NFG Season One - Fire in the Halls

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Description: The incorrigible Hawksley Moore enters... the THUNDERDOME! Contrary to popular belief he's free to leave at any time, but he doesn't, and instead enjoys a discussion about the future, both the immediate tournament and what comes after.

So here he is finally. Hawksley has arrived outside 'The Thunderdome' and it's not quite as Mad Max as he was either hoping or expecting. For a start it doesn't appear to be either dome shaped or made of metal and he can't see inside it to know whether there are people battling. In fact, the windows are boarded up to prevent anyone from peering in, like there's possibly private things going on in there. What could they be? The Thunder training regimes must be a lot more secretive than those he is used to at Blaze. There always seems to be some random person or pizza girl wandering in to the old boxing gym they use as their base.

It's only a couple of days after he was last fraternising with members of Team Thunder. Drinks with Buck, Princess Lyraelle Lightheart and Kitty Fantastica had turned into quite the boozy affair. One that involved Buck having to escort a rather drunken cat girl back here. He ponders if he will run into any of the colourful characters that make up the fighters and sponsors of Team Thunder during his visit, other than the three he has actively come to see. His friends, Chevy, Ichika and Buck.

Chevy first invited him here during his match with her at the scrapyard. She'd talked about getting the guards to let him in but he doesn't see any of those around right now. He also doesn't have a key, so he supposes he better just bang on the door and hope for the best. Maybe if he adds in a cheery "Hello there!" it will help his case too. Yes, that's the course of action the Cork lad will take.

He's come specially dressed for the occasion by wearing his 'Team Blaze Uniform' which consists of a black t-shirt with the words 'Team Blaze' in orange lettering, a pair of black jogging pants and black leather sneakers with orange flames on the side. He wouldn't be choosing his clothes just to troll people would he? That doesn't sound like him at all.

Ichika has had a lot of distractions in the back half of the New Fighting Generation project. Between Junko's assault and the impact that had on her schooling, the Ichikast and the greater spotlight that has resulted from it, she's had to spend a lot more time working on things outside of actual fighting. It's, difficult. That's the main thing she is coming to understand. If she wants to continue to dedicate herself to improving as a fighter, she needs to make sacrifices. There have already been some of those, but it feels as though there will always be more demands made.

And for now, Ichika refuses to make them. Which is how we find her locked up in her room for yet another day trying to claw her way back out from underneath the demands of her Justice High tutors. Their expectations, too, only seem to have increased along with her prominence, as though by stepping into notice she has invited more pressure upon herself from the demanding school. Final exams will be upon her before she knows it, she is sure, especially with the tournament fast approaching and swallowing so much of the rest of her focus...

She is grateful, then, when she hears that cheery exclamation. The girl is wearing her Justice High uniform when she answers the door to Hawksley, a somewhat quizzical expression on her face. "Ah, hello Moore-san." She says, "Are you here to see Chevy? I'm sure she's around somewhere... would you like to come in?"

Hawksley, troll people? Naw, that's super out of character.

As it happens, a guard is the next one to greet him: Dodge, the little yellow imp who had been an additional cameraman at the scrapyard fight, is visible around the corner for a brief moment. Aside from a wrinkled face once he sees the Team Blaze branding, it seems the imp has no comment before dashing off down the hall.

A few moments later, Chevy strolls around the corner, wearing an ash grey tank top and black jogging pants with light blue canvas shoes. Her auburn hair is very lightly brushed; the freckle-faced girl is lacking the usual loadout of cosmetics she sports in public, so she looks a -little- more tired than usual.

She clutches a half-eaten poptart in her hand, mumbling, "What, what?" to the yellow imp egging her on. She'd heard Ichika's voice, but it isn't till she sees Hawksley that she realizes what's going on.

"Oh... hey Hawksley!" She looks down at her poptart for a moment, takes another bite, and jogs up to approach him. She's done chewing by the time she's in range, naturally.

"Hey! You made it down! Can we get you anythin' to eat or drink?"

She pauses for a moment. And then feels she needs to clarify: "We got water, sodas, and juice. If Princess Lyraelle has any beer or anythin' it's locked up in her office."

Chevy sidles up next to Ichika, and ruffles her fingers through the Justice student's hair. "Hey, Ichika. I invited Hawksley down to check out the place!" Doubt flickers across her expression for a moment. "Mm... I hope that's okay?"

Buck is the next to arrive, though surprisingly it's from behind Hawksley instead of from deeper in the bowels of the Thunderdome. "I thought I saw someone familiar." Comes the familiarly accented voice of the Oklahoman as he comes up behind the Irishman. He's dressed a little more bland than the night at the bar, just in his jeans, Team Thunder tee, and his favorite leather jacket.

There's a bag dangling from one hand, the type you'd get in a convenience store or bodega, thin plastic with "Have a Nice Day" printed below a smiley face. The usual assortment of snack foods, even if that is provided for them, Buck likes to keep his own stash for emergencies. Under the other arm is a cardboard box, all taped up and slapped with shipping labels.

Looking past Hawksley as he adjusts the package under his arm, he spots his teammates and shoots them a quick grin. "Hey! Done studyin' already Ichiban?" He's never asked if she likes or even wants the nickname, but in true Buck fashion he's going to keep using it until he's told to stop. At which point he'd look like a kicked puppy.

He also has an oil smear across the bridge of his nose that no one has informed him of, which means he was also up early tinkering on the truck he has parked in a nearby parking lot. He spends a good amount of his time out there since he picked up the old rust bucket right after getting to the city.

Ichika will be met with a beaming bright smile when Hawksley sets eyes on her. "Hello, Ichika! I'm not just here to see Chevy, though it will be grand to see her as always. I wanted to see you and Buck too, as well as anyone else who happens to be here."

He moves to step inside after Ichika invites him to, looking towards the elevator curiously. "Will we be heading in there now?" he asks the schoolgirl.

Before he can get an answer from her, Dodge shows up, earning himself a wave from Hawksley. The Irishman is past concerning himself too much about what weird and wonderful creatures he runs into now, when he's fought a goblin and hung out with someone who keeps a bearcat as a pet. The little yellow fella soon scampers off though to be replaced by his favourite redhead. He doesn't seem to notice she's in more of a relaxed state of dress and cosmetics than usual, he's too busy buzzing off being somewhere new.

About to accept Chevy's offer of a drink, he soon closes his mouth and shakes his head when he realises it's only of the soft variety. "Nah, I'm grand thanks. I had one on my way over here."

He may have stopped by The Highlander for a swift pint but that's not a lot for him so he's actually feeling pretty sober.

Buck's greeting has Hawskley spinning around to face him. "Here comes trouble" he jests jovially. "No hat and boots today?"

He moves a hand to his nose and gives it a rub, gesturing to the area Buck has the oil on his. "You might wanna, you know" he grins.

"Oh, of course. That's, perfectly alright." Ichika says, maybe looking a little troubled. Is it perfectly alright? She supposes nobody has actually told them that they can't have people from the other teams turn up. It does feel faintly illicit, though. She knew that there had been a few times when people had done that, wandered into each others training areas for various reasons, but... it hadn't ever happened here, as far as she knew.

She smiles faintly as Chevy casually ruffles the messy mop that is her hair, and of course she doesn't mind Buck's nickname. It would have driven her mad, once, but she knows him well enough now to know that it is - if anything - a mark of respect and fondness, rather than mockery. "Not, done... but, I suppose I can afford to take a break." For a short time at least. She can spare a bit, can't she?

"I'm afraid it isn't as comfortable as the hotel." She says, as she steps to the side to invite Hawksley into the Thunderdome proper. "But, it's comfortable. And, it is good to see you, Moore-san. I don't think we've really had much opportunity to speak before. Everything has been so ... chaotic."

Which is an understatement. There was the time he refused to break up a bar fight, and the whole mess with Coco and Juri... they do tend to bring chaos in their wake, these fighters. Maybe that's just inevitable when you are dealing with such large personalities, though.

Glancing back and forth between Buck and Ichika, Chevy bows her shoulders in a light apology to the latter. "Oh! If you need to scoot and finish it won't bother us none, Ichika." She grins cheerily, taking a step back and motioning Hawksley inside to the common area. "It ain't every day we get visitors down here. C'mon in, an' make yourself comfortable!"

Chevy sweeps her arms wide. There's a lot more room to breathe in the common room -- and more nooks and crannies for Dodge to go seek out for shelter. She takes another nibble of her poptart while thinking.

Of course, she takes another look at the box. "Aww, that's sweet of you to bring a present, Buck," she teases with a grin. But, knowing it's probably -not- for anyone present but Buck, she asks instead: "So how's the truck comin' along? You need another set o' hands out there?"

She turns back to Hawksley with a broad grin. "Well, you're here -- this is where the magic happens, haha. Cozy little spot in the middle of the big big city. Did you run into any trouble findin' your way here?"

"Of course it's alright. Not like he can take on all three of us and the guards if he was here to cause trouble." Buck says cheerily as he steps out of the doorway closing it behind him with a push of his heel. "Besides, I've almost bur..." He goes quiet, not having told anyone about that and just coughs softly. "I mean, he would never do that, right, bud?"

He shakes his head. "Nah, that's for goin' out. This is for runnin' errands." He blinks and tries to run his nose, but his hands are full, so he sets the box down with the bag atop it, then rubs his nose, looking at the oil on his fingers. "Ah, no wonder I was gettin' funny looks. Just thought people were recognixin' me." He pulls a rag, that's already got a couple oil stains on it, out of his back pocket and finds a clean corner to wipe the bridge of his nose.

"Well, if you need help with science or anythin' let me know. I'm not a complete dummy." He says affectionately to Ichika.

"You know you're always welcome to come help." Buck says to Chevy. "An extra pair of hands and eyes never hurts." He reaches down to pick up his bag and box, ready to follow into the common area. "S'why I ran out." He says, hefting the box. "It's a care package from home. I'm sure ma put some of her baking in there, I'll be happy to share."

He sniffs like he can already smell the food inside the box. "Aw man, I hope she made her pecan caramel brownies."

"It's good to take breaks to have fun" is Hawksley's wise advice to Ichika. Not that he ever really bothered doing his own homework. His time at school was mostly a blur of friends, fighting and football

"You don't have to worry about it not being fancy" he goes on to assure her. "It's nothing special back where I'm staying and I'm here for the people not the place."

