Description: Honoka doesn't eat meat. But her alter-ego Miko can't stop ordering Chinese food -- including meat. Weird how that works! Here, Miko is back in action, trying to get the low-down on what's been going on in Gedo since the Inter High-School Tournament.
Business at the Sleeping Dragon has been fairly consistent these past few months; not being demolished due to supernatural occurrences has been good for business. Perhaps the accidents just follow the Chinese proprietress as she jaunts about the town performing deliveries, who knows? At any rate, the accident-prone restaurant's success has been partly due to the wealth of students willing to work in exchange for discounted food.
One of the workers, a red-haired Gedo High student named Touji, ought to be in the kitchen washing dishes. But instead, he's in the dining room, still wearing his work apron, talking with another Gedo student dressed in all black.
The other notable worker, a young woman with a shock of cobalt blue hair, is working at the front podium, shifting nervously from one foot to the other and occasionally flicking glances over to the two. Saya would probably be over there participating in the conversation, if not for the fact that she's already been written up for neglecting her duties and she -really- doesn't want to be stuck washing dishes with Touji again.
That, and the stream of people walking -past- the restaurant's door is messing with her; each passing shadow gives her hope that someone's going to walk in, followed by crushing disappointment when the door does not actually open. Sadness! But more accurately: boredom!
As it happens, boredom is what brings Kazuki Kirigani to the Sleeping Dragon. His parents had, shockingly, kicked him out of the dojo for the afternoon. He had taken to the streets of Southtown. His heavily decorated, oversized headphones were covering his ears as he made his way into Chinatown.
In fact, the young man was about walk by the restaurant completely when he stops, and tilts his head inquisitively. He removes the headphones and pokes his head in, blinking once when he spots Saya. "Good afternoon, Sempai," he says with an almost uncharacteristic brightness.
Says blinks back at Kazuki -- partly because the freakin' door actually -opened- this time, and partly because she -recognizes- the art style on the young man's headphones.
The greeting catches her most by surprise though, stirring a small flood of red across the young woman's cheeks. "K... Kirigana." She coughs into an open fist, and belts out her mandatory greeting whilst bowing formally. "Irasshaimase! Good evening, and w-welcome to the Sleeping Dragon!" She flashes the young man a smirk despite her totally formal delivery. The stuff she does to hold down a steady job, right?
Both Touji and the cook call out "Irasshaimase" in perfect unison -- though Touji looks much less... enthusiastic about the whole endeavor.
A smile comes back to Saya's face as she gestures to the table where her compadre is standing. "If you want some company, whatshername came crawling back. Long time no see, right? I'd join you, but like, Miss Loopy-Hair will shitcan me if she catches me goofing off again..."
Whatshername leans out of the booth to get a better look at the new arrival. A faint haze of steam suffuses the tiny little food shop, but the young woman's crystal blue eyes pierce straight through it. Not unlike the subtle, understated smile that crosses her lips.
"Kazuki," she states as he approaches, echoing her cobalt-haired friend. "Long time no see."
When 'Whatshername' leans out of the booth, Kazuki's smile widens. "Good afternoon, Whatshername-sempai," Kazuki says, still in oddly high spirits. It's not often that his parents give him an afternoon off. He half nods, half bows to Saya and makes his way back to the booth despite not having a spoken invitation to do so.
"It is good to see you again," he says. "I hope your time away from school was okay?" Which is the closest he'll ever get to actually asking why she was absent in the first place.
Whatshername-sempai. That's a new one. Her eyebrows lower, at that, and she repeats "Kobayashi-sempai..." with a half-bow... until the upperclassman realizes that it was probably due to something Saya had said. At which point she gives the smartaleck a pointed smirk.
Saya sticks the tip of her tongue out as she jaunts back to the hostess station, clearly amused by the exchange.
"... It could have gone better," she admits with a faint smile, not wanting to belabor the point. "It is good to be back in Southtown, though." She remains cautiously guarded about that -- though a faint expression of pain lurks within her eyes.
Touji steps aside, motioning that Kazuki has a more proper invitation to sit down. "'sup, Kirigana? I probably ought to get back to the kitchen, too, but s'good t'see ya, dawg." He starts to clap a hand to Kazuki's shoulder, and then, for some reason, abstains from such, flicking a brief smirk by way of apology.
