Description: Natsu is paranoid, and Gertrude is guilty. What better way to cure both conditions than to have some bubble tea and discuss weird tournaments and fighting styles?
These days, pretty much -anyone- who talks to Natsu -- even her own parents -- will find her in a unique state of paranoia these days due to the actions of the Atelier Group and their insistence on obtaining some sort of scan on the young woman. She doesn't even know what kind of scan it will be -- all sources may say it's perfectly innocuous and normal -- but the very fact that they're going to such lengths to obtain and protect the results is setting off all kinds of klaxons in her mind.
And then there was the matter of that phone call. It came perfectly innocently, in a perfectly rational part of the day, with a perfectly reasonable tone of voice. Natsu was guarded, just the same. And she agreed to the terms: meeting in a public place in the morning hours with plenty of witnesses.
And it's here that Natsu Ayuhara has come this morning. Ostensibly, this is a jog for her -- it's a wee bit away from Gorin, but she knows plenty of people in the area -- and she's wearing a long-sleeved shirt, a maroon and white track jacket with her name on the back, and a pair of sweatpants. Not the most haute couture -- far from it.
All things considered though, she's -trying- to remain civil about this. She's even... smiling with some inner delight as she peruses the menu of possible bubble tea flavors at this open-air stand. And trying very hard to -not- think about those dumb guards or their dumb company.
Gertrude is cheerfully ignorant of the goings-on at the high schools. It'd be fairly creepy if she wasn't, all things considered. The tall German woman has no stake in the school system any more. She didn't particularly enjoy school the first time around, and she's not the sort to go poking her nose into other people's business. There's some sort of tournament? Well, that's cool, but again, it'd be creepy for her to try and sneak in to test herself. Even if the various teenagers who make Southtown their home have repeatedly proven to be more than a match for her.
No, this is about making apologies for poor behavior.
Wearing a lime green hooded sweater and khaki pants (Gertrude really needs to find her new look, and fast), Gertrude makes her way to the stand and smiles when she spots Natsu. "Hey there." She says, "The blackberry flavor is particularly good. Go on, my treat."
Producing a thick wedge of notes (bank accounts are for people who have had permanent addresses more than a few weeks), she peels a couple off. "How're you doing, Natsu? Good, I hope?"
Natsu turns her head back to the source of the voice. She's grateful to recognize the face -- and more grateful to see the face of a Gertrude who wasn't completely enraged with her. "Good morning, Gertrude-san..." She nods slowly, distractedly, as she peruses the menu. "I was thinking about the blackberry, yeah. The girls and I stop by here sometimes." Wait, what did she just say? Natsu looks back at Gertrude. A treat? She looks like she's about to question it for a moment, but years of growing up in polite Japanese society have taught her to accept an offer with grace: bowing her head in thanks, and saying, "Appreciated, thank you..."
It doesn't stop her from giving a wide-eyed stare at the stack of notes, for just a moment.
Looking back up to the menu for one final check, she walks up and places her order, allowing Gertrude time to complete the transaction before continuing with her reply. "I've been a little busy, myself... There's an inter-school martial arts tournament going on. And it looks like I'm going on to the third round." She laughs, just slightly. "It's... it's been pretty fun so far."
Tilting her head to one side, she offers a half-smile back to Gertrude. "How about you, Gertrude-san? Staying busy?"
Gertrude pays without a second thought - Natsu is just a kid, and Gertrude is doing vrey nicely out of the various professional fighting circuits these days. Even if she doesn't win, the loss money is still more than she's had in... years! "Oh yeah, the school tournament." She says, "I heard something about that. Pretty cool! I'm glad you're doing well. You've got the talent to go all the way."
She pauses, then, and scratches behind the back of her head. She, of course, has had her own horrific events to deal with. Multiple evil groups and some issues of her own making... but Natsu isn't the person to burden with any of that, so she settles for, "Oh yeah, I'm doing fine." And flashing an unconvincing smile, before she presses on to the reason for being here.
"Look. I wanted to apologize for the way I acted in our fight. I mean, there's... reasons, and stuff, but not good ones. It wasn't fair for me to freak out on you, and I probably... maybe... well, I haven't been as good as I should be, you know?"
Natsu isn't just a kid! She's... okay, yes, she's just a kid. Technically. "Thanks. It's been something of a learning experience..."
The volleyball captain looks back at Gertrude. 'Doing fine' with a superficial smile speaks to a lot more, but it seems like asking further would be patently intruding on her personal life -- especially since she'd -just asked-. And because, well, the bubble tea's ready by now. Reaching out to accept the treat, she steps away from the counter and finds a place to sit, glancing over at Gertrude as she offers her apology. "... Oh. That? It's... it's just a fight, I guess, right..." She tries to downplay the significance, to act like it =didn't= really bother her that much, but it -- like Gertrude's smile -- is likely unconvincing.
