Description: The building of a community center for young fighters in Southtown is well underway, thanks to the money and time of Aya Hazuki. But there is still much on her mind... and there are other parties out there who wish to get in on the action. One such party stops by with both a warning and an offer of help.
When they first came to see the property, the real estate broker and the representative of the city commission on historic buildings had both looked at the frontage and joked, simultaneously: "Ghostbusters." Aya, who had a rather too strict Japanese upbringing now and then, didn't quite get the joke until she googled it later in her apartment. While the comparison to 8 Hook and Ladder is a LITTLE egregious -- that space was rather smaller than the retired facility Aya had bought from the Southtown government -- it's not entirely off base. The building's shares a similar structure, including the big arched doorway through which old-style fire trucks would have emerged, compared to the blocky square garage doors of more modern facilities... one more reason among many that it was retired, one supposes.
"But you don't throw something out just because it's old," Aya had said calmly, to a city official who was only too happy to receive her signature on a document that meant lots of yen coming his way. "There's still a way for it to be useful."
So many chance meetings over the past few months. With the curious Mr. Rust, with the even more curious Alma Towazu. Being attacked on the street and feeling a strange sense of familiarity with the blue-haired young kenpo artist. The dreams. All of it spoke to something behind the scenes which the swordmistress ill understands, but which she is swiftly learning to trust. One does not become a master of drawn-blade techniques by overanalyzing. At some point, you need to learn to trust your instincts and go with what you feel works.
And as the weeks have rolled by and she's been here day in and day out supervising construction, this DOES feel like it 'works.' As the remains of the firehouse were gutted and what will eventually be the Southtown community center for young fighters begins to take shape inside the resulting empty space, Aya feels more and more confident that this was the right decision. It almost came to a bad place as the contractors took the continued presence of 'the client' to mean that she didn't trust them... and Aya's occasional suggestions that they alter their plans just slightly irked them. But as she remained businesslike -- and her suggestions seemed to fit into some unseen feng shui for the location -- the builders lost their suspicions and even began to trust her.
Yet some part of her is... concerned about the invisible hand she can feel behind all this. Just because something feels 'right' doesn't mean it's destined for a good end.
As it is right now, she's sitting on a folding chair in the mostly-finished lobby, a wood floor and exposed brick affair with an open office layout, a handful of reception and administrative desks set in curving patterns along various walls. She's reading something on a tablet, poking it occasionally with her finger, lost in thought.
Several months ago, Honoka had been drifting about, lost in thought. She'd found herself in Kyoto, troubled by... a bad dream? She'd found herself countless other places throughout central Japan... shrines and temples that seemed like they should have some importance to her, despite her never actually having -been- to them before.
But the time for those thoughts has passed. She's found meaning behind the madness, an explanation that, while all the pieces don't fully add up yet, at least explains them to such a degree that she's able to get on with her life.
And then she'd seen the young woman again. Someone she'd seen in Kyoto... a calligraphy enthusiast, who she'd apparently interrupted.
Honoka's memory is as smart as a whip. And the face, the attitude, the very -aura- of the figure she'd seen called to her.
And now she's here, with a newspaper folded up in her hands. Who reads newspapers these days, with the Internet and all? Honoka Kawamoto, apparently -- and those same newspapers would have indicated that she was victim to a very -different- attack in the booming metropolis of Southtown.
She's sure that her stint as 'Godzilla' in a short-lived Saturday Night Fight has been lost to the sands of time.
Kawamoto walks up to the facility, looking it up and down. Recently completed? "... that was quick," she murmurs to herself, while looking into the window.
The circus performer, wearing her purple jacket (with a somewhat bulky right shoulder) seems to be experiencing some trepidation on whether to enter the facility. Or else she just really likes looking at the front door.
Fighters develop a sixth sense. Perhaps that means psychic fighters develop a seventh one? Either way, it's the oldest cliche in the book because it's the truth: if you battle other human beings for a living, regardless if you're a street fighter or an assassin or a professional soldier, you build up a subconscious attention to small details that processes sub rosa. The result is what one might traditionally call 'intuition'.
Something makes Aya Hazuki look up from her tablet and outside the frosted glass windows of the lobby to glance at the street outside. She'd specifically picked this place because it was out of the way, unlikely to see a lot of foot traffic that didn't come from nearby Taiyo High. That's not to say that there's NOBODY, but lingering visitors are a rarity. She gingerly puts the tablet down on a desk and stands up, walking toward the window and looking out.
