Description: After her Rising Star match, Mint finds herself stuck in a Southtown hospital, and getting a visitor.
With Southtown as the world's fighting capital, Southtown General Hospital has the best trauma surgeons on the planet, hands-down. Multiple stab wounds? No problem. Severe bruising? Piece of cake. Concussions sustained from being forcibly possessed by an invading enemy spirit? ... Okay, that's not common, but there is an SOP for it.
And all three are among the line items denoted on a clipboard marked "PANESH, M." The clipboard is hung from the footboard of one of those fancy high-tech reclining beds -- and upon which is Miss M. Panesh, currently spiked up with a cocktail consisting of morphine, saline fluids, and some other cool experimental stuff for boosting the body's recovery mechanisms. Minal has a bandage over her head and tubes sticking out of her arms and upper torso. A rigid, 3D printed air cast prevents her from moving her torso much, if at all; it looks like printed plastic, with a number of holes placed in the form to reduce weight.
Currently, she's awake. At least, the assortment of widgets attached to her -suggest- she's awake, and her eyes are open and watching a small screen. She looks -busy- and hyper-focused on the screen. But while there appears to be an engineering app open on the screen, the mouse is moving seemingly of its own volition. She's wearing both of her "human-normal" prosthetic hands, and neither of those is moving at all.
After the Darkstalker Crisis, the hospital feels almost disturbingly calm, now. Sure, with how much fighting goes on through the city, and with the rise of gang activity, the staff likely sees more than their fair share of activity still, but at least the sense of presence on gets isn't so... morbid, anymore. It's more business as usual now, rather than the bloodied, panicked crisis mode the building must have been in a few months prior.
But even then - or perhaps even more so - a certain figure walking down the hospital hall ends up drawing some looks. The kind presence this kind of figure carries doesn't usually bode well in a hospital setting, even if some of the staff might personally recognize him. But only few really seem to know that assassination of a rival organization member in the hospital isn't really this one's style.
Besides. He's here for something he considers much more important right in this moment, anyway.
A knock against the slightly-ajar door to the Corporal's room, before it's drawn fully open, followed by the sound of snakeskin shoes shuffling along the floor to cross the threshold before the door is closed fully.
If the sound of movement at the door alone wasn't enough to draw her attention - assuming she is physically able to turn her head to look anyway - the familiar, deep voice, likely would bring her to find a tall japanese man in a a black blazer over a dark-red button-up with a... box of chocolate confectionaries in his hand? Looking her over with a faint frown shading his bright-green gaze.
"You got worked over pretty good, huh?" murmurs Tairyu, before he comes stepping in closer, drawing out a chair to bring with him to settle besides Mint's bed.
"I thought about bringing flowers," he says, with the box of chocolates set on the nightstand for the time being. "But somehow I figured you would appreciate this kind of thing more. ... Though it did not occur to me to call the staff and ask if you're able to eat anything yet."
It becomes increasingly clear that Minal -is- fixated upon her work, as her irises occasionally expand or shrink as she focuses on different areas of the screen. So it's a good few moments after her name is mentioned that the pint-sized engineer even realizes someone was speaking to her. "Mm?"
Looking over to the sound of the voice, her eyes grow wide. "K...Katashi! Oh, hey!" She looks at his face, then to what's in his hands, and then his face again. "Guh, wow, I've... been in the zone! Have you been here long? I'm not tryin' to be rude or anything... Yeah, sit down! Man, it's great to see you, thanks!"
Her elbows shift about on the sheets. Eyes wince shut from the small jolts of pain that accompany the movement. "Yeah, I... god. Hisako. I... I can't even explain it, fightin' her was like fighting the -wind-. Only, uh, lots more murderstabby, ahahaha." A plastic hand rubs across her body cast. "But hey, now my body's got its own pair of Crocs." Her eyebrows furrow, as she considers whether it would be a 'pair' of Crocs, or whether it'd be more correct to say she just has one Croc.
She waves her hand dismissively, grinning.
"I don't normally eat flowers."
She breaks into a silly grin. "Chocolates are easy, I just let 'em melt. But like, docs say I should be out and about by the end of the week!"
"Not long," he assures her while one corner of his mouth twitches ever-so-subtly. There's something ineherently endearing about the way the engineer got over-focused on her work, but her visitor makes at least a token effort in not letting amusement shine through too much in his face.
Of course, the wince of pain is noticed too, but by the time he's sitting down and trying to say something on the matter, she's... already going off and talking like nothing happened. The comparison to crocs - a croc? - alone seems to stun Tairyu just enough that he completely forgets the planned urging for limiting her movements. Maybe it's better to let her talk for a bit without interruptions anyway.
Though finally, he can't help but squint his eyes at her, with a quick glance at the chocolates. "... Oh, I don't know," his voice rumbles out. "I heard they can be good for your stomach, or something."
A slow shake of the head made, before a much warmer smile sneaks it's way onto his expression. "I'm glad to see getting sent to the hospital hasn't soured your usual disposition."
Mint glances over towards her screen, directing the cursor for a moment, before squinting her right eye briefly. Her right hand squeezes into a fist, and she looks back over to Tairyu. "Well... sure, but I guess it'd depend on the flowers. Like, chrysanthemums are toxic or something, you know?" She smiles -- about as close to a laugh as she can get without really threatening to -hurt- herself.
"Eh, hospitals are always so doomy-gloomy. If you let a good mood slip even a little bit it gets to be bad times for everyone involved." She flicks a thumbs-up to Tairyu, grinning. "Positive moods have -also- been shown to reduce recovery times! So that's why I use -cocaine- to boost my mood. It's way better than morphine!"
