NFG Season One - Above Sunshine

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Description: Ichika asks Buck up to the rooftop so they can talk and get to know one another as teammates. Training and fighting is discussed, and a plan to help Sunshine City is hatched.

Peng You's training session with Ichika had given her much to think about. Not in terms of fighting, maybe, but in terms of so many other things. She had spilled her guts with... embarrassing ease. There was something about the old man that just made her want to open up. Like the grandfather she had never known. Maybe the great-grandfather. The longer she had sat with his words, though, the more they had unfolded in her. At the time, she had glossed over the fact that he wanted her to be less hard on herself... to take life more slowly...

Could she really do such a thing?

"Finley-sa-" She had begun, when she found the older man, before stopping. Correcting herself. "Buck." She says, forcing herself to use the first name that is the custom in this new land. "There is a place I would like to visit. Would you accompany me?"

What had followed was a surprisingly laborious trip up, up, up to the highest point in the entire city. The Sunshine 60 Hotel is a great place to stay but - more than that - it has a truly incredible view.

And it isn't until she is out on the rooftop that the quiet, serious young woman actually says more than a few words to her new teammate.

"I, wanted to get a new view on the City." She says, softly, as the wind whips around them and the sun burns in the sky above, painting the city so starkly that none of its flaws can be hidden. "Sensei Peng You, he... made me see that perspective is a very important thing. Mine has been challenged so much already. This tournament, it is, a challenging thing."

Her expression is cool and detached, those bright blue eyes of hers finally turning on Buck, hoping that the climb hasn't been too much - he'd seemed a little stiff!

Buck is conveniently located in his room where anyone can easily find him, where he had just been sitting, thinking and listening to music. The invite draws a nod and a grin from him, and a "'Course." He only takes a moment to stomp his feet into his boots and then he's following.

There is a moment of surprise from Buck as Ichika opts for the stairs over the elevator, but he merely shrugs and follows along. After all, if he can't keep up with his teammates, he has no business being in this tournament to begin with. There is a bit of stiffness in his movements, but the climb up the stairs seems to help loosen him up a bit.

"Yeah, quite the place, ain't it?" He moves to near the edge of the roof, getting a look out over the buildings below, a clear frown etched on his expression for a moment. Not something to commonly be found there.

"I guess I'm notthe only one gettin' some rough lessons." He says, his easy grin returning strongr as if to make up for the temporary lapse in good cheer. "He got me thinkin' on things, too. You need a soundin' board to bounce those thoughts off of?"

Ichika gives a faint nod of her head. "There are layers to both of the lessons I have had so far." She says, "Ariastra-sensei was more, practical, in her concerns. Sensei Peng You was more, worldly. Neither was easy. Both have shown me things I didn't think were possible. And it is only the first week!"

There's definitely a note of astonishment there. No matter how many times the tournament surprised her and showed her that her horizons were too narrow, it always came as a shock to discover how much more there was to the world. As though the entire foundations her life was built on were sand, ready to crumble at the first good shake.

"Though, actually, I wanted to ask more about you. Chevy and I got to know each other through the tournament. I am sorry that we weren't able to do the same. But. If we are going to be teammates... it is good to know what motivates us. So, I read the interview you gave, but, I feel I must ask..."

The girl's gaze has turned fully from the city, now, the entire ostensiable point of her coming up this high to begin with, to focus entirely on the dark-haired American.

"Why do you *fight*, Buck?"

"Ariastra, man, I thought she was going to pick me apart piece by piece. Sensei.." Buck shakes his head. "Well, a lot of talk about energy and essence, but it gave me something to work on, been spending all morning trying to make it work." He rolls his shoulder and sighs. "No luck yet. I'm already worried about the other two."

He doesn't sound worried, if anything he sounds decidedly eager. Chomping at the bit to have his time with them.

"Yeah, I'm sorry I missed it, I feel like I'm three steps behind and racin' to catch up. That I need to try even harder to make up for the lapse. But I made a promise and had to see it through. You don't break a promise to your ma."

The question doesn't catch him by surprise, but it oes have him think in silence for a moemnt. "Ever since I was a kid it was what I wanted to do. I'd watch fights then go out to the barn and try to do the moves I saw. I got older and maybe gave up on the dream a little, but then this opportunity came up and, well, I think I fight because I need to prove myself to myself. If that makes any sense."

Ichika listens. And she nods her head along with it. "Those are, good reasons." She says, "I understand not wanting to let down family. To be honest, though, I never really thought that being a fighter was viable for me. I always admired them, but the idea of fighting myself? I might as well have announced to my family that I want to be a rock star, or supermodel."