He considers Ichika's words on their lack of time to converse and he realises she makes a very valid point. He'd been in her company at the Hotel Southtown party. Then there were the fights between Coco and Chevy and himself and Buck. Next came the mission to save Coco from Juri, which was a strange time for everyone, especially Ichika who spent a lot of the journey home unconscious. But before all that, there'd been their introduction to each other, where he'd been bare chested, covered in blood and snapped at the schoolgirl for wanting him to sort out a fight that he'd rather have got involved in. It probably hadn't given her an ideal first impression.

Despite all this, he considers Ichika a friend and has a real fondness for her, that's why he had no hesitation in getting in her way when he thought she might get hit by Nixie's explosions. He'd do it again in a heartbeat too, so yes, it will be good to get to know her better.

He follows Chevy into the common area, his dark eyes drinking in the surroundings. "This is a cosy little setup" he comments. "Do you all have your food together and what have you?" The idea of the communal living is appealing and he's always slightly envied the closeness of the connection that Team Thunder seem to share. On the other hand, he does value the privacy that having his own apartment back at Blaze grants him.

He doesn't take a seat for the moment, opting to stay standing. "You know what that means, right Chevy?" he teases her, as she mentions it being where the magic happens. "At least I know what it usually meant on Cribs. I found my way here fine. I'm getting to be a dab hand at navigating my way around big cities. It's actually kinda cool to be moving around on foot again after I let the Ford go after Sunshine. I spent a lot of time walking back in Southtown too."

Buck's question has him raising his thick eyebrows and making a wobbling hand gesture. "It's not in my plans to cause any trouble but then I usually don't plan that stuff ahead" he admits. "I think you should be mostly safe though. I'll try not to break anything, be it noses or furniture."

He perks up further at the promise of some home baking. Pecan caramel brownies might not be what his own mammy would make but they sound pretty delicious nonetheless.

Ichika smiles to Buck, "It is science that I am studying at the moment, actually." She says, brightly. "I'm trying to wrap my head around the Fermi Paradox. How do we explain the lack of evidence for the existence of extraterrestrial life when mathematically it is all but a certainty that such life exists? Maybe we can discuss it later. I need to have a conclusive answer in no more than three days."

A... conclusive, answer. To one of the most perplexing problems facing science today. Well. There's never been any doubt that the Justice High curriculum was demanding.

"The studying is the fun!" She continues, with Hawksley. "At least, for the most part. It's work, too, of course, but learning new things is one of my favourite things to do. I sometimes wonder if that's why I like fighting so much. There's not been a single battle where I haven't walked away with a new insight, into myself, or into my opponent, or both." She flashes a bright smile to the Irishman, her eyes twinkling. "Perhaps we can enjoy that together, when I face you in the finals, Moore-san."

It's a little joke, really. She doesn't truly expect that she will get there, but there is the possibility. And that possibility is so tantalisingly in reach, now. Soon, perhaps too soon, all the battles of the NFG will be behind them. They'll look to a new phase, new journeys, new tests ... and only time will tell if they will face these with old friends beside them. She hopes so. But, the trouble with Ichika is that she's very, very smart. She knows how these things go. People move on, the demands and priorities of their lives change, what was important yesterday becomes irrelevant tomorrow. It's, sad, but it is life.

Still. She tries not to let herself dwell on those maudlin thoughts; instead, she asks, "Was there anything special on your mind, Moore-san? If you wanted to see all of us at once, I mean? Don't tell me another of your teammates has been kidnapped. Once is misfortune, but twice would begin to look like negligence."

Chevy has no idea what Buck was hinting at. She gives him a quick quirk of her eyebrow but that seems to be the end of it there.

The fellow greasemonkey seems more than willing to help him on his truck -- now that the topic's been brought up, of course. "Yeah, just gimme a shout whenever you get ready to start back up on that, sure thing!" She doesn't seem too terribly stressed about the impact it might have on her training regimen -- of course, she's considerably less focused than some.

At the thought of Buck having to share all his food though, Chevy purses her lips. She won't put him on the spot right now, but... quietly heads off to the kitchenette area, and fetches a small package from the fridge and a baking tray. And, as she listens, she starts setting out cookies...

"Oh, yeah... whenever we can! We've all been pretty busy with our own things -- I've been upstairs training, Ichika has her schoolwork, Hated R's in his studio, Junko's off broodin' by herself. If it warn't for Dodge's pals runnin' around I'd have no idea where anyone was."

She furrows her brow for a moment, pausing in setting out her cookies on the baking sheet. Does she know what that means? Chevy looks back at Hawksley.

"It's... where we... "
She pauses, looking down.
Her eyes cross, as do her arms.
"Is it s'posed to mean somethin'?"
She hesitates.
"I thought it was just a thing you say when you show people around."

Her work on the cookies resumes as Buck and Ichika start talking about...extraterrestrial life. And when she looks up, her eyes are, once again, crossed.

"I warn't havin' to deal with questions like -that- back in high school. Only paradox we e'er dealt with was the twins on our field trip to the School of Medicine.

Chevy finishes up setting the cookies on the sheet, and loads up the oven. As she's no doubt attracted attention wit that, she explains, "You just got a care package, Buck, I'd feel awful if you have to give it up to us savages, haha."

As she finishes closing up the oven, she turns back to Hawksley with a grin. "Hey, uh... about the other day. I... gosh." She clears her throat. "I'm glad you're here, Hawksley, I... was worried I done messed up at the scrapyard."

She looks sad. She's sure Ichika and Hawksley would know why, but Buck... well. She'd be happy to explain in a moment if he were to give her a look.

"Oh man, I didn't even get to that until college. Pretty sure if I mentioned the Fermi paradox to any of my teachers back home I'd get blank stares." Buck comments as he heads into the common hangout area. "I'm a fan of the great filter and the early arriver theories myself, but we can talk it out later." He looks to Chevy and shrugs. "When you study biology naturally the topic of life on other planets comes up once in a while."

The talk of the tournament has him frowning ever so slightly. "You look at the bracket? The three of us Thunders are all in the top half. We'll all have to go through the other two to get to the end." And he actually sounds miserable about that, probably because he'd love to see two of the three of them in the final. "Heck, you and me might be our second fight." He says to Ichika. "Then the winner of that goes on to fight Chevs." He's saying as if he fully expects them all to win their matches up to that point. But it still seems to depress him until Chevy starts pulling out cookies, baked goods makes everything better.

He drops into a chair and pulls one of the drinks out of his bag, still damp and cool from the store's fridge. He shakes his head after taking a sip. "Nah, she said there was stuff for the team in here. It'd be rude not to share."

He sets his drink aside and starts going at the tape on the box, until he gets frustrated, digs into his pocket, and pulls out a pocket knife to go at it instead.

He only pauses once, to indeed give Chevy that look. But he doesn't ask, he's not too much the prying type. Typically.

Hawksley squints at Ichika as she starts to talk about her homework assignment, praising the Lord he's done with all that. Like Chevy and Buck, he can't recall ever studying something so complex at Saint Patrick's.

"I'm glad you find the studying interesting, Ichika but I can't say I ever did. Learning about fighting is fun though because it's something I actually give a feck about."

He smiles back at her. He too is fully aware of the tournament draw and the prospect that himself and the young sword fighter could potentially face each other in the final. He would be thrilled to have this opportunity but he doesn't even dare dream of it as yet. One fight at a time and first of all he's got to see off Nixie, who beat him last time they went one on one.

"I guess time will tell, Kasumoto-san." Feck, did he say it right? He normally avoids even attempting things like that, in case he messes them up.

"Chevy invited me to come along some time" he goes on to explain to her. "I thought today was as good a day as any, since I had nothing in particular planned. The Highlander is a decent boozer and it's good when you're with friends." He glances at Buck. "But it doesn't have the same sense of home that The Dead Squirrel did."

He can't help but laugh at Ichika's dark sense of humour regarding the kidnapping. "None of them have been grabbed as far as I know. I don't see too much of some of them though, so perhaps I wouldn't even notice the difference" he shrugs.

He watches Chevy as she sets about sorting the cookies out. She's so considerate and seems to slip right into the role of caring for people. What a sweet girl she is. It almost makes him feel bad for having to explain what he's about to. Almost.

"It means where they have sex" he laughs, shooting an apologetic glance at Ichika. Not that fifteen is so young that she wouldn't know about such things. He certainly did at that age.

He moves closer to Chevy, resting an arm on her shoulder to provide her with some comfort. "Now why would you be thinking that?" he wonders. "Trust me, if you have ever messed up with me you'd fecking know about it. I'm not one to keep my mouth shut about things like that." He pauses for a minute and then asks playfully. "I suppose you're meaning the mud wrestling with Coco? I actually quite enjoyed the show."

He steals a glance at Buck as he works on the package with the pocket knife. "You're a grand fella offering to share that but I'm technically not one of the team. Gawd, I wish my mammy would send me some of her stew over but I don't think it would do so well on the trip over."

There's a faint little laugh from Ichika at Chevy's confusion, and she nods her head to Buck. "That'd be great. I'm still undecided myself. I don't feel that we can discount the possibility that we are in some kind of simulation. After all, doesn't the world feel like a game, sometimes?" A beat. And then, to avoid sinking into a truly existential black hole, the conversation track sharply shifts with no further room to visit this subject further.

She actually beams at the use of the honorific from Hawksley. He did, indeed, get it right it seems. And she's pleased that whatever further doubts her friend might have about where she stands with the man are laid to rest, even if the talk of sex did... make her a little bit uncomfortable. She knows the mechanics, yes, and of course there's always plenty of rumours around school about ... things happening, and so forth. Teenagers are teenagers the world over. But, as teenagers go - especially as Heavy Metal Queens go... she has to admit, she's still rather prudish about the whole thing.

"Are any of us part of any team?" Ichika asks, suddenly, as she seems to piece together that little fact too. "As Buck says, if we are to succeed, we will need to do it through each other. The time for teamwork is... over, now. At least on some level."

And then, she shakes her head, quite violently, actually.

"No." She corrects herself, "The time for team rivalry, is over. I still want to see you perform at your best, so I will still help with your training, even if that is to my own theoretical detriment in the competition."

And then, to Hawksley, with a certain seriousness. "All, of you. Moore-san. We are the New Fighting Generation. That, will always mean something to me."

'It means where they have sex.' Chevy's eyes go wide; her cheeks stain a dark crimson. As many times as she'd -heard- the phrase, she was never fully paying attention when it was said.

"... Oh." She clears her throat. "... Well, lemme restate myself then: to the best of my knowledge, there ain't no magic happenin' out here in the common area."