She's kidding, right? She's kidding. If only because that goofy smile is -too- goofy, even to be explained away by illicit drugs.
"And maybe jello. They had like... taro flavor. It has no right bein' this good."
Her smile fades off, if only by degrees. "And look at you with all the Neo League victories! I almost hopped in to watch you in the bathhouse -- " She trails off, furrowing her brow. And she instead segues into, "-- but -wow- that sounds creepy out loud!"
"I suppose that's true..." Tairyu agrees easily enough, slowly leaning his form over forward after the initial settling onto the pulled-over chair, arms draping lazily over his own knees as he does. "Even outside of a hospital it doesn't do much good to anyone to let yourself fall down that hole, right? I mean, it ain't good to let things bottle inside either, but... Always forward, right?
A rapid series of blinks comes over the alleged cocaine use.
"Corporal *Panesh*," he says, with a sudden tone of faux-authority. "It seems hardly proper behaviour for an upstanding officer like yourself to indulge in such subtances! And even less so..." Slowly, he leans in closer, eyes narrowed at her... for all of two seconds before his usually ever-persistent poker face breaks. "...To not save any for your guest."
With a low rumble of amusement in his throat, he leans himself back away again, only to end up cocking his head slightly off to one side when the matter of the League fights comes up. "Oh, I don't know if it's *that* creepy. It was meant to be watched, you know? And it's not like they were having us fight naked in there anyhow. ... Not entirely sure what to think about my opponent's getup there, though... There's some weird people in these circles."
"Well, yeah, that's just a given. But there's so many -people- who work here, day in, day out, having to deal with all these sick people. Sad and depressed is like, their -lives-. So it's -doubly- important to be the bright spot here. 'Cause there's so many people who can benefit from just a little bit of good vibes."
And... as for the alleged illicit drug use. Mint frowns and puts on her best puppy-dog eyes for the staredown. There's a small hitch in her chest as he keeps his poker face on. But when he delivers the punchline? Mint wheezes, keeping one hand over her air-casted torso as she belts out a raspy laugh. It hurts. But it's a good kind of hurt!
Her teeth are still bared -- partly in pain, mind -- as the laughter itself dies down. She transitions that look into more of a proper bared-tooth grin as she nods along. "I... had heard about her fighting style before. She is very distracting! ... I mean really, advertising for her own restaurant?" She chuckles -- more softly this time, mind.
"... Have you ever eaten there?"
"Oh-- oh no, I'm sorry," Tairyu mumbles in quick apology past his own rumbles of laughter that come rising up infectously to chorus over the patient's laughter, even if hers is a much more pained one. "Take it easy, take it easy..." He urges further, with one hand moving to gently settle onto her shoulder. "Sorry, I shouldn't have worked you up like that... Your ribs must be killing you."
The hand ends up staying on her shoulder, unless she makes any protests over it, while the other draws up to scratch lightly at his cheek with a forefinger. "Distracting is about right... I mean, I don't know if she is actually focused on that marketing thing, or if it's some genuine tactic to try and get her opponents off-guard. I can imagine it might get a lot of people to lose their cool, you know?"
And his eyes narrow at the question, with some faint accusation in them. "...If it was the former, then I see it's working on *you*, at least. But no... It's in Brazil, right? Not exactly one of my usual stomping grounds." And it being on the opposite side of the globe, it's not exactly someplace one would make a casual diversion to from Southtown, either.
But still, he considers the dark-skinned corporal for a moment, and eventually asks of her, "... Do you want to go there?"
Mint waves off Tairyu's mumbled apology. It's such a terrible thing to have to -apologize- for making someone laugh, isn't it? Still, she has choked-back snickers to offer as gratitude all the same.
"I mean, who can say, right? I mean, heck, there's nothing sayin' -you- can't try it. I mean, just think about it, banners for the Mars and Venus Clubs in the backdrop of a fight stage. You could even bust out a banner or something as some new kinda signature move. The possibilities are endless!"
She seems as unfazed by the faux accusation as she is by the addition of a hand to her shoulder. Really, what moves her more is the location of Olivia's restaurant -- which makes her quirk an eyebrow up in confusion.
"Oh. It's not in Southtown? I thought everything was in Southtown!" She laughs -- though not so much that it threatens to break stitches, this time.
"... What, to Brazil? Pssh, I'd prob'ly get lost from all the boobs swinging about in my face." She scoffs, grinning slyly to see Tairyu's reaction. "Maybe we could try an' game the Neo League's ridic travel budget into giving us a free trip. Payback for sending us to a mountain in the middle of a snowstorm."
"...Yeahhh, no, I don't think that's really my style," Tairyu insists with a bit of a wince over the particular imagery Mint has succeeded in painting for him. "I kind of consider the whole club venture a seperate part of my identity from... well. The fighting, I suppose..."
That might beg the question of what kind of life he lives, exactly. Mint may even catch the subtle implication that being a business owner is but something on the side in his life.
"... You're kidding, right?" He asks bluntly then. "I know this city is pretty big, but there's no way *everything* can be here. I mean... You aren't usually, either." A light squeeze to her shoulder, before his hand finally withdraws away. "Shame, too, that."
The reaction she gets, then? It's one of slightly-widening eyes and upward-hitching brows, before his gaze draws a bit lower from her face, just momentarily. "Hmmm. Are you the type to get easily distracted by that kind of thing, Minal? Or would you be dressing appropriately for fitting in? That might help with that, who knows..."
