3546/Shadows in the grass

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Shadows in the grass
Date of Scene: 24 September 2020
Location: Central Park
Synopsis: A humanoid turtle and a capoeira dancer who is more than she seems have a chat.
Cast of Characters: Natasha Cranston, Donatello

Natasha Cranston has posed:
    It's a lovely late autumn afternoon in Central Park. The weather has so far decided to behave, and while it's starting to cool it's not yet so cold that the troupe has moved its practices indoors. The players have formed a circle, and those not playing instruments are clapping the rhythm and indiscriminately encouraging the dancers in the center. Near the players, a smaller semicircle of dancers crouch, awaiting their turn to move in and take a player's place.

    As usual, there are some spectators standing around, and one or two troupe members handing out fliers.

Donatello has posed:
    It's been an emotional few days in the Turtle Lair -- the blame for that shared by both Donatello and Leonardo -- and the Purple One had been looking for a way to gain some points with his older brother. The last time he had ventured to Central Park, an unfamiliar word had passed through Donatello's ear slits: capoeira, along with a proponent who seemed to have some highly tuned ninja abilities. A cursory search suggested that the word referred to a martial arts style totally unknown to the turtles. Ever the seeker of knowledge, Donatello would find himself in Central Park, once more, to uncover the mysteries of this fighting style, and those who practice it, and perhaps get into Leo's good graces once more.

    Donatello might sometimes be seen as the svelte brother and has no trouble managing to fit into some human clothes. A long, black wool peacoat goes down to his shins and does a pretty decent job keeping his true nature hidden. It does poke out a bit around the shoulders and rear, as though he might be wearing a backpack underneath. Still, his green ankles and double-toe feet are still visible, but New Yorkers have a tendency of keeping their eyes on their own paper. His head is mostly covered up by a rumpled fedora-style hat that might just be a couple sizes too large. It hangs low, though, and provides some decent cover.

    The awkwardly dressed figure passes through the crowd and finds himself holding one of the paper fliers that explain what's going on in the park. Now among those in the crowd, Donatello looks at the flyer and recognizes it as the one he got during his last visit. It would seem that he's found the right place.

    "It...just looks like they're dancing," he mutters to himself. "And missing their kicks on purpose."

Natasha Cranston has posed:
    The flier is only slightly more helpful; apparently the art style originated in Brazil among slave populations, who used the dancing and music to disguise the actual fighting training from their owners, who would probably have objected to their property learning to fight and defend themselves. After the necessity of deception passed, it became entrenched as a tradition and a celebration; nowadays it's recognized and practiced internationally. There's a helpful translation list for some of the Portugese words used, and of course the usual website URL and contact number for the group.

    Judging by the 'fight' going on in the center, the purpose is as much to show off as it is to prove who's the superior Jogador -- 'dancer'. As the roda progresses some of the people from the outer circle move to the ready arc, and dancers who substitute out join the outer circle to catch their breath. There doesn't appear to be any kind of actual order or hierarchy to the shifts; apparently whoever feels like moving into the ready group just does so, and the people on deck decide on their own when to cut for one of the dancers.

    It becomes quickly obvious to a trained eye that the skill gradient's pretty extensive, ranging from fairly fresh beginners who are still a bit stiff and hesitant to limber veterans who move like gravity -- and spines -- are optional, but one curious thing that the Purple One will notice is that when a relative newbie is matched against a veteran, the latter goes out of their way to make the former look good, subtly encouraging them to push themselves just that bit further than they thought they could.

    The dancers themselves are a pretty diverse slice of the population; men and women, young and old, short and tall, everyone appears to be welcome, and everyone dances in their way.

    Even among that crowd, Jenny is relatively easy to spot; she's not the only one with obviously dyed hair, but she is the only one who's dyed it blue. She's currently on deck, one hand gently tapping the rhythm on the grass below her as she waits for the right moment to spring in.

Donatello has posed:
    And the Purple One does notice!

    "That's interesting," he murmurs. "It's like they're making a point to have the weaker fighter get the edge." A green hand is brought up to the chin, giving it a slight touch -- a thinky gesture.

