NFG Season One - Mutual Appreciation

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Description: While she's thankful to her mentors in the NFG, Iris realized in her fight with Buford that she was so focused on shoring up her weaknesses, she never thought about her strengths. A lunch date with Minal Panesh is a chance to put that question to the corporal.

It took a day or two, after her win, for Iris to come to grips with what had happened.

Part of her, reflecting on the fight, was a little annoyed at herself. She definitely lost her temper, and did so much sooner than she expected to or wanted to. Granted, as she reflected on Tom and Lou (and, inexplicably, Brian Storm) commenting on the match, 'annoying people too quickly' seems to be Buford's superpower. Still... emotions can be useful, but in her experience, they can get in the way as often as they can help. Working on control is probably in her future.

Along those lines, though: it's... also probably for the best that the Brit is social media savvy, because she was VERY scrupulous about avoiding Twitter, FightTube, Reddit... everything, really, for a few days after her match. Certainly there's been a flare of angry Dudes(tm) who had Something To Say about the fight, her tactics, her hair, her declaration that masculinity is a 'blight', her hair, her outfit, whether magic is 'cheating' or not, and her hair. However, as one might imagine, there is a certain chilling effect on threats of actual abuse and violence that can come from said threats being leveled at someone who can 1.) teleport and 2.) summon a zweihander out of thin air.

It wasn't pleasant. But, she can handle it.

No, it was... something else that's bothering her. Something that she realized while standing on the mat, waiting to fight Buford. A question she realized she both never got to ask, and which she may need the answer for if she's going to face down Chevy, who is -- sweet personality aside -- a goddamned juggernaut in the ring.

That was why Mint got a text message inviting her to a free lunch. The autumn weather means eating outside is a LITTLE chilly, but Iris has solved the problem by ordering some warming food: bowls of beef and vegetable stew (currently sealed in bowls with tight lids), and freshly roasted sweet potatoes from a nearby Japanese vendor, still steaming in their foil wrapper. All of this sits on a table, waiting for Mint's arrival... and to, hopefully, warm her up a bit, literally and figuratively.

It's hard to turn down an offer for a free lunch. Well, okay, maybe that's a stretch -- some people have dietary requirements. Some people are devout adherents and refuse to eat certain things prohibited by their religion. But this is Minal Panesh, an adult, and if her parents want to take issue with it they might just have to start returning the corporal's phone calls.

Suffice to say, Mint is good for just about all of that. The Skywalk is a bit busy today, so it would be fairly easy for Iris to not realize the four-foot-niner was surrounded by a crowd of taller people, but -- maybe twenty feet away, the corporal emerges from the traffic stream and starts making her way to the table. It'd be hard to miss Iris' polychrome hair, after all.

Mint's prosthetic hands are tucked into the pockets of a well-worn leather bomber jacket -- so she -might- just not draw any attention as she slips into the seat in front of Iris. The dark-skinned Marine smiles back: "Oh, dang, this smells delicious! I hope you weren't waitin' long...!"

She pulls her hands out of her jacket, resting them near the bowl. She can't really -feel- the warmth, mostly -- but she can appreciate the thought that went into it all.

"So you've been doin' great! And now you're all psyched up for your next match, huh?"

She rubs her hands together -- plastic sliding against plastic. Hopefully it doesn't cause any static sparks. It's a calculated guess, on Mint's part, about just what might be on Iris' mind. But... she's never been one to beat around the bush when she can avoid it.

The Brit's face looks... well. She's somewhere between 'pleased' and 'relieved' when Mint actually shows up, and Iris gives her a little wave, but as is her wont, the corporal has breezed in ready to go from the jump. 'All psyched up for your next match, huh?' is the question that gets thrown at her, but Iris's response is probably slightly less than the enthusiastic 'heck yeah' the Marine may have been anticipating.

"Hmmm. Well... sort of, yes," the wizard says in response. Not unenthusiastic, but definitely more guarded than one might expect for the quarterfinals. One of the bowls of stew slides across the table Iris's way, as she peels the lid off and lets the smell (and heat) hit her in the face a bit. "I mean, I AM trying to get myself in the right headspace. I only tangled with Chevy a bit in the Rumble, but it's obvious she knows her stuff. I need to be at the top of my game. But... well." A pause, and Iris rubs the back of her neck a bit. "To be honest, I didn't expect to beat Buford. I'm still trying to wrap my head around how that fight turned out the way it did."

