NFG Season One - The Dragon and the Sword

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Description: A morning conversation between new friends turns into a strategy discussion between teammates. At some point, theories must be tested -- but to what end?

Ichika had been a little withdrawn in the aftermath of the Corona Cooks Incident. It's fair to say that the girl has a tough time with socialising at the best of times, and in the days following the incident she'd been lost in her own thoughts. That's probably not too surprising; this is the first time Ichika has been out of the country, the first time she's been away from her community, and the reality is something she very possibly couldn't have prepared for. Then there was the whole, gang, cultist, thing, that happened.

This morning, though, she is at least present. Not finding spaces around the city to get trapped in her own thoughts. In fact, she's set herself up in the foyer of the hotel where they are staying, where she expects her teammates will wander through after breakfast is done, and she's staked out a little table on which she has set up a Go board.

It's just a tiny travel set really, the 'stones' are cheap plastic and the board is made of card. But she has a worn book of practice exercises which she's playing her way through as she waits. The familiar task is calming to her. You see, Ota-san? She needn't wait until she returns home to enjoy Go again; Go can be with her anywhere in the world.

%Buck has been, well, Buck. His team is no doubt learning their is a certain unfailing optimism to him, that something like a brawl at a charity even just isn't going to subdue. It doesn't seem to have put a hitch in his mood, indeed, he even started clipping news articles mentioning them. "To send to ma, for her scrapbook." You see.

However that also means he's set himself up as something of morale officer for the team, and does tend to notice when others are off their game. So even though Ichika has set herself up somewhere he's going to pass through, there's also a good chance he's intending to seek her out. It shouldn't be too much of a shock then when he comes from the breakfast room and wanders right over to where Ichika has set herself up, plopping in a nearby seat.

He may not be as big as some fighters on the circuit, but the seat still gives a slight noise of protest as he flings himself down. "Hey, Ichika-san." His eyes go right to the board, and his brows furrow. "Whatcha' playing?"


Off in the breakfast area, the toaster pops out a pair of perfectly browned poptarts.

A few moments later, Chevelle Beaumont is walking through the hotel foyer with her paper plate full of tasty confections. Her eyes light up with good cheer as she spots two of her teammates. And while she starts to make her way over with good haste, there are a number of support columns between herself and Ichika's table.

And at one point, Chevy just -disappears- behind one.

A few seconds later, she emerges with her plate, continuing on her path to the table as if nothing had happened.

"Oh, hey, y'all! Good mornin'!" She grins and holds out the plate to Ichika, and then Buck, so they can see the three pop-tarts there. "I know I just missed breakfast hour, so I brought these down from my room to warm up. Either of y'all want one? Strawberry with sprinkles!"

Blue sprinkles, just like the one stuck to Chevy's chin.

Ichika smiles when she sees Buck - she had been about to invite him over, even if he hadn't come to join her, "Good morning." She says, amiably. "Ah, it's a game, called Go. I like it a lot. It's..." She tries to think of the best analogy she can; how had the game been explained to her when she started playing? "... it's a game about shapes, beauty and war." Is what she settles on. "Though, ah, really, it's, just a silly thing I do for fun. I wanted to pass the time whilst I waited for you..."

The 'silly thing she does for fun' certainly looks pleasing enough on the table; the white and black stones are arranged in a complex pattern of interlocking shapes which sprawl across the board.

The conversation with Buck distracts her from seeing Chevy's cunning move, though, when the older woman offers her a tart the girl's eyes flick to her chin, and there's a faint smile. "Ah, Chevy! Thank you. Yes, I... would like that. Do you have time to join Buck and I?"

She takes one of the offered treats, though she doesn't tuck into it right away - holding it delicately as she waits for it to cool down.

"Ah, kinda like chess? Never was any good at chess." Buck rubs the back of his neck, looking sheepish. He catches Chevy approaching from the corner of his eye, but isn't about to shout across the lobby, not after the last time he did and got the stick eye from the guy at the check-in counter.

Insted he leans forward to examine the game. Though Chevy must have been closer than he thought, as she's suddenly there and he gives a little jump, though quickly covers it with a grin. "Aw, thanks but I already ate." He doesn't mention his avoidance of most sweet pastries, just to be polite.

"Maybe you can teach me how to play in some down time. I'll warn you though, it'll probably be more frustratin' than it's worth." He self-depricates with a chuckle and his usual beaming grin.

"Oh, of course! Unless one of our teachers decides to abra-keedabra us away to some ancient desert or somethin'." She grins back at Buck, and moves to pull up a chair.

"Man. This jet lag still has me 'bout tore up..." she comments, running fingers through her hair. It doesn't look like she's been awake very long, come to think of it. Setting the plate in front of her, she looks back at the board, marveling at the many little pieces. "You got the pieces on the lines instead o' the squares, though. And how do you king them? Wouldn't they just slide off?"

"Chess... has a lot more rules to remember. In Go, all the pieces behave in only one way, and each placement is a commitment. You can't take it back. But, I would like to teach you, if you would like to learn... the wonderful thing about the game is that the handicap system means even professionals can play challenging games against novices."

The questions from Chevy make her smile, "Ah, it isn't very much like chequers, either." She says, and in a series of swift and efficient movements, the board is cleaned; black and white stones once more separated. The game seems to have caught her teammate's imaginations, and so she will teach them!

She places a white stone down on the centre space. "The lines are what lets your stone live." She says, "If your stone is surrounded..." She sets down four black stones around each of the points, and plucks up the white stone. "It dies, and is captured by your opponent. However." The leftmost black stone is removed again, and she places down the white, and another white where the black had been, "Now, you draw the line through your stones. And so, to capture just these two, you must close off much more space. And that is the game, you see? How can you use your stones to capture more territory than your opponent? How can you build shapes that are inefficient to capture? How can you break into your opponent's territory without leaving yourself vulnerable? All stones can go everywhere at all times, but to be unsupported... is death."

She looks fondly down at the board and the stones as she talks - only realising afterwards that she rushed through all that quite quickly, hopefully she didn't lose them...

"Well, even if she did whisk us off it wasn't too terrible." Buck says in regard to Ariastra's little trick of teleporting them away. "The fight after, less so." That earns a chuckle.

Buck rubs his chin. "More like reversi, then. Except you need to surround them instead of just flankin' them." He nods then looks up with a small grin. "Me and my brothers had to find ways to keep ourselves occupied. Some nights we'd pull out my ma and pa's old board games." He explains even if nobody is asking. "Seems like a good way to pass time." He dds with a nod to the board.

"Any limits on placement, because it sounds like you could be annoying just by makin sure all your pieces touch another one."

Chevy nods as each of the game's intricacies is spelled out. Lines keep stones alive. And surrounded stones die, but are replaced with stones of a different color, that are placed on lines. That's where Chevy's brow furrows, and though she listens intently to the rest of the explanation, it seems like she's stuck on that point.

She takes a bite of one of the two remaining poptarts. And only then does she notice the rogue sprinkle, dabbing it with a napkin.

"It looks fun. Course, I don't know how good I'd be. I mostly just play cards. Blackjack, solitaire, that kinda thing."

Ichika's own treat has been completely forgotten in favour of the game. Especially when Buck asks his question; her eyes sparkle at the opportunity to delve deeper.

"That was one of the things I tried at first too." She says, clearing the stones again and folding the board so that rather than the full sizeable set, there's a much smaller nine by nine version which she puts down. "This is how that went."

