Honoka - Unraveler of Secrets

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Description: It doesn't take long for a master of one craft to recognize a master of another -- for emotions shine clearly through any disguise or obfuscation. One recognizes the other -- and even though she might prefer to lurk in shadows, she's occasionally unafraid to step into the light.

In truth, it is a really beutiful mid-afternoon day to be traversing Metro City via the Skylwalk Lane. The sun hides behind buildings surrounding this section of the Lane, bathing the area in a light shadow that gives an intimate feel even in spite of the miles of scenery surrounding it. The building, not only looming as watchful observers over the lane, also serve to channel the wing as it blows through the city, causing a gentle breeze to wash down the path, keeping away the harshest weather the city has to offer.

The convivial nature of the path is aided quite handily by the performers all along the path. An acrobat can be passed by on the path, subtly exhibiting the great strength required to hold the position she is in before lithely and seemlessly transitioning to the next. There seem to be as many dancers here as there are styles of dance. There are street dancers showing off their moves with college-kid swagger, while not too far down the road, contemporary dancers embue deep emotion into the stories they tell through their movement. And so many others.

There are also buskers. One has drawn a small crowd with a accoustic guitar, an amp, and a microphone on a stand. He's sitting on a stool, playing the notes and chordes as he slaps the beat with a thumb against the body. His voice is cool and clear, and talent is obviously on his side as he sings.

o/` In this equation of loves, we've nothing to lose. Hearts tangled up, unravel the clues. Lost in the variables, tangled and vexxed. In this sweet romance... Let's solve for X! o/`

The crowd cheers as he continues to sing a really popular song from about 15 years ago, still held in high regard by the aspect of the public that doesn't roll their eyes at being trendy. Some of them are singing along, some are clapping, and yes, some are even holding up their phone and recording.

Not far away is another performer once held in high regard -- but for slightly different reasons. Honoka Kawamoto, star juggler of the Twilight Star Circus, has taken a vacation of sorts in Metro City in concert with the New Fighting Generation finals. And, on many an afternoon, she's ventured to the Skywalk to check out the performers on display here. It's always enlightening to see what the current zeitgeist has to offer with regards to entertainment...

One would be forgiven for not recognizing her, so far from Southtown though. Her windbreaker -- purple, with wide stripes of silver and white running across it -- is only a vague callback to her usual on-stage garb. The pink highlights running through her dark brown hair are hardly unusual these days. And her perfectly average height means she pretty much blends in the crowd, wherever she walks.

In fact, the only thing... -extraordinary- about the juggler is that she's been a rather good audience member. When someone catches her eye or ear, she'll stick around for one performance, waiting till the end so that she can make a proper judgment... and tip accordingly.

She shows up near the beginning of the busker's performance of Solve For X -- watching the performer through tinted lenses as he slaps his way through the song.

The tune... does sound familiar. But that's not the entire reason that the psychic is watching, of course.

She keeps her right hand in her windbreaker pocket as she watches -- it's only when the crowd begins to applaud that she withdraws it, offering a half-smile and a leisurely clap in concert with the others.

Quietly, she waits until three others offer tips, slyly slipping in with the crowd to offer her own. The bills she drops in are rolled tight, held fast with paper bands to conceal the denominations.

Though, as opposed to strolling on at the end of the song... she seems willing to stick around to see if there's more, tucking both hands back into her jacket pockets.

"It's amazing," she comments, to no one in particular. "Sounds just like him."

The man not too far away, holding up his phone and talking to it every so often, turns out to be on a video call and not recording at all. He says something to the person on the video call, a young girl of five or six years old, during the song, in a low voice. As the music stops playing, Jace smiles and leans close to the phone to continue his discussion, "That's it." He then whispers, "That was one of your dad's songs." His voice raises and he says, "Now go see what your momma wanted. Love you, bug." He signs off on the call, pausing for a moment to look at the screen as others walk up and tip.

He joins the queue nearly right alongside Honoka, fishing into his pocket to remove a wallet. He finds bills, appropriate to his participation, but folds them to hide the value of the tip he is about to leave. The comment draws the attention of the man, who nods his head quickly in agreement.

"The vocal range of the song isn't an easy one to get into. It's more for the range of a thirteen year old, but he went pitched it down perfectly. Just like--"

There is a moment he's about to say something, but smoothly shifts before he continues.

"--Just like the kid who sang it would do it these days."

