NFG Season Two - Teachings of Failure

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Description: While the Mermaid Cruise Ship is still en route to it's destination, Iris takes the opportunity to have a practical training session with Albert to gauge his abilities.

After her meeting with young(er by two years) Albert Braendel, Iris felt she had a bit of work to do. While her affable nature suggests someone who wouldn't take it seriously, the wizard is nothing if not industrious when something that she considers 'important' is on the line... and broadly speaking, being a 1-on-1 mentor to another fighter is indeed 'important' in that regard.

The first step was a lot of video watching. His three fights so far in the Odyssey tournament were the big one, as he didn't sit for one of those 'get to meet the fighters' videos (an understandable decision, from Iris's point of view, but not helpful NOW).

Albert's fighting style doesn't seem particularly difficult to grasp, though the magus feels like her suggestion that his style and hers have almost no crossover was almost entirely validated by the evidence. Al's style seems to largely involve diving at the opponent headfirst and swinging with his, admittedly, not inconsiderable physical strength, if the reactions of his opponents are anything to go by.

Oh yeah, and he HEADBUTTED A SWORD THAT ONE TIME. 'Probably inhumanly resilient', Iris had scribbled on her notes.

That leads us to now: an afternoon shortly before the Mermaid's arrival at Zack Island for the next stage of the NFG. Having no other real way to get in touch with him, the Brit had sent her German protege a text message asking him to meet her in the fitness studio, which she had thought to reserve in advance. The room is empty other than Iris, a gym bag, and a few bottles of water she thought to bring. Now to find out if Albert will show up or not...

The appointed time comes. Almost exactly when the second hand of the clock hits the mark of the time whence Iris had asked her new german apprentice to come around on, the door to the studio swings open with dramatic force, and--

"I'M HERE!!!"

Lo and behold, there is, indeed, Albert. Not a millisecond too late or too early. The farmboy's dressed in what is a pretty typical gym fare; a pair of loose shorts that reach just past his knees, and a tank top that clings *pretty* closely to his, honestly, kind of impressive musculature that wasn't quite as obvious when he was wearing his other clothes. One hand raised up already in a casual wave at the door, while his other lugs, similiarly, a gym bag along with him.

"Hi, Iris!" He promptly offers too once he's past the threshold between the hallway and the studio proper, nudging the door closed behind himself with one indoor sneaker -clad foot. "I brought my armor and stuff with me too in case you wanted me to do something with it on!"

Well, starting it off with a jumpscare. Things going great so far.

When Albert decides to slam his way into the room, Iris was taking a sip from a bottle of water, and the sudden loud noise effectively makes her choke on her mouthful of blessedly refreshing H2O. Thankfully she doesn't spit it out all over the nice wooden floor and all, but she does suddenly make a loud and distinct coughing sound, taking a second to tap herself hard on the chest to recover.

"Okay, so you DID get my text. Good," she says, coughing lightly a couple more times before continuing. "Yes. Okay. We might need to work on your... you know, never mind," the magus says, squinting an eye shut for a second before continuing. Work on his entrance? What about Albert suggests he is going to change that even an iota?! Instead she just resolves to always watch the door in these situations in the future.

She gestures at the bag he brought with him. "Yeah. Get your kit on, if you don't mind," Iris responds, deciding it's safe to have another sip of water while he gets about starting that. "I watched your fights so far, and I think I have... well. I don't know about 'suggestions,' but I do think I can offer you some things that will help your chances."

She just needs to see some things up close, that's all.

"Oh?!" Despite probably being entirely and blissfully ignorant of the fact that he is the root cause of Iris' near-choke in the first place, Albert's expression briefly slips towards concerned panic, and the pace of his steps increases quite considerably on his approach for his teacher.

Thankfully she has the time to recover from it before he gets close enough to try the heimlich maneuver on her. Still, he does ask after the fact, "You alright?"

And yes, he just gives another ignorant smile to her following words. "Work on my what?" He even gives that puppy-like headtilt of his again. He won't press her on it, though, if she decides it's better to not worry his little head on the matter.

He nods his head quickly with obedience, too, when the first command for their training session has been given. "Alright!" And promptly, he lets the bag he's been hauling with him fall down with a noticable clatter. Opening it to reveal the (not even vaguely historically accurate) armor he had been wearing to two of his fights.

...Looking at it from this close instead of through a tv screen makes it pretty clear that it is not actually made of any kind of metal, though. Is... is it plastic?

The sword he brought along does at least seem to be made of some more durable material, but it is *definitely* not actually suitable for any kind of cutting of anything. It may as well be a club in a fancy shape.

But he's still eagerly getting all of that "armor" onto himself, over the workout clothes. He didn't bring that hooded tunic along with him this time.

"Okay!" He declares proudly once it all has been strapped on, even holding the fake sword up over his head, pointed to the ceiling as he does. "Brave Knight Albert is ready!!!"

Right. The armor and the sword. When it came to things that Iris felt she COULD weigh in on, Albert's equipment was probably toward the top. Her attempt to learn to metalsmith has been showing more progress, and part of that process is learning what metal can and can't do, how to shape it for maximum effect, what to temper in to make something more effective, and so forth. Weapons are somewhat the same.

She was not expecting plastic cosplay armor, which does indeed throw her for a loop.

Walking around Albert in a rough circle, Iris is clearly observing him in a real meat market kind of way. Or, well... not so much him as what he's wearing, tapping a finger on her thigh absently. "Hmm. Hmmm."

She suddenly reaches out and flicks Albert's 'breastplate' with her finger, and is rewarded with the *THK!* sound of plastic. "Hmmm."

Seemingly satisfied, she steps away to a reasonable distance and nods. "Alright. Well, for starters, we can do something about the, er, armor," Iris says, matter-of-factly. "I'll need to get some measurements, and obviously not on a BOAT, but." She does not say: good god how did you fight in PLASTIC armor this entire time? Though who knows, it's better than nothing, and Iris fights in no armor whatsoever.