And she begins to play. From memory. Two black stones begin on the board; "I had a handicap." She explains, and then white places, and the dance begins. Her movements are rapid and precise, the game apparently etched in her memory. And the flaw in black's plan becomes apparent. Black joins together and creates a wall; and it is true that over the course of the game, the territory that black has claimed is never truly at risk.

But white? White flows across the board. The click-clack-click of the stones becomes a rhythm, as white makes an elegant pattern which encompasses almost all the space, black walled off into its tiny corner of its own making.

"To be too afraid to step outside of your territory means that you will never lose what you have, true, but you will never reach your full potential either. ... Ah, but, I did actually, want to talk to you both about more than Go..."

Is Go really all that they have been talking about? Hm.

Watching the board carefully as Ichika plays out the game, he seems to be taking it in, elbows on his knees, fingers laced together under his chin. "All about risk and reward." Buck nods, knowingly. "Just like fightin'." Because if the three of them have anything in common, it's that.

"We played those, too. Well, usually. Until we figured out my oldest brother was just too good and none of us wanted to play with him anymore." He shakes his head, but looks whistful for a moment thinking on it.

His attention swings back to Ichika, brow raising a tad. He nods, indicating he's listening as he leans back in the chair again, arms going to the armrests as he takes his ease.

To Ichika's credit, the game of Go makes a lot more sense to Chevy once she starts to see it played quickly, like that; patterns become more obvious to the novice eye. She sits transfixed, calmly taking a bite of her poptart every now and again. Ultimately, Buck's questions cover any she might have thought to raise, herself.

"Mmm, yeah, Paw was real good at blackjack. It's a good thing we warn't playin' for keeps."

Though, one thought -had- been bugging her, still creasing her forehead -- that crease disappears when Ichika mentions a different topic of discussion. "Hm? What'dja wanna talk about?"

"I've... never actually played cards, before, now I think about it. Maybe you could teach me..."

Ichika nods along with Buck as well; it is like fighting. In all sorts of ways. She'd resisted that comparison at first but now... she lets her gaze linger on the game a little longer; a legacy of failure that is, apparently, burned indelibly into her mind. But she'd learned her lessons. Grown from it. Overcome it. She hadn't lost a game to Ota-san in quite some time now. A good reminder, then, that sometimes failure is the start of something great.

"I have been thinking about what happened." She says, delicately. "And, I wanted to thank both of you for helping. Again. If I had been on my own, if Ariastra-sensei hadn't been there to heal me..."

She tries not to linger on that thought too long, either. But it is hard. "All of this. Ariastra-sensei's magic. Peng You-sensei's way of reading me. The, behaviour, of those ... individuals." She exhales heavily, and makes herself look Chevy in the eye.

"Every time I think I at least understand the fundamentals, everything shifts and I am again off balance." She looks to Buck, then, who she knows far less well.

"I wanted to ask, do you think... this is all really, still about only winning fights?"

Buck just shakes his head, waving off the thanks. "No need to thank us, I put the idea in yer head. Of course I'f be there. And well, as for those thugs..." He trails off with a frown.

"Bullies are going to be bullies no matter how old or how strong."

He sighs and shakes his head before leaning back a little to stare at the ceiling of the lobby in though for a long moment. "That's part of bein' alive. I think no one really feels in control. Some are just better at fakin' it than others."

"I don't think this was ever about winnin'. I want to prove myself, but that doesn't mean win, it just means not makin' a damn fool of myself in the ring." He laughs, but maybe there's a touch of tension to it, collapsing under a following sigh. "Why? What're you thinking?"

Cards? "Sure, I don't mind! There's tons of other fun games you can play with cards too." Chevy recognizes that this is a task for later, and not something to expound on right at the moment, and sticks to her poptart as Ichika explains what's -really- on her mind.

And it's a good thing, too; as Ichika looks at Chevy, she'll see a warmly compassionate smile, and an encouraging nod. She feels like she may not have done as much as Buck or Ichika had, but... she was glad to have been there all the same. And to Ichika's stated point of... well, the shifting sands of battlefield expertise, it's clear Chevy doesn't have the answers right at hand. But she does have the support of a friend.

"Yeah..." she follows, after letting Buck take the initiative. "Buck's right. I ain't really goin' into N-F-G to learn how to win. I just want to learn. And have fun doin' it." She sets the poptart down and laces her fingers together. "I mean, way I see it... fightin's... just a new language, yeah? Some people use them fancy words and talk till your head wants ta just explode." She snickers, at a memory. "An' some people just say whatever comes to mind without worryin' about how it spills out their mouths, right? Fightin's... kinda the same way. You just make words out of fists, or sword pokes, or creepy snake heads that give me nightmares the past three nights."

Chevy may be looking at Ichika, but that doesn't stop her from giving Buck a light punch on the shoulder.

Ichika realises that she may have misspoken, and this draws a deep frown on the girl's features. She looks down at the board again, and purses her lips. "I do not mean that winning is why we are here, exactly. I think we all understand that seeing how far we can get, what we can learn, is... why we are here. But ostensiably the point of the tournament is to fight and win."

Fighting as language is an interesting metaphor, and one which has Ichika nodding. Their discussion before, of truths and questions and answers, is along a similar line after all. But she doesn't let the concern hang unaddressed in the air.

"The people that we fought were, fanatical. The man with green hair in particular, I think he truly would have killed Ariastra-sensei and I if he had the opportunity. Probably many others besides."

She takes a deep breath, and then looks between her two teammates.

"These, secrets, that are so casually revealed. The people who seem to want to stop us doing even the smallest act to improve this city. I think... I think that our world is a much darker place than I knew, and that our sponsors wish us to see this. The question then is: What are WE supposed to do about it?"

It's at that point that Ichika's phone suddenly lets out a burst of electric guitars from a very tinny speaker, and she has to fumble in her purse to find it. When she does, her eyes widen and the colour drains from her face.

No wonder she doesn't play cards.

There's an appraising look and a nod of agreement given from Buck to Chevy as she goes all philosophical on them. "Hey, I like that. You should use that in one of your next interviews." He adds, perhaps a bit teasingly, but all in good nature.

Buck scratches at his chest through the fabric of his tank top as he considers Ichika's words once again, then shakes his head. "Nah, it's about investment. To keep fans excited and tunin' in they need new blood. But the problem with new blood is no one knows who they are and they don't really come with and fans. 'Cept maybe JD." He crosses his legs and rolls his thick shoulders in a casual shrug. "So they parade us around a little, make a whole thing about getting to know us, and then we're useful."

He snorts a short laugh. "It's ratin's. Sure winnin' is good, but they're trying to make us stars. I don't really care about that, but, it's the way in."

Then he turns his gaze on Chevy and grins. "And I think I make quite the handsome snake, thank you." The following laugh is more jovial.

Chevy's eyes widen as she brandishes her fist, threatening a second strike -- though, ultimately letting it pass without further comment as Ichika speaks.

As Ichika advances her thesis, Chevy blinks -- feeling like she gave the right answer for the wrong question, now. With a bit of glumness, she says, simply: "Oh, I see..." She's a good listener right up until the sound of metal instruments clangs out -- at which point Chevy shields her grin behind a raised hand.

Buck's idea that the NFG could be all about ratings is one she can get behind, though. Her hand falls back to the table as she gives an enthusiastic nod.

She does -not- agree with his followup assessment, though. "... Well, I'm sure Eve thought the Devil was handsome too, but that don't change the truth." With the tip of her tongue daring to poke out, she reaches over to bump him with the side of her fist, just to make sure he knows he's still on notice.