His hands clasp together between his knees, idly, after that bit of teasing, and when his eyes meet hers directly, it's in a bit more serious tone.
"I mean, we could. But it'd have to be whenever the next season starts, right? And they might not let me fight in that depending on how the final match here goes." A thoughtful pause. "Or I could just take you. You know, when you can wriggle some vacation time in."
The offer is presented all too easily, without any hesitation behind it. Like just casually offering to pay to take someone on vacation on the other end of the globe owuld be a perfectly normal thing.
"If you'd like to, that is."
Mint blinks indecisively as Tairyu attempts to distance himself from his job. Or his job from his fighting. Whatever the issue, she doesn't seem to dwell on it that long. FOR NOW.
Minal grins, though, when her ignorance -- was it feigned or not, that time? -- of Olivia's restaurant was made clear. She opens her mouth for a quick retort, but that's when she notices the pressure on her shoulder. And the subsequent release. It's noted by her eyes, if not much more -- at the moment.
Another brilliant opportunity for the bedridden boxer to blink in bafflement would be when Tairyu prods her about her attention span in Brazil. "No, I don't think you understand, like, I'm four nine, right? Like, -literally-, one year I was partying in Nawlins for Mardi Gras and I swear, right on Bourbon Street I got boobed right in the face. Like, just -walking down the street!- I can see why Six Foot Tall Man wouldn't experience that and all, it's like a low-altitude problem right? But like, it left a trauma, don't mock me!"
To allay any fears that Tairyu might have -actually- offended her (he didn't), she's smiling pretty much the whole time she goes off on that tear. And she... -might- have had more to say if he hadn't given her a Meaningful Look just then.
"Aww. That's sweet! And yeah, I'd... probably -try- to fit in, but it ain't gonna be some kinda competition or nothin'." She laughs.
And then she thinks on it for a moment. Did he... just...? More blinking ensues.
And then she narrows her eyes. "... Hey, I don't remember sayin' you could have your hand back. You've got two, share." Another broad grin.
And ... this time, a moment of quiet smugness, as she pieces her words together. "So do you offer fully-paid vacations to -all- your drinking buddies, or am I just special somehow?"
"Ah, yes, and now you have a deadly phobia of boobs, understood," Tairyu obseves with an all-too-serious tone-- only for him to break out into little fits of chuckles, and his hand comes up to wave in the air over this. "Ah-- I'm sorry, I'll stop, I'll stop. I just couldn't help it."
He falls silent for a moment there, possibly with her-- giving her plenty enough time, at least, to fully mull over everything that was said there.
And then that demand comes, and he narrows his own eyes, with a perhaps uncharacteristically-sly smile. "Mmm. Yes, ma'am, my mistake," he rumbles in a low purr-like sound, while he reaches his hand over again -- settling it on the same shoulder again, but this time brushing it a bit further inwards, closer to the crook of her neck. "Better?"
The question from her, no matter how smug it might be in tone otherwise, does actually hold quite a bit of weight to it. And the japanese man, in turn, allows a meaningful pause to pass by before he confesses, "No. You're the first."
That little fact is allowed to linger in the air for a good moment, too, before the man's expression turns a bit more sheepish and he adds in, "I... realize that might be a bit much for a second date, but... maybe one day."
"They're a scourge on society," riffs Mint, with a mock pout. "I coulda lost an eye that day."
Minal continues with the smug act right up until the point at which she can has a new pillow. At which point, she makes it official by bumping her chin and cheek head against Tairyu's hand. Finally, something that doesn't smell like hospital antiseptic. "Better," she agrees with a satisfied wrinkle of her nose. "I forgive you."
She watches the Japanese man with curiosity, her insightful eyes watching for each nuance of his facial expression, as she considers his words. She can feel her cheeks getting warmer as he declares her to be the first. And... when he talks about a second date, she chuckles.
"So we're dating now," she grins. It's easy to joke about that, because she's got his hand pretty much pinned down right now. "... Yeah, somewhere closer would be good. Somewhere I don't have to worry about poking my eye out."
She pauses for a bit before continuing in a low whisper. 'i actually kinda like it here, not being the only short person...' She snickers softly.
"Aww man. I wish I could get up and walk around. -Tomorrow- they tell me. It's like, so far from now. So where -could- we go for a second date? Like, nearbyish maybe?"
Usually so stoic, Mint's current companion can't quite help but allow a faint, satisfied smile to tug at his lips now, with the warm sensation of her cheek pressing to the top of his hand.
"If you're alright with calling it that, yeah," he notes on the matter of... well, 'dating', and slowly, he nudges his hand at her cheek, just so he can try and turn it around and settle his palm to be the one providing the cushioning for her cheek, instead. "And as long as you want that too." The latter statement comes with his thumb drawing up to brush along the upper curve of her cheek in a little further display of physical affection.
A toothy smile comes with her whisper, and in an equally low, conspirational tone, he notes, "Don't let them hear that though, hm?"
A low, surprisingly breathy sigh comes out while he watches the woman laid there, using his hand as a pillow. Watching every little motion within her expression, much like she is watching his. "There's a korean barbeque place I quite like," he suggests. "A bit higher class than a bar. Unless you want something a bit more personal like the place we last shared drinks in."
Mint smiles, her warmth radiating back against Tairyu's hand. And when he nudges, she relents juuust enough for him to flip it over per her suggestion. "Well, yeah, we -gotta- call it that. Or else anyone's watching is just gonna think I'm either desperate and needy, or..."
She thinks on that for a moment, looking off at her engineering monitor.
