The three of them make their way back to the town in quick order, the elder bearing a troubled look as they go. The trio head to the soda jerk, Tara helping the elder with his arm around her shoulders for support. Once they got there, Tara's mom Laura greeted them with a table near the door for Standing Bear to take a seat.
Laura is a woman with piercing eyes that seem black from a distance, being only slightly lighter than her raven hair. She stands a head taller than her husband Parna and while possessing the strong hands and jaw of a self reliant lady she nevertheless manages to seem willowy next to the boulder she calls a husband. Her tone is darker than most from hours outside working her garden and gathering the things she needs for her herbalist craft.
"Is he ok? I've told him about those long walks of his, he shouldn't exhert himself so much," Chides Laura with a pointed look at the old native.
Standing Bear dismisses her with a wave of his hand as his breath quickly returns before replying in his own tongue,"I'm fine I'm fine, we just walked with more haste than normal."
Laura blinks at that, then looks to her husband and asks,"Is there a reason you hurried Standing Bear back here?"
Parna rightens himself at the insinuation,"I hurried noone. He heard a wolf and suggested we hurry back."
Laura huffs at that, turning away to go and fix the elder a glass of water. Most days she works the soda saloon when there's no need for her role as the town apothecary. Today is no exception as she quickly returns to bring the old man his glass on the house, quipping,"There's no wolves here, you all heard a dog or coyote."
Tara is quick to retort,"There's no coyotes either. We heard what we heard."
Laura shakes her head with amusement, convinced of their collective imaginations. Parna looks to his daughter as he folds his hands and takes on a serious expression. Tara raises her brows as she wonders what's impending.
Parna addresses her in his native tongue for privacy from the surrounding people,"I would like to offer you my blessings if you wish to teach..."
Tara blinks in surprise, wondering where this came from. When she says nothing, he continues,"My condition is that you build the school with your own hands. I'll help you of course, but this is my price. The price to be recognized as Kru Blackwolf."
Tara nods excitedly, positively radiating her joy at the endorsement from her father. Laura looks on with suspicion at what she's in the dark about, meanwhile Standing Bear just grins. The old man has a knowing glint to his eyes, having put the bug in the fight master's ear in the first place. He doesn't speak Thai, but some things need no translation.
Parna looks to his wife when Tara settles back down, explaining,"I would like Tara to be a teacher, but the school will be built by hand. If it is to be her school, it must be in truth."
About that time, a trio of young local men approach. They crowd over Laura with mocking smiles beneath cowboy hats and over matching blue bandanas wrapped around their necks like masks ready to be donned. The leader of the three is a young man in his early twenties named Laughing Crow.
"So what your little girl gonna teach us, huh? She fight good, but maybe she show us something else, no?" Laughing Crow grins as he intrudes on the conversation, and Tara rises to her feet with fists balled.
Parna holds her back with a raised hand, and Standing Bear raises both of his to take charge as the present adult,"Her father has been teaching her a way we could benefit from. It is not so different from that of our ancestors."
Laughing Crow feigns shock at his words, then leans towards Tara as Laura glowers at him and his friends. He's roughly her height and the three are built and dressed in the manner of lumberjacks,"Really? Maybe she could show us! Show us what a halfbreed girl and her mohawked dad have to teach us primitives. What say you?"
Standing Bear just fixes the three with the look of an elder offended on the Chietsonkrits' behalf. He simply says,"If I were still their age, I would do myself what they would like to."
Laura intones through clenched teeth,"Outside. All of you."
They waste no time stepping outside, the three men making their way to the dirt road outside. Tara steps out to meet them while Standing Bear drags a chair out to watch next to Parna and Laura. Laughing Crow grins while his two buddies stand off behind him with similar expressions.
The sky is clear sunshine, the evergreen forest surrounding the town sways in a breeze that noone feels at first until it kicks up a small dust dervish amidst the squared off pugilists. Laughing Crow strikes a grin worthy of his name as he gestures at her to bring it on as he hands off his wide fedora.
Tara brings steps up to him in a blur of motion, stopping just shy of him in a traditional stance of thai boxing. Her feet are spread more than shoulder width with her weight shifted to favor her rear leg and her fists at the ready. Laughing Crow responds by bouncing back from her almost belatedly, taking up a classic boxing stance as he does.
"Whoa, shit girl! Let's see if you hit as hard as you are quick, eh?" Laughing Crow snarks. He bounces back to her with a probing straight punch intended for her midriff immediately thereafter. She notes that he clearly has some ability, but he's as void of respect as his words suggest.
Tara counters his openning attack, taking advantage of his foot placement as her lead hand snakes around his wrist while she side steps his intro. In one motion, she yanks on his arm while spinning on heel to send her rear foot low at the back of his lead leg and send him to the ground under his own inertia.
Laughing Crow pushes himself off the dirt with a spit before swearing and demanding,"What the hell kind of kickboxing is that?"
Tara replies calmly as she squares off anew,"My kind. You're slow."
Laughing Crow isn't laughing as he comes at her with a flurry of straight jabs and crosses that she skillfully avoids via bobbing and weaving. He keeps his feet beneath him, never quite overreaching but once she discerns his pattern she plants her lead foot and stiff arms him over it to send him to the dirt once again.
