Einherjar Initiative - The New Black

Description: Ichiro Oe is a young man trying to find his footing in a world that's quite different from the one he lived in only months ago. In its own way, the Sky Noah is a refuge where he can make those adjustments. Of course, he's not the only one doing that, and when he stumbles on another such person, some friendly sparring ensues.

Part of the deal had been that Frei wanted time to work through his problems, to become *useful*, before he came back here. But in truth, he couldn't stay in Kyoto, and Southtown is still a disaster. The Sky Noah, on the other hand, is about the most ideal place for solitude and training you can get without actually retreating to some mountaintop somewhere, or a shrine in the middle of nowhere. Drifting through the sky quietly yet alert... like the form of some great, powerful whale slicing through the dark azure of the ocean. Literally, on this ship, Frei would be above everything: all the physical reminders of recent trauma, and all the destruction and nostalgia.

Here, for a moment, he can have peace.

So he had made contact with the transport that the Noah's owner had mentioned, and he came back. To all appearances, very little had changed. The outfit Frei had salvaged from Southtown that Adelheid's extraction team had found him in is long since gone; in its place he wears a too-large dark grey moleskin buttondown with the cuffs unbuttoned, making the sleeves flare out at his wrists. Beneath that, blue jeans... yet these too flare a bit at the cuff; not exactly bell bottoms, but wider than usual thanks to a gradual outward taper that starts mid-calf. The bottom cuffs are decorated with an embroidered pattern of waves crashing, like a Hokusai painting. And to top it all off, connected to his belt with a length of thick silver cord, is a particularly well made scabbard designed for a katana; the exterior is dark blue lacquer, chased with patterns of silver filigree. The hilt of a sword within emerges from the top, and the silk wrap around it -- the tsuka -- is of a similar dark blue.

Frei's eyes are closed, as he stands in the middle of the Noah's practice room and 'dojo'; he stands straight, carriage proud. His right hand crosses his torso to hover over the hilt of the sheathed katana; the right grips the scabbard halfway down. Whatever he's doing, it apparently involves a lot of slow breathing and not moving.

Much like Frei, Ichiro has found peace on board the airship in past days, but with each passing day the young warrior has felt more and more that he isn't recuperating so much as hiding from his problems. Making up his mind to do something constructive with the day, Ichiro dons the tight black undershirt and black uniform pants that were given to him by the airship crew and leaves the quarters that were given to him during his stay aboard the Sky Noah. Making his way down to the practice room near the heart of the ship, Oe can't help but feel that a little exercise would go a long way toward helping him come to terms with the conflicting feelings and memories that have been haunting him as of late.

"Oh, I didn't know you were here, sorry," Ichiro apologies earnestly as he busts his way into the metal dojo only to find Frei standing in the middle of the room by himself. Last he'd heard Frei had gone to take care of some family business, probably something he's not too keen on talking about at the moment. Ichiro and Frei have fought both against each other and by each other's side, not to mention the fact that they were both brainwashed and experimented on by the same vile monsters, but they still don't know each other that well funnily enough.

The effect, when seen in slow-mo hindsight, is actually quite funny. There's a second before Ichiro comes in where Frei's eyes snap open, suddenly. He takes a step forward with his right foot, and his hand grips the hilt of the katana just as the door opens. Then Ichiro speaks and, concentration broken, rather than draw the weapon in one quick stroke, he loses his balance and tumbles face-first onto the floor with a sort of *thud-CLANG* noise.

It takes a second for him to stand back up, and when he does he's not looking directly at Ichiro; instead he looks straight forward, cupping both hands around his face and rubbing his nose for a second. That stung, kinda sorta. Eventually, however, he turns to face Ichiro and gives him a once over, briefly. When they met during the extraction, Frei acknowledged the Taiyo student's presence but wasn't capable of much more than that; too many emotions and sensory stimuli were competing for his attention. Now that he can actually look at the young fighter, the transformation from when they first met during the Strolheim preliminaries strikes him quite hard. Something about the all-black bodysuit and the cloth around the eye... but more than that. It's a carriage thing. Ichiro still has the energy of youth, the sense of drive. But it's not quite the same as back then. It's the sort of feeling that makes one say, 'I can't put my finger on it, but...', when discussed. Just an impression.

