Description: A friendly reunion occurs between Rock and Jae Hoon before their shifts at The Spilt Bean, spurring conversation about Neo-League, music, and some other more personal matters.
Welcome to the staff break room of The Spilt Bean. It's a fairly chill place.
Far more spacious than many initially expect, all of the essentials for work preparation and storage are here. From a collection of lockers in the back corner, which are next to a mirror and floating sink to satisfy the need to primp and preen, there's a fridge, microwave, and a long bench where employees sit and change their shoes. Folding tables have been provided to eat at, and they are hung on the wall when not in use. The atmosphere is warm, cosy...
And it's the perfect spot, as he's shown up over an hour before his shift, for Angel of Taiyo High to plunk down and noodle around on his bass.
Note: Noodle around means he's making up shit and combinations on the fly, not something weird. Gosh.
Rock Howard is a talented musician, which few people actually know about. The handsome American's dropped a bit of serious coin on his Fender Jazz Bass, and is as attentive to its care as he is his Honda. Regularly maintained, cleaned, the teenage scion just finished wiping down the fretboard and restringing the instrument ten minutes ago. Now that it seems sufficiently tuned, he can entertain himself until it's time to clock in.
Removing a pair of earbuds from his satchel, he tucks back sun-kissed threads of fair flaxen hair. Searching through the broken-ass phone for suitable listening material, Rock is soon jamming...
What happened to his cell, you might ask? Set beside him, it looks like it got mashed in some backlot brawl, and that's not actually far from the truth. The ward of the Legendary Wild Wolf has not yet mentioned the damage, nor the thinning red line under his right eye or the state of his arms...
One of the girls swears with absolute certainty she saw a cut on the back of his head, too!
Unfortunately, if Rock's been scrapping, that isn't the point of the pose.
See, when the music gets playing, that's it. Everything else is put on hold, and he gives himself over completely to the beats in his ears. His claims are bold in that he's able to perfectly copy any song that he hears once, but to see the young heartthrob in the moment, learning, the strings tapped by the calloused pads of his fingers, vermilion orbs shuttered to the world... Could it be true? Rock's head lightly bobs, and his heel drops in tempo. There's even the hint of a smile.
The song draws to a close and repeats, so he sets to. It's all deceptively easy. Four-four time, known as common time, and much of the first verse focuses on the second string with occasional flourishes. Then it takes off! Rock's humming the main melody as he goes, like a rock band composed of a single individual.
What had originally been a grand plan to take up time between school and work ended up resulting in something entirely different.
Keen to the usual after school chores, Jae Hoon figured he'd have most of his spare time taken up by the task of cleaning up the classroom. In fact, he purposefully took on extra jobs in order to extend that time, but when all was said and done... everything he'd done had been in vain.
Simply put, he was done early, regardless of his efforts.
An hour early to the Spilt Bean isn't such a bad thing. Aware of all the amenities of the breakroom, the teen could easily indulge in a variety of activities to pass the time until his shift starts. Perhaps he could ditch his belongings in his locker and take off for a jog. Or, maybe spend some time working on his kicks in the back alley. Could read a book on hamster care, too. Even better: catch up on some studying over a nice cup of scalding hot tea!
So many ideas, all better than the next.
It's hard to pick just one, so he figures his decision will either be made on the way or when he actually gets there, which is just fine by him. All the same, really.
The school isn't terribly far from the local hub that is the Spilt Bean. Jae Hoon enters from the back, wanting to avoid the hustle of customers at the front that may stop him to casually chat. It isn't as though he's completely adverse to the idea, especially since he does quite like interacting with people. Just that, if he's wanting to accomplish any of the random ideas he has floating through his head, socialising with the regulars may not allow him to do so.
Besides, he will have plenty of opportunity to gab away once he starts his shift.
Maybe that means he will go for a jog, given that rationality. Seems ideal, in fact.
What stops him short, though, is the gentle strumming of a bass as he enters the break room. Peering across the threshold of the room he sees familiar flaxen hair, the golden head bobbing gently along with the tune strumming off the instrument. It seems Rock has arrived early today as well, if only to become immersed in his own little musical world prior to having to deal with reality.
