Road Trip: Guess Who's Coming to Dinner

Baroness Wake
Yamato - -43 - 0 - 0

    It is morning and Elly has just returned to the wagon. While she was away on official chim business, Tae has stood guard. Well, really she made breakfast. But that, while delicious, is not the big matter to be explored today. Instead, it's all about getting to Breg Epona and finding a yurt! Which will take time, and focus, and energy.

    Why so much of these things? Because there are a lot of yurt features and Elly absolutely wants to get Uta the perfect yurt for all her yurting needs. And for no other reason like how she casually mentions that she's learned that Haru has business in the area. Stained-glass business. And orphanage business. With her level of etiquette, though, she could casually mention that the moon is due to crash into the earth and it would just be calmly accepted as a reason to shop carefully for the ideal yurt.

    Of course, with the whole legend thing going on, the biggest challenge in yurt shopping is picking which merchant to work with. They seem to all want the business.

    "Uta, did you have a specific color in mind? And how many people would you like to fit into your yurt?"

    That's how it all starts. And from there, it's really all in Uta's hands to make choices. Lots of choices!

Yamato - -43 - 0 - 0

Uta thinks for a bit. "I... I hadn't thought about the color, really." She rubs her chin, crossing her eyes slightly as she looks down. Eyebrows knit slightly. "White," she states, quiet yet matter-of-factly. "Possibly with black trims. But white." She shakes her head and chuckles. "That color set has pretty much become my iconic livery by now, hasn't it?" Even her cart, Wake might remember, is white.

She suddenly knits her brow again. "Wait, can we menu-wash yurts?" She scratches her chin. "White might get dirty soon, and washing it by hand would be a pain..." She trails off, looking up and away. "Still... I like the color."
Yamato - -43 - 0 - 0

It is not long before there is a dust cloud in the distance? Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it /is/ a bird and planes don't exist in Yamato yet. Specifically it is a large draft Peko that is thomping around on the way to the yurts. He goes to the yurts, yo. Gogurt to the Yoyurt. Silvery hair dashing in the breeze. The unmistable non-smile on his lips. A monocle, shining with all the justice of a forest fire that was started next to a crying native.

You know that awkward hallway scenario where two people are on opposite sides, slowly approaching, giving to an awkward silence? That is this, only with an inbound land bird.

Eventually Haru makes his final descent to Yurtland, slowing his large Peko and hopping off. He has business here. Biz-nass. Also he waves to Elly, Uta, and Tae if present during the Harrival.
Baroness Wake
Yamato - -43 - 0 - 0

    "Well, if it does get dirty just bring it around Eas and I will have someone clean it right up." See, she is a problem solver, and like all royalty, she approaches these kind of problems with a very simple mindset: there is little that cannot be resolved by using endless waves of labor.

    "So, white with black trim."

    She turns her attention to a merchant. "You heard the young lady! Please show us what you have in white with black trim. Or just white and we can make adjustments, right?" The Salamander nearly falls over himself assuring Elly that of course they can and right this way.

    As Elly is focused on the commerce side of things, Tae is just floating in the background. She's the first to notice that Haru has arrived. Or rather, notices as he is in the process of arriving. In rather dramatic fashion!

    "Hey Haru!" she calls out, adding a friendly wave. What a coincidence!

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"Although, thinking of it," Uta rambles to herself, looking down and away and barely hearing the Baroness, she raises her finger, uncertain, glancing towards Elly. "Maybe I should go with golden? It seems to be a common pattern for healers. Maybe I should-" straighten finger, open mouth.

Drop finger, shake head. "No, no, gold's too expensive and pretentious. Can't advertise myself as fancy and rich. Gotta put my mouth where my money is."

From the distance, Justice approaches. He is the terror that flaps in the starless night. He is the flightless bird that runs you over just as you thought jaywalking was safe because of the anvil you tied to a rope as an elaborate trap.

He is Darklord Nox.

And your face'd better be ready to eat anvil.

"Haru!", exclaims Uta, waving ecstatic, two, three times, then freezing all of a sudden and, flustered, turning to Wake. "Oh snap!", she murmurs to Wake. "Don't let him know that Dosbox is with us! He can't see him -before- we've given him his makeover for the interview!" She covers her mouth with a hand, and, conspirationally, she whispers, "He might get the wrong idea about him."
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"Good day Elly, Uta, Tae," Haru offers in the demeanor of an auditor about to look at all the financial books and send people to court for tax evasion. Darlord Nox, Attorney at Law. You may have objections, but he is going to overrule them. Uta gets one extra wave, though. "Dosbox?" he asks with a quirk of the eyebrow from that steely blue eye of his. He heard. Not the whisper at the end, but the mumuring.

