2007-08-31: The Great Lecture On Takezo Kensei


Elena_icon.gif Mikhail_icon.gif

Summary: The new semester is in full swing. Elena takes an eastern literature course to balance out her science coursework. Misplaced in a sea of liberal arts majors, she happens to end up sitting next to the only other guy who isn't majoring in the area. Artist meets Scientist in a class dedicated to a certain Japanese hero.

Date It Happened: August 31st, 2007

The Great Lecture On Takezo Kensei

The Great Lecture On Takezo Kensei

The kanji is written in the traditional way on the board, followed by the English translation at the bottom:


Dr. Atsuki Hasukawa underlines the name with a piece of chalk, and turns to his class of about thirty college students or so taking his Eastern literature course. "I thought now that the semester's rolling forward that we'd get to the really good stuff." His English, despite being a Japanese expatriate, was flawless. "Hopefully you've all managed to buy this book already as we'll be covering it extensively. The Trials of Takezo Kensei. But first, a little bit of a historical background….."

Elena is sitting somewhere in the middle, her notebook open and her bookbag next to her on the ground. At the direction of the professor, she reaches over on the side and pulls out a copy of the Trials of Takezo Kensei, with the original Japanese text, and the English translation side by side with it. Given her classes were heavily scientific, she uses literature to take a break. She's already got advanced Shakespeare - but this class sounded interesting so she added this to the pile. So she digs out her cats eye glasses, and perches it on her nose.

She can't help but look around the rest of the room, trying to see if she knows anybody. Sadly she doesn't. Looks like she'll have to pay extra attention now. She'll have to rely on her own notes.

This is one of those classes that he needed to have to keep his status as a full-time student. The student advisor also gave him limited choices in what to choose for this semester, seeing how he didn't get to apply for classes right away. Special measures were taken to get into the art ones, but a class like this fit into one of his empty slots perfectly.

It doesn't matter where Mikhail sits; front, back, middle - all of it is the same to him. He sits to the left of Elena as she glances about, his own notebook open and….covered in drawings. Yes, he wrote down the characters written on the chalkboard, but they were now surrounded by dragons, trees, and strange robotic fishes. Another drawing began to form as the professor went on, but the young man's hand pauses. Eyes dart up for a brief moment in thought.

Wait. They were suppose to already have the book?

The young female sophomore tries to write the kanji on her notebook - and fails. Horribly. In fact the symbols look less than symbols and more like squiggles. Unlike the art major next to her, Elena fails at anything artistic. So she just gives up and just writes TAKEZO KENSEI in her notebook, and withdraws her book so she could open it up to the write pages regarding the historical background on the heroic figure.

"Takezo Kensei's name means 'Sword Saint'," Dr. Hasukawa says in the front, writing down the translation. "A fitting title for someone who is considered the greatest samurai Japan has ever seen. While history can be a little fuzzy on some aspects of his more extraordinary deeds, thanks to grants from the Yamagato keiretsu in Japan, we actually now have archaeological proof that Takezo Kensei existed once upon a time in Japan thanks to the retrieval of his famous sword with this symbol." The professor scrawls the symbol on the board. "It means 'Godsend'. Or, if you want to note another translation, 'One with Great Ability.' This will forever be known as Takezo Kensei's crest…."

Elena jots down her notes, though she can't help but notice the student to the left of her fidgeting a little bit. Her eyes glance down at his notebook, blinking at the figures there. ….he drew all of that so quickly? They weren't there before. She leans over a bit and she whispers.

"If you don't have the book yet, we can share mine," she whispers, oh-so-ever altruistic. She gives him a small smile, and nudges the book in the middle of their desks.

Whoa - he's already starting. Wait, he started earlier. But it was an introduction! Mikhail purses his lips, writing part of whatever he was able to catch before letting the last word have an ink trail run diagonally down the page.

This is why he doesn't like sitting in classes. His attention span holds to half of the blame, but still.