    While this may be celebrated internationally, the New York City sewer system seems to be just shy of its diplomatic reach. It's all completely new to Donatello. His custom-built MIYAGI AI had done some searching and found some details on this martial art, but it was prone to fantastic errors and needed to be fact-checked. Its neural network was still being trained and Donatello did not trust it, so an in-person visit was necessary.

    But then! Donatello catches a brief glimpse of blue, reminding him briefly of his brother. Huh. There's Jenny. Donatello slides through the crowd with relative ease, the results of a lifetime spent training to hone his clumsy body, and moves towards the front of it. He makes a point to wind up in a position directly in her sightline and reaches up to pull his floppy hat back, just an inch or two, to give her a good look.

    It's about as obvious as he'd like to get without jumping into the ready arc, himself!

Natasha Cranston has posed:
    Another thing of note is that the musicians seem to almost arbitrarily slow down or speed up the rhythm, both to let shakier dancers have a bit more time to think and to encourage the veterans to flashier moves and wilder leaps. Jenny's first few opponents are some of the younger and newer kids, and she makes a big show out of slowly stretching out her kicks and telegraphing her movements to give them time to evade, with the occasional gratuitous acrobatics thrown in to show off - such as a handstand arching into a letter 'C' to try to tap one girl on the head with her foot, then snapping back out of range of the return kick; pretty, but not very impressive unless you know just how much control that takes...

     After a while, though, a much taller and leaner young man steps into the ring and the rhythm speeds up significantly, signaling an end to play time as both dancers move to match the tempo.

    ... Okay, yeah, now it's a little more believable that this is a fighting art; if any of these spinning kicks actually connected someone would need to replace a couple of ribs or a jaw, and both dancers move from position to position so quickly it's almost impossible to guess which moves are feints you need to avoid wasting your energy on and which one is the actual attack you'd have to deflect or block, and -- WHOA. Jenny and her opponent were trading high-speed spinning back kicks and she /almost/ missed his duck and low sweep, only barely managing to leap up and convert her momentum into a backflip that got her ankles clear of the sweep, then landing with an axe kick that forces him to scramble backwards for space. A cheer goes up, and both dancers grin as the 'fight' resumes...

Donatello has posed:
    Not being sure if his attempt to be spotted actually landed or not, Donatello continues to watch the circle and its participants. The turtle's features suggest amusement, though lacking any kind of serious consideration. He's a master of several martial arts, including bojutsu, and this display begins merely as a novelty for him. What a neat thing he saw in Central Park! He was looking forward to telling his brothers about this. Even Jenny, the one he was so sure might have had some real talent -- or more -- just slipped into this rote demonstration. Disappointment.

    But then! Jenny delivers that handstand-head-tap. Few in the audience are able to appreciate it for the feat that it was, but Donatello's browline rises. He knows. He knows all too well.

    "Yeah!" he whispers under his breath. A quiet little cheer for the stranger.

    As the music's tempo increases, the turtle leans forward a touch, as if it might afford him a better look. The back kicks and sweeps give him as much excitement as it does the crowd, but the real moment is that combo axe kick.

    "Not bad," he mutters, nodding to himself. He claps his hands along with the crowd, glancing briefly over his shoulder to soak in some of their amusement.    

Natasha Cranston has posed:
    Jenny fields one more opponent after that before ceding her place to a new challenger, and the dance continues on for quite a bit longer. But eventually, all things come to an end, and again by apparently unspoken agreement the musicians gradually slow the rhythm until the dance is done.

    The dancers turn as once to the audience and bow to scattered applause, then start packing their gear and going their separate ways. Jenny, after picking up her bag, brushes past Donatello in a move that has to be deliberate, then makes her way toward a nearby bench underneath a tree that still has all its leaves -- perfect camouflage for someone green, in other words...

Donatello has posed:
    Had he been one of his brothers, that intentional brush-by might have gotten a different reaction. Donatello, however, took it to mean what it meant and turns on a heel to slip through the crowd once again. The figure makes its way through the audience, which by now has started to disperse, and towards the bench where he might find JENNY.

