NFG Season Two - Round Table Discussion

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Description: Off-brand Merlin and Wannabe Arthur strike up an unlikely but potentially fruitful partnership... and perhaps find some unexpected emotional common ground while they're at it.

The hour: 3pm local time.
The place: the buffet restaurant called "Spices" on the cruise ship Mermaid, floating home to the second season of the New Fighting Generation.

Any eating place on a giant cruise ship is going to have extensive seating, and very little of it is going to be geared toward a person eating alone. After all, who goes on a cruise alone nowadays? The answer, of course, is 'almost every NFG competitor,' and that list includes erstwhile seiðr practitioner Iris Osterlund.

Perhaps thankfully for her, 3pm is not exactly lunch rush time, and most people on the ship are likely enjoying the sun deck at the moment, or some of the other many attractions and amenities on the boat. The Brit herself, however, is currently sitting alone at a table. Scattered around her, in relative disarray, are a number of things: a plate full of meat samosas from which she will occasionally eat, a pitcher of ice water and a glass to go along with it, her phone (screen side down), and the piece de resistance: a heavy-looking and ornately bound book, which is open in front of her on the table. Intermittently, she will reach out and idly flip a page in the book with the faint crinkling sound of old paper; at other times, she'll reach over and grab a samosa, taking a bite and then setting it on the plate once more, wiping her fingers clean carefully with a napkin.

It's not as if she can't be bothered right now, but the people in the restaurant who DO recognize her are still giving her some space. After all, who KNOWS what's in that book she's reading...

It *probably* isn't a good idea to be interrupting a magic practicioner reading from a big ol' book like that. I mean, you'd have to be *stupid* to risk some kind of magical whiplash happening from their thoughts getting disrupted, right?

...Which, speaking of.


The sudden, loud greeting is followed by the *THUNK* of a tray bearing a truly ridicilous mountain of food piled over two seperate plates being set down on the table on the opposing side from where Iris sits. She might have noticed the young man wearing the blue, hooded tunic of all things moving through the restaurant earlier too, but... now she is actually forced to *interact*. Oh no.

"You're from the last season and stuff. right?" The Faux-Knight asks, with what might as well be a visible sparkling from his eyes. Not *quite* like someone being starstruck, but definitely the look of someone who at least thinks he has run into someone worthy of some measure of awe.

"I'm Albert!" He promptly declares, perhaps before she has even had the chance to fully recover from his sudden (and loud) arrival into her proximity. "It's nice to meet you!"

What's the worst that could happen? It's not as if the book she's reading is a complicated set of ancient rituals that, if interrupted, could accidentally trigger an apocalyptic event on the ship, like a giant tree growing out of the center of the hull, cracking it in half and sending everyone to a watery grave, right?

[natalie_portman.png] Right?

In point of fact, however, Iris really *doesn't* notice Albert, which is a feat and a half in its own right, considering. Thankfully she is not reading any sort of dangerous grimoire, though if the young farm boy gets a look over her shoulder at some point he would see the pages lined with... well, gibberish, from his point of view. Wizards apparently discovered a long time ago that if you don't want people blundering into speaking the Hell On Earth Incantation(tm) aloud, a spell that ciphers the text to all but those trained in the Art is just 101-level stuff.

However, the landing of the German's tray on the table makes the book -- despite its heavy binding -- literally BOUNCE for a second, due to the sudden unequal distribution of weight, which means that right before Albert addresses her, the Brit blinks and looks up, then right at him, with an expression of idle curiosity.

Pushing a rainbow-colored lock of hair from her face, she raises an eyebrow. "If you mean the NFG, then yes." A pause, as the Brit takes in the person now sitting at her table. " must be the knight kid? One of the new people?"

Her upper crust, RP accent makes the words sound more formal than they are, and maybe a 20 year old woman calling an 18 year old a 'kid' is kind of, as they say, "sus," but her tone betrays nothing more than curiosity at the moment.

"I do!" Albert confirms the first point with an eager nod of his head -- and then an even eager nodding when she asks about him. "I am!!" He smiles *way* too brightly just over being recognized. Even if he is only recognized by such a vague moniker as 'knight kid'.

And no, he doesn't seem to be affected by being called a kid either.

But nevermind that, because he's suddenly lifting up from his chair and leaning over across the table, past the mountain of food he brought over.

"What'cha reading?" He asks, eyes locked onto that heavily-bound book of hers. "Is it interesting?"

Truly, it's the question every magician who reads in public dreads. In 9 out of 10 cases, you can't even ANSWER; you will simply sound like a lunatic. 'Oh, this? It's the lineage of the ancient Atlantean mystics. In the original cuneiform!' None of that sounds normal, but since odds are you're reading a book with big gold clasps and runes or whatever, you can't just lie and say 'oh a book of poems' or something.

Plus... there is a certain eager puppy energy to Albert that suggests even if Iris WERE inclined to go into the details about the contents of what she's reading, it seems as if it would go over his head.