Miko nods to Touji, and gestures for the seat in front of her. A bowl sits empty before her; clearly, she's enjoyed what she's already eaten. "I have some more lo mein on the way, but you're welcome to it if you like. Tell me... how have -you- been?"
The lack of shoulder-clapping may have something to do with the /last/ time Touji tried it, and Kazuki accidentally-on-purpose-but mostly-on-reflex threw the young man into a wall of lockers. Or maybe food handling laws. Either way, Kazuki looks a little sheepish at the gesture. He looks at the bowl in front of him with a somewhat pensive look on his face.
"I've been well," he finally says as he takes a menu to go over. He pulls out a pair of wire rim reading glasses as he does so. "Training, mostly," he admits. "I'm still not sure why my parents told me to take the afternoon off."
As if on cue, another server/junior chef comes out with a piping hot platter of lo mein, which she sets down equidistantly from Kazuki and Miko. The server sets down a plastic soup spoon, hot napkin, and a pair of chopsticks for Kazuki's use. The server sticks around until dismissed -- and it's not until then that Miko feels comfortable continuing the conversation.
"Training... good. I hear that the school is back to normal... somewhat. I do hope that the school is ready for a second invasion by those scum. I still... can't believe everything that happened, back then."
Kazuki also orders a cup of tea before setting aside the menu and removing the glasses. The tucks the latter into a jacket pocket. He nods once as he splits the chopsticks and cleans them. "Well," he admits, "Whatever passes for normal in this town, yes."
He starts in on the noodles cautiously, trying them out. "Though as disturbing as it was, it's not like anything changed because of it." He slurps up the remainder of the noodles he took, chewing thoughtfully.
In the time Miko's been gone, the dynamic duo of Saya and Touji seems to have been holding down the fort. But their third, Kazuhito, was not really -with- the group much. Sure, he'd been going to class, but as the brainy one of the bunch, he was always a bit on the aloof side. And... the change was small, but Kazuhito did seem progressively more on-edge, progressively more... worried.
And then, one day, he stopped hanging out at school completely. Or even going. He hasn't been seen in weeks.
"Nothing changed at all?" echoes Miko, steepling her fingers before her as she watches Kazuki. "Touji mentioned that Kazuhito hadn't been around much... if at all. I was curious, though... is there anyone -else- you might have noticed... missing?"
She watches the noodles vanish slowly as her table companion devours them. She smiles placidly, musing aloud in reply to the earlier statement: "Perhaps your parents knew you wanted some Chinese food and didn't feel like going for it themselves..."
Kazuki swallows his noodles, his head tilted to one side as he thinks back on things. He sets his right hand on the table, and taps with one finger almost as if he's following a tune. His face darkens, then pales. Then he looks at the table and shakes his head.
"I... haven't heard him in a while," he finally says. "Now that you mention it." He takes a deep breath. "Things... have been busy at the dojo since I fought Kasagi-san. Not a lot of people, but more than we have had in a while."
Haven't /heard/ him in a while -- the turn of phrase is enough to widen Miko's eyes for a moment, until she fits Kirigana's peculiar ability back into the puzzle. "Ah. Perhaps he transferred? He seemed a little too... clean to be at our school." She laughs mirthlessly, sipping at the cup of tea she hadn't quite finished yet.
The server from earlier stops by with an order of dumplings and a plate of phoenix claws, as well as Kazuki's order of tea. Miko reaches over and pulls a phoenix claw, but leaves the plates in their neutral location in case he gets hungry. "Kasagi-san, hm... Oh right, her." After a bite of her phoenix claw, she asks, amiably, "Is your family able to keep up with the demand?"
Kazuki also takes a phoenix claw, and picks at it curiously for a moment. "Kind of?" he says uncertainly. "I mean, Mom and Dad would have a hard time of it if I weren't around, but... they wouldn't have the demand in the first place if it wasn't for me having that fight in the first place, you know?" He takes a bite from the one in his hand, then goes red in the face.
He gasps for air, reaching for his tea and takes a long swig from it before setting the cup down and panting for breath again.