A brief pause, while the Brit dips a plastic spoon into the stew, brings some up to her mouth, and blows on it a bit to cool it down; even in this weather, a mouthful of still-too-hot stew is a bad time. Thankfully it appears to be at the goldilocks temperature, as she has a spoonful, chewing thoughtfully before replying.

"But the truth is, I had... well, HAVE... a question I've been thinking over. I don't know that the answer is going to be the key to unlocking big tournament success for me, but this might be my last chance to ask an official mentor for help, after all, so why not take it?"

Working lunches are working lunches. The corporal's been a bit scarce as of late -- as desperate as it might be in the hours approaching the season finale, the Special Forces have had a direct need for Minal's unique skillset -- and that means teleconferencing from her hotel room rather than the Ultratech EVOLVE floors. In this case, it isn't a close call with a murder elevator that's dissuaded her, but rather, ARIA's constant surveillance.

So... it's a reunion of sorts, with the busy Marine finally able to savor some good food -- and entrees she hasn't had a ton of lately. Likewise, she blows on the first spoonful to make sure it's cool enough. She still adheres to polite decorum -- but it's clear she's hungry, as she tears through three spoonfuls before speaking up.

"This is -really- tasty, which place is this from? I haven't had a good beef stew in forever..."

It's not that Mint wasn't listening, though. It's that if she doesn't say something while it's still on her mind, she's liable to forget it altogether.

"Oh, yeah, she's tough. I know you got one over her right at the end of the Rumble though. The look on her -face-, haha... " She pauses for a moment, considering the idea of pulling up that specific freeze frame she'd had in mind... but shakes her head. Maybe later, when it wouldn't be so rude to interrupt that train of thought.

"Well, I mean, I had faith in you, of course! He's talented but he's grossly overconfident. And still..." She wrinkles her nose with mild disgust -- feeling that Iris knows -exactly- what she means based on her words during the fight itself.

But, while Mint gave her opinions, she knows -those- aren't the reason Iris invited her out. With her stomach sated a nominal amount, she nods with interest.

"Hm? With a sales pitch like that I'm either gonna look like a savior or a total dumbass." She laughs good-naturedly. "What's on your mind, Iris?"

"A pub near here," Iris admits, on the subject of the stew. "Brown, gravy-like, full of meat: the food of my people. But, it gets you up and going on a grey day, so it felt like the right call... though I should have asked about the beef thing, first," she admits. Is all of this effectively displacement talking? Probably!

At the thought that Mint is being unintentionally set up for possible disappointment, though, the Brit grins a little, having a spoonful of soup herself first. "Don't worry, it's not that big a deal. Just something I realized while I was waiting for the fight with Buford to start."

For a moment, she thinks back on all the instruction she's had from Mint: the talk about her style. The spar with Kenzo. Meeting Brandon Malone, which happened through Mint's introduction. All of that was indeed tremendously helpful, but if there was a pattern to it from the wizard's point of view, it was this: Iris was shoring up her weaknesses.

Advice about what to do tactically if you somehow screw up and summon the wrong weapon. Thoughts about how to emotionally handle doing poorly, or losing, or feeling like a failure. Sparring to find out the blind spots in her style and compensate for them. All of that was tremendously useful, incredibly helpful... but it's about what Iris DOESN'T have, versus what she does. That was what the wizard realized on the mat that day.

"I feel like I've done a lot of work addressing weak spots," Iris says at last, explaining. "Both in my style and my... I can't say 'heart', that's ridiculous. Mindset, maybe?" she asks, with a shrug in Mint's direction, before continuing. "But I realized I actually don't really have a good idea of what my STRENGTHS are, and how to... cultivate that," the prism-haired fighter says, her tone betraying a hint of frustration. "Not in an 'I'm secretly useless' way, but also... I don't know. Maybe I'm not making sense."

Mint laughs. "I'm pretty sure that if I were picky about meat you would've known about it by now. Besides, if they weren't s'posed to be eaten, why are they made of meat?" The South Asian doesn't have any qualms about taking another few spoonfuls of stew after a declaration like that.

No matter what Iris may be thinking, Mint is... honestly, processing a -lot- right now. There's her work project, there's... the business with ARIA, there's the performance of the fighters in the tournament, and of course, there's... trying to anticipate what might have gotten Iris so worked up. Eating is just a way to smokescreen the fact that she's really paying close attention to Ms Osterlund.

And then she shares the concern. And Mint smiles. She thinks she has a handle on this one.