"Don't worry about it," the white-haired fighter responds, taking a deep breath. "I was just... hmm. It's tough to explain. I was trying to... focus."

"Oh shit!" Ichiro gasps as his intrusion sends Frei pitching forward onto the practice dojo's floor. "Damn, I'm sorry for that!" he adds striding forward a few steps in the interest of seeing if the old man is okay. "Like I said, I didn't even know you were back, much less here in this practice room," the young man clarifies as he reaches up to scratch absently at the side of his face that is covered by the cloth wrapped around his head. Turning away from Frei after giving his white hair a long inquisitive look, Ichiro makes his way over to the weapon racks that line the dojo walls. "Yeah, I can imagine. We've been through a lot." Sliding a metal-hafted practice spear from the rack, Oe tests the weapon's weight a few times before turning back to his acquaintance. "A little focus is probably a good thing. That's sort of what I came here for too, I guess."

For a moment, Frei just watches Ichiro cross the room and pick up a weapon. He's reminded of the discussion they had during Strolheim, of how Ichiro turned lacrosse into a fighting style, even the discussion of the difference between an attacker's crosse and a goalie's crosse and how that would play out in battle. Considering he himself has made some changes along these lines, the sage-turned-swordsman doesn't say anything... but a part of him is almost distressed to see him do it. More than anything, it seems an indicator of the changes that Ichiro's suffering has brought to him... changes that Frei himself may not understand completely, but which he has somewhat of a feel for.

Eventually, he finds his voice and speaks up, letting his green-eyed gaze move back and forth from Ichiro's face to the practice weapon slowly. "I, uh..." A pause, and then Frei turns his head up toward the ceiling and takes a breath before looking back down at Ichiro with a pained expression. "I'm sorry that I... wasn't able to do anything for you. I don't..." He pauses, then sighs. "That's all. I'm not going to draw it out. I failed a lot of people and there's no making up for that."

"Hmm..." Ichiro muses as he inspects the practice weapon's spearpoint absently. The short polearm's edge is nowhere near as sharp and violent as the brutal the gift from Shadaloo he left packed away in his quarters; in fact it seems to have been left purposefully dull in the interest of sparring, though the weapon is still quite lethal in the right hands. The young man's thoughts can't help but drift back to his favorite lacrosse stick as he handles the spear. Who knows where that old busted crosse is now; sitting discarded and forgotten in SIN's abandoned basement laboratory no doubt.

"No, you don't need to apologize," Ichiro replies with a slight mirthless smile. "You told me to leave back there at the Futaba Estate. It was my choice to stay." Giving the spear a spin that comes almost too naturally to the ex-lacrosse player's hands, Oe if once again forced to wonder if the skill and intimate familiarity he feels with the spear is simply a result of its similarity with a lacrosse stick, or if it is a secondary effect of SIN's brainwashing; they DID give him a spear when they set him loose after all. "Besides, we're both safe so it's okay," Flashes of the violent bloody memories that still haunt his sleep run through the young man's head. "Everything is alright now."

"I've come here often to practice. You know, just running through movements and attacks, nothing serious. I haven't... had a chance to do anything resembling a fight since," Since he was crazed and blood-thirsty and fought against Shurui and Adelheid. "...since we were attacked at Hotaru's."

Walking over to an adjacent weapon rack, Oe lifts a medium-sized round shield from the back of the rack and loops his left arm through its straps. "I've spent some of that time training with a shield. It seemed like a good idea with... ya know," Ichiro motions at the spot his left eye used to inhabit. "Help me cover my blind side better." Striding back over to stand near Frei, the young warrior gives his elder a small, playful smile as he thumps the spear against his shield. "So... what do you say? I could use a better workout than I've been getting. How about we spar for a bit?"

Training. How long has this young man been here, Frei is forced to ask himself. Adelheid and his floating sky fortress... even for someone used to strange things, the Sky Noah is a little much for Frei. It could be simply that some need to make right what wrong was wrought in his own name and form is what made him accept a place in this group, and the white-haired fighter understands Ichiro's position a little better once he's let that thought wash around in his head for a bit. After all, Frei himself is adapting to a sort of blindness of his own, and the sword at his side is an indicator of his attempts to make something of it, to move in the right direction. Why shouldn't Ichiro take up the spear and shield?

Is this what Isis was trying to tell him?

