Description: It's the evening after the night before and Hawksley finds himself encountering a mysterious woman in The Dead Squirrel. Is it just his company she seeks or could she have more to offer the young Blaze Brawler?
As one of the busiest cities on the planet, Metro City has more than its fair share of bars, nightclubs, upscale restaurants, and any number of places to get smashed. A person could pick a different locale each night and never really run out. But then there are places that.. remind a person of home, or have a certain je ne sais quoi that just isn't replicated anywhere else. A place to come back to, time and time again.
It's safe to say, however, that the young lady seated by herself at the end of the Dead Squirrel's bar is not a regular. And even though just about every other seat in the house is claimed at this early hour of evening -- with some people opting to stand -- the one barstool beside her remains unclaimed.
One glass sits in front of her, half-full with a bubbly, amber-tinted beverage. Her hair droops down a bit past the shoulders, the tips dyed a vibrant shade of pink, curtaining off her face. And... she seems to be in some distress, as she's got her elbows propped up on the bar, slender fingers pressed firmly against her temples.
Her jacket looks like it was the lone survivor of a five-alarm fire, the few patches of material that hadn't been seasoned by flame colored a dark purple. Despite its roughness, the jacket seems to be the only scorched part of her attire; she's also wearing a black, scoop-necked blouse, a snug-fitting pair of dark grey denim shorts, and a pair of canvas sneakers. She's also thin as a rail -- which certainly isn't unusual for acrobats of her caliber.
She lifts a hand away from the black-and-pink veil over her eyes, wrapping her fingers about the glass -- and downs the rest in one long gulp. As she offers a lazy smile to the bartender, she quietly asks, "One more, please."
It's certainly an unusual place to find Honoka Kawamoto, former juggling superstar of the Twilight Star Circus, and current entrant in the World Warrior tournament. But perhaps she just needs a distraction. And with the rising volume levels in the Dead Squirrel, there's a chance the star might just go unnoticed in the midst of everyone else having a good time.
Early evening finds Hawksley Moore in his natural habitat, the pub. Even better it's an Irish pub and it's fast becoming his regular haunt here in Metro City. Only the night before, he was brawling in this very bar with Tamaki of Team Frost and formerly Team Thunder fame. The boozy battle had resulted in a victory for the fiery fella and he still seems to be in celebratory mode if the many empty glasses on the table in front of him are anything to judge by.
At least he's taken the time to head home to shower and change at some point and he's now dressed in a different pair of blue jeans to the ones he fought in. He's wearing them with a faded grey t-shirt with the words 'Rebel Scum' proudly displayed on it in gold lettering.
"So then she asked me if I had ever tried a cronut, which was pretty fecking confusing" he confesses to the companion to his left. He's never met the man before, or at least not till this afternoon, which is around the same time he became acquainted with the other five people seated at his table.
He drains the last dregs of his drink and then gets to his feet, looking to lubricate himself with some more liquid. "Same again, lads?" he offers, happy to take his turn in getting a round in. It's the least he can do, since they've been buying his beer all day.
Attracting the attention of Johnny the barman, he places his order and then lets his dark eyes look up and down the length of the heavy wooden bar, which is when he sees Honoka. She's just ordered a drink of her own and is sitting alone, strangely with an elusive empty seat beside her. Perhaps her drinking pal has gone to the jacks or the bathroom as they call it here. She seems upset though and he isn't one to leave a damsel in distress. Edging closer to her and sitting himself down on the stool, he asks "You alright there, cailin? Your face looks like somebody spilled your pint and your jacket is fecked."
Truth be told, she looks as though she is fresh from a fight with him.
"Hm?" asks the acrobat, lazily lifting her mocha-colored eyes to Hawksley. She surveys his shirt, showing a faint smirk at the 'Rebel Scum' gold leaf, before meeting his gaze more fully. It takes a moment for her irises to focus properly.
