Description: On a hot summer day, Zach visits the Twilight Star Circus to catch up with Honoka before moving on to his next challenge.
With the return of its King of Fighters team back into active rotation, the Twilight Star Circus is back into full swing. Kanazawa, capital of Ishikawa Prefecture, is the site for this week's shows. Warm breezes waft in from the ocean, doing little to mitigate the ninety-degree temperatures. Crew are hard at work performing critical maintenance work upon the big top, forcing the performing cast outside. Though, luckily, they are able to practice in the shade cast by two large tents; just not with the full intensity of their usual performances.
Honoka is wearing a loose, crop-top t-shirt, with the sleeves rolled up tightly. Her shorts would only just barely pass muster as 'clothing,' though with the excessive summer heat, one can hardly be judgmental towards the performer as she practices core exercises upon the parallel bars. Sweat runs down her brow as she lifts her legs up to parallel the ground, her body shuddering with light tremors as her two hands maintain grip on the bars as she extends outward.
Not far away, Mizuho and Reika are practicing diabolo tricks of their own. With Honoka's entry into the tournament, it became necessary for them to fill the vacancy left by the star juggler -- and while they are not exactly slouches, it will still take a while for them to attain the level of excellence that Honoka has.
Zach Glenn rolls up to the circus. He is not wearing the usual business casual outfit that he's generally seen in; it's too freaking hot out for that. Zach instead is wearing a crimson red t-shirt with a large white capital O on the front of it. The back of the tee has the name 'Glenn' emblazoned in the same white across the shoulders. He also wears blue denim shorts that end just short of the top of his knees and dark tan hiking boots, the white socks bunched around his ankles. He also has a military green duffle slung over one shoulder. Someone who knows Zach might suspect a sword of some kind, but it's also filled out enough to suggest that there are clothes in it as well. A black ballcap with gold stitching declaring 'Semper Fi' covers his reddish blonde hair and shields those brilliant jade eyes from the sun.
Zach gets waved in fairly quickly; he's known and generally welcome here. He stops just short of the pair practicing with diabolos; he's not offering a distraction when things are flying about. It's a great way to get beaned. Instead, he waits just off of the practice grounds and sets the duffle down. He'll wave to Honoka if she spots him.
It's no more possible for Zach to sneak up on Honoka than it is for her to sneak up on him -- the two psions are that attuned with one another's psychic frequencies. But if she were to have noticed him, there's no outward sign, no show of recognition; her precarious position upon two arms demands the focus of every one of the acrobatic juggler's muscles. She continues holding the stance, before bending one leg high behind her -- and then bending around further, inverting her legs so that her body makes a 'C' shape.
She is, as Zach can attest, rather flexible.
Honoka holds the pose for fifteen seconds, before slowly and methodically straightening her body. Once more straight, she exhales, assuring herself that she is in full control...
And only then does she lower herself to the ground, first with one foot then the other. The circus performer can even make falling look graceful.
A forearm is raised to wipe the perspiration from her head as she flashes Zach a smile. "Hey, you." She winks back at him, before gesturing to Reika with an open hand. "You're up next, girl."
While Reika takes her turn on the bars, Honoka retrieves a towel and makes her way over towards her boyfriend. "You -would- pick the hottest day of the year to come leer at me, hmmm?"
Zach most certain -can- attest to Honoka's... flexibility. He watches, the only outward indicator of his approval is a low growl. "There is no such thing as a bad day to do that," he admits with complete honesty and a wide grin. To be fair that shirt Zach is wearing is not what anyone would call loose fitting and the shorts, while not nearing as hugging to Zach's frame, do put his well muscled legs on display for anyone with a pair of eyes and any interest.
He nods towards Reika. "If you weren't... well... /you/," Zach says with a faint grin, "Reika could almost pass for your twin," he says with complete innocence. "Anyone else," implying someone who /isn't/ using some kind of psychic frequency to identify people, "Might get the two of you confused. How've you been?"
Honoka has interest, to be sure, but she settles for pulling Zach down by the collar for a simple kiss. Without the aid of air conditioning, it's much too hot and humid for much else -- much though she might like to.
Honoka arches an eyebrow in response to the simple observation. "... Huh?" she answers, glancing back to Reika. A chill rushes down the acrobat's spine as she matches his words to the sight in front of her. Her aura shifts slightly again, and the cold shudder turns warm in the acrobat's confusion. "Y-yeah, and...?" She turns back to Zach, cracking into an incredulous smile. "Why, are you trying to tell me you're interested in her now? Don't go gettin' all weird on me, now!" She laughs -- though the laughter is clearly inserted just to keep the situation from getting even more awkward.
