Monk and Ninja

January 24, 2017:

Betsy Braddock encounters a humble young woman practicing tai chi chuan in Central Park's Sheep Meadow in the frigid cold.

Central Park

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

Jhiao Ting Li
This is a very diminutive young woman of apparent Oriental descent. Looking no more than her late teens in age, she stands not even a full five feet in height, missing that mark by a few inches. Her build is light, with rather modest curves, likely not even massing a hundred pounds. Her skin is a dark umber, smooth, tight and unlined. Her hair is a long, tumbling mane that frames her face and trails all the way past her hips, rather wild and unstyled, in a rich black hue that shows a hint of blue in the right directed lighting. Her face is a guileless picture of youth, more cute than beautiful, with features that while relatively unexceptional on their own still present a slightly exotic overall impression. This is capped off by her eyes, which shimmer in low light or shadow, a startling jade green with golden sparkles which show through in those shimmers. Her voice, when she speaks, is a very soft soprano tone with a burr in the rolling pitches.

The young woman is dressed in a manner that is very simple and unassuming; though clean and well-tended, her clothing is clearly well-worn and not of any new or fashionable style. A simple grey tunic blouse covers her torso, shoulders and arms. The hem of the blouse reaches to her upper thighs, covering the waist of the simple loose-fitting tan slacks she wears to cover her legs. For shoes she wears pair of simple soft-soled leather slippers, almost like sandals but covering her entire foot. A light moleskin microfiber jacket of a rich earthen brown shields her a bit more from the cold. A leather satchel rests against her left hip, its strap across her body and over her right shoulder. She wears no jewelry or other adornment.

Betsy Braddock
Tall, lean, and dangerously beautiful. Betsy Braddock is the epitome of grace and elegance, with purple hair, wided, canted eyes, and a heart-shaped face that draws down to a pointed chin. Full lips and a patrician nose offset the stark height of her wide, prominent cheekbones, and her expressions are often mysterious even to those close to her.

RP Begins
It's not that someone practicing tai chi chuan on the Sheep Meadow of Central Park is somehow something new or unheard-of. Admittedly, this particular young woman seems rather young for what most would consider an older-person's hobby or entertainment. And she is quite tiny - less than a full five feet tall - with a tremendous ebon braid. And dressed quite simply, in a manner rather uncommon for a girl of her apparent age these days.

But what likely is most unusual is that this young woman does so calmly, comfortably and unhurriedly in the high winds in the rather substantially cold temperatures without a jacket or coat. Indeed, the bluster and cold seem not to touch or affect her at all.

That, and she seems alone. The young woman is not standing amongst a crowd of four, or ten, or thirty. She stands alone on the Sheep Meadow, on today of all days. Without hurry. Without concern. And with a profound inner grace.


That is odd.

Betsy Braddock watches with unabashed curiousity on her face. Tai chi is a fine endeavour for the aspiring martial artist in pursuit of inner peace. However, it takes a real devotee— or masochist— to train in such blustery conditions. Wearing tight-fitting designer jeans, knee-high black boots with a sharp heel, and a heavy blue London Fog wool peacoat, Betsy is bundled cozily against the winds, but seems as unbothered as the strange woman passing the world through her palms.

And she's watching intently, her body responding to the sway of movements, to the chi being channeled with each graceful twist and pivot. Jhiao is practicing at a level far beyond any of the 'park' practitioners, the ones who do it for health or balance or cool factor.

She's doing it for real, and Betsy holds fast to observe every moment with an expert's professional criticism.


Yes, indeed. Li Jhiao Ting is 'doing it for real. She isn't exactly glowing in the dim winter daylight, but there is a real sense of power, strength, grace and energy in her movements. It is not just the movement of a gifted dancer. It is the movement of someone who has made those same moves - perfected them - every day, without fail, for years. Perhaps even decades. Yet how could a very young woman like this have that degree of experience?