In response to talk of the Great Filter, she simply deadpans: "K&N filters are the best. Fram works good in a pinch." That's as close as she'll get to admitting she doesn't have the faintest clue of what Buck and Ichika are actually discussing, biology or otherwise.

She does, however, fetch her phone from her pocket once Buck and Ichika start talking about the bracket. "Hmm... yeah, I'd have to fight through either Zarine or Hawksley's big trainin' buddy. And then, maybe even Iris." The thought of Buford escaping that gauntlet isn't one she gives serious consideration -- which might be perilous if she forgets to study up on him.

"Oh, and you gotta go through that one gal, Buck. Wonder how long that mask'll last against your snake spit." She snickers, briefly, at that. "And Hawksley gets to face Miss Stabby Straw again. Hope you'll be able to hear me cheerin' you on there."

She seems... more than impressed as Hawksley tries out Japanese. She flashes him a thumbs-up, out of pride!

"Oh... and I'm... sorry to hear about your bar. Was kinda hopin' to check that one out once I got older." She... doesn't get -too- much in depth about that topic; like Ichika, she has nothing to say about Braun's opponent there. "Maybe the Highlander will work out okay..."

But... before she knows it, Hawksley's resting an arm on her shoulder. Coughing up a shy laugh, she shakes her head. "I dunno, I just hate puttin' you in the middle of us two. I'm -tryin- to be nice an' bury the hatchet between us, but dang if she don't wanna keep diggin' it right back up again."

It's rare to see a sardonic smile on her face, but it happens here, away from any cameras (that she knows of). "I didn't figure you'd complain too much. But yeah... " She steps back, directing her attention to Buck and Ichika. She knows Ichika watched -- but it's good to include her!

"So, at the tail end of my fight with Hawksley... I dunno, I felt like givin' Hawksley and Coco a big hug. I was glad that everyone was gettin' along, you know? But she starts... bein' Coco, takin' it personal."

She rolls her eyes as a sigh escapes her. "So yeah, with the subtlety of a bag full of hammers, she tried to make it look 'accidental' that she lost her balance, fallin on me to try to slam me into the mud."

Chevy rests her hands on her hips, looking a bit more predatory than usual. Definitely not leaning into the 'naive country bumpkin' act at this point.

"Now, it ain't no secret I done 'rassled hogs in my last job -- I knows a thing or two. So I twist a bit and bring her down onto her side. Then -- I didn't want it to turn into an ugly hair pull, I kicked away from her."

The last part, she starts using her hands to demonstrate their respective motions, proving that, yes, Chevy knew -exactly- what she was doing in that moment. "She starts moanin' and bellyachin' about it, so I just leave her be." Hooking her thumbs by her hips, she gives a shrug -- as she looks back to Hawksley.

"I figured I'd give it a rest so you could at least enjoy the evenin' together." She scratches the back of her neck, as teams are discussed. And while Ichika -does- bring up that the teams have, again, been disbanded, she starts to raise a finger -- only to have Ichika bring in a correction.

And to this, Chevy can't help but smile. "Yeah, we're all part of a new class, I'd say. I'm closer with y'all than any of my friends back home." Ichika can... probably attest to that, as well.

The Southern lady grinds her heel into the floor in a show of mock sternness. "We -are- all gonna stay in touch. Right?"

Buck is very pointedly not making any comments about magic happening or even aknowledging the conversation happening. He can be amazingly prudish when that sort of thing comes up. Or maybe he's just easily embarassed by it.

"I don't care if the teams are dissolved any more than I did after the rumble. You guys are family now, I've always wanted some sisters." He looks up and over to Hawksley. "Got plenty of brothers, but I guess you count, too." He grins despite the teasing nature of his comment.

"Anyway, whatever the result, no hard feelings. But the winner better be someone in this room." He finally manages to open the box and he's definitely fishing for something. Finally he pulls out a large, square, metal tin and pries off the lid.

"Bless you, ma." He reaches in a picks out a square brownie, inhaling the aroma before he takes a big bite. "Dang it, even better than I remember." He sets the tray on the table, still open and motions to it to indicate people are free to take one. There seems to be quite a bit.

He goes back to rummaging. "Coco's... Coco." It's all he's going to say on that subject.

"Ooo.. peanut brittle." He pulls out a bag of the stuff and sets it next to the brownie tin. Then he pulls out a glass jar of some clear liquid. Looks at it, then over to Hawksley. "Wanna nearly die?"

Is Ichika alright? Hawksley is starting to wonder. She seems very intense. Maybe she needs a reassuring arm on the shoulder too but Hawksley senses she may be a little less comfortable having him in her personal space than Chevy would be.

Ah but look now, she's smiling at him. That's a good thing. He's happy he made the effort to try and use the correct form of address towards her. Chevy seems pleased with him too. Perhaps he should take risks with such things more often.

"I suppose you're right in a way" he admits to Ichika on the subject of teams "but that's probably more of a big deal for you three than it would be for me. I've always tried my best in every fight I've had and sure, I've been pleased that my wins mean points for Blaze but that's more of a bonus than any real sense of team spirit. Other than Braun, most of the people I spend time with are on other teams anyway, so I think considering myself part of The New Fighting Generation in general sits better with me."

He appreciates the show of support from Chevy for his match against Nixie. "Come watch me if you're not tied up elsewhere" he suggests. "Support is always easier to hear in the actual venue."

The talk of the location for all the tournament matches has him beaming brightly at Buck. "By the way, it looks like you got your wish, fella. You'll be getting to do battle in the arena after all. It's supposed to be fecking huge in there. I wonder if all the matches will sell out. I know we had a big crowd for The Rumble but this will be more intense I think, when all the focus is on just two fighters."

As Chevy takes the floor to explain the post fight chaos to their other companions, Hawksley can't help but look amused. "The hug was a nice idea but we were a bit muddy, so we were. Maybe Coco didn't like getting it on her clothes and all." Not that's he's excusing her behaviour but he is explaining it somewhat.

"She said she'd hurt her leg in her fight with Iris too, so the kick you gave her made it throb again." Whether or not there was some play acting going on from the purple haired posh girl, Hawksley can't totally be sure but he decided to take her at her word, since he didn't have proof otherwise.

"Whatever drama has gone on between any of us genners though, I definitely want to stay in touch with you all. Maybe by the time you're old enough to have booze, Chevy, we can all go for a drink at the rebuilt Dead Squirrel together. Not that I'm suggesting we leave it that long before a reunion."

Speaking of drink, what Buck just produced looks very promising. "Now if you'd asked me if I wanna die I'd have gone with a no but since you just said nearly, I'm in."

He edges closer to Buck and the booze, snatching a brownie for good measure on the way. Taking a bite he makes a "mmmm" sound. "Oh gawd, those are good. Your ma is a genius" he declares before quickly adding. "I'll be trying one of your cookies too when they're ready, Chevy."

Continuing to alternate between chewing and chatting he comments. "I'm happy to be your brother if I get more food like this, Bucky boy. You'd be welcome for some of my mammy's cooking back in Ireland too. All three of you" he invites.

Is Ichika okay?

That's certainly a question. She's intense, yes, but as her teammates could attest - she's... always, like that. The truth is that she's actually mellowed out a lot since those early days when she was so tightly wound it felt like she might snap at any moment. But the youngest person in the room is also the one who had cared most deeply about their success at the start of all of this, and though that has softened - really, been forced to soften by repeated demonstrations that she's just not as capable as she thought she was - there's still such a large part of her that wants to succeed. At least she's doing it on her own terms now...

When Buck says that the winner had better be one of them, she smiles faintly. "I would not be surprised if it were Constance Coalbridge or Fadel-san either." She says, "I could well be proven wrong by the others, I would never count out Kuroiwa-san or Bouvier-san completely, but from what I have seen, we are the ones who have walked furthest down the Warrior's Road. Still."

And here, she smiles, "I will not go easy on any of you. And I hope you will not go easy on me, either. Fourth place is ... higher than I thought I would manage in the wider standings, but I want to take first. It would be very, useful, to me."

That's an interesting turn of phrase - and maybe a bit less passionate about the art of fighting itself than she usually is. She always demands the best from herself and wants the best from her opponents, but, she's not talked about what she might get from these things beyond just the thrill of the fight and the lessons learned from them before...

As Chevy recounts the drama with Coco, and Hawksley gives the heiress' side of the story on her behalf, Ichika is silent throughout both. She walks over and helps herself to a brownie as well, though she nibbles on it a little delicately, and then smiles. "This really is excellent, Buck. Please thank your mother for me." She says with a much brighter smile. And then, she addresses the elephant in the room. Because she is who she is, and she can't leave well enough alone.

"Constance Coalbridge is selfish, rude, vicious, and full of pride." She says, "She is also an excellent fighter. Probably in some part because of those last two qualities. Unfortunately, she is such an excellent fighter that she has not tasted the same kind of defeat as some of us. She has lost, yes, but only rarely, and never bitterly." A pause, as she considers the brownie in her hand. "That is the lesson that I promised to teach her, for what she did to Chevy. I still intend to keep it. For her sake, as well as to keep my word."

Then she takes a deeper bite from the brownie - it's good! Really good. But Ichika is probably not doing a great job of setting anyone's mind at rests that she's doing okay. Intense doesn't really begin to cover it when she gets like this. Though, in her case, it is the idea that there is any possibility of them falling out of touch which seems not to be worth addressing, rather than potentially provoking trouble with her frank assessment of Hawksley's friend.

Chevy grins. She has her own thoughts about the way the tournament will progress -- but she doesn't have the same insights into fighting as Ichika, nor does she have quite the same motiviations as either of the gentlemen.

"I done learned so much here, I cain't give it any less than my best. It should be -easier- than the Rumble, at least, since we don't gotta worry about other fighters just barging in when you least expect."

The hayseed nods back at Hawksley's suggestion that she -be- in the venue. "Well, gosh, I -try- to be there in person, but sometimes the fights are just scheduled all on top o' one another." She grins as Buck introduces the brownies -- and while she's interested to try, she's happy to let the other two take theirs before gingerly plucking the smallest from the batch.

She considers pointing out to Hawksley that... Coco made several choices in that experience. She saw Djamila's pendant -- and she -saw- that Chevy was talking with Hawksley still. She chose to walk up to Hawksley. She chose to smooch his cheek, muddying her clothes in the process. And, if she *were* still injured from that fight with Iris, she could have refrained from setting foot near the hayseed entirely.

But Coco chose what she chose. And as Buck says, Coco is Coco.