"... Oh, it's nothing like that..." she answers. "... I mean, no to the spilled drink, but yes to the jacket being messed up."
Clearing her thought, she makes an attempt to sit up straight with the aid of her left hand. The fingers of her right sift through long forelocks, tucking them behind an ear.
"I'm... well, I've been better." She offers a perfunctory smile, before explaining: "Hoping to drown the sadness. With a little bit of background noise."
And, after she gets a better look at Hawksley's features, she glances back over her shoulder to the empty seat at his former table. "... I'd hoped I wouldn't draw too much attention, but I guess I overdid it."
Her eyes lock back onto Hawksley's with acute interest.
"Or maybe you're the type to always gallop to a lady's rescue."
Not long after, Johnny slides over a second of her previous order. Honoka draws it close, keeping her hands wrapped around the ice-cold glass -- though she does not break eye contact for this.
"I do appreciate the courtesy call. You're... very thoughtful." She smiles, with an alluring grin. "I'm Honoka. It's a pleasure to meet you."
The Irishman meets the acrobat's gaze, his own darker brown eyes remarkably focused despite the amount of drinks he's consumed. "You've come to the right place if you're looking to drown your sorrows and silence your thoughts" he smiles.
"The Dead Squirrel is a grand little place. Do you come here often?"
As soon as the words escape his lips he's laughing. "Did I really just say that?" he wonders, shaking his head. "I promise I wasn't trying to hit on you with the world's worst pick up line" he protests.
"As for galloping in to the rescue, I think staggering is usually more my style. The thought is there though."
His own drink is delivered not long after Honoka's and he takes the time to savour a long slurp from it before offering his new acquaintance his hand. "Hawksley Moore. Happy to be of service and well, pretty happy in general."
Should she take the hand, Honoka will find it to be strangely cool despite the hot and humid bar they are sitting in. The texture of his skin is rough and calloused. Definitely someone who works or perhaps fights for a living rather than engaging in gentler pursuits.
"No," is Honoka's answer to the question of whether she comes here often. Though she flashes a warm smile as Hawksley backtracks over his own words. Her addendum of "Yes," is accompanied with a musical laugh. "It's all right. I appreciate your honesty."
She seems amused at the turn of phrase that follows. With a soft chuckle, she responds, "The intent is what's important, and you've rescued me from a well of despair with the simple gifts of your time and attention."
Honoka gratefully accepts the offered hand; her grip is firm, brisk, and freshly chilled from the ice-cold drink. She takes a moment to examine Hawksley's hand, upon noting the texture; her own skin tone suggests a more easygoing, indoor life.
Honoka smiles at the name. And a moment later, she blinks, eyes wide with pleasant surprise.
"Ah! One of the New Fighting Generation. I'd -thought- you looked familiar." Her shoulders shrug, as she glances up to indicate the dim lighting. "... Though, it took me a while to recognize you without the flames," she admits with a sly grin.
Honoka rests her elbow on the bar. One slender leg crosses over the other as she pivots to face Hawksley more directly. "So... how do you like the league so far? It seems like it's a remarkable time of discovery for you all..."
Hawksley releases Honoka's hand, turning back to his pint to pay it some more attention. "A well of despair sounds fecking awful. I've a listening ear and some time on my hands if they'd help at all" he suggests, settling on the stool and resting his head against his elbow on the bar.
"Guilty as charged" is his response to her recognising him. "It seems funny that my face is getting familiar to people" he admits. "It's fair play that you'd have spotted me sooner with the fire and all though. It tends to be a bit of a giveaway, so it does."
He grins back at her and his expression is almost gleeful as he gladly talks to her about his time in the league. "It's the best experience of my life so far. I still have to pinch myself that they're paying me to punch people" he laughs. "I'm having a fecking ball, so I am. I hope that doesn't make me sound like a headcase" he adds to Honoka, though from his facial expression, it's not something he's particularly concerned about.