"Eh?" The other student's gaze flickered over to Elena, who offered to share her book. "…" Book. Elena. Book. Elena. Say something. "Um…okay," he shrugs, giving her a hint of an awkward smile. At this point, he was already sketching something else.

She's only trying to help him out. So Elena tacks her bookmark there in the middle of the pages, and starts to write down more notes. Her chin props on one hand, adjusting her glasses with her other one as she listens to the professor drone on about the historical background on Takezo Kensei, who seems to have actually existed according to the ones who took advantage of the Yamagato grants to figure that out. She writes down the word in the margin, along with a question mark. She also seems to have mispelled Yamagato. Hey, don't judge her, she was born in the US.

"His first trial, documented according to literature," Dr. Hasukawa continues. "Is the Battle of the 12 Swords. His nemesis, Whitebeard, took a small contigent of his men to take the village of Otsu which he intended as a staging ground to take over the rest of Japan. To take it, would mean being around the vicinity of Kyoto…."

Her eyes slide to the side. The student to the left of her was still drawing. Was he even paying attention? Then again, the drawings were pretty good. He's probably an art major, or maybe he just likes to draw. ………and what IS that? A robotic fish?

Mikhail is. Really. His notes prove it.

Tail. Part of a background. Part of Takezo's background. Something weird with sharp teeth and claws. Little fishie. YamagaDESIGNAGE TAKING OVER THE REST OF THE PAGE. Wait - Battle of the 12 Swords is somewhere within that space. His eyes have been focusing on his notebook, half-listening to the lecture given. The page is turned, another sentence or two scrawling across the lines as it shifts into a sword, details and everything. And then there is a cat lump in the corner.

Yes. Love the robotic fish. He draws two more, gaping maws and scissor fins. Mikhail blinks, giving Elena a sidelong glance while sketching out several shapes on the lower righthand side, still listening to bits and pieces of the professor's words.

Maybe he concentrates better with pictures. Elena's eyes shift back to the front again as she starts jotting down her own notes. She doesn't draw or anything, but in the lull of the lecture, she absently doodles a squiggly something on the margins. It doesn't look like much. A heart. Flowers. Maybe a cross. She was Catholic, after all, and she wears a crucifix around her neck. She can't help but gravitate towards the young man's sketches again though. She can't help it. She's wondering what he's drawing next.

When Mikhail gives her a sidelong glance, she blinks. Oops. Busted. She grins at him sheepishly and writes on the margin of her notebook.

'Sorry. Can't help it. You're really good.' She's got pretty handwriting, readable, a little messy and a little swirly.

And talking in class is a no-no, so she improvises. God. She hasn't done this since high school. Then again, she's slowly getting back to it. She has Nadia in a few classes after all.

Dr. Hasukawa moves on, giving a synopsis of the Trial of the Fire Scroll.

There is a subtle nod at the note, bangs falling in front of one eye. She doesn't draw too badly, herself. Simple is nice. His own handwriting looks terrible, but it's expected of some artists. 'I don't mind. Thanks.' He then writes 'Synopsis:' underneath the mess, another long pause happening as he stares blankly up at the front of the classroom. What did he miss exactly? Almost everything.

He recovers part of the summary, writing many erratic question marks after it. His hand then moves back over to the loosely-drawn shapes from earlier, filling in the structure of the subject as he glances back at Elena. More lines. Glance. More lines, shading. Crosshatching and another wavering movement prior to adding more details. It was…her? Well, sort of. He's still getting the hang of it.

'No problem.' Her pen scribbles the note on her margin so he could see it clearly. Elena's eyes wander back to Dr. Hasukawa who has moved on to the cusp of the Takezo Kensei legend.

