NFG Season One - A New Challenge

[Toggle Names]

Description: Even the places that seem most barren in the heart of Sunshine City can harbor an unexpected refuge. On an island oasis along the fifty mile concrete canal known as the Sunshine City River, the elusive miko instructor of Team Thunder takes time to open the eyes of the team's water bender into the more technical potential of her unorthodox style.

Perhaps the least approachable of the four sponsors of Team Lightning, the staff fighter from Japan maintained an aloof aura about her. Her expression range seemed to run the narrow gamut between faintly scowling to plainly disinterested on the occasions that she did show up for NGF or team events. A lurking shadow at venues and overtly uninterested in social gatherings, Ayame Ichijo was definitely a tough one to get close to.

Even the irresistible appeal of apple pie baked and delivered by one who knows well the craft seemed to work in cracking the shell of the distant miko. Attempts at trying to get close to her when she did show up to things would be met with a reserved look, laconic answers, and a clear indication that she wasn't interested in prolonged conversation.

Even the letter asking for help in how to approach close range combat with Chevy's weapon of choice seemed to elicit no response... for a while at least.

The text would come at last. Mid-day on a warm Saturday in Sunshine City:

Entrance of the Sunshine City River Center and Gardens.

Like anywhere within a hundred miles of Sunshine City's center, the address is just another part of the urban sprawl that seems to expand in all directions as far as the eye can see. The roads to get there would be congested as they tend to be during all hours of day and night around here, with the constant stop and go flow of traffic onto and off of Sunshine City's many freeway ramps combining with the densely placed stoplights something that locals just must become numb to eventually.

But a small curved road off of one of the main strips seems to promise something different than the endless graffiti-covered walls, cracked sidewalks, and loud noises of hundreds of cars all vying for every inch of progress forward they can get. The two-lane road is blessed with shade from tall leafy trees and comes to an end at a circular red-brick roundabout with a large Jacaranda Tree in the center planter.

Just past the roundabout are the tall walls of the River Center itself, the tan stucco surface covered with thickly growing ivy and planters lining the base of the long wall with with thick leafed ferns and other vibrant green plant life.

The roars of the freeway and street traffic is a little bit more distant here, as if the plants themselves were serving to absorb some of the sound.

A large wrought iron gate bars entrance through the arched opening in the wall, denying one immediate access to the decorated courtyards beyond, but even from just what one can see on the outside, it's easy to imagine the picturesque gardens that can be found within.

Ayame Ichijo waits near the entrance, arms folded, her upper back propped against the wall, one foot lifted at the knee so that the sole of her shoe can rest against the wall as well.

In Japan, she had always been seen in the same traditionally themed miko attire Chevy had observed the young fighter wearing to her Rumble matches. Here in Sunshine City, however, she had adopted a more Western look. A black button up, long sleeved blouse is tucked into a crimson pleated skirt at her waist, a crimson string tie knotted into a bow at her neck. Black socks cover her shins while brown leather shoes cover her feet. As always, her long strawberry-blonde hair is worn straight, adorned solely by a thick ribbon tied into a large bow the same color as her skirt.

Next to her feet, resting on the red clay tile walkway, is a black duffel bag. And next to the duffel bag is a long wooden pole sitting on top of a pair of wooden buckets, not terribly different in appearance from the ones Chevy uses.

It's a little cooler here, feeling almost like a peaceful pocket nestled away in the bustling city and while the ambiance of Sunshine is far from muted here, it is at least slightly muffled. A white sign sits in front of the closed gate that reads 'Closed for Private Event'. The parking lot is full of cars and the sound of social celebration and light music can be heard coming from within the River Center.

While most might bury their face in their phone to pass the time while waiting for another, the Ichijo girl seems to do no such thing. While she turns her head on occasion to the left and right as if scanning the area, most of the time she just stares ahead, waiting, her expression as inscrutable as usual.

Chevelle Beaumont was beginning to regret the idea of the media blitz. One promo after another, all scheduled in a concerted effort to make the most of the fledgling waterbender's newfound popularity and cement her name in history as a fighter to be reckoned with. About the only part of it she'd liked so far was the part where she got to go surfing. And, even that was a mixed blessing due to the amount of attention the first-time surfer had received after her first trip through a barrel wave.

So when the text from Ayame came in, Chevy immediately called her agent to cancel the filming session planned for that afternoon. Was she glad to wiggle out of yet another shoot? Sure. But there was no way she'd miss the opportunity to train with Ayame Ichijo. She said as much in her initial interview with the New Fighting Generation -- it's just that almost everyone remembered the folksy charm of a girl named Chevy talking about cars and trucks with Abigail-sized dreams in her head, and less about the unassuming miko from Southtown.

She was already tired of the radio commercial she'd cut earlier in the week. Just as she's turning down the curved street, it comes on the radio for a third time.

The commercial starts with two ladies talking.
"Oh, look -- is that who I think it is?"
"Yeah! It's Chevy, from the New Fighting Generation!"
The sound of footsteps.
The rustling of windbreaker-like garments.

From the driver's seat of her metallic blue SUV, Chevy lets out a sigh as her eyes scan for the building in question.

The commercial continues.
The voice of one of the ladies calls out: "Hey! Miss Beaumont! We've seen you all over town with that Blazer!"
Chevelle's voice answers.
"Oh, this? Don't worry, you can get your own from Sunset Cove--"

Chevy flicks the radio of her Chevrolet Blazer off in irritation. The first time hearing her own voice on the radio was amusing. The second time was less so, as she could start to hear the imperfections. This time, she's in one part frustrated, and in another, distracted as she'd just reached the building and needed to think clearly.

Once she notices that it's closed for a private party, she bites her lip in anxiety. If the young woman with the black blouse notices her, she offers a distracted wave and an embarrassed smile. It takes her a minute of driving around the lot to realize that it really is full. She decides to pull back out of the lot, and head on down the street in search of another location.

- - -

Her text would reach Ayame's phone at five till five.

Almost there
Parked down the street at accountant's office
- Chevy

- - -

Four and a half minutes later she would be seen rounding the corner at a brisk jog. She's dressed in denim shortalls with a cream colored t-shirt and white high-top sneakers. Her pole bobs lightly upon her left shoulder, both buckets swinging side-to-side from her pace. Her auburn tresses are tucked beneath the brim of a baseball cap with the Chevrolet logo; her bright blue eyes obscured by the reflective lenses of knockoff Aviator-style sunglasses. And her freckled cheeks are dewed up with sweat as she makes her way to the front of the building.

When her high-tops skid to a halt outside the front of the building, she's... *mostly* on time? She lost track of it in the jog over, and checking her phone in front of Ayame doesn't seem appropriate given... well, the -everything- beforehand.

"Hah... hah..." she pants, her breaths coming out ragged as she rests her pole and her palms upon her knees. "I'm here!" she announces, hoping that it's close enough to pass muster.

And then she remembers her place. This may be America, but Ayame Ichijo has a title that hasn't been used.

She lowers the pole, resting it atop the two buckets. Drawing in her breath, she stands up perfectly straight, resting her palms at her sides. And keeps her eyes aimed low, despite her height advantage to the strawberry blonde. Her ribcage heaves with breath, but she does the best she can at forcing herself to take calmed, regular breaths.

And she bows, deeply.
Anxiety clings to the higher registers of her voice.
"Please forgive my lateness."
A light cough escapes her before she's able to quiet herself.

Her lowered gaze allows her to catch sight of the duffel bag and the wooden buckets. She draws in her breath, pressing her lips together, holding the bow until bidden to release it. The hayseed seems to have done her homework on Japanese culture, despite showing signs of rust from lack of recent use.

%If Ayame's distance from the rest of the team didn't make it obvious that she wasn't involved in any of this to generate name recognition, the fact that she refused to participate in the round of Sponsor interviews that took place early on should resolve any doubt to the matter. Anyone who followed her Rumble success would have already know, of course, that she seemed to have no interest in speak to the news outlets that provided the fight coverage of the event. And nothing that happened since seems to have changed her mind.

But as evidenced by her scheduling time with Chevy, it's clear that she isn't completely shunning the students of Team Thunder.

At the passing wave, it's clear that the Ichijo girl is watching her, her face as difficult to read as ever. Did she train her poker face or did the projection of such outward indifference just come natural?

