NFG Season One - Homeward Bound

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Description: Chevy and Ichika enjoy the promised reward after a Rumble well done. And, confronted by an uncertain future, decide to do the one thing all teenagers can bond over ... flee their responsibilities to go to a water park!

The Rumble was one hell of a night.
A text would reach Ichika's phone early the next morning.

"Come here.
Bring appetite.


And whenever Ichika opens the door to Chevy's room, she probably won't be surprised by the aroma of chicken patties in the oven or crepes on the stove. Chevy has been at work for a while; mixing bowls fill up the sink, and a small plate holds a few crepes which are all ready to eat. A small array of toppings -- powdered sugar, sliced strawberries and whipped cream, sliced bananas -- has been set out and ready.

Chevy's auburn hair is tied up with a hankerchief; an apron that's much too small for her hangs around her neck, over top of an oversized t-shirt and baggy pajama pants. But as the door -- propped open for Ichika's arrival -- swings open, Chevy's quick to turn back to the new arrival with a smile.

"Ohayou, Ichika~" she sing-songs, waving the spatula as if it were a conductor's baton. "Hope I didn't wake you up -too- early..."

The Rumble was indeed one very intense night. Probably the biggest fighting challenge Ichika had needed to face. First, in dealing with the emotional turmoil that the organisers had thrown her into, and then in finding a way through the fight itself. In the end, though, the girl was pleased with her performance. Was it perfect? No. She'd taken a lot of heavy hits and there was still notable room for improvement in many of her techniques...

But she had chosen her battles, seen her plans through, and ultimately gone out on her own terms. She couldn't have asked for more than that.

"Hello, Chevy." She replies with a smile as she pushes her way into the room. The girl is, obviously, tired. She's wearing a Battle Beast t-shirt which shows a lion man attacking a robot, and a pair of old jeans along with her combat boots. She rubs her eyes a little and yawns as she enters the room, still moving stiffly with the injuries she'd accrued.

"I haven't, studied the footage in full yet." She says, "But, we did... pretty well, didn't we? You, Tamaki-san, especially Buck... we're all coming out with, something to celebrate."

Chevy grins, quirking an eyebrow at the Battle Beasts shirt but reserving her comments for the moment. She snakes an arm around Ichika and gives her a very light hug, in consideration for the injuries and the general stiffness of her gait.

It might be a little harder to notice Chevy's injuries -- most of them would be hidden by the t-shirt -- one from the band Yes's 1991 tour. But she seems to be getting along without -too- much trouble. "Mm... yeah, I'd say we did great! I was super lost there in the beginning, it was hard keepin' track of what everyone was doing... but man, you were kickin' tail an' takin' names, Ichika! Gosh."

Laughing faintly, she takes her spatula and slides the crepe she's working on onto a plate. "Why don't you grab yourself a seat? I'm jus' about ready with these..."

And from here, she flips the oven off, donning some oven mitts. "Tamaki was -on fire-, too. Once I saw how she was goin' around and taggin' just about everyone, I figured that might be a good idea to try too. But -Buck-, wow. Team Thunder all the way there..."

She reaches in and retrieves a tray with a few chicken patties, and slides them onto another plate, adding with good humor: "And, side note: Iris! She turned out to be pretty good!!"

It's probably safe to assume Chevy's been up a little while, right?

Ichika returns the squeeze gratefully, though she's even happier to sit down. Compared to some of the injuries she has sustained, the Rumble really hadn't asked too much of her. The girl had stayed firmly within the bounds of what she could comfortably handle, she hadn't let her emotions rule her and she hadn't pushed beyond her limits. It's a good feeling; like she'd stayed in control, rather than being controlled by the flow of battle. In a strange way, she had Daisuke to thank for that.

"No more than you, Chevy." She says with a smile, "In many ways, I have others to thank for my performance. Moore-san for his selfless act with the bomb, Doe-san for his assistance against Maclanky-kun, Tamaki-san and yourself for assisting with Fadel-san. I don't mean to downplay my performance but, at least part of it was..." And here, she gestures loosely with her hand, struggling to find the right term. "Reading the flow? Picking my moment?"

She laughs softly, shaking her head, "But yes. As I said at the time, everyone performed admirably. Except Maclanky-kun. He was challenged, and faltered. I... hope he reflects on that."