As inwardly focused as such a practicioner surely must be, the young woman does seem to notice the attention she draws, when Betsy slows, then stops, and then keeps looking. The first few seconds draw no acknowledgement. But when that stretches to a minute, then two, those eyes of hers flick towards the purple-tinted Asian woman curiously. And that, it must be said, is unnerving to be sure. Eyes of amber hue are … pretty damned rare. And they seem to glow a bit, as the sun slants across them.


One of Betsy's brows hikes minutely. A silent interrogative— and her eyes, a brilliant shade of amythyst, are positively unique. They meet amber, and a silent moment of discussion is exchanged.

She waits until the woman is done training, then steps towards her across the grass, her stilettos digging into the frozen ground with each step. She moves like Li does, with the same effortless economy and perfect balance. A dancer, almost as certainly, but the haughty, perfect confidence in her features suggests a capacity for violence that no dancer alone would achieve. A glimmering platinum-colored silk choker is barely visible inside the heavy cowling of her turtleneck, nestled in her upturned collar.

"<You move very well,>" Betsy says, finally, in Mandarin, making a guess at her origin.


The amber eyes regard amethyst, and then a slight incline is given. Just as quickly, the young woman comes to a close with her movement and turns, bowing to the sun. Then she scampers quickly towards Betsy, having apparently noticed the stiletto heels long before she started across the meadow and wanting to minimize the other woman's efforts - and shoe damage - in reaching her.

Jhiao bows her head briefly as she stands but a foot or two in front of Betsy. "< Thank you kindly, Honored Miss. You too move very well, especially to attempt such shoes on this surface. Be pleased, Miss, to step back on solid footing? Surely I am not worth harm to lovely shoes. >" It does seem the girl knows her Mandarin, and her accent sounds genuine, though there is the tiniest moment's hesitation. Perhaps not translation, but careful and judicious word choice?

"< It has been rare that I find one in these lands to speak my Master's tongue. It is a pleasure to know it is not forever so. >" Jhiao offers. "< It is polite to offer name, yes? I am Li Jhiao Ting. >" She bows again. Up close, there is still that glow to the back of her amber eyes, and also glints of an almost emerald hue. So too, this close there is a sense to one who is aware of a great tightly wound and carefully leashed power and energy about her.


Betsy returns the bow with a traditional Chinese acknowledgement, fist loosely shaken in palm and bowed over. "<The honor and the peril is mine,>" Betsy says, with a polite tone that suggests at deference without quite clinging to it. "<The study of the universe is certainly more important than a pair of shoes.>" Stop the presses— Betsy Braddock just said that, referring to Li's mastery of motion. Mandarin lends itself to such poetic duality in speech sometimes. "<Braddock Elizabth,>" she says, her tones and posture advancing the surname ahead of her given name, in a tradition Li might be more familiar with. "<My friends call me Betsy, so I invite you to do the same. From what part of China do you hail?">


"< Beh-t-see. >" Jhiao attempts. Her head cants to the side momentarily in an act that is rather evocative. Then she tries again. "< Beht-see. Betsy. Yes? Elizabeth, of the house and family of Braddock, called Betsy by her friends? >"

There is, as well, a curious formality to Jhiao's speech, one that bespeaks a rather older sensibility. Being as well traveled as she is, Betsy would likely be aware that young Chinese people of Jhiao's apparent age do not, generally, have quite that antiquity to their stylings of word choice.

"< The study of the universe within, and without, does indeed dwarf that of even a most lovely pair of shoes. But a respectful guest to another's land treats her hostess' with all honor, and protects her property in all things save life itself. >" Jhiao follows Betsy to the walkway, and stays close to chat, but the amethyst-eyed Brit might notice she keeps a corner of her eye on a small leather satchel nearby to where she had been practicing. She does so effortlessly, but it is a continuing act and habit.

"< Have you also studied the universe without and within, Betsy?" Jhiao inquires, curiously.


