Description: A long layover gives part of Team Thunder an opportunity for a walk on the beach and a brief talk about the nature of change.
The evening sun is still several fingers above the horizon when Peng You and company arrive in a sandy parking lot surrounded by food stands and public facilities, the snowy-haired master stepping out of the public shuttle in his usual outfit of voluminous grey robe over white, conical hat, and bamboo sandals. Lips quirked at the corners in his usual mysterious half smile, he plants the butt of a long wooden staff beside his right foot and sweeps his gaze from pizza stand to souvenir hut.
The humming murmur is low and thoughtful, staff tapping twice against the ground before he sets off at a surprisingly spry pace for someone who seems so ancient, sandals crunching across the gritty surface on his way toward a sloping ramp down to the sandy beach proper. From there it is perhaps 10 minutes of walking through deep sand, the three of them passing college students in skimpy suits, families lazing around broad umbrellas, and oldsters in sunhats with softly beeping metal detectors. On and on until the last of these is far behind them, and the trio emerges over a particularly tall dune to overlook a small sandy cove devoid of other visitors, water lapping against the rippled sand and heavy boulders imbedded here and there in the powdery substance.
"Ahh," Peng You declares, not at all out of breath as he begins his descent toward the broad stretch of relatively level beach, "A perfect spot, I think."
Beaches and oceans are still a relatively unfamiliar stomping ground for Buck, so he's eager enough to go on a little trip down to the sandy strip of coast. There was another reason he was eager for this trip, though. Of all the mentors on team Thunder, Peng You made him the most curious as he just seemed the odd piece of the puzzle. None of the groups of mentors seemed completely uniform, but if Thunder had one that stood out to Buck, here he was.
He's not really dressed for the beach though, in his usual jeans, tee, boots, and of course his leather jacket. The boots were a problem though, it only took a few minutes of trying to slog through sand before Buck stopped and bent over, untying his laces and pulling his feet free of the boots and socks. The socks were quickly shoved in the boots, the laces tied together, and the knotted footwear slung over his shoulder. A few steps had him nodding, that was much better. Hurrying a bit to catch up, he gives Chevy a slight grin and a shrug of his shoulders, then turns his attention to the sensei, continuing to trail in his wake.
Once a spot is located and declared perfect, Buck comes to a stop, turning around a bit to get the lay of the land, rubbing the back of his neck, then looking at his feet partially buried in the sand. "Well, this'll be different at least."
Chevy ambles along after Peng You, a faint smile on her features as she looks around. She used to go to the beach often -- the golden sands of the Crystal Coast, in her case, far to the south and much warmer. For this trip, she's dressed in airport-hopping gear: a light windbreaker over a baggy t-shirt, capri pants, and comfy slip-on shoes. And for this little jaunt, she had carried along her usual pole, but matched with a pair of collapsible neoprene buckets. Space-age technology, right there.
It only takes her about ten seconds of slogging through sand before she realizes it'd just be quicker to take the darn shoes off. No laces, though, so she can't follow Buck's lead on that, opting instead to carry the shoes.
A perfect place? The freckled cheeks dimple, ever so slightly. It's a bit colder than she's used to, but not enough for her to voice a complaint. "Haha, yeah. Wish I'd thought to pack a picnic basket!"
Chevy prods her staff into the sand, leaning on it ever so slightly. She grins at Buck for a moment; it's clear she's been enjoying their momentary freedom from airport waiting areas. But then she looks back to the master.
"It's so nice to get outside!"
"The world is outside, Ms. Beaumont. Always awaiting those who wish to rejoin it."
The worlds could be spoken as a rebuke, or a dry reminder. And yet, in the softly crackling tones of Peng You there is only pleased encouragement. A gentle urging to explore the idea further in future that helps to lesson that constant feeling that the man is somehow, distant. Obscured from them like a wizard behind a curtain, or the sun behind a cloud. Distant, and old. Where Sensei Ariastra's age can only be read in her eyes, every aspect of the white-haired figure before them is heavy with age. His weathered skin, still taught but seemed like old leather. His unconcerned humor, so unlike that of someone with things yet to prove.
"Today, I wish to talk with you both about Essence, and Energy."
Having continued to meander away from the pair, their Sensei approaches one of the many dark grey boulders and turns, seating himself upon the weathered surface with a quiet puff of satisfaction. Battered staff coming to rest across his knees, he gazes up at his students from within the shadow of his hat, considering them both in turn.
"These words can mean many things, and may change depending on who is using them. And so, let us start with what they mean to you."
Buck sets his tied boots down on one of the rocks, then shrugs out of his jacket. He drapes it over his boots, careful not to drag the garment over the rock before coming to stand before the sensei, arms across his chest and listening carefully. He expected some lecturing as he was used to from teachers, not to have a question turned on him so quick.