"Way I see it, yeah, the N-F-G's all about ratings. But I think the neat thing is, it sounds like our sponsors have got their own spin on things. I mean, heck, Team Metal wants to just -win-, it don't sound like they care 'bout much else." Her friendly demeanor turns a little sour at that note. "... And I think Team Blaze wanted hot people so they could get good ratings, I guess. And... heck, I don't even know what Team Frost was goin' for. I was happy to get picked, but..." She shrugs, helplessly.

But then she puts on another smile. "But we really lucked out with Team Thunder, y'know? Teachers who seem like they really do care about how we learn stuff. They wanted to make absolute certain that -they- were our teachers, rather than any o' the others."

A hand is splayed out, palm up. "Maybe... they just wanna be there to help us through the darkness, you know?"

Ichika nods her head, though she's clearly distracted at first by whatever she saw on her phone. It takes her a moment, and then she sets it down, face-down, on the table, and again, a few more seconds as she rewinds the past few moments in her head.

"... yes." She agrees, at last, with, both of them? "For the people organising the tournament, capitalism is their incentive. I agree with that. But also, yes, as Chevy says, our sponsors have their own design. I'm not convinced that Ariastra-sensei even knows what ratings are. She's five thousand years old. Five. Thousand. Years old." There's just a hint of hysteria entering into her voice. "I looked up where she took me. It was hundreds of miles from where we started. Do you know how much energy it theoretically takes to transport something my mass that kind of distance? There's a reason it hasn't been done!! You don't, just, bend time and space that way!!"

She makes herself calm down. Trying to haul back on all of this before she gets too caught up in details. "... I agree that we are lucky." She says, slowly. "I, fear that I am not worthy of their trust. But that is a burden I am used to carrying, and I just have to believe that everyone else is right and I am wrong about that. This all remains very exciting, but, more and more I find myself... less interested in the tournament and my standing within it, more, concerned, with what we are expected to do when it is done."

She runs her hands through her hair, making it spike wildly as she looks between them, hoping that she's wrong about this. She's been wrong to worry about many things. Surely this is another silly concern.

There's a placating hand held up in Chevy's direction as she threatens another hit. "Kay, we can disagree on snakes, but that's one of the moves I've practiced so it's gonna happen." He says with another small laugh, setting his hair swaying as he shakes his head.

He may not be that much older than Ichika in the grand scheme of things, but he is older, so his smile is faint but calm as he regards her. "Yer too hard on yourself. Sometimes I forget you haven't graduated high school yet. But it's always the same thing. Something ends, you take what you learned and you move on to the next thing. For you, it could just be go back to school, maybe coninue fightin', maybe both. That's somethin' you're just gonna have to think about and figure out. We're here to talk if you wanna bounce ideas though." He volunteers both himself and Chevy for the task, though he does give his other teammate a look to see if she agrees with it.

"And magic don't make sense, that's why it's magic. If I bothered questioning how my abilities worked my brain would probably break. I just try not to think about it." He scratches his jaw, nails growing a bit sharper for a moment as he does so, maybe without even realizing it.

"But, I agree, we lucked out mentor wise."

"Alright, I'll give you that. Off the hook for now." Chevy can't help but smile back at Buck.

But yes -- Chevy is listening to Ichika. Intently. Wholly. Because -- in a lot of ways, she's right there with her. But she's also... generous, kind-hearted, and probably more than her fair share of gullible. Maybe these are faults, maybe not. But what she sees is... Ichika growing increasingly frustrated. And Chevy doesn't always have the ammunition to deal with issues like this. She doesn't have the answers -- she just has her own variants of the same sorts of questions.

But what she does have -- is a go board in front of her. And when Ichika is over there stressing, pulling at her hair...

Chevy just calmly reaches over and plucks a white piece off the board. And then a second. She doesn't try to hide what she's done -- she just looks at the pieces, studying them as if she were planning to pocket them.

And when she looks back up to Ichika, she's wearing the most guileless, innocent look she can muster. "... Oh. Hey. Sorry, I wasn't thinkin'." She hands the pieces back to Ichika. "Where did these go, again?"

She knows there's going to be a response. And she'll respond as kindly as she needs to. But it's an opening gambit for a pivot.

"Wouldja say you've ... -mastered- Go, Ichika? You replayed a whole game for us. Not because you woke up wanting to teach it to us. Just wanted to make a point." Chevy just gives the biggest, goofiest ol' grin she can muster.

"I, am very young. And, I am very hard on myself. But is that because I am better than I think, or because everyone else misjudges my capabilities?" Ichika murmurs, another question that keeps her up at night. She can't even run a soup kitchen without exploding, what sort of Super Elite does that make her?! "And, and everything makes sense. Somehow. You just need to know the rules, and, we don't know the rules, we don't even know what game..."

She trails off when Chevy picks up the game pieces, clearly startled by the sudden motion. She flushes a little, and -- can't stop herself. She has to take the pieces back and put them in the proper place, "It's, fine." She says, her train of thought thoroughly and successfully derailed.

"I don't think you can ever master Go." She says, softly. "It's, too complicated. There are too many variables. And -- and I just have a good memory, that's... well, it's, just..." She finds herself staring into Chevy's grinning face with a blush rising on her cheeks.

"Oh, very clever."

Buck just kind of shakes his head as he watches Ichika spiral, his usual method od reassurance not seeming to help much. But he's the direct sort. He arches a brow as Chevy pulls some pieces from the board, then blinks as that seems to work.

"Huh.." That's all he can manage, though it is heavily tinged with a tone that can only be described as suitably impressed. "I'll need to try that on my younger brother."

For now, Buck avoids the topics that Ichika had ben dwelling on, which makes him lean back and go silent for a few seconds.

"I think.." He starts after his thoughs have settled, trailing off for a moment before beginning again. "We just need to try enjoyin' ourselves. Except.." And his features turn very dour for a moment.

"I got hooked on sushi in Southtown and I can't find a decent place in this city to get it." He tries to hold the sour and annoyed expression, but he can't hold it very long.

Clever? "Mm-mmm?" Chevy just shrugs her shoulders with that same smile. Though when Buck responds, she gives a quick wink in his direction.

"I'm just sayin'. You've seen the game. You know tons about it. And I'd be willin to bet you'd be happy to teach it to us."

Her expression grows dark, as she rests her elbows on the table, leaning forward. One eyebrow arches. "But then... -Then- I'd start to question why you wanna teach us. Is it that you want us to go out and win tournaments on it? So that when they ask us who taught us, we get to point to you and go all like, 'Oh, no, I have to give all the credit to Kasumoto Ichika-sensei, she gave us eeeeeverything we needed to succeed at this game!'" She goes -way- overboard on the melodrama -- just to make sure it's very obviously that.

Both eyebrows raise, as her smile returns to more of its usual lustre. "Is it that? You wanna just ride -our- coattails to make yourself feel better?" She seems unconvinced. Melodramatically so. "Or do you just wanna share a cool game with people?"

"... Mm, yeah, I'm with Buck here. I mean, sushi sounds like it could be good... " She wrinkles her nose. "The cooked ones, anyway."

With a slight frown, she picks up her poptart. Not warm any more. And it's not sushi. "... Oh, but yeah.. Sorry. I didn't mean to take us off track. You were talkin' about our senseis, right?"

Ichika lets herself smile, just a little bit, at Buck's thoughts - Chevy, though, has the poor thing shrinking back in her seat and blushing so bright it is a miracle that scrappy hair of hers doesn't burst into flames. "O-okay." She says, "You've, made your point, I think. I am overthinking this. Even if I wasn't... there's no point worrying about such things. We can only learn as we are taught and participate to the best of our abilities..."

She turns her phone over, then, and pauses to rub her face.