Quietly, the youngest Kim shuts the door behind him and leans against the doorframe, observing. It never ceases to amaze him just how skilled his best friend is. Between fighting, tinkering on his bike, and this, Howard is a mixed bag of variety and fun, regardless of whether the guy sees it for himself or not.
As he takes a moment to look over his long-time friend, Jae recalls his desire to speak to said teenage heartthrob from a few weeks ago, regarding his state of affairs; a cut that forms a small border underneath one crimson iris, while multiples decorate the odd spot on muscular arms. Through various means such as League, work, and other life-related things, he has been unable to approach to inquire, and as such, those previously-worse injuries have mostly healed up.
However, it seems there is an opportunity to have a conversation, so he mostly certainly will do such.
Waiting until there is a moment's pause between the music, perhaps when the American teen finally notices his presence, he would cross the room briefly to deposit his things in his associated locker. Nodding his head in greeting, the Taekwondo fighter would eventually settle down opposite to his buddy on the same bench, hands clasping over one another.
"Hey, man. How you been? Feels like it's been ages since we've actually gotten to talk," he smiles warmly. A hand slowly raises so that he may point at his own face, referring to the scratch that quite obviously is on Rock instead. "What happened there?"
Completely engrossed, Rock did a serious study, like he had tattooed the entire tab on the backs of his eyelids. The timing is impeccable, perfect in key and duration. His upper body rocks to the beat. As the song travels along through the chorus, second verse, and builds up to the bridge, it must be a tune that kicks.
At some point, the door to the break room swings inward, and Rock strumming away is not such a rare sight to Sugiwara or Anya, who is a senior employee with a penchant for crushing on older, unavailable men. The handsome teen heartthrob isn't shy, not about his nigh supernatural ability, or else he might have picked a far more private place to practice...
But to be fair, he's not expecting anyone but those two to show up, either.
He doesn't look up as the entry generates a slight breeze, disturbing featherlight strands of his blonde fringe, and certainly won't immediately after. If he's needed for anything, they'll get his attention, so Rock's journey through the notes continues, the complicated movements of his fingers on the strings. At a pause, realising it's strange that there's no vibrations of a locker opening, or any sort of activity, unfocused pools of scarlet are revealed. This is not his boss or female coworker...
It's Jae Hoon.
Well, that is also fine, and Rock guesses his friend enjoyed listening? Things carry on at a hum in his head, but his hands have long since stilled against the Fender, the shoulder strap all that prevents the bass from toppling to the floor as the American leans over to muck with his busted, unfortunate phone. He plucks the earbuds out, wrapping the cords around two fingers to keep them nicely bound and to prevent knotting. "What's up, Jae?" Returning the greeting with faint pleasantries, he grins, "I'll bring a speaker next time." A joke that someone got the drop on him, but also things are way better with a full backline.
"Yeah, really has," Rock nods, cupping his chin and rubbing it, "Luckily, our friendship isn't based entirely on receiving your undivided attention." His cadence is light, teasing, probably as buoyant as anyone has seen him. "Been looking in good shape for those League matches, dude." To think that the lone wolf follows the youngest Kim's progress is dedication. Jae Hoon hasn't experienced any shortage of fights.
I suppose that leads to the talk about cuts and other injuries, yeah? Figuring it was bound to happen eventually, the Howard scion is well aware that the other young man isn't stupid, clearly able to tell that Rock himself was just so recently in a scrap of his own, albeit one that was relatively minor. Were Geese the least bit serious, his rebellious heir wouldn't be here. That man makes no damn sense.
Rock isn't wanting to get into the nitty gritty details. He could, but choosing to deflect, the Angel of Taiyo High cranks up the sarcasm, arriving at a level that can be easily determined as such. The kid delivers dryly, "I walked into a doorknob." Wait, how..?!
Young Jae Hoon is pleasantly entertained watching his friend strum away at his bass. A skill they've never really talked about, but certainly not a secret by any means, he is most enthralled by the performance. Actually though, he has not been a firsthand witness to this kind of display before and therefore savours the tune that hums throughout the room, even as Rock stills.