But... she COULD use a break right now. What Albert (and Iris for that matter) haven't been seeing is the people who RUN the restaurant, who kinda wish she would leave, as the Brit has been in here reading and snacking for hours at this point.

Smiling in a sort of faded, wan way, Iris closes the book and slides it off the table; after all, it's the height of rudeness to just keep reading when someone has decided to join you. This IS a cruise ship, after all; running into strangers in chance encounters is part of the charm, or so it goes. "It IS interesting, actually. It's a book called 'Metallurgicum Mysticus'," she explains, and presuming Albert doesn't interrupt, goes on to explain: "It's about metals that can only be made with magic. I've been researching a type of metal ancient Greek smiths and oracles made called 'adamantine'."

Mats for armor crafting?! Well, now she's probably got his attention.

Albert *does* listen attentively. He has that kind of energy about him that makes him seem all too willing to learn about other people... even if he might not quite properly understand all there is to learn.

Case in point: His eyes glaze over at the name of the book, and his head turns in that very puppy-like manner to the side. Exactly fourty five degrees! All to suggest, yes, he absolutely has no idea on this green earth what that means. But he doesn't want to admit as much, so he continues to politely listen!

But oh, when she goes on to explain *what* it is, his eyes light up again, and she could swear he's subtly leaning in a couple millimiters every passing second.

"Magic metal?!" He repeats eventually. And then: "Adamantine?!" It's part confusion, but also very much the kind of tone that urges for furtehr explanation out of genuine interest. Though before she can actually further elaborate...

"What is that? Is that some kind of invincible metal?! Unbreakable?! Oooh, ooh, can you make armor out of it?!" He's practically halfway over the table now, enough so to have him press his hands to the tabletop to keep him supported above it while he looks on to Iris expectantly with bright, open-mouthed smile.

"Oooh, ooh, can you make a sword out of it?!"

It's not exactly voluntary, but as Albert continues to lean farther over the table, the Brit is leaning back in her chair perhaps just a wee bit. This is a lot to take in. On the other hand, the last time she had a conversation with anyone from the NFG about magical metals, it went... very differently than this, for sure. At least the probability of Albert revealing himself to be a cybernetic future-science Terminator or something instead of an eager German farm boy feels remote, right?

[natalie_portman.png] Right?

Armor! Swords! Well, she did call him the 'knight kid' so on one level, this is expected. "Maybe," Iris says, a little too gobsmacked to lie. "I don't really know. I'm an enchanter, not a blacksmith... though I'm learning that second bit, as best I can," she admits, which is the truth. Making her truesilver Joyeuse replica in the first NFG awakened an interest Iris didn't know she'd had, but one which -- once she read up about her ancestors and the magecraft tradition of her family -- made sense.

In a move that is probably guaranteed to set Albert's proverbial tail wagging, Iris extends a hand, palm out... and her arm AWAY from the table, or anything else nearby. There's a flicker of prismatic motes of light, before a beautiful but tastefully restrained silver rapier appears in her grip. Resting it on the table, the magus scratches the side of her head slightly. "That's made of truesilver. I made it... well, helped make it... in the first NFG. It's what's made me want to look at other metals that people have mostly thought were myths or legends."

"Enchanter... So, like..." Albert's frows furrow for a couple seconds, as if he has to take that long to access information tied to that word from the depths of his mind. "You mean like making things better with magic and stuff?"

But oh, she does indeed go on to show even more interesting to him. He looks confused when she holds out her hand and arm like that, but then? Yes, the appearance of the silver rapier appearing amidst motes of magical light indeed does make the metaphorical tail wag for him. His eyes sparkle with that childlike awe and curiousity while he looks the silvery blade over with an actual whisper of "So cool..."

He doesn't even pry his eyes from the weapon when he notes, "I don't know what truesilver is, but that sounds cool, too!" But some kind of association with that word fires up a neuron of memory in his mind, leaving him blinking several times over before looking back to meeting Iris' gaze proper.

"Could you fight werewolves with it?!"

Yes. That's really the first thing he thought of.

'Making things better with magic and stuff'? Well... really, is he wrong? The fact that he isn't makes Iris laugh, perhaps a little more heavily than the comment feels like would warrant under typical circumstances. Still, he's not wrong, and the nod the Brit gives Albert says so. "Yeah, more or less. Improving things that already exist, or making things that couldn't exist *without* magic."

For someone who was raised in a family of magi going back centuries, magic has never been anything but commonplace for Iris. What she didn't expect, in the first season of the NFG, was that so many people would just take her abilities in stride. Yes, magic is real... but people who actually practice it in a meaningful way are still pretty rare. Of course, in the fighting world, people can do all sorts of things that SEEM like magic without being wizards, which might account for the 'okay, that's your color of shiny lights' reaction.

Still, dopamine is dopamine. Sometimes it's nice to be around people who think the stuff you can do is neat-o-keen.