This time when he gets back up he goes for the spear, rolling to his feet where he charges head long at her. That earns a kickboxing response as she side steps his rush to throw a kick at his midriff. Before he can turn around to try something else she rears and throws a horse kick square at the middle of his back, her lead foot raising to present her heel as she bounds forward off the rear to throw all of her weight and force behind it. She strikes with certainty, his arms splaying as his head snaps back when he finds himself driven forward several feet.
He lays there groaning this time, reaching for his back,"Oh you bitch...I think I slipped a disc..."
Tara shakes her head as she intones,"Quit being dramatic, I didn't hit you as hard as I could have."
Parna steps over to him just to be safe, a hand resting on the man's shoulder as he lifts his shirt to take a look. Standing Bear chastises him while he's checked out by the thai fight master in native tongue,"You provoked and now you complain? You should be ashamed. You sought to demean her and her father before the tribe and now it is you with dirt in your eye. Stop acting like the white man and clean yourself off."
Parna claps him on the shoulder as his friends help him to his feet and set his hat back on his head. He looks ready to scream as Standing Bear tells him with an outstretched finger,"When she opens her school, you're going to be a student."
Laughing Crow protests as he stalks away from his friends and Parna towards the elder,"I'm not learning how to fight from some girl! Name one woman in all that history you're so proud of that became a warrior!"
Standing Bear stares a hole through the young man with his dark gaze. The youth was right in a sense, it hadn't happened to his recollection. Nevertheless he replied,"Your pride is why you're covered in dust. We must change, or bitterness will consume us. It's a poison. They could not kill our language or make us forget, so they continue to feed us reasons to hate and hope we choke on bile. We must do nothing they want of us, hate is a poison that blinds and cripples. You and your friends must stop this nonsense."
Laughing Crow just returned his stare, not commenting as he knew better than to continue the spectacle that had just resulted in his embarrassment. So after a long moment he worldlessly walked down the dirt path with his two cohorts. The remaining people head back into the sodajerk saloon now that the show is over.
Back at the Chietsonkrit household, Laura is annoyed with her husband as she fixes hopping john for dinner. The two exchange irritated words as she stirs the nearly finished combination of black eyed peas and wild rice, scarcely looking at each other the entire time.
"You want my daughter to try to teach people that barely acknowledge us. She is making a living with that kickboxing you taught her, and they smile and toast when she wins, but you know what they think when they leave my bar," says Laura patiently as she stirs.
Parna replies,"You told me you don't like her having so many bruises, that she won't find a husband with a broken nose or jaw."
Laura almost laughs as she responds to that,"Is that really what this is? Trying to appease me?"
Parna frowns a little as he answers evenly,"What do you want from me? That she likes fighting, so I teach her to fight? That I only know what my father taught me? He would never have allowed me to teach a daughter more than how to defend herself, certainly not to enter a ring."
Laura frowns as she strikes the bottom of the bowl in irritation,"Am I supposed to be proud that you aren't the sexist your father was? You saw how Laughing Crow looks at her, like she's a deviant. How many others here feel the same way? What will they do when this school of hers takes off? You can't tell me their fathers don't know how they feel."
Her martial artist husband slumps a little, knowing that she's right. But what could he do? He eventually states,"I'll deal with their fathers if it comes to that."
Laura turns to face him as she corrects in a firey tone,"When it comes to that. I know what used to happen to girls who wanted to learn to box in Thailand. I'll not see that happen to our daughter for wanting to teach it."
Parna's expression darkens at the insinuation, as does his tone,"Do you think I haven't thought about that? Laughing Crow and his friends are assholes, but they fear me and they respect Standing Bear. If I thought them capable of what you suggest, I would break their backs."
Laura asks him then in an even tone,"Have you ever told her why you left Thailand?"
He goes quiet for a long time at that. She keeps her gaze on him as the dinner begins bubbling and sputtering, he finally replies,"No."
She asks him meaningfully then,"Why did you?"
He knows she isn't going to relent if he refuses to answer. The subject is too important to her, and he understands her fear. He swallows and answers,"A student of mine became a killer. I had to stop him."
She nods at that, pressing further in a quieter tone,"How did he kill, and how did you stop him?"
He exhales, clenching his jaw with understanding of her point,"With what I taught him, I dueled him to the death."
Laura tells him with a tone of finality at this point,"Tell her. Make her understand the life she is moving into. I'm tired of you putting a silver lining on it."
His eyes ignite with impassioned frustration at that point,"A silver lining? Was it a silver lining that kept you from being snatched out of a parking lot? Have you so little regard for the people you live with?"
The smell of burning rice begins to hang in the air, giving her a timely excuse to turn from his gaze. She feels ashamed of herself, and she hides it by stirring the meal and emptying it into a new bowl to try to salvage what she can. A powerful arm gently slips around her waist to hold her close and she's keenly aware that she never heard him leave his seat.
A tear rolls down her cheek as she shudders her explanation,"In the ring, she's safe. I hate seeing what happened today, I think about what could happen if you weren't there..."
Parna just holds her, not saying a word more.