"Or that I'm fishing for ideas on my next hand. I mean..." She pauses, tip of her tongue darting out. "Nah. Too big. It'd just look super awkward, walking around with a Mint hand and a giant Katashi hand."
But... when the opportunity comes to talk about KBBQ, her eyes light up. There's only a second's hesitation before she answers, lips curling into a bright grin. "Deal. I frickin' -love- Korean barbecue. It's like, jack up the spice however much you want, and the chef won't care, because you're the freakin' cook, man!"
She glances down again, humming softly. "Hey, let me know if you lose circulation in this thing, yeah? I'm drunk with power over here."
"And cocaine. Natch."
"...I mean, at that point you would definitely have to do that to both your hands, right?" Katashi points out with a wide flash of a grin.
"Korean barrbaque it is. I'll get us a really good table and everything." There's another subtle brush of his thumb along her cheek after, and... for just a moment, he is content enough in staying like that, emerald eyes lingering on the soldier's hazel ones.
"I think I am good like this," he assures in a low whisper. "You can abuse this power for a while longer."
His expression does slowly turn a bit more somber, more thoughtful, while considering Minal. And eventually...
"Listen, I..." He sighs out, uncharacteristically stumbling on his own words for now. "I want this just as much. Just... There are things you don't know about me, yet. And I realize, now, that I... don't know how you might take those things."
"Pssh. And that means -you- get mecha hands? No way, man!" Mint laughs -- perhaps a bit too much, as her eyes wince shut for a fraction of a second. She's understanding the limits of her croc-like prison, at least.
It helps that she has a beautiful pair of eyes to stare into, of course. "I dunno. They say abuse leads to addiction. Maybe even -dependency-. Nnnguh." For now, at least, Tairyu's a welcome distraction from her hospital stay. It's true that engineering -was- that, but... engineering is something she always has available. Whereas Tairyu is... not. His attention is a luxury to be hoarded whenever possible.
And then he starts... stumbling over words. Minal's smile diminishes, but only in the slightest. "... Well, yeah there are things I don't know about you. Shoe size, favorite color, whether you prefer Pepsi or Coca-cola." She pauses for a moment, then realizes from Tairyu's expression that maybe, just -maybe-, her refusal to take things seriously needs to be put on pause for a moment.
She draws in her breath. "Listen, you make me happy, and you always manage to take my breath away. That's what I know right now. If there's something you think I should know, I'm all ears." She smiles, then adds, "I mean, I'm listening."
"You're sure? Not even gloves?" He suggests with a subtle smile, mischief playing in the greens of his eyes.
The fact that this conversation is now edging towards a potentially unfortunate subject is... worrying, perhaps. And it makes Tairyu visibly hesitant to continue speaking, lest he lose this moment in time, where the two of them can just... revel in each other's presence.
"I suppose... part of me is afraid I'm going to lose the chance at it all," he admits, with aheavy sigh, teeth visibly worrrying at his lower lip in a fit of nervousness. "... It's been a while since I've... wanted to be with anyone, like this. And I don't want to lose that chance. But you also..." His eyes close. "You deserve to know."
Even so, there's a long moment that passes, with his lingering hesitation, and his eyes even drift downwards and away from hers. But in the end, he can only put that off for so long, and once he's steeled his will for it, he re-establishes that eye contact again.
"I am Gokudo. Yakuza."
Just seconds ago, Mint insisted, "Listen, I like your hands just the way they are. Exactly. Right here." Minal even gave a little 'Hmph!' of finality.
But now? Tairyu had leaned close and confided something serious to her. From the way he was talking, he could have admitted anything -- that he liked ladies with an impressive rack, and he'd have to be moving on from her. That he really -did- want mecha hands and he was upset to not be able to get them from her. Or... the factual story that he actually wanted to convey.
Mint gives him all the seriousness she can muster. She listens, intently and with bright, insightful eyes.
"Uh-huh. And I'm a raging cocaine addict."
She's not serious. Obviously. Because the very next thing she mouths silently -- in very animated and overexaggerated fashion -- is the Japanese for 'YOU CAN'T JUST SAY THAT, WHO IS EVEN LISTENING HERE!?'
Mint shuts her eyes, and starts to pull away from Tairyu's hand. But it will be a little silly, since she's tethered to a bed and there's really only so far she can move. Plus, she kinda likes the hand there -- even if she is having a momentary crisis of faith.
Key word: momentary. For in the brief seconds she's had her eyes shut, the fast-talking New Jerseyan has figured out her take on it. "Well you can't be a very important one, you still have all your fingers. I mean, I should know, I'm an authority there."
Eyes open. And she glances askance at the self-declared yakuza. "I was kinda figurin' from the tats, anyway. And the general aura of badassery." She gives a non-committal shrug.
Minal lets out a frustrated grunt. It's hard to be -too- put out when she's got so many tubes stuck into her. But she settles with: "Bad guy or good guy? Cause if you're a bad guy I'm gonna have to report this." Side note: It's really hard for Mint to put on an angry face when she's not actually angry.
As heavy as the conversation has turned, there's still a small smile afforded from the corporal's initial mouthed-out reaction. It might contrast with the unusual measure of worry in his eyes to put on a bit of a sadder kind of ensemble, but it's hard not to feel some amusement from her even now.
Maybe that's one of the reasons he likes her.
When she starts turning, no matter how futile it might be-- well. Tairyu gets the message, seemingly, and makes to slowly draw his hand away.
"No one's listening," he points out, even if his voice has gone a bit lower -- more as a result of the tone their discussion has taken rather than out of fear of eavesdroppers. "I... made some arrangements on that end."