"Well... I could make a puzzle out of this. Really make you -think- about it. But I'm kind of locked into 'Mission Mode' right now, so, what the heck."

She laces her mechanical fingers together, sitting up straight and proper.

"I think your greatest strength is your unpredictability. You can attack from quite literally -any- angle, with nearly any weapon imaginable. You certainly -have- patterns, but... you stick to them out of comfort, rather than necessity."

She grins warmly, gesturing to herself. "A boxer, like me... it's pretty basic. It's a given: I'm gonna try an' punch you. Someone holding a sword... they're gonna swing it. Basic. And when I miss my punch, or the swordswoman misses her swing, oops. Guess it's time to punish!"

She splays her fingers out, gesturing to Iris. "You? Maybe you'll attack from the front with something traditional like a spear. Or maybe you'll drop a guillotine from above. You're kind of a wild card that way. And if you miss? Big deal. Maybe the whole -point- was making the opponent think that weight was an issue."

Mint picks up her spoon again. "That's what -I'd- fear most about fighting you, anyway. What do you think?"

Helplessly, Iris laughs, but thankfully, it's a genuine one. "Unpredictability, huh..." she says, bemused, before shaking her head. "And we're right back to the squeaky mallet." It's a little joke at her own expense, but... well. Mint can perhaps sense that the Iris who CAN joke about it, now, is a little different than the one who was worried, however many weeks ago, that she would never be a 'real' fighter.

"I'd be lying if I said I hadn't thought about it," the wizard responds, in a more thoughtful tone. "Although funnily enough, it's because I've worried I've gotten predictable, haha." She thinks carefully of the move she'd call her 'signature,' Solstice Journey... a move that involves a heavily-telegraphed spear throw and midair drop. A move she's been deliberately trying to mix up her approach to, of late.

Unpredictability, huh. "But hearing you say it that way, it does sound like a positive, heh." A pause, and a shrug. "Having fought more of the people in the tournament now, I can say pretty definitively that most of them are more [x] than me," Iris adds, with airquotes around the 'x'. "Physically stronger, or more skilled at using their energy, or people like Kenzo with a very singular focus. And that's fine, by the way," she adds, almost too hastily. "I've given them a lot of thought and, well..."

Just like with her sister. A whole life being told she couldn't be what Celica is. A lot of wasted years thinking that mattered.

Maybe the NFG was what she needed to see what a waste that actually was.

A spoonful of soup before she continues. "I can't be them, but I can be me. And if the advantage of being me is being that wild card, then... I can live with that."

There's a certain... resignation in Mint's shrug as Iris calls back to the squeaky mallet. The corporal might have a -bit- too much espresso in her bloodstream to consider tempering her words back -- but she's grateful that Iris seems to be able to joke about it.

Especially since, well, the squeaky mallet made an appearance at the end of her fight with Buford.

Mint may have recognized the looseness in her words, though -- for she stays quiet, eager to hear Iris' own thoughts on the matter. Gives her a chance to savor her soup, anyway.

Mint's realized that she's not really -that- good at asking probing questions, especially for someone like Iris where she doesn't have enough core knowledge to ask -good- questions. But what she can do is help her students build the vocabulary to express their own hopes and needs. And it really seems that Iris has that -- and it's clear in the way she speaks now.

"It's... different now though. Before it wasn't just a neutral level of unpredictability. It was -random-, and frustrating, and confusing, but... unreliable."

Mint reaches for the nearest sweet potato, pulling it close. She smiles faintly, at that.

"Did I use the golf club metaphor before? I can't remember. But like, every golfer has a bag full of twelve or so clubs to choose from. It's like, if you're just starting out, all you need to know is you start with the driver and finish with the putter. But the more you play, the more you start to realize that each club in that bag has its own little niche, its own specialty, based on a very specific need."

Mint smirks slightly. "And it seems like the squeaky mallet's better at staying put till you -really- need it. So that's a definite improvement."

Mint leans forward, onto her elbows, careful not to upset the table full of soup bowls.

"I would also say, it's your intelligence. More I think about it, that really -is- your edge. Because you've got way more clubs than anyone else out there, and you don't have to worry about luggin' them around. I mean, think about it -- think about the folks left on the bracket. Which ones are -really- gonna notice the moves you think are 'predictable'? I can only think of two of them who'd pick up on that."

She raises a finger. "And if you change up while fighting just -one- of them, won't it make the other one nervous as hell since they'll know to -expect- a possible change?"