It's true -- no one hit in the Rumble had landed quite as hard as those dealt atop Mount Shasta, an endurance challenge of a very different nature.
Chevy prepares Ichika a plate of two crepes, dusting them with powdered sugar just as she had before, and slides it on over in front of Ichika for approval. "Toppings here if you want. I got a couple more where those came from, so have at 'em!"

With her guest situated, she carries out fixing her own chicken sandwiches -- slathering mayo and ketchup onto a bun, dabbing on a tiny little bit of mustard -- as she listens.

"Choosing your battles?" Chevy offers helpfully. "Mm... Yeah, as much as Mr Doe was spreadin' the love around, I'm surprised he waited so long before taking a crack at me. Not that I'm complainin' much..." She rubs her atlas tenderly as she remembers the way she was slammed into the mat -- thankfully, it being a wrestling mat, it could have certainly hurt -more-.

"Yeah. Buford." Chevy just shakes her head as she puts the finishing touches on her sandwich. "I ain't got no words for what's up with him. It's still a mystery to me how all that vape smoke just... makes him like to -disappear- at times. But it fits with him bein' such a chicken."

She pulls up a seat next to Ichika, pulling her sandwich up with a grin. "Still. I do feel a lil' bad about Miss Bouvier. If I'd known she was 'bout to get read the riot act by Kenzo -and- Coco, I'd have probably just let her be."

Ichika smiles, "You're, really too generous Chevy. I should cook for you some time." It isn't like she doesn't have the skills after all; she's helped out at her Mom's place of work enough times to have picked up the basics. Not that she's really complaining. She can't do crepes, and as she adds a little cream, a modest portion of strawberries, and a little dusted sugar, the girl's delight is written all over her face.

Bouvier-san is, a mystery." She says, "Even a second time, I couldn't see her attack coming, and it was the most powerful that I took in the Rumble. A group fight will never be to her favour, but one on one she's... a dangerous prospect."

It's a little strange to hear the young Swiss woman, who seems so cheerful and good-natured, described in such terms. But Ichika doesn't know how else to put it, or why she feels such a strong sense that there is something fearful lurking beneath that cheery demeanour. There are a lot of unanswered questions about Genevieve Bouvier. Perhaps one day she'll be able to puzzle them out.

She raises her fork, about to start eating, and then she pauses, looking up at her friend.

"You know, I could be wrong, but that fight looked like the first time I've really seen you ... deliberately focus. The closest otherwise was Mount Shasta, but it felt like it was much easier for you to find that state this time."

Generosity is just something that comes naturally to Chevy. She smiles and nods -- though, she still plans to be generous with her own purchases, knowing that her little nest egg of income from the swine farm work seems to be holding out. Not to mention, the endorsement deals she's picked up as a result of her new popularity...

Really, it's all worth it when Chevy gets to see Ichika's smile. With all the not-so-good things that are happening in Sunshine City these days, she's glad that Ichika's been able to avoid the worst of it.

"Mm... yeah, that's kind of what I was thinking about, myself. The only ones who could really stand up to her attacks were..." She thinks for a moment, resting her hands on her hips. "... Tamaki, and... John Doe, I think? So I think just about -everyone- was on edge with her around..." Everyone who kept track of their opponents' fight histories, of course...

Still. She's just about to take a bite out of her sandwich when Ichika raises her fork. Pausing to look at Ichika, she grins. "... Heh. Maybe so, yeah! It was just so, uh... so much -chaos- in there. I felt like I needed to shut everythin' else out of my head."

She's delayed long enough. She takes her bite. And there is a small swoon as she savors the flavor. It's not gourmet -- but to her, the chicken sandwich is a little slice of heaven.

"You get like that, like, all the time though, yeah? I guess that's why Buford got real scared of ya, hmm...?" She circles back to him, because she'd felt like she breezed right past that topic without hearing what Ichika had to say.

"And Osterlund-san. People have been underestimating her, but I knew after I had fought Bouvier-san and experienced her for myself, that Osterlund-san would have to be an equally capable opponent."

Some people might sound smug about their theory being proven correct. Ichika, though, avoids that; though it had seemed obvious to her, she also knew that both of them had styles which leant themselves to being underestimated. So much of what made them dangerous was their unpredictability. Even with her gifts, magic and the strange energy Iris wielded remained opaque.

She helps herself to a dainty bite and gives a small noise of happiness. It really is amazing to have her favourite food here, prepared by her best friend. It's true; the world outside their window is a dangerous and terrifying place, but in here, it doesn't feel like any of that can touch them. Not for now, at least.