Pink-highlighted locks shift about as the half-Ainu, half-Japanese woman shakes her head side-to-side. "Mm... just talking about anything else helps, really. I wouldn't want to bore you."
The wallflower seems to open up to Hawksley once he provides his name though, her features more engaged, her eyes just a little brighter. Her face... perhaps a little more recognizable as a previous King of Fighters entrant, and a current World Warrior. She pulls her drink in for a brief sip.
"It's... not like anything else in the world, I can attest to that. Trying to... get back into the scene, as it is. The field is so much brighter now, with all the fresh new faces."
She reaches a hand back up, tucking her left forelocks behind her ear -- where the slick hair would likely tumble free in defiance after a few seconds anyway.
Honoka seems completely enthralled with Hawksley's words, to the point that the rest of the room hardly seems like an interest at all. The barman, the rowdy talkers to her side... none of it matters, as her eyes stay affixed on his.
"Oh, no, of course not. But I wouldn't expect anyone -else- to know how it feels. Fighting is... truly *invigorating*, isn't it? Showing the world your potential... basking in the glory of seeing your style win out over someone else's... And to think, it's merely 'entertainment' to almost everyone else, hmm?"
Honoka smiles warmly, fascinated. "Take me beyond punching, though... what would you say is your -favorite- part of fighting in front of a crowd?"
"I'm a hard fella to bore" Hawksley shrugs, not seeming concerned about the possibility. "These days anyway, since I can mostly do what the feck I want. I was pretty much bored stupid in school."
Even when the flower starts to bloom, the brawler doesn't recognise her. Despite his father and uncle's background in boxing, the lad is laughably ignorant about the fighting circuit, beyond a few local legends in his native land. He'd struggled to choose someone when questioned on it in his introductory interview and had to resort to a search engine, simply choosing the first Irish fighters he found. He does follow his fellow New Fighting Generationers though. He likes to know who he's up against and he feels at the centre of the community the young talents have built together.
"Your face looks pretty fresh to me" he flirts but he means his words. She's surely still in her twenties, so talk of a comeback seems early. "Have you been injured or something?" he questions, curious about her story.
"Invigorating, incredible, inspiring" the Irishman reels off, agreeing with Honoka's assessment of his chosen sport.
As she probes deeper, he stops to consider her words carefully, as if he's only thinking on this himself for the first time.
"It's the place I'm most myself" he settles on, seeming satisfied with this. "Everything else falls away and I feel like I'm the focal point of the entire fecking universe."
He chases his statement with a swig from his beer, his eyes remaining on this stranger of sorts to see what her response will be.
"Ah... yeah." Miss Kawamoto smiles broadly. "I hear you there."
Honoka had manipulated the system so that she wouldn't -have- to go. It wasn't until she realized how woefully ignorant she'd been about her own people's past that she'd decided to re-enroll. But... as with many aspects of Honoka's life, that particular tidbit wouldn't show up on any records.
"It's nice to be able to do whatever you want, whenever you want it, mm?"
An eyebrow twitches, when she hears him comment that her face looks fresh. For a moment, she wonders if she'd heard him right. But then she sees it, plain as day -- he doesn't have the slightest clue of who she might be. It... comes as something of a relief, really; she flashes a surprised smile as she shakes her head in the negative. "Oh... no. Not at all." She makes a note to address the point later, so as not to stir up any particular concern. She's more interested in his response, after all, and injecting any new information might influence his response.
'It's the place I'm most myself.' Honoka raises the glass to her lips as she hears this paraticular statement. Being a psychic -- not that she's quick to admit that -- she can sense the warmth and passion of his statement, the upswell of confidence that shows he truly means it. It's been said that alcohol itself brings out a person's true character -- and it would make sense that the two go hand-in-hand.
"It's an addictive drug, that's for sure," she adds with a chuckle.
But... she feels that perhaps the game has gone on a bit long. "Does it seem weird that a total stranger would ask such weird things? I really am sorry for that, Mr Moore."
