Description: Evening pool training leads to a heart to heart between Natsu and Brett, over such things as childhoods, their reasons for going to Gorin, as well as awkward things about possible crushes.
It's a beautiful evening. After a long school day, many students at the private school are taking the opportunity to get out and enjoy the city nightlife of Southtown before the gates slam shut.
Some students, though, prefer to stay within the school campus. Natsu Ayuhara is here due to her intense devotion to training... or maybe it's because her friends are busy. Who knows? The only thing that's terribly obvious is that, aside from the six-foot-tall volleyball player swimming laps, the pool is currently empty. Natsu's got on the white, black, and green colors of the Gorin-issued swimsuit, and seems to be working on her backstroke at the moment.
A small boom box, located a fair bit away from the pool, is currently providing an ambient background of saccharine j-pop, just to keep things from being too dull. And of course, it causes a mild echo within the cavernous pool facility.
The pool, thankfully, is not JUST for those on the swim team or diving team. After all, swimming has so many general training benefits for all sorts of sports. It's a low impact, high resistence exercise after all, and a way to strengthen all sorts of muscles.
That is, of course, presuming one can actually swim. And therein lies the rub. Thankfully, that doesn't keep one from making use of the pool completely. That's about the only reason that one Brett Neuer is here, a plain white shirt, swim trunks, and pool slippers on after dropping his bag off in the changing rooms. He certainly doesn't take chances, walking very deliberately as he approaches the shallowest part of the pool. Even if it's not truly shallow like a public pool is, he's tall enough to where he can still stand without going under.
That doesn't give him much reassurance however, as he looks down, slipping out of his pool slippers before slowly lowering himself into the water. It's only when he's already got one foot in that he looks down the pool and notices a familiar face. "Eh...oh, Ayuhara!" he calls, before falling into the pool with all the grace of a metal safe.
Natsu's swimming continues for a few seconds after her name is called -- the volleyballer had been zoned out from the music and it had taken her that long to acknowledge that the voice was not actually part of the song. She eases out of her backstroke, casually kicking her feet as she treads water to turn and get a better look out of who called her. Still a bit winded from her laps, she takes another moment to collect her breath before calling back.
"Neuer!" Since their last meeting she'd made a point of actually -learning- the young man's family name, having confused the two prior to their last meeting due to the differing name conventions. She squints a bit, trying to get a better look at what made so much noise... and makes an executive decision that she's swum enough laps for now.
She freestyles right over to him, with more grace than the tall volleyballer is usually credited with. "... It's good to see you! We... didn't really get to talk much at the festival, haha... How are you?" It's a bit more apparent, now that she's in the shallow end, that her eyes are right at the same height as Brett's -- a thought which brings a smile to her face.
Brett really did try to keep in mind the different naming conventions, and despite the large Western population in Southtown, it was still polite to do as the Romans do when you could, hence sticking with last name basis...still not quite up on his '-sans' and '-kuns', and the like.
He'd probabably have a better time with it than trying to be in the water though, a bit of thrashing before he finally gets his feet underneath him and breaks the surface. If he was 6 inches shorter, he might not be quite that lucky. "BWAHHHHhhhh...." He gasps, exhaling water and trying to simply stand up straight. He looks quite embarrassed when Natsu arrives near him, another sputter of water to the side.
"Sorry, I...I've never been much of a swimmer. Dad always said it was because I was so dense....then mom kind of hit him with the morning paper after they realized what he accidentally said." He rubs the back of his neck looking back up to the volleyball girl. "I've been ok. Just...we have a game coming up soon, so I've been busy with the drills. Haven't had much time to train by myself much. What about you...oh..er...sorry to hear about the cupcakes. I didn't think the three of them would go through all of them like that."
Ayuhara just seems grateful to have someone to talk to, for once. She's been hard at work for quite some time, and the isolation was actually starting to get to her. Hence the music. And now... Brett!
"Oh... I see," she responds, not passing judgement one way or the other -- just acknowledging Brett's embarassed admission and story. "... Oh, the cupcakes? I... well, they were made to be eaten, not to sit there and look pretty. If the pack of wolves got something out of it then I'm more than pleased." Natsu bends her knees and resumes treading water, trying to give her muscles -some- sort of pressure to keep them from cramping up.
"Drills? Oh... I would have figured you would have weight training for that. But it's nice and relaxing here, without the sounds of cold metal plates slamming around, I suppose." With a warm smile, she asks, "Have you had any games yet? I... I'm sorry I haven't really been keeping up with the other teams as well as I ought to, I'm... honestly still trying to get my head wrapped around this school. There's so much to -do- here!"