For a moment she studies Honoka, whose visage is distorted somewhat by the treated glass, but who is probably equally unable to see Aya as anything more than a blob of color, the windows being treated so that it's harder to see IN than out.
The face looks familiar. But something makes her look across the room to where her sheathed blade lies, silent and cold, on top of her gym bag. Just for a moment.
When Aya opens the door, she's not holding the sword. At least that's something.
"I remember you," she says to Honoka right off the bat, sounding curious but not exactly wary. She's not unfriendly, just very... blunt and efficient. "From the Silver Pavillion."
Honoka blinks back at the moving blobs of color behind the treated glass. Lowering her newspaper, she takes a couple steps back, so as not to completely infringe on the personal space of the figute opening the door.
It's pretty obvious, from said newspaper, that she'd come here remembering the face. Maybe less so, the place. "Y-yes, that's me. Honoka." Blunt and efficient? In many of her guises, she'd be the same. But right now... indirect and shy is the approach she's taking. She holds up the newspaper, with a shaky grin. "I... it's nice? But it's an awful lot of trouble to go to for setting up a calligraphy studio."
Her smile gets a bit less awkward, and a bit more relaxed. She sweeps her bangs out of her eyes -- pink, now, instead of the purple highlights she'd had previously, and asks, "... I'll cut to the chase a bit, I was... wondering how things were going with the place? It seems like you're just about ready to throw open the doors, but... I was wondering if you needed any help? Advertising... outreach?"
She laughs faintly, lowering the newspaper again. "I... was attacked recently, you may have heard. The... um. 'Butcher,' he's called." She glances at the door. "Could I come in for a few minutes?"
An eyebrow goes up at the mention of Honoka being attacked. The expression is the same, but Aya herself likely appears quite different compared to the last time Honoka saw her as well. Gone are the formal kimono and obi; the only remnant of Aya's decidedly traditional Japanese garb is the kimono coat she's wearing open over a much more casual and modern camisole and jeans combination. Deciding on the best course of action, she simply says: "Much preferable to standing out here and having the discussion in the cold."
Aya steps aside to allow Honoka in, closing the door behind them both. On the one hand, being inside means Honoka can see that the lobby is the only thing that's REALLY 'done'; everything else is still under construction. Thankfully, the infrastructure and heating systems went in fairly early, so compared to late February chill outside, it's toasty warm in the building. "Have a seat," Aya says, gesturing at any of a range of folding chairs scattered around the room. Apparently desks have arrived and chairs have not.
For herself, Aya crosses the room back to where she was sitting before and sets herself down in the chair she'd been sitting in, giving the circus performer the once over. "I'm sorry to hear you were attacked, though thankfully it seems as if you've made it through the experience mostly intact. And no, I hadn't heard of any attacks, or this 'Butcher'," she adds, thoughtfully, before picking up the tablet and poking at it idly. "I've been fairly busy, as you can imagine."
Similarly, Honoka's wearing a camisole top, which becomes a bit more obvious as she removes her fluffy winter jacket. But what might be even more obvious is the shoulder brace she's still finding it necessary to wear -- the primary reason that the circus performer has all this free time, really. She accepts the invitation, folding her newspaper and jacket upon her lap as she takes a seat in one of the folding chairs. "Likewise... I was really frightened to hear that you were attacked as well. I know Southtown's a big city and all, but I somehow figured with all the fighters here, it... wouldn't be -as- dangerous." She shrugs -- and then remembers why she shouldn't, with a wince as she raises a hand to her shoulder.
"... Anyway, I... suppose I won't keep you very long, ma'am. I just wanted to ... let you know something. The Butcher seems to be looking for strong opponents. Folks who... might be able to give him more of a challenge." She takes a quick look around the facility, noting its state of progress, and adds, "You... may be at risk as well, judging from your fight history. He's... awfully strong, or else I wouldn't have needed this." She raps her knuckles on the hard plastic shoulder brace.
"Forgive me for being so direct, but have many people been showing an interest in the place? I was hoping to... be able to warn more people. Maybe... suggest that fighters who are just beginning their arts to consider a buddy system, of sorts."
Honoka stops just shy of asking whether Aya has someone else she could 'buddy up' with -- that might just get her thrown out on her ear.
"Oh? I had just the opposite reaction," Aya says casually, flicking her eyes over stories about the Butcher -- what few there are -- that come up when she googles the topic. Nothing useful, unfortuantely; rumors, speculation, fear. Just the sort of thing that's more likely to incite a panic than quell one. Setting the tablet back down on a nearby desk, Aya crosses her legs in the chair and looks at Honoka evenly. "Maybe you have more faith in human nature than I do. I imagine a city full of eccentric individuals with lethal-class fighting skills beholden to no authority would make Southtown a very dangerous place. I wasn't surprised at being attacked; I was surprised it didn't happen sooner."