She hasn't moved as Chevy rounds the corner on foot, but she does push off from the wall at that point, folding her arms loosely over her stomach, eyes following the water bender's approach. She's quiet in response to the initial comments, leaving Chevy to execute the respectful bow eventually. With her attention lowered to the things on the ground next to Ayame's feet, she'll get a closer look at the miko's replica pole and buckets setup. At initial glance it seems fairly similar to Chevy's own. But neither bucket shows any signs of having water in it... and the handles of the buckets are lodged into slanted notches that have been carved near the two ends of the pole, angled such that it would prevent them from sliding off the end of the staff but allowing them to slide out in the opposite direction.

"You are fifteen seconds early," Ayame notes. Does she have a clock in her head?
"Do not apologize for something you are not guilty of."

Bending down, Ayame's right hand closes on the shoulder strap of the black duffel bag while her left closes around her own version of Chevy's weapon of choice. Hefting one to each shoulder, she turns to walk along the outer wall of the River Center, passing by the closed gate without a glance.

"Come on, we need to make use of our time before nightfall."

That seems to be the best indicator Chevy is going to get that she can relax her bow.

"It took me a little while to get the basics of your style down but I think I know enough to be of assistance now."

Her tone is reserved and she does glance at Chevy now and then, slowing her step on occasion and half turning to face the other girl anytime she follows behind, somewhat forcing her to walk side by side instead. Rounding the corner at the end of the wall, the young sensei guides the two of them across a dirt walkway, a wide strip of green grass under a grove of pine trees, before coming out on a paved walkway just wide enough for two to walk adjacent. Both the pavement and the cinderblock walls on either side of them are covered in graffiti, some old, some fresh, and litter, dirt, and dead leaves are scattered all along the filthy path. On occasion, the pavement gives way to hard packed dirt before picking back up again with the cracked pavement.

"Are there any other questions on your mind? Anything else you wish to know?"

The two navigate past a pair of concrete posts clearly designed to make it difficult to navigate bicycles onto this route as the narrow walkway takes them underneath the bridge of a congested street above.

Chevy is normally a pretty outgoing person, who likes striking up conversations, seeking out mutual points of interest, and just generally enjoying time with other people. But at the moment, she's anxious, as most of her relations with authority figures have tended to go sour for her. In her time at the swine farm, the only thing worse than a stern-faced manager waiting at the door with a timepiece in hand, was a stern-faced manager waiting at the door -without- a timepiece in hand. And while a poker face is still better than a stern face, Miss Beaumont still has... fears.

It comes as a major relief, then, for Ayame to say that she's not late, but instead early. And that she offers a caution against apologizing.

Her answer is reflexive.
"I'm sorry, sensei."
She -is- guilty of that.
But then she doubts herself.
"I mean: yes, sensei."

With her lowered gaze, she examines Ayame's replica weapon. It looks less sturdy than the length of galvanized steel pipe she uses -- but that's no guarantee, considering what Ayame's been able to do with her own weaponry. But the fine craftsmanship is far superior; the diagonal notches seem like they would be a lot better at holding onto the buckets than the simple rounded caps that Chevy had threaded on.

But it doesn't seem like she's made an unforgivable mistake; it isn't long before the sight of Ayame's hand closing around the duffel bag handle is a sign that time marches onward. Straightening up out of her bow, Chevy's quick to follow along behind Ayame. It's... then that she realizes that the River Center was just a meeting point for the rendezvous, and not the main course. "... Ah, I see..."

As she begins walking, the bulk of her unease subsides -- but she's still a fair bit starstruck from being around an actual Champion.

"... My style?" she asks with surprise. Style? Up until that point, she hadn't even realized she'd had anything of a style to be worth copying. Her brow furrows as she processes that. And she starts to realize that, yes, each of her Team Thunder mentors has gone about teaching in a slightly different way. Ayame's method would seem to have hard work as its foundation. The hard work that would go into replicating a style that she feels is still a major work in progress. Her freckled cheeks blaze with embarrassment.

"Ah... I'm still workin' out the kinks in it there. Th-though." She coughs lightly. "I really like how you built your setup. The bucket handles latch in nice and solid." She lifts her pole slightly; her buckets clank slightly in tandem. "Whereas if I swing too hard, these guys go flyin'."

Chevy's pace falters twice, as she mistakenly believes that Ayame should walk ahead of her. But once she understands that her mentor insists on walking beside her, she catches on with a shy grin.

"Thank you for takin' the time out to practice my style, sensei. I feel like I'm takin' the first steps on a real long road." Her lips part as she reconsiders her next thought -- an apology for her performance up to date. But then she remembers Ayame's earlier admonishment against such a thing, and closes her mouth with a silent smile.

Dry leaves crunch under her sneaker treads as she makes her way through. For the most part she seems content to look ahead -- though the more colorful spreads of graffiti do attract her gaze.

The questions, though -- they make her smile grow larger. The whole exchange may have begun with the note that she'd left for Ayame, asking for points on fighting up-close. So -that- question is -- considering Ayame's preparations -- presumably already on the mentor's mind.

"Questions about you, or questions about fightin'?"

She waits with that amicable grin on her face for an answer before continuing. "'Cause. I would ask about how you got your start fighting. Whether you started with the staff first, or with spirits, or if they kinda developed at the same time."

That's a softball answer though -- and one she'd had time to think about asking. But the open-ended question does give her pause. Particularly in light of her earlier embarrassment.

The darkened passage, lined with cinderblock walls, brings a cool breeze to her skin. It feels nice to someone who had just jogged as far as she had, after all. She nods her head slowly as she continues.

"... Well, I -like- the pole. And the buckets, I like to keep 'em floppin' loose, since the one time I tried drillin' holes for 'em, I kept getting the buckets hung up on corners." Chevy laughs faintly at that particular memory.

"But... now that I've had more practice, I'm better at keepin' the buckets from flyin' off. I can feel the water's pull, hanging onto the ends of the pole like a flag, keepin' everythin' in place. So I guess my question is..."

Sky blue eyes turn to Ayame's, bright and attentive. "Now that you've tried it, do you think it -works- as a style?"

"Whatever is on your mind," comes Ayame's unhurried reply to Chevy's initial question as they walk along the path of cracked pavement, 'colorfully decorated' walls, and freeway underpasses. For all the noise of the city around them, for how densely packed life in Sunshine City might seem to be, the two seem to be almost entirely alone in their journey on foot.

"Both at the same time," she answers the next question about her own fighting style. "My boujutsu is a gift from my father, while my onmyoujutsu is a gift from my mother." She sighs softly, though the sound is far from annoyed as they come out from under the bridge back into the open. A side street runs along the right side of the path now, while the cinder block canvas remains on their left. But there are no cars on this narrow street either which looks more like it might be some kind of access road than a real thoroughfare.

"From the time that I could speak, I insisted on it."

She falls quiet, leaving space for Chevy to speak up about her method of fighting that has brought her this far at least. The priestess from overseas nods her head as they walk along, not seeming to need to figure out where she's going. She must have scouted out their destination before hand.

"Yes... I suspected it was your influence over water that makes your approach possible. I did try it your way for a while before making the modifications you noticed. It did not go well."

The assessment is made without a hint of chagrin, simply a matter of fact acknowledgment that in trying, she couldn't keep the buckets where she wanted them. The ring of a bicycle bell chimes behind the two and Ayame steps to one side and pivots, holding her bag and own pole to afford the bicyclist as much room as possible to zoom by on his way along the path.

Resuming the walk, the Ichijo scion leans her head slightly in consideration at the American's next question. A blink and then a slow shake of her head follows.

"The only one that can answer that is you. Your style is early in its evolution, but the components on which it is built are uniquely yours. It is formed of your gift with the element of water, and the techniques you have devised are a reflection of your strengths, your weaknesses, and your desires. I am not aware of anyone else who fights the same way. So the degree to which it 'works' is for you to decide."

The access road curves to the right and so too does the path the two young women walk along. The road comes to a stop at a row of concrete posts painted bright yellow but the path continues past them where it intersects with another narrow paved walkway running perpendicular to them with a chainlink fence on the other side. Beneath the fence is a strip of dirt with patches of dead grass and sun bleached litter scattered along the way. And on the other side of the fence, a vast concrete canal over three hundred feet wide with barely a rivulet of water flowing along the center of it. Graffiti in the canal is present particularly along the sloped ramps that form the 'embankments' of the Sunshine City River and even from up here it is possible to see debris of various kinds scattered across the concrete surface.

Ayame glances through the fence then turns to walk down the path with the fence on their right.

"What do you think of this city?"

It seems that the more the two walk together, the wider Chevy's smile gets.

If asked, she would certainly agree on the choice of venue; the fear of collateral damage might discourage the fledgling fighter from achieving her full potential. The redhead can certainly appreciate all the little details that show, in nonverbal form, how much work Ayame had already dedicated to this training session.