The busker is thankful for the tips, and oblivious to the personages around him, continues his impromptu performance with another song. It's equally a banger, but subtle, not impacting the ability for folks to have a conversation near him at all.

Honoka chuckles softly as the stranger answers her compliment with some... insider info. At least, she can only assume it's insider info, as the terminology largely escapes her. Vocal talent isn't -exactly- one of her fields of study.

People, however, are. And when the stranger makes a leading comment, and then abruptly changes track, mid-sentence -- the omission proves to be more fascinating than the inclusions.

"Mm, of course. It's been years since I've heard his voice though. Was always more of a Lightning Spangles fan, myself. Before... "

She shrugs mildly. Fill in the blank with any tragedy you want -- before her downward spiral into alcoholism? Before her maddening turn towards questionable politicians? Before any of as many as -three- complete mental breakdowns? There are many paths a Disney star's life could have taken, and Lightning Spangles seems to have found the Bad End to top all Bad Ends.

But she still had a beautiful voice, for what it's worth. And... somehow... she seemed to have made a partial comeback, before slipping back into obscurity once again.

"I'm just glad he didn't end up like her. Tragic, really."

She turns her shoulders and her gaze to address the man who was speaking to her. "Fame is tough for adults to cope with. I can't even imagine how it would take its toll on a thirteen-year old."

The incognito (not that anyone's looking) man listens, looking away for a moment when a dour frown settles over his face as she mentions Lightning Spangles. Every so often, he turns back and nods his head, prompting her to continue whether it seems she needs it or not. Perhaps it is him actively listening, or projecting the illusion of it.

"It is tragic."

He pauses to think about it, a contemplative expression setting on his face that pulls his brow lower over his shades and crinkles his lips as he purses. Not too much though, since that causes lines.

"It's all contextual, I'd imagine. These kids cultivate a talent and pop culture tells them to use it to go be famous and live your dream. They get so involved in the grind of being monetized for every second the public will pay for, they aren't being prepared for a real life."

He glances towards the musician again, formulating his next thought before he continues.

"The kid whose song he was playing was a brat, but someone cared about him enough to try to channel some of that bratiness. They found him what they needed. He had a career fighting, and when that faded, he found some other healthy things to live for."

With a sad smile, Jace concludes.

"That kid was lucky. He didn't deserve it, but he was lucky. Sometimes that life ends up the opposute. People who do deserve the luck just aren't able to find it."

The former circus star chuckles, mostly to herself.

"'Real life.'"

She smiles, turning to the musician when her companion of opportunity does.

"The life of a star is definitely not... easy. Everyone wants to make a buck off of your hard work. And if your star no longer shines as brightly... folks just hitch their wagon to the next one. Leaving you in the lurch."

She nods, to the busker. Smiling broadly.

"But the true legends live on. The money grubbers may move on, but fans never forget..."

She lowers her chin, looking over the rim of her glasses at the incognito man.

"Mmm... out of curiosity, what makes you think the kid didn't -deserve- it?" She bobs her head lightly, to the new song -- it's catchy, even if it's not one she's as familiar with.

"The melody lives on, it still has the power to move people."

Jace's head tilts at the why mention of real life, but he doesn't comment on it, preferring to listen to his companion's take on the life of a star. He expression intimates that, the longer she goes on, the further purplexed he becomes.

"You're," he begins, his surprise expressed by a pause in his speech, "Not wrong at all."

He turns towards the busker full now, his heel rising and falling, knee bending, to the beat of the song that is being played on the accoustic guitar. After a moment, his head tilts left and right in a so-so gesture just before he continues speaking.

"I imagine there are gradiations of the word 'fan'. There are those the person truly touched and affected with their talent, who are there for the long haul or are at least waiting for the next thing, whenever they may be. They're worth performing for."

The last is concluded with a tone of thoughtfulness behind it. His eyes knit together though, his head turning back to the be-glassessed acrobat as he considers his response. Finally, he shrugs.

"Just something I heard. Imagine you're a kid, who has a shred of talent. You're surrounded by people who are feeding your ego like a little fat piggy. You can do anything you want. You can do nothing wrong so long as you keep the machine running. What kind of person do you become? From what I understand, in his case, a quite powerful one. Given that, what kind of things do you do when noone around you can put you in your place? Not only would doing so endanger the very thing that puts food on the table from you family, but would very likely lead to a fight you can't win."