Jokes aside, it HAS seemed like little summoning mishaps where Iris gets the wrong weapon or effect are indeed less common of late. Perhaps it really was just a matter of getting used to the combination of magic and fighting that did it... but who knows? "I started to develop a theory, actually," the Brit says thoughtfully, unwrapping her own sweet potato. "That in fact... well. A lot of magic involves visualization, but it's also about... I dunno how to explain it and I don't think the explanation would even be helpful anyway, but."

Breaking off a bit of yam, she chews on it thoughtfully, with an expression of genuine surprise; she's never had sweet potato prepared this way, and it's pretty good. "I think, weirdly enough, in some of those situations... the mallet, or the mop, or whatever, was actually the spell providing what *I thought I needed*, rather than what I envisioned getting." Another bite, another thoughtful look. "I shoulda tried these while we were in Southtown. This is really good, for just being a potato."

Mint brings up the golf club situation, and describes what she means by it. Thinking back, Iris can't help but grin a little. "You didn't. In fact, the first time we met, you suggested the exact opposite: narrowing down what I was using until I was comfortable with them. Which... it's not as if that was bad advice at the time, when this felt uncontrollable and scary. I guess now I can start busting out the halberds after all."

On the subject of intelligence, the wizard is briefly quiet, but eventually she nods along with that too. "I think it's one of those situations where I was going to argue, but like... because I was stuck in a comparison place. Am I 'smarter' than Ichika or Djamila or Hawksley? Feels bad to even think about. But... am I smart *enough* to have it matter in a fight with any of them? Yeah... yeah. I think I am. And if I'm not, I better get there in a hurry, heh."

Mint peels open her own sweet potato once she sees Iris start. She nods along -- open to -hear- an explanation of how visualizing works with magic, but at the same time, respecting the decision to set it aside. Or, perhaps to explain it in a different way.

She bites into her sweet potato at roughly the same time Iris does -- and agrees. "Yeah! It's got a good mouthfeel. Good flavor..."

As for the discussion which preceded it, she comments: "Oh... hmm, yeah. Sort of like a subconscious thing, yeah? I think you mentioned, like, it's still a -hammer- in the loosest sense of the word, but just not one that serves the exact purpose you need it to at the moment..."

As she realizes the golf club scenario may have been the -opposite- of what she initially suggested, she starts to realize why she'd put it off. "... Oh. So yeah. Now that you have more of a sense of -when- to use weapons, adding more to the mix -would- be a good idea."

The idea of... intelligence can sound a bit different, now that Iris is seeing it as a potentially... not-so-great thing?

"... Hmm, nah, you're right, I'm with you... comparisons don't really live up to it. It isn't a matter of who wins the quiz bowl, really. What makes Djamila succeed won't work for you, any better than it would than giving Ichika's sword to Hawksley. But if you were to take, let's say, -just- Ichika... you've got more options on the table than she does. You can attack from different vectors than she can. Push comes to shove..."

She clasps her hand over her chest, thumping it lightly. "Everything Ichika has comes from -here-. Whereas you aren't constrained by that. Then you take Djamila -- she's got -two- points of pressure, herself and her pole. They -usually- stick together, but not always."

Mint liberates a chunk of sweet potato. "So, maybe -this- is quiz bowl: Chevy's next on your fight card -- and it seems she took it personal since you froze her feet to the floor. Now you tell me -- what would you say is your advantage against her?"

"I really... should have watched more of her fights more closely," Iris admits, with some obvious and visible chagrin, in the face of Mint's perfectly reasonable question. "I didn't expect to get this far, and Chevy's been a rising star this whole time." A faint smile, as Iris shrugs, taking a bite of yam. "Whereas I definitely felt like I've been playing catchup for a while now."

Still... there must be something she can say in answer to this, and the Brit wears a thoughtful, furrowed brow expression while taking some more time for stew, which is well documented to stimulate thought processes (this pose brought to you by Campbells and Dinty Moore).

"But if I had to take a stab, I'd say I have more mobility options than she does, and at the risk of sounding smug, I might have the edge on adapting to unexpected situations, by comparison," Iris says, in a guarded tone. Something about this sits a little off with her, which she realizes is the fact that... well, she genuinely likes Chevy. It's the same way the Brit felt before facing Ichika in the ring, and she's reminded of something the young Japanese fighter said, about fighting as equals as a show of respect.

