Honoka - Catching Up With Kazuki

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Description: The week of her return from the island of Shang Tsung, "Miko Kobayashi" visits Kazuki in the hospital.

Southtown General Hospital has a reputation as one of the best hospitals in the world when it comes to pathcing up fighters. It makes sense, given the town's history and tradition as a hotspot of the fighting world. Compentent doctors, friendly nurses, the best technology money can buy. That clean, antiseptic smell and the clocks that seem to run backwards when they want to.

It's Kazuki Kirigana's first time here. It's the first time he has been beaten so badly as to need the hospitalization. Three ribs broken. His right arm. His left leg in three places. The doctors are not entirely certain that Kirigana will fully recover from the injuries dealt to him two weeks ago by the insane Jezebel "Nightmare Spangles" Faiblesse. Sure, he'd walk again, be able to operate in society normally with no serious impediment. But his fighting career? Noone can really say for certain at this point.

For his part, Kazuki appears to be watching television. It has to be a recording; one can hear the same sound bite over and over again.


Then silence.




The young Ainu woman has been to Southtown General a few times before, in one capacity or another. This time is a little different, for she is wearing the dark-colored uniform of a Gedo High student -- one previously identified as Miko Kobayashi. Her hair is styled up into a bun, though her glasses have been left aside. Blue-lensed eyes pass across every feature of the antiseptic white hallways, before falling upon the name card: K. Kirigana.

She steps inside.
As soon as her ears hear that particular phrase, her jaw clenches.
A hand snaps up to her mouth, as she forces herself to swallow.

The television repeats itself a third, fourth, fifth time. It does not repeat a sixth, the deranged words fading in amplitude in perfect coordination with the image vanishing into the void. The culprit: Miko's thumb on the power button, troubled eyes seeking those of Kazuki Kirigana in the bed.

"Enough of that nonsense," declares Miko through the ensuing silence.
It's true that the removal of the repetitive stimuli could cause its own psychological side effects.
Miko feels qualified enough to deal with the fallout, if her sardonic smile is any indication.

"Kazuki," she states, "Long time no see. I had hoped to see you under better conditions."
The lopsided smile yields way to a more genuinely empathetic one, as she lowers her head in deference to the room's primary occupant.
She says nothing else at the moment -- curious to gauge her acquaintance's reaction.

Kazuki blinks in a bit of surprise. He had not heard Miko coming; there were a lot of competing songs in this building, in a lot of variations. Sick people, dying people, these were new takes on tunes Kazuki had heard before. He had been trying to tune them out, for a lot of different reasons.

Now that she has his attention, though, he sees. More importantly he listens.

"Kobayashi-sempai," he says. "Please excuse me if I stay in bed." He frowns a bit, regarding Miko strangely before shaking it off. "The doctors say I need to stay in bed."

Then he takes a deep breath, forcing a polite smile back onto his face. "It /is/ good to see you, though," he says.

In response to the apology, Miko takes a bow low enough to honor the both of them. "Stay in bed," she agrees, "I certainly don't want to delay your recovery any longer."

In their time together, the Ainu has come to understand the boy's observational patterns. His tacit responses. His almost curious sensitivity to... chi? But his reticence is a telltale sign that perhaps she had been away from Gedo for much too long.

"Likewise. Forgive me for not coming by sooner, I... I've been a little busy."
Her song fluctuates with that delay. It's clear in both words and personality that she's hiding something, but by Japanese standards that shouldn't be terribly surprising.

"You could've picked something else to watch than that harpy's voice. I'm surprised the hospital staff hadn't shut it off sooner. Is there... something else you'd like to watch instead?"

Kazuki frowns. "I..." He is clearly trying to put words to an idea, and having a hard time of it. He /wants/ to express the idea, he's just having a hard time figuring out /how/. "That is the last part of the fight I can actually remember," he says quietly. "Everything after that..." He shakes his head, gesturing at the now blank screen. "It is pretty much exactly like that."

He looks away, out the window. "The whole thing is hard to reconcile," he says. "That fight should not have happened. Not because I lost," he clarifies. "That happens. But that woman? She is not anything like sane." There's no venom there, no rancor. Just statements of fact, as far as he can tell. Miko can tell, though, that Kirigana is still a bit shaken by the whole thing.

Miko listens carefully and attentively, without judgment. "Short-term memories can be lost with certain levels of trauma. I'm not surprised that you don't remember it. No amount of dredging or digging will restore an event that was never committed to memory." She gestures to the blank television: "There's simply nothing to retrieve."