"The gnome about this big," Haru begins with a hand gesture of sub-Fuka levels, "that presents as homeless. The Scale Emblem Alliance member that has been camping outside of my Atelier and sending away customers?" There is a pause. The rustle of a wind behind him. He looks to the left. To the right. Settles on Uta, "Am I to assume he has advanced to ingratiate themselves onto my precious sister for..." he pushes up his half-glasses, "... an interview?"
Baroness Wake
Yamato - -43 - 0 - 0

    Well, that's a promising start of things. Elly hears Haru's name and hesitates just long enough to politely excuse her shift of attention from the merchant.

    "My pardon, sir. I truly appreciate your attention. Please gather a few samples. We are going to need your very best and easiest for one person to setup."

    The merchant thus assured that commerce is highly likely to take place here, sets to work with alacrity. Elly has a reputation as a spender of coin, which wins over even the coldest of salespeople! That she is completely honest is simply forgiven as one of the eccentricities of a legendary adventurer.

    Elly's attention now able to shift to Haru, her expression goes from a calm, even expression to a warm smile. If her breath out should demonstrate the slightest sense of relief, well, that, too, is honest.

    There's no curtsey offered, notably, nor does she rush in to offer her greeting. Haru has taken the full initiative of the situation and she will allow him to finish before she offers a deeper bow of her head and a murmured hello, perfectly voiced to show her pleasure at his speedy arrival without diverting the conversation from the topic at hand.

    Tae, having already waved at Haru, is eying Elly curiously. Someday, she will have to ask just how her wife does all that. She imagines it's the dark arts of etiquette in ETO that is responsible. Not that things were so different in the real world. Tae has the mood of one expecting something fascinating to unfold. She cannot help but think to herself, 'This is going to be good.'

Yamato - -43 - 0 - 0

Uta's eyebrows shoot upwards like the lids of a pressure cooker which has just popped; her eyes mimic the pot part accordingly.

"How...", she says, her jaw in dire need of being cranked right up where it belongs.

It takes, two, three seconds to recover, precious time spent staring and opening and closing her mouth not quite like a fish, but more like a fish who has only minimal jaw mobility.

The eyes eventually flutter back down, level, horizontal, as do her upper eyelid, while the little grease-drenched gears behind try their best to do their thing.

"I wouldn't say -ingratiate-, exactly...", she says, twirling her hand in the air, possibly as a reflex of some gears spinning on neutral; turning that gets slower and slower, until, looking down, she rubs her chin. "...In fact, all he did was being nice, and when he learned I was your sister, he just asked me if I could tell you he was waiting outside." Hands flick left and right, as do her pupils, as she continues, "Of course, I told him he was nowhere near ready to meet you." She then looks up and gestures. "Borywick is innocent of this crime!"
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There is a long, unsettling silence where Haru says nothing at all. There is a glint of light on his purple monocle. It takes the eternity of time before he blinks. "And has you defend his case for him," he says as sparks fly off of his hand, sputtering against the ground like they were stray embers shot from a coal engine. "This looks rather poorly," he says as he closes his fist, remembering he is talking to Uta and not the offending party. "It is the sort of move you would see in a romcom when the female protagonist makes a last ditch effort to get in good with the love interest's family," he says, not that he has read any of that. Clearly. He is merely well read. A man of culture.

"So then, what is your assessment of him?" Haru wonders, "Loyal enough not to take all the secrets I worked hard for and not ferry them off to SEA when a leader known for asking and doing such things? Honorable enough to use these things to a mutual goal of mine to bring happiness and safety to the lives of others, not line their pockets with money? Strong enough to stand to their convictions instead of being used by others and rendering their own compass inert?" His tone is a mix of what one would expect from a heroic monologue and tempered by logic. He is hot, forged steel right now. Earth and Fire. "Your assessment holds great weight with me, Uta. We share our burdens, including this one. What say you? Your thoughts, feelings on this initiative?"
Baroness Wake
Yamato - -43 - 0 - 0

    With the conversation anchoered on the central topic, and the focus of Haru's questions on Uta's view of Dosbox, Elly is free to closely observe. She studies Uta's reaction carefully. There is a moment where she almost moves over to the spriggan, a flicker of concern there and then replaced with calm once Uta begins to explain things to her brother.

    This is not to say that Elly says and does nothing, though. Far from it. But her actions are subtle and her words are gentle.

    "Haru is not saying Borywick has done these things yet, dear. Do you understand his concerns, though?" Elly has a clear side int his conversation though. It is her own, and so she says. "I want you and your brother to be safe. Even if your new acquaintance is harmless in himself, it does not mean his presence is not a risk."

    She stops short of saying that she wants Uta to not share a wagon with a middle-aged man. For the moment. But for those paying attention, they know it is coming soon.

    "And a risk to you, as well, dear. You are a beautiful young woman."