"Not, all the time." She says with a small smile, "But I'm getting better at it. Usually, you can tell because I am doing well." She sighs softly, "The Warehouse, for instance. I let my emotions get the better of me. I was not calm, or focused. I was overthinking things. If I had been as I was in the Rumble, I would never have allowed you to face Kubo-san alone for as long as I did. Together, we could have overcome him and then dealt with Feldspar-san. But..."

She shrugs her shoulders lightly, a surprisingly casual gesture for a girl who is so often bound up in her own ideas of protocol and proper behaviour. "We are learning. As you say, Maclanky-kun was scared of me because I attained it. He could not. At its best, I think it is what some would call the 'no mind' state. I've, managed that I think, three times. But even just getting close to it makes us far more formidable."

She smiles again, brighter, blue eyes sparkling as she leans back in her chair and laughs cheerfully, "Listen to me! Talking as though I am an expert. But, ah... I think... I think it is why I love fighting so much, really..."

Chevy really did mean what she shouted at Iris -- she really -did- believe Iris had a wealth of potential just waiting to reveal itself. "Yeah. I really am glad she managed to show everyone what she was capable of. The, uh... -truth- of it." She grins, tapping her shoulder lightly against Ichika's in quiet acknowledgement of one of her favorite words.

The notion of 'focus' is one that seems to bring about a more introspective side of Chevy. She takes another couple bites of her sandwich as she listens. Focusing, in her own little way.

"Well, I mean... we -are- becoming experts, " agrees Chevy, with a little tilt of her sandwich for emphasis. "I mean, 'becoming' is a thing that might take a while and all." She adds with a small wink: "Maybe less for you."

She shrugs her shoulders as well, with a sober smile. "I feel like... talking with Ichijo-sensei really helped me a lot. Like, around her, I just... " She coughs slightly, straightening her spine. She makes a conscious effort to slow down her words, to match what she's saying. "-- I felt like I had to... slow down. And really -think- about what I was doing... " And then, with a release of breath, she lets the words flood out again in her usual pace: "... rather than just doin' whatever come to mind and tryin' to work with the chaos."

She laughs at herself, running fingers through unruly bed hair. "Just like with Miyama-sensei, yeah? He wouldn't put up with rambling nonsense. I'd had to give him, and Ichijo-sensei, my all. And I felt like with the fewer numbers, I'd need to give everyone else my level best too."

She smiles. Feeling like that admission earned her another bite of her sandwich.

"... And yeah. I love fighting! It's been great learnin' what we all can do..."

Here, though, she sets her sandwich back onto its plate, and claps her hands together. "But dang, Ichika, can I just say how -good- it felt to snag Coco right outta the air like that?"

Chevy is positively -aglow- now. Like she's finally shared a secret she's been holding for -years-.

Ichika gives a soft little laugh at the 'truth' comment. Yes, fighting had a way of revealing that whether people were ready for it or not. She doesn't really want to come back to him, but Buford had finally given them a glimpse of that, she thought. And it was a small-minded, weak, unworthy little truth at the core of his being... but it was his, and having had it exposed, maybe, that would be a route forward. To become more than he is.

"Ichijo-sensei is, relatable." That's the word that Ichika decides on. There were so many she could have picked, but in the moment, that feels right. "She is further along the Warrior's Road than the rest of us by leagues, but she has not forgotten what it is like to be starting out. She's not lonely or, ancient. And she has nothing to prove."

There's a flash across the girl's features; discomfort. Her lessons with Ayame had only just started. Really, it felt like her lessons with all of her tutors had only just started, and she'd gotten so much from them. But that might end, soon. As might early morning crepes and the kind words of her friends so close at hand.

She takes a deep breath, forcing herself to steady, and closes her eyes before she continues, smiling, at Chevy's note about her revenge on Coco.

"You said I might have an easier time becoming an expert." She says, softly, "But I'm not lying when I say that you are the strongest one of us, Chevy. Tamaki-san has more points, but she doesn't *want* success in the same way as the rest of us. She is comfortable as she is, and she doesn't like the thought of hard work. Buck is strong! But he's stubborn. When he picks a strategy, he sticks to it, bullishly."

She opens her eyes again, smiling at her little joke. "... you, though. You know when to go with the flow, and when to turn the tide. You can be as unrelenting as a storm, or as calm as the eye of it. You are like water. It, really has been a joy. Training, with you."