For a moment, she thinks back to what happened. Parts of it are still suspicious, even to her; the location, the fact that she and the Futaba girl were there at the same time... way too coincidental. But the Chinese girl that attacked her? No connection she can imagine. Perhaps it was just a moment of opportunity, but...
Clearing her throat, Aya sweeps an arm to encompass the lobby. "That was the point of this. I'm an adult. I was trained in a weapon designed to kill since I was old enough to hold it without falling over. Knowing when NOT to use a weapon is lesson one. Are the kids on the street here learning that at these... let's be honest, ridiculously wacky high schools?" Shots fired, Hazuki?
With a shrug, Aya stands up and looks out the frosted window onto the street. "Some local support. The schools took an interest, obviously, but that's as far as that goes: interest. Community groups and charities with money to burn. But to be honest, I'm doing everything myself for the time being. That's part of why we're not ready to open... yet," she adds, turning to look at Honoka sidelong. "The building will be done in a couple weeks. But without people to staff it, it's just a building."
The woman's fingers flex on her right hand, the one visible to the circus performer as Aya is standing parallel to where she's sitting. A nervous gesture, maybe? Or sublimation of a kind? "I'll be honest... I don't know that I'd recommend that. That sort of thing is precisely what I want the kids who'd use this place to _avoid_... thinking that six months of aikido training and a can-do attitude are going to save them from a psychopath determined to hurt them. But I DO want them to think of this as a place where they would be safe."
For a moment, Aya is silent, before she adds, with the faintest of smiles, "I wasn't aware I'd risen to the level of 'ma'am'... Circus Performer-san."
Honoka winces as Aya casually deconstructs each and every one of her statements. She doesn't get the sense that it's done out of spite or malice, but rather, a need to cut through the chaff and get to the real meat of why the circus performer was actually here. "... I s'pose that's one of my faults, yeah... hoping people would kinda... just do the -right- thing." Her Hokkaido accent comes through every now and then.
She remains still as Aya speaks, remembers the details of the incident. There's no reason to rush -- the psychic can tell that Aya prefers to compose her thoughts fully before speaking, rather than simply blurting things out in stream-of-consciousness. "... I see," she replies, in all earnestness. "It would seem like they could stand to fight -less-, now that this... 'inter-high-school tournament' business seems to be wrapping up. I do hope we have a more peaceful spring to look forward to."
As for the mention that she's using the term 'ma'am', well, Honoka just bows her head. "... Aya-san, then. Please forgive me, it's a habit. I'm a bit nervous is all, the... the fight took a lot out of me."
She looks up, afterwards, folding her hands in her lap. "If it's staff you need, I think we might be able to help find some. We end up needing a lot of local help for our shows, and ... well, we'd =like= to keep people on full-time, but the circus moves so often we can't always." She brushes her bangs out of her eyes again, smiling: "I'll ask around, at any rate, can steer some interviewees your way if you like?"
A naturally cautious personality, Aya is currently asking herself: should you be accepting help from this random stranger you've only met twice, with this particular instance counting as one of them? But there's still that haunting feeling that this girl is familiar, though in a different way than the others she's met. They seemed like people she'd known. But for whatever reason, Honoka makes her... sad. It's... worrisome.
"I'm realizing," Aya says, as she turns toward Honoka and leans back on a windowsill, pressing her palms down onto the cold, rough brick which is, in a weird way, reassuringly grounding given her state of mind, "that I have been a little lazy. We don't have business cards, a logo, a manager... we don't even REALLY have a name." With a shrug and a rueful smile, she adds, "Someone suggested 'Young Fighters Community Center' but honestly, doesn't that sound like that organization in the US? Young Men's something something? The one that silly band did a song about." Aya Hazuki, Pop Culture Afficionado.
Breathing out, the swordmistress seems to calm down a bit. "Tell you what. We're not ready for applications or anything; not yet. But when I get my house in order, as it were... I'll get word to you. Presumably anywhere that circus of yours goes, you're sure to follow? I imagine it can't be difficult. Because you're right, I could use the help."
Honoka grew up in Hokkaido, one of the most rural, down-to-earth places in Japan. Folks are honest and unassuming there, putting on no high-falutin' airs. Her life experiences have given her a fantastic palette of expressions to draw upon whenever she'd like to convey the same sort of guilelessness.