And then, unexpectedly, she rolls her head on her shoulders a bit and locks gazes with Albert. "Now for the other thing. Come at me. Doesn't really matter how, just... attack me."

Well, I guess we're getting hands on now, aren't we?!

COMBATSYS: Iris has started a fight here.

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Iris             0/-------/-------|

Now, a lot of young men of Albert's age might feel kind of akward or otherwise get funny thoughts about a pretty girl studying them like they were but meat hung on display at a butcher's store. Albert, though, remains perfectly calm with his friendly smile while she stalks around him -- and even when she flicks her finger against his 'armor'.

Jury's still out on wether all that is because of him just being sensible enough to not get any funny ideas, or if he is too naive and innocent to even realize there could be any other possibility but perfectly professional study.

"Oh?!" He suddenly looks rather excited when she voices her thoughts, however. "You mean you could get me something better? Oh, oh, oh!!" His eyes suddenly widen into what might as well be a sparkling visage. "ARe you going to make me armor from one of those magic metals you talked about before?!"

Well. Turns out she did put *some* kind of ideas in his head afterall.

But oh. The next order from his trainer actually catches him a bit by surprise. Enough to make him blink rapidly while meeting her gaze. "Oh, uh..." He does actually sound a little uncertain for a moment, despite all his earlier shows of eagerness.

"Well... alright!"

Aaaand he has bounced right back from it real quicklike.

His grip on his sword tightens, and he's leaning his weight forward to rather abruptly set into an angled forward dash, with a declaration of, "Here I come!"

Though rather than charging straight for her, he's aiming his general vector for the space besides her instead. Pivoting to circling in rough two-meter perimeter around her, nearly going through an entire revolution about her before-- WEll. Making a quick, prodding swing with his fake sword, just to swipe at her with the very tip. He has started his fights so far with what amount to testing the waters initially, before pushing himself into a reckless headlong charge. This seems to be no different, now -- he's getting a gauge on Iris' stock.

COMBATSYS: Albert has joined the fight here.

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Iris             0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0           Albert

COMBATSYS: Iris blocks Albert's Evasive Strike.

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Iris             0/-------/------=|-------\-------\0           Albert

There's a flash of light, and then a dull *THNK* and a flash of light as Albert finds his testing-the-waters strike landing on a round wooden buckler that Iris wasn't wearing on her arm when all this started. The Brit grimaces a little -- fun fact, all a shield does is keep you from getting cut, which Albert's sword probably wasn't going to be doing much of anyway -- as the impact reverberates up her arm, but doesn't seem THAT much worse for wear all told.

And as soon as Albert has a moment to turn and look, he may notice the buckler she was wearing is... well, gone.

"Alright. That's... hmmm." For the moment, Iris is simply watching Albert, cupping one elbow in the opposite hand, an inquisitive finger up to her mouth as she thinks. The armor doesn't surprise her -- who's going to be able to find real armor that fits nowadays, on what is probably a high schooler's amount of spending money?! But Ichika was able to find a serviceable katana without much trouble and she's even younger than Albert is, and that sword... well.

A big chunk of shaped metal is still going to be heavy and is still going to hurt if you get smacked with it, that much is true.


"So why did you choose a longsword, out of curiosity?"

COMBATSYS: Iris takes no action.

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Iris             0/-------/------=|-------\-------\0           Albert

The very much blunt sword rebounds quite handily off of the magically-conjured buckler. Not quite enough so, with the prodding swipe as it was, to fully make Albert recoil off of it again, but still.

And Albert? He could not look at her with any less glee, after witnessing that magic. Even he could tell it was exactly that -- from the flash of light, and, well, the fact that a buckler just appeared *out of nowhere* into Iris' arm.

"So cool..."

Still, he poises his sword up at shoulder level while slowly strafing along Iris' perimeter once again. He's attentively watching her while she's running through her own analysis.

Why did he choose the longsword?


He blinks his eyes several times over in confusion, head tipping slightly to one side.

"I mean... Cuz' it's what knights use, right?" Saying that, as if it should be some kind of obvious answer as far as he is concerned.

"Hey, you want me to keep going, right?"

He... doesn't actually provide her with much time to actually answer him with, however, before he's already stomping forward, and turning his sword in his in what appears as a preparation for an overhead swing -- but instead ends up turning to him thrusting his hand almost directly down towards Iris' shoulder with the clear aim of striking her with the pommel of the sword instead. "Raah!"

COMBATSYS: Albert successfully hits Iris with Random Strike.

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Iris             0/-------/----===|=------\-------\0           Albert

She did not, in fact, say to keep going, which might be why Iris has to 1.) suddenly react to someone attempting to smack her with the pommel of a sword and 2.) deal with the fact that her solve of 'get out of the way' does not, in fact, work out the way she'd hoped. The only thing her sudden, surprised twist of the upper body does is divert the blow from her collarbone down to her side instead. In terms of 'not getting hit' it's 0% effective.

Physics alone makes the magus twist away from her 'student;' involuntary reactions make her hiss in pain, frowning. Well, she'd said she hasn't been fighting much longer than he has, but in truth, Iris is more annoyed at herself for not seeing the strike coming at all.

"Well... no," she admits, getting back to her feet. "But maybe we should just full-out spar, all things considered. It might be better for me to show you the practical examples of some of the things I'm gonna say."

Shaking out her arms a bit, Iris meets Albert's gaze. "Take your choice of weapon. A one-handed sword is fine, but I don't think it plays to your strengths. Or, well, your LITERAL strength."

A hand extends, and in a flicker of light, the rapier from before is suddenly in Iris's grip; she extends the silvery point at Albert. "We'll set aside the dull edge, since I doubt cutting versus smashing really matters to you." A pause. "Well, no, actually. You're swinging with all your might with a dull edge. The thing is basically a hammer, but... let me show you."