"I wouldn't want to fight a werewolf at all," is Iris's response, in the hopes of dissuading this young buck from ever trying that, ESPECIALLY with his bare hands or a prop sword he got from a cosplay vendor. "But I actually don't know. Maybe? It IS silver... sort of?" She laughs, shaking her head. "If I ever get into a fight with a werewolf and survive, I promise to let you know one way or the other."

Albert does purse his lips just a bit with those disassuading words on the matter of werewolves. Sure, she didn't directly tell him 'don't fight a werewolf', but still.

"I bet you could win in a fight against a werewolf with something like that though," he does offer encouragingly, while he thankfully finally leans himself back to his side of the table instead of continuing his potentially overbearing presence within her personal space.

"I don't really know anything about magic," he admits then, once he's fully settled back down onto his seat. "I mean, I've seen a bunch of people do something like magic in the matches so far, but... nnnh..." He frowns rather deeply again, while rubbing his hand at his temple like he was suddenly hit by a headache. "They said it *wasn't* magic at all...? I don't really get it..."

That last bit gets a bit of a shrug of the shoulders from Iris, who reaches over and takes one of the remaining samosas from her plate, enjoying a big bite of it, then having a sip of water to wash it down before she responds. "Don't look at me. I don't really know either. There's a whole world full of supernatural powers that aren't magic, but damned if I know what they are."

Buck's shapeshifting? Coco's mental... snake... thing? Chevy's ability to control water? The magus is truly clueless about the 'source' of all of them, while being simultaneously 100% certain that they aren't 'magic'. Well... 90% in Buck's case, since Iris suspects Druids Were Involved but has only ever fought him the once, and in a situation where she wasn't exactly brimming with opportunities for analysis.

"Do you remember Ichika Kasumoto?" she asks, tilting her head somewhat. It seems like a silly question -- how could he not recognize the name? -- but Iris asks it anyway. "She said what I do felt different to her, but she couldn't really put her finger on what. So I don't really know. I think at some point you just have to accept that if you run into someone in pro fighting they might be able to shoot lightning from the eyeballs or something, even if they aren't a magus." Good practical advice, all told.

A pause, and then some thought that's been flashing a fin behind Iris's eyeballs this whole time seems to suddenly get her attention. "Anyhow, thanks for the vote of werewolf confidence. My name's Iris, by the way." She extends a hand for a handshake, though something is telling her this is going to end in pain, possibly.

Iris' admission that she has no real idea either makes Albert pout at first... but ultimately, that does also end up being kind of reassuring in it's own way. It's good to know someone much more experienced than him in matters supernatural can also admit that the whole arrangement of the Powers Beyond is, frankly, kind of weird.

"The world is kind of a mysterious place, huh..." He even murmurs, with a slow nod, as if he had said the most profound thing he could think of all day.

"I remember seeing some of her matches on tv, yeah," he confirms on Ichika, nodding his head several times over, but he doesn't offer any other input on it before Iris can provide further context from herself. He even rubs his chin thoughtfully towards the end of it.

"So... Should I, like, be on the watch for lightning-eyes in general, then...?"

Come the reach of her hand in offer, he's leaning over again to reach his own over and grasp it."Hi, Iris!" He chimes out cheerfully, giving a rather firm - but thankfully not painful - squeeze to her hand. "It's nice to meet you!" But the shake that comes after is... well, it is rather energetic, with probably much more strength put into it than he might have intended, purely out of his own excitement.

She's no diviner, but Iris Osterlund knew that when she pulled her hand back from this handshake, she would be mildly shaking her hand out a bit to get the feeling back in it -- or more accurately, her shoulder -- and indeed, the not-quite-prophecy does indeed come to pass. With a faintly sardonic smile, she simply says, "I have yet to encounter lightning-shooting eyeballs, so you're probably fine, but you're also the only new participant I've met so far, so..."

Is she saying don't ENTIRELY take lightning eyes off the table? She's certainly not NOT saying that.

"Truth is, I ducked out of most of this Odyssey tournament. I'm not sure I should have signed up to begin with, though that fight with Zarine was interesting." Don't bring up vampires with the 'can this sword kill a werewolf' kid! "But I was already in Greece, researching adamantine, like I said, so..." She spreads her arms a bit. "Here I am."

Iris knows enough about the NFG season 2 competitor new blood to know that Albert's whole thing is 'knight', but beyond that, she remains pretty clueless, which might be why her next question is so direct. "What's your 'thing', Albert?" she says, cocking a brow in curiosity. "If I learned anything last year, it's that everyone's got a... a gimmick, or something. Including me, but I feel like mine is pretty obvious." She DID just summon a sword out of thin air, after all.

"Here you are!" Albert repeats, as if confirming that statement for a fact, still smiling as wide as humanly possible. "And I'm glad you are, too!" The smile does reduce in side with that addition -- but somehow, that just makes it look even more sincere at that. "Now I've gotten to meet another interesting person because of it."

He's tapping his finger against his finger, then, when 'his thing' comes into question. How should he word it, exactly? He thinks it over for a moment, but in the end? Oh, he decides to just go with... the usual.