Miko's gakuran coat is folded beside her on the bench; her Gedo uniform is much, much cleaner than it ought to be. But then again, she hasn't been in school for several months -- mostly due to her alter-ego's life issues. Getting savaged by a creature who subsists on souls and subsequently spending a great deal of time with a live-in boyfriend... well, these things take their toll. Not that it affects the Miko persona's go-to alibi of 'sick parents' much.
She smiles patiently, keeping her fingers steepled as she watches Kazuki experience the three stages of spiciness discomfort: realization, shock, and slow recovery. If she'd thought about it further she'd have had a nice glass of milk for him. As it is: she's barely repressing the urge to laugh.
Instead of indulging herself, she attempts to continue the conversation: "I hope you're not using that as an excuse to -stop- fighting. You have a great deal of talent, and shouldn't let it go to waste. Besides... wouldn't some of your family's students be interested in becoming assistant instructors, as well?"
"Already /is/ one," Kazuki says with a cough. "Me." He pauses, taking another drink from the tea and getting his breathing back under control. "Then again, it's not hard gaining that position when you're the only student... and probably better at the techniques than the instructors." He blushes a little when he admits this, but Miko gets the impression that this statement is neither brag nor bluster. It's a statement of fact.
"If I wanted to, I could pass the tests right now," he says quietly. "But..." He doesn't finish the sentence, his emotions surrounding the matter incredibly conflicted.
Oh my. Miko arches an eyebrow when Kazuki mentions that there already is an assistant instructor, and even smiles a bit more broadly when he provides his own assessment of his skills. It's refreshing to know that he can be honest -- so few people -are- in this damned country.
But then she senses hesitation, and fills in the void. "But... you would rather not commit yourself to a life fulfilling your parent's dreams, instead of your own?" The psion is reaching a bit, to be sure... but there are times to beat around the bush, and she -does- want to encourage Kazuki to keep speaking his mind, as he'd just done.
"Was that too forward? My apologies..." she follows up, dabbing her mouth with a napkin. "Though, I really meant was... among the other students, are any close to taking -their- tests? Any who could... relieve the pressures placed upon you?"
"No," he says with a frown, "There's... sometimes I think that my parents only think they want that, you know? That actually /doing/ it... would end up being bad for them." He stares down at the plate of phoenix claws with that frown.
"There's one person," he says, "That might be ready in a couple of months, but," Kazuki blushes a little, and it has nothing to do with the food. "I get the impression she's more there for me than she is for the instruction. There were a couple of idiots from the Judo squad giving her a hard time." He glances away from, Miko, staring out the window. "I might have had something to say about that," he says flatly, and Miko might notice the first hints of honest-to-god anger she's every seen from Kazuki.
"It's true. Parents tend to want their children to grow up in their footsteps," confides Miko. There is more truth in the statement than she wants to admit -- though she is cautious to keep her delivery as neutral as possible. But Miko can also sense that she missed the mark a little -- as she listens, she understands how far.
She frowns at the notion that this other student might be... gasp, in love with her rescuer. That alone would be enough for her to say something in commiseration with Kazuki, but... then she senses the anger.
"You're angered by this. I'm... sorry to have brought it up, but... did you want to talk about it?"
"I am," he admits. "I mean..." The anger blunts itself a bit. "It bothers me..." He scowls a bit. "I know there are stronger people out there, but I also know I can do some pretty horrible things to a person if I wanted to. Some people think that just because they are strong that it gives them the right to do as they please to people who aren't." He frowns, still not looking at Miko.
"I reminded those two that there is always someone stronger," he says flatly. "But I don't know that that was any different than what they were doing in the first place."
Miko realizes that it was probably a good thing she didn't go with her best guess -that- time. He's not mad at the girl, but rather... he's mad at -himself-. Very different situation.
"It is fundamentally different, Kazuki. You see, by mocking others, and belittling others, they were clearly in the wrong. Whereas you acted out of selflessness, out of concern. Your motivation was clear, and pure. Theirs was not." Kazuki may not be looking at her, but if and when he turns, he'll find her looking straight back into his eyes.
"If you have the power and do not use it for what's right... that's not strength. That's cowardice."
"Assuming that right is a static concept," he says, not quite convinced yet. "The same from person to person. Watching the situation... it made me angry," he says after a moment. "I acted on it." Miko might find out later that Kazuki's not really welcome to practice with the Gedo Judo squad anymore, and that there might be a good reason for it. "They won't be doing that again any time soon, I don't think."