Relatable. It's an interesting word -- and Chevy even chuckles at it. "Yeah. I guess... that's why I felt I had to listen. Like out of all our teachers, I feel like she's the one who gets us the most."

On that note, she glances across to the hotel room's entrance; right beside the door are her metal buckets, stacked up nicely, and the pole resting in the center. Miss Beaumont smiles, recalling just how much effort Ayame had invested into learning her own style. It warms her heart to remember that.

And then she glances over to see Ichika... in discomfort. And considering the topic... it's not hard to draw inferences on what that might be about. Especially when she notices the held breath, and the closed eyes. Her heart flutters, as she yearns to stretch out -- but she holds on for the moment. Listening.

And finds herself surprised by the admission. "Oh." The freckle-faced elder teen shrugs meekly. "Maybe -now-, yeah. When I first started, I didn't give much of a flip at all about it. But it's only 'cause I had a good friend to tell me about all the awesome things I couldn't see yet. Who was brave enough to stand up to the mountain and tell 'im to spill out some truth."

Chevy slips out of her chair. The gap between them wasn't far -- but it was too far to do what she'd wanted to do. And that would be wrapping both her arms around Ichika for a warm side-hug.

And then she says something really... out of sequence, maybe. "'Live the moment you're in.'" Chevy pauses, knowing that it won't make much sense on its own. It didn't make much sense to her when she'd first heard it, either. But it was the -truth- she needed -then-.

"... That's what my momma told me when I was meltin' down at the end of the NFG. Scared of the future. Scared I might miss my chance, or get drafted to the wrong team, right on the verge of the Draft."

She pulls away from Ichika, only slightly -- still keeping her hand upon the girl's shoulder.

"I'm a bit scared right now, too, Ichika. But it's different now, ain't it?"

Ichika returns the hug as best she can, setting down her fork and letting her eyes close for a moment. When they open again, she is calmer... or, at least, she's doing a better job of not showing her emotion. Sometimes, you just have to hide it in the hopes that doing so will make it the truth.

"When I'm fighting, I can find that moment much more easily." She says, "My mind, quiets, and I can just see the path in front of me. Even when it isn't working out, I'm not thinking about the consequences or what might have been. It's only afterwards..."

She picks up the fork again, helps herself to another bite of crepe, and gives just the faintest nod of her head.

"In many ways." She agrees, "And, I'm truly glad that my friendship has helped you. Yours has helped me, too. I always knew that our team couldn't stay together forever."

She really is glad for Chevy's closeness in this moment; there are few people in the world who she finds as comforting. Maybe none, now that her mother's attitude has notably soured. Something which she had brought on herself, true, but something being her own fault didn't make it any easier to deal with.

"Ichijo-sensei said that I should be careful I don't sacrifice my relationship with my family for nothing." She says, softly. "I don't know that I gave that advice appropriate weight. I do know that I'm, not ready to go back. Because everything is different. And, they just want things to be the way they were before."

She reaches up, runs her hand through that perpetually-messy mop of hers, a heavy sigh leaving her as she does.

"I can't face that fight. Not yet."

There's a lot that Chevy could say. But there's a lot more listening to do first. And, rather than keep putting pressure on Ichika to say something, she slips back into her seat and snags another bite of her chicken sandwich.

She knows there's a lot going on inside Ichika's head. And -had- been -- considering her silence all throughout the beginning of the Rumble. Ichika's friend knows that she tends to keep her troubles to herself -- which can be both a blessing and a curse.

And she also knows that Dev's been texting her a lot about some new FightTube channel that just popped up, and why isn't -Chevy- doing more with hers?

"So don't. You grew up under their house with their rules for the first fifteen-odd years of your life. They did their job of raisin' you to be the anchor and strategist for the best team in the NFG, the one with all the brilliant plans. And you're showin' them the awesome person that you've blossomed out into... the one we've all seen for weeks, now."

Chevy arches an eyebrow, her lips curling into a playful smirk. "Though my agent's tellin' me you're been talking about 'metal' this and 'metal' that. Are you -sure- you aren't making a play for that -other- team?"

She can't keep that face for long, mind. She'd break into a more honest smile at the slightest provocation.

"... it's true, I, could go my own way completely."

Ichika doesn't sound very happy about that prospect either, but she makes herself carry on, as she pushes the crepe around with her fork. "I don't even have to go back to school for long." She says, softly. As though by verbalising it she risks making it real; something she hasn't dared to let herself say out loud before. "I need to undertake my final exams. After that, well, the expectation is that I carry on with my schooling. But. Technically, I could leave. It would be, unusual. For someone with my, ah, academic record, I mean. But. It is a possibility."