"Under other circumstances, Buck-san." Look, her mind is elsewhere, go easy on the poor thing, "I would suggest we go and catch our own fish so we can make some. But. Ah. The next matches have just been announced. And I have fought both your competitors before."

She gives Chevy such an earnest look, then. Maybe just a little jealous of the redhead for getting the rematch she so dearly wanted, but. "Fadel-san is a difficult opponent to read. I only landed one clean hit in our match, and it was a calculated risk. She turns her pole into a fortress of sorts. You will have to try and flush her out."

To Buck, she smiles more genuinely. "Kuroiwa-san is ... well, adaptable. He will try to read your movements and prepare to counteract your strategy. I think you may be the best matchup we have against him, honestly. He seemed to grow a little rattled after Coalbridge-san kicked him repeatedly in the head so... perhaps, that, is something to keep in mind also?"

She does not talk about her own matchup.

"I've been down to the beach, I ain't sure it'd be safe to eat any fish we caught here, much as I'd love to go fishin'." He mutters more softly under his breath but still loud enough for his teammates to hear. "Didn't come this far to die from botulism from a trout."

"I swear, when this is over, I'm disappearin' into the wilderness for four months/

"I've been down to the beach, I ain't sure it'd be safe to eat any fish we caught here, much as I'd love to go fishin'." He mutters more softly under his breath but still loud enough for his teammates to hear. "Didn't come this far to die from botulism from a trout."

"I swear, when this is over, I'm disappearin' into the wilderness for four months. Maybe I'll build that cabin stead of buyin' it." He lets out a sharp bark of laughter.

"Yeah, I think I've lost my advantage a bit at this point, but it's hard to prepare against every type of animal trick. Not that I can do them all, but he don't know that." He rubs the back of his neck. "I need to practice them so I know the right feel before I can use it in combat. Hard to improvise."

"I was hopin' it'd be two on two matches." He digs out his phone to check out the match ups. "He's one of the ones I'm lookin' forward to fighting, though." Still flipping through the message he spots Ichika's opponent and lets out a soft whistle. "Well, it was gonna be one of us, and you are the first draft."

"Yer sellin' yourself short again. But hey, if my match isn't at the same time, I'll come out and root for you. Just try to enjoy it, like I said."

"Maybe just a -little-," Chevy agrees with an upbeat grin. "It's all good though!"

But then, well... she wrinkles her nose again at the thought of catching fish in -that- ocean. Let alone eating it. -Without- cooking.

Luckily there's no time to dwell on it, because of the phone. Right! The phone with all the metal sounds. Chevy had forgotten all about that. She reaches for her phone -- but before she can pull up the matches, Ichika is giving her the lowdown about her opponent. Spoiler alert?! Now on the spot, Chevy's eyes widen as she's placed on the defensive. Fadel-san...? "... Oh, Djamila, right... that's a great tip, thanks! I'm gonna go watch the fights she was in again." She grins cheerily, finally paging over to check out the matches herself.

"Oh, yeah. Kenzo's... well, he was super efficient on that Nissan." Chevy laughs at that. "Not that they're all that tough, but still. Uh... yeah, just keep changing on him like you did with me and y'oughta be fine!" Her cheeks tinge slightly pink, a moment after saying that, but it isn't clear why.

But then she scrolls down to see Ichika's match. Chevelle's face wrinkles up the same way as it did when she was talking about raw Sunshine Beach fish.

"... Oh, -her-."

She draws in her breath, trying to find one of her non-denominationally uplifting aphorisms, and finds herself drawing nothing but a blank.

"... I... I just gotta say, I think she fights dirty. An' Tamaki ain't a fan." She laughs mirthlessly: "... Just don't let her get in your head, I guess?"

Ichika gives a soft little laugh, shaking her head, "I ... am glad it is one on one. I find it easier to concentrate if I only have to deal with one opponent rather than two, but..."

She shrugs her shoulders, looking up at the ceiling. "Dirty or not... Greene-san's style is fascinating. How do I best an opponent that can attack me from any angle at any time? I really was looking forward to fighting her, eventually..."

Her voice has the 'but' in it for her. And eagle-eyed observers may note that she didn't get her matchups from a fighting site; hers have been texted to her by Mom.

"... I was just hoping there would be more time. There will be no winning with Lightheart-hime at this stage. If I beat her, then she will feel she should have fought harder for the right to train her. If I lose, then she will be justified that Greene-san would have been the better choice and Peng You-sensei and Ichijo-sensei were wrong to back me so hard. My parents will be watching. And my school."

She closes her eyes, and takes a long, slow breath to steady herself. "... So I will just have to show everyone, that I have learned from my past mistakes. That is all. But, as you say, winning... is not... the point."

"Yeah, but the brawl in the soup kitchen made me appreciate team ups." Buck grins, see, he can even find a positive in that fiasco. "I don't think I ever thanked you properly, Chevs, for pulling my rump off the fire. That knife fighter was a bit too quick for me." And he admits it so easily too.

"I don't think Peng You is the type to be upset with us when we lose. He's the real teachin' sort. As long as we learn the lesson he'll be happy. Lyraelle.." He wrinkles his nose and shakes his head. "I dunno. And Ariastra seems pretty protective of us already." He grins even wider, finding that amusing. "But I guess to her everyone is a young kid."

He rocks his booted foot, considering the matches for a moment. "If we put our head together, I'm sure we can come up with some strategy for you. Chevy was pretty good at attacking me from all directions using the water when we sparred.."

"Definitely," agrees Chevy. Best that it's one-on-one. As much as she enjoyed teaming up with JD, communication... could probably have been smoother. And after the sheer -madness- of brawling against -two- in the Docking Bay, she'd be happy to go to something a little simpler.

"Well. It sounds like Princess Lightheart's got other things on her mind, but heck, I wouldn't worry about her. Just focus on one thing at a time, Nixie in this case."

And on that note, she browses around on her phone while Buck offers his take. Attacking from all directions is a great suggestion; she nods to that. Looking up, she .. striggles with her words. "Also, you, er." Chevelle holds her hands out to suggest a globe, of sorts. "That... chi... -thing- you do... Is there a way you can use that, like, in other ways? Like a shield, to guard your sides, or maybe like a distraction to keep -her- pressured?"

Chevy scratches at her collar, eyeing the remaining poptart but not acting on her impulse. "Oh, and she moves fast when she wants to skedaddle. Just don't put all your eggs in one basket." She pauses. "But if you got like, eggs in a basket, and eggs she doesn't -know- about... then that might work."

She frowns. "... I ain't makin' a lot of sense, sorry."

Ichika nods in agreement with Buck, "I don't think Sensei will mind either way." The question, though, was whether she would mind. And that will come down to whether she can give a good performance... something that it is impossible to guess before she steps into the ring. "As you said, the main thing is to avoid being made a fool of..."

She actually gives a delighted laugh at Chevy's words, though, which seem to bring her fully out of her own head. "I, can, yes. I've been doing my best to enhance those skills actually. It, isn't easy for me either, but..."

She looks to Buck, then, and those bright blue eyes of hers are shining. "You said you need more practice as well, yes? Perhaps. Perhaps we have done too much talking already. Words complicate things, and it has been a while since I drew my sword to test myself."

... rather than in desperate self-defence...

Buck has put his feet up, careful to avoid Ichika's go board however, lacing his fingers together behind his head as he listens to the ideas already being spit-balled.

"But don't pursue to hard, ain't nothin' in this world that doesn't fight ten times harder if you back it into a corner. Key is keepin' the pressure on but leaving an escape, just make sure you can cover that escape without them knowin' it." Buck smiles faintly as he adds in his own advice.