That question makes him naturally receptive to Ichiro's request, and after a moment of reflection, he nods his assent. "Well, that's a healthy attitude, I think," he says, running a hand through his head. "It's not healthy to live in the past and it's not as if we can change what's happened. We can only go forward. I just..." He pauses, trying to find the words. How do you tell someone, 'I'm sorry your innocence died on the battlefield'? Is it even possible? "You're right. We all make choices."

He doesn't segue into anything, next. Instead he stops talking, and moves into a position more in the middle of the room. His stance is considerably different than the last time he and Ichiro fought; his right side shifts backwards a little, his right leg bent slightly. The left hand grips the intricate blue scabbard; the right hovers over the hilt of the blade without actually touching it. In a surprisingly formal tone, he looks at Ichiro and says, "My name is Frei Renard... my style is Musou Tenkei." A pause, and then a nod. "Ready."

COMBATSYS: Frei has started a fight here.

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Frei             0/-------/-------|

COMBATSYS: Ichiro has joined the fight here.

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Frei             0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0           Ichiro

As healthy as Ichiro's attitude may seem, he's not quite sold on his own words yet. With the long gap in his waking memory it has been all too easy to turn a blind eye, no pun intended, on the horrible things he may have done while under the influence of BLECE, but it grows harder and harder for the young man to write off the realistic nightmares that now haunt him as subconscious fantasy, and Ichiro's normally easygoing mood grows darker with each passing day.

Oe bends at the waist and stretches a bit as Frei walks toward the middle of the room. Drawing a long length of leather thong from the pocket of his uniform pants, Ichiro then ties the strip around the haft of the practice spear before tying and winding the excess around his right forearm. His equipment now in order, the spear fighter lowers his center of gravity slightly and raises his round shield up to a guard position near his chest as he draws back his right arm so that his spear point juts out slightly past his shield edge.

A soft smirk rises to the young warrior's lips as Frei formally introduces himself, prompting him to reply in kind. "Ichiro Oe. My style is my own." Pointing his spear tip straight up into the air, Ichiro then lowers it toward his opponent before swiping it off to the side as a salute of respect. The introductions finished, the young fighter reassumes his stance, this time cocking his chin to one side so that he is almost resting the left side of his cheek on his shoulder, presumably to center Frei in his new field of vision.

Oe pauses for a moment in this stance as the two fighters stare each other down, and then the moment is up as he springs into action. His loping stride quickly picks up speed as he nears Frei and Ichiro's focus is on that sheathed sword that he assumes won't be in its scabbard for long. Swinging the round shield toward Frei's right shoulder to try and preemptively thwart any attempt at a stop cut, and in addition, possibly knocking his shoulders into an open position and presenting a larger target. Oe then quickly follows up the shield strike with a strong spear jab aimed toward the older man's other, hopefully open left side. The practice sword may not be razor sharp, but it is certainly sharp enough to pierce flesh, and Ichiro is counting on Frei's skill to keep him from being injured TOO severely. If worse comes to worse the Sky Noah's medical staff is more than capable.

COMBATSYS: Ichiro successfully hits Frei with Power Strike.

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Frei             0/-------/-----==|-------\-------\0           Ichiro

The key to it all, he remembers from his youth, is awareness. Although it's common to all martial arts, in swordsmanship especially there is the important matter of not being able to focus on where *you* are. You have to know your own body, your own position, your own place in the fight instictively and intuitively, because otherwise your attention is too diluted. With weapons it's even worse than unarmed; an unarmed person's reach is as long as his own body, and no longer, typically. With a weapon -- particularly something with reach like a spear -- that isn't a given. It could be a short jab, or a thrust from a proverbial mile away.

What Frei is coming to realize now is that he has relied, for far too long, on a sixth sense he no longer has to determine relative position. Fighting a living being there was always the hum of that person's aura, their impression on the world around them, that was... if not a clear picture, then at least a guide. What he has to do now is focus more traditional five senses all the clearer to make up the gap. Sadly, that's not 100% perfected yet, and it's clear in the set of his face and narrowed eyes that he's concentrating quite hard on the angle of Ichiro's attack... to no avail. The shield smacks him in the shoulder as Frei tries to duck back and away, leaving him wide open for the spear thrust that sends him stumbling back more than a few steps. That stung, actually... yet the swordsman (of a sort) faces it with uncharacteristic stoicism.