Though, with that increased engagement comes a crease of concern to her forehead, in response to the sigh that escapes Ayame's lips. That's all, though -- as the thought of trying to pronounce the words that follow seems to be taking priority. "On-mo-jutsu," she repeats, her brow creasing with uncertainty. "... I didn't think to look that one up. Is that 'fightin' with spirits,' or is that 'fightin' with those lil' strips of paper?'" She smiles faintly, one fingertip rising to scratch at her cheek.

She gets self-conscious for a moment though, feeling as though she might be talking too much now. Of course, a jingling bell might have had something to do with that; Chevy moves when Ayame does to extricate herself from the bicyclist's path.

It doesn't take long to remember they were talking about Ayame's modifications. "Oh. And yeah, I guess it's just a thing I got used to..." But when Ayame explains further, dispelling the mistaken idea that her style might be 'wrong' or 'suboptimal' -- thoughts that Chevy had kept to herself -- she finds herself at a momentary loss, blinking. She stares down at the bucket before her, bobbing about on the end of her staff, as if that might give her guidance.

"... No one else, huh?" She laughs faintly. "I thought it might've just been that I didn't look far enough." She walks along for a few moments as she considers those thoughts -- and the world she sees before her. She wrinkles her nose -- she can tell from the shift in airflow and the distant sounds that they might be approaching some sort of stream, but her lack of knowledge of the area keeps her from knowing anything precise.

As the two past the concrete bollards, she comments, finally, "They felt like a crutch, at first. The buckets." A small chuckle follows. "I think you're right though. I should keep 'em around. My momma always mommicks me, sayin' I mess up when I spend too much time thinkin' and not enough time doin'."

Though... as the two turn to begin walking past the fence, the new topic catches Chevy a little off-guard. The city?

"... Oh, uh..." She scratches the back of her neck. "The heat reminds me of home. The air just dries me out somethin' fierce though, I had to get a mister for the hotel room -- even with the A/C at full blast just ain't enough." Balancing her pole on her shoulder for a moment, she stretches her arms out to either side, basking in the sunlight now that they're clear of the buildings. "It is nice bein' warm again though. I had to wear a lil' jacket everywhere I went around Southtown."

As she continues walking, though, she starts to wonder if she answered the correct question. "... Oh. But the city itself, hmm." She hums to herself for a moment. "It's a nice place, with a lot of, er.... *not*-so-nice people in it. I definitely'd say I feel safer in Southtown. But I guess that means this is a better place to train, huh..."

She trails off for a moment. And soon she has an inquiry of her own. "I ain't been to too many big cities though. You've been all over the world, though, right? You got a favorite?"


Chevy's question on Onmyoujutsu could come across dismissive, but even in that single syllable answer there is teasing undertone and if she looks at the right time, she might catch sight of the other girl looking up at her out of the corner of her eyes, a twtich of a smile touching her lips before fading.

"Not that I have ever seen," comes the miko's second reply regarding the uniqueness of Chevy's chosen fighting style. "And my studies on the matter of fighting styles have been thorough."

Ayame is quiet after that, merely content to walk along in silence unless Chevy fills it, which the American seems content to do, filling the dead air with thoughts about the buckets and motherly advice. Though the there is a break in the foreign girl's composure as she blinks a few times then rolls her eyes up to one side, eyebrow slightly raised. It would be impossible to discern her mental parsing and breakdown of the word 'mommick' within its given context, but the moment passes and she seems satisfied with her conclusion as she resumes focusing on the way ahead.

"Hmn," Ayame replies regarding the dry heat with a couple of subtle nods conveying muted agreement. "You will find people like that in every city of any significant size," the strawberry-blonde replies neutrally when it comes to 'not-so-nice' foks. But it is Chevy's conclusion that gets the biggest reaction out of walking partner, Ayame looking up at her, chin lifted just enough to look at the taller girl with slightly widened eyes.

"I would not endorse training on the local populace, Miss Beaumont."

Her tone a blend of amusement and alarm, the Ichijo girl shakes her head slowly.

"If anything," she continues looking forward again. There is a padlocked gate in the fence just ahead and mounted to the supporting pole adjacent to it, a small thick metal box.

"The more deserving they are, the more dangerous an idea it is."

Chevy turns the conversation back to Ayame though with a question in return and the beribboned girl looks thoughtful as she comes to a stop in front of the gate, moving close to the metal lock box.

"Hm... I have, yes."

Careful to keep her own bucket pole balanced on one shoulder, she occupies herself with unzipping an end pocket of her duffle bag and fishing out a keyring with a single, long, cylindrical key on it.

"I generally find new cities unpleasant to visit. Their layout is not familiar, sometimes the customs and norms are completely different..."

Ayame inserts the key into the lockbox and pops it open with a twist, taking a second key out of the newly opened box.

"So I find myself feeling negatively toward most new places when first getting to know them."

Closing the box and stowing the cylindrical key back in her duffle bag, Ayame moves over to the industrial sized padlock on the gate, her tone thoughtful.

"But I have come to realize... when I cannot think of anything I like about a city, it is because I have not spent enough time looking for something to appreciate, enough effort getting to know it. I just need to find the right place for me, a location that I would look forward to returning to someday."

A moment later and the padlock snaps open and Ayame pushes the squeaky chainlink gate open, stepping onto the concrete lip of the sloped embankment of the man-made river.

"But in the end, for me, there will never be anything quite like home."

She waits for Chevy to pass through the opening before closing the gate behind her and snapping the padlock securely closed. Turning, she starts to walk d0own the steep incline, the dry, rough cement providing ample friction to make it hard to slip. The surfaced ground beneath their feet radiates with heat with the only sign of refuge an overpass just a little ways off. It is a relief, perhaps, that it is in that direction Ayame heads while also veering more toward the center of the river basin, where a shallow slowly trickle of water flows unimpeded.

"What was your most frustrating match up so far?"

The question is an abrupt topic shift, but the seriousness of her tone suggests that she is done with small talk.

Maybe if Chevy had asked for the 'definition' of onmyoujutsu then she might have received that. But as she hadn't, she's got no choice but to accept the completely correct answer of 'yes' with a grin, parted slightly by the tip of her tongue. A moment later she acknowledges: "S'pose I walked right into that..."

Chevy had only started -seriously- looking into fighting with the discovery of her water affinity, which wasn't very long before the start of NFG itself. So Ayame, being the most trusted authority she can turn to, would be the one to know -- and she accepts that with a smile and a nod.

Ayame is far from the first person to express confusion at her local brogue. By the time Chevy realizes that Ayame's raising an eyebrow, it seems the moment passes -- and Miss Beaumont laughs, faintly. She'll just... make an effort to stick to the English that her local newscasters use.

"... Oh, sure! You bet.." is her reply to the adminition to avoid fighting the locals. It's sound advice -- anyone bold enough to risk an attack is probably too strong for the rookie anyway. Bowing her head slightly, she adds, "... I don't wanna make any more trouble for y'all than I have to. I feel bad enough just havin' Ariastra-sensei involved." There's a pause that suggests she might have more to say on that matter, but she lets it pass.

As Ayame slows, Chevy brings her pole level, stabilizing it across her shoulder as she watches and listens.

"... Aw," she comments, having hoped to hear more city suggestions. Resigning herself to the knowledge she's already gotten, she continues: "... Southtown sure is nice." She smiles, gingerly stepping through the door as Ayame opens it for her, and standing crosswise on the slope so that her treads get maximum grip. "I definitely wanna go back and explore places that ain't right next to the hotel. I feel like I missed out on seein' so much of the city."

It takes Chevy a moment or two to register the heat. Fanning herself with a hand, she wrinkles her nose at the convection waves rising from the concrete, as she follows along dutifully behind Ayame.

But then, an important question -- and one that feels much more relevant to the training at hand. Chevy's brow creases for a moment as she draws in a heated breath. "Whew... uh..." The buckets clang lightly, as she takes a better look at the overpass.

"Well, I was gonna say the fight with Djamila. I felt like I was in control, and then, *whoop*, suddenl I warn't. But I'd definitely say the scrap with Coco was the most frustratin' fight I've been in."

The buckets sway back and forth as she spends a moment thinking back to the fight -- trying to put things together into a concise a fashion as possible for Ayame. "I was doin' alright with the fight, so long as I kept her at a distance. Heck, there was one moment I really -ought- to have been able to turn her over, but I chickened out. But between her backhanded mommickin' and the way she kept drivin' in close, I fell to pieces."