    As if by magic, but certainly isn't, a black peacoat and tattered hat lie unceremoniously next to the bench. Just one of those things.

    "That was a pretty nice axe kick," the tree declares, its leaves shuffling a bit. "But, does it work in a real fight?" The 'it' in this case refers to the Capoeria display itself.

Natasha Cranston has posed:
    "You'd be surprised," Jenny murmurs, leaning her head back as if relaxing in the last bits of evening sun, her eyes half shut and certainly not looking right at him. "It can be tricky to defend against a strike you don't see coming."

    She smiles slightly. "I'm afraid I neglected to bring cucumbers or pickles - but then I doubt they'd be needed. Might I ask your name?" she asks.

Donatello has posed:
    "Indeed it is," a voice comes from inside the tree. It sounds like it might be accompanied by a newly formed smile. It's absolutely tricky to defend against an unseen strike.

    The next statement earns some caution. With all the baggage around the unclear nature of his existence, this sudden display of knowledge is unusual. It's true that the turtles have some very strong connections to Japan, but exactly what those are has been a matter of familial debate for some time now.

    After a pause that went slightly longer than it should have, almost as though the figure in the tree was trying to make up a response, an answer comes. "Donnie," the voice says. "Donatello. Might I ask yours?" That question is said with some amusement, almost as though the turtle was making fun of the question.

    "You were here for the magic show, weren't you?" the voice adds. It's a pointless question. He knows she was. She knows he was. Still, the dance must go on.

Natasha Cranston has posed:
    "I go by 'Jenny' around these parts," Jenny replies. "And yes. The magic show that wasn't. Did you notice?"

Donatello has posed:
    "Notice? The pickpocket kids?" he asks. A small tuft of air is let out, loud enough to be heard and embraced as part of the answer. "Of course. They weren't exactly subtle. They just thought they were."

    "Or, that move with your bag? Laying out that kid but acting like it was all a mistake?"

    "Or, that magician? I mean, it's fair to say those kids were part of the act."


    "Or your little ninja vanish towards the end?" he asks.

    "Yeah, I noticed."

Natasha Cranston has posed:
    The hint of a smile plays along Jenny's lips, although she doesn't respond to the accusation. "They were, yes. A modern-day gang of Artful Dodgers. Hopefully they'll move away for at least a while... But you make a habit out of stopping crimes that happen in front of you, don't you?" she asks.

Donatello has posed:
    "Dickens," the voice replies softly. It's unclear, but it almost gives off a sense of being impressed, or at least relieved that he might meet someone who's able to drop such a reference into casual conversation.

    Another pause.

    "Yeah, I guess," he replies. "Though, I bet the same for /you/, but you're not really owning up to it. What's up with that, Jenny?"

    There's another pause before the turtle poses another question. These two seem to be sparring, that much is clear, but the real question is why?

    "So, what clan are you?" he asks suddenly. Ninja clan.

Natasha Cranston has posed:
    Jenny chuckles, the sunlight briefly glinting off the girasol ring on her left hand. "Wrong tree, I'm afraid, Donnie," she replies. "Onmitsu aren't the only ones who learned how to make the shadows their own."

    She rises, hefting her bag. "I claim no clan or lord. But if you must know... My legacy is Yin-Ko's penance."

    With that cryptic comment, she walks off into the lengthening shadows, blending into the crowd...

Donatello has posed:
    Ninjas living in New York City? Oh yeah, you better believe it. There are at least five clans known to Donatello, so it wasn't exactly the most outlandish accusation to make. She seems knowledgable about it and certainly was able to demonstrate her proficiency. But, wrong tree, Donnie. Wrong tree.

    "Yin-Ko's penance," Donatello murmers quietly. It doesn't match any knowledge that Donnie has, but perhaps the MIYAGI AI could make sense of that? Doubtful -- if asked, it would probably just end up printing out Yoko Ono sheet music.

    Before there's a chance to ask, it would seem that Jenny was gone. "Oh," Donnie mutters. "So that's what that feels like."