She tilts her chin down as the slightest twinkle flickers across her eyes. "I'm a fighter myself. Honoka Kawamoto -- though I wouldn't be surprised if you hadn't heard of me, as it's been a few years since my last big fight." She pauses, then raises a finger. "Until just the other day, anyway."
The acrobat, juggler, and fighter smiles. "And I would have -loved- to help out the NFG as a sponsor -- but I got my act together just a -smidge- too late. But it looks like you're in good hands anyway. Congratulations on your continuing success."
"Damn right it is" Hawksley confirms. "I like my freedom. As for it all being addictive? Yeah, probably." His eyes shift to his drink and he dismisses it. "Maybe I have an addictive nature in general but it's not something I'm too concerned about at this stage of the game. I'm choosing my vices, they're not choosing me."
There's a glazed look in his gaze as he says this or perhaps it's just too much booze in his bloodstream. Whatever the cause, he's still perfectly capable of holding a coherent conversation.
"I'm not too weirded out really" he admits to the acrobat. "I've had plenty of deep and meaningfuls when the mood takes me on a night out. I probably don't seem the sort huh? Like I say, when the mood takes me..."
He listens as she lets him in on the knowledge of her own career, his expression one of interest as she explains. "You seem like you'd be a cool sponsor. The ones I have are a strange bunch but I reckon I'll be fine nonetheless. You obviously know who I am though, so tell me, if you were mentoring me, what guidance would you offer?"
Honoka seems to have a good deal of experience in this particular realm, judging from the confident tone in her voice. "As addictions go, fighting is rather easy to balance. Injuries tend to happen -- and sometimes force a little self-reflection process."
She does seem relieved when Hawksley mentions that he's not too weirded out. One criticism of her is that, well -- yes. She -does- talk too much, sometimes. "Nothing wrong with waxing poetic from time to time."
As to Hawksley's response that she'd seem like a cool sponsor... Honoka lowers her chin, her voice softening. "Ah, you're too kind." She takes a sip from her drink as Hawksley asks his question -- and, in fact, nods her head slightly as she thinks about a response.
Her eyes snap to Hawksley's. "That's a good question, Mr Moore. I'd say... trust your instincts. They've served you well up to this point."
She pauses for a moment, drawing the drink closer to herself, sheltering it.
Her eyes grow glassy for a moment, as she looks down, not at anything in particular. She's just, for a moment, lost in thought; her fingernails tapping a light rhythm just to show she's thinking. Once, twice... six times.
And then, suddenly... she stops, eyes focusing back up to Hawksley.
"Don't be afraid to let your fires burn, Mr Moore. Life's too short to be weighed down by doubt, and insecurity. Whatever you have to do to keep hold of that burning flame?"
Honoka smiles broadly. An inspiration -- as she clasps her hand tight. "... Do it. And that will be the right choice."
"I've been fecked up plenty of times" Hawksley laughs. "The nurses in the University Hospital all recognised me. Broken bones, busted bits, you name it and I've injured it. I'm a resilient sort though, so I am."
He brings a hand to his face, touching the areas that had been red and sore only a short time ago. He's still amazed at Ariastra's ability to heal him.
"So I'm guessing you've been injured yourself some?" he asks, his thick dark eyebrows shooting up. "What did you reflect on in those times? I'd like to say I've done some soul searching myself but the truth is I prefer acting to thinking, which means I like that you're telling me to trust my instincts."
The words of wisdom from the woman ring true to him. It's the way he's always lived his life and despite the scrapes he's got in to along the way, he honestly has no regrets. She seems to speak with real passion and as their gazes meet, he finds it diffcult to look away. "Don't you worry, cailin" he murmurs, his Irish brogue suddenly seeming stronger. "I have no intention of dimming my flames for anyone. They'll be burning as bright and beautiful as they can. As for insecurity, that's not one of my problems. I'm far from perfect but I know what I am and what I'm not and I can live with it."