"The Battle of the Ninety Angry Ronin," the professor remarks, getting into one of the more battle-heavy chapters of the epic. "Now that we know Kensei actually existed, we have absolutely no idea if this particular battle actually happened. After all, how can one man defeat 90 angry, armed men with swords? Either writers at the time have been exagerrating, or Kensei exhibited some strange, almost godlike powers to defeat such an army all by himself." He laughs. "And as you know, superpowers don't exactly exist in the real world…"

Or so he thinks anyways. Elena quirks a brow - though naturally she doesn't say anything about that. In fact, she glances down at the notebook page she's scribbling on, and attempts to hide a smile. The artist next to her is still working on a sketch, so she lets her eyes drift to the side to see what, or who, he was drawing. Hey….that face looks familiar.

The note is given an eyebrow quirk, his attention going back to the professor. Did he just make a joke about something? He missed it? No one else is laughing. Okay, he's safe. Now, back to the paper. Maybe if he adds something else…

The sketch is given a few strokes of his ballpoint pen, the black ink fading and changing with each line. Ugh. Those strokes cost him in the end, Elena's face having a dark mark running across it. He sighs, moving his hand over to the next empty page, sketching out angry little warriors with toothpick swords. Ninety is a large number - let's stick with ten. They look like they're trying to jump off the page, frustrated and yelling at the top of their tiny little imaginary lungs. Mikhail writes the title of the story under that, his lower lip jutting out a little.

Wait…that was her. She can tell, the beautymark's in the right spot. Elena's quit covering it up a month ago or so. But she does watch in fascination when he sketches her face into his page….but messes up in the end and flips into a new one. What? But…he was doing so well! A little disappointed, she turns her attention back to the front, her chin propped up on one hand and her eyes focused on the board as more notes appear for her to copy down.

Dr. Hasukawa continues on. "And of course we get to Takezo Kensei's princess….there seems to be conflicting reports about her. Princess is probably a figurative way to describe her as historical sources seem to agree that the love of Kensei's life isn't actually royalty, but a swordsmith's daughter. Historians however can't agree on her identity, and while there are documented accounts of a swordsmith's daughter named Yaeko in the village of Otsu, there's no proof that this woman was actually Kensei's love. She figures the most prominently in Kensei's last trial where the dragon reappears to finally take his payment from Kensei for teaching him his legendary sword techniques, and that was his princess. In true form of most epic tragedies, Takezo Kensei cuts out his own heart and offers it up to the dragon and dies…"

Elena raises her hand from where she's seated.

"Question, Miss…" Dr. Hasukawa peers at his seating chart. "….Miss Gomez?"

"I know there's historical proof that Takezo Kensei actually existed, but since it doesn't seem possible for anyone to be able to cut out his heart and give it to a dragon, of all things…" Elena begins. "Would that entire tale be….I don't know. Maybe that entire trial was almost all symbolism?"

Dr. Hasukawa lifts a brow. "Explain?"

"Cutting out one's heart in most literature typically signifies some great sacrifice," Elena explains. "And the heart usually signifies love. In this last trial maybe…instead of going the literal route, the author wanted to actually depict heartache in a more battle-oriented way. Maybe Takezo Kensei didn't really cut out his heart, but rather gave up his love for the Princess in order to save her life. When the passage says that he died after giving it up…maybe he didn't literally die, but some part of him did. Because….well. It's not easy to give up someone you love, right?"

Dr. Hasukawa considers this, and he nods. "Possible. We don't really know how the historical Takezo Kensei died - but he could've cut out his heart in the literal sense as well if you consider….well, suppose he did manage to do defeat 90 angry ronin by himself. If Takezo Kensei in life was that invincible, perhaps the only way to kill him would be if he killed himself. Maybe the author's true message is that no one in the world can defeat Takezo Kensei but himself." He smiles faintly. "A very romantic interpretation though, Miss Gomez."

The professor looks at his watch. "Alright, we're just about done here, for the next assignment…" He turns back to the board, scrawling out their reading assignment for the next class.