"I've come here to train myself through experience!" He declares, suddenly standing up from his chair as he does. "And catch the eyes of people across the world who might train me more!" He even hoists up one of his feet then to prop onto the chair he just stood up from as a pedestal, lifting his other hand in the same motion to point towards the sky! ... Or the ceiling, in this case.

"So that I can become the strongest knight of the modern world!!!"

It's... very shonen anime -esque. And he doesn't seem even the slightest bit self-conscious *or* self-aware of it.

Not that she ever brings it up, because it feels like bragging about a thing you shouldn't actually be proud of, but the Osterlunds ARE in the British peerage. In a minor way, naturally; it's not as if she's in the line of succession or anything. But it does mean that there's more than a few family friends who have OBEs... which is to say, they ARE "knights" in the strictest sense of the term.

At Albert's display of Shounen Sincerity(tm), despite knowing that's not at all what he meant, the magus can't help but tease him a little. "I know a few knights," she observes, looking at the German with a faint grin. "Most of them are granddads in their 60s or older who spend most of their time reading and taking naps, so you're probably well on your way."

A pause, while she waits for what she expects will be Albert's either strident denial or fresh-faced confusion. "You didn't mean the Order of the British Empire," Iris eventually adds. "You meant like in stories... like the Twelve Peers of Charlemagne," she observes, mentioning the original owner of the sword that her mithril rapier is a replica of, "or maybe the Round Table?" A pause, then a grin. "Trust me, if there's any myths a British wizard knows, it's about the Round Table."

Granddads in their sixties?! Albert blinks his eyes rapidly, and with his other foot still propped up atop the chair, panic suddenly sneaks onto his face.

"G-granddads?! W-wait... Do... Do I look that old already?!"

No, he really doesn't. He still has those cute, boyish good looks about him. But he doesn't have a mirror handy right now, so he can't tell! He even rubs both his hands over his face to try and get a feel for wrinkles and such in lieu of simply looking at his own reflection.

Regardless of wether Iris reassures him or continues to tease him further, the farmboy likely flops back down onto the chair still, before giving an energetic nod to her again. "Yeah. Yeah! Like King Arthur!" He might not be very welll-read at all, but... well, he *has' read quite a few fiction books at least, including some of the stories of King Arthur's legend. And seen the movies. And some comic books. Probably mostly the movies nad comic books.

He tilts his head to one side again, suddenly considering Iris with some Deep Thought (by his standards anyway). But soon enough, he's flashing a wide, toothy grin. "Aheh, I guess that kinda makes you sort of like the Merlin while I'm the Arthur, huh?" He doesn't sound *entirely* serious about that, mostly amused. Though he's probably definitely still *very* serious about being like King Arthur. Well... except maybe for the part where he becomes the King of England.

Probably not, right?

"Ohhhhh no," Iris says, with surprising force. "I am nothing like Merlin." She omits some of the important things, like 'Merlin was real actually' and 'Merlin might not actually be dead, just secreted away somewhere' and other little tidbits of mage world info that would probably overload Albert's brain. "But thank you for the compliment."

There's a moment where she just looks at Albert for a minute, and thinks about her own trajectory in the NFG, which she joined... well. At the time, she thought Celica had died. She was alone in the world, and had always practiced a more... rigorously physical version of their family's magical tradition than her sister did. Seemed like a lark! And then she got her ass beat a few times, but she also started to make some friends, and then landed in the quarterfinals in a pretty epic fight against Chevy Beaumont, and, well.

Is it REALLY so different from the Hero's Journey? Suck it, Joseph Campbell.

"So how's your experience of this all been so far?" she suddenly says, into the resulting lull in the conversation, picking up the last samosa and holding it idly while observing the young squire, or squire analog. "You've had at least a few fights, right?"

"No?" Asks Albert over Iris' vehement denial of any similarities with the fabled Merlin, blinking his eyes slowly several times over while considering her. "Mmmmh.... If you say so...?"

It is probably for the best that he isn't given any other tidbits of information on *that* matter.

The lull in the conversation does at least give the farmboy a chance to actually start digging his way through the Mount Everest of food he brought along with him to the table. Which means he's... well, the pace at which he shovels food into his mouth is equally ridicilous as the mass of consumable goods he brought in the first place. Swallowing big pieces of fried pork lathered in sweet and sour sauce from the chinese selection in big mouthfuls, rapidly stripping tandoori -fried chicken drumsticks of all the meat from their bones and damn near just pouring fried noodles, rice, and all kinds of meat that go with them into his seemingly bottomless maw.

"MMmphmh?" He does let out in a muffled sound amidst a mouthful of lamb vindaloo at her question. Thankfully he at least seems to possess enough in the way of table manners to not try to speak until he has swallowed down the cheek-bulging mouthful in an almost cartoonish manner.