Instead he nods, and leaps right to the counteroffense. Taking a sudden ducking step toward Ichiro, Frei grips not the hilt of the sword with his right hand, but the scabbard as well; specifically, he grips the silver-grey cord that keeps it tied to his waist. It unloops surprisingly fast as the white-haired fighter attempts to swing the scabbard low through Ichiro's legs, sending him to the floor. If he can manage that much, Frei suddenly yanks the scabbard back by the cord and, in one smooth motion, snatches the sword from it and slashes it downward toward Ichiro in an arc of flashing silver. The sword, thankfully, is entirely blunted; you could just about cut butter with it. However, it's still a weighty piece of metal that's going to sting a lot if it connects.

COMBATSYS: Ichiro blocks Frei's Saya Gari.

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Frei             0/-------/----===|=------\-------\0           Ichiro

Ichiro's battered conscience is finally given a bit of peace at last as Oe lets his consciousness sink into the warm embrace of his athletic focus. The young man's limbs seem to have minds of their own as his muscle memory hijacks their functions away from conscious thought, allowing the young man to defend and attack at impressive speeds.

Even so, Ichiro is forced to grimace slightly with pain as Frei's scabbard slams into his legs, but fortunately for the young warrior, he is only send down to a knee instead of lying helplessly on the ground. Raising his shield to deflect the downward strike that follows with a hollow thunk, Oe then quickly dips into the ever growing well of chi that flows through his body, chi that he has been able to focus and bend to his will with much greater skill and dexterity than he ever could before his infusion with BLECE; It is yet another gift given to him by Seth15, and the thought would make him ill if his mental focus wasn't already lost in combat. Sending a wave of golden chi surging from up from his core, Ichiro directs the burning energy through his left arm and into his shield, causing the practice armament to glow fiercely with potential pain.

"YAAH!" Oe grunts as he springs forward from his half crouch, attempting to slam the chi-imbued shield bodily into Frei as he tries to knock the older fighter off of his feet only to be trampled by Oe's as he charges through him.

COMBATSYS: Frei counters Auric Breaker from Ichiro with Zanshin.

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Frei             0/-------/---====|=------\-------\0           Ichiro

If he knew about it, Frei would be a little envious of that 'trance' state. After all, for a battou or iaido swordsperson in particular, that's an ideal place to be in combat. Considering each sensory input and stimulus separately creates discontinuity, breaks in the action. At least according to the lessons his mother gave him when he was younger, a *true* master of the blade is not a single instrument; he is an orchestra, a symphony of disparite sounds and feelings and senses that, through focus, becomes a harmonized whole. Fluidity of movement, grace, even the awareness of where and when to strike and defend should, theoretically, extend naturally from that state.

He may not have his 'sixth sense' for the moment, but at his best Frei's true talent as a fighter has always been a combination of good intuition and awareness of his surroundings. In a way, he takes himself out of himself because he's so comfortable (usually) in many situations, staying calm. In this case, it serves him well... and proves that his potential for this particular sword art may be greater than he gave himself credit for. The blue scabbard flies back through the air, tied back at Frei's waist in no time at all as he resumes stance... and Ichiro starts to summon up his chi. The visual of it makes it obvious, and that does strike Frei somewhat by surprise... if only because, the last time they met, such a tactic wasn't in Ichiro's repertoire. Perhaps something good, in a sense, came from this after all.

But that chi means an attack, one that Frei watches carefully as it comes toward him. He has many options... try to get out of the way, block. However, some intuition of his says that the straight line, the 'unstoppability' of this attack may be exploited in its own way, and so he gives in to the principle called 'zanshin' -- the 'thoughts that remain' -- to let him flow through the situation.

At the point where Ichiro SHOULD be connecting with Frei's body, the former lacrosse star may note that, in a blur of blue and black, he's no longer there. In fact, he's right behind Ichiro instead, hand already going to the hilt of his sword. "Sorry," Frei says simply, before pivoting on one foot and slamming the dull practice sword into the small of Ichiro's back in one clean slash, stepping back afterwards and sliding the blade back into the scabbard.