And then, kicking off the ground, she does a... not perfect, but entirely serviceable fencing fleche, looking to drive the point right at Albert's shoulder. There's a few lessons here: about focusing impact down to a single point, about speed vs. power, and perhaps most importantly, about the fact that not everyone's going to fight with a dulled blade!

COMBATSYS: Albert blocks Iris' Crushing Strike.

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Iris             0/-------/----===|===----\-------\0           Albert

"... It isn't?"

Albert seems genuinely surprised by this notion, and he gives a doubtful look at his blunt sword. But it is what all the knights in the stories used, right? So he should be using one too, shouldn't he?

And for that matter, the frown he is giving the weapon while thinking it over probably suggests pretty easily to Iris, too, that he is not quite fully grasping the point of what she has said yet either.

But he can at least grasp the concept of someone coming in for a thrusting strike at him easily enough. He *is*, mind you, still momentarily distrated by the magical appearance of the silvery rapier, too (and no small measure of admiring gazes at the weapon itself), but he looks pretty confident when he simply hoists up his sword, still in one hand, to brace right in the path of the point of the blade's vector.

And this is where the farmboy gets a practical demonstration of how force applied to a large area feels different from one focused to the single point. His arm is sturdy in it's blocking grip of the sword, yes, but he finds himself genuinely surprised by just how much the physical force ends up pushing in, and... well...

The fact that he is keeping his sword still in one hand, and braced from his side across his front, ends up meaning that laws of physics guide the blade to be shoved forward from the other end, and bringing the blunt slant of it smacking right against Albert's mouth.


Squinting his eyes closed, he straggles back two steps' worth, while his free hand rubs over his lower face after that rather embarrassing blunder on his own part.

"Ow... Okay, that was pretty cool..." He concedes, shaking his head to try to shake off the sting from his face while he brace himself with a slightly lowered posture again.

"Keep going, coach!"

This... well. He does genuinely want to try his hand at actually defending against Iris' rapier again. But it might also be in part some manner of trying to make amends for basically forcing her into dealing with another attack without being ready for it a couple seconds earlier.

COMBATSYS: Albert takes no action.

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Iris             0/-------/----===|===----\-------\0           Albert

That defense gets a... slightly quizzical tilt of the head from Iris, but hey, she's improvised a defense of her own often enough that she knows one when she sees it. In that regard, she might be a decent mentor for Albert after all; they're both using intuition and improvisation to make up the 'gaps' left by not being trained in a specific martial art, or at least no more trained -- in Iris's case -- than a great deal of private high school athletics.

"I'm not as physically strong as you," Iris explains, stepping back and getting into... well, 'stance' is overselling it, but close enough. "But something like a rapier works in my favor." She holds up the blade sideways, pointing at the tip. "Because it concentrates all the strength I DO have down to a single point, so I can get good results out despite not having a lot of power to start with."

Extending her hand again, at around shoulder height, there's another burst of light and then Iris is holding -- well, bracing so it doesn't fall over -- a big honkin' two-handed sword. "On the other hand, something like this requires a lot more strength to use because it's so much heavier, but if you can swing it properly, you can... hmm. Easier to show you."

There's a pause as the Brit grips the hilt of the greatsword with two hands, then heaves it upwards with considerable, visible effort; it's clearly far, far too heavy for her. How's she going to--

Then she vanishes, before reappearing ABOVE Albert.

The lesson here is that gravity is going to do the work that her muscles can't... but was such a dramatic lesson really necessary?!

COMBATSYS: Albert blocks Iris' Fierce Strike.

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Iris             0/-------/----===|====---\-------\0           Albert

"Okay..." This, at least, is a concept Albert can comprehend easily enough. A heavier weapon needs more strength to wield, and a light weapon that relies on poinpoint hits helps make up for lack of strength with focused hits. Right. Makes sense!

That being said, he does let out a little whislte when the rapier is replaced by the greatsword.

"Yeah?" He says as a prompting question with a sideward tip of his head -- only to suddenly realize that she is not, in fact, standing there in front of him.

Thankfully, he does catch the motion above him from his peripheral vision, actually making him squeak "How--?!" with surprise.

This time, the incoming weight is pretty obvious, and Albert has the sense to not only hold his sword up by the hilt above him with one hand, but also to bring his other hand pressing it's palm against the slant of it at the other end to further brace himself for the incoming force.

THe weight of the sword clangs against his own, and he actually grunts from the exertion to keep his legs from buckling underneath himself. There is a split second where Iris might well feel like she is suspended in the air by the greatsword colliding against the tiny platform created by Albert's own weapon underneath it, before he gives an upward shove with his hands in an effort to send the massive sword - and the mage wielding it - back away from him.

"SHeesh, how did you do tha--" Albert starts to ask, only for realization to interrupt his own words, and he sheepishly observes right after: "...R-right, magic right...?"

He's still smiling wide, though. This is kind of exciting! Even if the people he fought in his matches all showed some fantastical abilities, no one had outright *magic* to use at their disposal in this manner, to offer such different varieties of weapons one after the other!

"Okay, single point, right? How about--" Suddenly, he stomps forward with a *THOOOMP* of a sound echoing from his sneaker-covered foot slamming onto the hardwood floor, with his sword drawn far back with the tip still pointed forward. "--This then?!"

ANd he promptly launches the sword forward with the forward momentum of his stomp, thrusting it out towards the midsection of his 'mentor'. It's supposed to be an attempt at pinpoint accuracy, sure, but he is *definitely* doing it much more with stubborn brute force rather than carefully calculated grace like she had with the rapier.

COMBATSYS: Iris blocks Albert's Gutsy Lunge!.

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Iris             0/-------/---====|====---\-------\0           Albert

There is an interesting tableau where for a second, Iris is indeed suspended in the air with her giant hammer of a blade being held off by Albert's defense. But, the thing about her fighting style is that these weapon summonings -- with some exceptions -- are ephemeral; once the sword as served its purpose, it blinks out of existence, letting Iris hop backwards to a respectable distance again.