His gaze rolls toward Ichika and he gives a crooked half-smile, one brow arched in asymmerical amusement. "I was wonderin' when you'd get around to askin' me."

He puts his feet back down on the floor and gets to his feet. "They hidin' an arena somewhere in this hotel? We could always use the roof, or the courtyard."

Chevy glances back to Buck Tzu as he discusses the Art of War... and finds herself nodding in unison. "Yeah, coons don't really itch for a fight, but get 'em cornered and they'll claw your dang face off..." She finds herself grinning -- as if it weren't for Buck she wouldn't even have thought to bring it up as a fight consideration.

To Ichika, she nods with a grin. If nothing else, she's glad to make contact with the Ichika she knows, as opposed to the Ichika who has been pushed and pulled by her family for who knows how long. "Yeah, there ya go!"

But when Ichika talks about a fight with Buck, Chevy seems more than happy to encourage the two. "Oh, yeah, that'd be a great idea! Take all them ideas and see how they play out! I like it." She grins at the notion of this place having an 'arena'... "Well, I'm sure they don't want y'all messin' about inside, yeah. If it's -me- I'd go for the pool but that'd be a home court advantage an' all." With the slightest hint of smugness in her smile, she nods along to the idea of a roof or courtyard. "Those'd probably be your best bets, yeah."

Ichika stands up as Buck does, and begins clearing away her go set. There's definitely more certainty in her movements now. For a long time she's been thinking about high-minded ideals, asking herself about her place in the world, where she wants to go, what she wants to do. None of that was the beauty she had found in fighting; the satisfaction of pitting herself against someone else and seeing if she could overcome them, or at the least, show them something that they didn't see coming.

"Lets go to the courtyard, then." She says with a nod, "I would choose the roof... but we will all be fighting in more public places with fewer barriers between us and the public. It is probably a good idea to become more used to observers."

It is similar to the transformation Buck had seen in her before. Left to think about things by herself, the girl has a tendency to spiral into trying to find the optimal outcome between infinite possibilities. Given a direction, though, something to focus on? And she is so much more comfortable. Her Go set is tucked into her satchel along with her phone, and then she is leading the way, one hand already resting on the hilt of her sword in anticipation of the fight to come.

"We'll try the pool sometime. Curious to see if I can hold some aquatic stuff in place while using other moves." He smirks, looking just slightly devious for a moment. "If I can and the two on two fight do occur, it could give the pair of us an edge." Buck taps the side of his head as he waits for Ichika to pack up.

"Courtyard works, with my luck I'd get knocked off the side of the building." He says with a laugh that is only a touch tinged with worry about that exact thing.

Once Ichika is leading the way, he shoves his hands in his pockets and follows after. Out in the courtyard, Buck quickly scans the area and points to a clear spot safely off to the side. "Looks like a good spot over there."

Chevy stands when Ichika does, picking up her plate and its attendant poptart. No chance of her leaving that for the next hotel guest. Though, as she watches Ichika, she appears almost -spellbound- with the change in her aura. Particularly the targeted rationale for fighting in public. There's less worry in the Justice High student -- and much more focus. The change is palpable. But Chevy also knows that calling her out on it might have the opposite effect, so she keeps her positive vibrations to herself. Aside from, well, the encouraging smile and her general giddiness.

Buck -is- there to ground her in reality though. And Chevy tosses him a grin. "I meant poolside, just to be clear, not -in- the water. But I'd be up for it either way!"

But... well. With her remaining poptart rapidly cooling back to new-in-box temperature, she gives Ichika and Buck a quick bow. Southtown habits die hard. "I'll catch up with you in a bit! Gonna brush out the bedhead and put some outdoorsy clothes on." Translation: Not up for being caught outdoors with sweatpants and a baggy t-shirt. "Play nice, you two!"

Ichika returns Chevy's bow, and smile - her own poptart sadly neglected and forgotten this entire time, she will have to discover the joys of American toaster-tarts another time. For now, there is fighting to be done, and she could not be more ready for it. "Thank you, Chevy. Have a good morning." Her fingers might itch for her comb at the word 'bedhead' but... she forces even that back down, for now. She'd seen glimpses of what Buck could do within the chaotic melee; she's excited to see what it translates to when she is the focus of his attention.

The girl walks over to the spot he had indicated and takes just a moment to look around, scoping out the presumptive boundaries of the arena. She nods, once. "Yes, this will work nicely." She agrees, drawing her sword and taking her stance - feet slightly apart, blade held out before her, and those brilliant, bright blue eyes of hers utterly focused on Buck.

"You may begin whenever you are ready."

Buck moves to one side of their selected arena and goes through his usual pre-fight ritual. Which is really just shedding any clothing he worries might be damaged. Having to head back to the hotel in a torn, ink-stained shirt from the soup kitchen is probably all the evidence needed.

He kicks off his boots and sets them aside, following by peeling off his tanktop and letting that drop atop his footwear. Luckily, he hadn't been wearing his usual leather jacket.

As he moves into position, he does a few quick stretches, pulling his arm across his chest, and taking a few thigh stretching marching steps. Finally, there's the cracking of his neck and he seems ready, dropping into his brawling stance with his fists up in front of him as he regards Ichika. "Don't worry too much about cuts, it'll let me practice."

He thumbs his nose and nods to his opponent. "G'luck."

COMBATSYS: Buck has started a fight here.

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Buck             0/-------/------=|

COMBATSYS: Ichika has joined the fight here.

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////////]
Ichika           0/-------/-------|=------\-------\0             Buck

And then he's on the move, closing the distance as quickly as he can. Given his build, it's not the fastest, but he is coming in direct, looking like he's going to try to start this thing off with a powerful strike.

He swings from the side, but it's not with a fist, instead he's trying to strike Ichika with an open palm, not even worried about striking hard, he's just trying to land the blow, which is followed by a couple more open palm strikes.

Should they connect though, a burst of sticky spider webbing bursts from his palm on contact, trailing strings to his hands as he uses those strikes to try to goop up Ichika and keep the smaller, and probably quicker fighter where he can strike more easily.

COMBATSYS: Buck successfully hits Ichika with Spin Doctor.

[    \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////////// ]
Ichika           0/-------/-----==|==-----\-------\0             Buck

The note about 'practice' has Ichika cocking her head a little to the side. "Noted." She says, pursing her lips thoughtfully. It was an interesting thing to be concerned about - and equally interesting that it was the second time recently someone has implied she ought to take note about her ability to cut others. Maybe this was something that was more worrisome to her opponents than she had really given it credit for. She doesn't have long to worry about that, though, because Buck is coming forwards very swiftly indeed!

The girl steps forwards, bringing her sword around to block the attack; and in one sense, she succeeds. The webbing splatters over her grip, gooping it up nicely to her hilt and trapping her in the most unpleasant way possible. "... Hnn. That's, irritating ..." She mutters, more to herself than to him.

This is, after all, exactly the kind of trick she should expect from Nixie. With her hands bound against his palm and her own weapon, she really is in a very awkward position to try and strike out with her primary weapon. Instead, the girl is practically forced to try and tear her hands back whilst lashing out with an upward strike of her leg - trying to plant her foot against Buck's midsection and kick with all the might she can muster to rip herself out of the binding - there's very little skill in this, just raw force and determination!

COMBATSYS: Buck blocks Ichika's Strong Kick.

[    \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////    ]
Ichika           0/-------/---====|====---\-------\0             Buck

"It's meant to be." Buck says, still obnoxiously cheery, even if the irritation comment wasn't meant for him directly. He's still twisting the webbing around his own hands, using the tether to hold on tight.