"Too kind?" This idea seems to amuse him. "I don't think everyone would agree with that."
Right on cue, one of his former boozing buddies marches up to the bar and taps the brawler on the shoulder. "Hey, Hawkman. Did you forget about our beers?" The Irish fella had got as far as ordering them but he had indeed been distracted by Honoka and forgot to deliver the drinks.
"Ah, you've got legs haven't you?" he fires back playfully. "Besides, this ones got a prettier face than you, so I fancied a change of scenery."
He winks at Honoka to include her in the fun. "The drinks are all paid for though, so help yourself. I might catch you later."
His companion seems content with this and wanders back to the bench seats with his pint of the black stuff.
"I have," answers Honoka, though from her slightly downturned look it might be clear that she won't be enumerating a list of those injuries. "It's good to have places that punch a frequent visitor card," she answers with a grin.
"As for... reflection, hmm." She taps the bar twice before answering. "... I would say that, while I was resting up in bed... I learned what would and wouldn't work. Tactics, mostly... places where the opponent responded in ways that I didn't think they would. Or could."
Honoka glances down to her glass -- and takes a long sip from it. Only a tiny bit is left at the bottom as she slides it aside.
"Though... while I may regret certain tactics, by and large... I stand by the battles I've chosen to fight."
The Ainu woman is glad to hear Hawksley's apparent mission statement. "A fighter, through and through. The world needs more people with your strength of conviction, Mr Moore."
She's distracted, though, by the arrival of another. She smiles contentedly at the booze brother while silver-tongued Hawksley does the talking, snickering briefly at the compliment sent her way.
"You're good at making friends, Mr Moore. I can see why, of course. You're even reaching out directly to your fans now, aren't you?"
"It's a shame you can't earn loyalty points" the lad laments regarding the regular hospital trips.
He's noted the tapping. Is it perhaps something Honoka does to calm herself? One of his sisters has a habit of tapping her lip with her finger when there's something on her mind. He doesn't want to draw attention to the behaviour though, in case it's something she feels self conscious about.
"Tactics" he repeats, the word sounding almost alien to him. "I'm not sure that would work for me. I like to think on my feet or my arse I suppose, if I've been knocked down."
"I'm glad you stand by the choices you've made though" he says with a smile. "You know, I reckon people waste so much of their precious fecking lives wishing what could have been or what might be, when they could be enjoying what's right here." He raises his glass to drink to the sentiment, the silky smooth ale slipping down his throat with ease.
The brawler actually blushes at Honoka's words of praise, although it is probably hard to detect with the dim lighting and his tanned skin. He's proud to be thought of as a fighter, it's a badge he's happy to wear. "Ah, go on with yourself. You'll be giving a fella a huge head now" he jests, though to be thought of as having strength of conviction? There are definitely worse things.
As the drinking duo are left to their own devices again, he has his focus firmly back on the other fighter. "I suppose I'm never short of friends. That's because I'll pretty much welcome anyone with an open heart and an open mind though. As for fans? Feck, that still seems funny to think about. I'm guessing you saw my video? It was a laugh to film. I haven't watched it back though. That'd be a bit too weird."
If there is one thing Honoka has realized over the years, it is that there is always a rhythm. Somewhere. If that means she has to tap it out herself, to create her own metronome, to keep from straying from that ever-constant beat... so be it.
But, she can sense the small tells. The tiny ripples in the pond of consciousness that shows that maybe she should pick a quieter means of keeping the pace. One hand slips into her jacket pocket, finds a familiar totem there, and wraps fingers about it.
"No... perhaps not." Miss Kawamoto nods her head in a sagacious fashion. "What works for me might not for you." She smiles -- though it's a bittersweet one, laden with remorse. One that could speak volumes, but she doesn't feel the urge to tell the tale.