Once her eyes have opened and she's made that statement, he allows his gaze to seek out hers again, though it's with a faint frown. "...Minal. Why do you think Gokudo get their pinkies cut off, exactly?" And before she can really give her thoughts on that, he elects to make the inevitable clarification that line would lead to: "I am the Family Head of Aizawa-gumi. ... I don't know if we are large enough yet to show up on an international radar, but... you know."
Her overall respones to all of this might have been much more non-committant than he feared it would be, but even so, the weight of the revelation, and the clearly-unfortunate implications of it still... sour the mood some, perhaps.
"...Report this to whom, exactly? Your superiors?" His eyes close with that, contemplating the exact answer to give to her question. "...A lot of people want to think they're a 'good guy' even in this business, Minal. Including me. But we don't get to control how others view us. You could probably go ask ten different people in Southtown about me, and they would all give different answers from one another."
"Oh." Well, it -would- make sense that Tairyu had a little chat with the hospital staff. They're probably used to handling such special requests anyway.
She starts to give her explanation on why she threw out the pinky comment -- but Katashi's kind-hearted segue prevents much of the need. He probably got the joke anyway, she reasons.
And while Mint may -seem- like she's playing around and making light of the issues brought up before her, the fact remains that she... is the same person she always is, covering up her multitude of simultaneous thought processes with bluster and bravado. She shifts back into serious mode in no time flat. She looks him directly in the eyes, with the experience that correlates with her -actual- age.
"Katashi, if I gave a fuck about what -other- people thought I'd probably be a gunnery sergeant by now, instead of fretting over whether I could afford a flight to Brazil." She lets silence simmer for a few seconds, slowly drawing in her breath as her words set in. "Just answer me, okay? Do you hurt people who don't deserve to get hurt? Do you -profit- off of misery?"
Just the way Mint's eyes snap back onto his own is enough to make Tairyu straighten out in his posture subtly. And that final question comes from her with all the gravitas of something that could, depending on his answer, entirely change course from everything prior to this has been building up to.
"...I'm sure I wouldn't need to tell you that hurting people is part of the business no matter what," he sighs out, and his eyes flicker away from hers, akwardly-- as if he might be expecting a rebuke just from that. "The Yakuza lifestyle is still one that firmly paints me as an Outlaw, Minal... one of extortion, illegal goods... a lot of beatdowns. But... no. I can't say I don't hurt people at all, but when me or mine do that, I want to be sure it's someone who deserves it. I actually care about the people living in this city beyond just the people who are part of my 'Family', you know? Even before the Darkstalker Crisis, many of them suffered in this city enough as is,"
Minal doesn't look away, even as Tairyu does. For such a tiny pugilist, the firebrand can be remarkably intense when the situation demands. If he looks back at her, he'll find that her hazel eyes never really wavered. For this simple conversation pivoted right into an assessment, an inquisiton.
And some things really are simple for Mint. She remains silent for a good few seconds after Tairyu finishes speaking, blinking occasionally. He might think she... didn't hear anything at all, but the reality could be nothing further than that.
And then, finally, she speaks. "I get that you want to be a good person, Katashi." Her gaze finally breaks, as she looks at the other features on his face, at his shirt. Back to his eyes, the window to the soul. "And it takes a lot of guts to be honest. So I'mma be real with you."
She blinks a bit more. As it might be difficult for her to see in a moment.
"I got problems with that. In big part, it's 'cause the Mob done run things similar back in my hometown."
She closes her eyes, turning her face towards the ceiling. "Listen, I just... I need some time to figure this out. Can you do me a favor and chase down some coffee for me?" She pauses for a moment, and adds, "They say it's gotta be decaf." And she makes a small look of disgust afterwards.
The answer, even if not in that exact form, might have been expected, but it still... stings. She can tell as much when she looks at his emerald eyes, usually so bright, now just looking away from her and slightly downwards, filled with uncertainty. He usually doesn't have any problems with maintaining eye contact, so why is it so difficult for him now?
Is it because part of him already regrets having made this confession? Because part of him wishes he would have let the veil stay for a while longer, to let him live in the blissful illusion a bit more?
But in the end, doing that would have been the furthest from 'right'.
"...Alright," comes a quiet response from him, and carefully, he draws himself up from the chair. "I'll... be back in a few." Though when he does step to the door, he lingers there for a few seconds longer, to toss one last look at the small Corporal, before stepping out, and leaving to her thoughts.
He said he'd be back in a few. But as the seconds pass, and turn to minutes, she may well end up thinking he outright bailed on her after that. That he just... gave up.
But then, there's a knock, and the sound of the door opening. The club owner-- no, the Yakuza has returned, with a little takeaway cup from the hospital's cafeteria brought along with him. He doesn't say anything for the first seconds, for the moment it takes for him to step towards the bed again, and settle the cup to the nightstand.
"Decaf," he utters then, to break the silence. "As... the doctor demanded."
It isn't often that Mint finds herself speechless. It's rarer still when she -knows- what she wants to say -- and chooses not to. But if there's one thing she learned growing up on the streets of Clifton, it's to avoid showing any signs of vulnerability.
She's able to hold it together with her eyes closed, her plastic fists limp at her sides, right up until Tairyu leaves the room. She's even able to hold her emotions back for a few seconds afterwards, until she can no longer hear the clop-clop of his fancy shoes on the hospital tile.
How long was he gone, though? She doesn't even know. All she knows is that as soon as there is a knock on the door, she's in the position of balling up a dozen soaked tissues and tossing them into the trash before she can answer, "C'mon in."