"<Your kindness is appreciated but not warranted; this is my home, but not my lands. I am from England and Japan,>" Betsy says, correcting Jhiao with polite diffidence, her tone making it clear that the mistake is a trifling matter. "<You are as welcome here as I am.>"

She considers Jhiao, eyes flickering with engagement with the young martial expert; an expression of intrigue that reaches nothing but her eyes. "<I have indeed. I have spent much of a lifetime attempting to master the mysteries of the empty hand, though my traditions do encourage the use of blade and weapon,>" she says. "<I am discipline of the art of ninjitsu, among others. Your t'ai chi, however, is flawless. You and your master deserve commendation.>"


"< You are she who has welcomed me. That makes you my hostess, in my eyes if not in any others'. And I thank you for that welcome and kindness. >" One might imagine Jhiao may not have met with quite as much open welcome and friendly conversation as she has found with the beautiful Brit.

"< Ah. Yes, my Master has spoken of the ninjitsu, and its children, the ninja. Blessing stealth and subtlety, strength and swift power. My Master also taught the use of weapons, but as an extension of the art, not at its core. They are not welcome, and so are not carried and cannot be depended upon. >" Jhiao explains. "< I thank you for the honor and respect you offer to my Master. He worked tirelessly to teach such as I. I practice every way, to honor him and the wisdom and kindness he showed me. >"


"<Such kindness is an obligation and a privilege.>" There's a certain cadence to the ritual politeness that lends itself to graciousness; it'd be grandiose in English, most likely, but the old ways are written around such extravagence of praise and modesty. "<I would be honored to know your Master's name, if he has decided it is permitted to be known outside your school,>" Betsy says, with a polite diffidence. "<I would also be honored if you would join me for a cup of tea and some noodles. It is cold out and this is a time of year for companionship and warmth. If it will not offend your sense of aesthetic discipline, of course,>" Betsy adds— belatedly recalling some orders demand a strict adherence to a difficult ascetic.


"< My Master was the most honorable and now ancient Master Li Jing, of Fungkiow Temple. >" Jhiao answers with bone-deep reverence in her tone. The name honestly sounds like it should be that he was a relative, perhaps even a father, but tonality and formality indicate only the bond between teacher and student, with a deference one might show for one's greatest, most inspiring teacher and leader.

"< I would be most honored to serve, Betsy. >" Jhiao offers with the closest thing to gentle informality yet in their conversation. "< I will be but a moment. >" With that, Jhiao bobs her head in a pale echo of her earlier bow, and then swiftly scampers over to fetch the satchel, draping it over her shoulder after sliding on the thin and light jacket that was folded quite neatly beneath it. She does not zip up the jacket, but simply and swiftly pads back to Betsy's place on the walkway.

"< If you will come with me, I will lead you to the place of the shelter. The honored mother has said that water is free, and the use of the mysterious 'electric' heating plate. >" Jhiao offers, turning and heading down the walkway but staying carefully aware of Betsy nearby behind her. She forms the word for electric very precisely, but with that hint of unreal inexperience she gave Betsy's name, as if it is learned from rote by listening to another.


"<Ah— I did not mean I wish you to cook,>" Betsy tells Jhiao, clearing her throat. "<I would prefer to purchase a hot meal at a local restaurant. It is something of a custom here in America when welcoming a new resident, to buy them a meal. There is an excellent restaurant a block from here that serves a mix of 'fusion' food, and they make excellent egg noodles and their jade tea is delicious. If you are so inclined, of course— it would be my pleasure to serve /you/,>" she says, moving to parallel the girl's path.


Jhiao pauses briefly, looking up at Betsy intently, consideringly. Betsy might notice that she seems to inhale purposefully for a moment, a quick little inward reverse-puff, as she weighs the other woman's words. Then she nods. "< Very well, Betsy. If this is your wish, and the custom here, please lead the way. I look forward to experiencing this 'fusion' food, and jade tea. "> And the much shorter-legged young woman seems to move with an effortless speed that handily makes up for what she lacks in length of leg over the almost toweringly taller Brit.


Betsy leads the way across the park towards the streets, pausing a beat to gauge the flow of traffic, then crosses with long-legged strides hallmarked by the click of her heels on the asphalt. She enters the restaurant, taking a half a beat to 'read' the room with a sweep of her eyes as she unbuttons her double-breasted jacket.

