Honoka - Visit to Aomori Asamushi Aquarium

Description: What started off as a productive day in Aomori City soon turned into a day of lazing about at the aquarium -- along with some blessings in disguise for both Hitomi and Honoka.

The 5am train to Aomori City.

Watching the sun climb higher from a window seat the tourist in the girl had completely taken over, fawning over some of the greenery and farmlands and signs of smaller towns and villages, some even looked more traditionally Japanese! -aaaand all but gone in the blink of an eye, vwish!

At one of the train stops she'd ever made a brief and ill-advised run off the train to grab a souvenir. The tacky and admittedly cheap baseball cap shielded large bright blue eyes that want to drink in all the sights and now she no longer has to shield her eyes with her hands, which was just a little tiring. Maybe on the return trip, She would sit on the other side of the train and see some of the stuff she was missing out on.

The navy duffel in her lap with its tan leather straps and zipper had stopped steaming some time ago but she was still somewhat worried about spillage or making a mess in the train and thus has it confined to her lap. When she finally does leave the station the hour isn't so unreasonable to be visiting a friend, it was something of a journey and she stretches out the gawkers crink in her neck and stiffness in her shoulders.

Dressed lightly for the warm weather and wearing the tacky touristy hat people who stop to answer her questions and give her directions are patient and courteous enough to assure her she's travelling the right way, she doesn't have much trouble with people assuming she native when they glance at the hat and hear her asking questions.. maybe she had an accent or her Japanese was slightly out of place here?

Consensus was it might be a bit of a bother or far to walk and people were quick to suggest she hire a taxi, but she has plenty of time and if anything she would feel an imposition if she got there too early.

In Aomori city.
Thought I'd come visit.

She confirms and fires the text off while walking, pink cellphone matching the hairband nestled under her hat, smile naturally plastered across her face and Big top- not yet visible, though fairly convinced she was walking the right way.

There were posters up already, in town. She'd stalled walking past a few of them and inevitably stopped to marvels at some of the attractions they offered, if anything she was definitely staying for the show.
Why else come out all this way?

The Empress of eastern Japan has been absent for a good few weeks. Her presence has been conspicuous -- the gangs have been slacking off, growing complacent. They need reminders, from time to time.

Frosty blue eyes stare back at the would-be gang leader, the impudent upstart who thought his ascent to the top of the foodchain in Aomori with a well-placed shove. He stands with a knife near her throat, emboldened by enough adrenaline to make the start of a threat, but still not murderous enough to touch the blade to her skin.

"Half-assed threat. You're wasting my time." Her voice is cold, level as she stares back at him, the aggressor's body casting dark shadows over her black-and-white houndstooth-patterned dress. She doesn't break eye contact -- she doesn't need to.

"Don't you fucking try anything, bitch, I know you got in his h--"

"--And now I'm in yours. Weak-minded little shit, get that out of my way before I--"

The knife -does- press to her throat now, the flat of the blade dimpling her skin. "I MEAN IT!" The Empress narrows her eyes, amidst loud claims of, "YOU'RE DEAD, BIT--".

And suddenly the would-be aggressor finds himself flying backwards, arms and legs sprawled out to the side as if he'd been run over by a truck -- all from the empty palm the Empress had thrust towards his chest. With an almost casual gesture, the Empress snaps a hand forward, snatching the forgotten knife out of mid-air. And with a quick pirouette, the Empress hurls the blade towards her fallen attacker, biting into the jackal's thigh.

Somewhere, locked away in the glove compartment of a charcoal grey van, a violet cellphone rings.

"Pay attention, jackass. You follow my orders, or next time it's your balls." The Empress casually strides off in a different direction, glancing about to the others in the gang who had borne witness. "Would anyone else like to make a complaint to management?"

The text is answered about five minutes later:
Cool! Out shopping with the guys, so I might be a few! Wanna meet up at the Aquarium instead?

Paused as she is on the road the karateka raises a finger to the side of her head and scratches it. Well, it made sense that Honoka was an early riser and had gotten the jump on her. Silly Hitomi, you thought THIS was an unreasonable hour but then again you weren't a circus performer, let alone a star.

She scrubs a finger across the tip of her nose, chagrined she looks up and turns her head to pan around at the cityscape, the streets and sidewalks were filling up as people were starting their commutes to work. An aquarium would probably have stood out if she was close. It didn't help that she wasn't really tall enough to see over the growing throngs of people.

Nope! But she could always ask for directions again. If she could just get someone to stop-

Glancing back to the screen and typing away with her thumb she composes her reply in brief before adjusting the shoulder strap on her bag and trying to flag down someone who was passing and not busy. It wasn't so easy with many people headed to work around this time; many don't even look her way.

I'll be there!

When she does manage to finally arrive it's at a run, duffel bouncing against her hip, huaah.. huah.. huah - that took way longer than it should have just trying to find anyone with the time to stop and ask, she'd had more luck asking people already /AT/ work in cafe's and stalls along the way. Hands on knees and breathing hard out front she's just glad she found it! It took her longer than she would have liked.

The building.. bedazzled in blue and white didn't seem the kind of thing she would have recognized form back home as an aquarioum... those were unmistakably dolphins cavorting around on the sign and she stands there with her head craned back, reading the sign aloud to herself ever appearing the tourist near amazed by everything different, because... she was.

"Aomori Asa-"

Honoka tends to take care of her housecalls way early in the morning -- a perfect time to catch her target audience unaware and at their most suggestible. Of the four people in the van now, only she and Sudo were really and truly aware of what just happened -- and only because Honoka had changed back into her Hokkaido attire in the back of the van before picking up the other two circus hands from the grocery store. Blue contact lenses, back into their carrier. Pink highlights, woven back into her hair. It's a process she performs daily, a necessity for her to have accomplished as much as she has -- and it's an exciting rush, in its own sense.

As the van pulls up alongside the Aquarium, Honoka's eagerly pointing out the window. "There, there she is!" Her heart is still racing from the attempt on her life, but it's easy for the ebullient performer to pass it off as enthusiasm. "Just drop me off a little ways ahead of her, and I'll call you!"

The van pulls to a stop, deposits Honoka as requested, and drives off. The juggler is not wearing anything particularly fancy -- in fact, the t-shirt seems positively -against- type for the young woman who prides herself on never wearing anything so common. But it's got the Twilight Star Circus logo upon it, so Hitomi should have no doubt who she's dealing with here. "Hitomi-chaaaan!" she calls out, waving eagerly as she jogs to close the distance to her road-weary friend. "I'm so sorry, I thought it was closer!! Did you -jog- the whole way?" She'd give the karateka a quick hug, too, if allowed to!

Hitomi twists with the calling of her name, a voice rapidly approaching and just slightly distracted.. she pauses, a slight hitch in the matrix as Honoka hugs her, she reciprocates quickly with an overly warm and faintly sweaty one of her own.

Recall the last time she'd hugged Honoka.. the girl had been crying into her arms. It made sense that was the reason for that brief flash of awkwardness and confusion. The day was heating up and shaping up to be one less than forgiving of a bit of exertion, it might also be a factor.

"Oh, --just a little!"

With Cherubic grin she waves away the concern, She hadn't jogged the -whole- way, just a little incrementally faster as it took longer and longer to find her way.

She warms right up to Honoka's presence in a heartbeat, as they separate she takes in the clothing and eyes the design on the t-shirt.

Cute, in cut and design - and kind of self-promoting as well as advertising, given who was wearing it. It was pretty cool with a hint of aloof badassness to be walking around wearing promotional material and still avoiding getting mobbed but it was the closest Hitomi had ever seen to Honoka wearing street attire.

"That's a cute outfit."

Hitomi herself is beaming, now she's caught up with her friend, mission accomplished. Shouldering the coloured duffel bag of dark blue denim but wearing a light blue shirt with dark blue trim and pleated skirt with that same dark blue stripe bordering the trip with a thick and thin blue line. Even the sneakers match colour with all but her headband, seemingly out of place pink.

Gesturing onwards toward the aquarium the shorter of the girls almost bounces with energy and the chance to get going now they're at the aquarium, there were dolphins to see.

"let'ssss GO!"

Awkward sweaty hugs are the ... best? Honoka certainly doesn't seem to mind, it's good to catch up with a friend. Especially if she doesn't have to run as well. "Sorry, I figured the aquarium would have been better. The circus is running a bit behind schedule on setup for tonight's show, so it's kinda chaotic there!" She laughs, at that.

"... Well..." hedges the Twilight Star juggler upon receipt of the compliment. "It was the first thing I could grab this morning when the guys said we were needin' some groceries. Feeding the whole circus takes a lot of food!" Beat. "And it's better than what I was wearing."

She doesn't get a whole lot of time for small talk, though, as Hitomi urges the pair onwards to the aquarium! Honoka actually jogs a bit to catch up, laughing all the while. It's... definitely a mood shift from her last foray out of the van.

Before long they're at the aquarium -- luckily, it'd just opened a few minutes prior! Honoka is eager to go ahead and pay -- eagerly ponying up for both tickets before Hitomi can get a word in edgewise. "You ran all this way," she explains, "it's the least I can do! What brings you up this way anyway? I didn't even expect to see you before we'd made it back to Southtown..."

Inside, the aquarium is dark, to keep the fish happy, with faint lighting strips running along the floors to keep people from tripping. The entrance foyer is wide and spacious, but the real appeal is the walkway -under- the massive fish tanks. With a curved roof, and schools of fish and ocean creatures swimming at all angles, it really provides an unparalleled sense of being underwater!

"Oh, that sounds rough."

Scrambling to get things ready and being behind already at this point in the day, hopefully that wound up just being breakfast. She's sympathetic, working on an empty stomach wouldn't be fun and cooking for 'many' would take a while.

Jogging along she deliberately lunges ahead for a time running faster than warranted toward the aquarium but relents hearing the laughter of the girl following her. Too much enthusiasm maybe? She's having fun and glad to be provoking that kind of laughter.

Coinpurse in hand Hitomi is both too slow and too quiet as her panicked arm wave and attempts to jostle Honoka fail to dissuade the ticket master from allowing her to pay for both ticketsc mooohhh, she'd even kind of shown up unannounced it wasn't her intention to not pay her own way.

"W-Well.. I still had those passes you sent me. So I could spend what I usually would on the tickets to get here."

That and well, maybe Honoka didn't know she was Hitomi's only actual friend that she didn't live with at the Kasagi boarding house. Loneliness practically oozes out of her pores as she fidgets and focuses on putting her coinpurse away, her first sight of the facilities is when she looks up from tucking it away before rushing over to and then past Honoka and into the tunnel under the aquarium, this is so cool! Her mood buoys right back up with the sudden novelty and bounding over to see what they were like close up.

"It's like skin diving but you don't have to hold your breath!"

She discovered how much fun that could be on Zack island, swimming around the reefs in clear blue water surrounded by so many tropical bright and vibrantly coloured fish. This was definitely a close second behind that as she turns on her heel to examine the different kinds of fish, arms extended and gently enough to not disturb the duffel at her waist she's playing like a kid might and clearly enchanted with the aquarium thus far.

"Oh, it's not so bad, y'know... we're professional slackers! It's a living, right?" Honoka's awkward Hokkaido persona has plenty of good-natured cheer to go around -- and it shows, even as Hitomi shows how much harder she trains for her sport. Honoka's not exactly a slouch, but winning a foot race has never been high on her list of priorities.

But... even when she could win the race, she's content to let Hitomi race on ahead of her, into the aquarium, and into the aquatic tunnel. The yo-yo snaps off her wristband, as she flicks it through its paces, watching Hitomi from behind.