Her face is dry as she looks over at Tairyu. Her gaze follows him wordlessly as he steps close. And she remains wordless until he speaks.
His words garner a slight smile from her. "A'ight."
She falls silent for a moment, and then a moment more. And then she speaks her mind, locking her gaze onto his for another extended grappling session.
"Katashi... People like you built /empires/ offa people like me. We're over here gettin' eviction notices and pink slips, while you guys make off with Rolexes and nightclubs. I know I'm over here sayin' I don't give a fuck about what people think, but my family bout to -disown- me if I bring your pimp ass home to momma."
She draws in her breath. "But they don't know you. Hell, -I- barely know you." She bites her lip, nostrils flaring. She looks back at Katashi's emerald eyes, considering. And she nods, with finality. "And a bad person wouldn'ta told me shit. Wouldn'ta come back with decaf or nothin'. So I know you're good for somethin'."
She stares at Tairyu for another good long moment, before glancing over to the little cup. Mint reaches over for it. She gives it a tenative sniff -- and then takes a sip. She rocks her head from side-to-side: acceptable..
Her gaze lifts back to meet Tairyu's. "I 'unno, Katashi. I got my mind made up. But what do you think?"
As it turns out, Tairyu is a bit hesitant to sit himself down, right away. Again, as if though he's expecting her to send him off right after the coffee has been set down.
But she utters his name and takes to speaking, and he allows himself, in that moment, to sit down again. Listening to each word. ... Sure, the Jersey accent slipping through might make him... forwn, a bit, with the increased effort required to process everything, but still, he listens.
And for just an instant, his gaze draws away from her again -- before she presents him with a question, once more.
"...I think..." He breathes out, and his eyes close. "...I know it sounds... stupid, conceited, something...? But I... I don't want to lose you before I've even had a chance. ... But it wouldn't have been fair to you, either, to find out... later, instead."
Eyes remain closed for a few seconds longer, before he opens them, to not only let her see the emerald orbs again, but for him to finally look into her own eyes again. "I still want... everything we talked about. But I know my... profession is... problematic. If you want to call it off, I will... accept that."
"Selfish?" she suggests, in response to Tairyu searching for a word. But it's not a critique she's willing to stand by, given the brief smile that follows after her mentioning it. That smile does diminish, though, as she gives him an agreeable nod. Telling her then was... probably good. Even if... yes. She would rather have been stupid, conceited, and selfish in enjoying the moment.
Her response -- having been considered over the few minutes' time spent alone -- comes quickly.
"I don't." Pause. "I don't want to stop seein' you. You make me happy, Katashi. I want to date. I want us to be happy. And maybe..." She trails off, giving a mild shrug. "Who knows, right?"
She passes her coffee to one hand. And reaches out for Tairyu's hand with the now-freed hand.
"Sometimes it's okay do do things just 'cause we want to, right?"
"...Selfish, yes," Tairyu agrees with the suggestion, even if it just serves to add to the brief moment of self-deprecation.
But when her answer comes, some tension finally leaves his body. It's not entirely gone, but, hearing her say that now... it eases things, at the very least, like an entire building's worth of weight was taken off of his throat.
And so her reaching hand is met with his own, gently grasping it-- and even lacing his fingers through her own plastic ones.
"Think we can make it work?" He whispers out, while guiding her hand further up, until he can lean his head down over and press his forehead to the top of her hand, just where the joint of the wrist begins to section it off from the forearm proper, letting his eyes drift closed as he does. Where he can feel the warmth of her body, rather than the plastic. "I'd like to see if we can, at least."
Mint smiles warmly as Tairyu takes her by the hand, interlaces his fingers in with hers. It's a good... 'feeling', even if the plastic digits aren't quite as good as sensing as the rest of her. It's the thought that counts, she reassures herself.
Squeezing back lightly, she... contents herself with the knowledge that leaning any further to mimic Tairyu's gesture will be both (a) painful, and (b) super difficult to explain to the nurses, as it would likely result in her falling out of the bed.
"I don't give up too easily, Katashi." She smiles back. Sometimes people can sense that even if they aren't able to -see- the smile. "You forgive me for this crack addiction, and, y'know, I'll see what I can do, yeah?" Another playful squeeze of her fingers shows that, yes, she's joking about the cocaine again. Probably.
"I noticed before, too," Tairyu points out, turning his head just enough that he can crack one eye open and peer past her hand at her. Even just in his eye, in that instant, the warmth of his smile is visible. "One of the reasons I like you."
To be fair, if a nurse were to walk in right now, their positioning might require a little bit of explaining, still. Not taht Tairyu seems to be in the place where he cares, particularly.
"You know..." he rumbles, with laughter muffling against her arm alongside the words, and the squeeze of her hand is returned in kind, gently. "I know some people who could help with that, mmm? No pressure on it though, I'll forgive you even if you won't go cold turkey."
Mint's cheeks get warmer from the compliment. Though she figures that would probably be a good time for another sip of her decaf. -Anything- but that water pitcher, she thinks -- she's getting really tired of drinking just -water- and -ice-.
"I dunno. Tough habits are hard to break." She offers a mild chuckle, happy to lift the mood even a little from its prior depths of darkness. "I'm still looking forward to this barbecue place you're talking about. Maybe -that- can help me break the cycle." She offers another mild snicker.
"But yeah,... er... -addictions- aside, what the heck is going on with the fiery stuff when you fight? Is that... is that some new technique you're working on, or what?"