As Kazuki looks to the window, Miko continues watching his face, his expressions. She, too, remembers the times that Honoka had fought Jezebel Faiblesse -- and had walked away with a similar understanding of the taekwondoka. "I agree. You were, admittedly... a bit out of your league in fighting her. But only in the sense that you are a young high school student with a bright future, and she is... the opposite of all of that." She pauses a beat, allowing herself a slight smile. "You don't have the life experiences to match the tragedies that have built up in her. The insanity would make no sense to you without, really, experiencing something similar."

Miko folds her arms before her, continuing to stand at the foot of Kazuki's bed. She makes no attempt to intrude on his personal space any further.
"You could have prepared more. You could have researched her past history, delved into her psyche. And, I have. But believe me when I tell you that none of her previous fights involved... chickens."

Her smile grows tight, as she lowers her chin to a conspiratory angle.
"In short, the statement 'She is not anything like sane' is as a concise an explanation as one could put together. Congratulations."

It is here that she, too, finally decides to look out the window.

"But, why -that- video, and not a video of the rest of the fight, allowing you to piece together the rest of it? Are you considering vengeance, Kazuki? Breaking her bones, as she's broken yours?"

Kazuki picks up the remote with his left hand, the right being wrapped up in a cast, before thumbing the remote. On the screen, Kazuki slams his elbow down on the outside of Jezebel's knee with disturbing force. "Apparently tried that last part," he says dully, gesturing at the screen. Jezebel is sent flying across the fighting arena, only to have her get back up. "Did not exactly work out, it would seem." He takes a deep breath.

"The doctors are not sure if I will be able to fight again," he says very, /very/ quietly. "I... I'm not sure how I feel about that."

Miko looks back towards the screen, as it is turned back on and forwarded to the appropriate location. She's watched the fight before, so it's only to clue her in to the point Kazuki is about to make. But when that's complete, she turns back to Kazuki, uniform shirt creasing as she offers him a mild shrug.

"Give it some time," she offers with a faint smile.

He takes a deep breath. And he practically whispers as a followup -- earning a more serious and somber expression from Miko.

"Well, let us reframe that statement, hm?"
One hand raises. "The doctors are not sure. This means that it could go either way." A pause. "They would be in the wrong if they told you -would- fight again. It is not their business to tell you things which could be proven untrue. That earns them a malpractice suit."

Her other hand raises. "Or they could tell you you -won't- fight again, which is equally untrue -- but removes hope."

The hands alternatively raise and lower as she continues. "The goal was to set your expectations at a realistic level. These doctors do not know your strength of spirit as well as I do. But moreover, they are not allowed to speak the plain and simple truth."

Her eyes glisten, as she allows her hands to fall behind her back.
"It's simple. You prove the pessimism wrong. You change every 'might not' statement into a 'will'. You 'might not fight again?' Bullshit. You -will- fight again."

Miko reaches down to the foot of the bed, and retrieves the chart. Flipping through it, she shakes her head. "This entire industry is predicated on bullshit, all because patients sue their doctors for not making miracles happen. The doctor's job is a medical procedure. Patients are the miracles."

The chart, if Miko can make sense of it, offers nothing in the way of hope. Just a clinical, if one would, description the exact effects of the beating he had taken. The broken limbs are obvious to the untrained eye. The broken ribs should not come as a surprise if Miko had seen the fight. There was a surprisingly severe concussionl Kazuki had taken a few really vicious shots to the head after he became unable to protect himself.

Kazuki takes that in, nodding. "It's not that," he says after a moment. "I mean..." He fumbles for words again, but that is no surprise. Kazuki's not exactly the most verbally expressive person around. "I know that the doctors have a job to do, and that they have to protect themselves from getting sued." He takes another breath before gesturing with his left hand, letting the remote fall to the bed again. "On the one hand, the whole thing with the dojo would be less of an issue. I would be free from that." Then he gestures with his right hand, in the cast. "On the other? It makes me really angry, that that... woman would be allowed to so casually take this away from me like that."

His arms fall to the bed, and Kazuki looks exhausted. "It's a bit surprising, is all," he admits.

Miko nods quietly as Kazuki recounts the statements she had made, reconfiguring them into a form which shows his underlying comprehension. He may have received a concussion, but the vast majority of his mental capacities seem to be quite intact.

And yet, Miko shakes her head slowly side to side at the suggestion that he might have been responsible for the dojo. "If you had won, and destroyed the dojo as your victory lap, maybe you'd be on the hook for that. But with regard to how she would be... allowed to take this from you...?"

The Ainu woman laughs, softly. It might come across as a smidge condescending.

"It's the same thing that protects you from being held responsible for the dojo: Contracts. So on the one hand, the fight promoters know she's a formidable threat. And in all honesty, they know -you- are as well."