"Well, yes, magic. Bending the laws of physics is basically the only way I would ever be able to hit you with something I could barely lift, but from midair," Iris explains, with a faint grin. "Once you get a big weapon high enough, gravity does some of the work for you, so you can really put a huge amount of force behind your swing."

In her estimation, a big two-handed weapon feels like it plays to Albert's strengths, though it's not to say it doesn't have its disadvantages too. In fact, maybe that's... exactly the lesson that really needs imparting here?

The lunge, gutsy(!) as it is, presents a good opportunity. As Albert comes arrowing -- maybe crossbowing? is a better metaphor -- in, there's a flash, and then the return of the buckler from before, which catches and then turns away the focused point of the wannabe knight's strike. "That's the downside of a thrusting weapon, though," she says, shaking out her arm of the numbness that strike made rattle up her bones from the fingers straight to her shoulder. "Focusing everything on a single point means someone who can get in front of it can turn your entire strike aside, just like that," Iris continues, snapping her fingers.

There's a pause, and then she clears her throat, looking... embarrassed, maybe? "That's kind of the thing: every weapon, every type of attack, has strengths and weaknesses. The more you lack in things like strength and speed, the more you have to make up for it in other ways." She pauses, then laughs a little bit, meeting Albert's gaze. "Physically I'm basically nothing special, Albert. I'm not particularly strong or fast or tough. I make up for that with magic, basically: I can keep changing things up as the situation needs or not. Well, and it lets me do some other nifty things, like so:"

A finger comes up, glowing purple, and Iris traces a figure in the air -- a Futhark rune, in fact, if Albert recognizes those before the hair on the back of his neck likely starts standing up, because as the shape she drew disappears, an actual-ass bolt of lightning drops out of nowhere to shock the young knight.

This, too, is learning!

COMBATSYS: Iris successfully hits Albert with Thurisaz - Mjolnir's Echo.

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Iris             0/-------/-======|>>>>>>>\>------\1           Albert

"Weh!" Albert actually yelps out as his sword gets shoved aside, eyes widening under the impression that his gutsy(!) assault has been completely negated from his point of view.

He does give her the benefit of not continuing his own offense, too, so she can have the chance to actually explain things out for his benefit. Yes, he does still slowly strafe sidelong while listening along, but he's being good enough of a student to at least try to listen closely enough to internalize the things she is saying.

"So... your strength is being adaptive?" He has the tim to suggests before...

SHe starts casting runic magic.

Albert does not, in fact, immedaitely recognize what she is doing. He looks at the gestures of her finger with an entirely blank gaze of uncertainty... but the hairs on the back of his neck do, indeed, start rising.

He doesn't so much make the (honestly probably kind of obvious) connection that she is working up some kind of magic, but instinct alone takes over right at the last microsecond, urging him to leap to the side out of the way of whatever is about to come.

HE is not, however, faster than goddamn lightning.


The electrical bolt connects with him right as he's mid-air from his attempted leaping dodge, flashing through the faux-knight's whole body and actually making him convulse in the air for a second or so in what might, in hindsight, be kind of comical if you ignore the fact that he is being subjected to a painful electrical shock.


And then he flops down to the floor, face-first. Actual steam might sizzle from his body while he's down there.

"Buuuuhhhh..." He groans, after a couple seconds of simply staying down there like that, stewing in the consequences being hit by lightning, and only then pushing himself up to one knee. One of his eyelids might be twitching in a kind of worrying manner still from the leftover effects of the shock. "That huuuurt..."

While he's stumbling his way back up to standing on both feet again, he gives a faintly concerned look to Iris herself, gauging the distance left between the two -- and the potential likelihood she might do that *again*. "So... what *should* I do against outright magic...? I mean, besides..."

And demonstrating the same kind of rapid mood swings she had seen back at the restaurant when they decided on their arrangements, except this time in the way of him reeling right back from being hit by a devastating attack to pushing everything he has to charging into an offense again, with rapid two steps carrying him into Iris' direction.

"--Besides keeping trying to hit them?!"

And he leaps forward, suddenly, halfway on his charge towards her, with his feet carrying his weight first. His thighs end up landing on the hardwood floor first, and he actually, honest to god, slides his whole body across the floor to get the rest of the way there, to come tackling for Iris' own legs. Regardless of if he does actually impact into her or not, he's quick to spring right up from the momentum of the slide, stamping one hand against the floor near the end to pivot himself into a rolling turn that swings him surprisingly smoothly right back up onto his feet.

COMBATSYS: Iris interrupts Gutsy Slide! from Albert with Uruz - Gandrekr.
? Strange Hit! ?

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Iris             0/-------/-======|>>>>>>>\>>>>---\1           Albert

'So what should I do?!'

Iris has been asking herself, this whole time: what IS the lesson? It's not that anything she's said so far -- about focusing strength to a point, on the benefits of heavy weapons, on the need for versatility -- has been WRONG in any meaningful way. It's just that she realizes she has largely just been... sharing facts. If he were inclined to, Albert could probably find this stuff in any FightTube tutorial for beginner weapon types.

What is something actually halfway WORHTWHILE she could teach him? Really teach, not just 'provide facts'? Wincing a little at his reaction to her thunderous attack, the magus lets this question haunt the corners of her mind while bracing for Albert's followup... for she knows there will be one, all things considered.

When he suddenly runs to slide at her, there's a flash of inspiration that's visible on her face... and it comes right from the question he just asked.

'What should I do?' could easily be read 'What's the *right thing* to do?' in any given situation. If someone attacks me with thunder spells, what's the 'right thing' to do?

There's only a split second before Albert impacts her for Iris to do what she does, which is two fold:

1.) Her LEFT HAND fingers trace a rune in the air, which glows yellow-gold and then vanishes
2.) Her RIGHT HAND closes around *something* that is summoned in the blink of an eye, but Albert like won't be able to see what.