It also helps that, in a sense, she really and truly -does- want Aya's endeavor to succeed. So it's a bit troubling for her to sense all this... hesitation and wariness coming from Aya.
The mention of a song by the Village People flies -right- over her head. She was raised on tonkori music with only the occasional splash of J-pop. If she'd encountered the song... well, it hasn't been often enough for her to remember it. "It... does sound like it might be a good Western name, but..." She gives a helpless shrug in response.
As for the mention of 'don't call us, we'll call you,' Honoka answers with a furrowed brow, and a moment of thought. The hesitation and wariness needs to be addressed.
"Aya-san, I... I know this seems strange, for me to just... come here out of the blue and say, 'Hey, I want to help.' But I do, really, want to help. I had lots of help in the circus, pretty much everyone I interact with on a day-to-day basis is either -really- physical, or they're office jockeys who push numbers around all day. But we're all about safety, safety is our number one concern. So when you talk to me 'bout... teaching kids the right way to use their fighting techniques... that really strikes a chord with me, y'know?" She looks at Aya's desk for a moment, moistening her lips. "At the Twilight Star, we all... believe in the potential of the human body, to exceed what normal people know to be their limits... to show them what -can- be done, if only they'd set their minds to it." She looks up to Aya, tilting her head to the side somewhat. "So while it might seem like it comes out of the blue, I... well, yeah, it kinda does, right? But I'm not gonna lie to you, I read this article 'bout a dozen times. And ev'ry time, I just believe even more that this is the right thing t'do."
She smiles a bit more broadly now, as she rises to her feet. "So... I guess what I mean t'say is... you shouldn't feel like you're the only one here. Southtown needs you to do this, Japan needs you to do this." Slipping her jacket back on, with mild discomfort, she adds, "I'll go ahead and ask around, so yeah. Just let us know when we can help, okay?"
There's a moment as Aya drinks that in, thinking about what Honoka just said to her. It sounds good. In her own way, the Kyoto-born 'yamato nadeshiko' is impressed with it. It certainly sounds a lot better than what Aya herself is about to vocalize, yet in a weird way, that pushes the swordmistress *even more* to say what it is she's about to say.
Looking up at the ceiling, as if her gaze penetrated through the roof and up into the grey winter sky above, Aya says carefully, "What would you say to all that if I told you the idea came to me in a dream?"
Here, she half-turns to Honoka as the circus performer is pulling on her jacket, her expression curious but her tone surprisingly distant, airy. "That none of this is based on something so charitable and noble as 'the right way to fight'? That some part of me saw all of this in a dream, a vision... maybe more like a memory that I can't quite place. That I was doing all this for a very selfish reason: for my own benefit? That helping kids might just be a side benefit?"
This is the first time she's voiced these doubts, but there is something in her expression that could distantly be called relief, having finally confessed what she herself is afraid of. That she was glad to say them out loud to someone other than herself.'If you don't know what you've lost,' Alma Towazu had said, 'you never know where you'll find it.'
Perhaps more true than he knew or intended.
Waving a hand absently, Aya gives Honoka a rueful smile, an expression she's worn quite a lot during this conversation. "Sorry. You had the bad luck of being the person that finally got me to say all that. The truth is, I AM doing this for selfish reasons. I'm doing this for me. But I think that's okay. I think if something good comes out of it, then doing something selfish for me is alright."
She walks over to the door, opening it for the circus performer. It's a goodbye, a gentle one but a definite one. It was Honoka who put her coat on first, after all. "You *will* hear from me. But because this is a selfish thing I need to take it at my own pace."
Honoka offers a vapid smile in response to being told this is all based on a dream, a vision. She certainly -has- more to say on that topic, but listening is much more important to her than speaking. Because really, what would she say? Would she parrot what she was told? Would she freely dispense with the information that took several months to wring out of the Marine?
No, vapid smiles and nods work best here. She understands that it's therapeutic for Aya to confess these thoughts. "I... I'm glad I could help? Ahahaha..." Folding the newspaper under an arm, she nods quietly as Aya walks her to the door. But... what would she say? "Oh, and... I would say there are -far- worse things that could come about from pride and selfishness."
She smiles as she steps outside the door, bowing graciously to the young woman who allowed her a brief respite from the cold. "Thank you for speaking with me, Aya-san. Take care."
Log created on 21:45:19 02/24/2015 by Aya, and last modified on 00:54:35 02/25/2015.