Chevy bites into her brownie, nodding slowly. And ... she seems happy that, for the moment, people are more taken with the brownie to notice that she hadn't actually responded to Hawksley with anything more than a placid smile and a nod of the head. A stay of execution, maybe...?

"... Oh. It won't hurt my feelings none, Hawksley, Toll House can't hold a candle to home-made." She holds up the brownie with a grin. "This is some real good stuff. Let your ma know she rocks!"

But, elephants in rooms can't be left alone. And Chevy smiles faintly: it's time to face the music.

"Mm... yeah. Coco's just holdin' on to what she's got. She makes you happy, and I'm fine with that. You're a great catch, Hawksley."

Chevy's tone is... a little distant. And she may be holding back, and -may- be using the brownie as an excuse for hiding it. But ... the fact of the matter is, she's feeling much of what Ichika is. It just... takes Chevy a few more moments to come to grips with what she's feeling.

And then, well. Suddenly she just blurts it out.

"I miss home, y'all. And I know y'all miss your folks just as much."

Ichika may soon find the hayseed's hand on her shoulder, rubbing gently, presuming she doesn't move to avoid it.

"But I kinda don't want this to end. Y'all are like family now, yeah, and I'm happy to be y'all's sister."

She can feel... -something- welling up inside her. And she feels a little guilty for blurting out that thought. So, rather than continue on that train of thought, she lets her eyes drift to the clear liquid.

"What the heck is -in- that thing, anyway?"

"I've just always been in this to get better and have my fun." Buck says as he sets the jar on the table and goes to retrieve a couple of glasses from the kitchenette. "It's just my good luck I ended up makin' friends, too." The glassware clinks as he takes it down off the shelf and returns to where he was sitting, setting the glasses down next to the jar.

"And anytime any of you want to drop by the farm, I'm sure ma would be happy for company. She'll also go into a cookin' frenzy which is always great."

When the topic of conversation shifts back to Coco, Buck goes silent again, instead amusing himself with the jar, though he does shoot Chevy a sympathetic look. There's no question who he thinks the better pairing is. He uncaps the lid and takes an experimental sniff. Then makes a face like he just singed his sinuses with turpentine. "What on Earth did he put in here?" He mutters to himself, pouring a little into each of the glasses.

"Boone took up distillin' a few years back." He says of his second oldest brother. "Tryin' to start his own moonshine business. He likes to send out samples of his latest batches to get opinions."

Trading the jar for a glass he raises it up to make a toast, whether the others want to drink or not. "To lifelong friends." Then he knocks it back.

Buck's face crinkles up, then he stomps his foot on the ground a few times and finally manages to swallow the drink. "Hoowee!" He hollars, loud enough any poor sod trying to sleep in the Thunderdome is bound to have just been rudely awakened. "That hits harder than an ornery mule."

He turns the glass over to look at what still clings to the inside. "I think he might have somethin' here."

"Coco and Djamila could take it" Hawksley agrees with Ichika. "I reckon anyone could on a good day though. I wouldn't wanna underestimate a single one of us Genners. There's a reason we were chosen out of the many who applied after all."

He returns Ichika's smile, a bit of an edge in his expression. "I won't be going easy on anyone either. These two here will tell you I didn't do so when we fought each other and that was definitely mutual in both cases."

He does note the choosing of the word useful. It's an interesting one but he's sure Ichika has her reasons. He could guess at them but he doesn't want to make presumptions. Whatever the reason, how much she cares about the victory is clear.

As the Thunder trio tackle the subject of Coco, Hawksley listens without comment, at least at first. When they've each stated their case, he eventually does chime in. "That's a sweet thing to say, Chevy" he tells her with a soft smile. "You're a great catch yourself. I think Coco is just scared or something and maybe it's partly my own fault. I know I light up when I'm around you. I can feel a connection and I think you can too and for some reason she must think I'm capable of cheating or something."

As he speaks he realises he's kinda let the cat out of the bag that he is dating the Englishwoman, albeit behind closed doors. This after he'd been sworn to secrecy. Not that Chevy or anyone else watching their post match drama is likely to be naive enough not to notice it. For someone who says she wants to keep things hush hush between them, the haughty kickboxer isn't good at keeping a poker face.

As for Buck's thoughts on the matter, perhaps he has a point. There's many reasons that Hawksley's relationship with the purple haired girl is perhaps problematic. The chief one amongst them is the fact that she'd never dare take her 'bit of rough' home with her. It's unlikely that this would be the case if he was dating a certain redhead, but all of this goes unspoken. Unlike the emotions felt by the farm girl.

"I think we all miss home, Chevy" he admits. "And this, all of what we've been experiencing may come to an end but the relationships don't have to. Let's look at it like we will all have new places to stay when we see each other. It's opening more opportunites up rather than closing them and besides, who knows what the future will hold. Some of us may end up being close by. Especially if we make careers in fighting, which I think any one of us could do."

He lets out a sigh and runs a hand through his hair before starting to laugh lightly. "Well, that all got a bit fecking deep. I'm having some of this moonshine. I don't know about the rest of you but I for one intend to get totally wasted."

He raises a glass to toast Buck and the other two, should they join them. "May you live as long as you want, and never want as long as you live."

Ichika doesn't go into her reasons for discounting the rest; she undoubtedly has them, but a detailed analysis would be... well, rather rude, wouldn't it? Besides. She could be wrong. She's been wrong about plenty before. She's glad, though, that Hawksley takes her seriously. Not that there was much doubt - he'd discussed her on his own foray into the podcasting world after all. She knew he took her seriously.

The fact that Hawksley is with Coco ... well. She didn't know, but she kind of knew. It isn't really relevant, either. She does reach up to touch Chevy's hand on her shoulder, squeezing lightly. "I do." She says, "They've missed so much." There is a faint smile, "At least, if I do lose in the first round, they won't have to miss my sixteenth birthday as well. I... still don't want to lose, but that would be a small consolation."

She doesn't make a grab for any moonshine, of course, but the girl does make sure she has a small glass of juice in hand when the toast is given, and she sips it. There's a small smile from her at both Buck's reaction to the hard liquor, and Hawksley's declaration that he was going to get 'totally wasted'. After seeing her father in similar states more times than she can count, she's really not sure she understands the appeal - but she's not going to challenge them on it.

"I don't intend to lose touch with any of you." She says, "And I hope that fighting will be the path I take. There are many, though. I've been thinking about the JSDF, as well. Or possibly Interpol. In any case, if those are the directions I decide on, I would need to continue my schooling for at least a few more years, depending on how fast-tracked the system can be made for me. And I doubt either organisation would complain about me taking part in the odd tournament, so I'm sure our paths will continue to cross, as long as we are all walking this road together."

Chevy smiles shyly about the tournament. It may be true that she's the point leader. But that's as much due to her having been in the points basement for the first split as anything else -- she knows she had to put a lot of time and effort into catching up.

"Yeah, I'd say just about any of us has a good shot at it. We oughta know each other's strengths and weaknesses by now. And yeah, Hawksley warn't goin' easy on me, I can tell you that much."

She smiles faintly as Hawksley mentions his supposed incapability of cheating. The hayseed -could- point out the problems he's inviting by spending time with the person most likely to inspire Coco's jealousy. Or she could just enable that behavior...

"... Well, I'm glad you're showin' her who's really boss by spendin' time with people who appreciate you." And then, as if there were any doubt, she chirps up a moment later: "Like us!"

It comes as -something- of a surprise to her that Ichika mentions her impending sixteenth birthday. She starts getting misty-eyed to that, and grips Ichika's shoulder snugly in agreement! "... Aww! Well, you're gonna win, so we might as well just go start plannin' somethin' for ya." As she has her phone handy, she starts poking around on that. "Let's see... tickets from Japan..." Of course, she's got a broad grin on her face, in case Ichika wants to contest her well-intentioned meddling...

But... then the topic of the moonshine comes up. And once Chevy sees Ichika reaching for some juice instead, the hayseed follows suit for the shared clinking of glasses. "Friends forever!" She takes a sip of juice -- only to stare wild-eyed at Buck. "See, that's why drinkin's such a hard sell for me. Everyone tells me how great gettin' socked in the face is. I just ain't seein' the appeal." She cracks a grin, at that.

She hums softly as she considers the thoughts of... well, visiting folks. "Well, heck. A road trip might be in order, if you're thinkin' of drivin' that truck back." She gives Buck a light, good-natured slug in the shoulder. "Your folks sound nice. Heck, I wouldn't mind visitin' any of y'all. And if y'all want to swing by our neck of the woods, I think Ichika can attest we got guest quarters for ya. Momma'd be thrilled, she loves hearin' stories about y'all."

The thought of saying 'goodbye' to anyone here is... well, it's still present. But from the smile Chevy's wearing now, she's no longer feeling overwhelmed by it.

She steps back from Ichika, grinning so she can mentally picture her with thoughts of the young woman's future in mind. "... Yeah, lots of folks near me go out to the Navy or the Marines. I... I can kinda picture you in uniform, barkin' out orders to juniors and whatnot..."

Chevy smiles, curling her glass close to her. And it might be getting a little... frostier in the hydromancer's hands, as she thinks about it.

"It's just... wow. What a whirlwind this has been, right?"

Buck takes another sip, not reacting quite as hard as he did the first time. "Well, let me know if you get a bar of your own, Hawks. I'll have Boone hook you up." He grins broadly as the toasts go around the room and he takes his seat once more. "That's because I'm an idiot who likes gettin' hit in the face." He says to Chevy.

He whistles softly at Ichika's pronouncement. "Yeah, I could see you doin' that. I've always wanted to do the fightin' thing, so I'll probably keep on in tournamets. And I thouight I was ambitious thinkin' of an animal sanctuary when I retired from getting puched in the face."

"You know, I didn't get to see a lot of Japan when I went out there for the draft, I wouldn't mind goin' back. Seeing some of the sights with a local to show me around." He adds with a grin for Ichika. "And we can celebrate the 16. Dunno if that's a big one in Japan like the US."

He nods eagerly to Chevy at the mention of a road trip. "That was the plan to get the truck back, yeah. S'why I've been workin' so hard to make sure it'll survive the trip. I can give Bear back his old farm truck he gave me. Or pass it to Beau." He shrugs, as if either way doesn't really matter to him.

"Whirlwind is a good way to put it."

"Oh wow, you're gonna be sixteen soon. I'm gonna have to get you a gift" Hawksley informs Ichika. He has no clue what kind of gift that would be but he'll think of something.