Brett shakes his head a bit. "It was mostly on-ice drills today at least. And here...well, it's something I kinda did back home before I came here. After I gave up learning how to swim at least," he says.
He then demonstrates, going under the water, before coming back up again...then under...and back up again. "Fwaahhh....squats are...." Under....up again. "Harder in the water....more resist-" Splash...sploosh. "-ance. It helps build your base, the strength in your legs." He doesn't go under anymore, but only because it's very hard to talk when you're constantly dunking yourself.
Natsu's first impulse is to laugh. Her second, third, and fourth impulses are also to laugh. But she manages to keep a (mostly) straight face all the same, only because she's able to stifle her snickering during the brief moments of Brett actually being underwater. Laughing -outright- is just... rude! And a breach of professional courtesy -- or the closest non-pro, high-school analogue of such.
Once Brett settles, though... Natsu still has an amused grin on her face. "I suppose that shows how little I know about weight training, then. ... Swimming... I might be able to help with, but."
Natsu kicks backwards, lazily treading to her left for a bit, then right again after a few moments. "It's not something I do all that often nowadays, but... I'm kind of anxious over my, uh... fight? Uh... What do you call those?" She blinks for a moment, at a momentary loss, then raises a finger. "Match. .. My friend signed me up for that Slamfest thing."
Brett looks uncomfortable in the water, and Natsu's stifled snickering only makes him feel a bit self-conscious, even as she does her best to hide it. "Weight training is fine but...bulking up really only does so much," he says, rubbing the back of his neck.
He watches Natsu tread back into the deeper water, tilting his head. "Yeah, you said something about that during the festival. I'm still kind of surprised...er....if I can ask, which friend?" he asks curiously, even as he starts a milder version of the squats he was doing before. Slower and less splashiing, but still enough to cover his mouth as he does so.
"... Which friend?" Natsu stops shuttling back and forth for a moment, considering her words... but patiently waiting for Brett to finish his set before peering back into his blue eyes. "... Oh... it's Sakura. Sakura Kasugano. Do you know her? Apparently she's just starting out this fighting thing too, and she's... convinced me that I'm... well suited to it." She laughs a bit awkwardly, one hand going to the nape of her neck. "I don't know much about that, haha, considering the beatdown she gave me when we were practicing, but I guess we'll find out?"
Brett finishes up, shaking the water off his head a bit before looking back to Natsu. He looks a bit like he's ready to shrink back or wither away, just still a little bit intimidated. Again, it's rare he gets to look a girl in the eye like this without looking down, or them looking up.
"I don't, but I heard the name before, I think, if it's the same girl," he says, brushing the water back out of his hair a bit. "Fighting is...I guess it's not really much for me to say considering what people think of hockey, but it's still weird. But...it's a high profile enough that...you know. I only really joined because if I get a big enough reach, I can get people to take ice hockey more seriously, you know?"
Looking down in the water too far would usually mean dunking her face into it. Which would be nice, under some conditions, but the water's a bit too tepid right now for it to be as relaxing as it would on a hot summer day. So Natsu is perfectly content to talk with Brett -- especially since the young man =doesn't= seem to be scared of her. ... Well, he started conversation, anyway -- that's a plus!
"... Weird. Yes, I can see that it is. I mean, in volleyball, you're not -actively- trying to hurt the other team. I... I mean, I guess that's how hockey is too, right? But in fighting, you're -expressly- trying to hurt the others. So it's..." She shrugs faintly, her bare shoulders catching the harsh pool lighting just so. "That's a pretty good way to draw attention to ice hockey, really. Is it fun, skating around so fast? I... I've never been good at it, myself," she admits.
He's definitely intimidated, but to simply shrink away would be too rude, and Brett was brought up to be a nice Minnesotan boy. Besides, he's not sure what social conventions he'd be breaking if he did anything like that. He's not really aware at just how good he manages to hide his intimidation, somehow, but hey, at least he seems to be finding a friend at the school already.
"Yeah...even in hockey, it's not the main goal, not like some people think. Football...er...I mean, American Football...it's probably worse. But, you know, the reputation is there, and if I have to use it to eventually dispel it...I guess it'd be worth it. Right?" he asks, a sheepish little smile toward Natsu. "Well, you clearly know how to swim better than I can, so, it might even out. Especially since my first introduction to trying to swim is falling into a hole in the frozen lake near home."