"She has reach, but so do I, if I'm deliberate about how I choose to strike."

"I mean, it's not -mandatory-," Mint agrees, hoping to cushion her request. This is a conversation over lunch, not an inquisition, after all.

"It's a lot to process, and she's been in a ton of fights. Plus... well. You -both- changed a lot over the course of your fights. Techniques you figure out from her fight against Kenzo might be a bit of a red herring."

She takes a moment to sample her stew as Iris works her way through an answer, pausing only to note with a mischievous grin: "Well, I mean, yeah. Stabbing's a core feature of pointy sticks."

Mint takes another spoonful of soup, humming thoughtfully as she considers. "True. That's... probably your biggest edge. I think she's the type of person to just 'wing it' rather than prepare a strategy beforehand. She might seem a bit careless with her water, but... just watching her fight, she seems to be able to make use of it whenever she needs to. As the mood strikes her."

Mint drums her thumb upon the spoon, in thought. Her conclusion: "Movement seems like it's gonna be the way to go against her. She does that surfing thing, sure, but I've never seen her keep it up for a whole fight. Just, y'know, don't stay too close to her -- apparently wrestling hogs taught her a thing or two about leverage."

Perhaps unexpectedly, Iris shakes her head. "I don't think she's careless with the water at all," the wizard says, sounding surprisingly confident about it. "There's... hmm. I'm realizing I don't think I've ever watched any of *your* fights, either," she admits, before continuing. "So I don't know how much you know about 'chi' or whatever the energy most fighters use is. *I* know basically nothing, believe it or not. But I have noticed that there's... I dunno. SOMETHING similar about it, to magic. I can sense it. I know enough to say 'something's different' but not what the something is."

Bringing up her hands to the side of her head and giving a little wave of them, she powers on through the sentence. "Not really important anyway. They're similar ENOUGH that I can make some guesses about things, and I think she's got a little bit of her brain dedicated to keeping focus on that stuff all the time. Honestly, I think it's what's amazing about her on some level."

The magus makes a little handflip-y gesture, almost like a 'yadda-yadda'-ish hand movement, before moving on. "I think part of why I can work the way I do is that it's a little fire and forget, unless I specifically want it to be otherwise. If I had to focus on maintaining multiple spells AND not getting stabbed or kicked in the head or thrown into a dumpster, that would be hell. It's honestly kind of incredible that she can do all the fighting stuff AND have a little bit of herself dedicated to keeping track of her water the entire time, too."

"Hmm, really?"

Mint sounds surprised -- but it kind of makes sense, after the thinks about it for a moment. Iris is a lot more in tune with these sorts of things than she is.

"... I know about none of it," she notes with a broad smirk. "Can't sense it, can't feel it, but boy does it sting when it hits."

It seems like she has more to say, but the mentor seems more interested in mentoring than sounding like a crotchety old geezer talking about kids these days and their magic and chi.

"Wow, I mean... that would make sense." She smiles a bit more openly as she realizes how much thought Iris has put into her opponent. Friend. Whatever.

"Hmmm... so I stand corrected, then." Mint chuckles softly. "She's something of a natural, then -- from what I was reading about her, she hadn't even known she was capable of those sorts of things until right before the NFG put out its call."

She stirs her soup, hunting down what's left of the fragments of beef, and gathering them together in her spoon.

"So I guess the caution here is to keep yourself out of traps. Or... "

Mint hums, lifting her spoon for a moment.

"Or, if you can figure out her game, maybe you could mind-game her a bit. Let her think she's got you, then spring a trap of your own."

She lifts the spoon the rest of the way to her mouth, savoring the flavor.

There's a bit of silence as both women dig into the stew, which of course precludes conversation, but even if she weren't eating, Iris has a lot to think about. The idea that Chevy -- or really, any of the NFG folks she's seen -- were new to any of this at the start, which was barely months ago, suddenly feels strange. On one level, the Brit even feels unrecognizable to herself.

She thinks back to first arriving in Sunshine City, flanked by domestic servants, not really knowing anything about anything. Thinking she was going to throw away her family legacy entirely, start a business, be 'her own person'. How much, she considers, of 'her own person' was bound up in rejecting her legacy instead of being something she made herself.

Setting down her spoon, Iris reaches her arm out -- far from the table, away from anyone sitting nearby; in fact, practically hanging over the edge of the skywalk -- and concentrates, the rapier she helped to forge appearing in her grip (and catching the eye of nearby eaters, an unavoidable consequence). Turning the blade so the point is firmly away from anything, she lays it horizontally across the table in the space between herself and Mint.