Buck opens his mouth to answer but no words come out and he closes his trap before someone mistakes him for a beached fish. His brows furrow and he lowers his head to think, staring at his bare feet in the sand like he wrote the answeres to the pop quiz there, and he's annoyed it somehow washed off.
Finally he responds. "It's change." Of course that would be his answer. "Energy changes things. Even if that change is as small as takin' one step forward, you had to use energy to do it. The more the change, the more energy you need." He laughs, almost cheerily. "Some takes a lot."
If their Sensei is one to sit upon a rock, it seems only appopriate for Chevelle to sit as well -- this lets her eyeline remain lower than his. ... She's not following any tradition but the ones she's seen in kung-fu movies, mind you.
She takes a seat in the lotus position, placing her pole in her lap in similar fashion to Peng You. She seems like she's about to answer, but Buck beats her to the point there -- and it seems as if she generally agrees, from the way she nods enthusiastically.
"Yeah, I think I'm on the same page with Buck on Energy. Whereas... Essence is different, yeah? Like you can't change the -essence- of what something is; a turtle will always be a turtle, the earth will always be earth. If you apply energy, it can -act- different, but it'll always turn back to what it... -is-."
She rests her hands upon the pole. "I mean, that's what I think."
"Change," Peng You agrees quietly, seeming to accept the sitting and standing of his students with equal aplomb. "Force, power. Motion." Left hand lifting from his staff, the ancient being motions toward the rush and retreat of the ocean so near to hand. "Very good."
Hand dropping toward the earth, he scoops a fist full of sand from the beach and tightens his fingers around it as Chevy adds her thoughts on Essence, gazing down at her as he straightens up upon his teaching rock.
"A Turtle is a Turtle, and Earth is Earth," he agrees with a private little smile, "This is true. And yet, even here change is not impossible."
Opening his hand, the master shows them a small stone within his palm where once there had been sand, its polished surface showing gently curved lines where the pressure of his grip has formed it. There is no fanfare, no great flash of power, and yet change has occurred.
"If one believes in reincarnation, can the soul of a turtle not become a fly? Can the meat of a turtle not become soil, then grass? Essence is the natural state of a thing. It can be changed, but to understand Essence is to know the cost of that change. Sand to stone, stone to liquid."
An easy underhanded motion tosses the stone toward Buck's chest, even as the master continues.
"Often, one born with Chevy's gift is given a natural understanding of water. A feeling of what it would like to do, and what it can do. This is not unlike a Man's ability to talk. When to pause, how much breath to take, where the tongue must go."
Here he pauses, the old Sensei likely very aware of the effect mentioning the existence of the tongue has on most people.
"Turtles are hard." Buck mutters under his breath. "The shell takes a lot. Ruins pants." This comment probably seems like an overly obvious statement followed by nonsense, except perhaps to the sensei who is likely aware of Buck's ability. He catches the stone as it's tossed at him, opening his hand to look at it resting in his palm, scooting it around with his thumb.
He gives a look over to Chevy as her abilities are brought up. He's obviously curious about his teammate's talents, though hasn't pried into their origins. Yet. And the mention of the tongue of course has an effect on Buck, bringing his attention onto his own, its pretty clear he's now running his tongue along his teeth, as if making sure it's where it's supposed to be. "But you still need to learn to talk, even if we don't think about it much when we do."
The essence of an object is unchanging, immutable... isn't it? You can freeze water, or vaporize it, but it remains -water- in some sense. But that's easy to do -- water exists everywhere, and it takes a set amount of energy to change it.
What Peng You does isn't, at first glance, extraordinary; snow gets compacted into snowballs every winter. But sand doesn't pack like snow. And as she sees the stone -- and its smoothness -- she realizes the act was more like that of transforming coal into a diamond. A product of much -higher- energy. And that's enough for her jaw to slacken, for her to gape at the stone as it's tossed over to Buck.
Chevy is left further confused by Buck's apparent non-sequitur. But it's clear that Peng You knows a bit more about her teammate's abilities than she does, and she waits for a good opportunity to ask. Right now she's taking a moment to tap her tongue against the back of her teeth.
"... Right. And I... might've -known- I was in tune with water, but I didn't really -know- know it until a few months ago." The redhead scratches the base of her neck. "Didn't really have anyone who could 'talk' to 'water' back home." She laughs faintly.
At this point, she glances over to Buck, grinning. "Well, you've seen what I can do... I didn't want to put you on the spot, but I guess now's as good a time as any -- can you tell me about what you do?"
The stone that rests within Buck's palm radiates a gentle warmth, its surface smooth and glossy like glass rather than compressed grit. As he nudges it about with his thumb a faint black residue is left on his skin, the surface coated in a thin layer of carbon.