Natsu's voice is... pretty deep. And pretty loud. And sometimes when she's made to laugh -- like now -- it can get a little scary. Especially with the terrible acoustic qualities of the pool facility. Noting the hideous echo, Natsu quiets her laugh at that.
Covering her mouth with a hand, she stammers, "I... I'm sorry, haha... it's just... it just kind of makes sense, you actually -looked- like you were terrified of drowning in a frozen lake, just a few minutes ago!"
She does mellow out a bit. Because continuing to mock the poor guy is kinda mean, really! "And... well. Yeah, I don't think I'd be half as good at swimming if it weren't for the races between Saku-chan, Hina-chan and me. They always made it sound like I won because my legs were longer, but the truth is I think we just about always tied. But we kept bringing our times down together, hee."
She blinks for a moment, then returns to her slow shuttles left and right. "So... where is... 'home,' anyway? I don't think I'd asked before..."
Brett gives a bit of a wince, looking around at the way the pool acoustics carry that deep laugh around. He doesn't recoil away, though...and considering, it's probably why Brett himself doesn't tend to speak very loudly himself.
"It's alright, I know I'm not good at it. That's why I'm staying in the shallow end. At least I can use the pool still even if I can't swim, right?" He says, apparently looking at the bright side. "Just...try not to bring up frozen lakes out of the blue, and I think I'll be fine."
He sighs a bit, wondering if he really should get assistance with that, before looking back up to Natsu. "Hina-ch...oh, HInata," he says, a little coloring to his cheeks as that name comes up. "Er...have you three been friends for long?" He asks, a little curious even as he starts on something a little less thrash-intensive, quick rotations of his hips as he body turns from side to side, as if working the muscles around there for rotational power.
"ER...Minnesota. Duluth...well, one of the towns just outside it really, but close enough. It's in the northern United States....almost Canada, really."
"... Right. None of those frozen things. Got it." Natsu has no problem talking like 'one of the guys,' it's just that so few of the guys are willing to test her temper more than once. And Brett, to his credit, is doing a damn fine job of keeping things on the level.
Natsu pauses in her shuttling for a moment, stretching her toes down to stand on the floor of the pool, long enough for her to stretch her arms high above her head. "... Hm? Oh, yes, we've been friends for a really long time! ... Almost as far back as I can remember! I... I don't know when we met exactly. I'd have to ask my mom, haha." She peers closely at Brett's eyes for a moment, stretching her arms even higher, and releasing.
"... Okay, I know Minnesota. Kind of." She blinks for a moment. "It wasn't one of the Great Lakes you f--"
Natsu gasps and covers her mouth. "And here I just promised not to mention that! I'm terrible, forgive me!"
It definitely helps that Brett tends to be a bit too timid to be 'one of the guys' once he's off the ice, which can make him a bit more accessible at times. But it's clear he's not the most socialized person either. He DEFINITELY doesn't behave like the stereotypical American, either, that's for sure.
He quickly shakes his head when Natsu brings up the Great Lakes. "Oh, no, no, no no no! I live close enough, but I'm not that crazy to get caught there on winter...it was a smaller lake near my Grandparents' house. Which is...good, considering if it was any farther...a-anyway...." He quickly changes the subject a bit, still in the midst of his water exercises, each one clearly meant to strengthen his legs in some way or another. "It...um...kinda feels like a shame you don't go to the same school as them if you grew up together like that, even if I kind of understand why. Especialy considering how far I went to come here myself..."
"Oh... whew," Natsu laughs, floating her arms lazily about in the water as Brett changes subjects. Quirking her head to the side slightly, she nods an affirmation. "We... well, our parents keep moving, so we're used to rarely being in the same school these days. But the teachers kept having to move us apart -anyway-, because reasons, and..." She laughs, at this, offering another characteristic shrug. "But... we keep meeting up every day after school. Even with practices here being what they are we still find a way to hang out together."
Natsu scratches her cheek, looking up at the ceiling for a moment. "Actually, Saku-chan might not have been a Taiyo student, either... her parents had originally wanted her to go to Seijyun." She looks back at Brett and offers a quiet chuckle. "I'm dreadully sorry, this probably isn't funny to anyone else but us, but the thought of Saku-chan going to a refined ladies' school just brings a tear to my eye." Snicker abated, she continues: "And... that brings us to me, I guess ... my parents really thought I had potential, so they enrolled me here. I haven't been kicked out yet so I guess maybe they're right," she grins.