It doesn't last long before she's smiling honestly again. "I'm hanging in there, though tomorrow's our day off. Gonna be in the pool -all- day, you better believe it. How about you, what's up?"
Zach leans in for the kiss, almost as if he anticipated Honoka's move for it (he did), and grins at Honoka completely without guile. "It was just an observation," he says simply, one brow raised as he fixes his ballcap. "I probably wouldn't have even made the connection if I hadn't watched just now with the diabolos." He takes a deep breath, taking in the scents around him.
"It is for sure way to hot for much else," he agrees. "Just got back from a trip to Edinburgh," he says lightly. "Crossed paths with Athena Asamiya in Avebury." Zach blushes. "I took a /seriously wrong turn leaving London," he admits.
Just an observation, he says. Perhaps it was, perhaps not. "Oh, heh, I suppose so..." she acknowledges, setting aside the matter in some regards, while the subject (Reika) begins a similar exercise upon the parallel bars. "Sometimes we do, uh... play the part. Stage magic, y'know? I can do some pretty amazing things, but teleporting the length of the big top in a blink of an eye isn't one of 'em." She laughs with small but measurable quantities of mirth.
Dabbing the towel against her face and neck, she takes a few steps back to regard Zach from a more comfortable, less breeze-obstructing distance. "... Visiting the folks, huh? Must have been one chance encounter..." Her mirth fades considerably, as she raises an eyebrow again. "... What was she doing in Avebury, anyway? Is that anywhere close to Edinburgh? Or, uh... was it Stonehenge they were fighting at?"
"It's not anywhere close," Zach says with a chuckle. "I tried to do the drive without the GPS. Avebury's about fourty-five minutes from Stonehenge, where they were fighting at. Avebury's about seven hours on the road from Edinburgh. Weather delayed the flight enough that I figured I'd try to drive it. I was basically delivering a report, had to be done in person." At this, Zach rolls his eyes, showing /exactly/ what he thought of that situation.
"We talked a bit of ethics, a bit of morality, we sparred," Zach says. At this, thinking back over the fight. "I think either she's not as strong as I 'remember' or the gap between us is smaller. Hard to say which. Could have gone either way, I think." The last part is spoken softly, so as not to carry past the two of them.
Honoka's towel drapes across her shoulders, falling in front of her arms as she settles her hands upon her hips. "... I don't know much about geography in the UK, but isn't that kind of a far distance to be dead reckoning?" She smirks faintly, shaking her head. "Eh, you don't have to make up stories for my sake. You were just putting off the report, just call it that, hmm?"
She hums thoughtfully as she considers what Zach is telling her. "... Huh. ... Just had to see if she measured up, huh?" Concern flickers across her features for a moment, before she muses aloud, "Now you're just making me jealous that you got to fight her and I didn't." She steps forward, giving Zach's chest a playful shove.
Sighing with a pleasant smile, she notes, "So did you use the sword on her? Or were you just taking it insultingly easy on her because she's a popstar?"
Sometimes it can be difficult to tell if Honoka is -really- poking fun, or if she's expressing her own insecurities.
Maybe she's doing both.
"I'm generally really /good/ at the whole land navigation thing," Zach grouses, "Between the Boy Scouts and all the coursework on that very subject while I was in the Corps." Zach grins at the push, rocking slightly under the pressure. "But yes," he admits, "I /was/ curious about how I would have done against her, since we didn't get to fight in the King of Fighters. I was /really/ hoping that that match would happen. And no," he says quietly, "I did not use the sword. The fight happened in a small pub that we had promised not to trash. Not exactly room for swinging a claymore around." He considers for a moment. "She also didn't push me hard enough to make me feel like I had to," he says, which is true enough.
"Did you know Little didn't show up for the finals?" he asks.
"'Generally,'" repeats Honoka, with no small amount of teasing to her tone. "It's really hard for you to sell me on all this 'advanced' training when it ended you up hours off-course."
"... A pub? Is she even old enough to be in a pub?" Drinking age is twenty in Japan, and Honoka doesn't demonstrate the knowledge -- or, perhaps more accurately, the -concern- -- that other countries might have different standards in that regard.
"... Huh. Well, I guess I'm not -that- jealous then. Maybe we should just ask them to an exhibition match or something. It'd probably be good PR for both of our teams, but... eh. I imagine they have their hands full after the championship and all." She laughs softly, glancing back over to Reika for a moment.
Little didn't show up, though? That arouses another raised eyebrow from Honoka, as she turns back to Zach. "... What's the big deal there? Maybe he just wasn't scheduled to fight."