Kazuki seems to have struck a nerve -- if only through defense of his own concept. She's mad -- to be sure -- but it's directed towards the (to her) hypothetical members of the Judo team instead of to Kazuki directly.
"Right -is- a static concept. 'Don't be a douchebag to people' is a static concept. I'm really not sure I understand how basic human decency is so difficult a concept for people to not just inherently -get-."
Miko may be frustrated, but she listens and gauges Kazuki's expression all the same -- for one as laconic as he, it's important to take both verbal -and- nonverbal cues into account.
Such as the dark undertone of what, exactly, he's done. She flashes a wry half-smile: "Are you suggesting that someone was sent to the hospital?"
Kazuki glances at Miko out of the corner of his eye before looking away again. "I'm telling you that I sent /both/ of them to the hospital," he finally says. Miko might pick up that he's still understating this a bit, but she does pick up the anger again. Not so much about the thugs; they had it coming in a lot of ways. Kazuki is angry with himself.
Miko's reply is quick. Still angry? She's not, any more. "Then justice was served."
With a casual blink to reassure Kazuki that she's really -not- affected by the callousness of her statement, she takes a sip of her tea.
"If this bothers you, consider the alternative. Even without hearing the other side, I'm confident that you made the right choice. And you should be, as well. Consider the confrontations you -weren't- present for. Consider what would have happened if you -hadn't- stopped them."
She stabs a phoenix claw, takes a bite of the spicy delicacy, and savors every last morsel.
"Remember this. You have made an unequivocal statement that this behavior will not be allowed. When you put a bully, a -thug- in his place, you aren't merely ending that fight, you're preventing later confrontations from occurring. The only way to overdo it is when they aren't able to share their story with others."
Kazuki doesn't have much to say about that. He's still conflicted, though. The logic of Miko's statement stacks up pretty neatly, and he has already recognized that he's fully capable of doing bad things to people if he's of a mind to. However, there is this magging part of him that insists that perhaps he might have gone a little too far in this case. He can't seem to shake it, either.
To a psion like Miko, he might as well be displaying this on a billboard; Kazuki has no knowledge of psychic phenomenon, no mental defenses to speak of to guard his thoughts.
The psion is adept at sensing feelings, but it's been so long since she's talked with Kazuki that plumbing any further than that is tantalizingly out of reach. Unless she takes more invasive steps, anyway. No, words will do for now.
"It's okay. It's... more difficult to phrase things in the heat of the moment. All I'm saying, though... is what's past is past. Take what you can from it. Move on. But don't become so crippled by the past that you can't think for the future."
Miko glances down at Kazuki's hand. The thought of reaching over for his hand is tempting -- a show of emotion that would probably help put his mind at ease. But as she glances back up to his eyes, she remembers what she'd felt from Touji. And decides against it.
To be fair Touji had gotten the drop on Kazuki. It was all downhill... or maybe across a hallway... from there.
Kazuki hears the words, understands the meaning and logic of them. But it's clearly something he needs to mull it over a bit more.
"Maybe," he says thoughtfully. "It's just... it's hard to tell where the lines are sometimes."
Miko shrugs faintly, almost dismissing the idea of 'restraint' out of hand. "You'll learn with practice. Maybe that was your line...? Maybe not." She smiles, selecting a dumpling with her chopsticks and nibbling upon it for a moment, before adding, "Actions speak louder than words, it's said. Stretch that analogy further, and one would realize that taking action is crucial for broadening your vocabulary."
With a slight incline of her head, she indicates the rest of the restaurant patrons, suggesting the world at large. "Look around you, Kazuki, and you will see hundreds, thousands, millions of people who simply clam up, who keep their feelings to themselves, who don't speak out when injustice is served. Japan is a terrible place -- it encourages people to shut themselves in. To not express themselves. And anyone who actually -does-... "
Miko frowns sadly. "Is branded as /rude/. The most cardinal sin of Japanese culture." It may become clear that she does not support the viewpoint.