She replaces the clipboard into its slot at the foot of the bed. "But on the other hand -- let's reframe this. You're fighting someone who's obviously not immune to the ravages of time. See it from this woman's perspective... She sees a determined, maybe a little angry highschooler. Should she have shown sympathy? Treat this Kazuki person like the child he appears, only taking swings that she knows he could handle? Should she hold back, and never use her full force -- because he's just not -worth- her -effort?-"

Miko nods quietly as Kazuki recounts the statements she had made, reconfiguring them into a form which shows his underlying comprehension. He may have received a concussion, but the vast majority of his mental capacities seem to be quite intact.

And yet, Miko shakes her head slowly side to side at the reminder that he is trying to make his family proud. "The dojo is... its own bag of worms. I won't get into that -- that's a personal decision which you'll have to make. But with regard to how she would be... allowed to take this from you...?"

The Ainu woman laughs, softly. It might come across as a smidge condescending.

"It's not that hard. Contracts. The fight promoters know she's a formidable threat. And in all honesty, they know -you- are as well."

She replaces the clipboard into its slot at the foot of the bed. "But let's reframe this. You're fighting someone who's obviously not immune to the ravages of time. See it from this woman's perspective... She sees a determined, maybe a little angry highschooler. Should she have shown sympathy? Treat this Kazuki person like the child he appears, only taking swings that she knows he could handle? Should she hold back, and never use her full force -- because he's just not -worth- her -effort?-"

Kazuki turns to regard Miko, a single eyebrow raised. "I meant that they let someone who is obviously fucking crazy into an event like this at all," he finally says. He doesn't yell this. He's not angry, much, either. But the word choice is obviously telling.

Miko simply smiles in return, with only a macabre glint in her eyes.
"Well, you're fucking crazy. They let you in."

Her song pauses for as long as she did -- the bass drop. She lets her words hang in the air for a moment.

"You were pretty ruthless in your past public fights. It's true that you may have been... outmatched? But you were punching up, so to speak -- attempting to push yourself into a new echelon of fighters. That's... just what happened. Bones break. Sinew tears apart. And both can be mended. Or, as in her case, replaced."

Miko holds up a hand, warding off any rebuttal from Kazuki as she delves into her memory for a moment. "One of Jezebel's last fights was against a particularly brutal individual known as Sergei Dragunov. Her 'fucking insanity' was not enough to take down a man easily ten times as ruthless and determined as you. And when it came down to it, the man -- who, admittedly, is crazy on a different level -- gouged out Jezebel's eye. It was a simple maneuver, from a man widely suspected to be a Spetsnaz operative versed in acquisition, interrogation, and assassination. She has a mechanical replacement now."

She lowers her hand, her motions suggesting she's done with her special moment. "Do you think she asked the same question about him? To ask... how could someone so crazy be allowed to fight -me?-" Her lips curl into a brief smile. "Retreat is -always- an option in a televised or recorded match."

Kazuki is silent for a long moment. "People have this misconception about Aikido being this passive, almost pacifistic, school of fighting," he finally says as he looks away. "It's... some of the thinking behind it is, but the techiniques really aren't anything gentle or nice. They are meant to bring decisive ends to fights." It's not really a defense of anything.

"So this is my fault, then?" he asks uncertainly, "For not knowing that I should have backed down from the fight?"

"'Fault' is such a loaded word."

Miko smiles faintly, looking downward at her feet. She leans backward, resting her shoulders against the wall, as she pauses to consider her next words.

"It's always your decision, on whether to engage in a fight. But you should never engage in a fight if you are not a hundred percent prepared to accept that you might suffer a permanent or disfiguring loss in the process. If... there was anything that -I- have ever said that suggested otherwise, I apologize."
The smile fades, as she draws an intake of breath. "It is through loss that we find that we are truly -alive-, Kazuki. If there are no stakes, no -reward- to the conflict, then perhaps you should not initiate it. But fighting is, in many ways, its own reward. Perhaps fighting someone as strong as she was not much of a reward at all. Perhaps it was simply an overdose of humility. Was the cost too great? You seem to think so -now-, naturally."

Miko closes her eyes, swallowing a gulp of air. "It would be a shame if someone of your talent were to stop fighting entirely. But it is, nonetheless, your decision. Not the doctors' decision, but yours. If you want it badly enough, you will regain every iota of your prior potential. If you don't -- then maybe you will stay in that bed forever."

Her eyes open, lifting to meet Kazuki's. "You have to -desire- to stand again. You have to -desire- the heat of battle to fight again."

"True," he admits as he closes his eyes, taking another breath. He winces a bit, the injury to his ribs tugging at him. "Either way, I think it might be best to stay down for a bit. I have never had broken ribs before, but doing more than laying here hurts. A lot."

"Then stay down, dummy."