When Ichika kicks him he brings is own leg up in defense, his jeans straining a little around a thigh that might have a touch more muscle than it did a moment prior, and his leg, bent up as it is, looks to be bending in the wrong spots.

The answer is clear once his change works past the cuff of his jeans, the toes fusing into a solid hammer off a hoof, which he kicks out with in a stright kick trying to just batter his way past Ichika's guard, with the webbing hopefully keeping his opponent from getting away from the stronger strike.

COMBATSYS: Buck successfully hits Ichika with Hoofing It ES.

[        \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////////////////////     ]
Ichika           0/-------/=======|=====--\-------\0             Buck

True to form, Chevy has indeed changed into something more presentable than a t-shirt and sweats: a wide-brimmed straw hat, off-white peasant blouse and a pair of denim shorts, with a matching set of canvas shoes. She's also found the opportunity to don a pair of fashionable sunglasses as well. The fate of the poptarts is sadly unknown.

She arrives just in time to see Ichika's hand webbed to the hilt. Drawing air through her teeth, she finds herself a nice spot to wait comfortably by one of the courtyard's many shade trees, pumping up her fist in support. Which fighter is she rooting for? Well... both of them, of course!

Ichika flashes a brief smile, "It's a unique trick." She compliments, and then the return-kick is coming at her, and the girl tries to twist around it. The kick instead connects cleanly, and she is sent hurtling backwards, huffing. At last, she is able to finish tearing the webbing completely from her grip, recovering her mobility, and she licks her lips.

There's an intensity in Ichika's gaze that Buck has seen before, when Ichika is particularly excited or enthralled in something. He's never had it focused on him, though. As he'd said earlier, it is easy to forget how young she is; not even out of highschool. The ferocious intellect in that gaze of hers betrays her in some ways. He's a shapeshifter. She knew that intellectually. But knowing something on that level is not the same as being ready to fight it. In previous fights, she had rushed back into the fray when her initial strategy worked against her; determined to prove that she could overcome the challenge right away.

This time, she holds back. Her smile grows. "A very potent opening." She compliments him, and then she... sheathes her sword? "I mentioned that I have been working on something new myself, though. I will show you. Tell me, are you familiar with the concept of Iaido?"

COMBATSYS: Ichika focuses on her next action.

[        \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////////////////////     ]
Ichika           0/-------/=======|=====--\-------\0             Buck

"Well, seems a lot of unique tricks in our batch, to me."

Buck gives his leg a little shake as the hoof breaks apart into toes, and he plants his foot back on the ground. "I'm aware of it. I'd love to see it in action." He says almost breezily. It's not that he's taking Ichika lightly. He is simply enjoying himself in his element, his effervescent mood a bit more bubbly from the exchange.

He's pressing his early lead, though, he has the distinct feeling that if he let's Ichika turn the tables on him he might not get them back. Despite his words, he'd rather see it and not be on the receiving end.

So once more he closes the distance, this time he comes in low, crouching as he comes in close and swinging his back leg around and in front of him in a sweeping arch in an effort to either trip up Ichika or else force her to disrupt her stance to dodge.

COMBATSYS: Ichika dodges Buck's Medium Kick.

[        \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////    ]
Ichika           0/-------/=======|====---\-------\0             Buck

"Mm... you, might be right there." Ichika muses. She still didn't really think of what she did as particularly unique. She had a sword she had learned to use from first principals, she had access to chi that she still didn't fully understand; but her generic blue energy didn't seem like anything particularly overwhelming like Chevy's water control. Nevertheless. Undeniably, the others had unique tricks... and she is slowly starting to believe that, maybe, the things she CAN do, aren't things everyone else could simply master if they tried.

She steps back smoothly as Buck closes on her, "It seemed strange to me." She says, "Why sheathe your weapon in the middle of a fight? And then I realised. If your blade is in a confined space, it is easier to do... this."

The kick passes where she had been a second ago, and then her blade is flashing out - and it is aglow. Bright blue power surges along the length of the sword, perfectly moulded to the shape of the weapon with no extraneous sparks or overflow. She slashes at him three times in rapid succession, her jaw clenched, and her knees flex.

That is all the warning he gets before the REST of the chi she had gathered into herself is put to use, the girl literally seeming to blur out of existence in a split second to come in behind him and continue the assault from behind; blade slashing in a veritable storm. It seems that she has absolutely no compunction about striking an opponent in the back if she can create herself an opportunity to do so - though the shout of wordless exertion that leaves her lips shows that this IS a significant strain on her.


COMBATSYS: Ichika successfully hits Buck with Future Perfect EX.

[        \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////////////             ]
Ichika           0/-------/-------|=======\===----\1             Buck

One thing Buck is not, is very quick. What he is though is a solid mass of muscle and bone. Which is perhaps the only reason he's able to keep his feet in the midst of Ichika's assault. Well, maybe not his feet as he's kneeling as he takes the first series of blows, trying to get his arms up to put up some kind of defense.

Cuts open up all over his front, and he takes one step once the frontal assault is over, thinking it's the end only to get nailed from behind.

This time it looks like he's going for another form of defense, one that helps him no more than his arms did as scales begin to form across his shoulders and up his neck.

No, not a defense. His chest begins to swell as he takes in massive lungfulls of air, more than he should be able to hold as the scales cover over his face, his mouth pushing out into a long muzzle. Luckily for Chevy in the audience, it's not serpentine, not with the horns that curl back from his forehead.

He swing his head in the direction the assault came from behind and his mouth opens wide, the deep orange glow at the back of his open mouth being the only warning.

And he exhales, the air filling his lungs sparking to light in a swirling mass of chi flames as they burst forth from him in a roaring inferno.

COMBATSYS: Ichika blocks Buck's Burn Out ES.

[            \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////////////             ]
Ichika           0/-------/----===|-------\-------\0             Buck

Ichika notes the scales, and at first the only response from the young swordswoman is to try and pack even more force into her slashes. She's explained to a few people that, physically, she is weak; she's a teenage girl and no more muscular than the average one at that. But that doesn't mean she can't try and push herself beyond that limit. It's only when she sees the curling horns with it that she begins to draw back; what animal had scales and horns like that?

When she realises what he's doing, there's actually a delighted laugh from her, and for once, she sounds every one of her fifteen years.

"Oh, no WAY!"

She pushes herself back, brings her sword up, and slashes against the flames. The last of the bright blue power she had brought with her is released; helping to disperse the energy. She's actually grinning, though; genuinely impressed.

"If you can imagine it, you can become it? Ah, Buck! We are going to have so much FUN working out the rules!"

Just, absolute glee in her voice as she comes tearing back in for him. Speed is definitely a factor here, and she tries to make up for the lost distance by again pushing herself for that little burst of speed, to close right into Buck's guard and bring the sword slashing down diagonally across him, reversing the grip in the same motion and crouching, ready.

COMBATSYS: Buck blocks Ichika's Genius Loci.

[             \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////               ]
Ichika           0/-------/---====|=------\-------\0             Buck

Chevy lowers her sunglasses at Buck's latest transformation, from her perch under the shade tree. "Hey! What the heck was -that?-" Half in disbelief, half in exasperation that this is the first time she's seeing it. Though, with her newfound fear of small reptiles, it stands to reason she'd be just as terrified of the larger one if she'd been on the receiving end.

Granted, Ichika was able to defend against that. And she's actually -delighted-.

Chevy crosses her arms with as stern an expression as she can. Which isn't actually that much for the moment.