Kazuki takes another sip of his tea. "There's a lot of people, and not a lot of space," Kazuki says. "It... /does/ make for some interesting music," he admit grudgingly. "But it also pretty much require some pretty rigid social systems to keep things from... devolving." Kazuki is thinking things over still. He doesn't agree with Miko, but he doesn't seem to disagree with her either.
Rigid social systems, he calls it. Miko's frown grows a bit more... insistent. "It leads to intolerance of those who think differently. To those who look differently, or act differently."
She's gathered the breath to continue her diatribe, but with one hand clapping down onto the other, the breath expires, thought unstated. Why is she lecturing? Is she -losing- this mind, in the urge to express herself?
"... Forgive me, Kazuki." She looks up again, apology clear upon her face. "Japan is unkind to women, like this student of yours. Perhaps I've allowed myself to get too invested in her interest, or in yours. But the fact remains that the view towards... -women- in this culture is something I'd like to see change. And people like you..." With an incline of her head and a warm smile, she concludes: "... give me hope."
At that, Kazuki blushes a little, glancing back down at the table. "I'm not saying I like it," he says a little embarassed. "Or even that I agree with it. I just understand a need for it, even if the form it takes is... not as good as it could be." He frowns a bit before finally looking up at Miko.
"You don't have to apologize to me for this," he says honestly. "You're just speaking your mind, and that's not a bad thing."
Miko nods quietly in response. She doesn't agree with the necessity of remaining quiet, but that's already been made clear. The systematic nature of culture suppressing free thought is one she feels to be wholly detrimental to the advancement of humanity as a whole. But... that's a lot of philosophy to let hang over a plate of phoenix claws. Miko spends the next few moments liberating the delicate morsels from one phoenix claw, considering her next words carefully.
"So this... young woman has feelings for you, and you... aren't sure how you feel about her...?" It's true that Miko had been the one to accompany Kazuki to this year's prom, but... she is curious about the topic. And his own feelings, moreso.
"I..." Kazuki orders some dumplings and another tea. "That's just it," he says. "I'm... not really interested in her. But that's not exactly slow her down. She /watched/ me beat up two guys so badly that I had to call the ambulances to take them to the emergency room." He frowns a bit. "I mean, I haven't really put it into words or anything, but I haven't treated her any differently from any of the other students, and she seems... I dunno. Content to simply be there?"
It's clear the young man is out of his depth on this.
Miko smiles warmly at that, in the midst of nibbling at one of the dumplings. She's not a huge fan of meat, but that's always been due to the taste more than anything else -- and Jam's seasonings make it worth compromising her ideal. Besides -- Chinese food is a rare indulgence for the young woman.
"She sees you as an ideal man, willing to fight for his ideals. It's only natural that she would harbor an attraction for you now." She considered calling him silly, but that might be a little too far.
"If you are uncomfortable with it, then it's on you to communicate your feelings to her." Beat. "With words, not fists, of course. Though, as with the situation we just spoke of... the sooner the better."
A small rumbling sound can be heard from the young woman's side of the table; the source becomes clear as she reaches into the pocket of her gakuran and retrieves a small phone. Upon flipping it open, her forehead knits for a moment, before she folds the phone back and sets it aside. "My ride will be here in a few moments," she explains, before taking another sip from her teacup. "But I do suggest you tell her of your concerns. She's already shown she appreciates forwardness."
Kazuki blushes a bit, partly at the subject matter and partly at the suggestion that Miko thinks Kazuki would beat the girl up. "I'll... think it over," he mutters into his tea cup. "But thank you for your advice, Miko-sempai."
"Of course, I'm glad to help." She can tell that Kazuki is frustrated, particularly with regards to talking. Not just to women, but to anyone, really. It's possible that he's hiding things from even her. But... there is one particular memory that may prove helpful.
"If I might make a suggestion? Share with her the song that best represents her, as you did with me. Music always helps." It won't help if it's death metal, but the chances of that are... slim.
"If something bothers you, just change it. As you said... there's nothing bad about speaking your mind." She finishes off her tea, and moves to stand. "Until next time, Kazuki, take care."
After lingering for any last thoughts, she'll bow in departure, before stepping away to share a word, and some paper bills, with Saya on the way out. Kazuki will find that this day's meal is completely paid for.
Log created on 20:56:42 11/28/2015 by Honoka, and last modified on 17:01:39 11/29/2015.