She bites at her lower lip, and then makes herself take another bite of the crepe, savouring it - for a brief moment, before her cheeks pinken at the idea that she is subconsciously courting the other team. She swallows, rather than sputtering pastry and cream all over the place, but she also looks back at Chevy's grinning face - which may be a good sign!

"I, actually wouldn't mind it." She admits. "Panesh-san is... well... the more I've thought about it, the more I've come to realise how much we do have in common. I would be interested to see what she could teach me, even if the others are too, corporate, for my preferences. But, there is so much more to learn from our current teachers."

She shakes her head a little, "I, don't think it is a good idea for me to think about this too much. There's too many unknowns. In a few days, I'll... know what my options really are."

Chevelle can tell that Ichika is troubled about the future. She'd love to wave a magic wand, or channel some of Genie's or Iris' conjuring tricks somehow, and just wave the concern away. Her own skills would only succeed in making a mess in the room, after all.

She is, however, happy that bringing up the recent IchiKast has brightened the mood somewhat. If only to give her direction to talk about... other things.

"Well... here's something else we can consider." Pushed aside on the counter is a small laptop. Underpowered, to be sure, but it's light and easy for the hayseed to lug around. She brings it closer -- but lifts it up, extracting a small brochure. It's got absolutely nothing to do with training in any form -- the brochure is for a water park called 'Wet 'n' Wild', somewhere in central North Carolina.'

"We've got a break before we're on the hook for anything else. Some of my friends back home have been tryin' to drag me out to this place for years. I warn't too crazy about it then, but it got me thinkin'... I need to get out of this dang city for a bit before we move onto the next stage. And I -would- wanna drop by home for a bit."

Chevy grins, sweeping her forelock away from her eyes. "How about a few days where we -don't- think about the future, and just live in the moment, mm? If you don't wanna go home, why don'tcha come hang out with me for a bit?"

Chevy grins, taking a bite out of her sandwich. "It'll be fun! Ain't no sense in bein' cooped up inside all summer!"

Ichika blinks at the suggestion. After all the serious stuff they'd been talking about, the idea that they should go to a water park in North Carolina is so left field that it takes her a moment to even incorporate it into the schema of possibilities. Is that really a thing that they could do? Just pick up and travel across the country to visit a theme park? She... isn't even sure where North Carolina *is* in relation to Sunshine City.

At first it seems so obviously ridiculous that she should dismiss it out of hand. Her? Just take off and go have fun somewhere? She's got so many responsibilities to take care of, so much that she needs to do-- only, that's, not true, is it? Technically speaking, she has nobody to answer to when it comes to her schedule right now but herself.

Not her teachers.
Not her sponsors.

Certainly not her parents.

"... we should do it."

And, here, she actually gives her brightest smile yet. "No fighting, either." She says, in a sudden additional blurt, "Just, for a few days. We should just, relax, and, and have fun! Like, a vacation! It won't be for long and, it'll help us enter the next stage refreshed!"

It was a shot in the dark. Completely left field!

And the one simple statement gets Chevy's eyes to light up. "Really?"

And seeing Ichika's smile just makes her even -more- happy. No fighting? There's a brief flicker of confusion for a moment -- but it's subsumed entirely in the enthusiasm as Ichika continues to blurt out her approval. "Yeah! That's the spirit! It's a deal!"

It's true that Chevy -had- been coordinating with friends back home. She hadn't said no. The gap between seasons -was- great timing for her to make a brief stop back home. And she -would- want to go home and visit her mother. But, she hadn't said yes, either. And a lot of her reservations came down to... well, what were -Ichika's- plans? It all came down to that one simple question. And that one delightful answer!

Chevy steps forward, planting both hands on the younger girl's shoulders, beaming an ecstatic grin on her face. "Yeah! So I'll take care of all the arrangements, okay? So don't you worry about a thing!"

She steps away from her table, throwing her arms out to either side -- and she finds the sudden and uncontrollable urge to run around the room like an airplane.

"Woooooo! I can't -wait-! We're gonna have so much fun together!"

There's lots to worry about on the horizon. But no matter what happens in the draft, or beyond -- Chevy will be happy to have this time to do just as Ichika said. Relax, without a care in the world!

Log created on 15:14:58 08/29/2023 by Ichika, and last modified on 16:59:01 09/01/2023.