And then the German impacts her and Iris starts to fall toward the ground... and THIS is when Albert may or may not notice two things. One, that the impact of his slide feels like it met more resistance than his previous attacks, and two, the thing that was summoned appears to be a length of thin but sturdy chain.

Which is looped around his extended, sliding ankle.

Hauling on the chain as she falls, Iris effectively slingshots Albert into the air with the chain, which was glowing a faint green color... and at the apex of his release from the chain, into the air, a burst of emerald-hued wind sends him right back down to the floor where this started.

Iris, getting to her feet, rubs some feeling into her arms and is definitely starting to nurse a nice bruise as a result of repeated impacts, but she looks... pleased? "I think the only thing you really can do is, well... follow your gut." A sharp breath out, before she continues. "I'm sorry if all the stuff I said made it seem like I was criticizing you. You, and me... we're both fighters, but we're not really martial artists. And that's okay! It just means we have to follow our instincts a little more."

Well, that's strange. Usually when Albert does this, he does keep sliding until he halts his own advance, even after colliding with his opponent.

ANd usually, he still keeps feeling the ground underneath him, too.

It is the strangest sensation then for Albert, to find himself flung right up into the air from amidst that slide, only realizing while he's already halfway up in his ascent what is causing it, by way of seeing the magic-formed chain around his ankle.

"Aw, beans."

Back down he goes, as if swatted down by some enormous, invisible hand, the wind slamming him right back into the floor with enough force he actually *bounces* off of the wooden boards once, spinnign a couple times over in the air again after that with a loud "WAAAAAAAAAGH?!" before finally landing down completely into a completely ungraceful flop.


One of Iris' notes she had made about Albert beforehand is starting to prove to be correct. He's still resilient enough, it turns out, for him to send himself rolling over even after being effectively ragdolled around so he can quickly launch himself all the way back up to his feet, too. Though he does stamp the blunt sword in his hand down against the ground so he can lean against it, in turn, for a moment of re-gathering himself. It does also give him enough of a reprieve to listen and at least *attempt* to think about Iris' words.

It takes a few seconds, but his expression does brighten up a bit. "So... We just gotta believe in ourselves even when faced with all that?" He offers for his interpretation on the advice, to the point he's grinning. The sword gets pulled back up again, and he comes promptly charging in straight for her.

"And keep fighting with GUTS!!!!"

Well. She did say to follow his gut, right?

It is an utterly headlong, kind of reckless charge. One that carries him with his sword brought down from overhead for Iris, to lead into a rapid series of -- well, not quite slashes, since there's no real edge to the blade, but perhaps hammering strikes.

And utterly *relentless* ones at that. The first overhead strike is quickly followed by another, with almost blinding speed, and still with the immense measure of Albert's considerable physical strength behind it. A diagonal follow up strike from the side, another overhead strike, another diagonal from the opposing side-- again and again and again.


COMBATSYS: Albert successfully hits Iris with Mighty GUTSY Swings!! EX.

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Iris             1/----===/=======|>>>----\-------\0           Albert

Well... there was another lesson, and right now Iris is about to get a chance to show it off.

The constant dance of finesse versus power will never truly find a clear winner inside of human history. Sometimes all it takes to blunt a ridiculous overpowered assault is a needle in the right place; sometimes there is no amount of grace or speed in the world that can stop a freight train. The trick, as always, is to play to one's strengths. This is a lesson Albert appears to have learned early on and then effectively turned into a haphazard martial art.

The magus doesn't feel any qualms blocking Albert's 'sword' with her arms -- if that thing can actually cut open her skin, she'll buy 50 of them, as it were -- but when she said she wasn't particularly strong or tough compared to the average fighter, she wasn't kidding... and Albert is considerably physically stronger than she is. Thus his initial blow -- and all the ones that come after it -- slam into her guard like it basically wasn't even there. The result literally sends her skidding across the floor to hit the wall in a ragdoll-ish stop with a loud, basketball court-y *SQUEAK* sound.

When she gets to her feet, Iris brings a hand up and wipes it across her mouth, a little trickle of blood at the corner getting wiped away in the process. But, despite it all, she grins. "Well, that's half the lesson," she admits, and it's the truth. Sometimes the most important thing you can do is just... power through. But, there's the other part. "As for the second half, well... we'll see if I can properly deliver that part or not."

Then she, uh, vanishes.

When she REappears, it's behind Albert, already swinging a Nordic-looking warhammer that crackles with violet electricity, straight into Albert's back... or more likely his stomach, since he will probably turn to notice. But if he tries to retaliate, she's... well, gone again, appearing at a different angle, with a DIFFERENT weapon. Hammers, maces, a quarterstaff -- apparently she's sticking to blunt weapons, but each of them courses with runic-provided elemental enchantments of ice, lightning, and wind, reflecting Iris's magical affinity for storms.

The last attack in the sequence, however, unless Albert finds a way to avoid or interrupt it somehow, is the return of the chain, which will snag whatever limb is handy and slingshot the boy away again!

COMBATSYS: Iris successfully hits Albert with Hagalaz - Ragnarok ES.

[                    \\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////                     ]
Iris             0/-------/------=|=======\==-----\1           Albert

After the final swing, and Iris getting sent across the room, Albert likewise sets his blunt sword to resting against his shoulder, while padding her way with... probably a bit more confidence than is entirely warranted, in that instant.

"Oh?" His brows do shoot up when she not only flashes a grin back at him even after all that, but even speaks in such a manner still. "Got some way for a lesson there too, yeah?"

Probably not the kind of lesson he was hoping for, as it turns out.

He at least quickly catches on to what happened with her disappearance, after the last time she pulled off short-range teleportation. His instincts thankfully manage to guide him to turning right around to face her, too--

...Which does unfortunately mean that yes, he does indeed get slammed straight into his (not really at all) armored stomach. The force of the impact alone slams against the brick wall that are his abs, and for a splut second it seems like he's simply tanking the hit--

But the electricity is something he is much less used to. Even less so when it's conjured forth by magic. The jolt strikes deep into him, and after that split second differential between the physical impact and the surge of lightning passes, taht's when he doubles over, his body practically folding along the head of the warhammer with a "GACKH--!"