Toast given, he downs the moonshine in one and immediately regrets it. "Jesus, Mary and fecking Joseph!" he yells, following the words with a coughing fit. He can feel the clear liquid burning in his throat and chest as it makes his way down. "That's got to be scorching my insides up but maybe my body can handle that okay, you know with the whole fire thing and all."

Despite his reservations, he's soon reaching for a refill. "How strong did Boone make this?" he checks with Buck. "It's got to be at least fifty per cent alcohol."

This time he takes a more tentative sip, testing it with his tongue. "I haven't got a clue what that jay es dee eff thing is but Interpol would be interesting. If I end up on their list can you discreetly make my name disappear?"

He takes another drink, deciding it's safe to keep going and nods in agreement at Chevy's words. "Whirlwind is one word for it. Eight months ago I was sat on my sofa in mammy and da's house feeling sorry for myself and wondering what the hell I was gonna do with my life. Now I've been to Japan and America and people recognise me in the street. I mean, to be fair, that happened back in Cork but here it's strangers and it's all so surreal. I suppose I should probably record another one of those streaming things sometime. Frank has been on at me about it but I keep finding better things to do. I've been keeping up with yours though, Ichika. You're doing a grand old job of it. I've liked, subscribed and all that shite."

He's not too sure about owning his own bar though. "I don't think I'll be calling Boone about that now. Imagine me running a pub? I'd go bankrupt giving free booze out to everyone and the furniture would probably all get broken with the brawling. That's all grand when it's not your responsability but if you're worrying about the bills and all, it'd take all the fun out of it. I might grab some bottles off him to share with the lads back home some time though."

He can't help but laugh at Buck's claim of liking getting hit in the face. "That makes me an eejit too, which explains a lot of things."

There's a faint laugh from Ichika as Chevy immediately goes for the tickets to try and solve her problem. "It's, fine." She says, "Honestly. If it isn't at home, it won't be the same. We'll celebrate when I get back. Maybe about more than just my birthday." She smiles at that thought; she has no doubt, at this point, that it will be more than just a normal birthday already. Fifth place is nothing to be ashamed of. But how much better would it be if she placed even higher in the final analysis?

"It's the Japanese Self Defense Force." She explains to Hawksley, "We don't have an army, as such, but it is a similar principle. Only, more focused on humanitarian work and defensive operations." She flashes a smile to all of them, though, as they say that they can see it - it makes her straighten a little, pleased to know that her friends approve of the choices she's considering.

"I am sure there will be plenty of time for my friends, though." She says, to Buck's hope about a guided tour. "I am trying not to let myself stress too much about what may come." She says, "There are many things that will happen between now and then which may influence what is possible, and not all of those choices are in my hands. I'm learning... sometimes, it is best not to overplan. To just, accept life as it comes, and react accordingly."

A fond look to Buck and Chevy each; their laid-back natures and the success it had brought them had obviously worked as a strong object lesson for her in trying to soften her own sharper tendencies. Not to mention the prodding of her tutors; both Peng You and Ayame had, in their own different ways, tried to get her thinking along similar lines. It had just taken a while for it all to stick.

"I'm glad you like the Ichikast." She says to Hawksley, with a chuckle. "It seems as though it has mostly upset a great many people. But. It has been... rewarding, to see how many people take inspiration from me as well. It was actually Lightheart-sensei who gave me the idea. Not, directly, but I thought a lot about how she uses her platform for good, and I thought, well. We may be different in many ways, but I can build a platform of my own. Even if it has humbler roots."

As Buck and Hawksley talk about the alcohol, Chevy takes a slightly different approach -- taking a brief sniff of the open container. And even -that- light encounter is enough for her to cross her eyes in response.

"Whoo-ey! Y'all just jump straight to the hard stuff. Only way you're ever gettin' me to be an alcoholic is by somethin' with a bit more flavor to it."

She swishes the juice around in her glass before taking another sip. She's glad to be able to give Ichika a bit more company at the non-drinking half of the room.

She listens quietly -- and laughs when Hawksley seems to suggest Ichika can just make his file disappear.

"Haha. One thing I found is that if you wanna make a real difference in the world, joinin' the military can be a great way to start that up. I know tons of folks who were bouncin' from one job to the next, but it won't till they got back from the service that they *really* got their heads on straight. Gave 'em direction to handle everythin' else they wanted to do." She smiles at Ichika. "I jus' know that whatever you end up doin', you'll go far with it."

She turns back to Hawksley and Buck. "What y'all need is some -rich- people who won't bat an eyelid at their bars burnin' down. Then you'd be set!"

Chevy lays low on talks about Ichika's Sweet Sixteen; Miss Beaumont's still keeping a secret about a certain metal band's tour dates in mind. The plan to handle this Sweet Sixteen -after- the tournament might... be better, in that respect.

"Well, however it works out, you can count on getting loads from us. Even if I have to fly my butt back to Southtown and do some shoppin' myself."

She nods along as Buck talks about the truck. "Yeah. We'll get 'er fixed up straight. Got one of the best scrapyards around if we need spares, anyway."

Hawksley throws out a name she -doesn't- recognize though. "Frank? Who's that, your agent?"

The topic of the Ichikast comes up -- and that gives Chevy some thoughts of her own. Will the Ichikast -continue- to tick people off, or draw notice, when the NFGers aren't in an NFG any more? "Hmm... yeah! I can see you buildin' out lots more! You got a great mind for pickin' apart fighters, an' people love to hear it! Just... don't let the haters get you down."

She adds, with a grin: "Unless it's our boy here. Who I still ain't gotten around to meetin' yet..."

"Not a clue, you ask him and he just sorta evades the question. Calls it his proprietary recipe." Buck just shakes his head. With all he's shared about his borthers its probably a wonder their farm hasn't burned down.

"Ah, pity, you'd be a good publican. No one'd mess with your bar because they know you'd just kick their butts."

Despite the drinking, Buck is taking it slow, and he's never really gotten fall down drunk that anyone has witnessed. The closest was his night out with Hawksley and he still had to carry Kitty Fantastic back home. Well, part of the way. Just enough to get him relaxed, though the more relaxed he is the more he lets his country side out.

"Sure enough, we'll get her purring like a kitten. Not the first engine I've almost had to entirely rebuild. Sure, I had help with the other one, but I think I can do it now. Without killin' myself." That additions seems important.

"I dunno how you guys do it. I mean, actually talk on those things and keep it interestin', I can't imagine people would care enough about my opinion to keep tuning in to it. Then again, Chev's is right, you pick apart fighters pretty damn well." He picks up another brownie and starts chewing away, looking to be in absolute heaven with the touches from home.

Ichika doesn't agree to getting him out of trouble with Interpol. It's probably a wise move. He listens as she explains about the Japanese Self Defense Force. Yep, he can totally see that too.

He nods in approval at the schoolgirl stating she is going to stop overplanning. "It'll just give you sleepless nights and an upset stomach" is his take on it. "Do what makes you happy, as long as you don't feck anyone over in the process."

The mention of Lyraelle has him glancing around as if she could appear any moment. He'd not had a lot of time to speak to her in the pub before she'd had to take off elsewhere. "Yeah, she's some big deal online isn't she?" he comments. "Not that she isn't other places" he quickly adds, wanting to avoid offending any of her proteges.

Speaking of other members of the Thunder Crew, Hawksley would love to meet Hated R too. He finds the fella hillarious along with his extended crew. None of them seem as obnoxious as that eejit Matt, who John Doe has hanging around him.

"Frank's my agent, yeah" he confirms to Chevy. "He's a good lad, so he is." Perhaps a funny way to describe a man who's in his mid-fifties. "He'd like me to put myself out there more but I mostly just wanna go drinking and fight" he admits.

Speaking of drinking, Chevy's face is a picture when she sniffs at the strong stuff. "Try some of Lucky's Fiery Ale" he advises. "It'd be a much gentler opener." Perhaps he's not too bad at this publicity thing after all. He's just slipped a mention of the drink that sponsors him into casual conversation.

He seems to consider any rich people he knows and can't get past Coco. He very much doubts that she'd be into the idea of buying him a pub so he could burn it down though. Which reminds him.

"So what's this Junko lass like? She's on my radar with the whole fire thing and you know, burning my favourite boozer down but I've never actually met her."

He turns back to Buck with a grin. "Well maybe one day I'll be able to afford to get myself a pub, when my body is too old and knackered to compete at fighting. Not that my da has declined much that way. He's still in amazing shape at...feck, he's in his mid forties by now."

Still sipping on his spirit he seems to be sizing Buck up. "You could totally do a cast. You've got loads of fans out there and a grand personality. Not to mention that killer smile." He follows his words with a playful wink. "I'd watch you."


In some distant future alternate timeline, Ichika is standing with her hand around the hilt of the Interpol standard-issue katana, staring down Hawksley who has his hands over his head as torrential rain thunders down behind a sewage outlet pipe. "I didn't kill my wife!" He shouts, "I don't care." She replies, and an epic battle ensues.

In this reality, Ichika merely smiles and nods to the idea of sleepless nights and stomach problems. She's certainly had more than her fair share of the former. The latter... has been better, when out of the oil-and-grease-rich environment of Chevy's Mom's kitchen.

Chevy's encouragement has her smiling, though. She gives a little nod, "This tournament has definitely proven to me that teamwork is the most important element in reaching our goals." She says, "Even in a competition where the fights are individual, we would not have succeeded half so well if we didn't train together, identify our strengths and weaknesses, strategise about our opponents. If I did join the JSDF, imagine the good we could do with almost two hundred and fifty thousand people pulling in the same direction."

It's obviously something she has given a lot of thought to. And from the way she's talking, not just being enlisted, or even a junior officer. If Ichika joins the army, of course Ichika is going to shoot for the very top of the army - though it would take years to get there, as Chevy says, there are few ways she could more greatly enhance her reach than with them at her back.

She laughs, though, at the little comment about her birthday party, easing some of the intensity that had gathered in her. "I'm sure we'll have an excellent time together." She says with a smile, "And... Moore-san is absolutely right, Buck. We've spoken many times about fighting. You have valuable insights. If you wanted to join me, you'd be more than welcome."

The smile fades the moment that Junko is mentioned, however, and the girl sets down her glass, her expression stony. "I have nothing to say about her."

Chevy laughs -- she doesn't *really* follow the latest in distillery innovations, but she can appreciate that the gentlemen do. Of course, when Lucky mentions a specific brand to try, in response to her own ruminations, she nods, and seems to give the advice adequate consideration.

... And then her eyebrows drop low. "Okay, that was smooth."