But she's not unwilling to talk about it, given another moment. Offering a tactical smile, she adds, "It was in the heat of battle. I have a quick temper, so I probably didn't make it any easier for you. I am sorry as well."
Gertrude looks distinctly uncomfortable as she sits down with her tea. She doesn't actually start to drink it, either, just holding it. Yeah, they'd both been jerks, and it is tempting to just leave it at that and say 'okay then!' before disappearing forever. But that wouldn't necessarily be helpful.
"It is never JUST a fight." Gertrude says, at last. "When we fight, we put some of ourselves out there. The style we choose, how we use it, it says a lot about who we are as people. What we want to achieve with our lives." Wow, this conversation got heavy in a hurry. But Gertrude decides to keep pushing it.
"If there's one thing I've learned recently... it is that I want to WIN. And that... I guess that showed through in the worst possible way." She smiles ruefully, "Hell, it didn't even work out for me in the end, did it?"
Natsu's still so new to fighting that she sees it as something similar to, yet very different from her volleyball games. If someone were to say, 'Oh, it's just a game, you should have fun!' and attempt to make light of what she'd considered a -career path-... well, Natsu would probably get mad at that.
That's the general gist of what goes through Natsu's head when she hears 'It is never JUST a fight,' Looking down, she nods her head slowly, accepting the sage advice. The style Natsu chose... really shows that volleyball -is- her intended career path. Kinda.
Ayuhara looks up again once Gertrude admits the lengths to which she'd go to win. That... was kind of the crux of why the volleyballer had gotten angry, anyway. "M-maybe not, no."
She pauses for a moment, considering her words. "... Is it... normal for that to happen? Needing to win to such a degree, I mean?" It might seem like she's trying to psychoanalyze Gertrude. But from the mild embarassment as she casts her eyes down, that probably wasn't it at all: Natsu was asking about herself.
"I don't know."
Gertrude doesn't take the inquiry as an offensive thing to ask at all. Her answer is calm, perhaps even a little resigned. There's a faint shrug of her shoulders as she leans back into the chair, and looks up at the sky. Her path isn't one that she thinks anyone else in the world can really understand - the Verhangnis family's approach to training, the immersion in fighting... there's probably a few other people who went through something similar, but could she really generalize about what was normal at all?
"I used to think that it was just enough to take part. I always wanted to be good, but when you're just starting out, and you suck, it is easy to make excuses. Then, I got a little better, and I started to get shots at actual titles. I knew enough to know where I messed up, and ... I hate that I did."
She sighs, then, and shakes her head. "I don't know if it is just me, but when you've heard a crowd cheering for you... a REAL crowd ... it is hard not to want that all the time."
Fighting, actually really professional fighting, is the field that Natsu's just getting into. She has not trained for this -- she only learns in the crucible of actually fighting people for profit. She's been largely unsuccessful fighting people out of her age cohort -- and that's training in itself. But it's conversations like this that really send the messages home for the young volleyballer, so she's sure to pay attention as she sips on her blackberry bubble tea.
It's okay to make mistakes, Natsu wants to say. But is it? Natsu doesn't have the experience in the -fighting- world to know. She knows that, when you have a team of five other players picking up your slack, then yes, it's easy to say that mistakes are allowable. She just doesn't have the context.
But crowds? She has a context for that, and it's clear to see when the glimmer of true recognition hits -- Natsu's eyes widen, and she nods slowly. "It is hard to not want that, yes." She nods once, nods a second time more confidently. "I can understand that, I think. The thought that... well, you'll do anything to just hold onto that feeling. Right."
But this is now a matter Natsu has a lot -more- experience with: trying so hard to win that you lose sight of your moral compass. "... In... volleyball, there are rules, I guess they're there to keep someone from straying from the path. But out on the field... stone steps, the mat, whatever... I guess there's not really anything like that, are there?"
She's not being accusatory. She's trying to understand.
Gertrude looks at her still-very-full cup of tea, and just stares into it for a few seconds. In the end, it is easier to retreat into pedantry and nerdy explanations than it is to confront the reality; that Natsu is right. There are no real rules in the top tier fighting tournaments. People can - and will - try to kill you, use deadly force, external weapons, anything they can bring to crush you utterly. About the only thing that is usually agreed upon is that it is a one on one fight. Or teams are equal. Even then...
Two people had come out of nowhere to try and kill her. She'd almost died. And she didn't know why.
The German woman shakes her head suddenly, as though waking up, and smiles. "Oh, it depends." She says, cheerfully. "In some of the smaller tournaments, the rules are stricter, funnily. No headshots, no shots below the belt, no weapons, particular styles only, victory on points or technical execution rather than KO." She smiles, listing off some of the tournament conditions she's particularly enjoyed over the years.