She frowns, lost in thought -- but this time, she helpfully adds, "... Sorry, used that word again." Her cheeks turn a shade of pink as she continues: "I meant, she was makin' good compliments -- but taken another way, she was makin' fun of me. An' by the time I latched on she'd done cracked me open like a clamshell."

There is an irritable huff of air from her nostrils, afterwards. She might not have anything to voice, but her frowning, firmly set jaw tells the story. It wouldn't be hard to figure out -- the unsanctioned kick to the ribs was a rumor that was sure to have made its way to Ayame.

"... so when I cain't move around, that's when I get stuck. It's frustratin'."

At the mention of Ariastra, Ayame's attention would again be briefly on Chevy, eyes narrowed with a focused blend of curiosity and suspicion, but she doesn't press on the topic that Chevy herself doesn't elaborate on.

"Well," the miko replies as they move along and the hope of someday returning to Southtown is expressed, "If you are successful in pursuing this direction of being a fighter, you will undoubtedly find your way back there eventually..." It's no big secret that the Japan metropolis is one of the key fighting circuit locations around the globe.

Ayame continues along toward the bridge and curve in the concrete canal ahead. "Mn." is offered at the mention of the fight with Coco, but otherwise she seems content to listen to the account of things from the newer fighter's perspective.

At the break to rephrase 'mommicking' into a longer explanation, the girl in black and red gives her a sidelong look. "I am familiar with sarcasm," she notes with light reproof. "And of the power of psychological warfare in a fight." she adds, tone more neutral, eyes forward. "It is a weapon that you will either need to sharpen for yourself or master blocking out of your thoughts... Otherwise, there will always be fighters like her that will use it to put you on the defensive in a fight."

She looks toward Chevy again, glancing the American up and down as if evaluating her briefly, before looking forward as the two enter the shadow of the wide public transit bridge above.

"In your case, I would suggest learning to ignore it. But that is up to you to decide."

As to the final comment about the frustration of being prevented from moving, Ayame quietly comments.

"Much like in life."

In the open daylight on the other side of the bridge is a change in scenery. It is clearly still part of the miles of man-made canal, but while behind the two girls is a long stretch of wide open, dull, hot concrete, ahead of them the Sunshine City River almost looks more like an actual river. Sediment collected in the stretch ahead over years of flowing water has gathered into a literal island of earth covered in verdant vegetation, ranging from ferns to moderate sized shade trees to even tall palm trees towering overhead.

The entire base of the canal is covered by a thin later of water here measuring a couple inches deep. It becomes clear that is gathered here by a raised concrete lip at the edge of the bridge's shadow before it overflows into the gentle but steady rivulet that continues onward to the south. Between the girls and the main island are a series of smaller patches of damp ground slightly visible over the shallow water, clearly offering access without having to get one's shoes wet as long as one is willing to make a few leaps across the gaps.

Securing one hand on the shoulder strap of her duffle bag and her other hand on the staff balanced on her other shoulder, Ayame prepares to spring across the first gap.

"Come on. We will stop there." she nods toward the plant covered islet before bracing herself, then taking a quick step forward and springing to the first landing along the way, shoes sinking into the damp soil a half inch as she lands. Steadying herself, she looks back to Chevy then forward, striding quickly and springing to a second landing, and then a third, before finally landing on the much more solid island.

Upon arriving at it, it's easy to see that the Ichijo girl has been here before to get it ready for them. Situated on the raised dry ground are a pair of what might best be described as featureless half-mannequins, with a head, arms and torso, but only a round weighted base that keeps them upright. While a tad shorter than opponents Chevy is likely to face most of the time, the two dummies still stand almost five feet tall, their exterior looking to be made of worn black vinyl, their arms stiffly angled against their sides.

Ayame puts down her bucket staff and duffle bag and walks over to one of the two dummies and pushes against one's torso with her palm. It leans back under pressure, but as she withdraws her hand, it wobbles back to fully upright on its own, clearly conveying that the rounded base beneath it is clearly much heavier than the rest of it.

"These two dummies will help us try out some moves without too much complaining," she observes, resting her right hand on her hip, her left arm against her side once Chevy joins her on the island. With the water all around them and the shade of the trees overhead, at least some of the afternoon heat is mitigated in this curious refuge in the heart of the concrete river.

All her life... Chevelle has been fearful of letting people down. She'd stuck to her father's coattails growing up, because she respected him, and because she knew that if she were at risk of doing something 'wrong,' he'd be quick to correct her with a helpful nudge here and there. And with his passing, there's been no one to hold her hand. No one to watch out for her in quite the same way. In contrast, her mother would often wait for her to slip up, so she could use that as a teaching point.

In many ways, joining the NFG gave her the confidence she needed to start following her own path. Experience on a larger stage gave her the opportunity she needed to... well, mess up here and there. More importantly, it gave her the opportunity to realize her gifts and start to understand them.

When she gets closer to the babbling water of the manmade canal, she can feel her confidence building. Water plays a key role in Chevy's personal soundtrack, and with it... she can feel her insecurities starting to melt away. Ayame's words only bring that point home -- it isn't that she -might- see Southtown again, but she -will-, undoubtedly -- a point to which she nods, enthusiastically. It isn't that she -might- get better at blocking out voices like Coco's; she will -need- to. And that gives her strength; she nods to that as well. "... yeah! That makes sense."

But as Ayame looks her up and down, she starts to find herself questioning that, momentarily. Did... she say something wrong? Did she... let Ayame down?

Why does it feel so -cold- all of a sudden, as if the most dreadful shade were cast upon her?

But then Chevy looks around her, and realizes that was just the shadow of the public transit bridge.

"... Oh. Yeah." She clears her throat. "I shouldn't let it get to me, right."

She smiles, the quiet that ensues allowing her to listen to the musical babbling of the water running alongside her. Water that flows freely -- water that won't leave her stuck. Like she felt against Coco.

She remains quiet for a while, ruminating as the shadow's chill ebbs away, replaced by sunlight's warmth. The tone of conversation had shifted, after all; and with the proximity to water, Chevy feels as if her focus has grown clearer. No longer does she amble about without aim, but now her footsteps are placed with purpose. One foot in front of the other, Ayame at her side, patches of damp ground leading to the eventual destination and its torso-less bodies.

Come on, says Ayame. And then Chevy's mentor leaps -- a confident motion, on ground she knows to be stable. Ground she must -surely- have tested many times, for the mannequins to be so firmly positioned.

Chevy gulps for breath. For while Ayame knows which of those are stable... she does not. And she -heard- the water squishing underfoot. Or maybe she -saw- it, waves emanating outward from the points of contact. Or maybe she -felt- it, deep down, resonating in her own unique sense.

She draws in her breath, lowering her chin to watch as Ayame bounds confidently to the solid island.
She will -not- lose her step.
She will -not- let Ayame down.
"I'll be right there..."

Chevy braces the staff on her shoulder, balancing it out evenly. The empty buckets swing at opposite ends of the pole, stopped by the outer brims. She nods to herself... and then makes a small hop to the first foothold.

She lands with an even step, not far from where Ayame's foot had sunk into the earth; her foot sinks in a quarter inch, with a much softer sound. Almost as if she were landing on a water-soaked stepping stone. She smiles, with confidence -- proud that she hadn't embarassed herself, but seemingly unaware of the difference.

With a brief hesitation, she bounds to the second landing, then the third, with similar results. And on the final landing, she seems a bit -too- confident, and pitches forward slightly on contact with the firmer ground.

The buckets clang, upset from the sudden movement. A quick adjustment keeps the forward bucket from falling off, but the sound exposes her error. Did... she let her down -that- time? She laughs, unsteadily, as she takes a few more steps to stabilize herself, stepping once more into the peaceful shade.

The time for small talk had passed, supposedly. But as she lowers her staff, gripping it lightly with both hands, she comments with a wry grin, "... I learned to like the quiet type after my first ex."

She broadens her stance, raising her left hand higher, tilting the pole at a 30 degree angle. She may have been chatty before. But she's clearly communicating her focus in the here and now.

Ayame doesn't look as Chevy joins her on the island - not until the sound of a close brush with disaster catches her ear and she glances over her shoulder to check on the American girl with a slow blink and inscrutable expression. She is equally hard to read following the quip about quiet types... but after a handful of heartbeats, the corner of the miko's mouth curls up in a half-smirk, amusement reflected briefly in her eyes.

Silence lingers for a while, interrupted only by wind through the trees above and the sound of shallow but steadily flowing water all around them. It might not be the same as backpacking alongside a fishing river in the Blue Ridge mountains of North Carolina, but if one can ignore the sound of distant traffic, the tall buildings visible above the edge of the canal, or the concrete embankments on either side of them, maybe it can bear some resemblance.