With the vaguest hint of a sneer, Jace looks back to the musician and asks quietly enough not to be misunderstood as anything but a question for his companion, "Why would that kid deserve a second chance when someone like Lightning Spangles gets chewed up and spit out just a few years later?"

Honoka had come here to enjoy the sights and sounds, to find out how the new generation was innovating in ways previous generations could not. The game of identity, of anonymity in the midst of an appreciative crowd -- that was all just a welcome bonus.

She'd had her suspicions. But, just as when she teased back the veil on her own brush with fame, so too has this man, she feels, revealed a bit of his own fateful past. The wounds, presented as hypotheticals, feel a bit too raw and naked to -truly- be so.

The juggler's right hand fiddles about in her pocket, as she, too, turns her attention wholly upon the musician, playing his heart out. She resonates with the audience -- allowing their positive emotions to buoy her upwards. To guide her through the tumultous troughs of her conversation partner's ennui.

She bears an enigmatic smile, as she turns to favor him with a brief glance.

"I don't know him -- but I can sympathize. Perspectives change. The life -she- chose... it's not one everyone can walk. But that's not to say others wouldn't deserve better."

She turns back to the musician, grinning at the solo. And she stays mindful to keep her voice low enough so as not to interrupt for the others present.

"Luck, though. Gosh. Imagine if he'd only placed more bets with those chances."

Acknowledging the statement on Lightning Spangle's life choices with a nod of his head, Jace continues to listen to Honoka even as his knee bounces to the rhythm strummed. Finally, he shakes his head.

"No way. One, from what I read online, he was too young to gamble when he made it big. Two, imagine betting to get to where he must be these days? He was already a raging egomaniac when he actually had to work hard for it."

He reaches into his pocket, removing his phone and looking at the screen for a moment. With no acknowledgement of whatever he sees, it disappears back into his pocket. Looking back towards Honoka, Jace tilts his head to the side as he poses his interrogative.

"You seem to have a certain insight into the life of this kid. Did you share a similar experience?"

Honoka's eyes widen from behind the tinted glass, as the incognito singer disregards the figurative meaning of her words. It's only temporary, though, as her lips curl into a faint smile.

"Mm, no -- I was just making an analogy, as you'd mentioned how lucky he was. But show business..." She shrugs mildly. "It's a rough business to stay in for very long. I certainly can't fault him for leaving."

As Jace looks at his phone, Honoka discreetly turns her gaze back to the musician, allowing her head to bob lightly to the rhythm.

When she is asked about insight though? "Mmm... I suppose you could say a friend of mine shared her insights with me, from time to time."

She looks back to Jace. "What about you? Your interest certainly marks you as a fan, at the very least."

Jace seems to catch the fleeting widening of the eyes and, as short as it was, cringes. He shakes his head and waves his hand, commenting.

"Oh, I see. I'm sorry. It left him, by the way. I don't think anyone really leaves that unless they had a surprisingly good head on their shoulders."

His eyebrows pop up once, and he gives an 'and-so-it-goes' shrug. At the return question, Jace's eyebrows raise and he grins mischeivously.

"My ex-wife was a huge fan. She wouldn't stop talking about him."

"I see."

The breeze picks up a little; the wind catches hold of her hair, sweeping them past her sunglasses and allowing a few strands to fall next to her eyes. A hand snakes up to tuck the stray locks back into position.

She meets his gaze directly, as he seems to be quite proud of the remark. Which gives a bit more weight to the only sane interpretation of that combination of signals.

"That's... certainly an interesting thing to boast about," she comments with a wry grin.

"I assume you've kept up with him over the years, then, if the experience didn't put you off altogether. Do you think there's any chance of him making a comeback?"

As the breeze picks up, Jace raises an eyebrow and balls up his hands, placing them in the pockets of his jacket.

"Was it?"

He turns back towards Honoka, apparently having enough of moving his knee to the song, and placing his full attention back towards her. His replies comes along with a rise and fall of his shoulders.

"Maybe I have a naturally boastful tone of voice. I may have even been accused of being way too proud of myself for getting Google to put things on my calendar just by using the Assistant thingy."

With a lean back and slightly judging look, Jace shakes his head.

"Oh, I'm not. I talk to my ex-wife frequently though. We co-parent a daughter. As for a comeback? Who knows. If not as a pop music singer, maybe as a fighter?"

It wasn't the tone of voice that Honoka had considered boastful; she smiles, allowing that to pass without notice.

"I wouldn't mock someone for that. The translation is notoriously tricky if your accent isn't one it can place."