It's the pen. Pressure placed on it makes it do weird things. And he can probably do a better sketch later. In the middle of sketching out a larger, darker-looking samurai, Mikhail listens in when Elena goes to interrupt the train of thought. Gray-blue eyes look up momentarily to dart around the room at everyone, seeing how their expressions have slightly changed while Elena and the professor have the exchange.

Gomez. Her last name. Not bad - it's easy to remember. He jots it down next to the samurai, looking at it for a minute. The placement looks silly. Who would call a forboding samurai Gomez? The young artist takes the time to write down a couple more lines of information, anything he paid attention to within the time brackets. The assignment also gets scribbled, turning out to be sort of illegible in the end. His head tilts, eying his hand curiously. Okay.

She takes notes on the homework assignment on her notebook, and Elena closes her book and starts packing her things. She puts both of them away, but she doesn't stand up yet. Her pen twirls absently to the side, until she flips up the top of her bookbag to slip the pen into the slot meant to hold pens. And then, she slips the cover back over it, standing up from her seat and shouldering her bag across from shoulder to torso. Glancing over at Mikhail, she can't help a teasing grin. "At least you got the samurai parts down, huh?" she says, in terms of the sketches that he had been drawing before class was over. She misses him writing down her last name though. "I meant what I wrote though, you're really good. Are you an art major? I only ask because I'm pretty misplaced here too. I'm pre-med. Not exactly the sort you'd find in a literature course."

His nose wrinkles while he continues to stare at the half-filled page, catching the girl's question just as the others are starting to leave. Mikhail tugs on his jacket sleeves, letting the rough-edged cuffs cover the lower half of his palms. "Yeah," he says softly, turning his head to make eye contact with Elena. The notebook closes before she can get a second chance to study it again, the pen tapping the permanent markered cover of it. He glances downward, brushing his bangs out of his face with his left hand. "Thank you. And…yeah, I am," comes another few words, Mikhail now reaching for his own bulky messenger bag. The notebook and pen slide across the desk's surface and into the deep of it, the top flap following it as he snaps one buckle closed. "Not a big deal, being a pre-med student. There should be a few others misplaced in this class, too. I dunno." He says all of this so calmly, keeping to his neutral tone.

"Maybe," Elena says with a grin. "I mean I'm sure some people are taking this since it looks like a filler course, but the historical material in itself seems pretty heavy. I don't think this class is going to give easy A's any time soon. Me, I have no artistic talent whatsoever so when people draw or do anything creative, I can't help but stop and watch…sorry about that if you think it was…you know. Kinda creepy." Her expression turns sheepish, but after a few moments, she sticks her hand out to him. "My name's Elena. What's yours? If we're going to be sitting in this class together all semester. I don't…really know anyone in this class. It'd be nice to know at least one person's name."

The young man's lower lip juts out again, thinking over what Elena just said. He's here, in a moment, having a conversation. Much different from a class lecture. "Gomez," he repeats her last name, nodding several times. He stands from his seat, hoisting the bag over his shoulder and fixing the hood of his jacket. "Mikhail Himura." Good, that's his name. What else did she mention? Uhhhh…. "I don't mind if people watch. It's usually the other way around, I think. The creepy part. And…dang." He looks lost, but he's mainly saying that about the class. Having a new friend isn't bad, though. The artist half-smiles at the girl, shrugging. "A good plan, Ele," he replies, already shortening her name.

She laughs. "Yeah, Elena Gomez," Elena reiterates, inclining her head a little bit. She didn't think he caught her last name, considering the professor just called her name out from the seating chart. She shakes his hand once and lets go. "Nice to meet you, Mikhail…Hi…Himura?" She pronounces it slowly, but she's got an Americanized accent with both those names. "Mikhail is Russia, yeah?" And Himura was Japanese - he did look mostly asian, but the fact that he had blue/gray eyes indicated a very obvious mixed descent. When he quips the last, she laughs. "I don't think you're creepy. You look perfectly normal," she says with a sure nod, taking a step down from one of the steps leading to the door. "Besides, if you're an artist that sorta gives you carte blanche to be a little eccentric right?" When he shortens her name, she beams at the informality. Ele. That's a new one. "If you're going to call me Ele, I reserve the right to call you Miki, then," she jests with a grin. "Besides….I think I'll just mangle the Russian accent."

