Description: Iris wants to escape the horrors of her household staff and get some ice cream. Ichika wants to try and order her thoughts. Can the heir to a proud magical family find common ground with a child with no great heritage whatsoever? Well, as it turns out... they might just share more in common than they had thought.
TWO HOURS AGO:
"So," asks Iris Osterlund, in her crisp little Received Pronounciation accent, "what exactly is it she's been accused of, again?"
The Sunshine PD desk sergeant, who was already having a long day that has suddenly become a lot longer, adjusts some papers on the desk and looks at the young British woman who is currently... well, 'interrogating' is a big word but it might not be entirely inappropriate at this point. "Assault, ma'am," he says, in an inexplicable Boston accent considering this is Sunshine City. Perhaps police are just required to have Boston accents, because of union rules.
"Well that's patently ridiculous!" Iris throws back. "I know my Nanny. She wouldn't hurt a fly! Does that look like a vicious criminal to you?!"
Iris's sweeping hand gesture toward the holding cells indicates the woman tentatively identified as "Nanny," who looks more like a refrigerator in a severe dress and apron than any sort of nanny or maid.
"I'm afraid he's right, Miss," comes the taut, British butler-y voice of Iris's... well, British butler. "When we went to pay for our meal, the young man in front of us was speaking on his cellular phone whilst engaging the cashier."
From the cell comes the Cockney'ed up shout of response: "And 'e got what were comin' to him too, Young Miss, holdin' up the line. T'weren't proper!"
There is a brief pause while Iris puts her fingers to her temples, before turning to her butler. "Figure this out, please. I'm going to get ice cream. We're in the United States, so I'm getting ice cream. QED."
As she turns to leave, she suddenly whirls back to the desk sergeant, pointing an accusing finger. "And where *I* come from, that's not assault. That's a PUBLIC SERVICE."
The closest place with ice cream to that particular police office was a little mom and pop shop desperately clinging on despite this area's fall into disrepair, and that is how we find Everyone's Favorite Wizard(tm) with a waffle cone full of mint chocolate chip looking out at the most desolate freakin' beach in history.
"God," she mutters, taking another lick. "America's a bit shit, isn't it?"
After her encounter with the 'gang' that had interrupted her charitable efforts, Ichika had been left... well, mostly more confused than anything else. She really didn't get it. All they'd wanted to do was serve some food, make some people's days a little better, and lessen the overwhelming sense of misery that pervades so much of this city. The people here are desperate. There's no sense of community; just a constant struggle to survive, and she hated it. She'd really thought that she could make a difference, even in some small way. Instead... she'd been blown up, the kitchen was in ruins, and... sure, some people seemed to have enjoyed the fight, but that, wasn't really the point.
Donning her fancy kimono again, the girl had set out on her own. Logically, she probably shouldn't. This whole city is dangerous. But she was filled with a desperate yearning to see something familiar; and there's one familiar thing here. The ocean is the same the world over.
Only, as she stares out across the waves, she can only reflect on how the constant gunfire, the debris-strewn sand, the scent of cordite and and pollution... well. The ocean may be the same, but the shores it touches are so very different to her home.
She is startled from her thoughts by the sound of another voice - further up the beach. She hadn't noticed Iris at first, but she finds herself smiling. "Ah, good day." She says, as she approaches more properly. "Sensei says that I ought not to judge America by ... all this. That there are places like this across the entire world..." The old man's calm, gentle reproach had done a great deal to horrify her at the time; places like THIS everywhere? Then, the world was in a far worse state than she knew.
"... but, I agree. I, don't understand why people let themselves live like this. It's not, necessary." She sounds tired. So tired. The task before her is enormous and she? She's rarely felt as small as she does right now. But it is good to have someone to talk to, and being a massive nerd, she has of course read up on who this is.
"You're Osterland-s-" She starts, only to catch herself, "Ah, I mean, Iris Osterland, aren't you? I am Kasumoto Ichika. It's good to meet you."