"I guess it's been okay!" He declares after his mouth has been freed up for what might appear to be merely it's secondary purpose in that moment. "I won two matches! And, uh... I lost one..." He suddenly seems ashamed after admitting that much, merely poking at some of his food for a moment with a fork instead of actually trying to continue his ravenous feast. "Against the dragon..."

This is clearly some matter of pride for him. Heroic knights are supposed to triumph against dragons in all the stories, right?

Chewing at a more... sedate pace on her final samosa, Iris listens to Albert intently, though there is a corner of her mind that is dedicated to watching him eat with a sort of fascinated detachment. Of course, doesn't the saying go that it's growing boys that need to eat the most? Still, his entirely heart-on-his-sleeve emotional expression aside, an eyebrow goes up at the facts of the situation.

"Considerably better than I did when I first started out," the magus says, genuinely impressed. "I only won one of my first three fights, and... well." She thinks back to her fight with Genie, and how it seemed the young Swiss woman had been having a Cosmically Cursed Day that day. "That was probably as much luck as it was anything else. Possibly more than you might think, in fact. So I think you should feel pretty good about having two wins this early in the game, dragon notwithstanding."

Also: oh right, there's a literal dragon here, a factoid Iris keeps forgetting. What are the odds THAT'S going to reappear and bite her in the backside at some point?

Another bite of samosa, the final one, and then a long pull from her glass of water before Iris pours herself another, and continues thinking. "I'm surprised they haven't put you on teams, like they did with us. And no mentors, either... I wonder why?"

"Mmm... I guess I couldn't tell either way..." Albert admits with a shrug. Regardless of if he saw the recordings of Iris' matches from the previous year or not, he probably... couldn't really analyze it all deeply enough to tell just how much luck was involved. He doesn't seem like the type.

The quick chance his feast comes there, but only for a few seconds or so before Iris' spoken-out-loud thoughts force the farmboy to start thinking about the behind-the-scenes of the tournament's organization as well.

"Mmmmhhhh..." He hums idly, while gears practically visibly turn behind his eyes. "I dunno..." He eventually relents, having failed to come up with any kind of reasonable expectation. "I mean, I guess it would have been fun to be in a big ol' team, but... I just do what they tell us to, you know? And they did say to mingle with the more experienced lot and stuff, to make connections so you can pick a trainer and stuff..."

Another shrug, and he takes a pause in his own deliberations long enough to pop another big ol' fried pork ball into his mouth whole, only chewed through for a scant few seconds before getting swallowed down.

"Maybe they wanted more personal pairings and stuff?"

"Maybe," Iris admits, thinking it over, feeling the chill on her hand as she picks up the glass of ice water and has another sip. Would her experience in the NFG last season have been any different if she'd picked a mentor instead of being assigned one? Team Blaze's mentors were... she doesn't necessarily regret not having much interaction, there.

But Mint Panesh had challenged the seiðkona in ways she would not have expected, to say nothing of ARIA's involvement, which -- complicated as it was -- still taught her unexpected lessons. Neither of them were people Iris would have 'chosen' if she'd been on her own.


"The team situation was a mixed bag, for sure," the Brit admits, not without a faint smile, taking another sip before continuing. "But it was... well. I don't know if you've considered university or not, but it had strong dorm energy, so I guess I'm not entirely surprised that they'd consider ditching that."

A pause, a little shrug. "Have you got your eye on a mentor?"

"I did consider it!" The faux-knight promptly declares with an energetic nod and a smile as wide as ever.

"They denied my application though!"

Is that something he should sound so cheerful about?!

Her question after the pause, makes him tap his finger against his lower lip in momentary thought too. "Mmm... Not really... I guess I dunno if there's anyone who fully fits..."

Beat. He blinks, and slowly turns his gaze back to Iris.

" whole thing."

Anotehr slow blink, and he leans a bit forward over the table.


He leans further forward.


Albert's rear end leaves his seat with his continued forward lean while he still continues on with his visual consideration of Iris.


The words from earlier ring in his head through it all. Arthur and Merlin. A knight and a mage. Arthur and Merlin.



"Say," he eventually says, after what might very well feel like an uncomfortable eternity from the brit's point of view. "You wanna be my mentor-thing?"

INSIDE IRIS'S BRAIN AS SHE PREPARES TO RESPOND: Well, look, don't be discouraged. But if Buford asks if you're interested, please say no, for my sake as well as your own.


There were a few ways she was anticipating the German responding to her question: affirming there was someone he was thinking about asking, saying that he couldn't think of anyone that was suitable, asking her for recommendations as she's at least met most of them. A sudden, slightly too enthusiastic suggestion that SHE could be his mentor. Blessedly, she is not privy to the repeating loop of Merlin's name in his head.

For a bit, she is simply silently frozen with her glass half up to her mouth, until she eventually sets it down on the table and just LOOKS at Albert for a bit.

Part of her says she should respond with 'no' without hesitation. What is she going to teach him? He probably already knows how to use a melee weapon(*) just fine, and it's not as if she's going to be able to teach him magic... even if he DOES have the talent, it's not clear what she could teach him in such a short amount of time that would be useful.