The karateka's sense of wonder is... enlightening, in its own sense. The boundless optimism of youth, lacking the cold cynicism that sets in with adulthood. Now more than ever, Honoka has come to treasure each day more and more... and is beginning to realize that certain windows of opportunity may be beginning to close. As the overhead lights refract through the water, Honoka has a moment to reflect on the transience of the curiously-veined splotches of light falling upon Hitomi, and the fashion in which they move, completely unperturbed by her constant motions, adapting to follow each contour of the martial artist's body. A thing of beauty, really -- and not something she has cause to experience in any other place in this town, to be sure.

Indeed, it certainly resembles being underwater. "Mm-hmm... and you no need to worry about the stinging sensation in your eyes, either. Or coughing up salt water..." Honoka's pace matches up with Hitomi's, at last allowing the pair to walk alongside one another. As refractions dance across her face, she looks up towards the indirect lighting above: "I wonder how many liters of water this is, anyway. Must be a fortune to keep it all in one place... to keep the glass from cracking..."

Just then, a loud THUMP is heard from behind the two. A fish has struck the side of the tunnel -- apparently fleeing a larger fish that happened to be chasing it. But as quick as the sound occurred, Hitomi might also notice that Honoka had grabbed the karateka's hand as a panicked gesture. Out of fear? Concern? It's... hard to say...

Did that impact leave a -crack- in the tunnel, as Honoka suggested? Or is that jagged, thin line in the tunnel just a trick of the light?

Hitomi pauses in her spins in a few short seconds twirling arms winding down around her torso and falling back into place with her abruptly glide to a halt. Turned back toward Honoka and the tunnel entrance the girl is grinning. She's content, with the aquarium and in waiting for her friend to catch up, it's a pretty amazing place to be 'waiting' .. enjoying the attractions already.

As Honoka arrives she cheerily locks into step beside Honoka walking plenty close with and the duffel slung on her far shoulder so not as to get between them. Head on a swivel she turns her head to look to her side and leans her waist forward to look past the Ainu-Japanese girl to see past her and sneak a peek at her face to see if she was having fun as well. Maybe Honoka had a liking of water and sea creatures to suggest the place.

When the conversation does start back up, the words prickle at her, she's not too sure what to make of it, coughing up salt water? The genuine smile falters at such unpleasant thoughts and is replaced by the more polite one.. inquiring minds would like to know why this place made Honoka think of something like that-

She's fallen quarter of a pace behind now and tries to disguise some of the sudden personal discomfort by looking away and shifting the strap on her shoulder.


Back on track! Not, Hitomi stumbles in her proposition that maybe they should go and see where the dolphins are, nobody can NOT be having fun with dolphins! But continues to amble alongside and listening politely as her friend continues to talk, while looking up into the tunnel as they walk Hitomi a little more fidgety alongside but focused more intently on Honoka's upturned face, wondering how much water there was didn't really bother her and if anything she was relieved, as long as there was enough for all the creatures up there and it was a change of- CRACK?

Her thoughts derail spectacularly, that much water would be enough to crush them both flat in an instant!! Her heart starts beating faster and she definitely falls behind now, hard raised to her breast she falls completely silent. She can feel the increase in tension, rising heartrate, fight or flee. Do something! No, we're just talking.. I'm being silly. The tunnel will end soon and there will be some other attraction, like corals.

The thump from above starts all kinds of responses, looking toward Honoka and feeling the girl take hold of her hand at the same time her face seemed to ..Was that worry?! Her own fear is compunded and added upon, she stops. Now afraid to look up but she does it anyway, that hair of light too still across the glass. No way! She's right back there in the moment a huge wave threatened to engulf her out of nowhere again.

The wave appears bright with the stage lights behind it, Blue and white it looked like it could be part of the sky but was dark and black when it consumed you. The blow down upon her is flattening, pulverizing with a an inescapable, incalculable blow; it felt as though everything in her was broken and smashed in one instant, it's not even a constant pain as the crushing force already delivered she feels the cold robbing her body of feeling at the same time.

She drops to her haunches with a terrified 'Hiiiii!' free hand covering her ear and crown of her head and shielding her downturned face with forearm and elbow, her eyes screwed closed and the duffel making a solid thump against the ground as it falls. She'd wanted to flee, run away herself.. no, save Honoka as well! Everything in her conflict's as she teetered backwards on her heel mid-recoils and then drops without doing anything, her hands still shaking.

Honoka's childhood was spent aboard a boat. She knows way more than she wants to know about salt water and the havoc it can wreak upon the eyes, ears, and throat -- the few times she'd been to the beach had given her plenty of reasons to prefer sailing on the Hokkaido lakes and rivers instead.

It's that distaste which she twists into the psychic equivalent of an acupuncture needle: small and unlikely to be noticed, if wielded properly.

The fish striking the tunnel was a happy accident, however: another opportunity for Honoka to 'innocently' grab hold of Hitomi's hand and deliver a -second- infusion of fear and distrust, with the panicked fish only serving to strengthen the delusion.

The puppetmaster drinks in Hitomi's fear, that her subtle manipulations can provide such a vivid and intense reaction from the karateka. She's well accustomed to how she can glean happy and exultant emotions from a crowd, but evoking fear on such a deep and personal level... it's intoxicating.

As Hitomi shudders, Honoka allows herself to be pulled towards her. So close, and so giddy with the emotion... and yet, Honoka knows that she cannot succumb to simply -enjoying- her companion's emotional response. She needs to be her anchor to reality -- cementing the bond she'd started so many weeks ago.

"Hitomi...?!" she exclaims in panic, brow furrowed as she wraps her other arm about the karateka. The museum is thinly populated at this hour -- only a museum guard and a small family are available to stare in horror as Hitomi curls up in sheer terror. Honoka rides the line between prolonging the fear and feigning honest concern as much as she can, simply hugging the girl firmly.

After a few seconds, she whispers, "Hitomi-chan... hang in there... we'll make it through this, just... everything will be all right soon..."

Pressed so close to Hitomi, she can practically hear the waves pounding into Hitomi's ears, threatening to crush her utterly, as securely as Honoka is holding on now. "Just... come back to the surface... the dolphins are waiting for us..." Honoka is fully aware that her words might seem like disjointed non-sequiturs to both Hitomi and to concerned bystanders, but with Honoka easing up on the psychic torment, perhaps the mention of dolphins will bring her back to the here and now. "We're both okay, Hitomi... just look around..."

It's not just her fears washing over her, they're among the other feelings bubbling up and overwhelming. Sinking her fast into a quagmire of despair, fear and regret at the same time she already felt she was drowning. I don't want to die! I don't want to die!! I don't want to die!!! Not so far from home, in such an unfamiliar place far from familyc No--nO-NO-NO!

The arms wrapped around her are a small cosmetic comfort that can't really reach and isn't really intended for Hitomi so much as the audience. But it does help, Honoka is warm, and in what should be dark and cold it's perceptibly different.

Warmth. One tiny, plaintive and lonely thought centralizes and brings it all together, and tries to finish her off: She never even got to see him and for some reason it's the most devastating thought of all churning around in her head.

The words start filtering through and leave Hitomi shaken as her tormentor lifts the throttle, and that was enough she could finally hear cHonoka? What happened to Honoka?! Her hand convulses and then closes, holding tight to the hand that she remembered having taken hers. At the voices insistence she opens her eyes, the world is blurry and distorted but it's there.

Turning her head up and around toward Honoka she pauses just long enough to get her bearings, confusion giving way to the things places and people she knew should be there, here and now. It's the same outfit and location she remembers so, nothing had happened and she'd just overreacted. She's so relieved! All those worries over nothing. The embarrassed smile and colouring cheeks as she begins to bounce back.

"That was surprisi-Eh?"

The tickle on her cheeks as the heavy teardrops that were gathering in her eyes and trail down her cheeks does indeed come as something of a surprise to her, she doesn't even have sleeves to wipe them away with so brushes instead at her cheeks with her hand to wipe them away.

"Don't laugh!"

Vehemently but possibly kidding, It's not fair that she should be crying because of what amounted to a little scare. And even moreso that a friend could see and tease her about it.

Sometimes, Honoka wonders why she torments people like she does. Surely, it should be enough to know that people like Hitomi -have- vulnerabilities that can be exploited for personal gain, without actually acting upon that knowledge? But no... Honoka is an opportunist, and when opportunity knocks, one must open the door and take action.

It'll pay dividends later down the road, the puppetmaster tells herself, as she helps Hitomi to regain her bearings. She steps back, holding the karateka's shoulder lightly at arms' length as she flashes a reassuring smile. "Hey, no one's laughing... That was scary!" She does not elaborate in any great detail -- just offers simple acknowledgement that something scary did happen that everyone in the tunnel experienced.

And certainly nothing that Honoka had any hand in.

"Hey, you look a little winded... did you wanna get something at the soba stand, or check out the whale shark tank first?"

Applying pressure to Hitomi right now would be even more suspicious. There is... time for that. But right now the puppetmaster needs to assess Hitomi's current emotional state... and figure out her next experiment.

Whaaa, it wasn't just her then? The pause draws out as she marvels up at Honoka. There was no jibe or teasing her at all for something like this?

Collecting herself but conscious enough that the first thing she worried about is how embarrassing it was to be scared like that, kind of a shameful overreaction to a fish. Shamed enough she'd find it difficult to go facing the other people here to see if was the case; Just accept Honoka's word and it's only a failure if you fail to pick yourself up!

That she can and does do quick and spry, smoothing the skirt over her hips, tracing and giving the hemline a tug and flick with her wrist to ensure it was hanging correctly at the back. She's not unsteady, just in a hurry -- she should have gone with her jeans but it was such a sunny day.

"Ah-heh . . . yeah. We could get some Soba, you're probably hungry."

An awkward smile, her own stomach felt all tied up in knots but maybe the chance to sit down somewhere would be welcome. Her fingers close around the blue duffel, picked up and slung once again at her shoulder but now she slides it around behind her body hiding it out of Honoka's sight. Composed at least in part she tries to smile back readily and set to venture onwards.

"Lead the way, I wasn't really looking around enough to see a soba stand."

Discomfort, anxiety, shame... Honoka hadn't realized that the young karateka -knew- such emotions, based on their earlier conversations. So it pleases the puppetmaster to know that she can bring out this unease on command... with just the right set of circumstances.

But while she can disarm and distract, the real test for Honoka is whether she can put the German's battle spirit to work for her, on command. It's not enough to simply wear a person down -- Honoka has to work on building her up, as well. "... A bit, maybe. Always got room for seafood!" Honoka eyes the grip Hitomi keeps upon her blue duffel, but doesn't spend so much time that it could it be considered staring. The anxiety of the younger woman is beginning to make her hungrier, actually. She picks up the pace, as requested. "... Apparently scallops is the local specialty. The aquarium serves a prett good dish of tempura soba with scallops I'd been wanting to try..."

It will be necessary to exit the aquarium to get to the gift shop and soba store, but Honoka is more than capable of sweet-talking the ticket-takers into letting the two tourists playing hopscotch with the admissions line. Honoka draws in her breath as the pair approaches the stand -- they've just cooked up their first batch. "Oh, this smells -delicious-." She glances over to Hitomi, checking to see if her smile is slipping back over into the 'genuine' end of the spectrum.

And just in case, here's a little levity: "I'm... not sure if they're going to have any bacon for you though, is... is that okay?" Honoka can't help but prod the girl about the conditions of their -last- rendezvous, which also seemed to center around food of some sort.