"I believe, ms. Beaumont, that was a dragon."
The soft crackle of Peng You's voice comes from just behind the American's right shoulder, where a simple glance would confirm the Sensei has been standing for some interminable amount of time. Weathered hands folded around the upper half of his staff, he leans comfortably against the pole, face hidden beneath the low brim of his hat and posture relaxed as he enjoys the cool patch of shade she has chosen.
A faint glint of white teeth flashes within the darkness, hatted head tilting while he watches the fight progress.

The scales and horns retreat even more quickly than they appeared, soon leaving Buck himself again, even if there is still smoke curling from the corners of his mouth. "It's magic. Magical animals ain't off limits." He coughs. "That one doesn't always work, I need adrenaline to do it, so thanks for the beat up."

He rolls his head back and releses one last puff of smoke into the air as he clears his lungs.

Luckily, he lowers his gaze in time to see Ichika's assault, and brings up his arm to smack it squarely against the flat of the blade, keeping it from doing more than nick his forarm, though smaking the blade with his arm probably wasn't pleasant.

But now they're inside eachother's guards, and he brings his other fist into play with a quick, but solid jab right at Ichika's midsection. No fancy tricks with this one.

COMBATSYS: Ichika interrupts Aggressive Strike from Buck with Bleeding Edge EX.

[                \\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////                     ]
Ichika           0/-------/--=====|=====--\-------\0             Buck

When Buck draws his fist back, there's a glimmer in Ichika's eye - and then she is a blur of motion.

The reason for that slight crouch and reversed grip becomes immediately obvious as she tears up from the ground, twisting as she goes, with enough force behind the sudden explosion to lift the poor guy off his feet no matter how much height or weight he has on her. The punch smacks into her, but with the speed she's going her momentum stops the hit being anything like clean, though... when she lands on the ground again, there's a stumble from her.

Putting that much strain on her body that fast... well, she's just not BUILT for that. She's torn muscles across her legs, her back, her shoulders. But as she gives a twisting flourish of her sword, she straightens, proud that her plan has paid off.

"Adrenalin, fighting spirit... it's such a wonderful thing, isn't it? In the heat of the moment you hear that voice urging you on, demanding just a little more, it is... everything. Thank YOU for reminding me how good this is, Buck! How did I forget...?"

She's so into the battle, so focused on her opponent, that she certainly hasn't noticed Peng You's arrival. And wasn't she the one saying that they ought to get used to having an audience? Right now, for her, there is only Buck, the battle, and the beautiful dance they are making with each other through it.

Chevy glances over to her right, eyes wide. "... Sensei! Well... hi there!" She grins, perhaps a bit anxiously, but relaxes after a moment. There weren't any rules against sparring, after all... right?

Still -- the focus is, at least nominally, upon Buck and Ichika. After Buck busts out Dragon-style, she thought she'd seen it all -- but after seeing Ichika snap back with an explosive tour de force like -that-, she's... really gonna just clap now!

"Yeah! Both of you are just -killin'- it!"

Well, Buck did confess to Ichika he wanted to figure out flying, just not quite like this. He goes flying back and lands on the ground with a solid thud, and a more strained sounding, "Oomph."

"Should've spit." He mutters to himself as he plants his hands on the ground to push himself up, shaking his head, glancing up just long enough to get his gaze on Ichika. "I think you might have this, but I ain't one to give up." He doesn't notice the audience has been joined by one of the team's mentors, no, his attention is fixed squarely on Ichika. He manages to get his feet under him, still in a four point stance, looking for a moment like he might be struggling to get up. Unless anyone has ever seen a sprinter taking their mark. He arches his back for a second, then pushes himself forward, coming in low and headfirst. Which probably seems a stupid move to begin with, unless you can turn yourself into a human battering ram.

Less ram, more bull, however as horns sprout from his head during his short spring forward, letting out an annoyed sounding snort as his skull thickens into a bovine visage more like one of Lyraelle's minions. Though somehow he still seems to be grinning on his bullish face, wild and a bit feral, but still a grin.

COMBATSYS: Ichika blocks Buck's Bullheaded ES.

[                  \\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////////                      ]
Ichika           0/-------/-======|======-\-------\0             Buck

Ichika is reminded of the charging ogre she'd dealt with in the Corona Cooks fiasco. Only, this time, she doesn't have a building she can use to cushion the blow. Her tongue slides out over her lips as she stares down the charging bull, and then she seems to reach a decision. She plants one foot behind her firmly, raises her sword... and turns it horizontal, so that the broad section of the metal catches those vicious horns.

Bright blue eyes stare down into Buck's transformed gaze as she plants her palm against her sword, bracing hard even as her heels tear into the grass and she is forced a good two feet back by the momentum of the rush. "... we're never done." She murmurs, "Until we've given all we can. I have shown you my power, and my speed, but now..."

She steps backwards and there's a visible moment where the girl swallows that burgeoning fighting spirit she had been talking about. She draws it back into herself, her stance becomes just a little more relaxed. She wants to finish this on her terms, not in the mad, desperate explosions of power she has tried to use to settle things in the past.


And she leaps into the air, twirling in a graceful arc more gymnast than Samurai, with her sword slashing out to try and find Buck's flank and - well - draw things to a close.

COMBATSYS: Buck endures Ichika's Artful Slash.

[                   \\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ////                          ]
Ichika           0/-------/-----==|=======\=------\1             Buck

Buck meets Ichika's gaze with another bullish snort as they lock weapons for a moment. Despite his bestial appearance it's still easy to see the human intelligence behind those eyes.

As the lock breaks he's tracing her path through the air, nose pointed right at her. Horns retreat, but his face isn't resuming it's human countenance. Instead the fur on his face grows shaggier as his features shift, large sharp teeth forming in that animal maw. The fur covers his upper body as above the waist he simply seems to swell with muscle, growing beyond even his normal size, his legs spread to brace the extra weight. Likely a moment of deja vu for Chevy in the audience. And as Ichika lands, Buck steps into the attack, allowing it to land home, blade cutting a slash across his jeans and into his thigh. There's an ursine growl of annoyance at the cut, teeth bared in what might supposed to be a grin, but is likely far from friendly looking.

But his one arm is already swinging towards Ichika, thicker than normal and ending in a bear paw the size of a dinner plate.

In comes the other paw in a second battering swipe in an attempt to connect with the nimble sword wielder. Then he raises both arms over head and brings them down in a a final crashing strike, before his knees give out and he drops to the ground, the last of his fighting energy spent on that final gambit.

COMBATSYS: Ichika fails to interrupt Bear Arms from Buck with Illumination Wave EX.

[                        \\\\\\  < >  ////                          ]
Ichika           0/-------/----===|-------\-------\0             Buck

Ichika had expected a final counter; of course she had. For Chevy, what happens is likely no surprise. The girl lands light on her feet, and the moment that she does, that bright blue power of hers surges up in answer to her need. This is where she tries to finish things in that truly artistic fashion she had described; half of the strength she had called on stays as a shield, blunting the impact of the first paw as she draws the other half back into her sword, making it glow.

But alas. For all her plans have served her well in this spar, her reach exceeds her grasp. The SECOND strike comes in before she can complete the rebuking blast she had been preparing. Her shield explodes into so many glittering shards, and the girl gasps, an expression of sheer surprise showing on her features.

She is bringing the sword around to unleash her energy when the final set of blows hammer her into the ground -- and rather than risk the blast she had gathered going wild, the girl lets its power dissipate back into the world as she staggers back up to her feet.

"H-haaa... s-serves me right for getting, cocky." She says, smiling lopsidedly with blood trickling down her features from an errant claw scratch.