Turning away, Ayame strides over to her own bucket staff and bends down briefly, hand closing around its length as she hefts it up to her shoulder. Next she walks over to the dummy on the right, facing inward toward the island.

"I am going to demonstrate potential close quarters techniques that you can execute when your opponent refuses to give you space. Whether you integrate them into your arsenal is up to you to decide. These are merely options to consider."

Spinning the bucket pole off her shoulder, the strawberry-blonde pivots into position horizontally in front of her at just above chest level, hands gripping it with a couple feet between them, elbows bent as to hold the weapon in close. She moves in close to the dummy with only inches separating them, as if dealing with an opponent that is trying to leave her no room to manipulate the lengthy weapon.

"This technique is perhaps easier to execute against opponents of equal or greater height, but if you bend your knees before attempting to lock it in, you can make it work against almost anyone."

At her smaller stature, it is hardly surprising for the very technical fighter to have developed techniques that could be effective against taller foes.

"Hopefully it is not someone you like very much."

She adds dryly as she bends her own knees slightly, body tensing. And then she's slamming the pole upward, locking it against the neck just below the featureless head of the imaginary foe. At the same time, she launches herself, vaulting up and over, using the pole as an anchor as her hands slip over its surface without letting go. The lithe fighter comes down on the other side, her back to the dummy, feet touching down while she bends forward with the momentum of the landing. Arms flex and with ease, using the staff hooked under the chin of the dummy, she pulls the dense but pliable practice opponent over her shoulder and slams it down hard against the ground on its back.

Taking a step back, she gives the dummy room to pivot back into an upright position while she turns around to face Chevy, left hand lifting to brush some of her long hair back behind her ear.

"You have an advantage with this technique, if my understanding of your control over water is accurate enough. I have to use the momentum of my vault to keep the pole in place. You could anchor it using your pull with the water in your buckets, giving you greater flexibility on how you time your leap. Either way, it is an opportunity to escape a corner or simply put them on notice that you are just as dangerous in close quarters."

Ayame gestures to the pristine dummy on the left with her right hand, her left busy keeping her bucket pole balanced on her shoulder again.

"Now you try. And while you are at it, please tell me something that you have learned so far from your other sponsors. You have spent time with them, yes?"

Fortunately, the ground here is as soft as any training mat, albeit a lot more dusty.

Chevy's smile shows her delight at having earned a hint of Ayame's approval. And all it took was remembering to act her age: Less noise, more signal. For someone who wants to be on the best possible terms with everyone, reaching the stage of knowing what is -expected- of her is an important step.

That smile continues as Chevy's mentor launches right into the session, addressing her concerns with a technique that might address the problem stated earlier. As Miss Ichijo adjusts her grip on the staff, Miss Beaumont mirrors the gesture. And as the strawberry blonde approaches one dummy, the redhead moves towards its twin. She stops just short of mirroring the demonstration itself, pivoting her shoulders so she can watch with both eyes wide open.

The introduction is absorbed with a faint smile.
"Okay, yeah -- sounds good!"
But then... she sees the technique.
And she's left breathless.


The placement of the bar was one thing. The warning to reserve this for someone she doesn't like give her reason for pause. But the jump itself was something else -- a much bigger feat, and much more in her desired style. And tying it off with the slam that follows afterwards is like a triple whammy to Chevy.

"It's... It's a lot!" she says, impressed, as the dummy springs back into its prior position. "But I think..." she stammers. And, after a moment, she remembers her place -- and rather than try to throw more words at the problem, she lifts her staff to the dummy's neck. Pressing it right into the jointed throat, causing the material to flex ever so slightly. She presses against it, stepping close again.

"... Okay," she starts, weighing Ayame's explanation against the physics she's testing. She -could- go get some water and try it out in the manner Ayame suggests. But since Ayame could do it without the aid of water... she feels like she should actually try that first.

There's another question, though. And she turns that over in her head as she kneels down, extending her arms and pressing the staff more firmly into the dummy's throat. With more strength, the spine flexes backwards -- making it less suitable for her motion.

Easing off, she addresses the question. "... Well. First, uh... Sensei Peng You taught me that... it takes less energy to move water about if I stay true to its own nature."

Chevy is taller than Ayame. Grappling with that reality, she experiments different angles and positions as she talks through her memories.

"... And Sensei Miyama -- we met him on Mount Shasta -- kind of... got on me for wasting energy, asking the water to do things it -really- didn't wanna do." She adds a faint chuckle. "I slept -real- good that night."

After a few tests, she finds a set of angles that feels satisfying, and squares up with the dummy as Ayame had. She bends her knees, pressing upwards -- and tries to leap. But in her caution, she finds that she didn't commit enough -- and as her pressure is released unevenly, the buckets clang in disapproval. Frowning, she swings the pole to stabilize the buckets, lifting it back into position... and pauses in thought.

"Sensei Ariastra brought me to a real waterfall. And I could feel what water -wanted- to do. And that helped me a whole lot. She... showed me I didn't have to try -quite- so hard. That water would obey suggestions just fine."

With concern written upon her face, she tries something new -- jamming the staff forward sharply. The neck dimples, the spine buckles -- and then the dummy slams forward, startling Chevy somewhat. "Hm."

Lifting the staff to her own neck, she tries to match the position she'd just done. And with a slight jarring motion, she realizes that's a terrible place to put a pole.

Coughing lightly, she lowers the staff. "... *hah* *hah* ... So Sensei Miyama -- well, I mean, he's not -really- a sensei, but we learned a lot from him and I was following Ichika's lead -- I didn't want anyone to get hurt. But then he showed us he wasn't gonna hold back. So we didn't hold back against him. The, uh... pain helped us focus."

She raises the staff to her own neck again, tentatively. She starts at her throat -- but rolls it higher, up to the tip of her chin. And this time when she lifts up with her thumbs, she can feel the tension more properly.

Drawing in her breath, Chevy lowers the staff, squaring up with the dummy again. She plants the center against the dummy's chin. She bends her knees. And with determination burning in her eyes, she just... launches herself upwards. She completes the leap, feet sailing right overhead. Legs and hips sail overhead in a graceful parabola. She lands squarely on her feet on the other side of the dummy.

The only bad thing is, well... her arms are stretched overhead... behind her.

The dummy, generally unimpressed with the partial feat, is only bent backwards a little bit. Its base churns up some of the island's soil.

It's not pretty, and it's a little painful.
She holds that pose for half a second before relenting.
Her left hand releases, as she pivots sideways to take the pressure off.

She lets out her breath, swinging her pole up into the proper position as she steps around for another try.

"... I haven't gotten to meet up with Sensei Lightheart though. I..." She laughs faintly. "The chance o' being filmed makes me a lil' squirmy."

She squares up with the dummy again, staring back at the featureless face. She raises her pole into position. And Chevy is -ready- to try again.

In spite what has come across as a rather severe nature, the miko of the Meian Jinja also seems remarkably unhurried when it comes to letting Chevy work things out. She just watches and listens, her most severe crime perhaps not giving the up-and-coming fighter any reprieve from her steady stare. It might make most uncomfortable given how long it goes on for without her offering any guidance beyond having demonstrated the acrobatic technique a single time. Now and then, she shifts slightly, either moving the pole on her shoulder, or adjusting which leg she's putting most of her weight on, but otherwise she might as well be a statue.

This continues as Chevy speaks of some of the lessons that stuck from interacting with other Team Lightning sponsors, as well as the bonus training session from the Mystic of Miyama and on through her first attempt at replicating the technique Ayame demonstrated.

Only when she moves to try it again does the miko speak up, her voice direct but not overbearing.

"One more try. Then... add water. Play to your strengths."

She is quiet then, giving Chevy another shot at executing the vaulting slam without using a major component of her fighting style.

"I am glad you learned more about your water empathy from the others. I am afraid that is an aspect of your style I can offer little guidance on." Even if it seems the young instructor seems to understand some of the mechanics at play just from having observed the Southerner in action.

"A few other notes to keep in mind when considering this option, and food for later practice on your own time. If your opponent is guarding their upper torso or neck, you are more likely to simply hand them your weapon than actually secure it under their chin. Think of a boxer's defense or a grappler's raised arms, for example..."

She moves her own bucket pole off her shoulder back into front of her similar to how she had positioned it the previous time.

"You need to draw their focus and hopefully their guard down first, then make your move."

She steps in front of her now dust-covered dummy like before, hands holding the weapon horizontally in close to her.