But also...


"I, ah..." the Cantabrigian says, stalling for time. "I'm not entirely sure I could actually teach you anything useful," she admits, sheepishly. "I haven't been fighting much longer than you have, to be honest."

Even after her initial (understandably) flabbergasted reaction, the german farmboy with grand dreams of knighthood stays there still, leaned across the table and staring at her with what appear to be great measures of expectation, complete with a childlike sparkle in his eyes and all.

"Couldn't you, though?" He insists then, and he actually leans a bit further forward, instead of being in any way or form repelled by her sheepish words. "And haven't you, though?! You've done a lot more with your life than I have! And, well..."

Some of that excitement does visibly leave his body so quickly that it might as well form a visible mirage of some abstract 'concept' wafting away from his body, while his head slumps a bit and his eyes slowly drop down to the tabletop.

"...Honestly, I'm not... really, like... smart," he murmurs, quietly, in what might be a surprising surge of self-reflection on his part. "I've never been good with learning stuff from books, and big ideas are... kind of hard for me to grasp, you know? I do talk a big game about coming here and becoming a knight, but I don't, like... know even the basic things about fighting. I'm just winging it."

To be fair to him, just 'winging it' did apparently work well enough for him to swing a fake sword hard enough to create a localized shockwave just from the force of it all alone.

"But you!" He suddenly snaps his head right back up to let him look at her with an expression of utter, sincere admiration mixed with pleading. "Even just talking with you for these few moments, and seeing all the things you did in the last season, I can tell you're smarter and wiser than I could ever be! And all the effort and guts you must have put into learning magic... it's..."

He takes a deep breath, then, steadying his expression and entire presence for just a moment... only for every bit of emotion he has held inside to burst out all over again.

"It's just amazing!!! That's why...!""

There, he slaps his hand against his chest in an indicating gesture, though that too comes with such hyperactive energy that the *THWAP* of his palm impacting with his firm chest echoes like a thunderclap through the whole restaurant.

"THat's why...!! You could help me figure out the things I can't figure out on my own! See the things I can't see on my own!"

What he isn't admitting to here is that one of the things motivating him to ask her in the first place is that a *lot* of stories have a young warrior be guided along by a wise mage, and that just fits his whole lifegoal of becoming a heroic knight and all. ...Well, that or the mage acts like a parental figure, but Iris is hardly old enough to be *that* for him.

Maybe a big sister -like figure, though.

Later when she reviews this in her head for herself, Iris will be forced to consider what it is she expected him to say. Despite not having heard it herself, the idea that he would have just enthusiastically puppied out 'the Merlin thing! :D' was probably toward the top of the list. Honestly, she had expected it would, whatever the reason, be something she could (politely) laugh off.

It is manifest, from the gobsmacked expression on her face that she doesn't try to hide, or indeed even seem to realize she's wearing, that THIS explanation was not on the list.

It's a common joke that the British aren't good at showing emotion, especially upper crust types, and to some extent that's true -- in a world of social manipulation like British high society, showing your emotions is weakness. It's something that's socialized out of them. Thankfully as a younger daughter not expected to inherit (and, well, being half American and taking after her Minnesotan father), it seems to be a bit softer in her.

But even still, after that, Iris's face falls, looking surprisingly sad and tired. What she hears in her head is her explaining to Ichika that as the younger daughter, nobody ever expected anything from her... and how easy it was to feel like, as a result, she wasn't capable of anything worthwhile. How the NFG was her chance to do something special on her own, without being in anyone's shadow. That it was a chance to stand on her own and see what was really possible if she tried, because now the only one who cared -- who was LEFT to care -- was herself.

The sting of that memory is like a knife in the side, and the feeling that Albert might be feeling the same, in his own way, is like a hand around her heart.

"It's..." Iris says, without looking up, staring down into her glass, held in both her hands. "It's not about smart, Albert. It was hard work, and failing a lot." Now, at least, she finally looks up and gives the German a wan smile. "It took effort and... how'd you put it?" A pause, then the smile becomes momentarily more genuine. "Guts. A bit of that."

Maybe he doesn't need someone to teach him how to swing a sword better. Maybe what he needs is someone to believe in his potential. To remind him to believe it himself, when something happens in the tournament that makes him feel the way what he just said might make him feel.

Maybe he needs what Ichika, Chevy, Djamila, Kenzo, Mint, and numerous others gave her.

"Okay," the magus says at last, after a long silence. "Let's do it. We'll team up."

After all those surprisingly impassioned words from him, Albert keeps on looking to Iris with great anticipation, like she was some kind of great idol he is awaiting approval from.

Her very first words might bring him a little worry, just from the suddenly quieter tone she is saying them with. But the smile that she then directs up to him does waylay his worries some.

And that look in his eyes grows ever more hopeful with each passing word. And until finally-- she says those ever important, decisive words.