Especially not with him toasting the here and now. And especially not with him talking delightfully of friends.
"I did," she says, answering the question of whether she'd watched the video. "It was good to address the topic, of course. To set the record straight."
She reaches over to her glass, draining what's left of it -- and then setting it aside. When Johnny the barman comes over, she gives a simple nod, and a single upraised finger.
"Mm. I'd like to ask you a personal question, Mr Moore. And I promise -- if you'd rather not answer, just say so, and I'll drop it entirely."
She thinks for a long moment, glancing over at Johnny in the preparation of her drink. Within her pocket, her fingers work along the surface of... well, whatever fits in a jacket pocket.
Her eyes turn to Hawksley once more. Though this time... the amber lights of the pub's interior seem to be reflecting especially bright in her irises.
"After your fight with Mr Finley. You chased her down... and fought her."
A cold assertion. A spoken truth, perhaps never shared.
"How was fighting... -her-... any different than the fights the world knows about?"
Following Honoka's lead, Hawksley nods at Johnny himself. "Same again, fella and I'll pay for whatever she's drinking."
He gives the she in question a searching look at the mention of personal. "Go for it" he decides.
He listens to the enquiry and it wasn't what he expected to be asked. "Juri" he says simply. "That's her name isn't it?"
The mention of the woman creates a chilling feeling in his core. He can see her now, her fierce expression and defiant demeanor. Facing off with her on the rooftop of the Frost warehouse had been beyond anything else he'd experienced in the time since he left Ireland. His fellow competitors are full of ambition and a desire to win but she has a different quality. He'd truly believed she would be wiling to kill him. Despite this danger he'd stood his ground, with his buddy, Buck battling beside him. He'd set her on fire twice, he's still expecting to pay for that at some point and eventually it had been her who'd backed down. The Irishman was under no illusion that she'd let her prey escape. She probably could have ended them both that night and had fun doing so.
This was the woman who now had her clutches in Coco. Someone who was supposed to be steering her and acting as her sponsor. Perhaps it's what the purple haired posh girl deserved. The changes in her personality make him think they could be perfectly suited. And yet, as much as he hates to admit it, in his quieter moments, the Cork City man is sometimes concerned.
"It was for real" he finally says. "She wasn't playing for points, it was for power and pleasure. Perhaps even something more. When I looked at her, for a minute, she seemed...well, evil."
He's uncomfortable with the word, his Catholic upbringing making him not speak it lightly but he can't think of a better way to describe it.
"Do you know her?" he asks.
Honoka spares a look at the barkeep. And then, as she turns back to Hawksley, a faint blossom of pink rushes to the surface of her cheeks. Meeting eyes with the barkeep again, she meets his eyes for another brief nod before devoting her sole attention back to Hawksley -- that mild blush fading. That Irish hospitality...
Honoka poses her unexpected question. And she watches with a neutral expression on her face, eagerly absorbing every bit of information Hawksley has to offer.
She didn't... actually -know-.
It was just a suspicion.
But a logical one, from Hawksley's own words and actions.
And now as she feels the chill grow within his burning heart... she has her answer, clear as day -- every turn in his expression narrating the story as plainly as if he'd said it aloud.
She takes in every detail with uncomfortable focus, her unblinking gaze intense enough to see clear through the Irishman.
It was for real, he said. For power, and pleasure. Evil.
The word jars. She can see the struggle he endures to simply -voice- the word -- such an anathema to his core of being.
It's a moment, after Hawksley asks his question, that she finally blinks. She draws in breath through her nose -- held, as it was, the whole time.
"We're not friends," she answers with a thin smile. "But we have met."
Once again... Honoka reaches up, tucking that wayward lock of hair behind her ear. She nods to Johnny as he presents the third drink -- though, for the moment, she leaves it to sit.
"It wasn't just her that was different. Maybe it wasn't for power or pleasure -- but you weren't playing for points, either."