Normal. Normal is good. Mikhail grins a little, letting a soft chuckle slip as he follows. "Himura," he says again, having those accents appear in his 'American' speech. "Japanese and Russian. My mom named me. And that's reassuring, at least." So he /can/ show amusement after all. His hands dig deep into his pockets, his pacing evenly matched with Elena's. "I…guess? In a way? Artists can be psychos sometimes, though." Sadly, it's true. Ears perk when she calls him Miki, eyelids fluttering a bit before responding. "Well. That's fine. It /is/ hard to say 'Mikhail' half of the time," he snorts, grinning lopsidedly. Even when he says it, he still has the accents right. Weird.

"Himura," Elena repeats, trying to get it right - and hey, she almost does. She's always been a quick study. So when the rest of the class starts filing out, she follows, sliding her own hands into the pockets of the hoodie she wears. "So….does that mean you can speak both languages? I mean, you pronounce them both authentically - but it IS your name so of course you know how to say it. Figure you got some language skills I wanna see if I can con you into teaching me," she says with a grin. Mikhail's face is warming up so she's only encouraged to keep the conversation going. She moves for the door, and down the hall, following the throng of students heading for the quad. "Miki it is," she says with a nod. "As for artists being psychos…well, it's a different sort of thinking anyway, right? More visually inclined, more prone to seeing flaws, detail oriented….things like that? I wouldn't call it psychotic, just different."

An approving nod gives Elena some feedback to her fast learning. He probably could do the same if he manages to keep focused. Humming a note of uncertainty, Mikhail tilts his head back. "Uhhh…I've heard a little bit here and there. Understanding is one thing, communicating back in those tongues are another. I'm not as fluent as I should be, but eh. Basics are good." It depends, really. He figured the accent thing was easy since it's all phonetics. "I can teach you some phrases later on, then," he agrees, chuckling some more. Compared to everyone else occupying space, the art student manages to keep his stride quiet. And when Elena repeats the nickname, he accepts it. "Hah, nice," he says, "there's always different views on things like that. Artsy things. A natural sense for it, maybe? I mean, those sound right. Still, you have to wonder."

"Deal. I'll teach you some Spanish to even the trade," Elena says. She can't help but feel some semblance of normalcy creep back into her life, now that she's in school and making new friends again. Here on campus it was easy to forget the weirdness of the last few months for a while. "And I know, but I try not to assume too much. I mean sometimes it just comes out when you hang out with a person enough." She tucks a lock of hair behind her ear, and once they step out of NYU's liberal arts building, the breeze outside tousles her loose, dark hair around her face and dislodges the lock she just put behind her ear. She checks her watch….a Casio. But it's strange. Did Casios even come with heart-shaped faces? The watch is actually pretty cute, it was delicate and girly, but….normal Casios didn't come in shapes. "Agh….I have another class in ten minutes." She groans and looks at Mikhail. "Chemistry lab. I'm so afraid of blowing up -something- in there one day."

"Awesome," Miki replies with a weak yet amused laugh. It should be fun mixing up different languages to confuse people. What a fantastic idea. The breeze does nothing cool for his own mess of hair, only making a few strands stand up and at an angle before falling back down again. His bangs obscure his vision in lights and darks, but he doesn't do anything to fix it. He just watches her gripe about the next class, saying nothing, stifling a snicker while imagining an cartoon-like explosion happening. Still, Elena proves herself to be a normal college girl serious about her studies. She has a different air about her, but it's interesting. "I got two hours. Three hour studio class," he counters lightly. Drawing naked people isn't all that great.