Zach gives Honoka's shoulder the lightest of shoves. "I make mistakes sometimes. Higher levels of skill bring the potential for larger mistakes," he replies lightly. "Besides, drinking age in the United Kingdom's effectively sixteen." Zach watches Reika and Mizuho practice for a moment.
"Daniel cares, on some level, for his teammates," Zach finally says, his thoughts collected. "And this was the championship match of the biggest fighting tournament since the World Warrior event. It... seems unlikely that he wouldn't be there even if he wasn't scheduled to fight." He sounds honestly concerned about the man, despite the almost world-halting friction that sometimes occurs between the two of them.
Honoka allows herself to be buffeted by the light shove, mostly for the effect. "Ah... things I guess I never needed to find out." She smiles placidly, at that.
"Cares for them? I'm surprised the team even held together as long as it did. You got Daniel, then you got a walking human arsenal, and then you got the guy who beat both of them within an inch of their lives in Neo League." Honoka seems... skeptical, to say the least. "Toss in that crazy spider chick and some wacked out Russian... yeah. That sounds like a real winning combination."
The acrobatic juggler shrugs, afterwards. "Look, I'm not gonna say I wouldn't care if he found himself trapped beneath the tires of an eighteen-wheeler. I would. But he didn't exactly get off -easy- in his last fight, y'know? The man earned himself some rest."
Honoka finds herself frowning at Mizuho's technique -- the one that has the string thoroughly wound about the younger woman's arms. Maybe she would step in to help -- but she feels that the girl should learn from her mistakes instead.
"... So what are you going to do about it? Are you gonna go hunt for him?"
Zach's eyes smile a bit about the never needing to find out. "I wouldn't have either, if I wasn't over there every now and then," he agrees. He watches Mizuho for a moment, the sympathetic wince coming quickly. he is thoughtful for a moment.
"But as the guy Daniel asked in to play psychotherapist for the walking arsenal, I would contend that he cared as much as he was able to." He sideglances at Honoka, already starting to answer the question that he knows is coming. "Lita Luwanda had been challenged for a title she had held, and got hammered with a vicious psychic attack. It left her out of sorts. Not /Butcher/ bad, but she clearly needed some assistance." Zach shrugs. "Daniel thought I'd be able to get into her head and take a look, without knowing that that's not my thing. So I sent him on a drink run and did what my Dad probably would have done."
Psychotherapist? Honoka frowns somewhat -- Zach appears to be getting a bit closer to Daniel than she had expected him to. But the frown is only momentary, ending even before Zach begins to anticipate her concerns.
"... Psychic attack... ? From who?" The juggler attempts to recall the other fights Lita had been in recently, but... well, nothing seems to be coming to mind.
"... What would your Dad have done?"
Softball questions, she realizes, but it's enough to bring a more genuine smile to her face.
"I talked to her," he says. "Her opponent forced her to remember, /vividly/ every moment of every failure she had ever experienced. She called it a 'fail montage.'" Zach frowns, fighting down the anger of the memory. "I simply asked her what she /did/ about those failures. Reminded her," Zach grins, knowing that the concept might appeal to his Ainu-Japanese girlfriend. "That those stories did not end with those failures. Mostly, I think she just needed time to process the whole thing. Her opponent did not give her that time, and the resulting beating she took just made things worse."
Forced her to remember every moment of failure. That's... a neat trick, to say the least. "Huh. Your dad sounds like he knows his stuff." She smiles in somber reflection, nodding slowly. "And that helped, I take it. ... Was this psychotherapy stuff before the China fight or after?"
"It's what he does for a living," Zach agrees. "I think it helped. She seemed a lot more sure of herself after, I think. Like I said, I think she needed a chance to process it, and she hadn't had that before we talked. That happened in SouthTown," Zach says, "So before his team went to China." He looks at Honoka, the question not even needing to be asked.
"... Hm, right. But they still did a pretty good job in the tournament, all told." She shrugs softly, noting that Mizuho and Reika have switched places. And Reika seems to be doing much better with the diabolos than her younger companion.
"So what's... up? He sounds like your BFF now, again, so I'm guessing you already tried calling the numbers on his card?"
"No card to get numbers from," Zach says with a touch of irritation in his voice. It might be the situation, but it might also be Honoka referring to the pair as BFFs. "So that's a dead end. There's lines of approach I can use. Like I said. Just seems odd that he wouldn't be there." Zach frowns. "Not even sure why it's bothering me," he grouses, "Guy's been nothing but a pain in my rear since that thing at Holy Name. Maybe he stuck his neck out too far and it finally caught up to him."
Zach's response to her comment brings a smile back to Honoka's face. Her dislike of the agent has never really been a secret to anyone -but- Daniel, after all. The Ainu shifts her stance, pulling the towel off her shoulders and fanning herself with it for a moment. "One can hope."