"Yeah!!" He cheers out triumphantly, eyes and smile both lighting up. He even reaches his hands out across the table, to rather abruptly grasp both her hands into his, even if that more or less means his hands are just overlaid on hers while they're holding onto her glass of water. "Yes! Thank you!" Oh no. Is he one of those touchy-feely types?

"This is gonna be awesome! I just know it!"

The further declaration, too, comes with an almost *blindingly* brith grin, and a brief but boisterous laugh.

As she finds her hands suddenly held in Albert's own, Iris can only reflect that the German's moods are... well, mercurial might be overselling it, but certainly, if he was feeling sad or subdued before, it doesn't seem to have lasted all that long. People in the restaurant are definitely turning to look at this now, especially since if you can't hear their conversation, a number of aspects of this make it sound like he just proposed to her.

"And I might be able to help you with the, you know, the fighting part," Iris admits, giving it some thought. "After all, I *do* fight with a range of what people would call 'medieval weapons'. But I just..." She takes her hands back, and one runs through her hair quickly, the Brit breathing out through her nose a bit. "I haven't been doing this much longer than you have. I just want to be clear on that bit."

Sitting back a bit, Iris is quiet for a second, thinking about what she's going to have to do now to follow up on this. Find videos of Albert's fights, for starters, to see what his whole deal is, though she feels like just from his behavior at the table in this conversation she can get the gist on some level. Maybe look into getting him some... oh. OH.

"Hey, Albert," she asks, suddenly, as if snapping out of a thought with inspiration midway through, which is effectively what happened. "What is it about knights that made you want to be one, anyway?" This is a question that probably needs answering, and she didn't even think about it until now.

For the record, Albert's intents with the whole gesture *were* entirely innocent, to the point that he probably hadn't even given a single iota of a thought to what it might have looked like to outside observers. It certainly won't help that he isn't even understanding of the looks that are probably sent to the way of the two.

It's probably too late either way, though. The rumor mill might very well already be turning.

At least he is listening to her attentively after he's sat himself fully back down onto his side of the table, even nodding along with her words and offering, "I'll keep it in mind!" amidst it all.

He doesn't even take the chance to return to his rapid devouring either, before she has the chance to make that important question to him.

The question to which his initial response is... to just give her a long, confused look.

"I mean... All the knights I read about as a kid are all these super cool heroes, right?" He offers after that. Just that reasoning alone might sound... childish, to be blunt, but he also sounds incredibly earnest when he says it. "They're all brave and act with honor and protect people, and just... I admired that sort of thing."

Well, the historical knights might not have strictly fit that description anywhere near as well as the knights in fiction, but such a thing is clearly of no concern to Albert.

"And there was a *real life* knight who came through town when I was way younger and taking some of the harvest to the market!" He suddenly pipes up with this again, though he's no longer strictly speaking looking at Iris. His eyes are on her, yes, but the focus behind his bright irises is clearly on a past memory now instead.

"There was a guy wielding a *huge* axe threatening people, and this knight... He just beat that guy up in almost an instant. It was just..." His eyes are definitely practically sparkling again.

But wait. A real life knight? Well, this would have been in central europe, so maybe someone who wandered out of Illyria?

"Anyway, like... I never got their name or anything, but after seeing him, I thought, if people could still be knights in this day and age, and through that be heroes, then... couldn't I be too, if I really tried?"

Comparatively, Iris DOES understand that historical knights were, uh... garbage people, on the average. Still, sometimes it's the idea of something, the concept, that endures more than the individuals, so she says nothing to tamp down Albert's enthusiasm on that part. Besides, if the knightly virtues he wants to live up to are honor and service, well, you could hardly ask for better than that, right?

The story of the man with the axe and the real-life knight catches her attention, however; you'd think that would have made the news, even outside Germany -- after all, it's not like central Europe is that big compared to nations like the US, Russia, or China -- and it doesn't appear to have. As she's rapidly learning, however, the world of fighting means that 'axe thug taken out by modern knight' might indeed sail under the radar.

"That's... haha," Iris says, unable to keep herself from laughing with a faint smile. "Sorry. I didn't mean to laugh. I'm glad you took the right lesson from it, though... wanting to be strong and brave and help people, versus 'it's a good idea to try punching a random guy with an axe'," she says, feeling a little guilty about laughing. It's an origin story right out of a comic book! But really... what's wrong with that? Her family's whole branch of magic is about how words have power, after all, so why shouldn't we consider the power stories have, either?

Maybe a story is just a spell to change people's hearts and minds, in disguise.


That little laugh from Iris *might* have made Albert finally feel a *little* bit self-conscious on his own aprt again. It manifests in his smile turning a bit more towards the akward side, while his hands clasp together over the table, with each ones thumb nervous twirling over the other.

"I know it's kinda... stupid," he confesses in a quieter voice, suddenly needing to look off to the side while he says as much.

"But still, it... It still feels like something worth looking up to. Even if there's no real place for 'knights' in the world of 'today', I still want to at least chase after what makes up the kind of guy who could have been a knight like that. If that makes sense?"