She runs a hand through her hair; the perpetually-mussed mess spiking up even further at the tiny confession. She at least isn't staring at Buck with those wide eyes of hers any more. She instead walks a little closer to him, closer to the edge of the roof, so she can look out across the city.

"I wouldn't worry about trying to catch up to the rest of us, though." She says, "If anything, being unknown is a potent advantage. Between the rest of the team, we have fought most of the other participants. The ones we haven't, we can review together. They will have learned new things from their sponsors, but, the fundamentals should stay the same..."

"Well, can't say mine reacted much better." Buck says with a small laugh as the topic of family comes up. "Pretty much the same as when I announced I was goin' to college."

The tone of his voice changes a bit. "Why? You don't need that to work the farm. Why go off and do something like that when you can make a livin' here." He crosses his arms over his chest, strangely the memory doesn't spoil his mood. "Ma was the one who backed me up. Had to pound some sense into one of my brothers, but, they're all rootin' for me now."

He shakes his head, brown hair swaying from the gesture. "The mentors know what I can do, and they're gonna let the trainees know. In practice maybe I have some advantage, but it's small and will only last so long. Better if I go in thinkin' they've got a plan."

"Chevy adapted right quick to my tactics." The comment is a bit more for himself, a small thought floating in his mind given voice.

"Thing is as I see it. As long as your reason for fightin' is good enough for you, it doesn't really matter in the end. You just need to have the drive. I think you do."

Ichika flushes a little at the misunderstanding, turning to him and shaking her head quickly, "Ah, no, sorry, I misspoke." She says, holding up her hands. "As it turned out, that was only in my head. My parents are nothing but supportive. They have faith that I will be a success no matter what I choose to do. I... am their genius, Super Elite daughter, after all. If I feel I must become a fighter, then they will attend every fight they can, cheer me on, chaperone me to meetings and..." She gestures down her kimono; stylish black with all that lightning work. "... purchase me new clothing in celebration of my, complete failure in the first rounds."

She smiles thinly, and sighs, looking back out at the city. "There is no question that I will fight, now." She continues, "For me, it was a means to an end. I had thought, as with most other things, I would find that success came easily with it. It did not. But, I do not think I could stop now, even if I wanted to. There are... answers, that I can only find on this path. And questions I do not know I need to ask, yet, as well. It is fascinating."

"Failure?" Buck shakes his head, amused by the word. "How was that a failure?"

He doesn't really wait for Ichika's response. "Did you give up? Did you withdraw? No. You're still here and still fighting. Just because you didn't get the top grade doesn't mean you failed."

"'Sides. If you're always at the top there's nothing more to strive for." He looks over to his teammate, fixing her with one of his most beaming smiles. "It's how we act when we get our teeth kicked in that matters."

He turns his gaze back out to the city. "Me? I hope there's always someone better than me, that way I can keep climbin'."

Ichika laughs at the reassurances. It's a small sound, but the girl does at least seem genuine with it. She nods her head.

"When I was defeated in the first round, I fell into a dark place. I thought that perhaps I should back out. After all, how I use my time is not a decision I can weigh only on my own selfish impulses. I have duties to consider."

For a girl so young, she certainly talks in both a very formal and a very... serious, fashion. With the way Buck smiles and wears his heart on his sleeve, if it wasn't for the obvious age gap, it'd be easy to reverse their positions.

"But. Many people have given me reassurances on this. And as you say, I had made a promise. To back out simply because I underperformed would have been a mistake. Now, I think... similarly. Even if I do not have what it takes to become a professional fighter, there are lessons I will learn that I will take with me into whatever field I ultimately pursue."

Her eyes drift back out to the City, though. With its stark delineations. Its beautiful inner. Its desolate outer. "... but, ah, I also wanted to ask... what do you think of Sunshine City?"

Buck gives a firm nod. "Good, because we're teammates now. We gotta know we can rely on each other to be there when we need it. We may be the team with the fewest points, but like our mentors keep sayin', we're the team of first picks."

He tilts his head back, letting the sunlight hit his face as he just enjoys the warmth and the breeze whipping through the air at this height with no other buildings to block it. He even spreads his arms a bit to the side, splaying his fingers to let the wind blow between them.

"One day I'll figure out how to fly."

The question pulls him from his reverie, and he shakes his head. "Not a fan." His eyes move across the buildings below. "The one part feels fake, and the other part feels hopeless." He rubs at his nose. "I miss the prairie."

"How you handlin' beein' States-side? Probably as much a culture shock as Southtown was to me. Though can't say I feel at home here, either."

Ichika's smile spreads wider at her teammate's musing. "... to learn to fly. Now that would be quite the thing..."