Her words are delivered with a wide and obvious smile.
"Ribs are meant to take the impact away from your vital organs. Moving when they're broken can just impale said organs, you know this."
She chastises for fun, of course -- the rhythm of her song continues undeterred, her apparent change of emotion little more than a ripple on the surface of a mighty lake. "Let's stop talking about your body then. How has Gedo been? Or Southtown? Saya is... not exactly the most -reliable- source of gossip, and Touji hardly seems to notice." A pause -- and then she adds, "That's how I found out you were here, of course. Saya was, in a rare moment of weakness, concerned for you."

Kazuki blushes a bit at the words and attention. "Saya-san was at the fight," he says quietly. "She stayed with the medics when they carried me off." He takes a short breath. "Things were... wierd for a bit. /Quiet/ for a bit," he says, tapping his left ear for emphasis. "The big fighting events had a lot of lesser-known names pulling matches for a while. As if all the A-list types weren't available for some reason." He gestures vaguely. "Then all of a sudden is belt gauntlets and," He reaches under his pillow and pulls out an envelope. She's seen at least two exactly like this one. "A King of Fighters tournament that I somehow got invited to. I'm not going to be in any shape for it, though."

"Quiet, mm."
Miko nods quietly. She's heard similar stories from her adult contacts, but getting a read of the school from someone less prone to emotional outbursts is helpful as well.

"It was another tournament..." she volunteers with a subdued voice, "... One with a greater weight than the ones we've seen in the past few years." She nods slowly, piecing Kazuki's words into her understanding of the situation. "Well, at least the school did not fall apart through the machinations of some megalomaniacal powers again. I was halfway expecting something like that."

She eyes the envelope, but does not reach for it. "Eh, I wouldn't worry about it. There will likely be another one next year. Plenty of opportunities." But part of her couldn't help but notice the way in which he reacted when Saya's name was mentioned a second time. "... You and her seem to be rather close nowadays... Have you ever actually -fought- Saya, Kazuki? I'd be curious to see how well you two can push each other, once you're feeling up to it."

That blush? Still there. "Not anything like all-out," he admits, though there was that footage of Kazuki pulling something like improvised Saikyo-Ryu during his fight with Jezebel. "Some sparring, but nothing more serious than that." He grins a bit sheepishly. "Though that might be interesting. "Once I've recovered, I mean."

Miko nods slowly. Had she noticed the Saikyo-ryu in the footage? It would be difficult to tell, as her enigmatic smile gives no hint to that, nor does the melody of her lifeforce stammer in the slightest. It's a moot point, though, as Kazuki's honest words admit as much. "Of course."

She takes a moment to maneuver to the side of his bed, and with quiet calm, she reaches for his hand. "The next few weeks will be difficult for you, as your body will be trying its damndest to recover. But promise me something, if you can."

The Ainu puppetmaster wraps both her hands around his; she is careful to avoid the network of clear tubing and electronic telemetry common to such hospital trappings. Her hands carry heat to his -- her song shifting to a more uplifting melody.

"Promise me you will listen to your doctors and become well again. Promise me you will not give up fighting."
Her words, though their volume is scarcely above a whisper, can be heard with crystal clarity.

Kazuki tenses slightly at the touch. Not a recoil or anything, but of a reaction of surprise. He frowns thoughtfully. This is clearly important to her. "Okay," he says. "It's a promise."

Miko smiles warmly, as the invisible waves of her psychic influence wash over Kazuki. Perhaps Kazuki was inspired by her words alone, and the intimation was unnecessary and overdone. But the disguised Akatsuki advisor could not bear to accept the chance that her protege was even on the verge of succumbing to thoughts of failure. She could not move on with her grand machinations without knowing she'd contributed, in however small a fashion, to Kazuki proceeding onward with his life as it was prior to the fight with the fallen child star. She knows that Kazuki has a long road to recovery -- and while she cannot be with him every step of the way, she will do everything she can to ensure he can traverse it a brisk pace.

"Wonderful," she states with a warm and effusive smile. Her touch lingers upon his hands for a moment, as she draws away -- and only then does she gently lower his hand back to the mattress. "I need to go soon, but don't think I won't drop back in on you from time to time. I can only keep Saya and Touji out of trouble for so much longer."

Her song lazily drifts back to its former cadence and rhythm, as she delivers a respectful bow to Kazuki. "Is there anything I can bring you from the outside? Music, or food, or... anything, really?"

"Maybe you can take something more than bring something. Saya-san still has my headphones, I think," Kazuki says. "If you could let her know she can hang on to them until I can take them back from her, that would be good." He grins a bit at the word play.

Miko smiles broadly -- perhaps the most brightly she's smiled all week. "Sure thing, I'll let her know."

Miko bows once more. "See you in a little while, Kazuki. Take it easy..." And then she ambles quietly out of the room, taking the music that only Kazuki can hear with her.

Log created on 13:31:49 07/23/2017 by Honoka, and last modified on 20:46:33 07/23/2017.