Honoka pauses for a moment. Watching his expression -- perhaps not as intently as before, but definitely weighing her words.
"Mr Moore... your *will* and *determination* caused this woman, this Juri... to blink. To reconsider." She smiles -- but only briefly so. "But ... perhaps it won't be as simple next time. For Juri has... one of your very own companions in her clutches."
She finally reaches over, curling her fingers around her ice-cold glass. She brings it close to her lips -- frosting the glass with her breath.
"So you tell me. What do you need to improve your odds, Mr Moore?"
Is Hawksley's hand a little unsteady as it takes hold of his freshly filled glass? Perhaps there's a slight shake to it as he lifts the liquid to his mouth and takes a drink. At least the motion delays him having to speak for a moment or two, because unusually, he's not quite sure what to say.
"I didn't want to lose Coco to that woman" he finally states. "Although it was pretty much a waste of time, since she's got hold of her now anyway."
He doesn't actually believe this. He'd do everything he did again in a heartbeat. Even though his teammate hadn't seemed grateful. Even though she'd behaved like a spoiled schoolgirl and refused to help her rescuers. There's a flash of anger in his dark eyes as he recalls the memory but it's soon gone again to be replaced by a more familiar smile.
"You really think I stopped her?" He's not sure he buys it. "I reckon maybe she just got bored."
Another drink and then he's frowning, a furrow appearing on his forehead. "This sounds like tactics talk to me. I'm not sure what I can do, other than trust my instincts like we discussed and continue to train hard. If you're meaning for me to engage in mind games, I don't think it's gonna work. I wouldn't be me if played that way."
It's a delicate game of cat and mouse that Honoka loves to play. To truly observe the mind of a man, one must refrain from filling his head with dissonant thoughts. Simply stating the name 'Coco' or 'Juri' would stir a number of feelings, to be sure. But for him to -say- those names, without direct prompting -- those moments are the ones where the Ainu woman can see exactly what matters -most- to the man.
The flash of anger? That's a nice bonus -- met with a thin smile from the juggler, as he flushes that mood away in favor of his familiar smile. Either by drink, or by temperament, he can't seem to stay mad for long -- and that's a considerable credit to his personality. Honoka finds herself nodding in approval.
At least, until the moment where he frowns. There is such a thing as pushing too hard, too fast. Honoka's brow, too, furrows. She understands that Hawksley, as an initiate to the world of fighting, does not see the intricacies of combat in the same way that she does.
"Mmm... No... I didn't mean tactics. I meant in terms of results."
The Ainu woman pulls the glass close to her again. Ice cubes clink together, a pleasant sound.
"Correct me if I'm wrong -- but it must have been difficult keeping up with someone of her speed. Or leaving your -mark- on her, am I right?"
She isn't smiling. That'd be a little rude, she'd figure -- she doesn't want to drag him through the memory any longer than she has to. But she does understand that she may have reached a limit.
"Instinct, Mr Moore, is an excellent approach. And I think it would work well for you. But it can also make training... difficult, unless you continually subject yourself to increasing challenges. I mean no slight against your mentors -- individually, they're the most talented fighters in the world. But as for giving you the individual attention that -you- need...?"
Honoka doesn't complete the statement -- leaving it open ended for Hawksley to fill in the blanks, if he chooses.
"You're already at the top of your class in the New Fighting Generation. And you'll go far. But I feel you could go even further with... exposure to more challenging fighters. Ones that will get your blood pumping harder. ... What do you think?"
She mirrors his facial expression, be it consciously or subconsciously. Whichever it is, it does seem to put Hawksley at ease.
"You think I need more difficult challenges?" he checks, searching her face for further clues. "That fighting my peers is probably not gonna be enough to get me to handle the likes of Juri, should the time come around again."