That's a real enthusiasm for seafood, Hitomi takes a clear mental note of that. When someone voices their enjoyment with that kind of cheer? It's worth knowing peoples favourite tastes and dishes because food was important to people. People told stories about and remembered good enough food, it was a way of connecting with people. It's suitably infectious enough to raise her flagging spirits but it does nothing for her own appetite. Trailing along with Honoka as they make their way out of the aquarium she is uncommonly sedate and quiet the whole way. Both hands gripping the shoulder strap, smiling and nodding whenever Honoka glances her way she's content enough with this for now. It would be nice if she could appreciate the aroma around the stall but a deep inhale leaves her still feeling qualmish and apprehensive.

"Yeah, it's great!"

It wasn't a -lie- just because she didn't feel like eating right this minute didn't mean that the food here was in any way bad. That sincere looking fake smile plastered across her face she does express some interest in getting there and scanning the menu boards to see what drinks they had. The attempt at a joke does prompt her to respond similarly, the shock of the day is starting to wear off.

"Oh I don't know, they have called some thing's called the 'bacon of the sea.' Like Crab, and anchovies."

Sudden, insightful and serious she responds without missing a beat and in a tone suggesting it was something worth knowing. Before her lips tremble and she raises a hand to cover her mouth before she laughs. Yeah, she was fine with not having access to bacon, it's not like it was all she would choose to eat ... ~tumble~ no, she wouldn't focus on food right now. And that mention of food did come with a fond memory, meal paid for by a friend and the last time Hitomi had seen or been with Honoka.

"I just hope they have a cool sweet tea or something. It's the perfect day for it"

Eh-heh, there was some cheek and cheer now they were back out in the sunshine and soaking up as much as she can.

It's hard to lie to a psychic. Honoka, of all people, knows this first-hand -- and it's why she tries to avoid topics which would allow her to be -caught- within a lie. But... Hitomi's not really trying to be hurtful -- anything but. She's trying to play nice, and that's a comfort. "Oh. Well, I can tell it's not really your thing, but I'm really glad you're trying things out with me! You might... hmm." She pauses for a moment, and peruses the menu. "They have some udon, if you're not feeling up to anything heavy..." Being able to read other people's emotions does have its benefits...

As she looks over the menu, a thought comes into Hitomi's head...

// That shirt looks really cute on her... Maybe -that's- why I'm so nervous...? //

The words occur as a thought to Hitomi -- kind of like Hitomi's own words, and yet... not...? But it'd be hard to know exactly -what- the source of the thoughts is, as Honoka is living up to the words -- taking a moment to sweep her bangs out of her eyes, the early morning sun catching the glint of the sun-shaped medallion she wears about her neck, the dancer's lithe body nearly silhouetted by the light-colored side of the soba stand.

When Honoka speaks again, it seems like she's been quiet for a while already. "Ah, here it is! You should try this royal milk tea, it's -amazing-. Have you ever had it before? Plenty of sweetness..."

Honoka smiles back to Hitomi. How fun, enjoying new experiences with a good friend!

Ghk! - She got seen through? Hitomi titters nervously with an awkward and twitchy smile fixed in place. That wasn't a good impression to make and it kind of serves her right for stretching the truth thin like that. She's worried she caused some offense but can't really get any sense Honoka was offended.

"I-I wanted to try it... Just not feeling like eating anything at the moment."

Hand finally letting go of the strap to press to stomach she wonders why the feeling of butterflies persists as she makes her way own way to stall and slides onto one of the storefront stools, carefully bending over and lowering the duffel to the ground and searching the menu for something she could recognise as being sweet.

Unbidden a thought surfaces and chimes in her head. Maybe she was feeling a little uneasy because of who she was with, Honoka was an -actual- Star and Hitomi was dressed so plainly, no designs or anything memorable at all. Turning her head away from the menu to ask Honoka for a suggestion she is caught up in time dilated flip of the pink and black bangs rays of light streaming through and illuminating the pink highlights. The other girl has a radiant aura and power about her while she was at her plainest.

"Ah-aaa-ah .. right, May I have a Royal milk tea! ..please."

Still overly warm and embarrassed but the butterflies are acting up again. She might have to dip a little bit into next week's budget and get a t-shirt herself before she headed home. They were indeed cute and kind of flattering, at least on Honoka.

Honoka is not offended at all -- if she'd gotten really ticked off enough, she'd just implant the idea in Hitomi's head that bacon was what was making her sick to her stomach. The idea's not ruled out for the future, though.

"Oh. Well, yeah, milktea should set you right up, so long as it's not too hot out. Which.... it's not!" Honoka smiles warmly -- it's not -exactly- her thing, but from what she knows of the German, rich flavors will be more favorably received than the typical light flavors of Japanese cuisine and beverages. But she gets an order of milktea just the same, to express solidarity and closeness!

Not to mention -- what mental issues Honoka can bring about, she can also attempt to mend. Once the milktea is passed over by the soba stand operator and Hitomi's able to take a sip, Honoka's warm smile carries with it a small psychic payload: the sensations of nausea begin to subside. Since it was mostly mental -anyway-...

Subtle influences of positive and negative reinforcement: the means by which the lithe acrobat-juggler has been able to sway hundreds to her beck and call. Taking a seat at a small table, she smiles dreamily back into Hitomi's eyes.

"Really glad you came around. I've been kinda looking for an excuse to get away from the circus folks for a couple hours."

"Thank you very much!"

Bringing the cup closer to and under her face she sniffs at the contents and tries it -- It's rather mild flavour wise, at least in her opinion except for how sweet it is, sweet enough to make her toes curl yet a milky tea as the name implied with no real mention of what the 'Royal' part of the recipe was.

Her eyebrows climb as she sips at her own cup before gravitating toward and following Honoka to a table , they were both having the same thing! Her feelings were mixed about the tea. She was still pleased and it seemed to be helping settle her stomach but it didn't leave much of an impression over say, a milkshake would have! A hot drink on a nice day like this did feel alien but not entirely unwelcome.

Mmm, she was feeling a little better now and there was no violent reaction to the thought of food, It might work well on an unsettled stomach but better safe than sorry she'd just stick with the tea. Pulling herself up to the table she contents herself taking a quick look at her surroundings, this was nice. Fingers toying with the cup twisting it and toying with it as she lets it cool she rounds back on Honoka, her mouth starting to open as words form on her tongue and she catches Honoka staring right at her like that... it's a little- NEED TO BREAK EYE CONTACT!!

The tea scalds her tongue and the roof of her mouth just a little as she raises it to her lips, that drinks a little bit more deeply than was wise, it tastes of pain and residual heat with a sweet chaser.

Oh that's so sweet.

"Mhm! I finally caught up on my schoolwork after taking a month off. It's the very first chance I had to come visit and I remembered what you said about your new show."

She hadn't seen or heard anything about the show second or third hand as of yet so there was nothing spoiled. New outfit, new city and an entirely new show. She'd been to see the last show twice, and that was before she was good friends with one of the lead performers.

"Lots of new things must have happened since last time we met?"


Honoka sips at her milktea, noting quietly, "I half expected them to toss us a cold can, but hey." She's fine with hot tea just the same, though -- it's all good to her. It's not like she wants to extinguish Japanese culture in the same manner that they extinguished hers, after all...

So maybe Hitomi broke eye contact a little too soon... but there's still a small question that Honoka's had about the karateka that she's just got to gauge interest in.

"Yeah... you could say that... My, er... boyfriend toured with us for almost a month. It was fun! The crew and I miss having him around, he was really helping out a lot with the setup and breakdown once he got the hang of things!"

She winds a finger through her long bangs, as she puts on a convincing act of lovesickness. Part of her wants to gag at the cloying, uber-saccharine display; if it were a romantic comedy on the air, she'd destroy the television. But the reaction from Hitomi... that's the real show she's interested in.

"He had to go back to work though. You really just missed him by like a day or two, ahaha."

A quirk of the head that shakes her bangs, it was news to her since they'd never spoken about it before. Oooohhh... A boyfriend and all? The romantic allure of the circus and travel really picks up some with that added to the mix. That's really something! It must have been great to spend time together especially living and working as Honoka does.

"Oh? He must be pretty amazing."

No mention of what he did but if he was taking time off of whatever he did to help his girlfriend and the circus folk out breaking down AND setting up in different cities. That's a real working holiday.

But still, the way Honoka was looking while talking about it, tone and the way she was toying with her hair, it was really cute heart-warming stuff. She can sympathize that it must suck to be parted from someone you -like- like that but otherwise it's a nice story, a little bittersweet that he was gone for now and she missed her chance to meet him and see what he was like. But he made Honoka happy.

"Maybe I'll meet him sometime, you can introduce us."

She'd have liked that, to see what kind of man he was like, there were all kinds of amazing people in the word.. someone who made that kind of impression on Honoka would be worth getting to know.

Cheery and smiling as long as Honoka is doing likewise Hitomi has her tea and good company, she's a little relived the focus is off of her and curious as to what they enigmatic 'Perfect boyfriend' that could capture the eye and heart of a star could be like.

Celebrity magazine couple pretty maybe.

"Pretty much..." is Honoka's response, delivered with a wistful smile. "He always seems to know the right thing to say to make my heart melt..."

There is a calculated reason behind everything. The highlights in her hair, the sappy pseudo-love story, the faint albeit detectable Hokkaido accent -- all calculated to put people at ease, to make them believe that the circus star they're talking with is a real approachable person, not someone to be placed up on a pedestal. It's all about... evoking the right emotions from the unsuspecting targets.

"Oh, definitely..." comments Honoka, sipping at her tea. "You'll get to meet Mizuho too, she's like... the new star of the show! There's a whole big storyline running through all of the acts now, I think you'd really enjoy it! Mizuho-chan helped write the story as part of her senior project for school, so we've been having a lot of fun with it. Betcha can't see me being a -bad- guy, can ya?" She winks a bit, leaning back in her seat...

Watching for each minute response from Hitomi that might indicate a reaction. Jealousy? Wonder? Each emotion would be a feast all its own -- but which shall Hitomi put on display next?

A guffaw she just can't stifle that dissolves into merry laughter.

Honoka as a villain? Maybe with some convincing acting and the right outfit she could visually /see/ Honoka, looking like one in costume. But picturing her as one just seems ridiculous in the extreme, especially after talking about her boyfriend and sitting there in a Twilight Star Circus t-shirt sipping her tea. Hardly the first image that sprang to mind when she thought of a villain.

Ash Crimson was way closer than that to her definition of villainy and she wasn't sure about him.

"I'm Sorry! That just seemed ...really funny ... no, not at all."

If she were jealous of anyone it would be this Mizuho person. If they were a rising star AND writing things the circus liked well enough to turn into a long running show? It must be a dream come true for her and she would surely be working hard to realize it!

She sets her elbow on the table and leans her jaw into her cupped palm as she props herself up. It might be rude in polite company but she is trying to imagine the kind of things Honoka was talking about and pretty certain she's way off track, even trying to drem something up over a couple of seconds, her attempts at picturing honoka as a villain are very nearly silly. Obviously enjoying the conversation and drinking in tales about the circus and what was going on in her friends life.

"I'll see the whole thing tonight! I hope."

Sweet smile and plenty of enthusiasm, so long as she didn't get singled out of the audience for a KO like her very first visit to the Twilight Star.