It almost makes breakfast start forcing it's way up. He can definitely taste some gastric juices in the back of his mouth.

When the hammer's gone, he surprisingly doesn't fall over after that. He does stagger back, and he does find himself instinctively pressing his other hand against his gut with one eye squeezed shut. He is already raising hsi weapon up, too--

Only for Iris to have already appeared in his newly-created blind spot before he has even managed to wind himself up for a counter-offensive. He never even had a chance to try to defend against the second hit.

Or the ones that come after. The poor german farmboy bounced around between hits faciliated by her rapid teleportation, struck again and again by different conjured weapons every time. BY the time it's done, he's already wobbly on his feet...

Only to find himself, then, flung by that damned chain again. Spinning through the air with a desperate "UWAAAAAAAAAAH!" yelped out, actually ending up smacking right into the ceiling and bounced back down to the floor off it.

After all that, he is left perfectly still on the floor, laid face-down. Long enough that he might very well look to be simply *done* at this point.



The Knight To Be stubbornly pushes his hands down against the floor, his whole body shaking on the way of forcing himself back up to his feet. EYes practically spinning after that disorienting pummeling.

His body screams at him to stay down there. But he can't do that right now. He can't disappoint the woman who agreed to take on the mentorship role for him in this whole tournament.

"N-n-not... done... yet..."

His legs disagree with that sentiment, judging from the wobbling and shaking they engage in underneath him. But he's not having any of that.

One step forward forces him into motion.

A second step leans his weight into it, and almost threatens to send him toppling over.

A third step works off the momentum of his near-fall, leaving his body with the simple choice of forcing his feet to continue moving or topple over completely. And he goes with the latter.

Posture low, he dashes straight for Iris' front -- only to suddenly divert himself in a rather dramatic turn of a vector to the side instead, with... quite a bit more fanciful footwork than might be expected in his current state. Sweeping to the side first, and then forward, around her -- even spinning over the pivot of one foot. It's like a coreographed motion in a dance -- and one that brings his spinning body to swiping his sword for Iris' side before he has completed his full revolution around her, and to skidding across the floor to continue the motion past her.

COMBATSYS: Albert successfully hits Iris with Gutsy Sweep!.

[                       \\\\\\\  < >  ////////                      ]
Iris             0/-------/----===|=======\====---\1           Albert

He got back up, which is in fact, part of the lesson.

The thing Iris had to learn early on in the NFG is that it's easy to be positive and... well, gutsy(!)... when things are going well. It's when things start going wrong that you actually have to put in the emotional work to keep going. It's when the fight is going your way that you can have someone's well-placed/lucky/both hit throw it all into question.

In short, sometimes the lesson is learning how to fail at things. And while the Brit has no worries about Albert keeping up his fresh-faced optimistic outlook, there IS perhaps some concern about believing that if the door doesn't break down on the first hit, the right thing to do is to keep throwing yourself at the door in the same way.

Mind you, how to convey that last bit through sparring might or might not even be possible.

When the German comes her way, Iris is indeed bracing for him to keep at it, but she's starting to feel the fatigue of this whole thing, and it shows when he effectively tries to make her so dizzy she can't properly defend herself. Albert's passing 'slash' is about to hit home, but in typical Iris form, her brain is working a mile a second thinking about what to do in this situation, and if Albert is watching, he can actually see the light of realization dawn on her face.

-- Okay, so creating temporary weapons is easy. You just have to know where your hand is.
-- So, theoretically, you know where every part of your body 'is'
-- You've done this before with gauntlets, right?
-- ...OH.

So yes, Albert's sword-cum-hammer does hit home against Iris's side as she attempts to twist out of the way, but it does so not with the soft-ish sound of metal on cloth you would expect, but with a resounding *CLANG* as it rebounds off a hastily summoned, ill-fitting, but still quite *metallic* breastplate she conjured on her own body at the last second.

Hopping back a few steps, there's the typical prismatic motes of light as the conjured armor vanishes back into whatever ether it was created from, and a bemused Iris pats herself down. "What do you know, it worked. And bits of my torso didn't end up in another dimension." Was that really a possibility?!

She doesn't go back on the offensive; in fact, she just stretches and fixes her gaze on Albert. "At some point we'll have to talk about that fight with Tanwen, I think," she observes, but says nothing more.

COMBATSYS: Iris takes no action.

[                       \\\\\\\  < >  ////////                      ]
Iris             0/-------/----===|=======\====---\1           Albert



A more experienced fighter might have been able to notice the idea brewing in Iris even while he was amidst his approach of rapid motions. Albert, however, is not that experienced of a fighter. And so as things stand, he lacks the perceptive capability and the ability to process things quickly enough in the heat of the moment to have any idea that Iris is anything but completely open to him, only to have that idea completely deflected in much the same way as his sword-club is sent rebounding off the sudden barrier of magically-conjured metal around her arm.

And with that deflected hit, the faux-knight finds himself almost unwillingly stumbling back away from her, much less gracefully than the way she is hopping away from him with.

He does keep his eyes on her, while forcing his body to stay up. Watching, with the sword held up. Preparing.

But she never comes in for the counter-offense. So instead, his sword lowers slowly while she says those words...

And as if though the mention of the fight with the young dragon was a physical hit in itself, he suddenly collapses right down onto one knee there.

"Hh--....hhaaah... I... I guess..."

He can concede that much to the idea at least. For the time being, though, he finds himself needing to brace himself against the floor with one hand, too. One of his eyes is still squinted shut from the pain of the apocalyptic pummeling he received, and a rather generous layer of sweat drips all along his forehead, enough so for few beads to force their way through the barrier of his eyebrows and start threatening to push him to close his other eye, too. Shoulders heaving and breath heavy.