The dulled katana blade smashing into the small of Ichiro's back sends him sprawling across the steel practice dojo floor. "Nnh... I guess your fighting style is changing as much as mine is..." Ichiro groans as he rolls and twists to his feet. If not more. The last time they fought Frei was brutalizing him with chi with pretty much every strike. It seems like the BLECE treatment may have weakened Frei's chi ability as much as it has appeared to strengthen Oe's, the young man muses with a frown. Frei's apparent form of chi-blindness is likely common knowledge among the friends he has fought side by side with since being recovered from SIN, but Ichiro isn't the sort to go about inquiring about the misfortunes of others. One thing is glaringly apparent though, SIN's experiments have taken their toll on the pair of fighters; they have much to answer for.

Watching Frei from across the dojo floor, Ichiro give the white-haired fighter a smile and another salute in recognition for that last skillful exchange. "No need to apologize, I'm hoping to pay you back as soon as I can," he adds with a friendly grin. Dropping his shield by side, the ex lacrosse star slowly raises his spear toward Frei, its tip aimed straight at the older man's chest. Ichiro takes in a deep breath as he channels more of his golden spirit through the spear's shaft, the fiery energy coalescing in the weapon's tip before blasting away from the weapon and sending a golden bolt straight for Ichiro's friendly opponent. Oe's lone good eye fixes Frei with hard scrutiny as the bolt streaks toward him and if the white-haired man attempts to dodge out of the way the younger fighter will try to correct his aim in hopes of pinning him down before firing a second and third blast.

COMBATSYS: Ichiro successfully hits Frei with Auric Buster.

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Frei             0/-------/---====|==-----\-------\0           Ichiro

"I don't know about that," Frei says carefully, staying in that surprisingly unmoving ready stance. Certainly, this fighting style is radically different from what Ichiro would have seen Frei do before. That said, to *his* eyes, this is a blast from the past. One of Frei's first toys was a shinai, after all... and while such a bamboo sword is more useful for kendo than for battoujutsu, it says something that there was a weapon (of a sort) in his hands before he was 6 years old. But he threw it away for his own reasons... or perhaps better to say, he felt like at age 19 he wanted something more than what this style could offer, and he left. The path he found led to the type of man that Ichiro knew BEFORE the invasion of Southtown, or at least the type of fighter.

And now, he's been enjoined to see if there isn't something here he overlooked when he was younger... some kernel of enlightening philosophy in the battou swordsman's quest for the perfect moment, the unbreakable link between weapon and wielder that makes time seem to slow to a crawl. There has to be something. "But... when one door closes another usually opens. So I decided to step through."

Again, Ichiro's control over his chi is considerable, much improved over last time, and once again a combination of Frei's chi 'deadness' and Ichiro's rapidly improving skill proves to be the swordsman's downfall. Watching the point of the lance as a 'focus' for the burst, Frei tries to move with it, attempting to sidestep out of the way and let the attack pass harmlessly by. Such a thing is not to be, however; the chi burst moves faster than a spear thrust and the bursts of light strike him three times in succession, driving him farther and farther back. Luckily for him, while his control is gone, Frei's defensive aura is as good as ever... but that doesn't mean those strikes didn't hurt.

Turning back, however, he does his best not to grit his teeth or, indeed, to show any of the effusive emotional responses for which he's known. Instead he stands straight, gauges the line of attack on Ichiro, and rushes foward. Indeed, he almost looks like he's going to run *past* him... but at the last moment he alters his trajectory by literally whirling through the air sideways, using the spin of the hop to add speed and strength to his draw, the dull blade looking to crash into Ichiro's side.

COMBATSYS: Ichiro interrupts Random Strike from Frei with Dragonfly Cutter.

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Frei             1/-----==/=======|===----\-------\0           Ichiro

When one door closes another usually opens. That statement resonates with Ichiro for a moment as his last unrelenting barrage of chi gives the young man time to study his opponent and watch for an opening. The war on Southtown may have stolen much of his innocence, but the young fighter has also gained much in return. Raising his shield as Frei almost seems to leap past him, Oe seems to expect the change in direction; the attack is somewhat familiar, as if he has seen it in a dream...

"HAH!" Oe grunts triumphantly as the somewhat older, but not THAT much older, man shifts toward him. One step ahead, the ex lacrosse player quickly takes a sweeping diagonal step that puts him right in line with Frei's descent instead of off to the white-haired man's side like he'd wanted, causing the sword go glance off of shoulder rather harmlessly. Raising his spear with both hands, Oe thrusts the spear point right at Frei's midsection stopping his momentum and pinning him in the air like some sort of bug on an entomologist's collection board. Grunting slightly as the young man's well-muscled arms and deltoids flex and twist to keep the other man suspended in the air, Ichiro suddenly takes a step back and lets go of the spear haft with his left hand before lashing out with his other foot and side kicking Frei off of his weapon.