Honoka smiles placidly -- not offended by the laughter in the slightest. Heck, if she would take offense at it, why would she just have put it out there for Hitomi to pick at? "Yeah, I guess Mizuho wrote it with me in mind ... I guess she wanted to challenge me as an actress, especially one who doesn't... y'know, -talk- on stage." She laughs pleasantly: "I gotta say, I think it works!"

Mizuho is... enviable, sure! She's also Hitomi's age, so there is that as well. But it wasn't until recently that the starlet -- someone who can do all of the tricks of the others -- had finally come to heel. The circus exists as its own entity, a collective of all the voices present, and Mizuho is but one. And Honoka, the shadowy queen of the collective, able to steer their thoughts and dreams... managed to find the right combination of words and actions to earn Mizuho's respect.

The puppetmaster smiles back at Hitomi. "Indeed... I think you'll really enjoy it! We got someone to put together an awesome soundtrack for us too, it's pretty epic! In fact..."

As Honoka begins to dig into her small backpack-style purse, an announcement rings out over the aquarium's PA system. "Attention, museum visitors! The dolphin show will begin in just five minutes! The theatre is open, come get your seats before they vanish!"

Honoka smiles back at Hitomi, rising to her feet and reaching for the karateka's hand, the mostly-consumed drink all but forgotten. "Oooh, ooh, let's go watch!"

That would make things a lot harder, acting without speaking was like an interpretive dance but that's kind of what Honoka DOES, only higher, faster and more dramatically. Hitomi is forced to revise her opinions based on her own bias and knowledge of who Honoka wasc if she were seeing the girl for the first time in resplendent costuming, under stage lights moving as she did. She hit hard, swooped and leaped out of reach, she shudders just a little if she weren't so nice at the time and constantly trying to reassuring Hitomi she might have been terrifying.

"I think... I can, kind of see it. I'm sure you can pull it off and be amazing at it!"

Both arms raised in front and fists clenched lightly she is a model picture of enthusiastic encouragement, adamant in belief that Honoka can do it.

She's curious looking at the bag through and wondering how it's relevant to a soundtrack? Wa-was Honoka carrying around more merchandise with her than the t-shirt? Sign a CD for a lucky fan on the street or was she just making leaping to weird assumptions?

As the PA calls for attendance it alarms and her face twists into a faint grimace. They'd already left the aquarium and now the Dolphin show was starting. They'd probably want them to pay admission again to get in and see it and they were going to miss it because of her. She's have to apologise for tha-Eh?

The hand taking her lifts her from her seat at the table and she follows quickly more out of a sense of momentum than comprehension.

"Honoka-chan, Honoka-chaaan!"

Formality doesn't win over urgency and she is just pulled along not even sure of what to think. Back at the stall the owner sticks his head out of the stall and noticed the navy bag sitting on the ground by his stall. Uaaah, Kids today are so forgetful.

Any good con artist knows, the real trick to pulling off trickery is to avail yourself of gaps in situational awareness. A flashy gesture on the left means the right won't be watched as intently; a misdirection goes a long way.

That said, getting Hitomi to forget all about her duffel bag wasn't part of her plan: just an added annoyance. Honoka notices that the item is missing, once she pulls her backpack on and realizes Hitomi isn't lugging her own around like an albatross.

Perceptive people -notice- these sorts of things. You might say Honoka is used to juggling multiple things at once.

She might be getting a bit far from the store owner, but even as the pair races to the gates, she transmits a quick thought to the stall owner as insurance...

// Maybe I should hold onto this. Those kid'sll be right back out after the show anyway. //

That'll keep the bag in a known location, she rationalizes, peripherally taking note of the stall owner's 'thoughtful' action. In front of her: the gate staffer, who remembers Honoka's earlier conversation. The cost of readmission is a grateful smile, a deep bow, and an apology: yeah, they just needed a drink after running around all morning!

With no further ado, Honoka ushers Hitomi inside by the hand. "... This is gonna be so fun! And... hmm... I might have to get a stuffed dolphin when I get out -- it's one I don't have in my menagerie yet...!"

Seriously. Who could mistrust a girl with a stuffed animal collection, right?

-- -- --

"... Kazuhito? Really? ... Huh." If Hitomi had been able to see Honoka's face, she might see that she was a bit unsettled -- which is why she's facing into a corner of the building. But it wouldn't be hard to hear the gravelly growl from her throat as she grumbles responses to the other end of the line that make almost no sense out of context.

The phone call is short, though, and when Honoka turns around, she's smiling as if nothing at all was wrong. "Sorry about that... a little drama going on at the circus." Giving a moment for that thought to sink in, she adds, "Nothing I can do anything about for now, though... "

The dolphin show was pretty exciting -- if one has never seen an aquatic performance before. Several dolphins appear to walk backwards on their tail fins, dolphins spear hula-hoops with their snouts, dolphins catch fish tossed from their trainers in mid-air. It's all spectacular stuff! Dolphins truly are majestic creatures! For Honoka's part, she had been watching with keen interest -- not in the dolphins, but in the trainers, and how they communicated with the animals. As a circus innovator, and a talented juggler, she was more interested in the inner workings of the show than the glitz and glamour of the marine mammals. Not to say she didn't enjoy the show -- far from it, she clapped just as loudly as any of the children present! Rather, her focus was different.

The show did end though, giving the pair time to peruse the other marine exhibits.

But now... the museum trip is over, and Honoka had just gotten off the phone with her circus peeps.

"They should be here in about thirty minutes," continues Honoka. "I'm s'posed to meet them near the train station. We can give you a ride to the show if you want...?"

Now once again in possession of her bag the slightly mortified Hitomi was rather glad the stall owner had finally winding down to a close on a harsh yet well-intentioned lecture on the wasting of food. Sometime while they had been in there it even looked like he had gone to the trouble of reheating or at least adding more hot water to the steamer since her bag was one again piping away. All she could do was keep apologising and bowing her head until he released her, said escape is with slightly slumped shoulder and a guilty looking teen.. auuaaah, I got scolded.

The dolphin show had been well worth the wait, and the surprise when Honoka slipped them back in through the gate and attendants? Did she organize that or was that.. celebrity? She'd warmed up to clapped and cheered through the show like most the rest of the audience and even hugged a small seal that had been guided by its trainer to run up amongst and through the audience where it climbed up into her lap.

"Honoka! Isn't she cute."

Big black eyes, whiskers on a white fluffy ball, like a living stuffed animal. A sea puppy, she thought it was adorable and certainly affectionate. The animals in the show were talented and even the trainers seemed to be having fun with all the acts and stunts. The rest of the exhibits couldn't really compare to the show but at least she was wandering around with a friend and no more freak outs, she had a handle on her emotions, a little nervous but everything was going fine.

Waiting politely far enough to away to not be eavesdropping she waits for Honoka to finish taking the call, it might've been important or they were calling her back to the show. Which had her a little bonus heap of apprehension, Honoka would have to go back to work at some stage, that was a given; And there was the news, as Honoka disengaged form the phone and re-joined her there was the word that she had to head back.

"Mhmm! It's okay. I can't steal you away for a whole day. That'd be great to get a ride."

Not that she wasn't disappointed that time together was running out but glad at the same time, Kind of like last time they really were taking care of Honoka at the circus; picking her up and shuttling her around like a celebrity. Dummy, she is a celebrity! That and they still had a half hour together so, time enough to walk there and change.

"Shall we go?"

Honoka had made a few other arrangements while on the phone. For one, now that the pair is away from the museum proper, they probably wouldn't notice the black Twilight Star van pulling up to the gift shop. What they get... hmm, what -did- they pick up...

Okay. It's a stuffed version of the harp seal pup. Shh!

Nodding cheerily, Honoka assents, "Sure! And... yeah, there's plenty to do in the area -around- the circus... If you'd rather get dropped off somewhere nearby we can do that too, don't mind at all!" Honoka certainly seems cheerful, even despite the previous call -- whatever it was couldn't have been bothering her that much.

So... Honoka's a celebrity? It's hard to really say -- the circus moves a bit too quickly through each area for any of the cast to really gain a reputation anywhere. Even with the circus staying around the Southtown area, none of the cast really seems to have made a tremendous impact upon the locals -- aside from a few uber-nerds who stole all the posters they could. There's always a handful...

Honoka hums as she walks alongside Hitomi through the streets of Aomori City, pulling the yo-yo off her wrist and flicking it through its paces. "This place is alright, but it seems... a little more dangerous than some of the other cities we've toured. Like, Southtown's -big- and all, but everyone watches out for each other there. Not so much here, y'know?" Honoka's eyes scan from left to right, noting a peculiar lack of people on the street. "Y'know... I could've sworn there were a bunch of people on this street a moment ago..."

The street is still, the footfalls of the two young women the sole origin of sound upon the street for a good long while. The streets are full of blind alleys, and buildings come practically right up to the asphalt -- fairly common for a Japanese city that underwent a population explosion faster than the city planners could catch up.

This is only a case in point now, really, for as Honoka walks past an alleyway, she suddenly finds herself yanked into the alley by the arm, and slammed against the wall.

In the blink of an eye, the situation changes from a simple walk down the street, into a brutal confrontation. The Twilight Star juggler's face is contorted in pain as her left arm is wrenched by a 5'10" male in dark, well-tailored attire. Her shoulders are pressed against the side of the building, and her yo-yo swings limply at her side, still tethered to her finger. But with one eye is screwed, and a cry of pain nearly about to erupt from her throat, it doesn't seem like she ... quite... has the will to fight back against her aggressor.

Probably has to do with her captor's two friends, each about 5'8"... Who advance upon Hitomi with a feral look in their eyes, and knives in their hands.

"Let's have some fun, huh? Just us, and you and your friend, how's that sound?" Three on two... not the best odds...? Seems that celebrity also has its price...

A little more dangerous? That was an observation that prompted a reassessment of her surroundings. Nothing here felt especially threatening or looked dangerous. It was quiet and there was a general lack of vehicle and foot traffic, Was that synonymous with danger here? Hands and fingers folded behind her back the girl walking at Honoka's side seems to take an avid interest in her surrounding but not really pick up any signs of trouble. Spending her time training deep in the woods she was rather used to being alone with just the ambient sounds of distant wildlife or birds, the quiet was a little unusual but didn't bother her.


A first she isn't sure that the performer wasn't playing a prank or a game with her because she didn't see- her eyes adjust to the scene and a sudden sinking feeling she now might be experiencing what Honoka may have been worried about. The men advancing on her meet no resistance as one slips his arm around her waist and the props his knife up in front of her, she's still trying to digest how this could happen while he's twisting it back and forth like he was showcasing it to someone interested rather than forcefully trying to intimidate her. The way he's leaning in close she not sure wether he's trying to smell her or whisper something to her, either way; she's not interested!!

Lung-9, then turn upwards.

A knife clatters on the ground near a pair of white and blue striped sneakers, a too loud metal and wooden alternating rattle in the confined space but now there's little impediment to her movement or escape. The movement was mechanical and precise, a press of a button and twist to make the arm move out of her way with less resistance then that offered by a turnstile.

The man who had slipped an arm around her hardly even has time to grunt in discomfort let alone pain before she just seems to push the arm away and she just keeps going toward Honoka and deeper still into the trap.

The way Honoka's face is twisted, he's hurting her. There's all manner of martial action Hitomi could take, attacking to cripple or lame an opponent who wasn't even looking at her, cold cock and knock him right out she could possibly really hurt him. All these dark impulses and worries born of fear and hurried reaction to a threat.

Lung-5 and Heart-5.