This may well be where Iris might realize something. Albert is *ridicilously* strong physically, both for how young he is and for how inexperienced in the fighting circuit he is, but... at the same time, he pushes in himself with such intensity all the time, that even with the near-inhuman resilience behind, he simply ends up burning himself out pretty easily. Even an extra-large tank runs out pretty quick if you're running it at 300 miles an hour all the time with god-awful gas mileage in the first place.

COMBATSYS: Albert takes no action.

[                       \\\\\\\  < >  /////////                     ]
Iris             0/-------/----===|=======\====---\1           Albert

Hmmmm. Watching his reaction, Iris tilts her head a little bit. She had not expected Albert to effectively deflate like a leaking parade balloon, here, but the more she thinks about it, the more this makes sense. The German kid was probably running the entire time on pure adrenaline, which is... well. It can certainly fuel you through an assault, but not forever, as Iris herself found out when she first started using magic *in combat*. What people don't understand is that spellcasting is still exertion, meaning she was tiring herself out twice as fast.

Thus, her expression turns to one of perhaps greater sympathy than she initially had, as the Brit walks over and then sits down on the floor next to where Albert is kneeling, reaching over to pat his shoulder. "Right. Pacing. Another thing we can work on," she says, somewhat kindly. "I had to work at it too. Surprise, you can't force your body to run at full tilt for so long without consequences, especially if you weren't doing that regularly a month ago." She imagines Albert's 'training' as largely self-administered swinging behind the proverbial, or maybe literal, barn, rather than any sort of formal instruction.

Pushing herself to her feet, the magus stretches before speaking again. "But it's a good reminder of maybe the last thing I'd say -- and why we have to talk about the Tanwen fight too," she says, watching Albert's reaction. "We learn more from things that go wrong than things that go right."

COMBATSYS: Iris has left the fight here.

[                     \\\\\\\\\  <
Albert           1/---====/=======|

Albert very much sees unprepared for any kind of advantage someone could be taking out of him being left on his knee like that. But, he doesn't really get the sense from Iris that she would do such a thing now, either, so he doesn't try to forcefully push himself away from that posture either.

And for that matter, once she's down to sitting besides him, he lets himself slump the rest of the way down, 'sword' left to clatter on the floor while his rear plops against the floor.

The pat to his shoulder does feel reassuring, at least. Enough so for him to direct a thankful smile to her for her presence there.

...Buuut. As much as he is taking what she is saying otherwise as fact, too, the moment she brings up the fight with Tanwen again, he is rather purposefully glancing off to the side from her.

And no, he is in absolutely no hurry to try to get up yet.

"Okay..." He does breathe out after a moment, though, seeming to at least recognize the value in it even if it feels... shameful, to him, for reasons that might have less to do with the actual performance of the fight and more the conceptual factors behind it. "I understand."

There's much less energy in his voice when he says those words than usual -- and not just because of the overexpenditure of his own stamina. But that? It just ends up making him sound much more attentive, while he adjusts his posture to fold his legs over the floor so that the bottoms of his feet are touching each other, and his hands are idly grasping at his ankles, all while his eyes follow Iris.

"Tell me what I did wrong. I... I know I need to hear it."

That question hits Iris like a proverbial punch in the face. When Albert somewhat dejectedly (to her ear) asks her 'what he did wrong,' her eyes literally go wide for a second in undisguised surprise.

Everything she'd been about to say tumbles out of her mind as she wrestles with the implications of this. Granted, the entire thing might be a severe misread of Albert's chagrin; after all, beyond 'Tanwen is a dragon' she has very little to grasp in terms of the conceptual layer of the match. But that very disconnect is exactly why, perhaps, it's important that the German has her to talk to.

" didn't do anything wrong," Iris says, finally, after a pause that is almost laser-targeted to make Albert feel anxious, or more anxious than he already does. "I mean... ugh." A hand comes up and brushes the rainbow-hued tips of her hair out of her face for a moment before the Brit continues. "I mean, were there individual mistakes you could have done differently, in terms of your approach, or dealing with her offense, or something like that... maybe? There always will be, even in a match you end up winning."

Iris once again cups one elbow in the opposite palm, and reaches a hand up to her forehead, scratching it idly with one finger. "But that's different from doing something 'wrong'," she explains, with studied patience. "That's what I mean. It's what I had to learned. You can have a fight where you do everything 'right' -- make perfect choices, luck is on your side, executing at 100% all the way -- and *still lose*."

The magus's arms come down and she shakes her head. "Losing doesn't feel great. Nobody likes it. But it's going to happen. Early on, that was my problem... and I wish I could say I've fulled solved that little puzzle, but I haven't," she adds, smiling ruefully. "You learn, you adapt, and hope next time goes differently."

Another pause, and now it's clear from the expression on her face -- brow furrowed in consternation, lips pursed -- that Iris doesn't know how to phrase her followup, but eventually she lands on saying SOMETHING: "I don't know if... maybe you had someone when you were growing up that said you ALWAYS have to win, or something like that, but losing a fight isn't a crime and doesn't mean you're a failure, on any level."

Albert, for all of his mannerisms that typically suggest naive ignorance of things, does actually seem to notice the change in Iris' expression when he said that. He blinks at her, and he actually looks kind of worried over it. Did he say something wrong?

But he also clearly doesn't seem like he is entirely certain how he should be taking what she has to tell him from there, either. His lips purse, and his brows furrow subtly with further concern, but he never tries to interrupt her. He just listens, attentively and seriously.

It's the last part that makes him look away from her, and down at the floor.

"...It's not that I had someone telling me something like that," he insists in a much quieter voice than she might have thought he was even capable of using, after knowing him for just such a short amount of time. "Even ma and pa weren't disappointed in me even when I failed that entry exam to university..."

Saying that out loud, though? That actually makes his expression fall a bit more.

"...I kinda feel like they should have been though. You know...?"