"Nothing in this world is immutable." Peng You instructs gently. "All things have the potential for change. Energy, and Intent are, as was once said, levers to the universe."
Sitting back slightly, the ancient Sensei brushes the black smear from his palm and smiles mysteriously at Chevy out of the corner of her eye, allowing her a chance to direct her question toward Buck.
"To translate teaching from a people long gone: those with the gift of the elements will come to know five tiers of understanding, or power. Awareness, direction, persuasion, command, and destruction. I believe that in spirit, these will apply to Buck's gifts as well."
Buck rubs his carbon stained thumb with a forefinger, likely just smearing the black smudge, but he's fascinated by it. There's a part of him that is a scientist after all, strange as that may seem. However, he accepts the sensei's words with a simple nod of his head.
Chevy's question has him looking up from the stone and over to his teammate, he seems to consider the question for a moment, chewing the inside of his cheek as he figures out the best way to explain it, then goes for the direct. "I'm a shapeshifter. I can mimic certain animal traits."
Explains the turtle shell comment. But to demonstrate the hand holding the stone alters, growing a little larger, the fingers thickening, and his nails elongating into a set of wicked looking claws as brown fur grows from the back of his hand and partway up his arm. Then as easily as untensing a muscle, and with much less effort than he took to make the change, his arm returns to normal. "Ain't that neat?"
Energy and intent. Energy and intent. Chevy nods slowly -- the supposed immutability of an object is really only limited by how much energy one would want to pump into it. It's a good concept to know, but she doesn't see herself changing sand into stone any time soon.
Chevy's eyes widen as she sees Buck just... transform his hand on command. "Wow..." The comment about pants makes a bit more sense, with that. "Wow, that... really puts my 'water hand' to shame. That's wicked!" She smiles -- and realizes he said that the turtle shell was hard. So there -are- limits...
But, to test her knowledge, she turns back to Peng You. And tries to recall what he just said. "Awareness, direction... persuasion..." Different levels of control. "Command was next, right? But -destruction?-"
Peng You continues to smile that mysterious smile as Chevy turns back to face him, though the bulk of his attention has shifted to observe Buck's admittedly impressive display. Hands resting atop his staff where it balances across his knees, he seems perfectly at his ease, surrounded by the sights and sounds of the sea. Nose full of the salty tang of rot and fish, light breeze cool off of the waves.
"Destruction is a close translation. Unmaking, perhaps transforming, but Destruction holds closest to the intent. To create, you must destroy, and those who do so must understand the price of what they do."
The full weight of his attention once more falling upon Chevy's upturned face, he continues, all traces of his smile having vanished within the simple solemnity of his explanation.
"Awareness. This is what you would expect. The connection to something outside yourself," a tip of his head then toward Buck, "Or deep within. Direction, to act in harmony, adding your energy to something already intended. Water, once it has begun to move, will choose to move as a whole if it is able."
"Persuasion, to encourage motion that is against what it would normally do. To flow out of a bucket, to gather together. Command, to force a change within its nature but beyond its ability. Water to ice, or steam."
Here Peng You pauses in his quiet lecturing, driving the final point home with a significant moment of silence. A weight of intent.
"And Destruction, to force a change beyond its nature. Lead to gold. Water, to wine."
"Shame nothin'." Buck retorts as he finally decides to take a seat on one of the lower rocks, the pebble tossed to him disappearing into his pocket, probably for use later as he meditates on lessons. "It's just different. Only thing I can do with water is drink it." He chuckles, that easy smile of his plastered to his face.
His attention turns to Peng You. "So, sensei, you think that even though my power isn't elemental, it's natural enough that this philosophy should work?"
He rubs his chin, unbeknownst to him leaving a smudge of black carbon on his jaw from his thumb. "I guess I can see that." He bobs his head a few times, his brain already working on the problem.
Putting his hands on the rock, slightly behind him he leans back, arms locked to keep himself up, grinning as the sensei mentions wine. "Imagine that, Chevs. You'd be the hit of any party. Here's Chevy, drinks are on the house."
Chevy cracks a grin. She's glad to see that Buck's got a good sense of humor!
Still -- with Sensei doing the talking, there's plenty of info for Chevelle to remember. Awareness. "... Right. Direction..." she repeats, not to interrupt but to show she's actively listening. Another habit she picked up from talking with Japanese folks.
"Persuasion... that's most of the 'weird' stuff I do, I'd figure. Water-handy stuff." She makes a gripping motion with her hands just to cement the idea in her mind. Persuasion!
She seems a bit more serious when the fourth and fifth levels are reached. Destruction is definitely beyond her. And she just hasn't seen a -need- for Command yet... except...
"Hmm. What about... if I were to make water act more sloshy like mud? Um... -viscous,- that's the word." Tilting her head, she asks, "Would that be, like... persuasion or command?"