A waitress bustles over and bows to Betsy, who responds with a tilt of her shoulders. There's something very aristocratic in her posture; she must have quite a superiority complex. "<A table for two, please,>" she requests, this time in Cantonese. The waitress brings them over and Betsy hangs her coat from a hook, then sets her designer clutch on her lap and settles into the booth across from Jhiao. "<Hot water for tea, please, the green jade,>" she requests, as menus are offered.


Jhiao keeps pace, staying parallel to the long-legged Elizabeth, without even a puff of increased breathing as they make their way out of the Park, across the streets, and into the little restaurant.

Inside, Jhiao pauses, slipping off her satchel to remove her jacet, then folding it over her arm. She eyes the hook Elizabeth has used, and then raises herself alllll the way up on her tip-toes to reach it as she hooks her jacket there, and then rests the strap of her satchel over the same hook.

The world is truly not build for those who are so much shorter than average.

Yet Jhiao does not complain, nor even comment. She simply follows Betsy to the booth, watching carefully, glancing around at others, and then slides in across from her as she has seen others are sitting here. "< Thank you kindly, to you and your house. >" the young woman offers in flowing Cantonese to the waitress as she accepts the menu. That seems a bit more natural to her, just a hint, than the Mandarin used earlier.


The waitress seems a bit unsure of herself, so she ducks a few quick bows and scuttles off, leaving Jhiao's compliment unreturned.

"<You are… not from Beijing, I take it,>" Betsy murmurs, observing Jhiao with shrewd amythsyt eyes. Even by the standards of one accustomed to Japanese conservancy, Betsy's features are difficult to read easily. "<One of the provinces, perhaps? A temple, of some kind?>" she inquires. She pours tea— first for Jhiao, then for herself, then lifts the cup in both hands and salutes Jhiao with it. "Ganbai," she offers.


"< Quinghai Province. >" Jhiao answers, with a nod. It is the name she was taught for the province closest to the lands where she grew up, and where she was first found. "< I was raised in Fungkiow Temple. >" Jhiao accepts the cup with gravity and raises her own to salute the other woman, then waits. There is an infinity to her patience as she waits, without expectation, until Betsy sips first. Then she tries it herself, inhaling deeply as if filling herself with the scent of the tea, and then exploring its taste across her tongue. "< You were right. It is quite tasty, and well-prepared. I thank you again. >" Knowing that Betsy speaks Cantonese as well, Jhiao sticks with this more common-born language, now, if only because it would seem more welcome to the staff of this place.


Betsy's Cantonese is excellent, as good as her Mandarin, though a Japanese accent can be heard at the edge of her consonants. Not much of one, and it'd take a skilled ear to pick it out. She could easily just pass for someone from Hong Kong or even one of the Gulf provinces. The exotic coloration of her hair and eyes also makes her precise origin difficult to place.

"<So you are a monk, I take it? I have spent very little time with the monks of China, though I have met some in my travels.>"


"< Trained as one, yes. >" Jhiao answers, nodding. It would be nun, honestly, but monk is more than good enough. Her own accent is pretty clearly one from the hilly country provinces, quite rural, but without the imprecision that might otherwise imply. That would make sense for a young woman raised in a temple with an order of monks for teachers, of course. "< And you, Betsy? You are trained in the art of ninjitsu. What do you do, then? >"


"<I am a teacher,>" Betsy says. That's a simple enough explanation. "<I teach dance, language, and …>" her eyes flicker, trying to find a corollary that Jhiao might appreciate. "<Mechanics,>" she says, in lieu of 'automotive repair'.

"<I have not trained in those arts in years. I maintain those skills but I am no longer a student of the ways.>" She lifts her chin when the waitress arrives. "<Eggroll noodles for my friend; pork slices for me, please," she requests, her voice a polite murmur.


"< Teaching is the most honored of paths. >" Jhiao offers with a tiny, brief smile. "< You clearly have a gift for language, and dance. I imagine the same is true of your … mechanics. >" It's quite possible that 'automative repair' would not have computed for the girl.