In truth, he does feel a little bad for interrupting what clearly seemed to be a real enjoyable solo jam session, but the teenage heartthrob seemingly isn't opposed to ditching that activity in favour of friendly catch-up conversation.
Which suits him just fine, considering his previously alluded desire.
"You got a band going yet? A live performance would be even better." A light jest as a general response. It'd actually be really exciting for his friend to get involved in something more high-level like a band, and this particular Korean boy would definitely check their performances out whenever he could in support. However, there is the consideration that perhaps the Howard scion prefers to play alone?
Just because someone is particularly talented with instruments doesn't mean they have to pursue anything regarding it. No pressure there.
Anyway, it is impressive that the American teen has managed to keep up, but honestly not all that's surprising. As someone who is as passionate as he is for the art of fighting, the League is probably incredibly easy to track. Even more so when there's a small number of participants you're following. "Hey, thanks!" Jae beams. "You better be at my next one. It's at Taiyo, so no excuses!"
Even with things being so light-hearted, the intent to speak about Rock's general state of affairs does take some precedence. The Kim son isn't one to pry, so he opts to be delicate in how he approaches this in the event that his best bud is feeling sensitive about the matter. Whether he will receive a genuine response or something more interwoven with barriers is up in the air, but he does not press either way for a quick answer.
When it does come, however, the sarcasm smacks him hard in the face, and admittedly, Jae Hoon chortles a light bit of laughter at first.
"A doorknob, hey?" he muses. Lithe torso straightens as he folds his arms over the broad of his chest. A coy grin tugs at the corner of his lips, allowing pearl whites to peek out.
Clearly, his friend wishes to avoid talking about some of the truth in this conversation, which... is probably fair. Whatever happened is likely far too uncomfortable for Rock to share the details.
If that's the case, then the least he can do is return the playful comment with one of his own!
"Looks like that doorknob took you for a run for your money, then." A hearty laugh follows. "You're about as bad at lying as Daisuke, you know that?"
If this were a solo practice of any real importance, Rock wouldn't have opened his eyes...
Hell, he'd have chosen a better time, relocated to a quieter place. One where interruptions were unlikely to occur, or impossible.
Sitting here, it's just entertainment to him, and as such, it stands to reason that the teenage scion would receive his friend's arrival as warmly as he does. No doubt the student body of Taiyo would double over in shock to see this, because Rock's reputation greatly varies depending on who you ask, but the side that those closest to him are privy to is worlds apart from all the rest.
Thoughtfully combing fingers back through his dishevelled locks of sun-kissed hair, Rock purses thin lips together like he were chewing on multiple responses. He could probably talk at length about why he isn't in a band, hands slowly returning to positions of comfort against the fretboard and pickups, not that anything happens once they arrive. The tenor of his voice is a gentle rumble, words softly spoken, "Man, you think the egos are bad in professional fighting? Check out the music scene, heh."
Rock's crimson-eyed gaze drifts off, able to see beyond the walls of the employee break room, to a stage that he's never been able to stand on, but can well imagine.
"You're not wrong, though. Live is something else, when all the players come together..."
They're onto another topic, which breaks Rock from reverie. A nod confirms that no excuses will be made. "Just let me know when? I'll be there." Given enough notice, the hard-working American might not even need a shift change. It's his preference not to inconvenience their employer, or take advantage of Sugiwara's willingness to compromise, after all.
"Look, you think it's funny, but you've never seen a doorknob like the one that hit me," he grouses playfully, grateful that Jae doesn't need a BLARING NEON SIGN to realise some subjects aren't open to discussion. That the Korean teen goes along with bullshit and humour, because it's not as though Rock asks for privacy often. Something in his posture relaxes, allowing the Hungry Wolf's young ward to become more candid. "Don't think you'd fare any better."
Soon enough, he's laughing along with Kim's son. Jae Hoon really hits a nail on the head about their mutual acquaintance, Daisuke. The noise isn't quite so hearty, but a somewhat guilty chuckle of solidarity, because Rock kinda feels bad...