Sinking her index finger firmly onto the points on the underside of the wrist and in the crook of the elbow she presses with more and more strength, inexorably increasing the pressure as she turns the arm back toward herself; Weakening and peeling that arm off of Honoka and pushing it back toward it's owner. Blood is thundering in her ears, heart in her chest Hitomi is truthfully scared and feeling vulnerable with people who want to hurt or do worse to her at her back, that guys touch was just gross - entirely unwanted but there's no way she can abide someone being hurt like this in front of her, most especially a good friend.

Now interposing her body between these three guys and Honoka she spreads her arms wide, she's not letting anyone by her but still loathe to actually attack or inflict harm. What kind of jerks conduct themselves like this?? This was lower than the lowest.

"Honoka, are you-?"

Okay, alright, well? None of those really seemed to fit the situation and she can't risk more than a glance in Honoka's direction now she might have made them mad, they might be less dangerous knowing the girls could defend themselves, or more.

This wasn't Honoka's first time in Aomori -- nor the second, third, or even the tenth. Suffice to say, the puppetmaster knew where the local gangs tended to congregate. And where they'd be likely to prowl during the early morning, when the police are finishing up handling the morning rush hour and taking a much-needed break.

It also helps that Honoka had sensed only negative, predatory emotions in the area, allowing her to foreshadow the mood for Hitomi's benefit. From there, it was as simple as putting the thoughts directly into the unwitting gangsters' heads. Their boss would be so proud of them, for bringing back two pretty young women as morale boosters after the morning's encounter with the Empress.

Honoka had projected the exact feelings that need to be communicated for maximal effect. No indirectness, no slyness -- just a direct frontal attack to force Hitomi into action: to prove whether the seemingly fragile karateka would put her skills to use on demand.

When compliance was expected, attacks were doled out instead. When flailing, inefficient use of brute force was expected, expert nerve strikes were delivered. Destabilized, the first two gangsters drop to the ground, clutching their wrists and arms in agony -- not unlike Honoka had mere moments ago. Muttered cursing ensues, but the severity and intensity of the strikes was such to preempt any further attack from those two...

The one attacking Honoka was the most surprised, though. Predators feed on the fear of their captives, and Honoka was doling it out in waves, hoping to embolden him, to give Hitomi even more of a reason to strike. And strike she did, catching the man's arm and flinging it aside as if it were made of gelatin rather than flesh and bone. Staggering backwards, he stumbles clumsily to the ground, before clambering back to his feet, fists cocked at his side. "C'mon, you two... bash their brains out!"

While Honoka's attacker's two compatriots fumble around in search of their knives, the juggler stares back at them. "... I'm... fine, Hitomi, thank you..." she manages, shaken with a cold stare back at her aggressor... who reconsiders the attack entirely, stepping back. The three-on-two fight no longer seems to be balanced in their favor, as Honoka's yo-yo starts spinning again.

// No sense in fighting them now that they're both on guard... Next time, take -both- down at once. //

The words echo dully in the minds of the gang members -- so quietly, as if the thoughts hadn't been left there by another voice. Without another word, the three withdraw, back into the labyrinthine alleyways of Aomori City.

Honoka's breathing is shallow as she forges a smile up to Hitomi. "You... you did it, you... you saved us both!" she gasps. "What... I didn't even realize what was going on, you... fought them off so quickly...!"

Repetition is an easy way of reinforcing the lessons that need to be retained.

Taut and wary, simmering toward a theoretically disant boiling point and swimming in adrenaline Hitomi remains on point tense and disbelieving at an almost incomprehensible threat she could never have understood even in the best of times, BASH their brains OUT?! Were they insane, bluffing? Or... were they actually as dangerous as advertised? The absurdity of the situation just seems to make it feel even worse and even more surreal, that someone might act like this to two girls who were just walking down the street minding their business. These guys, they just kept sinking lower and lower in her estimation.

The worried grimace on hearing of their intent pulls down into an actual scowl and further response as skimming one foot forward she sets and twists the foot and ankle on the concrete; forming a root and anchoring herself; fighting the urge to draw her arms into any kind of stance that might provoke them ... run away! don't make me hurt you!!

The words from behind are a gigantic relief, as is the fact at least one of the attackers responds to it by taking a step back, yeah!! Even if Honoka was as shaken as she sounded Hitomi is glad she seems to be okay but most of all.. It's a morale boost and a relief. She had lost in a fair fight before to Honoka, if it were just her she would be more confidant in her ability to outrun a situation like this but with a partner even stronger at her back, they were strong.

The two of them weren't going to be losing this! Bringing her hands to the centre of her body and pressing the hands together, One arm punches forward and other drawn in and back in a singular motion with kiai.


Her heart is aflame, her spirits high and look fierce, if it turns into a brawl she'd meet them head on, Honoka's style was more acrobatic and she fought with diablos and those sticks, maybe she could do something with that yoyo but either way they weren't getting to her again, both because of how acrobatic she was and the karateka that just happened to be in the way.

Then they broke and started to just amble away like their business was concluded, walking off with hands stuffed into pockets and bow legged thuggish strides with what looked like a mix of disappointment and contempt for the girls.

Uuughhhh, Hitomi straightens and rises properly back to her feet, head falling forward as she exhales with relief at that escape. It probably wasn't exactly a narrow one; but! nobody had gotten hurt and that was the best possible outcome... right?

Discarding those thoughts with a modest headshake Hitomi rounds on Honoka with an exuberant and relieved smile before the overwhelmingly affectionate embrace and then push back out to almost arm's length. H-had she really saved them both? Those guys didn't turn tail until Honoka also joined at her back, when said she was fine. Was she really?

"Ho-no-ka! -- You aren't hurt anywhere?"

The look of pain on her face had worried Hitomi at the time, especially with a knife being flashed in her face just scant seconds later but she didn't seem to be injured even though that was probably - no, it was definitely kind of terrifying in some weird ways, she wasn't afraid of them, but she was afraid of what they would do. If per some weird chance they wanted 'revenge' or to settle things, good luck to them. She was only visiting this city, but Honoka was here to stay for a while and would feature on some of those posters.

"Maybe- we should hurry, before something else happens."

Gang members are rarely known for eloquence or precision in their threats: 'bash their brains out' could have simply been a turn of phrase. It's unlikely anyone would find two girls literally lacking brains to be much use. The gang members slink off, arms curled up around their wounds -- Hitomi seemed to have hurt them a bit more than she may have wanted, and the defiant stances from Hitomi and Honoka combined seem to have done their job of warding off the attack... for now.

Whether they plan to gather some of their friends, though, that's another story entirely.

Honoka still... finds Hitomi's use of the word 'ossu' as amusing, though it doesn't show beyond a faint smile. "Man. You beat them sideways before they even know what hit them. No wonder they ran off so fast -- battlecries notwithstanding..."

She doesn't get to lay on too much -more- praise though, as she's party to a rather large hug! The juggler smiles warmly as she leans into the hug, shaking her head. "Uh-uh... my arm's a bit sore, yeah? And my back's scraped up a bit, but I'll be fine for tonight... Are you? You moved so fast I couldn't even tell. It seemed like you hit all three of them at -once!-"

The best way to lie is to actually believe it -- and, for the moment, Honoka is genuinely impressed. She'd expected the gangsters to have caught hold of the young woman first.

"... Mm, yeah," she agrees, upon considering the last statement. Flipping her yo-yo back onto her wrist, she tilts her head. "Let's hurry up... but don't forget your duffel bag this time, hmm?"

The station is not far of a walk -- and for the moment, there seem to be plenty of people around. Much less chance of a vengeance attack with all these witnesses about, ambling towards the station in anticipation of the next departure.

A Battlecry? For a moment after the hug Hitomi seemed confused but quickly fills in the blanks to try and grasp what Honoka was talking about. Oh, that! And her duffel bag was still slung across her chest, shoulder to hip and -- she's looking down to check anyway despite the fact she can feel it against her hip. A prime candidate for a 'made you look.' Moh! Was Honoka playing with her to lighten the mood? She releases her grip on Honoka to take stock of it and herself. That was the first time roughians had ever really accosted her, but her training had kind of paid off in some measureable ways. Papa, you'd be glad to know that.

Hitomi, Our training is very demanding. You push yourself until you think you've reached your limit. First your body wants to stop, but your mind keeps pushing you. Then your mind wants to stop, but your spirit keeps you going. You endure the pain. You persevere. Even for the beginner, who is conscious of his lack of training and does not necessarily want to face the demands of training, it is enough merely being aware that through perseverance and the will to continue, there comes great physical, mental, spiritual and emotional gains. All that is needed is that special determination. This is a family tradition -- but a hard road. Do you really want to follow this path? "Os-


A questioning tone in her voice and faint quirk of her head; supposed she had said it after all. It wasn't really intended like that! But, if it worked like a battle cry well enough to have helped stop a fight then she had -Absolutely- no complaints about that. She can't hide her amusement that it might work like that though, it seemed awfully ironic or maybe she was just giddy with relief.

The reaction to the positioning and the knife and twisting the wrist and knife blade away from her was like it was automated, she just did it without thinking and even while doing it was about as emotionally involving as 'press here and turn this way' tab A into slot B. Yet at the same time, painful if not damaging things to do to another human being, that wasn't something she was especially proud of. She raises her own hand to take the hand of Honoka's uninjured arm and starts back to the street, the talking can wait until they were safely walking well away from here. Well away form this time, place and moment.

"MNnnn, It was more a reminder for myself: Oshi Shinobu! ...persevere whilst being pushed."

It's an unusual topic to bring up while they were walking, but she has to fight the urge to go into the whole lecture or speech about their warrior way and how things are done in the dojo, because for right now.. the dojo wasn't a part of her life, For perhaps one of the first times ever but she was responsible for what she did with what strength she had; her style which leant itself more toward being aggressive she had to temper or balance that, remind herself of it. Some things were easier to endure than other however, her time with Ash Crimson and that mysterious ninja atop the volcano had taught her she had a long way to go before she could endure things like that without letting them affect her as they had, but she knew she had a long way to go.

"My family runs a dojo, they have since I was really little, when grandpa was still with us."

He was no longer of course, the dojo passed down to her father and eventually it would belong to her and be her responsibility, to pass those teachings down to her children.

As Hitomi sorts through her various thoughts, curating the best ones out to share with her friend, Honoka is paying careful mind to her physical and mental state. Adrenaline -- well, that's just a given, considering what just happened, the surge of excitement being enough to flood the muscles with oxygen when they need it most. And... from the appearances, Hitomi is able to dial it back quite quickly indeed.

The mark of a true fighter. She may act naive and childlike from time to time, but even without the carefully selected words, the years of training would be clear to Honoka.

A ready and eager soul in a powerful body -- the ideal soldier. The fact that Hitomi responded clearly upon instinct and prior training is perhaps the most valuable lesson Honoka could have learned...

Though she is definitely pleased to see Hitomi's cheerful demeanor wash away the bad mood. The Twilight Star juggler hastens her pace, keeping up with Hitomi in the not-quite-race to get to the preordained meeting place ahead of schedule. There's still some time to go before the van arrives, after all, but safety in numbers!

Honoka's pleasant smile fades a bit when Hitomi tells of a grandfather that's no longer around -- but only to a slight frown. "It's good that you've learned martial arts, but there's more to life than fighting, yeah. I'm glad you have the opportunity to get out and do fun stuff every once in a while, right?" She doesn't intend disrespect -- just trying to keep the focus on the positive emotions rather than the bittersweet memories.

Far off in the distance, the Twilight Star van can be seen. Honoka holds up her hand in a cheerful wave. "Hey, looks like they're a bit early..."