"Come. Come! You're not done yet! I can tell! A little more! Just a little more!"

"That will do for now."
The words hold a note of near implacable finality despite their quiet hoarseness, cutting across Ichika's excitement and hopefully bringing her awareness back to her surroundings. Several additional onlookers have stopped to watch, most of which have their phones out and are recording the climactic clash that leaves one student bleeding and the other struggling to stand.
"The fate of the realm does not hang in the balance. A bow, and a handshake, should do in place of the killing blow."
Stepping calmly past Chevy, Peng You offers her a sidelong look, the suggestion of a half-obscured wink on his way toward where Ichika stands over the pile of blood and muscle that is Buck. Planting his staff, the ancient master stoops to offer the young man a hand, questioning him not unkindly as he does so.
"Young Buck. Where, I wonder, did it all go wrong?"

Fur gives way to skin as Buck's form reverts to the more familiar human one. For a moment it looks like he was about to collapse, but as his wounds become visible, and there's a mess of them, they don't look quite as bad as they should be. They're still there, but many of them have already stopped bleeding or are even beginning to knit back together. Even he seems surprised with the fact he has just a little more life in him to keep going. He brings up one leg and plants his foot on the ground, pushing himself up.

"Training is payin' off, hard to keep it goin' but it works." There's still a growl to his voice, or maybe he's just sore. He looks like he's about to do something, his muscles tensing, and then the sensei's words reach his ears. He nods and settles back down. "Good match, Ichika-san. I'll concede you the win." He sounds almost pleased by that. He accepts the offer of a hand up, bowing to the sensei once he has his feet once more. There's a moment of swaying from the action but he keeps his feet.

"The iaido strike." He answers simply. "I couldn't defend against it and it put me on my back foot for the rest of the match."

He starts breathing in a steady pattern, and the knitting flesh which has barely been noticeable in the middle of combat, speeds up just a fraction, putting him slowly back together.

COMBATSYS: Buck takes no action.

[                        \\\\\\  < >  ////                          ]
Ichika           0/-------/----===|-------\-------\0             Buck

Of course, when Chevy said they were killin' it, she didn't mean literally. It'd be a terrible tragedy if one of her teammates were to perish in a mock fight, right before their first challenges -as- a team.

But before Chevelle Beaumont can even process how close the fight may have been to that point, her master -- finger ever upon the pulse of the challenge -- is already stepping forward to put an end to the fight. So too, was her own heart beating so fast, even as a spectator, to see the trials of her teammates come to such a spectacular finish.

She has things she wants to say.
She has things that would be diplomatic to say.
And she has things that she really ought -not- say.
She settles for excited, giddy clapping.
"Th-that was so cool!"
And maybe something she just blurts out.

Ichika startles when that voice throws ice water on the fight. She turns, and then she realises that... yes, her Sensei has been watching. As have quite a few other people. Who are now no doubt going to upload some compilations from that fight. It's easy to see the girl's thought process written all over her face as she rewinds the last few seconds in her head, and looks utterly mortified. Had she really said that? Urging him to attack her again like some kind of... fight junkie?

Sometimes, the Truths that are revealed in battle are, not pleasant ones.

"Yes, Sensei." She says, flicking the blood from her blade and then sheathing it again in one smooth motion. Then, she bows to Buck. Low. Respectful. Her injuries aren't much better than his; albeit, the repeated shallow cuts she'd made certainly make his look more dramatic.

"I... I am sorry if I, put you in danger, Buck." She says, before looking to Peng You. "I certainly wouldn't have meant to inflict any lasting harm, it was only... in the end, I had nothing left either. It would have been settled by the narrowest of margins." Then, back to Buck. "I, can't, in good conscience call it a win. A draw, maybe."

She can't help but look back at Chevy and smile, though. Running her hands through blood-streaked hair as she lets out all her tension and sits down, heavily. Fingers toying with the bucket-charm on her sword. "Ah, thank you, Chevy. It *felt* good. Until the end."

Actually, even then, but she's a smart girl - she's realising that perhaps, it shouldn't have.

COMBATSYS: Ichika has left the fight here.

[                          \\\\  <
Buck             0/-------/-------|

COMBATSYS: Buck has ended the fight here.

With Buck returned to his feet and clearly on the mend, Peng You spares Ichika's forehead a glance, before stepping back from the pair to address them both.
"The Iaido Strike." their Sensei confirms, hands folding around his staff as he looks from one to the other. "Momentum. The ownership of space, and direction. Something you both showed understanding of, whether trained, or instinctive. And yet, today Ichika showed herself to have a better understanding of its application."
A shallow bow is offered his student alongside the praise, teeth gleaming in a slight smile of pride. However, as he continues his words are aimed toward Buck.
"There is more than one way to slow a boulder. One does not always have to smash it to pieces, or bat it back up the mountain. A grinding pressure is often the best way to halt its advance. Once robbed of motion, you will find it easier to reverse direction."
Not exactly a subtle metaphor, but easy enough to imagine. Reaching out a hand, the master makes to touch the burly young man lightly on the shoulder, fingertips rough but warm, before stepping around them both and continuing on his unhurried path further into the hotel.
"I have heard," he proclaims to nobody in particular, "That there is a waffle station within. I wish to have mine with both strawberries, and bananas."
Whether he thought his students would actually butcher one another in the courtyard is not clarified further. Perhaps he feels that waffles are more worthy of his time, or that Ichika has heard all that she needs to for now.

When it comes to being a student, Buck is at least an attentive one, taking in the sensei's words and ruminating on them for a moment. "I will think on that, thank you, sensei." This is followed with another bow that is distinctly more steady.

Though he does finally turn back to Ichika and nods. "A draw then. Hopefully your senpai I'll be fighting doesn't fight nearly as well as you." He raises a hand and brushes from dried blood from his arm, revealing pale, newly made skin underneath.

Once he thinks the sensei is out of hearing range, even if he probably isn't, Buck just shakes his head. "I like him, but sometimes I wonder about him."

"Oh well, puzzle for another day. I hope I at least gave you some clues for fighting Nixie." He head over to wear he left his shoes and shirts, his steps a bit heavier than they aught to be from simple exhaustion, and he plops himself down on the ground, grabbing his boots to tug them back on.

Ichika feels a slight thrill of pride at the praise. Momentum, space and direction. Three fundamental lessons that she had been struggling to put into words, but which she had indeed grasped. Space, particularly. Maybe that was why she had broken out the Go set for her friends... beyond her homesickness, at least. There are lessons in that board which she will try to teach Buck. Maybe she'll find something in the cards, as well.

"... I would also like waffles." She decides, as she forces herself back to her feet. "But, ah, I should probably go and get cleaned up first. I don't want to cause a scene!"

She's walking back past Buck when he speaks up again, and she smiles. "He can read me like an open book. Better than I can read myself." She says, "It's unnerving, but it is why he is a good teacher. And, yes. Nixie will need a different strategy, but, I think I have the starting moves in my mind. As to Kuroiwa-san..." She shakes her head.

"He countered my strategy easily. I am only a Junior, he is a graduate. But if you learned anything from fighting me, he will teach you many more things, I think. Honestly? I think he may be the person I want to fight most now. I need to know if I can counter his counter."

With that and a rueful little shake of her head, she walks back into the hotel. A little more ginger, now that her body is letting her feel her wounds. No supernatural regeneration for her. She is going to need a long shower and a lot of waffles to feel good again.

Log created on 09:57:38 06/12/2023 by Chevy, and last modified on 05:07:36 06/13/2023.