It's not exactly an elegant landing that Frei makes, probably as a testament to the level of power that Ichiro was able to put into that particular strike just now. Instead he goes flying and slams into the ground hard, with a resonant noise that could be just a little bit satisfying to his opponent, if he's of that bent. But it's not enough to down him permanently, not just yet. The lacquered scabbard makes a *thudCLANG* as Frei slams the end into the floor and uses it as a crutch to pull himself standing, gritting his teeth against the pain. It's harder to even defend himself, as he is, and the white-haired swordsman begins to realize some of the impact of this change he's chosen to make. Starting over, in a way... that without the style he has used for the past few years, even his body feels weaker than it was.

"I keep forgetting..." he says, as he finally stands up and gets into stance, "I didn't do this to become... a better fighter." That much is true. If he were REALLY interested in becoming 'stronger', there are probably better ways around his current handicap than giving up what he's known entirely. Maybe just meditation and time would have done it, as Shurui seemed to hope. 'Time heals all wounds' is the old saw, isn't it? In a way, though, Frei feels like he needs Ichiro to hear the thoughts on the topic that are in his head, and so they find themselves verbalized.

He doesn't attack, not just yet; instead he takes a deep breath and centers himself, trying to get back into that elusive state of perfect awareness. His eyes close a moment, but they soon open again, and Frei's green-eyed gaze is trained on Ichiro calmly. "I felt like... if I wanted to get back what I lost I couldn't go on the way I was. I had to change *something* if I wanted to move on. This was just... the way I liked the most."

COMBATSYS: Frei gains composure.

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Frei             1/-------/=======|===----\-------\0           Ichiro

Letting his spear point drop toward the ground and his shield lower to his waist as Frei makes his inglorious landing, Oe absently watches his violent landing with a hint of a vicious smile. The sadistic grin only lasts for a very brief moment though, as Ichiro comes to his senses and tells himself that causing his friend pain isn't a reason to be happy. Luckily Frei was probably too busy trying to get back to his feet to notice Ichiro's uncharacteristic lapse... or maybe it was a relapse. Shaking off this line of disturbing thoughts Oe, forms his mouth back into a determined frown that is much more fitting for a sparring session.

"I think I know what you mean," Ichiro replies with a nod. "I also felt like I needed a change. The person I used to be... well, he almost seems as foreign to me now as... well I just feel different. I felt like I couldn't go back to how I used to be, like that Ichiro doesn't really exist anymore," Oe replies haltingly, grasping to try and articulate his meaning. Bringing his spear back up into a ready position, the former lacrosse star shrugs and readies himself. "It's not necessarily a bad thing though, I guess." Everyone needs to grow up sometime; Some quicker than others. Frowning at his moment of introspectiveness, Ichiro sighs and forces himself to leave those distractions behind. Closing his eyes for a moment, Oe attempts to put himself back into 'the zone', to focus his mind and open up his reflexes, to get back into the mindset that came so easily on the lacrosse field.

COMBATSYS: Ichiro enters a trance-like state.

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Frei             1/-------/=======|=====--\-------\0           Ichiro

For whatever reason, that comment makes Frei shake his head, glancing at Ichiro with a look that almost appears sad. "I see what you mean in a way, but..." Pausing for a moment, Frei looks at Ichiro unflinchingly. If nothing else, he still has conviction in what he says and thinks. No change in fighting style, no change in situation, can really erode the raw bedrock of his core personality. "He still exists because you still exist. You can't change the past but you shouldn't forget it, either." Grimacing for a moment, Frei is reminded of Alma's psychic 'surgery' on Kula... and why it bothered him so much. It was an easy out, in Frei's opinion. Not that Kula didn't deserve a second chance, but...

