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So that took a while to get to. Between a bizarre nostalgia bomb, attention going elsewhere, and every possible kind of appointment to take care of, I've been busy as hell. TL;DR typical writer excuses, let's get back to our regularly scheduled fairy shenanigans.
>[x] Meiling's waited enough. Let's go see her this morning.
It feels a little ironic, finally getting to fly again only to stay home. But I owe Meiling the respect of a visit when she wants to see me and I've put it off as long as I can justify. Things will always be busy, it's gotta be about making time for what you need, right?
I revel in the brief flutter of air through my hair once I've dressed, climbing out the window and slowly drifting around to the front gate. Somehow, she always knows I'm coming. Meiling flies up to greet me before I can even see her post, with that sunny smile I've come to expect, always followed by a... "Good morning!"
I can't help but smile back. "G'morning, Meiling."
"Congrats, again. I know what it means to you." My grin widens as she continues. "Hey, is your morning free?"
"Sure! I'm sorry it took me so long to get ahold of you, the last few days have been hectic."
"No problem, no problem," she waves it off nonchalantly. "I was thinking we could take a trip into the village."
"The village? What about the gate, though?"
"Not a problem. I asked someone to cover for me if you were free." Free is exactly how I feel right now. "I know you want to do more flying, so I figured a short trip would work." Sounds good to me. "Do you have your knife? You shouldn't need the jian, but a sidearm is always important." I nod, tapping the leg-sheath beneath my pants. She nods in approval. "Shall we?"
We talk a bit as we go, as I still work out the finer points of item-assisted flight--keeping the same speed as her is tough, but I manage not to pull ahead or behind. "So what did you want to see me about?" I ask.
"Actually, I may have lined you up a sparring partner." Really? "There's a friend of mine I wanted you to meet. She's come around the mansion since we first showed up, and me being the gate guard, we got to talking."
I can't help but laugh at that. "Really?" She grins back.
"Nope. We got to fighting." Knew it. "Though after the first time, we hit it off."
"And you want to set me up with her?"
Meiling shakes her head as we start to drop altitude, the village in sight. "No offense, but you'd be a bad match. You wouldn't have anything to teach her, and she'd have to humor you if you wanted to learn." Gah. Always a bigger fish. "No, I want you to meet a friend of hers."
The villagers don't tend to appreciate touching down in the middle of the street, so the two of us land just outside the first row of houses. "Okay," she continues, "In exchange for having the gate covered, I need to run a few errands. I'll be quick, promise!" And like that, she's off.
Well. I do a few walks around the village, a few more circuits of flight, back down to the ground, and--
Yeek. Standing in the middle of the street, with her arms behind her back and a sunny smile on her face is...
Daiyousei smoothes down the pleats on her dress, the only habit I think she has. "It's nice to see you again!"
"You too." I hope she can't hear my heart fluttering.
"I've been looking for you!" You have? "I wanted to thank you." You did?
"What for? I didn't do anything..." No, wrong word! Bad!
She laughs, just a little. "For helping with Cirno." What, really? "I know she can be hard to deal with. And I heard she poked fun about your wings..." I guess my face falls despite myself, because she gets a concerned look. "Oh, no, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to--"
"No, no, it's okay. I understand. And Cirno's not bad, really. She just... needs someone to look out for her."
"Well, I'm glad that someone is you, Kazuki. Thank you." She smiles again, and I feel a bit of heat come into my cheeks. "Um, I need to go. I'll see you later?"
"Yeah, I'll see you later." And with that she's off, and I can breathe again.
...Just in time for Meiling to sidle up behind me. "Who was that?" Gyah!
"J-just a friend don't scare me like that!"
She laughs. "Sorry, sorry. My shopping's done. Do you want to stop for something to eat before we go back?"
I'm only half-paying attention as I watch Daiyousei walk away. "Uh...yeah."
We settle in to a little outdoor café, Meiling setting down her two or three bags of staple supplies and groceries beside a table near the street. She watches the people go by as I bring back our drinks. "Xie xie," she says warmly, taking her cup of tea. I'm taking my first sip of coffee (sweet) as she continues. "So, she was cute." PFFT.
Sputtering, I flounder for a napkin as Meiling suppresses a giggle. "Sorry, sorry, I'm not trying to tease. That's Cirno's friend Daiyousei?" Glowering over the cloth as I wipe my face, I nod. "She seems to be a sweetheart."
Mercifully, our food shows up then, sparing me from having to come up with something to say. Sullenly I watch my miso cloud as I stir as Meiling digs into some dish with a lot of cooked vegetables. The waiter seems to recognize Meiling and chats a bit with her while I try not to sulk.
No sooner does he leave, Meiling goes to ask a question--and promptly, an unfamiliar voice interjects.
"A-ha! There you are!" Oh thank you, sweet forces of distraction. "Speak of the Scarlet Devil..."
Coming down from above the roof is a strange woman with a tokin hat and long, black wings. I can only assume she's a tengu--I've never seen one in person before. Meiling stands up. "Aya! I was just talking about you."
"Nothing bad, I hope," she says, touching down on the ends of tall geta sandals.
"Who, me? Go on, pull up a seat. Kazuki, this is Aya Shameimaru..."
Aya speaks up. "...And you must be the Applepicker I've heard so much about! Charmed."
"Aya is that friend I told you about," Meiling says as the tengu sits, tugging at the end of her scarf. "I'm surprised to see you, you aren't normally this far out."
"Ah, you know, third time's the charm, right? I figured I'd do a fly-by, and when I saw the head maid there, I figured you'd come here." Wait--the head maid? Sakuya is guarding the gate?
"I was just telling him about our idea," Meiling replies, returning to her own seat.
"Ah, yes! It's like this, mister fairy. I'm a journalist. Meiling's spoken very highly of you, and I'd like to ask for an interview from the strange little fairy that's causing such a stir on Scarlet Lake."
"Well, you're a character. You're interesting. I try to get slice-of-life articles every now and then, for flavor. It can't all be headlines and drama, sometimes you need to take time out to see the forest for the trees, you know?" I'm not sure I do, but... "And in return, I can introduce you to Momiji." Who?
"You're getting ahead of yourself, Aya." She swallows and turns to me. "Aya is sponsoring a girl named Momiji into the Wolf Guard--the ones who protect their mountain. She's new and inexperienced, and I think the two of you could benefit from training together." Meiling adds around a strip of baby corn.
"All right, that sounds okay, but... an interview?"
"I'd really appreciate it," Aya says, flipping a pen between her fingertips. Does she ever stop fidgeting? "I could even take it now, if you like."
[ ] Now? Right now?
[ ] ... Maybe later.
[ ] ... I think I'll pass.
[ ] Other