"We'll ease you out of it with spicy meat then," he promises, letting his lips part just enough to expose a bit of the whites of his teeth in his smile.
But she asks that. And he frowns. Slowly, lifts his head up, though his hand still remains holding on to hers. "Which fiery stuff?" He asks. "... If you're talking about the weird red flashes... no. They're really not."
Looking down at his otehr arm, he slowly clutches the fingers of his free hand closed, before relaxing them to releasing again. "I don't know what it is. It feels like... something inside me is at odds with the rest of me. Every time that happens, I... seem to get hurt by it."
Mint's eyes light up with the mention of spicy meat. Finally, someone who -gets- her. "My thoughts exactly!"
She shows some concern as the Aizawa-gumi gangster lifts his head, remembering how his fights had gone. He'd burned his own clothes -- which is usually -not- something fighters try to do in mid-combat. So she'd had a feeling something was up.
"Like... a spirit or something? I mean, that happened to -me- the last fight, but... that was a no-kidding spirit." She blinks quietly, flexing her free hand as well. "I know a lot of fighters have, like, fireballs and stuff they can bang out, but like... this seems a lot more dangerous if it's hurtin' you and all." She scratches her chin lightly. "When did it all start?"
"I... No, not like that, I think," insists Tairyu, though he does end up with a bit of a thoughtful frown. "At least... I don't think so...?"
He flicks a quick look down to his hand again while she's running through her words after the initial spirit hypothesis. "A... few days before our fight, actually. It was just like then. I channel chi as is when I fight. It... felt kind of like that. But... different? I'm not sure how to explain it besides..."
His gaze lifts up from his hand, to look to Minal, with pursed lips.
"Like it wasn't *mine*."
"Like... it wasn't yours." Minal answers without judgment, tentatively mirroring his language to try to understand just what he's -telling- her.
"I've never had... a sense that I've had -any- energy inside me, I mean, aside from that one time I tried hotwiring a jeep with a nine iron." A shiver runs down her spine with that particular recollection. "Anyway, like... maybe we could flag down a doctor here? If it's something you got while fighting, then maybe the docs here have heard about it?"
She looks... serious for a moment. But then she offers a brief smile. "You haven't gotten any weird marks on your body or anything since then, have you? I mean, like... maybe you're changing somehow...?"
"Everyone has some Chi in them, from what I understand," Tairyu suggests, when his eyes next meet hers. "I think you could manage it with some practice too, perhaps. ... Practice that doesn't involve live wires shocking you, anyhow." Eyes narrow with that pre-emptive statement. He's not actually thinking she would attempt such a thing, is he?
Her question drives him to looking down at himself, however, brows lifting up slightly. "... I don't believe so," he says, even while his free hand draws along his chest briefly. "At least not enough to show in the mirror and disturb the ink." His brows knit together, while considering this. "I'm not sure I like the thought of that. CHanging how?"
Mint gives what -seems- to be a querying look at Tairyu as she holds up her free hand in a claw shape. "Well heck, why would I want to spend time practicing, when I can already fire pulse cannons from my palms?"
As for... what sort of -changes- someone experiencing these chi outbursts might have, Mint can only offer a mild shrug. "Like, I dunno, more tattoos of like a demon god, or a third arm, or... I dunno. I've seen people with weird modifications, that's all! Just sayin', it might could be like a darkstalker infection." She sips at her decaf. "Is there any pattern to how the stuff -triggers- for you? Like, a muscle reaction? If there was something that -always- happens, then maybe if you just avoid it, it won't burn you. Right?"
"Not really disassuading me on the whole mecha hands or gloves thing like that, you realize." Okay, Tairyu *probably* isn't entirely serious about that, judging from the playful smile that briefly flickerts on him, but *still*.
He finds himself peeking down at himself again over her suggested potentials for what could... change. "...Well, I hope it won't be any changing tattooing at least. Would be a damn insult to my inkworker after working on mine for two years." ... Two years, he says.
"The only common denominator I can tell is it always flares up when I'm fighting, specifically. Not even when I'm exercising. ... I can't really pin down if there's anything more specific *there* that makes it happen."
Mint raises one eyebrow at Tairyu. "Listen, you either get fireballs or palm blasters. It's one per customer! It's in the rules."
As for tattoos, Minal grins. She doesn't say anything -yet-, but she has a wide smile that shows she would -want- to.
"When you're fighting, huh. So like... I =know= you threw fire at me in the midst of =our= fight. And there was like a blue dragon or something! But... did -that- hurt you?"
She pauses, then adds, "... and was that a -tattoo?- Wild."
"That's a *shitty* rule," Tairyu complaints with an obviously-feigned pout on his part.
Both his brows arch on the line of questioning regarding his application of flames... and the dragon that had showed up. He can't help but laugh with clear amusement when the final follow-up question on it comes, though he tries to cover up his smile with his free hand.
"No, no-- I think that's just how my chi manifests, sometimes. And no, that didn't hurt me. That was something I did consciously, you know? The other stuff... It just kind of *happened*."
"I do have a dragon tattooed on my back, though."
"I know, I know..." continues Mint, her eyes tracking towards the ceiling. "Maybe if you're nice you can get mecha gloves for Christmas, Katashi."
Panesh -does- seem amused that Tairyu has a dragon tattoo though. "Well, that's pretty cool, if we get stranded together in a hotel again you'll have to show me." She sips at her decaf -- though the novelty seems to be wearing off, and she sets the cup down.
"Two years, though, wow. How many colors? I mean, a lot of jarheads back home got tattoos, there's not as big a stigma over there."