She is awkward, no doubt about it. But when the taller man says he misses the prairie, she lifts her hand, and, puts it on his shoulder. It's made more awkward still by the height differential, let alone the fact that she's about as stiff and natural with the motion as a stop-motion puppet. But she tries. It is something both the other Americans she knew seemed to appreciate; physical contact. This is what one does to reassure someone, isn't it?

"I did not expect it to be so different to Southtown." She admits, "I thought, I know gangs, I know my City, I will be fine."

She sighs, "Sensei." And she doesn't need to clarify which one, does she? "Said that there are places like this all over the world. That I should not judge America because I have seen its poverty. I think..." And there's real steel in her voice, here. "... I think that I do not understand how people can live without compassion. If this is everywhere in the world, then it must be changed, everywhere."

Buck smiles at the shoulder pat, even if it is awkward and unfamiliar. Ichika is making the effort to adapt to more American customs so he just accepts it with a nod.

"I don't understand it myself. Ain't a whole lot of wealth back home, but we make do, and we help each other out. Here?" He shakes his head. "It's like if you get too many people together no one cares about their neighbors. There's too many of 'em to give a damn."

No, Buck's not as simple as he makes himself out to be. He's an open book, certainly, but he's got a brain in there, too. "That'd be a feat." He admits, though a note of approval hangs in his voice at Ichika's words.

"Maybe us havin' this stage of the tournament here will do some good. Maybe we could do a team charity day or something, work a soup kichen. It's a small thing, but.." His shoulders rise and fall in a shrug. "Ain't no reason we can't do a little givin' back while we're here. And I'm sure the publicity nuts will like the good press and not deny us."


Ichika's eyes widen considerably at the idea. Through Buck's words she'd been nodding; her family weren't rich, either. In fact, her comparative poverty was a constant source of tension with her more advantaged peers at Justice High. She didn't have a good phone, or a laptop, or anything like that. But she had community. She helped where she could, she loved pitching in; to pull together for the betterment of everyone... that's what it meant to live together!

"A soup kitchen is an AMAZING idea, Buck! Why didn't I think of that?!"

The answer is obvious to her almost immediately. She'd been thinking too big. Fretting about macroeconomics, cultural shifts, the difficulties of engendering any kind of meaningful change when she had no standing and no power. As Peng You had said, she was trying to do too much too quickly. She knows the importance of good food for those who need it.

For the first time, that slightly-different, too-serious mask of hers slips. She smiles from ear to ear, and her fist smacks into her palm as she straighten sup. "Yes! It won't be easy to organise, but imagine how much good it will do! People will be able to meet their neighbours with the excuse they are coming to see the fighters, and not feel as though they are being condescended to by enjoying the free food!"

And, immediately, she's turning on her heel, no longer worrying about the skyline and her darker, more depressing thoughts.

"Come on! I bet if we talk to Sensei he will give us the money we need to get started right away!!"

Buck's eyes widen as the normally serious, at least in his experience, Ichika suddenly displays exhuberance at the suggestion he was just tossing out in the air almost off-handedly. Then he's laughing, more genuine than his usual easy laughs, this one deeper and louder. A good belly laugh.

"Might be easier than you think. I'm sure there's a charity one in the city we can assist for a spell. Better to give an existing one a boost so it can continue after we're gone."

But he's not going to dampen such sudden enthusiasm, so he allows himself to once more follow in Ichika's footsteps as she heads off in search of the sensei. "I didn't even think about us bein' a draw. Just something to do in betwen matches and trainin'." He rubs the back of his neck. "But I guess we would pull people in who might not otherwise show." He seems amazed by the thought that they had any celebrity at all.

Exuberance is definitely the word for it. Given something to aim for, something tangible, Ichika is like an arrow unleashed from a bow. She usually gets so lost in her own thoughts, her own doubts and overthinking, but here? Here she has focus. And in focus, she finds purpose and clarity that cuts through the fog of the thousand and one possibilities like nothing else.

"Yes!" She exclaims, "The point is that we WILL be the draw. Charity, can be a difficult thing to accept. So you find a way to cloak it behind something else. They are not coming because they need the food. They are coming for the, novelty. And then they will see there is no shame. That there is community." Her eyes are shining, almost literally, as she starts to take the stairs two at a time. Just where does she get all this energy from?!

"That WE make the world, every single day, and that we can make it better if we so choose! Ah! I was going to ask you about the energy lesson, but this is more exciting! We will talk fighting another time! Thank you, Buck!"

... well, it sure seems like her new teammate has made a strong impression, even if she's now practically racing to move on to the next challenge!

Log created on 13:05:06 06/07/2023 by Buck, and last modified on 07:10:37 06/08/2023.