"If you'd asked me back when I first signed up if I'd be calmly trying to work out my strengths and weaknesses with an experienced fighter, or that I'd help make a nearly-mythical metal for the first time in hundreds of years, I expect I'd have laughed in your face," the Brit says, surprisingly solemnly.

On the table, the weapon practically gleams; truesilver, unlike a traditional metal, doesn't tarnish. Along the thin length of the blade, the shimmering prismatic effect that gave the original Joyeuse its legend is visible whenever the dim autumn sun catches it.

"I wouldn't have thought I was capable of any of this. I don't know that I have what you'd call a self-esteem problem or anything, but... this part where you have to look at yourself and go 'actually, I AM capable of this' is harder than it sounds."

Almost as far-fetched as the idea of Chevy and Iris turning into contenders for the NFG finals is the idea that little ol' Mint -- the rebellious, authority-ducking noncontent who prefers to tinker at the cost of her own military career -- would volunteer to be a mentor. And judging by the reaction of those at Ultratech -- a darn good one, at that?

Mint smiles, pausing in her feast to curl one hand over the other as she regards Iris. "... And yet, when I saw you on stage... I had a feeling you were just bubbling over to try -something- that hadn't been done before. It's like, you were all set to make a masterpiece when you got here -- but just needed to find the right canvas for it first."

She nods slowly, moving to pull another piece off of her sweet potato. "It's a little like that with engineering. When I first started, it felt like there was just so much -friction- to get started with an idea, before getting to a semi-workable prototype. But... if it -is- the same, then I feel that friction is gonna melt away once you -really- get into it."

Engineering? But... is that really so far-fetched? Are what Mint does and what Iris was TRYING to do -- and accomplished, thanks to ARIA's help -- all that different in the end? The Brit taps the rapier with a finger and it vanishes back to... wherever it is that it goes when her summons do that, though Mint herself got the brief explanation back during their meeting with the Ultratech CEO: she's not creating a weapon temporarily, in this case, but summoning it to her side from afar, a property enabled by the receptiveness of truesilver to spellcraft.

"Say what you want about AR--" A pause. She's still got the Lifeband, for the duration of the tournament, and in truth, the young wizard doesn't actually have any desire to out ARIA just yet. "...about the artisan, but I got to see the process because I was providing a key part of it, and is it weird that it was kind of inspiring?" A pause to grab a chunk of sweet potato and chew on it thoughtfully. "Or maybe Kenzo's rubbing off on me. I wondered if it wouldn't be worth my while to learn that stuff... smithing, I mean, or maybe metalwork to make things like jewelry."

A brief pause, before Iris looks off to the side of the skywalk as she keeps talking, looking in the broad direction of the harbor and seeing the many people up here having a midday snack or lunch. "I know I mentioned my sister before, but... well. Obviously, growing up I was compared to her a lot. Unfavorably, I might add," Iris says as she turns back to Mint with a rueful smile. "And not entirely without reason. Celica was an excellent magus: talented, smart, knowledgeable. Not a fighter, though, really, and now that I think on it, the sort of seiðr she was good at wouldn't do much in the ring."

Iris picks up her spoon, but doesn't take a bite just yet; it's probably the final mouthful left in the bowl anyhow. "You kind of set me on that path though, you know. Focus on something I knew, make it second nature. That was fencing, which made me think: how could I get a magical edge, there? Before I knew it, I was back in Cambridge, digging through the library for that book... and the book itself reminded me that some seiðkona -- my wizard ancestors, basically -- put their talents to work preparing warriors for battle. It's not like we've NEEDED to do that, for hundreds of years, so the practice died out a bit... and I thought: maybe I'm not as good at what Celica did as she was, but maybe I'm a throwback to a different time, talent-wise. Maybe in a weird, insane, coincidental way, the NFG was me finding out where my talents were SUPPOSED to be used."

The sword's appearance had gone unacknowledged before -- but as it disappears, Mint just finds herself shaking her head.

"Something -else- I wouldn't have believed six months ago is getting to the point where swords can just pop in and out of existence without batting an eye." She snickers lightly, as her spoon hunts down the morsels of beef stew that had managed to evade her this long.