But her smile slips down a notch, as she leans closer, resuming her water-treading. "Why -did- you come here to Japan? Was it just for school? Here?"
Deciding that it's a lot harder to keep talking and doing his exercises at the same time, Brett ends up wading his way over toward the edge of the pool, holding on to the edge with one hand before turning back to Natsu. "Oh...that's kind of a shame. I guess I can't really relate, since the place I grew up was small and tight knit. But...at least you guys get to hang around a lot still. It's great having friends that long."
He blinks a little. "Seijyun? The really high class girl's only school?" he asks curiously. He really can't think of a girl who went into professional fighting come out of a school like that. "Huh...." He shrugs a bit when it comes to his own decision. "I came here because...well...I apparently impressed some people when I played for my middle school team and I got passed up the chain to Gorin. I guess they wanted an Ice Hockey representative since it doesn't have that much of a profile in Japan? And...I love Ice Hockey, and kind of wish more people could get into it, and I thought joining up with a school prestigious as Gorin, it might help raise that profile a bit." He smiles earnestly up to Natsu, not the uncomfortable sheepish grin from before, but a genuine one of happiness, talking about one of his passions. "Same reason I started joining up with those pro fights."
Natsu follows along after Brett... if it weren't the -end- of her lap practices she'd probably have continued doing some sort of exercise, but for now she appreciates the cooldown. "Oh, yeah... Southtown's big enough to have lots of schools, but it's small enough for us to get around and see each other whenever."
She smiles warmly, resting both her elbows on the side, and letting her feet float up so that her toes crack the surface of the water. It isn't exactly the most modest pose one can adopt, but it's actually a handy way of stretching her back muscles.
"That's the school, yep. It's... well, Saku-chan's a good friend, just a bit feisty at times." Righting herself, Natsu notes the considerable change in Brett's expressions, and nods slowly. "That, I can understand! Volleyball's been my big passion ever since middle school, and I'm really glad to be learning from some top-tier teachers here. Gorin =is= pretty amazing! But... I do have to wonder how... to balance that with fighting? I mean, Saku-chan and Hina-chan are into it, and maybe I can too, but... I don't want to hurt my chances at volleyball, you know?" Her smile fades to a neutral expression as she tilts her head towards Brett. "How... hard is it, balancing two -different- passions like that?"
Thankfully , Brett is too polite to stare as Natsu lays back, though it'd be hard to tell if he was staring for the usual male reasons, or because of said intimidation from before. "Yeah...I've only been here for a little while...but I'm already glad I came here. It's been really interesting and I'm glad to be around people with the same kind of passion for what they're doing as me." He takes on a bit of a rough look on his face as he looks away. "Even if some of them get really intense even outside of their sports. Like Sawamura from the baseball team."
He shakes his head a little to knock himself out of that reverie. "A-ah....I'm...not really sure? I'm not sure I could call fighting a passion for me, really. I....don't really like hurting people all that much actually. But...you know, it's a big thing. And it's...kind of just a means to trying to give Hockey a bigger light, you know?"
He rubs the back of his neck, as if considering something. "So...um...Hinata...er...what kind of things does she like? Is she a big fighter too?"
Natsu opens her mouth as if to speak to the topic about the school, and its fiery passion, and... then she hears the name Sawamura.
And her jaw just hangs open, as an almost canine look of confusion sets in. Like... what was she going to even say?
Luckily, Brett's on to the next topic almost as quickly, allowing her to close her jaw -- but not without an increased amount of blood flow to her cheeks as she pointedly looks away from Brett. "Uh-huh...?" she responds -- listening but not really.
But she snaps out of that reverie, and is about to address the notion of hockey taking on a more predominant light -- when she's blindsided by another subject change.
Blinking slowly as she turns back to Brett, she answers with a careful response: "She... likes cakes? We always meet up at a bakery after school. You know, like she ate all the cupcakes? ... Yeah." She laughs softly, scraping her cheek with a fingertip. "She can turn out some -mean- origami, too. She's also good at just about every sport imaginable -- if she didn't have to tunnel into a -single- sport, she'd probably do great here, actually!"
And... is she a big fighter? "I wouldn't call her a -big- fighter..." she states, bringing her palm low and even with the water's surface. She covers her mouth with her other hand. Height joke. NATSU AYUHARA: KEEPIN THINGS CLASSY.
"Hee. Really, I think she's just getting started, like us. She's been taking correspondence courses from some Jan Kibiki person or something."