And she bows! Respectfully! Because you can take the girl out of Japan, but Sunshine City is going to have to try a lot harder to beat the Japan out of the girl.
"Oh, _wow_," comes the reply, as Ichika makes her way up the beach and just starts Talking To A Stranger (one of the reasons you know she's not an American, for starters), "don't you stand out." Apparently at wizarding school(*) they do not have a lot of classes on social graces, and DEFINITELY none that would meet the comparatively higher standards of formal Japanese customs.
A pause, and then thankfully for all involved, Iris seems to remember how to be a human being. "Ahem! Sorry. Yes, that's me, my girl. A pleasure." She does not bow, but she does give a little inclining nod of the head of acknowledgment. "The name sounds vaguely familiar... ah!" Her gaze takes in the tastefully out of the way katana and it all clicks in her head. "You must be part of the New... New Fighting... New Fighters... whatever the bloody fighting thing I signed up for is." A brief pause, a lick of the ice cream cone. "Well, OR you're a very polite and extremely fashionable murderer, but that one seems a bit far fetched."
Another lick of the ice cream cone, and Iris turns to look out over Definitely Not A War Zone Beach. "I hate to say is, Miss Katsumoto, but the answer is 'capitalism,' and it's hardly an American disease." She turns back to the young Japanese woman and adds, with a faint quirk of a smile at the corner of her mouth, "But then, they do seem to have really PERFECTED its worst qualities, haven't they?"
(* there are no wizarding schools. She was a legacy admission to Cambridge, but there's no social graces taught there either.)
Ichika seems a little taken aback at the accusation that she stands out -- and then she realises that, yes, she rather must. She in her dark black kimono with all its lightning, not to mention the sword. She definitely doesn't look like the standard Japanese tourist, let alone a local. She runs her hand through her hair, making the messy locks even worse as they splay at her touch, "I, suppose..." She starts, and then, Iris actually... carries the conversation forward in a direction that she was not expecting!
"Yes, that's exactly right!" She exclaims, apparently startled even more by finding a kindred spirit than she had been about the accusation regarding her fashion choices. "I, dislike, the way the economy is structured in Japan as well, but in Southtown, we pull together! Even the gangs, mostly, they have... community spirit! We make it easier to live with each other, and even that, I feel, needs a lot of work before we have the kind of world we can be proud to live in!"
She hesitates, realising that she's already getting a little, exciteable. The girl clears her throat and dials it back a notch, clasping her hands together in front of herself. "But, ah, it is maybe, not the time for such discussions." She says, vaguely. "You are right that I am also part of the New Fighting Generation. I am sorry that you could not join us for the preliminary rounds, but I look forward to testing myself against you soon."
There is a brief moment, as Ichika speaks, where Iris looks at her with... it's not exactly outright disbelief, but there is a certain widening of the corners of the eyes, a little jump in the number of blinks per second, that sort of thing. A few little tells giving away that internal reaction of 'is she for real?' Thankfully, it's a reaction that the Brit manages to get under control, giving Ichika a wan, but genuine, smile.
"Gangs with community spirit sounds... fascinating, honestly," Iris admits, reaching the point in an ice cream cone where there's nothing left but to start biting down the actual cone a little bit at a time. "I'm sorry to say that in jolly old England, people mostly want to be left to their own devices. Not that different from here, in that regard. Of course--" and here she gives Ichika a little conspiratory smile "--I'm actually half American on my father's side. From some place called Minnesota." A shrug. "I've never been. I've just heard it's hellacious cold there. Maybe huddling together for warmth makes them a little more community-minded?" And thus an insane stereotype of Midwestern life begins its little brainworm-y way into Ichika's mind.
There's a brief pause as the kid talks about fighting, and Iris seems to 'mmm' in the back of her throat for a moment before tilting her head a bit. "Sure, sure. I imagine we'll meet in the tournament, or something like that. But... well, don't take this the wrong way, young miss, but aren't you a little short to be a proverbial Stormtrooper?" Oh, this conversational gambit is going to go GREAT.