"< Thank you kindly. >" Jhiao offers to the waitress and Betsy, and then turns back to the Brit. "< May I ask why you are no longer a student of the ways of the ninja? It sounds as if something changed for you in your path. >"


 "<Because I no longer wish to kill people for the honor of my former clan,>" Betsy says, matter-of-factly. "<The shinobi of the Hand are employed wholly with the intent of advancing the priorities of that clan. And they do so very violently, with little remorse or respect for innocent life. As that is a condition of studying under them, it seems unlikely they'd retain me as a student after I expressed my… extremely indignant opposition to their views."


Jhiao frowns momentarily and then shakes her head. Then she continues sipping at her tea, giving herself quiet time to contemplate the other woman's words without being expected to speak in return. The telepath might be able to pick up the currents within the stillness of the other woman's intense focus and calm discipline.

Finally, Jhiao speaks again, softly, a bundled tension to her tone. "< I understand that the ending of human life can be quite traumatic and morally undesirable. Innocent life most of all. I am sorry you must suffer the weight of that. >" Oddly, Jhiao speaks of such a thing with a remove that doesn't seem to fit her very Zen nature. "< I am pleased to know that you were able to escape them with your life, of course. But we would likely not have met otherwise. >"


"<The French have a saving. 'C'est la vie',>" Betsy says, in smooth and barely accented French. A hand flickers through the air, as if carried along by the vagaries of fate. "<Such is life. There are pitfalls and perils, but— moments of pleasure arrive, too,>" she says, smile tugging at the corner of her mouth. "<And good fortune often follows on the heels of poor lottery.>"

"<Are you on a personal quest of knowledge? Or following a mission? If it is not impolite for me to ask,>" Betsy inquires politely.


Jhiao shrugs her shoulders slightly, eyes flickering around them momentarily before she responds. "< My own quest is one of knowledge and self-discovery, the gathering of wisdom through experience and exploration. >" she answers, smiling slightly. "< Clearly, I do not find it impolite for you to ask. >"


"<Some wish to maintain privacy. I did not wish to transgress,>" Betsy says— but she smiles back at Jhiao, the subtle nuance of the expression giving only Jhiao privy to her pleasure at Jhiao's frank demeanour.

"<I welcome you to New York, then, and wish you all the best,>" Betsy advises Jhiao. "<I know some in the area who are from China, or have trained there extensively; if you like, I could put you in touch with some of our local masters. Some of the finest martial artists in the world reside within a few miles of here,>" she says, gesturing vaguely with one hand. "<Have you found yourself wanting for anything?>"


The young nun smiles, a twinkle in her amber eyes as she faces Elizabeth. "< You have not transgressed upon anything such as I am concerned. >" she offers, warmly. "< I do not tend to have much privacy in need of protection. >"

"< I am not myself seeking other masters. >" Jhiao explains, calmly and quietly. "< But I would welcome the opportunity to commune with others more familiar with where I have gained experience, if only to then share in and benefit from their experiences of the lands in which I find myself. >"

But the visibly younger woman tilts her head to the side in a physical gesture of curiosity and consideration at Betsy's last. "< Wanting? No. My needs are simple, of course. >" One could well assume she travels the world with no more than what her little satchel holds. It's rather humbling, to be sure.


Elizabeth, on the other hand, looks every inch the self-possessed socialite who would possibly die without her cell phone, purse, and makeup kit. The sort of exquisite glamour in her appearance is something only possibly cultivated with a /great/ deal of support from an industry focused on vanity.