Honoka doesn't really seem to talk about herself in return, instead she asks a further question; in an attempt at being responsible or mature Hitomi devotes some time thinking about how best to answer.

"Eheh... I don't actually fight that much! A few small karate tournaments more or less close to home. Nothing major."

Nothing at all major or even significant, until she stuck her neck out to try her hand in a few of the local tournaments here in Japan, the Neo-league, A local Highschool Tournament and even the Trouble in Paradise tournament on tropical Zack Island. If anything she was quite the novice especially when it came to fighting mixed martial arts practitioners, knowledge of exotic styles and facing people familiar with karate in its various forms.

Everything she did was fun in some way or another! There were too many to list or bore a friend with, Nothing particularly to stand out in amongst the things she enjoyed that defined her as a person 'My name is Hitomi and-

"I like to sew, and cook."

But those weren't things she did to get 'out' they were rather homebody type skills. That last part was out loud wasn't it? Index finger curled and pressed to her chin while deep in thought; being such a boisterous and energetic girl they weren't probably the hobbies that leapt to mind when people pictured her. It was natural for her to play soccer, hike and cycle everywhere, hi-energy expending fun. Sewing and cooking were perhaps her most polished or advanced skills, the things she took pride in and thought were productive uses of her time, but they were also the things that earned her the most compliments so maybe that's why she'd worked so hard to refine those particular skills.

That was an embarrassing thought. But in hindsight and thinking about it? She never really did get 'out' and away that much, a family business and training some of the student and lower grades herself.

Hitomi notices at a glance the gesture of greeting from Honoka and follows direction at speed to spot the Van where it is parked. Likewise in her own fashion she greets her own way, an enthused overhead wave with her free arm and drawing her unoccupied hand to her face to better direct the loud


That hand half-cupped to her face does little to direct an overly enthusiastic call that's bouncing and pealing around the street and well audible over the distances involved. Some people on the street turn to look whilst others politely and very deliberately don't which is even more telling. Only half-Japanese, light brown hair and western enough mannerisms that didn't quite fit or belong. On the surface she looked enough like she may belong but she very clearly fails to follow any form of proper public-

"Here-we -go!"

Starting to speed up Hitomi has every intent of running the rest of the way to the van, now there was the premise of meeting some other folk from the circus and-

Sometimes it was just fun to run.

Perhaps Hitomi's caught onto the fact that Honoka prefers to talk about other people rather than herself. But unless the puppetmaster is called on it, she'll continue prying, with seemingly innocent curiosity, into the affairs of others.

What Hitomi says 'a few small tournaments' is a mere deflection from the fact that she's had several tournaments before age eighteen. And, of course, she's been in several fights in the few brief months that Honoka's been paying attention, to say the least.

And she likes to sew. And cook. That brings a crooked smile to the juggler's face. The psychic can sense the wellspring of pride Hitomi expresses... and yet, there's something missing.

She does not get to act on this sensation right away though, as Hitomi's already broken into a run for the van. The juggler takes a moment to slap her palm against her forehead, giving a melodramatic sigh for effect before jogging along after Hitomi -- making only a token effort to keep up.

It's not like the van will leave without her, after all.

Sudo is driving the van, and he cracks a broad smile as he pulls to the side of the road to wait. "Hi there, Miss Hitomi..." He glances over to Honoka, questionably...

"Got room for a tagalong?" calls out Honoka in response. A few moments later she's able to catch up, coming alongside Hitomi and casually wrapping an arm about her middle. No, this degree of friendliness is not typical behavior for a Japanese girl -- but when has Honoka been -typical?-

Van doors slide open, and two dense black eyes greet her. Once Hitomi's eyes adjust to the light, she'll be able to see that they belong to a white seal plush, about the size of her duffel bag, and that the seal plush is being held by two of the circus staff. An assortment of grocery bags and full cardboard boxes fills the majority of the van, but it would seem that there is indeed space for two more inside.

Honoka flashes a guilty (or is it smug?) smile back at Hitomi. "Oh, yeah, forgot to mention that. Silly me!"

Once the doors slide close and the passengers belt up, Honoka glances over at the karateka. "... So, like we were saying. You say you 'like' to cook and sew, but how many tournaments and challenges have you entered for sewing and cooking? I hear those can be quite... competitive fields as well, hmm?" Perhaps Honoka is questioning Hitomi's mettle -- daring her into attempting tournaments for those fields as well if she hasn't already.

During the initial speeding up she retains a hold of Honoka's hand but as the trailing arm grip strains she releases her hold and continues her run, picking up even more speed now with both arms trailing behind her like a TV-show ninja run and complete with duffelbag bouncing at the small of her back she jets down the road some only having to weave past a couple of confused pedestrians. She wasn't about to pull Honoka along after her but she had no intent in slowing down until the van begins to glide in close to her position. She knew that face!

"Sudo! O~hai-yo!"

Theres at least 110% more genki emanating from and visible in her demeanour as she leans her hands into the van window frame and excitedly starts chatting with Sudo in the brief moment between her arrival and Honoka's.

The hand snaking about her doesn't elicit even a hint of complaint, contrary to it she turns to smile at Honoka and back abruptly at the sound of a van door sliding open. . .


Honoka had gotten a huge seal plushie! It looked just like the baby seal from the aquarium, /it kind of did look suspiciously similar to the very real pup/ that was how close those animals already were to plush adorable dolls. The fact it wasn't moving and didn't respond in terror or surprise to the karateka's squeal of surprise and apparent delight would be one of the most significant tells it wasn't actually alive.

"You got a seal after all! I knew you liked it."

She'd already gotten to cuddle a real one, for whatever reason it had chosen to only climb into her lap before moving on so she was really glad that Honoka had gotten one for herself to cuddle up to.

She interprets the quirked grin as discomfort or maybe guilt and wraps her own arm around Honoka with a reassuring and forgiving squeeze before climbing into the open door of the van first and patting the seal atop the head on her way past with a.

"Good girl, Good girl."

Belting herself in, and twisting that awkward duffel around into her lap so she could sit comfortably her thanks to the driver and fellow passengers for the lift is pre-empted by Honoka resumption of the earlier conversation. ~Awkward~ suddenly Hitomi's eyes flicker to the others and Sudo also in the van before replying.

"Umm. . . none... really. I'd have to have some training and learn first."

That delivery was strained, it felt odd to be talking about personal stuff in a car full of people. She was most definitely not interested in tournaments that way. N-no way was she going to compete against people with what was just self-taught and magazine derived skills; she was a hobbyist at best right? They were just productive and useful skills! Everybody enjoyed good food and tailoring your own clothes was a natural evolution of repairing and patching mats and Gi. They were both great help stretching a budget just a bit further.

Jira-san had helped add some more techniques and tricks to her repertoire that would probably eventuate into some cute outfits; nothing to really write home about. All she had to claim as her own that wasn't emulated was her branding some of her clothing with the eagle that banner bearing her name on a few of her outfits, some personalization.

"Next year when I finish school maybe I'll look for some kind of classes. ...I've heard going to a college for that kind of thing can get pretty expensive. It might take a while to save up enough."

It should have been at least a little daunting, and it wasc rightly so. It was also some grand future adventure to undertake and something to look forward to. Was Honoka really this interested in her? She hardly ever seemed to talk about herself.

Whatever shyness and awkwardness Hitomi might be feeling is reflected in the two circus staffers who came along on the trip. They carry the baby seal plushie into the van -- though one of them seems perfectly content to let Hitomi caretend it for the trip if she so chooses. They don't seem terribly concerned about the conversation, though...

And if Honoka didn't notice their unease, they would've stayed quiet. She looks back and rubs the back of her head. "Oh, look at me being a rude hostess! Hitomi-chan, meet Hiyama-san and Kitano-san, they keep the circus from starving!"

Still, the two remain shy, but they bow their heads in greeting. "Pleasure to meet you," they ring out in stereo, laughing in slight embarassment. Such is the manner of Japanese manners!

"So, um... if you're looking for some experience, Hiyama-san and Kitano-san might be able to give some pointers on cooking at volume?" Honoka thinks for a moment, before turning back to Kitano: "Just so long as you aren't hoping to make banana creme pies..." From her wink, and Kitano's awkward laughter, it seems to be an inside joke...

But not one that Honoka will dwell on. "It's like anything, though... practice makes perfect! You don't necessarily need to spend money having other people tell you how to do stuff, just let your heart guide you. And once you find yourself getting stuck, when you don't think you can learn any more on your own, then you'll be able to focus your time with a teacher or mentor rather than spending time with the basics, right?"

Honoka is... pretty much a living example of that, after all -- being someone who jumped headlong into a circus career without any real skill at it. Though maybe her view of the world is shaped by her peculiar set of talents.

Without any real warning, she reaches over and pats the seal pup on the head, smiling. "Oh, um, do you have room at your place for a friend like this? I mean, there's room in my trailer of course, I can always ask my littly furry friends to make room, but you seemed to like the aquarium so much..." Her eyes twinkle, suggesting that maybe the seal was intended to be a gift all along.

Hitomi returns the bow offered by the brothers in a timely fashion, as much as the seatbelt and bag in her lap will allow with cheery grin.

%"Pleased to meet you, my name is Hitomi. Please be nice to me."

It's a textbook introduction but form someone who is trying to mind her manners and her Japanese rather than speak like the gaijin she actually was, also similar to the way that she had introduced herself to Honoka once upon a time not-really-that-long ago.

Her initial warm smile and turns into a questioning and then hopeful look with Honoka's explanation of their role and suggestion. They must be pretty experienced if they were regularly cooking for a literal troupe! Weaponized and levelled right at both brothers she ramps up the wattage on that smile, clapping both hands together in front of her she appeals to their good nature with a


She is actually perfectly serious but willing to let it go if they look uncomfortable or worried about it.

Honoka continues her attention drifts that way, listening with a complete lack of comprehension behind baby blue eyes she nods anyway but.. doesn't get it - not a bit! It runs contrary to a lot of her character and upbringing but she doesn't want to make waves by disagreeing with what sounded like good free advice from someone she liked that just -- couldn't really be followed or acted on.

What might have started as a chortle seeing Honoka reach out to pet the toy hitches in her throat and chokes it off as she computes through the tempting offer.

"Nooo-way, you got that for me?'

She's completely floored and flattered, vividly can recall how much she adored the actual seal pup as well as spending time together with Honoka here. But that was too much. Reaching out for either side of her best-friend's face she pulls and leans in closer and gently touches her forehead to Honoka's with just a touch of her weight, eyes drifting closed. The height difference was just a little noticeable at this point.

"...Honoka. You don't need to keep treating me. I wanted to come see you, and have very fond memories of today already."

Pure unbridled affection and adoration for Honoka, her attraction to the cute toy wasn't blinding her to the fact that Honoka liked the pup toy also; she wasn't the only one that could use a souvenir of the day /aaaaand/ Hitomi already had one in mind for herself. Provided they didn't sell out of t-shirts or anything.

Honoka's suggestion gets a faint smile out of the food prep crew -- though with Hitomi making her empassioned request, it's hard for the two red-blooded guys to even consider refusing! "O-of course!" stammers Kitano; "S-sure thing!" adds Hiyama a moment later. They bow their heads rapidly for lack of anything else to do.

As Honoka's claim is met with glazed-over eyes, Sudo calls from the driver's seat: "Don't mind Hono-chan," he adds, his smirk visible in the thin rearview mirror. "She's basically saying that since she never took classes to follow her dreams, you should be alright skipping them too." Of all the Twilight Star personnel in the van, Sudo's been with the circus the longest -- he's one of the few who remembers what it was like before the juggler knew how to juggle. "But everyone learns differently -anyway-, so follow your heart."