Brett isn't that good of a conversationalist for reasons Natsu is finding out: he's not terribly good at sticking to one subject since he's never sure how far he should go with certain subjects that aren't hockey related. He's never been that kind of social butterfly when put on the spot.
But he seems to listen intently when Natsu talks about Hinata's likes, apparently trying to absorb what he can. "Really? That's...huh...." He might have to talk to her about sports sometime if he can. He looks over, about to open his mouth to try and clarify something...before he notices Natsu's gesture. "I...oh....oh." He coughs a bit, not wanting to say anything himself. It's not hard to notice how short Hinata is though, especially compared to the two of them.
"Correspondence courses? They have that for fighting?" he asks, a little baffled, enough to tilt his head at the very thought. Then again, he remembers his middle school team having to learn slapshot form from tapes, so...
Natsu takes note of Brett's apparent reluctance to dog on Hinata's height. Well, everyone's got their own walls, she rationalizes. She further rationalizes that if making fun of her friend's height is as bad as she gets today, she's doing alright.
"... Anything for a buck, I guess. I was over at her place when she got a new tape and put it in right away. Production values were -terrible-, I think the guy got a camera from the dollar store or something. And his voice kept going all high-pitched. But Hina-chan likes the tapes, so what can you do?"
She happens to catch sight of her music player, on the far side of the pool. And realizes it's been quiet... for quite some time. "... Oh. I... probably should be heading off, on that note... we normally get a Facetime together before lights out. They're probably wondering where I got off to..."
Ayuhara plants her palms on the edge of the pool and lifts herself out. Sitting on the edge, she glances back down to Brett. "I... uh... oh. Sorry, I kind of got distracted, but did that help?" With a warm smile, she looks at Brett, lost in thought for a moment, before asking suddenly, "... Do you want me to tell her you said hello, when we talk?"
Brett scratches the back of his neck as the subject of the correspondence continues. He'd definitely never take up a course like that. But it does get him to thinking about actual fight training in some way, if he's going to be participating in these things on a long-term basis. "Yeah...guess I'll have to stay away from this Kibiki guy, if he's as bad as you say though."
He looks over to the direction of the music player when Natsu turn as well, furrowing his brow. "Oh...um...well, I shouldn't keep you then. I don't want you to be late for anything, and I still have my own exercises to go through for a while," he says. "But at least it was nice talking to you. It's still kind of hard connecting to people with all the...you know, barriers and everything," he says, sounding genuinely grateful as he looked back up to Natsu in the ey as she climbs out. "And yeah...I'll keep everything in mind. And...yeah, if you could put in a word for me, I guess? That'd be great."
"Yes... I'm sure he's got some wisdom to impart, but I'm also fairly sure Hina-chan makes it work because... because it's /her./" She laughs faintly -- she meant it as honest praise!
Natsu agrees with a cheerful nod. "Oh, definitely! I'd... seen you a lot, so yes, I'm definitely glad we got a few minutes to talk!" She muses in mock speculation, "... Or maybe /more/ than a few minutes... eh. Time well spent!"
Lips pressed into a more earnest smile, she nods quietly to the suggestion that she put in a good word for Brett. "I'll be sure to let her know, then." And she means that, too. Climbing fully out of the pool, she twiddles her fingers in a friendly wave to Brett. "Don't work out too hard, now! You'll get cramps! Take care, Neuer-san..."
And with that, Natsu walks briskly (but safely!) to retrieve her music player, and hits the locker room.
Waving as Natsu walks out, Brett, sighs a little. Bit by bit, he finally feels like he's actually integrating himself into life at this school. It's still a bit alien, being in such a big city and in such an important school. after being in such simple living back home in Minnesota before. Not to mention all the things with getting headlong into a fighting thing when he was still iffy about actually hurting people, as an end goal rather than an incidental part of a larger game.
Wading back into the empty pool, with only the night lifeguard on hand, he found himself with little to do but be alone with his own thoughts...as well as his own exercises. Taking a deep breath, he relaxed, releasing the tension he only vaguely realized he had. Even if Ayuhara was intimidating in his own way...at least she seemed to be a friend. Hopefully, anyway. Smiling to himself, he exhaled and relaxed a bit more. Maybe he really shouldn't worry too much about fitting in and just...be, for now.
With that, the splashing returned, as Brett returned to the squat exercises he had originally come here to do in the first place. The game WAS coming up soon after all, and if he didn't get in at least a couple hundred or so, he's going to fall behind on his own personal regimine....
Log created on 19:59:16 11/14/2014 by Brett, and last modified on 11:36:45 11/15/2014.