She cracks another grin at Buck's comment, shaking her head. "Yeah, right, so I can get busted for underage drinkin' -and- dispensin' without a license? No thanks!"
- - - - chevy, edit out a quote mark. 'She seems a bit more serious' is not spoken - - -
The earnestness of Chevy's question brings a smile to the old master's face that Buck's joke does not, seeming to pull him from a private bit of remembrance.
"Hmmh? Ahh. This is a good question to ask. To make water act as mud. It is not a question of what is done, but how. To cause water to pull tight and resist motion, this is persuasion. To draw earth from the ground and grow thick through its addition is also persuasion. But to cause water to become thick itself? You must ask yourself if it is in truth still water, and what will become of it once your influence is removed. A true mark of command is to change its form into a natural progression of what it is capable of being. The mark of Destruction is to change its form into something it could normally not. Both should remain once your will is released, unless another force moves to change them. Ice will melt as ice should. And so, in this, where do we place a power such as Buck's?"
Attention having shifted back to the lounging country boy, Peng You smiles his secret smile, his own posture relaxed but still. If being a presumably very old man sitting on a rock bothers his bones he isn't showing it, but he also seems to be able to perform legit magic, so who even knows with him.
"Only you can know if this wisdom will apply, young Buck, but I think you will find a place for it. As your powers grow, and your experience with them, it is my hope as your Sensei that you will talk amidst one another. If nothing else, understanding these teachings will help you to frame what you feel in a way others can understand. But how you will choose to frame them, only you will know. Perhaps your power is a form of Destruction, and you will be best served growing your spirit to adapt to the change in your body. To give yourself wings is not to know how to fly. Or, perhaps you possess a spirit beyond your body, and you must command your form to change and match that which already dwells within. I would encourage you to explore your ability over the coming months, and discover this for yourself."
Despite his relaxed posture and joking attitude, Buck is clearly paying attention. For a moment he has his lower lip clasped between his teeth as he ponders the words. "I mean, I guess destruction as you describe it makes sense. Pushing my body to be something it's not supposed to be. But there's also tings I know I can do and things I can't. Like an instinct."
"It's why I wanted to ask Tamaki how she turned into Chevy. I've tried people, but it doesn't work. People are animals, I should. But it's like.. well.." He pats the rock he's sitting on a couple of times with the palm of his hand. "It's like telling a hunk of granite to be a hunk of granite. It already is granite, so it can't be more granite. But I can tell it to be quartz, and it will. Well, with some mighty difficult persuasion anyway."
He bobs his head. "But I think I see the reason now." He laughs at something the sensei says. "And no, havin' wings is not knowing how to fly. I almost broke a leg the last time I tried that stunt." Which he has the good grace to laugh about.
So Command is more of a persistent state of being. She hasn't really done -that- as much. "Mmm, okay, that makes sense." Chevy nods along, hand digging about in the pockets of her windbreaker. There, she finds a 12-oz bottle of water she'd snagged at the airport concourse, and pulls it out into her lap. Not to drink -- but to start seeing what she can -feel- about it as she listens.
She seems more than fascinated by Peng You's description of the five levels as they apply to Buck's own skills. It helps -her- to understand, at least, having a parallel. "Ah, ah, gotcha..."
She taps her cheek. She seems fascinated by the thought experiment -- and it's exciting in a way that the science classroom never took as much hold. "But... how -does- Tamaki fit into all this. She's not really human, but... she had to change back to herself eventually. So if this applies, that would mean it's Command and not Destruction... right?"
"Much like Buck, it would depend on what Ms. Tamaki was changing." Peng You replies cryptically. "Buck's Awareness of his gift and its limitations will help him to determine what it is, just as it helps him to discover what he can do. Learning to do the same for those abilities used by others can be a powerful tool."
The evasion of the question is softened a bit by the aging master's slight lift of a shrug, teeth still gleaming in the faintest slice of a smile.
"Do not become trapped in the assumption that more impressive changes must be commands, or that great change is a sign of deeper knowing. Remember Essence and the understanding of it. What seems as command of fire might be a persuasion of light. Destruction of sand, a persuasion of heat. Mastery comes as a combination of power and knowledge in equal parts."
Letting out a soft sigh, Peng You glances up toward the sun, which in the time they have been speaking has shifted slightly along its slow journey toward the horizon. Rising smoothly to his feet, he plants the butt of his staff in the sand and sweeps dust from his robe with a casual pass of his hand.
"That is enough for one lesson, I think. Let us return. There is yet time for food before our next flight departs. Soon, we will arrive in Sunshine City, and there you will have lessons of a more practical sort. But do not forget what you have learned. Explore your gifts."
Log created on 18:41:26 06/04/2023 by Chevy, and last modified on 03:58:16 06/05/2023.