The funny thing is that before the NFG, Ichika would not have understood the reference at all. She knew an enormous amount about a great many things, but pop cultural references were not one of them. Unfortunately for them both, she'd made herself watch the Star Wars movies in preparation for one of the bonus round stages. She didn't really get much out of them... but she got enough, now, to understand that she is being condescended to. And about her age, as well. Or, at least her height. But really its her age.
Until that moment she'd been nodding along, wondering if she would have the opportunity to enjoy this cool midwest where the people live more like the Inuit. But her expression becomes a lot more impassive after that oh-so-innocent question. She knows that Iris probably didn't MEAN to insult her; the woman seems pleasant enough, and nobody who likes ice cream can be all bad. Nevertheless.
She IS insulted.
"It is true that I am only an average fighter." She says, cooly. "By my tournament performance so far, I am strictly middle-of-the-pack. But I have been attending to the lessons of my tutors, and I feel I have made some progress." She, shouldn't do this, should she? She'd only JUST finished recovering from a far scarier fight, and then thanks to Ariastra's healing magic. But what sort of teenager would she be if she didn't make impulsive decisions?
She waves towards the arena. "If you would like further reassurance." She continues, her voice... very clipped, "I would be happy to give you a demonstration."
Hoo boy. So much for community minded. Where's Oglesby and his well-oiled British butler voice when she needs him? Oh right... negotiating with American police.
One brown eyebrow goes up at things Escalating Quickly. "Now, I don't know what kind of 'fighter' you are at all," the wizard says calmly, before crunching into the very last bit of her waffle cone (it was good, really a shame this boardwalk closed down) and dusting her hands off on the bottom hem of her jacket, an action that would make her linebacker of a Nanny sad indeed. "So my apologies if that comment made you feel out of sorts. But unless that sword's fake--" OH GREAT JOB IRIS, GUARANTEED WINNER "--I'm just... well. I'm not exactly ancient myself, but."
Nailed it. ["Disco Elysium" narration voice] DIPLOMACY: MASSIVE FAILURE.
And frankly, the fact that in Iris's eyes, this IS a pretty reasonable position to take (don't give teenagers swords! they can't even be trusted with cell phones!) means that when Ichika leaps directly to what seems like a DUEL TO THE DEATH in the offing, Iris gets... well, a little defensive. "So I don't know about any reassurance, but I don't like being threatened, either, young miss."
Ichika's hand comes to rest on the hilt of her sword. She closes her eyes, and she takes a long, slow breath. Not twelve hours ago she was fighting for her life against some lunatic wielding corrosive green flames who seemed really set on killing her because he recognised her as a threat. Now she's dealing with another adult who thinks that she doesn't have what it takes - and that she's going to hurt herself or others. Well. Hurt them more than was sort of a prerequisite in the world of fighting, at any rate.
When she opens her eyes again, that smooth impassivity has returned - undercut only by the bright, shining intensity in those blue eyes of hers as she meets Iris' gaze challengingly.
"I am not threatening you." She says, "I understand your, concern, but I assure you it is misplaced. My sword is real, but you have no more to fear facing me than you would Buford. Excepting the fact that I know how to use my weapon."
She draws the blade - slowly, to try and make it clear that this is not the start of combat - and holds it up so Iris can see it.
"You fight with magic, yes? I do not have magic. Physically, I am weaker than most other participants." She would say 'all' but she's FAIRLY sure that she could wrestle Nixie into submission if she had to. "The sword allows me to fight on equal footing, as the edge makes up for my lack of muscle and mass. I am not a killer. None of my opponents have even been hospitalised. I am as in control as any other fighter at our level."
Which is... mostly true. But it didn't seem as though Iris had done her research; she probably doesn't know about the times that has been, less than accurate!