As the talk turns to a more open one about the man's family, Honoka nods amicably. Her stance grows a little more open; she pulls her hands out of her pockets, her motions from beneath the jacket showing her to be improbably lean.

"Fighting is... something that never seems to go out of style."

Of course, a few moments later, the busker's song seems to be winding to a close. And the juggler's slender hands clap together in applause.

After a round of people offer their own contributions to the busker's hoard, she turns back to Jace with a fascinated smile. "The kids these days are certainly sharp ones. The field now seems completely different than from even five years ago..."

Jace's mouth splits into a wide smile, and he then nods his head with a quick dip forward and backwards. He speaks in a quicker, clipped tone, as if they touched on something he is happiest (or at least happier) to talk about.

"You're totally right! It's like getting more popular. It's almost like everyone fights now."

Jace's smile turns into a full, throaty laugh and he reaches into his pocket again, making quick work on opening an app and then displaying it to her. He scrolls, and it's possibly she may recognize the dark-themed version of Fightstagram. As he scrolls, he explains his thoughts on the matter.

"They're sharper because they have more information available to them. Back in the day, you had to know when and where someone you wanted to scout out was fighting and then haul your cookies all the way there. Nowadays, everybody posts videos of their own fights, along with training routines, diet, exercise, shoe size, and blood type."

The phone disappears back into his pocket with a practiced flip, his next comment delivered with a smirk.

"Five more years from now, fighters will be posting their debit card numbers, last four of the social security number, and their mother's maiden name."

Honoka seems to resonate with the shift in topic, responding largely to Jace's own uptick in interest. She nods along cheerily, eyes tracing to follow the phone as it's tucked back into a pocket.

She reaches into a pocket, herself -- though when her hand exits, there's a small item tucked securely within her grasp. And as she flicks her wrist out -- it's revealed to be a yo-yo.

She winds the toy through a number of manipulations as she talks, starting easy -- and quickly growing progressively more complex.

"Fighting fever -is- spreading like wildfire. Any number of techniques can be copied endlessly, practiced and iterated upon, and of course, -improved-. But there's only so much one can do through rote memorization, and practice."

She flicks the yo-yo sharply to one side -- and, not long after, it might seem like she's exerting force with a string to pull it back.

She's not. And only a rare few number of people would be able to sense -- or, perhaps, 'feel' -- the shift in psychic energies necessary to accomplish the feat of telekinesis.

After the feat, of course, gravity takes over, and the yo-yo is back to swinging in predictable arcs.

"Some things you just have to experience first-hand."

Shaking his head, Jace is quick to reply, his voice vibrant with the change of topic. The yo-yo though, that catches him by surprise. As he watches the intricate motions of the increasingly complex tricks, his eyebrows raising with each increasing level of complexity.

"I don't think wildfire has anything on Fighting Fever."

If he catches anything with the use of telekinesis, he doesn't seem to let on, watching the movement of the yo-yo with rapt amazement before he he looks back up to Honoka with a pleasant smile.

"Oh, yeah. There's watching a fight, imitating a fight, and then fighting in a fight. None of these things are the same."

With a tilt of his head, Jace's lips purse and then he asks.

"Where did you learn to do that?"

Honoka is skilled enough with the yo-yo that she can carry on without giving it much thought at all -- indeed, she turns towards Jace as she speaks without any interruption or delay at all in her movements.

"Hmm? Oh... practice." She gives a broad smile. "Lots and lots of practice."

With practiced ease, she whips the yo-yo casually into the air -- though, as she does this, she realizes that some of the audience is starting to turn their heads to watch -her- instead of the busker. And that... causes her to catch the yo-yo, and stuff her hand and the toy back into her pocket.

"At the Twilight Star Circus, to be specific. They'd taken me in as an orphan. And shown me the ropes."

She extends her hand out to Jace; the slight-of-frame Ainu-Japanese woman knowing all about Western customs. Her eyes twinkle -- thought the effect is diluted somewhat by the tinted lenses.

"Honoka Kawamoto. It's nice to meet you."

He follows the yo-yo around with a darting eye, Jace levels a sarcastic smirk at Honoka, giving a sardonic reply infused with humor.

"Oh, practice? Is that all?"

When the yo-yo disppears, and the man turns his head to see why, he quickly lowers his face and turns back to Honoka. He nods his head as listens attentively to the further elaboration, and one can almost see the switch from from "Doesn't Get It" to "Gets It", Scott Pilgrim style.