Honoka bristles, color flooding to her cheeks as she draws back in her seat. "Well, I guess I need a translator! Thanks a -lot-, Sudo!" But it's all in good fun, as she breaks into an amiable smile afterwards.

And then Hitomi's upon her. As the two touch, Hitomi would likely get a sense of Honoka's embarassment, mixed with the sense of her feeling cornered and afraid. Honoka's lips press together, as she flounders for words to deal with -that- mix of emotions.

"... I just... buying things for other people I like makes me feel happy, you know?" The tip of her tongue pokes out; she's trying to at least keep it from being -too- uncomfortable. There -are- guys watching, after all. "O-okay, how 'bout this then, one of us keeps him and the other can borrow whenever, is that better?" She laughs gently, upon realizing she's -probably- been layering this friendship thing on a bit too thick...

Oh, so that was the crux of what she was getting at? It made better sense when simplified like that but the better part of the story was... Honoka wasn't trained or went to a school to become skilled like she is now? Finally she gets to know some titbit about Honoka or her past and how she got to where she is.

Hmm-hm!-Hmn, that put her in an even better mood. When she finally does open her eyes she notes the rising blush, she'd done it again! Gone and embarrassed someone Japanese by being too forward acting like she might back home.

"Sorry...! But you can't keep spending your hard earned money on me. Next time let's just go Dutch."

Baby faced cheeks split with an even wider smile in response to the poked out tongue and eventual relent, letting loose her hold and sitting back in her own spot out of Honoka's personal space. The stuffed toy really was too cute and she'd avoided even looking at how much they cost.

"Hmmm, Okay! I can understand how it might. Just this one time, but if you want to share something like that in future we have to go in equally on it. Promise?"

She folded pretty fast on that point just now but she really did adore the plush animal and had absolutely no qualms with maybe being able to borrow it sometime, just the fact Honoka was the only one who paid for it.

Not even the vaguest hint of embarrassment in the fact that they were being watched or really in what she had done. Faintly concerned about Honoka and how she felt but largely just -- happy. She had now met the other two young men, knew Sudo and just seemed to be largely inured and resistant to the concept of shame, yet the same girl earlier who was ashamed she was crying after what she thought was a silly scare.

"Sudo! What was young Honoka like?!"

It's a tease, but she's also probing for information directly and openly, information which Honoka has been dancing around or just content to leave unspoken. She'd gotten a teeny bit of information and was even more hooked on finding out more... Confidant Sudo wouldn't hurt Honoka with anything he chose to talk about but it might not hurt to ask!

The peril in being someone as driven by emotions as Honoka is... sometimes it's hard to tell whether she's putting on an act, or whether she's actually feeling the emotions she's expressing. This... is one of those cases, as the puppetmaster seems to have overdone the 'friendship' angle a bit much -- and it's beginning to backfire upon her.

"I... I can and I will, ahaha!" she retorts, once more sticking out her tongue at Hitomi as she leans back in her seat. She enjoys the return of her personal space, making sure to express -that- emotion with a warm smile afterwards.

The two cooks are somewhat amused to see the interplay between the juggler and her karateka friend -- but they dare not say -too- much in that regard as the juggler's reputation for ferocity is known all throughout the circus.

Sudo, though, was Honoka's favored bruiser for several years; he's less timid about it. And he has more dirt on her. Chuckling softly as he turns the van past an interchange, he shakes his head. "Brash, arrogant... heck, if you want to see what she was like then, just check out Mizuho -now-, she's practically the spitting image of Honoka. Only... Honoka was a lot more klutzy. One time she was--"

"Don't tell her that, Sudo..." interrupts Honoka -- with more of an edge of danger than embarassment.

Unperturbed, Sudo continues, "... Heh. She was bound and determined to master one jump on the trapeze, and kept trying, trying, and trying. She'd spent all night trying to master it, and the next morning I found her asleep on the safety net, just as snug as if she was in a hammock."

Honoka seems less perturbed than she could have been. "Okay. That story's fine." And meanwhile, she gives Sudo a silent reminder that he can keep the rest on the downlow, before turning back to Hitomi with a smile. "See? Practice makes perfect."

I can and I will? That's good enough as a promise for an affirmative nod in the face of welcome laughter and return smile, having a tongue poked out at her was just Honpoka being cute. Hands settle atop the bag in her lap as Sudo captures and begins to thrill with such a comparison, Honoka had already told her how impressive this Mizuho was and it seemed like... she was like a younger Honoka? Hitomi couldn't wait to see her!

It was a pretty cute and heart-warming story as well, if Honoka had climbed as far as she was with hard work then that was plenty admirable and the tale has her hooked and listening to every word. The well-timed interruption of the story causes her to turn bright doe eyes towards Honoka. But ... story? She was obviously concerned about and it was none of her business to really press for- ...But Sudo continues!

The scope and level of that hard work though? Falling and trying again until she fell asleep. That made an impression, maybe you needed that kind of dedication and drive to climb so high so very fast. Amazing.


Directed Honoka's way, she was... and she wasn't. The story Sudo had told was both cute and a little bit insightful into who Honoka was. I'd be hard to regret learning any of the things she did, if nothing else it was about what ambitions and work it took to get this far.


In karate it much of it was about forever practicing the fundamentals and basics until they were instinctual and automatic, Ren ma: always polishing until they were Mushin: No mind. To overcome the frustration and boredom in doing so you needed patience and determination and perseverance, you needed Ossu. If she thought about it like that, it was so familiar it was second nature.

"Thank you Sudo. I might've gotten you in trouble."

She really hoped she hadn't and that everything was still fine between the circus staff, She liked the way they got along so well together the last time they'd met and there had been come prickling and teasing going on back and forth then. It's kind of why she'd expected Honoka to maybe tease her earlier.

Hitomi really likes hearing about the younger Honoka, it would seem. Sudo has no shortage of stories to tell, but if Hitomi wants to hear them, she might want to ask him when the subject isn't subtly steering the conversation to her own ends.

Like when she shrugs her shoulders at Hitomi in reponse to the apology -- the shrug that would accompany a 'No problem' when there actually is a problem.

Or when she steers the conversation back to 'practice makes perfect' -- the entire raison d'etre for the trip down Memory Lane to begin with.

Or when she kinda disregards her apology to Sudo -- even though he smiles and waves his hand. Hard to really convey body language from the front seat to the back cabin, but he manages to. "It's no problem," he says, and unlike Honoka he means it.

Which isn't to say that Honoka -acts- like a bad hostess - far from it, she's smiling. It is, in fact, gentle teasing, and she's not making -that- big a deal about it -- but she'd like to move on, just the same.

"I think you'll love Mizuho, she's a character. Very, um... obsessive about the 'right' way to do things, and kind of funny if you like starting fights with that sort of person? But the truth is she's a real softie once you get past the hard shell."

From the front seat, the deep voice carries over, "Kind of like--"

"Sudo, you're already on notice, don't push it!" chides Honoka with a wry smirk and a mock snort of derision.

Fuaaah, she might really have gotten them in trouble with that line of questioning and Sudo providing a summary view of Honoka like that -right- in front of her. In a way, it was kind of cheating to just flat out ask to learn something about someone like that, rude and not really the purpose at all behind polite or nuanced conversation subject by subject or years of association. She was confronted by someone who was choosing to remain closed and yet fascinated enough to take a run at it. Thus, she had pried.


Yeah. They were both at least a little in trouble with Honoka.

And there they were acting like that again, Sudo and Honoka seemed really close to Hitomi's eye but as she already knew it wasn't 'that' kind of relationship since she'd heard about the boyfriend who was gone for the moment, this just looked like a really strong... Familial kind of bond. Love and adore but don't mind the teasing and the fighting. Just looking back between the two of them she enjoys the interplay and finds it interesting, from the perspective of an only child; it really was!

She was kind of the odd one out, Sudo and Honoka had this kind of relationship, the two brothers were synchronous sometimes in their movements but in the very least seemed to understand each other really well. Everyone else was pretty high level or had spent a long or lifetime forging the bonds between them, they were all enviable and enjoyable people to be around.

Honoka acts like she's mad -- but even that act is transparent enough that it can be seen as jesting in good fun. It's not like the puppetmaster would let Sudo tell anything -really- juicy without some form of retribution, anyway.

Besides. Letting a few vulnerabilities show is actually not -counter- to her plan. After all, the more Hitomi thinks that Honoka is a sweet, innocent, and vulnerable girl from the boonies, the better!

But really... Honoka just wants Hitomi to feel welcome in the circus. It should be a safe place she can visit whenever she's felling glum and particularly vulnerable. And she'll be much more likely to do so if, well, there are people like -her- there. Flawed humans, with approachable vulnerabilities, not the porcelain goddesses up on a pedestal that Hitomi had believed Honoka to be at first.

"Have you ever thought about working with the circus for a little while, Hitomi?" She glances over at the two from the kitchen staff idly for a moment, before turning back to Hitomi. "Might be a good opportunity, if you get a long weekend or something..."

Hiyama speaks up at this point: "We could always use a few helping hands on Fridays and Saturdays, that's when it gets insane. But we don't really have enough to spring for fulltime help during the weekdays, so we're kind of in a bind."

Kitano adds -- not truly a brother, but close enough sometimes -- "Yeah! You could see how things work in a real high-stress environment..."

Honoka taps her forehead, thinking for a moment. "And if you really want some practice sewing, I could introduce you to our costume designer... maybe bring some projects home with you for the week. I can run it by her anyway...?"

Honoka is all about providing options -- though the time for conversation is running short as the Twilight Star big top dominates the horizon.

Apologies out of the way Hitomi is just sitting quietly and trying to enjoy the trip, that and her eyes have been glued to the circus in the distance ever since its first appearance as she peers past Sudo in the direction of their intended destination, a slight crane to her neck as she struggles to make it out.

Honoka's sudden query jars her thoughts, leaving them in tattered disarray as Hitomi beginning to grow a flustered. Was that ever a real option, really? -REALLY- really?

Hiyama's brief speech and about the where and when they actually could use help does start her excitedly trying to remember her schedule and factoring in travel time, could she even be here since she was living in Southtown while attending Taiyo. Opportunities like this don't really just fall in your lap every day and thus at least for a moment she's fixated on whether it could even be possible to make the commute, let alone of the school was happy to let her work part time. Practically applying where and what she can do, 'Practice to make perfect after all.'

"That would bec a great help!"

She's almost sold. Teetering right on the brink and just faintly disappointed, by the time she finished class on Friday and made the commute all the way-


Hooked! line and sinker. The premise that there was work she could do even at home during the week rendered this almost a no brainer; she had a lot of free time on her hands she was just trying to fill in time. Clapping hands down toward her lap she twists in her seat toward Honoka all rainbow bright and boundless enthusiasm.

"Mh! I could really work with you guys?"

Bright eyes on the verge of tears, brimming. If it weren't for the travel costs she probably wouldn't haven't even balked if the job had paid her nothing at all, she never even asked how much it did paid did she? That was never a factor.

Honoka observes Hitomi's reactions carefully. It's exciting to the puppetmaster, to strategically bombard the young woman's will with so many enticing opportunities, and to watch her teetering so close to acceptance. Timing... is everything.

And yet... Honoka can still detect the reservation in the young woman's eyes, the doubt of whether she can actually commit to such a task. Is it location? Honoka looks to the kitchen help...