That's... look, okay. Iris is no weaponsmith but we're not exactly talking one of Senji Muramasa's heirloom blades, here (she reads a lot of fanfic). That sword has a strong note of Bought It With My Allowance, and somehow it's THAT fact that kicks Iris's brain over onto a different conversational and cognitive track, compared to where it WAS headed, which was almost probably against a number of laws or, at the very least, would make UNICEF extremely sad.
"Well..." And here, a long breath, as she tries to very carefully navigate around a schoolgirl-shaped Claymore mine, "...I imagine it's not as if you could have joined if you didn't have all the t's crossed and i's dotted, I'm sure." Is Iris trying to soothe Ichika, or convince herself of this rationalization? Maybe a little bit of both, perhaps. But at least this tense situation seems to have defused somewhat, which is for the best.
At the question about magic, however, she warms up a bit. Everyone loves talking about themselves, after all. "Well... yes and no," she says, bringing a single finger thoughtfully to the corner of her mouth. "Strictly speaking, the actual 'fighting' part mostly involves these."
With a sweeping gesture, she holds one arm -- the one AWAY from Ichika because Iris isn't an IDIOT -- out to the side, her palm open as if she was about to take hold of something. In the blink of an eye, with only a faint flicker of bluish-purple light around Iris's wrist, an honest to god spear straight out of a JRPG blinks into existence, the Brit closing her hand around the haft. She grins a little, tapping the butt of the haft on the ground a couple times, before the spear vanishes just as quickly as it came. "Not a fancy sword, but it does the job."
Ichika nods, stiffly, and sheathes the katana again. The effort seems to work at least. There's a bundle of contradictions in Ichika that she's still very much working her way through; the constant faith and support she gets makes her feel as though she is a disappointment because she hasn't reached her full potential and solved all the world's problems immediately. She DOES spend a lot of time wishing that she was just, a random Taiyo student with no particular weight of expectation upon her...
... but somehow it still stings, perhaps even worse, when someone expresses doubt in her and implies that she can't, or shouldn't, do something. Ah, teenagers. There really is no winning at times.
The summoned spear, though, helps her get over that awkward moment as well. The girl smiles, "Ah, excellent!" She exclaims, "Ariastra-sensei uses a similar magic. She can conjure scythes from nothing." A moment's hesitation, as she inspects the spear from afar, and then she continues - trying to reach back out and find common ground, in her clumsy way.
"Until a few weeks ago I didn't really believe in magic. But, ah. Well. I have learned many things in a very short space of time. The world is much, much more complicated than I had thought."
Ain't that the truth. "That it is. And, well... I suppose it IS a little unfair for a woman who can conjure a spear out of nothing to wonder what a young kid is doing fighitng." For what it's worth, she DOES seem genuinely sorry about it. Or at the very elast she seems sorry about having upset Ichika; Iris is very much NOT sorry for thinking maybe a teenager shouldn't be on international television swinging a sword around, but that's a separate issue, as it were.
The mention of someone who can literally summon scythes from nothing does get a quirked eyebrow of vague interest, but unlike Ichika, Iris grew up in a household steeped in the occult, which might explain why 'oh yeah I can temporarily create objects using ambient magic why's that weird' works in her head but 'battou schoolgirl isn't just for anime' kinda didn't.
Honestly a smug little part of her is thinking: just scythes, huh.
"I'll tell you the truth, Miss Kasumoto," Iris says, with a hint of conspiracy in her voice, "I'm kinda making this up as I go along. I entered this whole tournament thing to test my limits a bit. After my s..." A pause, a slight tightening of the lips, and then a smooth course correction back into safer conversational waters. "I've had some big life changes lately. Sometimes when that happens, the only thing for you to do is chart off in some insane-sounding direction and see what happens."
Ah, there it is, the common ground.
The admission that Iris is making it up as she goes along gets a genuine smile back on Ichika's lips. She doesn't push as to the life circumstance; she's not quite blundering enough to miss that it was obviously not a GOOD life change, but she empathises immediately with the hope that the tournament may provide direction.