"So you were a performer at one time. Maybe still are?"

Reaching his hand out, he accepts the handshake and responds, "Nice to meet you. My name is Jason. Is Honoko your given name, or your family name?"

Is that... all? Honoka laughs, gently, at that. "Some people luck into their talents. Other people need to work twice as hard. But... most of the time, practice is a better indicator of success."

As she reveals herself to Jace, she nods knowingly. "Mm, yeah. That'd be why I'm pretty serious about the practice bit. Started as an acrobat -- and believe me, you don't want to miss a jump when you're working without a net. Practice is... pretty essential."

Honoka has a firm handshake, though her hand is a little on the chilly side. "Jason: that's a great name," she notes, her gaze practically piercing its way through the tinted lenses.

The orphan bristles twice, very slightly -- first at the mispronunciation of her name, second at the mention of a family name. Tactfully she chooses to clarify only one of those, dipping her head in a relaxation of the eye contact.

"Honoka is my given name."

She doesn't dwell on the subject long, though. "You've a daughter, you mentioned. How old is she? Does she tend to take after her father?"

"I was being sarcastic," Jason teases playfully. As he listens to the remainder of the explanation, he simply shakes his head slowly, "I imagine not."

At the mention of his name, Jason smiles quickly, "It's done quite well for me so far, in a few forms and fashions."

When he's corrected, he sighs and shakes his head, "I'm sorry, Ms. Honoka. It's nice to meet you." Jace pauses, his head tilting as he seems to considering the question, "I do have a daughter. She's about to turn five." This is public knowledge, but then Jace grimaces slightly, "Hey, do you mind if we save talk about my daughter for another time? I don't like talking about my family, y'know--" He lifts a hand, making a circle in the air as if trying to draw up the right word, "Publicly?"

He shakes his head. It's obvious that he didn't quite find the right word, but he continues, "Do you come out here to Skywalk Lane very often, Ms. Honoka?"

Sarcasm? Honoka smiles airily in response -- if she's bothered by that, it doesn't show much. But that's not with Jace -- it's that the juggling star has given a number of interviews to people who insist that she's 'lucky' to be gifted with what she's gotten. Maybe that's why she'd held onto that 'lucky' mention so long earlier in the conversation.

Though, one thing she -does- show remorse for is talk of Jace's daughter. Quite often, people -do- enjoy talking about their families -- but when she realizes the reverse is true, at least in public, she raises a hand to her lips, bowing her head in apology. "Ah... my mistake. Please forgive me." The barest traces of her rural Hokkaido accent might show through in that moment of regret.

"... I'd say daily, yes. I'm taking a small vacation here, but I can't stand being trapped in a small room all day. So..." She gestures to the artistic Skywalk around her. "It's good to get a breath of fresh air -- and fresh talent -- every so often."

She taps her wrist -- even though there's no watch there. "... Though, as I can tell by the long shadows, I probably -should- be going shortly, Mr Jason." She adds, placidly: "I have a scheduled phone call of my own to make that I should probably get to. I do hope we'll bump into each other again, some time...?"

Jace is quick to wave off the apology as it is made, shaking his head to add emphasis, "It's alright. It's alright. It's normal and considerate to ask about someone's family if you find out about it. So please, there's nothing to forgive."

He lets that hang in the air for a moment, his eyebrows knitting together as he listens, then smiles as he replies, "It is good. I come back by here often myself when I'm walking. Maybe we will run into each other again."

Jace pauses for a moment, then adds again, "It was a pleasure to meet you, Ms.--" There is a pause as Jason raises a hand and measure the pronounciation of each syllable of her name, "Honoka."

Honoka closes her eyes and bows her head humbly as her apology is accepted. It's just... one of those Japanese mannerisms that she practiced at a young age and never managed to let go, clearly.

"It's... truly a wonder, having an island of friendliness, seemingly floating above street level, here." Which is kind of a backhanded compliment for the cutthroat realities of Metro City, isn't it? But, perhaps the juggler means well.

She certainly seems to appreciate the way in which Jace corrects himself, judging from her smile. "The pleasure was all mine, Jason. Good luck, wherever life may take you."

With another light bow, she steps back from the busker's vicinity, and makes her way along the Skywalk to her next destination.

Log created on 20:01:09 12/04/2023 by Honoka, and last modified on 07:53:04 12/06/2023.