She steps back to check on those cookies, as Ichika ruminates about the possibilities open to an army of a quarter million recruits. Maybe it's the heat of the oven that's making her pale...?

"I mean," starts Chevy with a small bead of sweat running down her forehead, "I can see it. The way you just took charge at Mt Shasta, givin' us marchin' orders. I didn't really know what the plan was but I didn't really -need- to since you saw everythin' so clear..."

It's probably a good thing it's named the 'Self Defense Force'...

Chevy is glad to talk about Ichika's birthday party, but... as Ichika seems to be relaxed about it, Chevy smiles and lets her be for now. She muses to herself about saving -further- embarrassment for the party itself...

The Carolina girl hadn't worked on trucks with Buck yet. In the back of her mind, she wonders if his approach is like her 'shadetree mechanic' style... or if he's the type of guy who knows how a thing works -before- disassembling it.

Satisfied that the cookies aren't yet burnt to cinders, she steps away from the oven. Snagging another brownie, she nods along -- partly concerned Lyraelle might start sneezing and/or arriving at the sound of her name. Which wouldn't be a bad thing for anyone -- except that Chevy hasn't really faced the music when it comes down to naming 'princess lyrell' as a co-conspirator of Tom and Lou's...

"Oh yeah, y'all would be great! If... I could ever get my stuff together I might join you. Buddyin' up would probably be the only way I could get up there and stream regularly. I *tried* recordin' a few times but whenever I listened to 'em afterwards I could feel my eyes rollin' right outta their sockets from boredom..."

But then comes the heavy topic: Junko. It's not normally Chevy's style to swim against the current of Ichika's mood. It's not that Miss Kasumoto doesn't have the right to be upset -- Junko did seem to go out of her way to wreck her life. But... Chevy has some intel that Ichika doesn't, and Hawksley did ask a question.

Nibbling thoughtfully on her brownie for a moment, she coughs slightly to break the tension.

"Now, I ain't... excusin' what's happened. I cain't speak for Junko on that. But..." She takes a breath, glancing at Ichika, before turning to Hawksley. "It might not seem like it but she's real sweet beneath all that fire an' brimstone. I don't think she *wants* to be angry all the time. It's just that... she's got reason to feel like she needs to be."

She lets that thought hang for a moment. "She's nice, deep down. But I'm kinda sworn to secrecy on sayin' any more." She smiles, as if that's all she plans to say on that, and takes another bite of her brownie.

"I should probably get myself a Frank." Buck mutters. "I've been letting the NFG publicity department handle things for me so far, but I guess with the tournament comin' to a close it'd be a good idea." He frowns down at the glass in his hand.

It's followed up by one of his snort laughs as he looks over at Hawksley. "Your old man and mine. Old fart is past 50 and he's still the first one up and out working. We keep telling him to just give Bear the farm already but he's stubborn as.. well.. a Finley." He leans back in the chair, rolling his head back to look up at the ceiling. "Just retire, live in the farmhouse, and play with his grandkids. But nope. He'll be 90 and out at sunrise fixin' fenceposts." For some reason he glances Ichika's way when he says that. As if he expects the same behavior out of her.

"I could never do the military or anythin' like that. Lots of guys back home do to get out of the small town life, but some of us like it. Me? I'm no good at followin' orders and no good at givin' em either. I like to go my own way." Of course his own way is rarely anything that bothers those around him. "Might take you up on that podcast offer though, might be fun to do once or twice and my interview skills ain't what they should be, either."

Nibbling a bit more of brownie, he seems to go quiet on the subject of Junko, a different quiet than with Coco where he was being polite. This is just ignorance. Finally he speaks up. "Haven't actually spent time with the new guys. It's like, you know, we were the juniors on the football team, then when we moved up to being seniors the new juniors came in and it's just.." He hand waves that thought away and goes back to chilling, about to put his feet up on the table, then with a very slight look to Chevy, changes his mind and keeps them on the floor.

"Oh alright then, fair play to you" Hawksley nods at Ichika's refusal to talk about Junko. "Did she burn down your favourite pub too?"

Chevy seems a little more willing to discuss the girl though and he nods as he listens to her. "I'm pretty sure we can all be sweet on a good day. Once you get past everyone's hangups, resentments, hurt and insecurities. I'll be sure to say hello to her, should I get the chance. I might tease her a bit about The Dead Squirrel and all but I'm not really angry at her. I did enough damage myself when I first discovered I had fire energy."

He seems happy to be called smooth in response to his sale's pitch, even if the idea is amusing to him. He's definitely more used to being called rough! "I never thought I'd get an agent" he laughs in response to Buck's comment. "It was Chevy that gave me the idea. The thought hadn't even entered my head beforehand. He seems a decent fella and he's already earned his fee by getting me a sponsorship deal."

Another glass of moonshine has gone and he goes to pour a third, starting to feel the buzz taking over. "There's no way you'd catch me anywhere near the armed forces either. It seems like a living nightmare to me. I'd probably be booted out within the first few weeks."

He also has sympathy regarding Buck's lack of interaction with the new recruits. "I've only really been spending time with Braun from the other fighters on our team. Ayala I knew a bit from brawling with her but Genie and Laurel are a mystery to me. I'm sure they're both lovely lasses though. Your last and next opponents aren't they?" he checks with the other man.

There's a certain, seething, from Ichika when Chevy steps up to try and defend Junko. Buck didn't know, of course. They hadn't really had much time to catch up, either. Her lips press together, but it isn't until Hawksley just outright asks that she speaks up again. "She attacked me." She says, her voice tight. "After offering my friendship. She destroyed my laptop and many of my books. And she did it when my back was turned, so that she could beat me down."

She takes a long, steadying breath. Clearly, the sequence of events still preys heavily on her mind. "We all have reasons for the decisions we make, Chevy." She says, her voice as cold as ice. "We must all live with the consequences of our decisions. Do not let your guard down around her, not even for an instant."

The dark turn the conversation has taken seems to have completely killed her desire to keep talking about her plans for the future, or even the rest of the tournament. The girl's expression is thunderous. Because, it's true - she didn't have anything to say about Junko. Not anything nice, at any rate. But she felt compelled to let the other two know about the full extent of the betrayal that had been wrought upon her. How could she not? Buck and Hawksley were very quick to offer their friendship, too. They deserved to be forewarned.

"Agents are good folk to have around. 'Specially if you're prone to hang on what other people are sayin' about'cha like I am." Chevy chuckles at herself, there.

It's good that the three others can talk about their fathers. Chevy... doesn't want to join in on that line of conversation though; even ten years later, thinking about the opportunities she's missing out on still bothers her.

Of course, if it hadn't been for his passing, she might never have been standing here with these three wonderful people now. Chevy takes another bite of that brownie, smiling with that particular comfort.

... But then. Whew. There are... times where Chevy and Ichika disagree. It might be new to Hawksley, but Buck's seen it happen.

It had probably never gotten to the point where Chevy's skin started turning red. Or to where she'd have been agitated enough to sweep her forelocks behind her ears.

The urge to blurt something, -anything- out right now, has never been stronger. She wants to fight back -- she wants to set the record straight. And she wants to make things -right-, and -true-. Ichika always wants that -- the truth.

And yet, she closes her eyes, drawing in air through her nostrils.

And the air around her drops in temperature by a few degrees.

"... Mmm," she starts, gathering her composure into an icy, almost doll-like expression, as she turns her blue eyes to Hawksley. "Maybe it ain't somethin' to joke about right now," she notes, diplomatically.

Still, Ichika -does- have a point. And Chevy feels that, well -- knowing what she knows now, it's probably wise to reiterate that warning.

"... I'm just gonna say, Ichika's mostly right about this."

Chevy offers a pretty unconvincing smile, as she finishes her brownie off with one last bite.

There's no facing the fact that Ichika is *probably* not going to budge right now. But Chevy can't help but... try.

"... Did you wanna take a little tour of the place, Hawksley?"

Buck may not have sisters, but he does have siblings. And siblings fight, and so perhaps he can sense the simmering disagreement under the curface as his eyes flick between Chevy and Ichika.

He just very wisely keeps his mouth shut about anything more than. "It's over and handled." His tone smooth, even, and perhaps trying to be calming.

He stands up and walks into the kitchen, pulling a bottle of water out of the fridge before closing it with a sideways bump of the hip. Always hydrate while drinking, kids. The bottle crinkles in a little on itself as he chugs, poping back out once he lowers it.

"Aw man, those cookies smell good." He says, crouching down and peering into the oven. Even with two brownies in him.

"Oh! Tour! That's an idea!"

"Well Jesus, I'd be fecked off at her too" is Hawksley's verdict on the violent antics from Junko. He scratches at the back of his neck, a rare frown on his face. "I'm sorry if I've struck a nerve, Ichika. I didn't realise you lasses had such bad blood between you. I'll take your warning and be sure to watch my back."

It's unlikely the Irishman would be rude to his fellow fire user but if she's provoked such a powerful reaction in Ichika, he will at least heed her advice to be cautious.

He can feel the tension in the air between Ichika and Chevy and whilst it isn't something he's witnessed before, he's not too surprised. He's grown up with four sisters after all. He is fully aware how people who love each other can also loathe each other's actions or words at times.

"A tour would be grand" he readily accepts, keeping hold of his glass with the intention of taking it with him. "Lead the way whenever you're ready. Although, do you need to take those cookies out?" he checks, glancing towards Buck as he peers eagerly into the oven.

Chevy's... conflicted. She knows she's talked with Ichika about Junko before. And then -- well, it was a stressful time, and the young swordswoman was more than happy to branch off into other topics. Now... it's probably a whole mess of other things.

And Chevy feels responsible. She'd invited Hawksley over, and -hadn't- really told Ichika about it at all. It's a lot. And despite appearances, it seems that's still a sore spot for the Justice High student.

Chevy just... in her own mind, can't reconcile Ichika's viewpoint at the moment. NFG is all about teamwork. About building each other up in spite of their differences. The hydromancer had tried her best to -- and she's -continuing- to.

But it's going to need some time, regardless.

"... Huh?" asks Chevy, before fully processing Buck's question. "... Oh, right!"

Chevy puts on oven mitts, bristling slightly as she tucks her cold fingers into them. She briefly considers whether she'd be able to grab that cookie sheet without the use of the gloves, but it isn't something she's willing to try -now-.

And, a moment later, there's a tray of piping hot cookies alongside the brownies and peanut brittle. "... I always wanna eat these right away, but I think they oughta cool a little bit..."

She spares another glance to Ichika. And as much as she'd -like- to...