"As an idea-"

Without pushing the pole forward, Ayame twists it to an almost vertical angle, jerking it as the left end drops low, dislodging the bucket from its notch and allowing it to slide off the end and drop to the ground with a heavy thud against the dirt roughly near where the dummy's feet might be if it actually, well, had any.

In the same instant, she's twisted the staff back to horizontal and slide it up under the dummy's chin just like before.

"Of course you will then need to compensate for having lopsided weights on your pole, but I believe you will figure it out. Your choice of weapon is an intricate one."

Many might contest the idea that a metal pole with a couple buckets is that complex, but it's clear the miko sees potential there.

"Find ways to utilize all of its versatility in a match."

She steps, twisting her wooden staff down to hook the dropped bucket back into its notch, then lifts it to her shoulder as before, turning to watch Chevy and see if she'll give the technique a try with the assistance of water's pull.

Were the stare coming from someone else, perhaps Chevy might have felt uncomfortable. But now that she has a better sense of who Ayame is, and how the young master handles conversation, things have started falling into place. The young master's little idiosyncrasies line up with similar quirks the redhead had seen in other people in her life. Friends, in many cases. Friends who prefer quiet observation to the constant, babbling stream of consciousness. Friends who are patient and understanding, rather than merely cold and distant.

The American pauses in her try, her focus locked upon her target. She takes in her breath, nodding a reply to her tutor.

One more try.
-Then- water.
She decides to make it a good one.

Chevy takes a half step back, drawing in her breath once more as she closes her eyes. And in her mind, she envisions her rival. The one who really kicked off this newfound interest in mastery. She remembers the five-word phrase which had haunted her for the past week: 'Let's get sexy, shall we?'

Her eyelids shoot open.
Her eyebrows angle low.
Her jaw clenches in determination.
And Chevy's shoulders droop, as she slides forward.

In the next eyeblink, Chevy launches herself up and forward. Her pole clacks as it slams into the dummy's chin, as her sudden launch of momentum carries her up and away. Just as before, her hips swivel up and over the dummy's head. But some things are more pronounced -- the bend imparted to the spine of the practice dummy, and twin arcs of sneaker white carved into the air..

In the very next instant, a cloud of dust billows outward as the dummy is slammed down, back-first. A moment later, the cloud is dimpled by Chevy's sneakers as they seek purchase. She levels and lifts her pole, its buckets swinging in perfect balance. She breathes out as the dustcloud disperses. And the momentary burst of determination melts away into a look of satisfaction.

She'd just needed to live in the moment: -that- moment.

"... Heh," she comments, lifting the pole to rest it upon her shoulder. She has thoughts to share... but she's learned to hold her tongue, just a bit longer, to listen. And she does so, as the weighted base pulls the dummy back to its 'feet,' and she makes her way to the water's edge.

"Mm... yeah." She smiles faintly. "I really appreciate their help. It's really good info! I just..."

She kneels down, sliding both buckets to the far end of the pole, and then submerging them. For most people, leverage would make lifting the two ten-pound weights nearly impossible from her angle. But Chevy seems to make the process look easy; the buckets seem practically weightless as she pushes back to her feet, swinging the buckets back to her with one motion, and then almost as effortlessly, letting one bucket swing to the other side.

"... I mean no disrespect, but it's... I have a harder time relating to them." She tilts her head to the side as she addresses Ayame, offering a faint smile. "It's easier for me to make sense of what you're sayin'."

The idea of having her own weapon turned against her is... an interesting problem -- one that draws about a mild frown. And one that Ayame is likely bringing forward from experience, so it's ot one to be discounted. "Mmm..." she nods, walking back to the dummy, not wanting to interrupt.

A boxer's defense, a grappler's raised arms. When Chevy hears those words, she mentally fills in the gaps with a posh face, framed by purple locks. The gentle smile fades; though she turns her focus to Ayame's next demonstration. She sees the bucket fall -- no, she sees the bucket -flung-, in her mind's eye -- remembering the pace of battle. It's... a tactic that she hadn't considered -- a resource that she needn't always -carry-.

"... Whoa. That's..." She coughs lightly, clearing her throat. "... Yeah, it's... -wow-. Right!" Not only is Chevelle able to use her water and her staff, but she's able to make use of her weapon's detachments. The smile returns to her face, with two enthusiastic nods. "Yeah! I'm feeling this!"

Chevy raises the staff back to a fight-ready height. She fixes her smile on the dummy's featureless face. The memory of her rival's posh face pops back into her mind. And foregoing her prior preparation, she takes two strides to close the gap. The first swing is made high with the right bucket -- but it falls short on purpose. With a light stuttered movement, she drops her hips and the left end of the staff, unseating the left bucket just as Ayame had. Reversing the staff's twist, she surges the left end forward, slinging the bucket towards the base of the dummy as with Ayame's motion. But -- the bucket on the right remains forward, in opposition -- *pulling* the staff up and forward as Chevy launches herself from the ground! It's here that Chevy's able to balance out her water's tug with extra force from her left shoulder and leg -- and in the next moment she's hurtling upward with the dummy's chin in tow!

The differences this time, though, are a higher velocity and a stronger axial twist -- such that when Chevy brings the dummy crashing down, it's at nearly a forty-five-degree angle to her initial attack vector. She lands more nimbly, with the jostled water working to her favor and allowing a more nimble recovery.

And -then-, she's smiling even more broadly.

It's a smile that lasts... until she remembers she's supposed to be a dutiful student. At which point she turns a smile that's about 10% of its prior intensity. "... Something like that, maybe?"

Chevy's successful execution of the flipping maneuver earns her a slight nod of approval from the Ichijo scion and then the miko's attention turns to the sky overhead while the Water Bender attends to filling the buckets. A soft intake and slow exhale, her left hand occupied with steadying the wooden pole on her shoulder, her right arm folded across her stomach while the breeze toys with her long hair and crimson ribbon.

Is this really where she should be spending her time? Studying these up and coming hopefuls put under her charge? Figuring out not just their styles, their gifts, but also their natures, all in an effort to nudge them along some path in their development as fighter and maybe even as a person? Shouldn't she be focusing /real/ problems, like dangerous darkstalkers? Her own studies and training? She had never imagined trying to teach another and now here she is, dedicating so much time to the effort and for what? So more can get their start in the professional fighting circus? She wouldn't even be here if not for that meddling old man!

But... it hasn't been as bad as she thought it would be. The two she has worked with so far do genuinely seem to be trying... And maybe she does find herself caring how they turn out, in spite trying to keep her distance and avoid getting 'truly' involved. Maybe this isn't so bad after all.

Lost in thought, but still listening just enough, Ayame glances toward Chevy as she confesses that she finds the reserved miko's instruction easier to follow than perhaps the words of wisdom and thoughtful promptings received from the others. A blink of her eyes and a look of some surprise registers before Ayame turns to the side to focus on her own dummy and proceed with the demonstration of how the buckets can be used for misdirection to open an opponent's defense for the real attack.

Hearing the enthusiasm for the idea, she turns to watch the next attempt, now with the presence of water added to the equation. As she expected, it goes far better, with a combination of timing, on the fly adjustments, and powerful momentum slamming the practice dummy into the ground.

"Yes, something like that," Ayame replies neutrally in response to the young woman's excitement and still intensely bright smile. As Chevy turns to face her, she'll notice the miko brushing at places where water splashed against her black shirt from the dropped bucket, but if she's at all annoyed by the 'splash damage', she doesn't make any mention of it, but rather continues right along without pausing.

"Should you want to integrate this technique into your arsenal, you will want to practice both forms of it - with and without water - so that it will be a tool that you can lean on no matter the circumstances... And keep in mind, that when you fight, you have at least five weapons at your disposal. Your pole, your two buckets, your water, and you. Learn to use them all, learn the right time and place to lean on their different strengths, and your style will continue to evolve."

Her right hand lifts to rest forefinger and middle finger against her chin as she seems to consider her student for a long moment.

"I will show you another potential application of your bucket pole. This one is a little more complicated, and the timing less forgiving..."

More complicated than the vaulting throw?

"But another useful application of your specific weapon is for use as a counter weight. Utilized properly and it will augment your own strength."

Ayame hefts her wooden pole off her shoulder, buckets swaying with the motion.


She turns to face her dummy from a medium distance as she shifts her hands on the shaft to new positions. Instead of centering her grip, she turns the pole into a more forward angle, her right hand tightly gripping the middle while her left hand slips down to near the end, below the left bucket notch.

"This will happen very fast."