"Sooo, you know, it varies. A lot. But in most of the bigger events, no, it pretty much comes down to 'put your opponent on the floor', and nobody cares how you do it. They only care a little bit more if they get back up again after."
"... Huh." She never really gave it much thought. Sure, there /were/ rules, but Natsu had largely glossed over them. She saw Hinata and Sakura fight, and... well, things had largely just worked out. Mostly!
"So does this mean that the higher you go... the more chance of someone just nailing you in the head with a weapon? That sounds... that sounds pretty brutal. But I guess that's why we need to go through the little leagues first, I suppose." She laughs, just a little though.
And sips her tea.
"Gertrude-san, I'm still learning a lot about fighting, I'm... sorry to cause trouble for you with my misunderstanding. Thank you for helping me with this." Natsu admits this because she's been =trying= to calm down and =not= show off her terrible temper, after all.
Did Gertrude just... teach someone something? Huh, that's a nice feeling. She thought she was mostly just going to be making amends for acting like a total and complete tool the last time they fought each other, but now, she's actually starting to feel a little bit better about herself.
"Don't worry about it." She says, sipping her tea before she continues, looking back at the younger fighter.
"Its not a problem, really. And... don't worry too much about people trying to kill you. It hardly ever happens, and when it does, its usually nothing to worry about."
She laughs, straightening up a bit - whilst still sitting down. "The ones you want to watch out for are the shady tournaments where people are acting weird for no good reason. That usually means there's a ton of money riding on the outcome, and it is best not to get in the way of that sort of thing if you actually care about fighting!"
Don't worry about it -- that's the sort of statement Natsu's used to hearing from adults who have to talk Natsu off a ledge for taking volleyball so serious. And now it sounds like she might be taking fighting too serious, to be met with such a turn of phrase. Gertrude is, what, five years older? Six? So she's old enough to be considered a voice of authority here.
"I... I guess I am taking things a bit too seriously. Thanks..."
And just after being told not to worry, she's given -plenty- of reason to worry. Shady tournaments where people are acting weird? "... Well... actually," she starts, cradling her chin between her thumb and first finger, "... this tournament I'm in has plenty of weirdness... new principals at our schools, armed guards making us get physical examinations..." Gulping lightly, she asks, "Are you saying I should drop out?"
"Armed guards?" That gets a little bit of an incredulous note in Gertrude's voice. People forcing kids to take physicals... that sounds like something child protection services should be informed of. But, maybe Natsu is just misunderstanding it? What possible reason could there be for that to actually... be a thing?!
"... That does sound strange." She says, frowning lightly. "But it is a high school tournament. I mean, I'm sure the government is... aware. Or something. It isn't like the mob or the yakuza are funding it." She shakes her head a little, "I... don't know if I'd say you should drop out. Third round is usually pretty good!" Because she doesn't know how many rounds there actually are in this tournament. "But, if you're not comfortable..." She trails off. It feels wrong to discourage the girl from completing a tournament she's doing well in, but it doesn't sound like she's having a good time...
Natsu nods slowly, lacing her fingers around the cup of bubble tea. It's odd that something so cold can be a comfort in the middle of winter, but that's how things go. Perhaps Natsu -is- misunderstanding things though. And while she'd asked if she should drop out, she is quick to blurt out, "The tournament /itself/ is fun though! I'm learning a lot about fighting... other students. It's just... everything but the fighting is the weird part." Beat. "But you're exactly right, it's not like the government would just -let- us get hurt or anything, right?" She laughs, in spite of herself. "I guess I'll just see how far I can make it, right?"
"That's the spirit!"
Gertrude smiles, the usual platitude of 'just see how far you can go' seems like a fairly good one here, even if she's now vaguely worried she's going to read about some horrific scandal in a few months or years and discover that she'd encouraged Natsu to take part in something terribly traumatic.
"Tell you what, though. You've got my number, right? If anyone DOES try anything... bad, uh, you, give me a call. I'm renting a place in Southtown Village so, it isn't far ... as long as I'm not doing a Neo League battle in like, Arabia or something."
Its her turn to laugh at that. She actually has a cellphone now, aside from anything else! Truly, she has arrived as a fighting icon.
Undoubtedly, if scandal breaks out, this will ALL BE GERTRUDE'S FAULT. Except not, of course.
Natsu nods back with an optimistic smile. "Okay, yeah. I... I have it now, I guess." She pulls the phone out and pages through her list of contacts. Now that she knows Gertrude isn't just some angry person who goes around throwing geriatric dudes at her opponents, she feels comfortable in adding her as an actual contact worth calling back.
"Thanks, I really do appreciate it."