But who claims they were hit by a truck, when the lie of a fight would suffice?
To let these two come up with scenarios of their own was a missed opportunity, because they could have. Rock, the heir to Geese Howard, received ass-beatings on the regular, and no doubt constant training has never been an easy affair for Jae or his brother. If there's something any fighter understands, it's the consequences of engagement -- there's gonna be bumps, bruises, broken bones, and more.
Before long, Howard's broad shoulders roll in a good-natured shrug, and he discourages further teasing of the red-headed Japanese boy. "Guess I'll come up with something convincing next time." Rising takes a laborious movement, collecting the long Fender Jazz Bass hard case from its rest against the wall. Laying that atop the bench next to Jae, the blonde starts to pack away his instrument and unlatched strap together.
Assuming the conversation will continue, Rock might as well ensure he's got as little as possible left to put away when his shift starts.
"Ah, well, I'm honestly not surprised to hear that," says Kim's son as he ponders the wild idea of comparing a fighter's egos to musician's. Having his fair share of such things, it is possible that Howard just is not inclined to deal with a whole other group of personalities like that.
No harm, no foul. He seems to enjoy it as a hobby, anyway.
On the topic of Neo League, Jae visibly perks. Always keen on having the encouraging energy of his best bud at a match, he is most eager to share the details. Given that he's already requested the time off for it, all that remains is passing along the information to the blonde teen as intended. "Yeah, man. I'll send you the details over text?"
And that's that! What a nice friend!
On that particular note...
Lucky for Rock, Kaphwan's youngest son is a good-natured kid.
Not one to exploit the prodigy's reputation for personal gain, or the type to inject himself in private affairs that don't really concern him, Jae Hoon has earned himself quite the name at Taiyo all on his own. Obviously for reasons that are different, I assure you. Of course, there's always the odd whisper that claims he only appears to be a companion of the Howard scion for clout, but none of them know the truth of their friendship. Many years in their youth have been dedicated to the building of such a dependable relationship, so really, it's no one's business to pry.
Thus, when the glaringly obvious and wordless suggestion that he leave the subject of Rock's injuries be, he quite simply falls into step with the humour that ensues afterwards. It's easy, since he doesn't like to push his way into getting answers to things that may be uncomfortable for others to talk about.
Not to mention the fact that if the American teen wanted to talk about it, well... he would.
Jae trusts that, and intends to honour it.
Although, he does feel a smidge bit bad for razzing on Daisuke without the poor guy actually being here to defend himself. However, it seems that Rock is in agreement that the lie the red-headed Japanese kid gave to them was just a little too lame. A fight is a fight is a fight, as they say. No harm done, though, because it isn't as if Jae Hoon feels sore about the white lie. Just another situation where something happened and it wasn't any of his business to poke his nose into.
Setting back into his seat on the bench, eyes the colour of the earth watch curiously as the teenage heartthrob begins to assemble the hard case belonging to his Fender, in which the instrument slowly gets filed into it. Head tilting just so, the Korean boy regards Howard for a long moment before offering a gentle, almost empathetic smile. "Well, it's a good thing you had that run-in with the doorknob, then! I was starting to get a little worried there..."
His voice trails off with the offering of a follow-up statement, though it awaits his friend's response before he intends to continue. Not exactly a jab into Rock's personal matters, more just an expression of facts.
After all, he did vocalise some of these thoughts to Terry not that long ago, in the hopes that maybe they would reach the troubled heir in some way. Perhaps, that just may be the case...
To a filthy casual, to a professional, music and self-expression are synonymous. It's raw, authentic, no holds barred sound. It is the guide through stories, lessons, and lived experiences.
It is all you have, on the day when the blinding lights fill your vision, eclipsing the nameless faces of the audience that will sing your praises for years ever after.
But the bigger you get, the larger your shadow becomes...
Success takes its piece of you; a price must be paid.
So begins the fall.