He shakes his head again and drops back into stance, hand hovering over the hilt of his sword as he prepares to move. He can't just sit here forever like an idiot. "All the things we do, good and bad, are still part of who we are. I am as much my mistakes as I am my triumphs." Platitude delivered, he kicks off the ground and dashes at Ichiro, but rather than waiting to strike halfway through the movement, the entire thing is one clean swipe; although Frei himself is not terribly fast, he IS capable of brief bursts of speed when he needs to. This in particular is a sudden, quick draw of the sword that, quite frankly, aims right at Ichiro's neck. If the sword Frei were wielding were real, it would be a nice clean decapitation strike... as it is now, that's not possible, but the martial principles of such an attack remain sound.

COMBATSYS: Ichiro Toughs Out Frei's Satsujin!

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Frei             1/-------/=======|=======\-------\0           Ichiro

Right now Ichiro is more afraid of remembering the past than forgetting it. "You're probably right," he replies with a frown just before Frei bolts into action. Even though the two are just sparring, Ichiro can't help but bring some intensity to the fight. Not because he's determined to win, the outcome doesn't matter; they will both benefit from the training. No, there's really just no off position on Ichiro's intensity switch.

Oe's lone eye takes in Frei's burst of speed and the young man's lip curls slightly as his body responds in kind. His legs churning as he dashes to meet Frei's attack head on, Oe raises his shield in front of his upper body without any regard for his elder's incoming sword slash. The strike glances off of the side of the round shield and slides down its curve to strike the young warrior on the meaty muscle of his shoulder. The gambit seems to pay off as the counter dash presses forward, mere inches away from brutally slamming the shield into Frei's body with relentless force.

COMBATSYS: Frei fails to counter Crushing Strike from Ichiro with Shijin no Ten'i EX.

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Frei             1/---====/=======|=======\-------\0           Ichiro

He sees an opening and he takes it; it's not as if there's any thought to it, or a logical working out of calculated probability. It's a gut instinct, or maybe if one is feeling very charitable, a synthesis of subconsciously collected data coalescing into a not-quite conclusion about when and where to act. And when Frei's sudden, swift movement of the hilt of the sword at his hip -- attempting to ram it into Ichiro's fist from below -- misses the mark entirely, he has the entire time he's flying backwards through the air and lying on the ground after said shield bash connects to consider the implications of that.

Was that really a moment of the Zen-like state of thought and action becoming one that Frei's mother spoke of? He's too experienced a fighter to think that he had 'done everything right'; the white-haired man knows that in the heat of battle there's too many variables to account for in any given situation for any solution to a problem to be 'perfect'. What he's reflecting on now is that moment where, for good or for ill, he felt his body almost move of its own accord, a perfect link between thought, feeling, and action.

Standing up, he takes a few deep, slow breaths, before glancing at Ichiro carefully. He's improved... that much is clear. While Frei is moving *backwards*... but only if you count raw ability to cause another pain. "You might not believe me when I say this," he says quietly, putting his hand once again on the hilt of the blade. "But I think that was worth it."

Skidding to a halt after his shield bash sends Frei flying, Ichiro fiddles with the straps of his shield briefly as his sparring partner regains his footing. "No, I believe you," Oe informs him seriously. "During lacrosse practice we had a saying, 'You learn more from a blocked shot than you do from a goal'. I know that you've... lost your ability to use chi, for the time being, but I remember how strong you were last time we fought." Boy does he ever. "All of this work you're doing now will pay off later when you're back to blasting me around the room with energy," he adds with a playful grin. "I need to get my hits in while I can." There's not really any way that Ichiro can know if Frei will ever get his chi abilities back, there might not be ANYONE that knows, but it has to be easier to remember how to throw around chi than to re-grow an eye, right?

That being said, Ichiro levels Frei with another focused glance as he focuses yet more golden chi through his arm and into the spear at his side. This time though, instead of launching small bolts of energy, the spear remains alight with golden fire as Oe hefts the weapon and sends it sailing toward Frei like a javelin with the leather strap wrapped around Ichiro's forearm trailing after it. Hit or miss, after the attack Ichiro will then yank the spear back to him by tugging on the strap and quickly wind the leather back around his arm.

COMBATSYS: Ichiro successfully hits Frei with Auric Lancer EX.