"<Not masters,>" Betsy hastens to clarify. "<Just… teachers. One can learn a great deal without having to swear as a student,>" she tells Jhiao. "<I enjoy sparring with some of them on occassion to keep my martial skills sharp.>"


Jhiao's merry amber eyes - an interesting color, to be sure! - twinkle as she regards the well-made socialite, She may wel seem as if she doesn't even comprehend the total depth of the other woman's dedication to her appearance. "< Ah. That, I must admit, would be reason worth meeting them. But so too, their company and experience. >" She sips more of her tea, but soon enough her cup is empty. "< I confess, I do at times enjoy the chance to share the Dance with another without malice of intent. >"


"<As do I, but there are few venues where such is appropriate. If you find yourself in Westchester, I would invite you to visit me at my home,>" Betsy tells Jhiao. "<I make frequent use of the sparring facilities there.>"

She purses her lips, then laughs, a soft sound for most but a veritable chortle for more nuanced folk. "<Goodness, I have no idea how to function around someone who does not have a cell phone. Can I leave messages for you at your shelter? Or, can you have messages sent to me, potentially?>"


The young Chinese woman regards Betsy curiously, head tilted to the side again. She is definitely struggling to fathom something. "< You speak of the tiny computing devices I have seen many carry, yes? >" She shakes her head. "< I have no such device, nor a means to acquire one. My humble apologies. When I need to pass a message, I do as my teacher instructed me: I write it with the idiograms upon the compressed tree fibers, and send them using the 'mail'. >"

Yep. The girl who looks at most twenty or so years old is talking about snail mail. And not at all in the normal way, even in Cantonese.


Betsy produces a cell phone and offers it to Jhiao to examine at her leisure, unlocking it with a flick of her fingers and giving the woman some time to examine and handle the device. "<Cell phones, yes. They're an expensive luxury, admittedly, but once you're accustomed to having one, they're hard to quit. If I give you my phone number, however, I am very sure the lady at your shelter can call me from their land phone— or send a message to me at your request, and we can communicate in minutes what'd take weeks to coordinate, otherwise.>"


The young woman eyes the device without actually touching it. Indeed, she very visibly and purposefully keeps her hands in her lap away from the device. "< Would it not be easier for me to simply walk to this 'Westchester', and find you there? I am sure I could do this. >" Clearly, she does not have the comfort or understanding of modern technology that Betsy would expect, even of a young woman from deeply rural China. "< I can cover some three hundred kilometers in a day. Surely that would be enough to find you? >"


"<Three…. hundred kilometers.>" Betsy repeats the words slowly— making clear eye contact to ensure that she and Jhiao aren't having a misunderstanding. Jhiao doesn't seem mistaken, and as it'd be rude for Betsy to argue, the leggy ninjette shrugs one shoulder politely, putting her phone into her jacket pocket.

"<As you like. Westchester is a little over one hundred kilometers north of here. If you follow State Route 7 north, it'll take you there quite directly. The Xavier Institute is my home— simply announce yourself at the door and someone will fetch me for you. It's a well known place.>"


"< Yes. >" the young woman offers with an affirmative nod towards Betsy. She listens attentively to the directions, and nods again when Betsy finishes. "< The route of the seven - a blessed number in the European traditions, yes? - and seeking the Institute of Xavier. This I can do. >" Whenever she wants to reach Betsy, at least. "< You are sure none else would mind my visit? I would not wish to upset others in their home, a most dishonorable result. >"


"<It is a large home with many people, and we are accustomed to unexpected visitors at very peculiar hours,>" Betsy assures Jhiao, smiling tolerantly. "<I assure you though, you will be most welcome as my guest there, and I think it unlikely anyone will be offended by your presence. I'll be driving home this evening, most likely, and should be well settled by tomorrow, if you choose to travel that way this week.>"


And Jhiao lifts her hands, clasping them before her, and bows her head in a classic pose of respect and acknowledgement. "< As you wish. Then I shall travel the bless'ed route of seven north later this week, and ask for you there. Perhaps then we can dance. >"


Seated, Betsy returns the gesture— and with a strange sense of poise that flows through her perfectly polite echo of Jhiao's motion. One might be hard pressed to say what precisely illustrates this quality— but it's undeniably there.

"<I look forward to that,>" Betsy responds, smiling at Jhiao with a pleased expression that would look mildly tolerant to anyone accustomed to broader social expressions. "<And I look forward to hosting you at my home in Westchester at your convenience.>"

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