The slip-up is noticed -- but it only serves to add a bit of warmth to Mint's smile. "It's not surprising at all. Artisanry is part of the job, I mean... the way I see it, no one else is ever gonna have the patience to sit and make, and remake, and remake things as much as you will. To them, it's a job, but to you, it's a -passion-. And besides, making stuff is just -fun-."

Mint finishes off the last of her soup as Iris talks about her sister and finding her own place in the world. She rolls her eyes -- not at Iris, but in a nod to her own experiences. "Oh -please- girl, tell me about it. My sister went into -medicine- so my parents would just not shut -up- about it. 'Minal, why don't you want a big paycheck to support your parents in their old age? Why do you hate us so much?' Like, yeah, ma, you need -two- houses and -two- Jaguars to show off, or else your life's just not complete, right?"

She grins. "But yeah. That's one thing about the NFG -- it's been a great way for folks like you to really stretch your wings in a mostly-safe space. No sun above to melt the wax, no sea air to saturate the wings."

She trails off for a moment, then creases her brow. "Okay, maybe it's a bad idea to invoke the Icarus myth when we have a legit minotaur prowling around..."

"They get a bad rep," Iris says, surprisingly definitively. "Honestly most supernatural creatures do. Sure, there's plenty of them that will try to drink your spinal fluid out of your actual spine, but a lot of them are just relics from times when... why am I doing this right now," she says, stopping and laughing helplessly. "What's that old joke about wizards in Dungeons and Dragons? 'Int 18, Wis 9'?" Apparently, a D&D ref was inevitable.

Parents is a different discussion, though the Brit does crack a smile at the 'why can't you be a lawyer and a doctor like your sibling' bit. "I'm here to tell you the opposite of that sucks too, for the record," Iris says, gathering up the remains of her lunch and stuffing them in the takeout bag to be thrown out. "You got 'why can't you be your sister' and I got 'you'll never be your sister' and neither of those sounds like a good time. Our family is matrilineal, so it was my dad -- the American -- who wasn't a wizard. I felt like he was the one who actually saw me for me, because he didn't have all the baggage about lineage and whatever."

She thinks briefly of going back to her family's empty manor library to get the metallurgy book, and memories of her dad picking up centuries old spellbooks and 'reading' them because 'oh, the pictures are neat' in his Minnesota Nice accent.

"But I agree. Even if I stop fighting when this is all over, this was worth it just for the point of view change. Which... honestly helps deal with the fact that there's a good chance my fight with Chevy will be my last one in the tournament." A crinkling sound as Iris folds the top of the bag down. "I think that would have bothered me a lot more even just a month or two ago... and it probably would have weighed me down a lot while I was actually fighting her."

Mint stares back at Iris as if she's grown a second head. Her deadpan answer: "Well, all I can say is: thank goodness. I thought I was getting too nerdy by mentioning a Greek myth, but it's clear you had me beat on that front."

She can't help but crack a smirk afterwards though; she's always been a fan of levity, if not so much Dungeons and Dragons itself.

"Yeah, my folks didn't hit the employment jackpot until the runt of the litter got out of their hair." She hopes she doesn't have to spell out which of the three kids was the runt. "They mean well, mostly. Unlike my brother, who's just a grade-A asshole."

She breaks the remainder of her sweet potato into two smaller chunks, popping one in her mouth as Iris speaks.

"You, er... you've mentioned her before. D'you two meet outside the ring or something?"

"Chevy?" Iris asks, in response to Mint's question. "No, not really, though believe it or not, she was the very first person in the NFG I ever met, competitor-wise." Her memory goes all the way back to a turbulent and brief week in Southtown, having registered too late for the Fightfest itself but just in time for the draft that saw her land on Team Blaze. "Bubble tea was involved. She said she liked my hair, which is code for 'your first impression sucked'."

The wizard smiles as she says this, so clearly if she held any lingering resentment or things of the kind, they've long since faded. And the truth is, the Iris that met Chevy back in June really was a spoiled girl who'd never wanted for anything except validation or acknowledgment. It's not as if the progress of the NFG has been like going through The War or anything, but there were some emotions she had to deal with that a life of relative privilege meant weren't common experiences for her... a trait that very rarely presents people as particularly endearing.

"Honestly, I wish I'd made more time to meet people in general. It was nice getting to know Djamila and Kenzo, obviously, and I've bumped into Ichika a few times too. But I wonder if going clubbing with Hawksley and Coco would have been fun, maybe, or talking to Buck about whatever his... whole..." Here, the Brit waves her hands a bit, haphazardly, "...DEAL is. But it not as if we're toys being locked back in a cabinet when this is done. I can still talk to them any time I like."