Rock doesn't want fame. He doesn't want the alpha personalities, the drugs, scandals, or the strange parties. Just the stage, that frenzied high, playing his heart out, and then done.
Is it possible to have one without the other? At seventeen years of age, Rock's never considered things to any great length. The lean-built young man is content to curb his enthusiasm, 'squander his immense talent' some might call it, but just for now.
Who's to say he won't change his mind?
Nodding before he sets to securing his bass guitar, the Howard scion agrees, "Text sounds good." He shuts the case, snapping the latches closed. Using a flimsy little key to lock both, it's attached to the main handle by a length of cord elastic, springing back once he's finished. This serves not for theft prevention, but in the event of an accident, because Rock himself has tripped over his fair share of everything in his sleep-addled morning stumbling.
Possibly walked into a doorknob, even.
He definitely kicked the shit out of his hard shell Fender case, though.
Stowing the rectangular encumbrance in the space between lockers and the wall, its edge barely protrudes. The fair-haired American hesitates, hovering there, just prepared for it to lurch at him, unbalanced, but his concern proves unnecessary. He returns to step over the bench, settling down at his friend's side, phone lock screen brightening his pale face and scarlet eyes. Roughly fifteen minutes left. Not for Jae, but for Rock.
Immediately, gaze lifting and settling on the BIGGEST CLOUT CHASER IN THE HISTORY OF EVER, not to mention all-around nosy guy, clearly I'm being facetious. Howard would shout down such claims, were he to hear them. What benefit could the Angel of Taiyo High offer that's worth the friendship of convenience, anyway? Ties to Terry have already been established, and Jae Hoon's about the same kind of trash that Rock is in dealing with women, except maybe not so awkward.
People are weird.
The broody ward just continues to be silently appreciative that Kim's second son leaves well enough alone.
"Heh, yeah. Don't know when it'll be back to business as usual, but Terry said we'd work on some training and help me build up my confidence," Rock shares, potentially confirming whatever the Korean teen had been looking for, but something is left incomplete. Like a pie missing its scoop of ice cream. He's really not gonna lament his cursed blood here, right before his shift. "Sky's the limit, after that. I should enroll in League to take you on next season." His good-natured grin grows lopsided, and then he attempts to tame his tousled mop of sunshine. An exercise in futility.
Well, whatever suits your fancy, Rock!
Just know that your Korean pal will likely follow you to the edge of the world to show support! It's just what he does.
All that said, the feeling seems to be mutual, as well, when League gets brought up. To this, Jae actually sits up straighter, attentive. A glint of excitement sparkles within those deep brown orbs, an indication of just how passionate he feels about this particular topic. With professional fighting being the mainstay of their friendship throughout the years, serving as a deeply embedded foundation, there is no doubt when it comes to uplifting one another, whether that be through matches, casual sparring, or some other extra curricular activity or hobby.
Naturally, this has become something of a common understanding between the two of them, even between them and the eldest Kim son.
Despite this, and with how busy Jae has been as of late, it's been something of a challenge to deliver the information personally. Relenting to text hasn't been ideal up until this point, though it obviously would have become the only means to inform the blonde teen if they didn't get any chance to converse in person beforehand. Outside of that, it's truly a good thing Rock knows how to take initiative, generally staying in-the-know about events like Neo-League.
Which, like the American suggests, would be a lovely prospect to consider in the future, if it meant that they could finally spar one another on a more competitive platform.
It's just been way too long!
Thing is, though, Kim's youngest son is able to pick up on the nuance of something left unsaid, based on what can be interpreted by the subtext in Rock's statement. There is clearly a reason his friend is adamant against revealing the true nature of his inflictions, and while Jae Hoon won't push, the curiosity does linger, if only slightly at this point in time. It remains as something of an undertone to the anxiety, because like it was mentioned earlier...
Fighting is what binds them wholly together.
Even suggesting that the Howard scion isn't fighting at all, even just to train, is utterly preposterous.
Something truly awful would have to happen to result in that outcome...
In fact, to some slight degree, his face acknowledges this emotion through a slight pursing of his lips. As he subtly nods his head, this sort of behaviour could easily be taken for understanding, which isn't that far from the truth in and of itself. Contemplating what Rock could possibly mean is futile, especially when he's not about to go prying for more details.