"My family have great expectations for me." She says, "The Kasumoto name is a humble one. We have no ancestors of note. But I am their *genius daughter*." The airquotes around it are, quite audible. The strain in her voice. How she hates that title. "I attend the most prestigious school in Southtown. I perform well for the most skilled teachers. It is my duty to make our name respected across Japan, and my family, my teachers, and my sponsors all agree that I *will* do this thing..."
She looks back out at the sea, then, and laughs, "But I don't know how! When I picked up this sword, I thought..." What, did she think, way back then?
"... I thought that it would be easy. That as a member of the Super Elite I would simply enter the tournament, win it, and no longer have to worry about picking my own direction. The sword would choose for me. It, has not worked out that way. But, at least, I have learned many things in the journey anyway."
The expression on Iris's face as Ichika relates her very obviously and probably justifiably embittered attitude toward her position in the family 'legacy' is so very casual, so INTENSELY neutral in affect, that it can only be the result of a concentrated effort to keep her actual expression under careful wraps, because that is in fact exactly what's happening.
Common ground indeed.
There is a LOT of story there, one that probably only a 15 year old could get away with telling a complete stranger in public without even the tiniest bit of preamble or 'hey so, funny story' first. At the same time, though, the Osterlund scion can relate. Boy, can she relate.
Bringing her hands up and crossing them behind her head, elbows pointed outwards, Iris tilts her head up and looks at the hazy, smog-choked beach sky for a second. the movement briefly making a ripple in the prismatic highlights of her otherwise basic brown hair, a sign of teenage rebellion for sure.
"Oh, I'm the exact opposite," she says, unable to hide a faint smile. "Nobody ever expected anything of me. It was my older sister that was going to inherit all our fancy magical secrets, keep the bloodline going, all that stuff. I got to do whatever I wanted, really." She turns her head and tilts it down somewhat to look Ichika in the face, given the different in height. "Total freedom from all of that burden."
A brief pause. "It sucked."
Bringing her head back down and turning fully to the young Japanese girl, Iris shrugs. "I was free because nobody expected anything from me. I was *unnecessary*." An image of her butler and nanny -- attachments now trailing in her wake solely because she's Head Of The Clan now -- floats into Iris's mental camera and she gives a little frown of annoyance at it.
"So here's what I've learned about family legacy, young miss:" Iris says, her bearing suggesting she is about to impart Great Wisdom that will solve all her problems, gained at great cost from harrowing life experience.
The wizard shrugs. "Bollocks to the lot of it."
Oh, Ichika is definitely *unnervingly* open about these things. For all that she does her best to keep up a polite facade and not lose her temper, she's also just... so earnest about everything. The joys of a very sheltered existence.
She listens as Iris shares her own story, and the girl's expression falls as the difficulties at the very opposite end of the spectrum fall into place. "I'm, sorry to hear that." She says, and she really means it. Because she's pretty sure that this lady just told her that her sister died recently, and that is the sort of thing you say when someone says that, even obliquely. Never mind the absolute upending of the poor woman's life that has come with it. And her own bevy of issues which have come about from the very opposite end of Ichika's struggle. "I think that you will find the Project helps." She continues, thoughtfully. "Fighting is... it isn't like I expected it to be, it's better."
She looks up at the sky - giving the older woman a break from the intensity of that hungry young gaze of hers. "When you get past the pain aspect, I mean. I read many books on the subject and a lot of them talk about the Warrior's Road. I thought it was a silly metaphor, but it's really like that. Every fight I have been in, I have found more answers to the question of what I can do. And more questions that I did not know I needed to ask until I was in the heat of the moment. It is fascinating. Will fighting be my legacy? I... do not know. Maybe not. As I said, I am only an average fighter, so far."
Then her gaze falls back to Iris, bright and brilliant, and her smile is full with all that youthful energy. "But it is the first thing I have ever done for MYSELF. And I do not think I could stop. Maybe, for you, it will be the way you can make others... acknowledge you. Within the heart of battle, we show the world our Truth."
That is a very normal thing to say. Don't worry about it.