"Ouch, really?" Elena says with a laugh. "Do you like it?" she asks, stepping down the stairs. She has no idea where his studio class is, but her other class is in the eastern area of campus. "Hope they get compelling subjects in that class though, instead of….you know. Some guy who looks like Borat or something," she offers. Though by the way his face looks, she can't help but give a sympathetic wince. She laughs after. "I'd sympathize, but…I can't. I'm pre-med. I'll be graduating to make examinations on dead bodies at some point in my life. At least you don't have to touch those art subjects, yeah? Silver lining," she remarks, ribbing him a bit, but she can't help but be in good spirits at having seized some semblance of normalcy again. Even if it's with the company of a classmate she barely knows.

"If you're comfortable with looking at nude models posing oddly, sure," he says cooly, still grinning as they walk along the paved pathways. Borat, ew. He shivers a little. "Especially if they look like him," Mikhail adds, trying to shake that image from his mind. Nodding ensues after that, his laughter low as she says all of this. It's true - he's pretty lucky to look and not touch. Yeah. The guy's actually enjoying this, even if Elena has to get to her other class. Without mentioning it, he'll walk her over to the building before breaking for foodage. It's the least he can do.

"Oh my god," Elena groans, covering her face and turning somewhat pink around the cheeks when he tells her about nude models posing oddly. "I don't think I'd be able to look up if they did. I mean, what if they get a contortionist? Have you ever got a contortionist in that class? That'd be some story." She can't help but laugh, walking down the quad - she's aware the guy's walking with her, but maybe they're walking in the same direction. No reason not to walk together, right? Besides, Miki was personable….it was an odd mix. First impressions would dictate that he might be a loner, with how he does his hair and clothes. Looks, as always, were deceiving. "Just some guy from…I don't know, Cirque du Soleil or something, tumbling into your class in a bathrobe and suddenly just stripping it off and bending into a pretzel."

Now that….

That is something he hasn't even /tried/ imagining. Thanks to Elena, it makes it harder to contain his rising laughter. "Oh…m…oh man, no, that isn't right," he gasps in between, placing a hand over the side of his face. Walking and talking suddenly becomes walking and laughing their heads off. Goodness, no one's ever made him laugh this hard. She's breaking him! He can't say anything else, still laughing and groaning at the thoughts stuck in his mind.

"Well just pray it doesn't happen any time soon then!" Elena blurts out, laughing. Laughter only encourages more after all, because now she can't stop imagining someone with clown make-up leaping in front of Mikhail, and tossing his bathrobe off in a flourish in a TA-DA! gesture. She almost drops her books, she's laughing so hard. But when she wipes her eyes, she sees the building she should be going into loom in front of her. She hops up the few steps leading to the front door, and opens it to head inside the building. Her class was in the first floor, so they don't have to go far, but she does stop in front of it and grins at him. "And with that lovely image in mind, I bid you adieu." She rests a hand on the doorframe of the lab entrance, beaming at Mikhail. "It was nice meeting you, Miki. I'll see you in the next class. …unless you plan on dropping it."

His ribs are hurting now. The laughter dies down on his side, arms crossing as he takes deep breaths. He needs the break; any more and he'll probably faint. Boots scuff against the sidewalk once they stop, his bag bouncing off of his thigh several times. Gray blue eyes observe Elena as she goes up the small flight of stairs, the young man staying near the first step. "Gee, thanks," he grins back. "And don't worry - I don't think I'm dropping this one. My plans have changed, Ele." Taking a few slow steps backward, he waves once, turning on a heel. "Jaa." A small spring, and off he goes.

A normal yet strange start for acquaintances. Odd, but good.

"Bye!" Elena says cheerfully, her hand lifting in a wave. And then she turns, yanking the door open into the science building and stepping inside, the door sliding shut behind her.

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