The verbal warning is given before Ayame bursts into action, kicking up a plume of dust as she closes the distance between her and the dummy in two strides, pivoting the pole almost like she's trying to spear it against her target, but then continuing past that point, turning her whole body to the left.

In close, her right hand releases the middle of the staff, snapping out, fingers closing tightly over the dummy's right arm, while her left arm swings out wide. Given the angle of the notches holding the buckets in place, the bucket on the left end of the staff dislodges easily from the momentum, sliding violently down the length of the shaft as Ayame continues to lean into the hard turn.

The left bucket collides with the right bucket, issuing a loud crack that echoes along the concrete canal. With two buckets on the right end now, the centripetal force of the pole is enough to whip Ayame around, her hair fanning out while her skirt swirls around her legs - all things suddenly forced into rotational movement at the same time. With the power of momentum on her side, her tightly gripping right hand hauls the dummy up and slams it back down, generating an explosive plume of dust at the point of impact.

The miko follows through, spinning on one foot to avoid being tripped up as she brings the pole to a stop, having completed a full three hundred and sixty degree turn. One by one, the girl's hair, ribbon, and skirt come to rest in the aftermath of the violent dance.

Exhaling, she grabs the center of the pole with her right hand and jerks it upward, causing the left bucket to slide back down the length of the shaft. Moving her right hand out of the way just long enough for the bucket's handle to skid by, she takes hold of the pole by the center again as the bucket locks back into place.

As the dust around the slammed dummy clears, it will be discovered that its head and right shoulder are partially buried in the dirt deep enough to keep the counterweight from returning it back to an upright position.

Hefting the staff back to her shoulder, Ayame turns to face Chevy.

"I do not want you attempting that until you have experimented with the potential in shifting the weight of your buckets along the pole. And even then, be careful. Improperly executed, you could really hurt your shoulders or arms either by mistiming the combination of forces, or generating more force than your limbs are ready for."

She gestures with her right hand with a absent sweep toward the stuck dummy.

"But I wanted to demonstrate what is possible with further iteration and experimentation with your arsenal."

Ayame cants her head to the right slightly.

"Any questions?"

Chevy is too enthralled with making a good impression in the throw that... well, she doesn't give much thought to where the jostled water splashes. Which is one reason her own clothes are often drenched after her NFG battles. There's some splashes on the front of her shortalls, as a case in point. It's only when she notices Ayame brushing at her shirt that she realizes...

"Oh. Sorry about that..."

She also didn't realize she was interrupting. And as she hadn't intended to, she quiets down, nodding her head in agreement. The point that Ayame expands upon was one she'd wanted to mention earlier -- that she'd wanted to refine the technique -without- water. There had been many times where the pace of battle demanded an immediate response rather than disengaging to collect more water -- and that's why she had been glad Ayame encouraged her to try again without. Chevy nods along, glad that she'd held her tongue.

But when Ayame mentions that there are more than -three- weapons at her disposal, her eyes widen. Yes, of course, she'd just -demonstrated- the bucket. Yes, one mostly-full bucket is still sitting by the base of the practice dummy, the other balanced on the slightly drooped pole in her hands. But the simple enumeration seems to give her a fresh perspective.

"Whoa. Yeah, that's right! I hadn't thought about the buckets themselves... There's... /oodles/ more I can try now, thanks!"

If the lesson ended there, it might have been enough. But Ayame's hand gesture suggests more. And Chevy listens up.

She watches the demonstration as bidden. The notion of a counterweight brings a raised eyebrow. Isn't it -always-, though? Chevy seems puzzled. The pole's a stable weight when there's water on both sides. The pole's mass steadies out all of her motions.

It isn't until Chevy sees Ayame's explosion of force that it clicks. The loud clack of wood colliding with wood. The sudden transformation of the stable pole system into a highly unstable hammer. The shift from linear motion into a forceful rotation. And the embedding of the hapless training partner into the dirt mound.

Chevy's jaw drops.

The problem with her first flip attempt was not having enough leverage -- she was able to fix that by getting sufficiently motivated, sure, but it'd still be an issue with a bigger opponent.

But this amount of force is several times greater. Maybe even an order of magnitude or two! It's an eye-opener, and a slack-jawed Chevy nods her head. "That's... pretty amazing!"

And Ayame could do that much more with her empty buckets. Chevy's already starting to imagine the possibilities of her full buckets, when Ayame slips out that caution. The warning does not fall on deaf ears: she brings her heels together, giving a firm nod. "Yes, ma'am! I can... I can see I'd need to build to that...!" Biting her lower lip, she looks away -- not that she was -asked- to stand at military attention -- and moves to pluck up the fallen bucket with her staff. Almost immediately, she brings the pole up level before her, and starts to experiment with finding the right place to hold the staff to accomplish that transformation correctly...

Any questions, though? Chevy's eyes cross at the pole, and her eyebrows furrow, as she wrestles with the dexterity of holding the pole and yet making sure her hands aren't in the way.

"... Well, my next question -was- going to be about fighting without my water, since ... I found myself without in some of my fights. Seemed like it was better to strike right then, and refill the buckets later. But y'done answered that one..."

Clack. Clang. She's still trying with the buckets. But it's an interesting physics problem that she can wrestle with while working through her thoughts, apparently.

Chevy thinks back to the earlier exchange...

- - -

'Are there any other questions on your mind? Anything else you wish to know?'

'Questions about you, or questions about fightin'?'

'Whatever is on your mind.'

- - -

"... So... I watched your fights a lot, while I was trying to learn the staff parts. It's lightweight, and well-balanced, so... that's why I tried to carry forward."

She slides both buckets to one side. And now that she's thinking, and talking, instead of concentrating, it feels a lot heavier than she wants it to be. So she slides her hand out to balance it, as she doesn't want to cause another splash.

She looks back to Ayame with a softer expression, despite the strain of having nearly 25 pounds on the same end of her pole. Chevelle offers a faint, apologetic grin. "I mean, at this point in my career, fightin's the bee's knees."

Her smile fades somewhat. "But, well... I couldn't find anythin' past the Rumble in the Streets. And you're here teachin' me now, Sensei Ichijo. So..." She dons a bashful look, lowering her gaze. "I'm sorry if this comes out bad, and I don't mean to be rude, but... you aren't done with professional fightin', are you?"

Her blue eyes lift, after a moment. And despite her caution, she finds herself blurting out: "I mean, you're so dang -good- at it."

As the American affirms that she's heard the warning, Ayame nods twice slightly, seemingly satisfied with that. It's clear that the demonstrations and exercises in this outing were to spark Chevy's imagination - what is the true potential of her chosen style? What creative options are out there, waiting to be discovered? Whether she integrates the specific techniques into her arsenal, or uses them as launching off points to discover new ideas, the miko cares little. But she had been asked to help her and so she had tried to in the best way she knew how - to engage the other girl's mind and show her what was possible even without the rest of her gifts.

As she listens to Chevy's preamble, she walks over to her own dummy and pulls it up out of its crater, allowing it to pivot back to being upright as dirt falls from it back to the ground.

When the topic of her fights comes up, Ayame turns her head to glance toward her student. A flicker of surprise registers at the mention of using her own technical staff skills as inspiration for Chevy's home grown style, but she makes no comment.

There is a soft grunt of amusement at the newer combatant's enthusiasm for fighting, but it's clear that the real focus of the question she's about to pose is one more personal to the teacher.

When the question is finally posed, Ayame lowers her eyes, turning her head to face forward away from the inquiring pupil.

"I see," she replies with a soft, reflective tone. The staff wielder shrugs her own bucket pull off her shoulder and walks a few steps more inland. Bending down, she deposits her wooden bucket pole on the ground then pivots to sit down on a grass covered mound of dirt, her hands resting in her lap.

"I do not know if I have ever felt that spark..." she speaks, her eyes focused on the gently flowing waters surrounding their training island. "That other fighters talk about. The excitement... the thrill of combat... of rising to the challenge, risking pain and injury for the chance at glory... Basking in the spirit of battle or pursing the thrill of the fight."

She shakes her head slowly, eyes flicking to Chevy briefly, then looking away again.

"There was a time when I fought because I was angry. I wanted-... no, I did hurt people. Fighting was a release, a chance to lash out. I am not proud of that time of my life. I am not like that anymore. Since then, it has become a skill I devote myself to so that I can do my real job... protecting people."

She sighs softly, closing her eyes briefly, lost in thought. When she opens them again, her gaze is unfocused, as if the images in her mind were all that she could see now.

"After I won that tournament, I was convinced that I could not develop my skills any further simply by fighting other people. Were they going to help me refine my Onmyoujutsu...? Was I ever going to find anyone who could teach me more about the staff than I already knew?"