Kitano volunteers: "We've had a few highschoolers help out every now and again -- Mutsumi, our travel agent, helps us nab some discount passes on the trains so we can visit our families, so it shouldn't be a big deal to hook you up with some of those. And the circus also knows that school events and exams and whatnot pop up, so if you aren't able to make it for a few weeks, that's fine too!"

Honoka nods quietly. "It's all about keeping things fun for the audience! The more people we have on overflow days, the more we can focus on keeping kids happy, right?" Honoka beams helpfully, hoping to invoke Hitomi's memory of the lost child from her second circus visit.

The van pulls to a stop, and as Kitano and Hiyama motion for the ladies to leave first, the juggler follows suit, allowing Hitomi to experience the circus atmosphere first. The circus is a hotbed of activity, with the performers training outdoors and the remainder of the kitchen staff busily preparing for the lunch rush.

Fun for the audience? That was a lot of responsibility but... potentially it could also be incredibly fun. Knowing something you did put a smile on someone's face or were the reason they had enjoyed themselves. It's like everything said was at least a little reassuring her that she COULD do this, somehow, step-by-step with suppoort everybody seemed to be willingly offering. She wouldn't cry!

Releasing the buckle Hitomi stoops over while standing in response to the 'ladies first' style gentlemanly offer and no hurry on Honoka's part. Turning her pleated skirt towards the boys she fidgets with the handle and takes a moment to collect herself -- On some levels she knows it would be fun, on others she afraid of just how hard or how much work it is to be able to accomplish that, but, there was the possibility of treasured experiences and things she could pick up. The door slides open briskly and the exterior is just too bright, she hops into a leap out and takes a couple more steps that rapidly diminish in lengths of stride as eyes adjust once again.


The wind builds rushing through the clearing and the compound stirring the hem of the skirt and her forcing one of her eyes shut as the breeze catches up threads of her tawny brown hair and whips them about into her face. She raises a hand to shield her face and combs the mass back with her fingertips until intensity of the breeze drops away. She didn't mind the wind at all; it carried a lot of fresh scents, and set the canvas and streamers of the circus flapping and waving. It made for one heck of a first impression; it was a lot broader and larger seeming now that there was so much more than just the premise of gift shops and the show inside that gigantic seeming Big Top.

Taking another hesitant step forward she just turns her head left to right to try and see all the things she'd missed last time she was here, but even the geography had changed since the last time she'd seen it last, it was all new and exotic and different.

Spinning on her heel she catches both her hands behind her, entwining her fingers and slightly bent forward at the waist in posture with her attention directed back to her friends and the van, feeling as light as air she's wearing her absolutely best smile and filled to the brim with excitement.

"Where do we start?"

The circus is a refreshing beacon of color in the wide, expansive clearing. Purple and white stripes separate the big top from the hazy sky; colorful streamers of all colors billow down from the pointed peaks like heraldry from long-gone kingdoms. Children of all ages are welcome here!

... Just not right this minute, though; temporary, one-meter-tall barriers encircle the circus grounds to keep casual wanderers out. Security staff are likely to be present, even if not exactly -visible-.

Honoka smiles as Hitomi exits the van. She can definitely sense the effect that the highschooler is having upon Kitano and Hiyama -- the puppetmaster didn't need to 'coach' them much at all to get them to offer the apprenticeship opportunity. Typical! She takes the opportunity to slide out second, though the slim-bodied professional avoids giving the two kitchen staffers as much of a show as Hitomi had.

"Well... me? I... need to do some warmups and exercises, all that getting jostled about in the van has wrecked my nerves. And Mizuho's probably still taking her beauty sleep..."

"Are either of you two hungry? We can probably catch up with the lunch crowd!" is a red-cheeked Kitano's eager reply. Hiyama's already started walking off in the direction of the food tent, though he's turned back to gesture for Hitomi and the others to follow him.

Sudo, though? He's driving the van to find a more out-of-the-way parking spot.

"So, basically, wherever you like? Or if you're too hot you can probably hang out in one of the chiller trailers..."

For no apparent reason, Honoka glances over to Kitano, who seemed like he was about to say something. Honoka's foxlike smile seems to discourage that, though.

Oh... Honoka had to go and start warming up?

She wouldn't let show any disappointment, just acknowledge that kind of dedication her role takes and let that inspire you to do better and try harder. A hearty nod and letting that all sink in, Mizuho getting her beauty sleep was almost enough to get a giggle with her newfound sense for comparing the two circus performers. It might not be fair on Mizuho whom she had yet to meet but Sudo had put that comparison to Honoka in her head. She waves a little to express her thanks and the van starts rolling away having disgorded it's passengers.

"I ... Ah! I brought some... food... with me, It's not much! But please share it with me!!"

Bowing a little with martial-art lead sense for formality, Embarassed and acting more than a little cutesy Hitomi pats the bag still at her waist, the multi-sectioned steamer was largely packed around with towelette's from the Kasagi Inn to keep it stable and upright but there was at least enough there to feed two or maybe three, more if they were just to get a little snacking done out of it. She'd wanted to share with Honoka, a friend but in this case she now had even more friends as well as some friends and sempai who might be able to critique it or offer her some pointers.

It should have all steamed to be nice and cool by now, but that caring old grandpa at the food stall had reheated and added some more water to it, the bag was PLENTY warm and more than a little damp in places. She wasn't sure how well it would go down but eager enough to share what she had.

"You ...could use a snack before you warm up Honoka? You never did get to try that dish you wanted to."

The circus would be here for a while, maybe they'd have a chance to go back and try it again. Be positive, she would be coming back here soon and she knew there was something Honoka wanted to do or try, as her friend she wanted to share that with her.

Honoka takes some measure of enjoyment at seeing how Hitomi responds: disappointment, along with trying to make the best of it. But, Honoka also delights at pulling the strings around here and there, metaphorically dangling things just out of reach only to swing them tantalizingly close so as not to lose interest. "Well... it's not like you can't come with! But it might be boring if you don't wanna work out too."

Honoka had started to walk back to her trailer to change, but when Hitomi's offer of food comes out? The Ainu woman can hardly resist the opportunity to taste it out. If Hitomi had planned to poison her, it'd be obvious, after all.

"And... yeah. I think I will take you up on that!" Honoka thinks for a moment, and adds with a friendly smile: "... it isn't bacon, is it?"

It's been a fun day with Hitomi so far, but there's certainly no reason to stop now.

Curious, was she joking or -- How could anyone possibly dislike bacon?

"Almost not even related to bacon at all!"

Teasing back behind her and tagging along behind Kitano she ventures after until he can find a table suitable for seating the band who were interested. Felt like she had been carrying this thing for forever now she finally can slip it off onto the table top and start fussing the steamer free of damp towels and zipper without scalding herself and trying not to gawp or look at anyone else watching them. A twist of the uppermost tray, just a quarter turn unlocks the stack and opens some venting in the lower section trays, small openings in the side of the case align.

A ballooning cloud of steam vents upwards with each segment of the case separated and set beside one another of the table. Only three filled with any food, a lid and the base filled with naught but piping hot water. The dozen tiny white bite-sized dumplings sit on a circle of greaseproof paper in their dish, (during her first attempt ever making them they stuck like glue to the steamer) each type garnished colourfully to help her tell the three different types apart. None of them were really made with prime ingredients but she was picking up the hang of frugally searching for bargains and getting in early to the markets, that and making use of some leftovers from the kitchen Jira had let her have for the occasion.

"Hmm, the ones with a pink colour and blade of lemongrass are Rockfish with lemongrass, Those round ones with yellow peppers are a spicy pork and cabbage and the last ones there care duck."

She gestures with a white chopstick with a kitty with a pink hair bow to indicate each foodstuff as she discusses it. Most all the rest of the food is readily identifiable a mix of steamed vegetables and a donut shaped tray filled with rice and a small metal tub sitting loosely in the centre she lifts it clear with those chopsticks again and fusses with the lid to reveal a handful of pickled plums in sauce.

"They seem alright. We thought the plums... for the rice! Aaaand the sauce for the dumplings."

Diagnosis and serving completed she sits, If she personally had to eat the duck ones then she was definitely going to need the sauce, they weren't especially flavourful without it. She deftly transfers the plums one by one to bed of rice and pushes the tiny tin cup closer to the dumpling platter.

She'd planned on maybe making enough to feed herself and Honoka with perhaps some leftovers so it wasn't a feast so much as a bunch of foods to pick at since she wasn't truly aware of what Honoka actually liked to eat. It was a pretty sizeable lunch but, ...she -was- here all day. That wasn't absolutely all she had, she planned for and brought tonight's dinner with her as well. Going back to the bag and comes up with a second container thick enough that the first sat neatly atop it she also starts opening that one. No way. She looks up and toward Honoka blank faced and reeling slightly in shock.

"The grandpa... the one who reheated while we were at the show."

She sets that steamer out and down and looks over into it from above, it had been a pretty modest fish stew when she made it. There was certainly no sign of the large shrimp and greenery garnishing the dish.

"He put more food in."

No way was she buying shrimp that big on her budget, they were about as big as her hand and there was about six of them in there... that old man. He'd been pretty terse and scolded her but, that was overwhelmingly generous and nice of him, there were more ingrediants and the soup looked thicker than it had, it was hardly something she could call her own dish anymore. It had been a real day of mixed emotions, draining but somehow coming up positive.

"I-I'm sure he'd want us to enjoy! please dig in."

It looks like it came together pretty well, maybe a little overcooked since it had been in the steamer for a long while now but she was eager to see how the experiment went. If there was any poisoning happening today at least it would be completely by accident, the duck possibly to blame.

Kitano is definitely flustered by Hitomi's disembarkation. From the general conversation, and Hitomi's tender age, he reasons the girl's in high school. And something about this just seems wrong to him. But... there's also the faint whispers in his head to contend with: the whispers that just tell him to play along. To befriend Hitomi, and make her feel right at home.

Hiyama, on the other hand... he's disappointed. Because he, unlike Kitano, was supposed to be here a half-hour ago, and he needs to carry the sacks of food to the kitchen cart. He... won't get to enjoy some of Hitomi's hospitality. His whispers are a bit more consoling -- a reminder that Hitomi -will- in fact be here more often in the future. So maybe he won't be -as- disappointed.

Honoka peels her eyes away from Hiyama. If she'd ever watched video footage of herself, she might be a little unnerved by the peculiar manner in which she just falls silent, staring off into the distance from time to time. But, thankfully, almost everyone in the circus just writes that off as the juggler being weird, and who at the circus can rightfully be considered 'normal' anyway?

Honoka can definitely appreciate the variety of food here; it smells good enough to actually -try-, now. "You were carrying these the whole time? Wow!"

She seems as surprised as Hitomi is about the extra additions made. Shrimp... yeah. "I guess he wants to make sure we come back to visit him next time we're around, hee." While Kitano is thoughtful enough to bring napkins and chopsticks from the foodservice trailer -- how -nice- of him, really! -- Honoka snaps apart the chopsticks and serves herself a bowl, taking special care to load up on the shrimp. Seafood is the answer to Hitomi's unspoken question -- Honoka definitely loves seafood.

Kitano has the good graces to allow Hitomi and Honoka to enjoy the snack by themselves afterwards, though. Hitomi's happy, Honoka's happy -- and the two are sharing a good meal. And Hitomi will get to help out with the circus which she clearly enjoys visiting. What more is there in life than that, anyway?

Log created on 20:39:02 06/13/2015 by Honoka, and last modified on 18:06:40 07/08/2015.