Look, kid. You're dealing with someone that's got extensive AO3 writing credits. Iris would never be caught dead saying this dialogue out loud, but she can appreciate it, and that at least gets a quirk of that corner-of-the-mouth smile from her. "I will settle for a sweet merchandising deal and some brand recognition," she says in response, "but you know... if a little Truth just happens to drop in my lap, I won't exactly say no."
And a private little corner of Iris's mind hears the emphasis on the words 'for MYSELF' and thinks: good for you, kid.
This is, of course, when the 'called alto because bass feels a little insulting' voice of Nanny cuts through the haze like a foghorn. "OI, YOUNG MISS. MISTER OGLESBY SET US UP ALRIGHT WITH THE POLICE, INNIT? DID YOU GET YOUR ICE CREAM?"
Ichika can have the distinct pleasure(?) of watching Iris's face freeze, then twist into a rictus of... annoyance? Frustration? Resignation? A heady cauldron of all three, and then some. Behind her, over her shoulder and clearly in Ichika's line of sight, approach Oglesby -- a short, narrow, perfectly suited butler of a man -- and the aforementioned "almost as wide as she is tall" Nanny.
With a rueful grin, the Brit jerks her thumb over her shoulder. "My 'minders'. Just a little taste of that newfound family legacy responsibility." Said in the some tone of voice one might use to say 'this is my parole officer'.
Ichika laughs a little, nodding her head. "I can certainly appreciate that appeal--" She begins, and then, goodness, Nanny has a voice on her.
The girl actually flinches as Iris' expression freezes. She has a terrible memory of dealing with her own 'chaperone' at the first NFG meet-and-greet, and what lingering frustration there may have been from earlier faux pas is completely forgiven. Ichika is lucky; her parents can't afford to travel the world and her sponsors wouldn't let them if they could. She's escaped her parole officers.
The older woman is not so lucky. And at an age where such a thing must seem even more galling.
"The fighting arena has pulse cannons." She whispers, urgently. "It'll let us in as NFG participants, but, it should keep the audience *out*."
... if they're going to do that they're going to have to be quick, though. The way the household staff are bustling across the debris-stewn beach-wasteland is almost as impressive as the tenor of that voice.
"Those MIGHT stop Nanny," Iris says carefully, and obviously not particularly loudly.
Sorry: it's IRIS who's the fighter in this situation?!
With a sort of hopeless grin, Iris shakes her head. "They mean well. They're just used to dealing with my sister, who is... was... probably the straight laced-iest, nerdiest sorcerer straight out of an old school fantasy novel you've ever met. They find my attitude toward being the lord of House Osterlund a little... well, you know." A flash of a wicked smile. "I'm an acquired taste."
Reaching into a back pocket, Iris hands a little cardboard square to the young Japanese girl, on which is printed:
OSTERLUND ANYTHING AGENCY
"We'll do anything!"
"Feel free to look us up sometime, if you ever need someone with a... particular set of skills." The kid's not going to get that reference, Iris. "See you when I see you, miss."
And with that, she gives a jaunty little wave and jogs off to join the world's most terrifying pair of domestics.
Ichika regards the onrushing square-shaped woman with a new kind of eye at that. Yeah. Yeah she can imagine that trying to slow her down would be, challenging. Poor Iris. She takes the offered card and, yes, the reference goes completely over her head - but she still smiles, producing a purse from about her person which she slides the card into. "It was nice to meet you, Iris." She says, "I'll look forward to next time!"
She means it, too. She'd come out on this beach feeling awful and shaken in the wake of something that she still, hasn't, fully processed. But for all the initial awkwardness, Iris had made her feel an awful lot better about herself.
"That spear, though." She murmurs to herself as she watches Iris meet up with her entourage again. "... Hmph. I'm going to need to work on my technique for overcoming reach." A constant struggle, so far... but she has some ideas!
Log created on 01:24:23 06/10/2023 by Ichika, and last modified on 09:33:10 06/10/2023.