Her shoulders fall slightly as she blinks her eyes then glances toward Chevy, meeting her focus with her own.

"Maybe it is ego speaking. But no, I do not think so. So no... I have not participated in any fighting venue since. I do not know what the point if it would be. Maybe that could change someday."

Her tone becomes melancholy as she looks away.

"If I ever found a reason to."

Chevy had put her right hand under the pole in order to stabilize it, mostly in order to help her puzzle out exactly what would be required to make it work. And now that she's done that, she slides one bucket back to the left, balancing them out again.

That done, she adopts the position Ayame had started with: the pole at her side, like a lance. Here, she slowly starts swinging the pole at the beginning of a thrust, acclimating her hips and arms to the motion as she considers Ayame's response.

From Ayame's turn, the American's smile fades; she wonders if her manner of speaking may have caused offense, or perhaps, touched upon something better left alone. The further words soothe her, letting her know that Ayame is still 'okay' in some measure.

The spark, though, wasn't there. That puzzles her -- and indeed, Ayame might see that puzzlement in her eyes for that moment she looks back. The confusion turns to sadness as Ayame confesses the anger that once resided within herself. There were times when Chevy lashed out in anger -- and was swiftly chided by her mother on that. But that also gets her to wondering... was it -anger- that she'd seen in Ayame's earlier performances?

Her swinging motions slow to a stop as Chevy comes to wonder: just how old -is- Ayame, anyway? How much could this younger, angrier Ayame have shared in common with the younger, angrier Ichika she once knew?

Not wanting to disturb Ayame's thoughts, Chevelle tries another of her practice stages: mastering that initial thrust. She shoves the pole forward sharply, acclimating herself to the feel of the forward bucket's handle as it scrapes along the pole, coming to rest at the leading edge of her right hand. Resetting the pole to its starting position, she pays heed to the bucket's subsequent return as well.

It's then, that Chevy's brows furrow upon learning that Ayame found her path in the tournament to come to a stop. And the student begins to process that.

"Hmm... ... That makes sense." she comments, thoughtfully. The pause in her motions seems to afford her the extra concentration she needs to think clearly.

"It's still new for me. Fighting's... answering a question I've had ever since my Paw died. It still feels new and exciting to me... like, it just feels -right- to me."

With new resolve, she thrusts the pole forward aagain, this time lifting her right hand's grip to allow the left hand to carry the burden, as the buckets collapse together at the trailing end. A good transferrence of balance -- but Chevy frowns for a moment as the weight still feels... off, as she replaces her right hand's grip. An interesting challenge to puzzle through.

"He coulda went pro. But he never really got the chance to. So here -I- am, fillin my Paw's shoes. Doin' the work to live out his dream."

She digs her trailing heel into the dirt, then sharply tugs the staff backwards in such a way as to reset the buckets to their prior position. The buckets slosh slightly, some of their volume spilling out to rejuvenate the sun-dried dirt.

"But you, Sensei... I think you're in the right place now. I mean, for your sake, -and- for the sake of the folks you're protecting. That's pretty cool." She smiles, a pink tinge flushing into her cheeks.

"... And I'm super grateful to you for sharin' your skills with me. For helpin' me... answer that question. I really do appreciate it, Sensei."

She seems perfectly willing to continue that practice as long as she needs to, until it feels -just- right.

Having given her answer, Ayame turns her attention to watching Chevy experiment with the way different water bucket placement can affect the handling of her pole. She sits quietly, left hand cupping her closed right hand on her lap as she listens to the newer fighter's perspective. There is a subtle nod at the mention of it feeling exciting to her, lips tugging to the right slightly in an almost wistful looking expression that fades as soon as Chevy speaks more about her father and his dream unrealized.

Her eyes flick to the side in thought before she glances back at the American and nods again in quiet acknowledgment about living out the dream of her father.

"As long as it is your dream as well..." the young sensei replies, tone neutral but with a faintly detectable undertone of support.

At the assessment of her decisions regarding where she focuses her fighting efforts, Ayame blinks and then turns her head to the left slightly, eyes rolling up as she breaks eye contact while her cheeks betray a hint of pink.

"Well I do not do it because it is cool."

The miko's voice sounds almost awkwardly uncomfortable rather than chiding for the comment. She side-glances at Chevy without turning her head, right hand lifting from her lap to brush some of her hair back behind her right ear.

"I mean..."

Ayame closes her eyes and turns her face back toward her student before opening them again, her hand dropping back to her lap as she purses her lips a little. It's possible to get the impression that she's trying to suppress a smile which only seems to add more blush to her cheeks.

"Tch," she grunts, getting to her feet suddenly, folding her arms across her stomach and releasing an exaggerated exhale as she looks to the side again.

"Well, if my fights inspired someone even a little, then I suppose it was still a good use of my time."

Shaking her head, she looks at the two dummies then back to her student, expression becoming more neutral again and whatever blush that may or may not have been there fading away.

"You should start heading back. I will wait here, people will be coming by to collect these. But-"

Ayame unfolds her right arm and some of her fingers into the left sleeve of her black shirt. When she pulls them back out, rather than one of her talismans that she's known for, she has a business card pinched between her forefinger and middle finger. Stepping closer to Chevy, she holds the card with both of her hands and holds it out.

"This card belongs to a contact of mine at Zen Martial Arts Academy, Sensei Shibata. They have a dojo here in Sunshine City as well as Metro City. They teach Jiu-jitsu there. Which... could maybe help augment your style down the line. But for now, the key thing is that they have training dummies like these and others for practicing grappling moves on. And Sensei Shibata has kindly offered to let you stop by any time they are open and practice on a dummy."

Ayame waits for Chevy to take the card before holding up her forefinger and adding.

"He did ask that you, ah, leave the water outside however."

The comment is delivered as deadpan as ever even if there is a spark in the miko's eye.

With that, she steps over to her black duffle back and fishes the key to the gate they entered together, tossing it underhanded over to Chevy then nods back the way they came.

"Go on ahead. But keep experimenting. I am interested to see what you come up with."

Ayame walks over to the dummy that she power slammed into the dirt and starts brushing the dust off it with her hand, seeming to no longer be paying attention to Chevy only to stop after a moment.

"And Miss Beaumont."

She pauses, turning her head slightly but not far enough to look back at the water bender.

"Thank you for the pie."

'As long as it is your dream as well...'

She used to be a bit more open about her father's dream. But every time she'd told the story, she'd felt a little silly -- like her simple, down-to-earth explanation would just not hold water, or would be instantly labeled 'cringe' or some such. And so, the older she'd gotten, the less she shared about that simple dream.

The thing about dreams, after all, is that only one person truly needs to understand it -- the person reaching her hand for the stars.

"It is. I owe it to my Momma and Paw to become the best I can be."
She smiles warmly, as she continues building her muscle memory up, one part at a time. The weight of the water only magnifies the import of Ayame's words -- injury lurks right around the corner of each -step- of the move.

Out of the corner of her eye, Chevy can observe the reaction to her unsolicited acclaim. At one time in her life, or perhaps with another, she may have followed up with more than a simple smile. Now? There's no need to press the point any further.

But... in the next statement, Chevy realizes that the time for teaching may now be at an end. She draws in her breath, swallowing back any possible repudiation. She'd waited a long time for this personal lesson from her strawberry-blonde sensei -- and she'd rather not spoil the chance for another, once she's committed these new innovations to memory, and perhaps expanded upon them.

Chevelle sets the buckets down, and the pole upon it, so that she can accept the card with both hands. Meeting Ayame's gaze with a smile, she then lowers herself into a bow. "Of course, sensei." The hint of a snicker trembles her breath in the moment her eyes are averted.

She rises -- and without really having time to think about, reaches up to catch the key. With another smile, the Southerner nods her assent. "I will! Thank you so much!"

A moment later -- waiting for Ayame to turn aside -- and Chevy is retrieving her pole, leaving the buckets filled as she rests it upon her shoulder.

A moment after that -- and she turns back, on the threshold of departure -- and smiles back at Ayame.

"Any requests for the next one?"

She'll stick around a moment, smiling in a moment of farewell to her living inspiration.

And then she'll be off, practically skipping from one patch of damp soil to the next.

It won't be hard at all to follow Miss Beaumont's travels along the concrete-lined river. Waning sunlight glints upon the surface like a flashing beacon, reflected from the surface of her galvanized buckets as she executes the motions while she walks.

Log created on 23:08:04 08/13/2023 by Ayame, and last modified on 05:59:40 09/08/2023.