He's nodding as he speaks, soaking up the knowledge and letting it sink in. He's never been afraid of taking on the bigger boys. The Blaze brawler is only five feet ten and one hundred and seventy five pounds. Back home in the bars of Cork City, he's started scraps with fellas fifty pounds heavier and half a foot taller without fear. If pushing himself to reach his full potential is what's needed, then hell, Hawksley can handle that.
"She was tough" he admits in relation to Juri. "I did make my mark on her though. I fecking set her aflame twice. But I had Buck by my side and if she'd wanted to break me, I'm sure I'd be broken" he concedes. Then a sly grin appears on his face. "I wish that piss had hit her though. That would have been a good craic."
He lets himself enjoy his own laughter for a little while before looking back at Honoka with a hopeful expression. "So are you gonna be my personal trainer then? Push me to my limits and beyond? Get my blood pumping, my heart racing and my body burning?"
Honoka nods slowly. "I wasn't there. But from what you've said -- and how you've described your fight with her... Yes. I feel that would be the correct assumption."
It's tough. The juggler -knows- that the brawler's power is directly tied to his self-esteem and confidence. But she feels that the need to compel him to -train- requires a blunt and honest assessment of his shortcomings -- facts that he's seen for himself.
She's quite comfortable walking a tightrope, in both the literal and figurative senses.
So, perhaps this is enough for one night. Honoka takes a draw from her glass as he speaks, giving herself a pause to savor the aroma and flavor before setting the glass back down.
"... Flames, I understand. But why was p--" With a wrinkle of her nose, she purses her lips. "... On second thought, don't answer that."
His laughter probably answers it enough, though. And she relents with a smile.
His query is met with a broader smile. "If that's what you're after, sure." She laughs, briefly. "I think it'd be good to try and get up with your actual team first, of course. They might not take kindly to me occupying the bulk of your time. But..."
Honoka finally pulls her hand out of her pocket. Trapped between her first two fingers is a business card -- which she then holds by both hands, and presents to Hawksley.
"Should the time come. And you find that the child, the mountains of muscle, or sweet Miss September are not available... "
Honoka smiles. "Then, by all means. Call me. You won't be disappointed."
Hawksley takes the card from Honoka, reading the details and then placing it in the pocket of his jeans. "I'm sure I won't be" he agrees. "It would be grand to get some input from the Team Blaze sponsors themselves though, as you say, and I wanna train with the rest of my team. I've met Braun, Kongou and Miss September from the new recruits. Laurel is next on my list. Miss September even came here to my fight" he adds. "That's a good sign. She didn't even cheer for Tamaki."
His gaze wanders over to the group of men he's left behind, weighing up whether to rejoin them or head back to his hotel. Either way, he'll at least finish his pint first.
"It's been interesting to chat with you, Honoka" the Irishman informs her. "It seems like one of those situations where we were both in the right place at the right time."
Honoka nods enthusiastically. She even snickers, as he alludes to Zog's behavior in contrast to Miss September's. "Naturally. I feel your team composition is much stronger this go-round -- and you can also provide a wonderful counterpoint for your teammates."
She taps her chin for a moment, humming thoughtfully. "I know you had fought Ayala before, but do consider working out with Genie if you can. She's much earlier along the path than you are. And yet, she's caused a number of upsets in her time. I think you might find her powers to be... quite different from yours."
She finishes off all but the last quarter of her drink. And... hiccups lightly, covering her mouth with a hand. "It's a bit more than I tend to. I really must thank -you- for the opportunity, Mr Moore. I will be rooting for you in the upcoming rounds, of course. You're sure to go far."
She rises to her feet -- and smiles. "And of course, I appreciate your generosity -- thank you. Just remember that the drinks are on me next time, Mr Moore."
Honoka winks back at Hawksley, and then claps a hand on his shoulder as she steps past. To the gentlemen at the other table, she bows her head in greeting.
And then, she moves for the exit, as light and airy as could be.
Log created on 10:43:52 09/13/2023 by Hawksley, and last modified on 18:54:51 09/14/2023.