Mint seems pleasantly surprised by that turn of events. Bubble tea and rainbow-colored hair.

"Ahaha, first impressions are a killer... But, hey, worked out in the end. Knowin' what I know about her, that all tracks."

Not that Mint is going to draw any parallels about how well Chevy Beaumont gets along -- or doesn't, in this case -- with spoiled rich girls. That it's been resolved to this point is a good enough reason to avoid skipping through a minefield.

"... I mean, it's been months, and yet, it's still kind of a whirlwind, right? But, I mean, at the risk of sounding trite, the relationships you built here can last a lifetime if you feed and water them right." She crosses her eyes. "Okay that sounded better in my head."

"So... at the end of it all, it's more about who gets the biggest payday, I suppose. And you..." She smiles. "Well. You've -got- a job offer of sorts on the table, if money's a long-term concern." She laughs gently at that -- leaving it entirely up to Iris as to whether she wants to dip her toes in the Ultratech job pool.

That gets a heavy pause from Iris before she knows what to say in response. "I still don't know what to make of... all that," the magus admits, deliberately keeping it vague. Mint, of course, knows exactly what she means, for sure: they were both present when Ultratech's CEO revealed herself to be a sentient AI in a killer (literally) robot body. Not only that, but she has what can charitably be called 'custodial' plans for humanity.

"On the one hand, I'm grateful to her, obviously," Iris adds, after a weight moment or two of silence. "But I didn't sign up for this to be a corporate employee, and I'm not a true believer or anything like that." Her words, sculpted as they are, circle around the very troubling implication that signing on for ARIA's crusade would be akin to joining a cult.

A pause, before she tilts her head and looks at Mint with undisguised curiosity. "How about you? I imagine you could make some really amazing stuff with Ultratech resources, on the science side. Tempted to stay on?"

Mint may have asked the question -- but she's far from the point of pressuring Iris into it. The young magus had already had her mind made up when she'd first heard the Ultratech CEO's pitch, as far as the corporal could tell.

"Yeah. Can't say I blame you."

She offers an amiable smile -- finishing off the last of her sweet potato.

"Don't feel too bad about that, yeah. You've just had a wonderful new world open up for you now, and honestly... it's a bit *much* to commit to. The door's always open for collaboration, at least... which is *not* insignificant." How many people can say they've got the most advanced AI on the planet on tap to provide a personal makerspace?

Still... when the question is turned back around upon her, the corporal shakes her head slowly. "Nah. I'm in Acquisitions now and I love it. Got just as many pans in the fire as I want, and no boss crackin' a whip for me to move any faster. Plus, if there's anything else we need done, we got a checkbook big enough to pay for it. Can't ask for more, really."

Mint cleans up her side of the table, gathering all her trash together and whatnot. "Well! Thank you so much for the meal! Really have been meaning to try out more up here on the Skywalk. I've got a vendor call coming up in an hour or so I should probably start getting ready for... but I'm wonderin': can I treat you to a drink or something? One of those boba tea things, or maybe somethin' with a bit more caffeine?"

"How about this," Iris says, as she stands up from her chair and grabs the bag of trash to get thrown out on her way off the skywalk. "If I win, let's have a pint after to celebrate," the Brit offers, feeling relatively confident that a Marine corporal is probably a beer drinker. "And if I lose, let's have a pint to bid my NFG career farewell. Deal?"

Iris slips on a second jacket that had been draped on the chair behind her: a thin grey fleece that is just a little bit of extra warmth over the velvet jacket she usually wears. Slipping her arms into the sleeves and then shaking them out a bit, she turns to look at Mint, and suddenly her face takes on a more serious expression.

"I wanted to say one last thing, as long as we're here: I've seen some of the mentors for the other teams, or read about them online, and a lot of them seem kind of... extreme." That is the understatement of the year, unquestionably. "But I think we lucked out tremendously by getting a sponsor and mentor who was a real, approachable person instead of some mountain sage dictating from on high."

Putting her right hand on her stomach, palm down, and letting her other arm extemd, the magus sketches Corporal Panesh a genuine courtly bow. "Thank you for that, really and truly." Standing up, she grins, and then gives a little wave before heading off to whatever her day has in store.

Log created on 13:22:08 11/15/2023 by Iris, and last modified on 09:56:02 11/19/2023.