Still. Mint seems to be struggling with a concept. "So there's times fire spits out when you -want- it to, and there's times it spits out when you -don't-, at which point, it hurts." She looks back at Tairyu. "And you don't think you need to see a doctor about that...?"
Tairyu can't just let that go. His eyes lid slightly while he holds her gaze, and his lips draw upwards, slowly, to a more wicked kind of smile. "Oh, you're that eager to get my shirt off, Minal?" He drawls out in a low, teasing little voice with that.
"TWo years," he confirms more seriously for her, however. "It's hand-poked. Takes up my whole back and some of my arms and shoulders. ... The fact that it takes so much work is kind of part of the point, too. I don't think the practice is too common anymore among... well. People like me." Yakuza, he means. "Show of dedication, you know?"
Rumbling thoughtfully, still, he rolls one shoulder in a sort o f... helpless kind of shrug. "I don't think most doctors are really... you know, specialized in that kind of thing. ... But no, it's not like I'm not worried about it either. I'm just... not entirely sure what to do with it."
Minal's cheeks burn a fierce red, and she squeezes Katashi's hand in quasi-retaliation. "Yes, -later-, and you're making it weird!" She releases her grip, shaking her head with mock disapproval.
Minal's cheeks burn a fierce red, and she squeezes Katashi's hand in quasi-retaliation. "Yes, -later-, and you're making it weird!" She releases her grip, shaking her head with mock disapproval.
"... Hand-poked? That's -- I've never heard that term before." She blinks, as Tairyu explains further that it's not all that common. "Huh, that's neat. I mean, I wanna see even -more- now." She coughs. "-Later-."
The Marine gives Tairyu a concerned look. "Well. There's got to be -someone-. If not doctors, maybe like... monks or priests that could help. If it's spiritual, or there's some kind of spiritual -component- to it, then... maybe? All I know is, it'd be easier to find someone like that here in Southtown than back where I'm at.
And, after a brief hum, she gives Tairyu's hand another light squeeze. "So when's your next fight? Do you know who you'll be up against?"
"Done by hand without one of those machines," Tairyu offers in explanation. "Literally poking the ink in with a needle, point by point." And the smirk comes back along again, mischief sparkling in his eyes. "Later."
The concern isn't easily brusehd aside, though. Especially not when he's getting it from her. "I don't know. I don't exactly have a lot of arcanists in my contact lists, you know? ... I'll try to figure something out, though."
The squeeze is mirrored, gently, and he hums quietly in thought. "I'm nto... entirely sure, actually. I know the other semi-final's going to be Bretherton fighting against Little, so it'll be one of them."
"Huh. Well. I hope we can figure it out, because it sounds like it'd get -stupid- annoying after the first or second time. Or first or second -shirt-, haha."
Mint scratches her cheek, idly rubbing her thumb across Tairyu's knuckles. "It's gotta be weird though. I wonder if it's something that's like... contagious." She looks down at Tairyu's hand with a grin. "Like maybe I'd be sitting there punching someone in a match, and *pop!* Boom, out comes ice cubes or something. I'd be the talk of the town!"
Her gaze drifts over to the window. "... Or I could just add an ice cube maker to my next revision of gauntlets. Somethin' to think about."
Turning back to Tairyu, she wonders aloud, "Do you know anything about either fighter? Got... better odds against one vice the other?"
"... I ... really hope not." Tairyu winces visibly over the notion of his condition being... contagious. "That would mean I've potentially been spreading it around to a bunch of other people, then. Probably you, too, you know? ... Uh. You haven't been feeling weird or anything lately, have you?"
His nose wrinkles momentarily in thought, contemplating both of the fighters on potential lineup to fight with him, eyes drifting upwards briefly. "Hmm. I've met Bretherton once, but we didn't fight or anything. So I can't really say anything with any kind of certainty about either of them."
It's now Minal's turn for half-lidded eyes and a smirk -- as she grips Tairyu's hand and brings it closer to her cheek. "... Oh, well, I have been feeling awfully /warm/. And definitely out of the ordinary." She holds the look for long enough for the insinuation to set in, before shaking her head. "Nothing like -that-, though, no."
And yet -- while it seems like she would -want- to have a comment, the Marine rubs her eyes drowsily. "... Uuuuuugh... this decaf is doing -nothing- for me. But hey, we get Fighttube here. I'm sure we could pull up videos or somethin', if you wanted to watch their fights and get some research in?"
The eye-lidded look is mirrored right back. Oh, that insinuation came pretty quickly to Tairyu. "That does sound a bit abnormal indeed," he rumbles while he lets his fingers brush against her cheek once she's brought it in, voice low enough in it's whisper that it nearly sounds akin to a *purr*. "I may have to do a personal examination after they release you... to ensure nothing is wrong, of course."
A more sympathetic smile comes over the complaints on the decaf, and he scoots just a bit closer with his chair. "I'm down. I think my perfectly legitimate business ventures can wait a while longer, right?"
Minal may have had her -suspicions- about Katashi being a yakuza -- and yet, everything's happened so quickly in her world that she hadn't had the adequate time to fully follow up on the suspicion. In retrospect -- she now knows the truth. Or as much as Katashi is willing to admit -- which is already a substantial amount.
And as she looks back at him, brushing against her cheek, she can't help but smile.
"Yeah. I'm down for a second opinion."
Giving Tairyu's hand another squeeze, she closes down her engineering app and gets settled in for another good, long night.
Log created on 11:28:44 03/24/2021 by Tairyu, and last modified on 22:46:47 03/25/2021.