"No place for knights?" Iris says, not bothering to mask her incredulity. "You realize you're talking to an *actual wizard*, right?" Hopefully the slightly playful look she follows this statement with will encourage the response in Albert she's hoping for: a little bit of realization that if being a modern knight is silly, then being a modern wizard is probably beyond silly, by the same reckoning.

Still, something in what he said plucked a string in Iris's mind and the reverbation of the note finally seems to reach active cognition, once she's made this little rejoinder.

"Albert... did someone TELL you that?" she asks, suddenly, dropping her head down a bit and tilting it; if she were wearing glasses, she'd be looking at him over their rims. "About your dream, I mean. If they did, I'm sorry on the world's behalf, because you've GOT to stop calling yourself 'stupid' around me, okay?"

She takes a sip of water, puts the glass down, and then looks at Albert with every ounce of principal-says-let's-rap-serious-kids she can muster. "Look, the kind of magic my family does... it involves runes." He's German, AND loves stories about knights, so she doesn't bother to explain that one. There's a strong chance Albert knows what a rune is. "So we learned early on that words have power, like... literal power. But if you want your first mentor-to-mentee lesson from me, it's stop thinking of yourself or your dream as 'stupid'. It's..." A pause. "It's narrowing. It says 'this is the limit of what he can do', you know? Don't put limits on yourself before you've had a chance to really do anything."


Well, Albert sure feels like he's done a bit of a blunder here now. Indeed, he did say that right in front of an actual wizard, and the realization of how silly that was shows in his features. He doesn't even manage a proper response to that beyond "Aheh, fair enough..."

But he does wince in a very, very visible manner when she hits him with that second, armor-piercing question.


He admitted to not being very intelligent before. Outright stupid, even. Part of it was, in fact, borne from the frustrated feedback he got from his teachers and his parents after countless awful grades brought back from school. Not to mention the absolutely *vicious* teasing from other kids. He has always made a pretty good effort of hiding any potential effects of it all, but still. Words do, indeed, hold power in them.

But Iris' words now, in turn make him have to think back on it all once more. And think it all over too, for that matter.

"... I understand," he says, without any of the usual energy behind his voice -- but in lacking it, in this moment, he doesn't sound tired or defeated, but rather more solemn in his declaration of accepting her words now, instead, and letting their meaning pierce their way into him.

It even comes with a surprisingly serious look that he levels on her. One of determination and respect alike.

...But it lasts only for exactly 5.43 seconds before his lips stretch into anothere sincerely warm smile again.

"Aheh... You're already being an amazing teacher, and it's only been a few minutes since we made the decision."

There it is, again: emotions appear to pass through Albert like fast-moving storm fronts, big swells of one feeling or another sweeping through like summer rains on the American prairie. If anything, Iris observes, it feels lke one more indicator of his inherent sincerity... but it might explain why the people around him very likely teased him for his earnest desires, honestly spoken, too.

At the idea that she's an 'amazing teacher' so far, Iris shakes her head with a faint smile. "Not really. Just... someone who's been in that position, or something like it, once upon a time." It took a surprisingly small amount of time for her to come around to this idea, which when Albert first asked her, seemed kinda crazy. But now... yeah. There are others she would trust to teach him, from her own generation of the NFG -- Ichika for sure, if she were still around; the knight-to-be's earnestness reminds Iris of the Japanese fighter's -- but perhaps she was uniquely positioned to help him in ways that have nothing to do with fighting.

Finishing her water, Iris stands up from the table, reaches into a pocket, and retrieves something: a business card, which she slides across the table to Albert. The card advertises something called the 'Osterlund Anything Agency', but as soon as she's handed it to him, Iris shakes her head. "Ignore the rest, but that IS my phone number, so you have it. And obviously, if you need to find me on the boat, that shouldn't be hard. I have to go, but I'll be in touch, alright? I have..." She pauses, and realizes she HAS been subconsciously cooking up things to do, now. "...I have some ideas that might help, and we don't have a lot of time before the next round comes up."

Still standing, the Brit extends her hand. "Good to meet you, Mr. Squire," she says, with a teasing smile.

"That's more than good enough for me," Albert offers in assurance for Iris' benefit. This is something he means sincerely as well -- this is no consolation prize or thoroughly forced partnership as far as he is concerned.

And yes, this is something he has decided already even though they have known each other not even for an hour yet.

Which, to be fair, was somehow already enough time to for an interaction that might have been easily misinterpretable by outside viewers.

The business card she gives him is given a cursory look before it is stowed away to the temporary safety of a pocket, before he looks to her extended hand.

Well. He can't stay sitting down for this, so he hoists himself up, and only then does he grasp hers into a firm handshake that... she might regret for a couple seconds again, after the fact.

"Nice to meet you too, Miss Wizard~."

Log created on 19:37:48 05/08/2024 by Iris, and last modified on 16:54:35 05/15/2024.