"Hey, Buck, would you mind showin' Hawksley around a bit? I promise there'll be food left when you get back..."

She stands close to Ichika, folding her hands behind her back. Normally... she'd want to rest a hand on her shoulder. But now, even with her hands returning to room temperature, she feels that might be a quick way to lose a finger.

She leans in close to Ichika, so that only she can hear her whispering.

"I'm... sorry, Ichika. You wanna talk about it, or...?"

Buck scrambles out of the way of the oven so Chevy can get into it, thought there's a certain eagerness to him for the cookies. Very kid like. "Oh man, cookies." Despite everything, Buck is a relatively simple fellow to make happy.

There's a moment of quizzical confusion as Chevy asks if he wants to escort Hawksley around, obviously thinking she would want that duty herself, at least until he flicks his brown-eyed gaze between Ichika and Chevy. Ah, one of those 'why don't you boys go play outside' moments.

"Sure, I can do that."

He walks over to the plate of cookies, not really caring that they're hot and using one hand to lightly toss one into the palm of the other hand which is now sporting a thick layer of scales. Built in oven mitt.

Then he thinks about it and grabs a second.

He heads by Hawksley, and motions him to follow with a jerk of his head. "C'mon, we can swing by my room and grab some beers, then I'll show you the training area." It's the two most important spots in the clubhouse as far as Buck is concerned anyway.

Hawksley is happy to have any of his hosts escort him around the Thunder facilities, so he seems amiable about going along with his buddy, Buck. He may not be the most sensitive of fellas but he can recognise that it might be good to let Ichika and Chevy have some alone time too, so it all works out.

Downing the remains of moonshine in his glass, he's content to leave the larger clear container behind, since there's a promise of beers from Buck's bedroom. "I'm curious how your training area compares to the one back at our gym. Maybe we can throw each other around a bit if you're up for it" he suggests to the shapeshifter.

Booze and violence. Two of the fiery fighter's favourite ways to spend an afternoon.

Ichika can have difficulty picking up on social cues, at times, and she hangs back as Chevy clearly wants to talk to her more. The girl's irritation draws a little tighter across her face. Maybe she'd asked for it by being so vociferous in her tearing down of the malevolent Junko, but it's still annoying to be separated from Buck and Hawksley. She hasn't seen either of them nearly as much as she would have liked of late, but she also can see that she is going to need to clear the air here with Chevy and make sure that they can move past this.

"Chevy." She says, softly. "I understand that she's given you reason to forgive her. That is fine. I thought that I had made a genuine connection with her too, before she attacked me. However."

And her voice loses a little of its softness as she looks her friend in the eye. "I do not forgive her. I do not think I even have it in me to do so. The past is the past." Wait, isn't that usually said when one is talking about moving on...?

"It cannot be changed."

Oh. Dark.

"I have nothing further to say about her, and I am not interested in hearing more about her. Soon, the tournament will be over. She will return to her village. And I will never see her again. Now. Can we go and catch up with the others, please?"

Chevy may have been a little heated -- but she didn't stick around to pick a fight. If there was a way for her to talk with Ichika -without- it being completely awkward, she might have tried it. But... what's done is done.

Chevy's face bears a half-frown as Ichika shares her admission. It's clear that Ichika is weighing her words carefully, and the hayseed respects that by holding her peace.

But as Ichika's storm blue eyes meet Chevy's, it's clear that she's shut the door on the discussion.

There's a moment of hesitation -- of pursed lips, of feet scuffling on the floor. Ichika's the one with words -- Chevy's the one who speaks from the heart. And for once, Chevy starts to feel... less sure of herself in the wake of that withering stare, casting her eyes downward.

"Alright," she says, after a few moments to let the train of thought run its course.

"Sure. The past is past."

Chevy nods back -- and starts to smile. As if she'd already moved onto another topic.

In a way -- she is. For as she turns, she moves to lift the tray of cookies. "Let's go bring 'em the cookies! They should be just about perfect by the time we catch up!"

The hayseed can be a little more clever than she looks at times though. For a few steps into walking with the cookie tray, she notes, "Heh. They're chocolate-chip. Like that one band keeps askin' for..."

Buck doesn't exactly hurry away to the private rooms, but it's clear he wantes to give Ichika and Chevy their space as long as they need it. Instead he blows on one of the still piping hot cookies as he walks along. "I dunno if it's anything special. Just nice to have a space where we can let loose and not have to worry about breaking too much."

Once they reach one of the doors he upnods to it with a, "This is me." And twists the knob to open the door. It's probably what would be expected of Buck. Especially for something he knows is a temporary accomodation. Just clean enough to not be called messy, while having that definitely lived in feel. Laptop on a desk, a couple of free weights, and a minifridge hummin away in one corner with a bookshelf piled with various snacks instead of books. There are books, but those are all piled next to the bed. "Sorry, I don't have much variety to offer." He says with a glance over to Hawksley. "The problem of not being able to buy it myself." He crouches by the fridge and pops it open, pulling out a couple of bottles of some mass produced, middling quality beer, which is the only thing in there other than water bottles. "Looking forward to the next birthday, let me tell you."

"We all need a space like that, fella" Hawksley says as he follows the American man to his private quarters. Once there he peers inside, nodding his head in appreciation.

"It's a grand little place."

His dark gaze scans the selection of books, curious as to what Buck enjoys as reading material. As for the beer, he's happy to accept whatever is available. He's not fussy about such things.

"If you ever need me to get you stuff I can" he offers, apparently not caring about the laws of the country. "When you come to see me in Ireland you'll be more than old enough to drink. You can be a big boy and go to the bar yourself" he teases.

"When is your birthday, by the way? I feel like I'm gonna have a whole feck load more to remember, since I met so many new friends."

He plants his arse down on the bed, not waiting to be offered a seat. "Do you reckon they'll be alright? Chevy and Ichika I mean. I wouldn't want them to fall out when they're such good friends and all. It was probably my fault bringing up Junko" he admits. "Not that I meant to start a fire."

Are his words deliberate or accidental? If Buck observes him closely enough, he'll probably catch a twinkle of mischief in the Cork lad's eyes.

Ichika doesn't like seeing Chevy look downcast, but on this matter... their positions are simple irreconcilable. On some level, it makes the girl want to scream. The fact that Junko was even still on the team was difficult to swallow. The girl had *attacked* her. Not in some fun sparring way, but brutal, and dangerous, and actually damaging. She had caused so much hurt and pain. And as far as she could tell, the result was that Junko got more training, the Team Thunder social media channels got more 'content', and she... she just had to pick up the pieces and move on.

Well. Fine. But if that was how it was going to be, she was going to move on, and she was going to leave that girl far, far behind her.

There's a firm nod from her as they resolve to do just that between them, and she makes herself smile too. It isn't as convincing, but she makes the effort. "I'm sure they'll love them." She says, leading the way to chase after the other two and trying to make good on the agreement.

Still. It's difficult. When her thoughts turn to such matters, all she can remember is the moment of betrayal. The shock. The *fear*. "Maybe it'll be easier." She murmurs, "When we are all back home."

Chevy came to grips with the Team Thunder sponsors from the very beginning of the draft. She hadn't thought her skills were all that... special, or worthy of note, back then. The hayseed had no grander aspirations than Abigail's Scrap Yard, and certainly didn't expect to find herself whisked away to a waterfall in east Asia for a deep immersive training in the ways of waterbending.

She knew there was a Plan(tm).
And not knowing the plan didn't bother her then.
Similarly, there must be a Plan(tm) regarding Junko.

And that just... fits, based on what Chevy had seen. But there are some things better left for Time to heal, and that's where the cookies come in.

"Probably! It'll be tough comin' on the heels o' them brownies, though," she chirps back, her tone weightless and no longer burdened by the prior topic.

"... Yeah. It'll be... different. I don't right know -what- I'll do yet. Probably just tinker on the car, maybe scrounge up some more parts an' whatnot."

The hayseed stops just inside the threshold of Buck's room, oven mitts curled lightly around the lip of a warm cookie tray. Wisps of steam rise from chocolate chips at the scientifically perfect temperature to melt in one's mouth without causing scalding. The freckle-faced Carolinian smiles brightly. "Hey, guys, hope y'all ready for cookies..." She holds the tray out for people to take their own.

Of course, she's also making a quiet assessment of Buck's room. She's back to blurting out her thoughts in no time flat: "... Whoa, I ain't never thought about usin' bookcases for snack shelves..."

"Not till the summer, so don't worry about rememberin'." Buck says with a small laugh as he pops the top on his beer, taking a swig. "I should have thought of you, but eh, it works even if it ain't the best." He says of the bottle in his hand.

The books wouldn't be too out of place in Ichika's room. Looks like someone is trying to get a head start on their classes now that they're a sememster behind. Mostly science texts, but a few novels mixed in. Not things one would associate with Buck if they didn't know him.

He chews his lower lip for a moment, then shakes his head. "Friends fight sometimes. Just the way it is, you san't agree on everythin'. As long as they can move past not agreein' on this it'll be fine. And ain't neither one of them so stubborn that they wouldn't bow their heads to the other. Well, not anymore." He adds after a moment's thought, thinking of how his teammates have grown as individuals. "We've been through too much to let one sour grape spoil what we got."

Buck has finished his purloined cookie just as Chevy arrives to offer more, of which he is only too happy to accept. "I was gonna take Hawks down to the training area, since that's pretty much the only other place to show off." He states with a short laugh.

Nodding at Buck, Hawksley seems pacified by the American's assurances about Ichika and Chevy's friendship. Before long they are joined by the duo in question and he greets them both with warm smiles.

"I'll take some cookies off your hands, cailin" he tells Chevy, getting up from the bed to grab one from the tray. He has a large bite and voices his approval. "Grand stuff. I'm glad I skipped lunch before heading over here, so I can take advantage of all the goodies you're giving me."

He chases the cookie with a swig of the beer Buck provided him with. It's not the classiest of combinations but it'll do for the Irishman just fine.

His phone starts to buzz and he takes it out of the pocket of his sweatpants, taps in his passcode and then stares at the images on his screen. He swipes through a vast selection of them, tilting the screen to view them from various different angles. He's silently absorbed in this task for several minutes before finally commenting "What happened to Strictly Come Dancing?"

Slipping the phone away again he looks at the others expectantly. "I'd love to see the training area if you're all game."

There's a small smile from Ichika when Hawksley admits to having skipped lunch; then again, even without the extra treats that have been provided, you don't need to know Chevy too well to know that you're going to be well fed in the Thunderdome. She doesn't take a cookie herself, though; as good as the baking always is, right now... she just doesn't find herself with much of an appetite, for some reason.