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Frei             1/-------/=======|=======\=------\1           Ichiro

For a moment, Frei wishes he were so hopeful. A part of him is doing what he's doing because he's trying to accept that his abilities may never come back to him at all... a fact that everyone around him seems either loathe to consider, or perhaps simply loathe to express. Hotaru tried very hard to warn him -- or, perhaps more accurately, remind him -- that his personality and self aren't tied up in those abilities. What's 'Frei' will remain 'Frei' without them. The white-haired fighter is encouraged by the hope and care that people show him... and that is why he tries very hard not to let his worry show. "You should give yourself more credit," is all he says to Ichiro, in a calm tone. It's not EXACTLY a refutation, but it does perhaps aim to give the ex-lacrosse star some much needed confidence.

That spear is hard to gauge, and so far Frei's attempts to dodge attacks sent his way have not exactly met with resounding success. Thus, rather than get out of the way he attempts to bring the scabbard up and 'catch' the javelin sent his way... not a perfect defense, but better than taking the hit. Sadly, it's not meant to be; his movement is too slow and the spear smacks into Frei's shoulder before Ichiro pulls it back, making the swordsman drop to one knee with a hiss of pain, eyes squinting nearly shut. It was a good fight, wasn't it? He has a long way to go, but it's encouraging to see Ichiro come so far. In the end, he couldn't ask for more...

But he hears his mother's voice in his ears. Would she stop now? Or would she give everything until she couldn't? 'Are you going to spend your whole life thinking about others,' she had asked, 'or will you finally spend some time focusing on yourself?'

Against all odds, Frei stands, taking a deep breath. "I'm not ready to call it a day just yet... sorry." And though he is slowed by fatigue, still the former YFCC instructor tries to close the distance between himself and Ichiro, vitality surging back into his body through sheer stubborness alone, as Frei aims a sudden snap kick at the lancer's shoulder.

COMBATSYS: Frei successfully hits Ichiro with Light Kick.

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Frei             0/-------/-----==|=======\==-----\1           Ichiro

Winding the leather thong tied to the spear back around his forearm, Oe seems certain that Frei won't have the strength to continue, but his white-haired opponent shows a level of determination and dedication that Ichiro has to respect. "That's right Frei, we gotta play until the final buzzer," he says with a grin as his friend charges him. The kick manages to sneak past Ichiro's shield and slam into his shoulder, causing him to take a few steps backwards.

For the briefest moment Ichiro's smile fades and the vicious sneer returns as his grip on his spear tightens. Thoughts of unleashing one of his most lethal attacks on Frei momentarily fly through the young man's mind before being pushed back by the saner half young warrior's consciousness. Instead, the young warrior takes a quick step toward his sparring partner before planting the butt of his spear on the practice room floor, using it to vault himself forward and plant a double flying kick to the swordsman's chest.

COMBATSYS: Frei fails to counter Gungir Vault from Ichiro with Mushin.

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Frei             0/-------/-======|=======\==-----\1           Ichiro

COMBATSYS: Frei can no longer fight.

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Ichiro           1/-----==/=======|

He was already holding on by a thread, so the result of Ichiro's assault shouldn't necessarily come as a surprise. The reaction Frei takes that PUTS him there, however, might. The usual logic in a fight is to put yourself OUT of harm's way. Typically if one is going to hurl himself into an attack, it's because he already has his strike prepared and ready to go. The concept of 'trading hits' is at work; you might take the hit but at least you were prepared to dish it out. However, that isn't exactly what Frei does.

The general idea, as it was explained to him, is that Mushin -- 'no mind', a sort of Zen awareness state -- is a test not only of the swordsman's mettle and awareness, but also a simple test of faith. The technique involves literally hurling onesself into the path of the attack and eluding it at the last second. It isn't a technique for the faint of heart; it requires a full acceptance of the potential consequences, which may not seem apparent here in a training bout but in an actual duel of bladed weapons, becomes all too obvious. Thus Ichiro might be surprised to find that Frei is literally running right into the vaulting kick. Sadly, he's too fatigued to perform it well... and truly, it may be too early in this endeavor for him to be capable of such a feat in the first place. Thus the double kick smacks into his chest and sends him sprawling to the floor.

He doesn't get back up, though the rise and fall of his chest suggests that he's simply pushed himself too hard. Curiously, even... for someone of his stature, Frei is usually quite hardy. What he might realize when he wakes up, however, is that there is a certain level of exhaustion inherent in what he was doing that goes beyond the physical. For now, however, he's getting some much needed rest the hard way.

Log created on 01:09:44 06/15/2009 by Frei, and last modified on 04:21:42 07/04/2009.