His feet shift away from each other, only to tap their toes against each other's while he mulls over the thoughts running through his head now, trying to make enough sense of them to put them to words.

"I... Kinda dunno if they ever even wanted me to be anything besides someone who could take over the farm with my brother and sister when they get old. When I started applying for university, they said I didn't need to do that if I didn't want to. When I got the letter saying I didn't pass the entry exam, they told me I shouldn't think about it and just move on... It was kinda like... Like..."

Albert is *clearly* capable of self-reflection. He might be book dumb, and outwardly the textbook definition of a himbo, but there's at least emotional intelligence there if nothing else, and capacity for critical thinking. But still, he's not quite smart enough to easily come to his own conclusion on all of this on his own. But at the very least, after a moment of thinking it over further, he does come up with:

"...Like they thought I was just wasting my time. Like they thought I was going to fail anyway."

The last time something like this came up, Iris mentioned Ichika Kasumoto, the first NFG person she ever met on the beach in Sunshine that day. And now, hearing Albert speak, it's hard not to have that come into her head again. The young Japanese girl had been frustrated by her family's expectations for her -- a totally legitimate situation -- but Iris had quipped, perhaps with more realness than she intended, that people expecting nothing is equally bad.

She sits down on the floor next to Albert, cross-legged, and turns to look at the German youth. "So, for wizards," she says, taking a breath, "lineage is important. Most magic using families have a tradition that goes back... well, a while. Centuries in my family's case. The 'head' of the family and who inherits that position is a big deal."

She pauses, then turns away from Albert to look at the wall full of mirrors... though in her mind's eye, it's Celica's reflection she's seeing there, not her own. "I have an older sister, who is a MUCH better magus than I am, by the way," Iris says, voice slightly distant. "She was going to inherit. That was decided before I was even born. So growing up... nobody expected anything out of me," the Brit adds, with a faint shrug. "I wasn't really... needed. There was an heir, and she was very skilled. So people just let me do whatever I wanted, because again, who cares? As long as I didn't embarass the family name."

She turns to look back at Albert, head tilting to the side somewhat. "That feeling sucked an awful, AWFUL lot," the magus says, breathing out of her nose heavily after. "It was almost worse than disappointment. There was nothing for them to be disappointed ABOUT. Their expectations were so low that it didn't matter."

Another pause, before she continues. "I don't know your parents, Albert, and I've never been a parent so damned if I'm gonna try and guess what's in their head, but it sounds to ME like they just wanted you to be happy. Aaaaand, well... I don't know a lot about farming, either, but it sounds like they really wanted a young, strong guy to keep helping out on the farm for the cost of room and board, too," she adds, grinning a little to take some of the sting out of that statement. "So I wouldn't stress over it. And frankly, if I'm wrong, and they ARE being hateful about it... well, success is the best revenge, in my opinion."

Though Albert's head was left somewhat downhung after everything he said, he does lift it up, slowly, when he hears Iris approaching and settling down to sitting besides him.

And listening to her story now? He feels vaguely bad for putting himself up as a comparison to that, even if he didn't know the story beforehand.

"...I'm sorry," he offers quietly, with a hand reached over aside himself to set onto Iris' shoulder for a few seconds. "That's... Well..." He shakes his head slowly, drawing his hand back as he does. "I think my thing wasn't... the same. I think you're right that my folks didn't mean anything bad by it, just..." His own shoulders roll into a slow shrug with that. "...I just wanted to be more than just that, you know? Even if they just wanted a farmhand..."

Lifting his head up again after another momentary downward glance, he gives a kind of a wry look to her. "I guess we both have our own reasons for trying our best, huh?"

"Don't be," Iris says with a smile, giving Albert a little bump on the shoulder with her fist before getting back to her feet again. "Albert, I know I'm not that much older than you so sorry if I'm about to sound like a boomer or whatever, but... you're 18 years old. You have plenty of time to be 'more' than whatever it is you're thinking, but honestly, you don't HAVE to be 'more' than anything. You seem pretty okay as-is."

If Albert was looking for a big sister vibe, maybe he found it in Iris after all. Ironic, considering her own role as younger sister, but perhaps that's why she knows exactly what he needs, or thinks she does, at any rate.

"Let's call it a day for now. I'm gonna send you a text later asking for some stuff, so here--"

Reaching into her pocket, she digs something out and tosses it to him: a coiled tailor's tape measure.

Grabbing her gym bag, she gives the wannabe knight a little jaunty wave. "You seem more yourself when you're yelling really loud and jumping into the fray, you know," the Brit adds. "I'll see you around."

And then she's out the door and gone! Outside, the people with the next reservation -- which starts momentarily -- mill around, a few looking in to peek with curiosity at Albert before he leaves.


Albert, honestly, doesn't seem entirely sure what to think of this bit of advice from her. He does know that when it comes down to it? She's right about everything. He's probably even stressing about things more than is entirely warranted.

And yet still. Beneath all of that usual cheerful disposition of his, still lies some lingering self-doubt.

Can anyone really ever fully let go of something like that?

The offered tape measure earns a surprised "Eh?" from him, too, but he accepts it without any question otherwise. At least he seems to understand even without any further instruction what he should do with it, seeing as he's slipping it into his own pocket in turn.

He's still sat on the floor when she turns to leave, and her parting words earn a rapid blink from him, first -- and secondly, that thougthftul expression now finally making way for something that looks much more familiar again. A smile.

"Yeah!" He offers thus, with a wave of his own. "See you next time!"

Once she's out, he does peer down briefly at the open palm of his own had.

"... More myself, huh..."

That hand clenches decisively into a fist, and his other palm slaps against the floor to help prop himself up onto his feet, so that he might go recover his sword again... and go haul himself out of the way of the people with the next reservation, finally. Probably offering some apologies for taking so long on the way out, too.

Log created on 11:05:10 05/19/2024 by Albert, and last modified on 04:25:04 05/24/2024.