So, for now, it remains a mystery potentially left for another day, probably not when they're both about to start a shift.
Truth be told, so much of the worry has already been abated by the mere suggestion that the heartthrob would be getting back into the ring soon enough. And, with the doorknob story acting as the cover, it leads into the segway of what Rock's plans are for making up for lost time. As duty-bound as ever, Terry likely will whip the blonde teen back into shape in no time, and that truly excites Jae Hoon.
"Well, that's great news!" The dark-haired adolescent is able to relax into something more casual, even positively alight, a genuine smile brightening his handsome features. Still stiff-backed, he leans in just so, though not enough to invade Howard's personal space. Respect, man. "Even if you don't sign up for the next League, we absolutely should spar soon. It's been way too long since we've gone toe-to-toe, man."
As friends for nearly half of his life and given recent busyness, it's hardly an exaggeration to say that Rock could shoot the shit with Jae for hours. Literal HOURS, non-stop, resulting in more meta about all the positive encouragement than this scene actually needs...
But they do not have hours.
They don't even have minutes, thankfully for you readers.
Like magic, fifteen transforms into ten, and the final countdown to his shift begins. Rock's phone lights up, blaring a reminder so obnoxious, that the cacophonous racket masquerades as an alarm should be a personal affront. Imagine colliding heavily with a solid brick wall made of sound, and you'll catch my drift of what an assault this is.
Wincing, fumbling around at the cracked touch screen, peace is eventually restored. The Howard scion's ears are left ringing, his handsome face red from embarrassment. "Crap, forgot to turn that off." Sheepishly, Rock tosses a grin towards the Korean teen, wondering what regrets Jae Hoon has of his time spent here. "Bet you're ready for work now, huh?" A rare display of cheekiness.
He pushes off from the bench, hardly pressed for time since there's no one to relieve. Technically, Rock could dilly dally until the last possible second, but his ingrained professionalism won't allow for intentional tardiness. The blonde rolls his head on the axis of his neck, shrugging away some tension in his shoulders. Once he dons a freshly laundered white apron, blindly tying it around the slim line of his waist, there's brief chuckling, "I'm looking forward to it. Terry's been a great teacher and mentor, but he's always held back..."
Fingers flex, in silence and for a moment contemplating his cursed power. How much he hates it...
"You know where to find me when things are good for a match." Provided, well, no more crazy relatives accost him, resulting in a bad situation that has him rendered comatose. Heading towards the door to leave, as he goes, Rock imparts some last words of sincere confidence, "If I don't get the chance to talk to you in person before your next fight, here's hoping you kick ass." Keep in mind, there's no prior knowledge of who Jae Hoon is up against. The American teenager might have teased his buddy that 'hey, she's cute', if only he knew.
And so Rock clocks in, and is gone.
To his right, a mangled phone rattles off rather obnoxiously, jostling Jae from his excited chit-chatty reverie. Such an alarming noise serves to disturb one's ear drums, which it absolutely does and forces him to shield them rather lamely while his friend scrambles to shut the thing off. "Yeesh, that's one that'll get you out of bed in a hurry."
No wonder Rock has tramped all over his bass case in a frenzy to get out the door on time...
Clearly a sign that they should probably stop the chatter however, the Korean teen quietly observes as the blonde scion adorns himself in typical Bean garbs. Arms folding quaintly across a broad chest, his torso visibly straightens and his dark head tilts just so, almost contemplatively. The situation around Terry is a potential discussion for another time, so he simply acknowledges the comment with a nod and bright smile.
"Yeah, man, thanks. Here's hoping."
"Have a good shift," he sends off with his long-time friend, and then like that, Howard is gone. And so, Jae Hoon returns to his belongings, because there definitely still is time to skim through 'Hamsters: A Guide to Love and Care' before his own shift starts, right?
Log created on 16:23:45 07/13/2021 by Jae Hoon, and last modified on 01:54:34 10/05/2021.