But... maybe that's a bit too far. She knows Zach probably just wants to help -everyone-, after all. "I kid, Zach, but I'm sure he's fine. I mean, what's the worst that can happen -- he gets tossed in a gulag somewhere? He's gone through hell and back, probably two or three times, waterboarding isn't gonna break this guy. He's persistent as hell."
Honoka smiles, draping her fingertips across Zach's cheek in a warm gesture. "It's sweet that you're so concerned about him though. I mean, that's one of the reasons I like you so much -- you're so compassionate."
"Aaaand it's not like I am in a position to actually do anything about it if he /is/ in a gulag somewhere," Zach says in a tone of, if not acceptance then certainly one of recognition, as he leans slightly into the touch. "He'll be fine," he says after a moment. His tone is one obviously meant to reassure himself, and it almost works. "He's got an odd kind of luck that defies pretty much everything." He straightens up, and looks around for a moment.
"Right then," he says. "Time to get to it." He looks at Honoka, warmth and desire in the expression. "I'm leaving town for a while," he says finally. "It's... been pointed out to me that there are some holes in my vocational education, and it looks like the only way to fill those gaps is a road trip."
Recognition of the inevitable is a thing Honoka can agree with. "Yep. He'll turn up."
As Zach segues into the next topic, though, Honoka angles her head slightly to the side. "Holes? ... Oh, you mean you need to work on... right." She frowns slightly, at the way that Zach phrased it. In a quiet, near-whisper, she notes, "Your 'vocation' was 'destroying Darkstalkers,' if I recall correctly." Sighing slightly -- not with disapproval, but with (again) recognition, she adds in a lighter tone, "Well, I hope you at least bring a GPS and remember to turn it on this time. Is there, uh... anything I can do to help? I mean, I'm stuck working here most nights, but."
"And there's... a lot out there that I /don't/ know," he says just as quietly. "And on top of having to globetrot some because of how I do it, and thus exposing me to a lot of different... regional varieties, they are starting to care less and less about national borders. Which makes sense. Besides," Zach says with a slight shrug, "Maybe if I know more, I can put a stop to things before 'destroying' becomes the only option." He takes a deep breath.
"I just..." Zach frowns; this isn't easy for him either. "Keep on doing what you are doing," he finally says. "Keep reminding me of /why/ I am doing this. It's not like Metro City was. Or it shouldn't be, for the most part. I'll have reception on the phone this time around."
"Mm," is Honoka's quiet acknowledgment. There is so much she doesn't know about Zach's mysterious organization. She would ask -- and she is curious and receptive to any details that Zach chooses to offer her. But delving further just seems like prying that the acrobatic juggler doesn't want to get into right now.
"The more you know, the better, yes." A slight smile is offered as well.
As for the suggestion to keep on keeping on, Honoka can't help but smirk in response to that. "Well, thanks for the advice, I might have been lost without it." Still, she nods her head -- it's nice of Zach to be thinking about her and the troupe, all the same. "I'll do what I can, yeah. The heat has been pretty unbearable lately, but the crew is putting in some monstrous air handlers in the tent now that we have more than a one-night stopover. It'll be real nice tonight."
The juggler adds, "I'll... try to keep from texting you -too- much, then."
Zach smiles widely at the snarky comment as he reaches for Honoka, bringing her chin up enough to lean in for a kiss. It's somehow fierce and gentle at the same time, and lingers just slightly longer than some might consider socially acceptable. Zach pulls away, his grin wide and almost satisfied, as if the kiss were not enough for him.
"Or don't," he says in a slight drawl, "So long as you don't get angry if I set the phone to 'Do Not Disturb'. I have to sleep /sometime/, you know," he says with a wink as he backs away. He scoops up the bag without having to see where it is, so that he doesn't have to turn away from Honoka a moment sooner than he needs to.
<<I'll come back,>> he sends to her. <<And nothing will stop me from doing that.>>
The Ainu woman may be closing her eyes, but that's not to say she shrinks away from the attention; in fact, she even lifts herself up on her tiptoes to prolong the moment even that much longer. No, she's focusing on her other senses; the tender touch of her fingertips upon the front of Zach's shirt, the scent of desire emanating outward from him, and most particularly, the honest emotion shared with her. The psion resonates happiness and elation, and she is all smiles as he pulls away.
Eyelids flutter open as she presses her lips together, chin dropping as she looks up at Zach. She nods quietly, and quickly. "I... I'll try. I'll have plenty to do around here, at least."
The Ainu woman smiles and waves back to Zach. << You better! >>
Log created on 21:42:22 08/12/2016 by Honoka, and last modified on 10:11:28 08/15/2016.