more pressing. She decides she will slip out and fetch some food later. Today has been a lot so far. For the past few months the only time she's been around a large group of people is in the crowd at fighting matches and rock concerts and those were strangers. She knew it would be unlikely she'd ever see them again. With those she's met today however, she will be in their company for the whole season. Somehow that feels like a lot more pressure and she doesn't want to make a fool of herself on the first day.

She's found all the other fighters, new and old, fascinating. All their quirks and personality traits make for a colourful collection of competitors. She's thrilled she's made a start on her selfie collection. These aren't for public consumption however. Roxana Page has no presence on social media. They are simply her own souvenirs. Perhaps she will extend her mission to make sure she has pictures taken with all her fellow new fighters too.

As she heads away from the atrium, she pauses briefly to look back at the chaos caused by Max and Tanwen and can't help but laugh. Perhaps Max doesn't remind her of the person she'd referenced in her interview as much as she'd expected, but there's one thing for sure, she and the dragon are lots of fun.

Tanwen blinks as she's unexpectedly scooped off of her feet and swept off around the corner. Luckily, she manages not to spill anything out of her satchel on the way. "Oh! Am I being kidnapped?" she asks, a moment before she's set down on her feet once more. She blinks a few times. "Oh, I'm not. I started getting really excited, I did."

Presented with a different route to adventure, Tanwen adjusts the strap of her satchel against her shoulder and clutches it with determination. "Right. I'm not very good at Stealth checks, but I'll do me best, I will."

Surely the two monster children (if one can be a monster child at 47 in human years) won't get any trouble left to their own devices and will handle any chocolate-related opportunities responsibly.

Log created on 09:01:21 01/31/2024 by Roxana, and last modified on 13:37:10 02/09/2024.