As she's nearly finished with her bubble tea, she smiles faintly, asking, "You... did you mention your fighting style before? I... I am trying to learn the differences between them, really. All I really know is volleyball, and... and now, wrestling, I suppose."
"Its fine." Gertrude says, perhaps feeling that opening herself up to being drawn into some sort of high school drama will probably alleviate whatever stain on her immortal soul hurling elderly people around has left. That guy really was a jerk, though. She'd do it again in a heartbeat.
"Shotokan karate." She continues, with a nod. Drinking more of her tea buys her a few moments to think how to explain it without sounding like a total fanatic. She might even be partly successful.
"Shotokan is one of the world's most widely practiced martial arts. It is like, the vanilla ice cream of the karate world. Mostly strikes, very direct, you focus on mastering particular moves and doing them well, rather than lots of rapid fire strikes or complicated holds. It started in Japan, but, the reason I fell into it is that you can learn shotokan anywhere in the world. Every country has its own little spin on it too! So I've learned a lot traveling and training."
"Oh! That's pretty interesting... I had no idea it was so widespread. I had figured karate was just a Japanese thing." This is the mark of someone who has done almost no research into karate whatsoever, clearly. "How... does it differ around the world? I mean, I suppose volleyball is -kind- of the similar, there's countries who play really aggressively, there's countries that play more conservative... is it like that for karate too?"
She sips at her bubble tea, but there's really only the tapioca pearls left at this point. Blackberry seems to have been an excellent recommendation.
"I suppose..." Gertrude says, musing on the similarities. "There's probably some more differences though. Like, in France." And now she's standing up, setting her drink down. "They modify the standard stance a little. Ordinarily, it would be more like this."
To illustrate her point, Gertrude takes a strong stance, legs far apart, arms raised. "This is a more classic Japanese stance. The emphasis tends to be on turning aside the attack and then using the opening you made to strike as hard as you can, so you stay grounded and wait for the enemy to come to you."
Then, she shifts, one leg slightly forward, crouching a little. The arms are still raised, but her center of balance is obviously shifted. "In France, they favor something a bit more like this. The fundamental moves are still the same, the strikes and so on, but now you are looking to try and move into the attack, or dodge to the side of it before giving your retaliation. You see?"
"I see!" Natsu doesn't know a whole lot about karate -- or much anything about it, really -- but Gertrude's easygoing explanation is clear enough that she can follow along. "That's... subtle, but I can see how it would make a difference in a fight, yes!"
She nods quietly, thinking back to the fight she had which started all this. "... I admit, I didn't really get to think much about stances in our fight. I guess that's where training comes into play, right? Have you trained in Shotokan for a really long time?"
"Not as long as some." Gertrude says, falling out of her stance and scratching behind the back of her head. "I've been studying karate for about six years, maybe seven now." The woman's cheerful smile fades just a little bit, "The... family style, I learned pretty much as soon as I could walk. But it isn't much use for someone who can't channel energy, really. I guess it helped me pick up the basics of Shotokan pretty quickly."
Six years, seven now. Considering the age difference, that would mean Gertrude was only a little younger than Natsu is now when she'd started. "Huh, interesting.." she starts -- before noticing Gertrude's smile fade somewhat. And thinks about what was -really- said.
"I see... that must be a pretty high standard to live up to. It... it can be refreshing to do something that your family doesn't, though. I mean... mom and dad really never were much good at volleyball. They were when I was a little kid, of course, but..." She starts to explain...
But then she pauses, tilting her head for a bit. "... I was supposed to pick up some things from the grocery store for lunch," she muses. Shaking her head, she continues, "Well... you have -something- special inside you... I may not have meant to draw it out, but it... was... something? I don't know how to describe it, though -- was that the style you were talking about?"
Gertrude shakes her head slightly, "I... yeah. Yeah, it is fair to say that I'm not, doing what my parents did." Just thinking about her father in the castle, plotting and planning and raving about his own greatness... there's a faint shiver that runs down Gertrude's spine, and she smiles. "I should, uh, get on myself. Gotta get back into the swing of Neo League matches. I can't let Mika take home the gold without a fight, right?"
With a faint chuckle, she picks up her cup, and gives a loose wave. "You get your lunch, and we'll meet up again some time. And good luck in the tournament! I'll be watching to see how that goes!"
Well, that was dark and foreboding. Natsu laughs with only a touch of anxiety as Gertrude speaks.
The mention of Neo League does bring a smile to her face, especially with regards to one fighter in particular. "Mika? Oh! Yes, she was fun to fight. Good luck against her!"
She nods warmly, finishing off the last of that bubble tea. "Thanks so much for calling me. I'm really glad we got to talk without the... er.... heat of battle." Standing up, she bows back to Gertrude. "Take care!"
Log created on 08:03:06 01/10/2015 by Gertrude, and last modified on 11:00:45 01/10/2015.