"The training area is good." Ichika says, nodding her head, "It's modest, but it has everything we need. Though, I do sometimes miss the Hotel Southtown for the laundry service." It's a small joke that isn't really a joke; the more modest training facilities really are fine, and doing her own chores is hardly the worst thing in the world. But those weeks where she had been freed from the need to take care of such things really had been very pleasant.

Back to the main area, then, with its round circle ring and the training equipment moved out to the sides. She nods to one of the wing chun dummies "I imagine you must have had instruction on how to use these." She says to Hawksley, making a bit of an assumption about the fact that the Team Blaze fighter was on a team with several more traditional martial artists. "They're fascinating, aren't they? The first time I tried to use one I almost put my eye out." She smiles faintly at the memory. Being beaten up by a stationary wooden post. Not exactly one of her finest moments ... but not one of the most humiliating, either.

HOUSE to use them? Ichika you fool you meant HOW to use them

Chevy is happy to share cookies -- though she'd move to keep the number remaining at four or more. She wasn't able to tell if Ichika had a diminished appetite, or if she was deferring out of politeness like she had been.
She's about to say something when Hawksley's phone starts making all sorts of sounds, grinning back at Buck. "Yeah, that sounds like a great idea! Might even give y'all somethin' to do to burn all these calories off." She pauses just long enough to peel a cookie off for herself as Hawksley susses out the meaning of the texts.

"... Huh. Is that a British show? It sounds British..."

Of course, after saying that, she starts to wonder if that's even a nice thing to say to an Irishman. But she only has to make the mistake once, she figures...

"Oh, and if that's whats-her-name, tell her hey for me."

Chevy flashes a brief grin. Even with all the trouble going on between her and Coco, it seems she's determined to stay on the high road.

She follows along behind Team Thunder's spiritual leader with a faint smile. She chimes in, as Ichika mentions the wing chun dummy: "Yeah, it took me dang near forever to learn how..." There's a good chance she sustained more injuries than Ichika in the process.

She looks around for a place to set the cookie tray, but opts against doing so for the moment.

"Ichijo-sensei says I ought to consider picking up jiu-jitsu while I'm here. I guess it'd be good to round out the basics for tossin' people..."

"You and me both." Buck agrees at the topic of the launfry service, his own eyes shifting over to a pile of clothes in the corner that probably need tending to. At least they're not strewn about. But he's happy to follow the others out of his room and towards the training area as he nibbles away on a cookie.

"Strictly what?" He asks curiously, peering at Hawksley for a moment.

But it doesn't keep his attention to long, not when the others start gravitating towards the dummies. Buck did not have a good time with those. Not only do they not jive with his usual style, he got frustrated enough to give one of them his signature headbutt. Which did not end as well for him as it did the dummy. He's avoided them since.

"I don't know what's wrong with a good old punching bag. I trained myself on one." Buck states, soundling like a grumpy old man for a moment before he returns to chomping on his cookies.

He gives Chevy a sideways look, then bursts out laughing. "Like you need more help tossing people. I'm pretty sure my backside still hurts from you flinging me about."

When questioned by Chevy about his phone messages, Hawksley doesn't seemed offended and chats openly about it, explaining to her and Buck what he's talking about. "Strictly Come Dancing is a British dancing show where professionals partner celebrities. I think you have a version of it here called Dancing With the Stars. Coco fecking loves it and she's always trying to get me to catch up with the latest episodes on her streaming service but I'm not really that into it and I swear each episode lasts for hours. She's always on about which costume is most on point or which dancer is looking the hottest. I did try and get involved by telling her my favourite of the celebrities was Angela Scanlon. I chose her because she's Irish but then Coco though it was because I fancied her and she's a redhead, so..." He gives Chevy a knowing look.

"Anyway, I thought since she was gonna be watching the latest episode today, it would be a grand opportunity to come and visit you all. Not that I wasn't going to at some point anyway but the timing seemed perfect. Now it looks like she's out shopping instead of watching Strictly, so she is. I've got a feck load of photos of her trying on different outfits in some changing room. There's one of her holding up a pair of pants with my name on the arse too and the writing looks like it's in flames or something. I dunno where the feck she found them."

He takes his phone back out and types out a message. "I'll tell her the photos are grand and that you said to say hey, so I will" the Irishman informs Chevy.

Once he's done with that, he turns towards Ichika. "We were spoiled at the Hotel Southtown" Hawksley admits, falling into line behind the schoolgirl as she leads them to the Thunder training area.

When they arrive he starts to scan the setup, nodding his head as he notes each piece of equipment in turn. "I've used them before at the dojo in Sunshine and at the gym here in Metro" he comments of the training dummies. "I never had before that though. I still prefer to fight a real person or smack the punchbag like Buck."

It is probably just as well that Hawksley doesn't try and explain Strictly to Ichika. When it comes to popular culture, she has a blind spot a mile wide for anything that doesn't centre heavy metal music. As much as she enjoys learning and knowledge for its own sake, there are some areas of potential study where she has made her peace with her ignorance.

"A punching bag would be less useful for me." Ichika says, with a small smile. "With the wing chun dummy, I can at least go through the motions without endangering the equipment, so long as I am careful."

The girl nods along with Hawksley's thought on the training equipment; definitely much more invested in that than whoever 'Angela Scanlon' is. "There is definitely no substitute to another person." She agrees, "All of these things have their place. It would probably not be very interesting for Chevy and Buck to watch me train doing the same slash a thousand times before bed... but practicing those thousand slashes would have no value if I hadn't sparred them and learned what it was I was trying to perfect."

Chevy seems somewhat amused in finding that little window into Constance Coalbridge's hidden personality -- the one that the redhead might never actually encounter herself.

And the mention of Angela Scanlon has her shrugging her shoulders. "Well, that tells me a lot about the both of you, Hawksley," she notes with a grin. "Was it, like, your -first- name on the back or your -last?- I hope your boy Frank is involved with that promotion..."

She doesn't seem to take a shine to the mention of a punching bag. Though, as she considers how one would work with swords, it turns out that she has a smile very similar to Ichika's.

"Ain't nothin' -wrong- with a punching bag if you're going to build up strikin' attacks. Only way it'd help me is if I could lock arms around a freestandin' one. And then that'd just get noisy."

Chevy finds a secure place for the cookies, and takes a moment to actually enjoy one for herself. "Fightin' for real's the best way to go, yeah. Practice is good for techniques, but I wouldn'ta gotten good with some of my techniques without help." She grins at Ichika. "... And I'm glad you didn't get frostbite that day, gosh."

Though... then she glances over to Buck, scratching the back of her head. "Aww, that's precious, you're sayin' that like that snake face didn't give me nightmares for the next week."

There's a barely contained horror lingering behind Buck's grinning expression as he listens to Hawksley describe what he would only assume is a torture that's against the Geneva Conventions. The look manages to break through when he sees a picture of those jeans though.

"Well, I guess she ain't getting your name tattooed on, then you'd be in real trouble. Never seen that end well." He pats the Irishman on the shoulder. "This is why I'm not dating."

Yeah, that must be the reason. Still, Buck's grin is back in full force as he jams half a cookie into his mouth. "My punching bag at home is pretty much held together with duct tape and good vibes at this point. Might be worth buyin' a new one but I'd feel bad ditchin' my old sparring partner."

He scoffs a little as he looks over at Chevy. "Might not wanna watch my new move then when I debut it durin' the tournament." He says, sticking out his tongue at the redhead. At least it's his normal tongue and not a snake tongue. He's not mean afterall.

"Yeah, you'd fecking wreck a punchbag if you started slashing away at it" Hawksley agrees with Ichika. "I can see why going at these two over and over might not be ideal either, so..."

His voice trails off as he moves towards the punchbag, starting to hit it with his bare hands. "Does it tell you I'm loyal to my fellow Irish people and Coco isn't a fan of redheads?" he wonders in response to Chevy's words. If there's any other judgements they're lost on the lad.

"The writing says Hawksley and Frank hasn't said a thing about it to me, so I doubt he's behind it." He frowns a bit at this thought, hitting the bag harder. "Maybe people are starting to cash in on us. I suppose it's flattering in a way. Perhaps all twenty of us have pants with our names on the arse."

He listens to the exchange between Chevy and Buck, smiling to himself at their banter back and forth. "I can't wait to see your new move, Bucky Boy. Maybe you'll get to try it out on me. Speaking of, if you three fancy smacking something with a pulse, I'm game. Maybe we could team up and do tag teams. Two on two."

There's a small smile from Ichika at the memory of helping Chevy to perfect her last technique, and one which only grows wider when Buck alludes to his own new development. "I can't wait to see it." She says, "I've just been trying to hone the techniques I already have. It's still... challenging, to make sure that I pull them off properly at times." An admission which may come as a bit of a surprise; Ichika has improved hugely since her first fights, and almost all of her techniques have been improved in some way. But there's always room to grow... she's still far from where she wants to be.

There's a chuckle from the girl at Hawksley's assessment; both that she would destroy a punching bag, and that she ought to take it easy on her training partners. "I am careful to make sure nobody gets hurt." She says, "It's, something that has worried me a lot since I started really thinking about it. I can't deny that the sword always brings with it a risk... but then, so does fire, or ice, or poison, so perhaps... it is not so strange a thing."

Given all that recent podcast drama, it is perhaps for the best that they move on quickly. She certainly doesn't look like she's very comfortable with the idea of her name being emblazoned on someone's posterior - but, then, Hawksley makes his next suggestion, and that practically has the girl's eyes lighting up.

"Yes." She says, with a firm nod. "Let's. You and Chevy should take on Buck and I."

For a moment, there might be a wonder about whether Ichika is still holding a grudge, and then she clarifies, with a bright smile.

"Chevy and I have trained together a great deal. We know our techniques intimately. I've trained less with Buck, and we may fight each other relatively early in the tournament so it would be fairer if we avoided fighting each other for now. Besides." And here, those bright eyes of hers are really glittering.

"I'm the only one of us who hasn't fought you, Moore-san. I've wanted to since I saw you fight Greene-san right at the beginning of all this. So I won't accept any other pairing!"

That... that does seem to be that, then. The girl is already walking into the main training circle, bouncing on the balls of her feet. All other concerns are so easy to forget about with the prospect of imminent violence. She's always ready... now it's just a matter of, fight!

Log created on 10:08:54 10/20/2023 by Ichika, and last modified on 08:58:50 10/31/2023.