Yamato - -43 - 0 - 0

If one were to observe Uta for clues, one would almost certainly notice the barest change in muscle tension, be it in the corner of her mouth (hence also affecting the corresponding eye), or in a finger, that finger she usually raises when trying to speak, or to tap her lips when she thinks. She would like to object, but she restrains herself. Haru is intimidating right now, and she reacts accordingly. Her head hints at shrinking into her raised shoulders, a movement that has a progressivity to it, even if the overall effect, at the end, is subtle. As if someone wanted to be a turtle, but without finding the courage to commit. What passes for eye contact is reduced even further. As Haru speaks, her pupils turn further and further down, while her fingers decide to edge close to each other, in a surreptitious coordination, so that by the time they're huddled together, nobody has really had the time (or patience) to follow the whole process.

"I... I...", she begins, by now looking down and away, and the fingers kind of squirming against each other. "I... I..."

It's unclear if she's so cornered she finds it hard to speak, at this point, or she's just buying time. But in a sense, don't both kind of overlap?

There's silence, she inhales.

"I cannot guarrantee he is," She finally admits, the words stated clearly, but oppressed by an undertone of extracted confession.

She's walking on thin ice here, and she knows it's appropriate to leave some silence as well, before making the next move in this game of extreme chainsaw chess on fire.

The Baroness makes her move during this opening, as per official chainsaw chess on fire rulebook, so Uta stays silent, and glances at her, fingers still interwined.

Elly's words do cause Uta to relax a bit. Unturtle, if one wills, until the last sentence is dropped. At this point, something different happens.

Uta goes from turtle to full cow. You know that head-tilted, vacuous stare of an uncomprehending bovine? Elly's getting the same reaction she would get if she had said something along the lines of "The potato's chauffeur smokes an accordion."

But as it often happens with Uta, it's just a matter of delayed reaction. Subtle, but one can see the pieces fall into place.

Step one, allow a few moments to pass, brow furrows, eyebrows knit. Whrrrr.

Step two, eyes open. Brow still furroed, but this time eyebrows go up. The 'Oh, no!' expression. Click.

Step three, eyes EXPLODE open. Deer in headlights. No, scratch that. Headlights directly. Eyebrows climbing mount everest. The kind of expression that requires something far more shocking than a mere 'Oh no!' to describe. It finally hit her.

Which is to be expected, when you just stop and stare at it like a confused bovine in the headlights.

Her jaw drops again, more than earlier. She looks between Elly, and Haru, and Elly, and Haru. Even if she is not hyperventilating yet, one can see her breathing getting faster. Those who know her, can tell she's getting overwhelmed by the amount of different thoughts rushing in at once, and their intensity. Yet, despite her obvious attempt to do so, not a word is uttered yet; the word supply chain has obviously suffered a massive disruption upstream. All that can be offered to the end customer, at the moment, is a raised finger, and some head snapping between her two interlocutors.
Yamato - -43 - 0 - 0

"Intentional or not," Haru begins with a closed eye. He knows how he is. A firestorm on top of a volcano on an island in an abyss. If he gets any more edgy he is going to need edges for his edges. "This forced a conversation that did not need to occur." His voice is calm, even. The overstimulation cannot be helped. The throttling it back afterwards can be. "It evoked stress."

The silver haired man comes over to Uta to place a hand on her shoulder, "Do not let it trouble you any longer. If people target you like this," he glints on his monocle which is far from heroic, "then their ashes can beg for forgiveness." A bit protective of his family, especially after the romantic concept was just introduced.
Baroness Wake
Yamato - -43 - 0 - 0

    The distance between Elly and Uta is closed as she sees the familiar struggle, the stress so swiftly building. She settles in opposite of Haru. A hand outstretched, the lightest of gentle touches to Uta's back. She silently nods agreement with Haru's sugestions.

    Elly softens herself, posture rounding, her breathing slowing down as Uta's speeds up. The hand not settled on Uta's back brushes against the spriggan's hand. "I'm sorry, Uta. Just breathe. Air in and out, dear. Nice and slow. Take what time you need." The words are softly spoken, trying to remove the pressure of the previous moment.

Yamato - -43 - 0 - 0

Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Out.

Shimmer squishy stress ball into existence. Squeeze, release, in sync with the breathing.

The progressive deceleration returns Uta to a sort of baseline, at which point, after a moment of tense silence, she hesitates one moment further while looking elsewhere, and shimmers her ball back into her inventory.

This game of chess has ended. She lets her head drop, horizontal, like a king piece being toppled over.

They say that when the game is over, the king and the pawn go in the same Dosbox; and now that the game is over, it's time to tie the loose ends.

"I am still bound by my word," Uta continues, with the same deferential clarity as before. Deferential to other people, but also to the importance of giving one's word. "I still need to take Borywick to see Gwen."

Her eyes raise from looking at the ground to merely just below eye contact with Haru, as in general polite conversation. "Beeline to Alne. No detours to other kingdoms. Drop him off at the Chain Mail Bikini +1. If necessary, under constant surveillance by anyone you might trust." A pause. Then she turns to Wake. "And I suppose I will be receiving guidance about when and under which circumstances it would be wise to meet Borywick again once our trip is over. Or... about whether such encounters should take place at all."
Yamato - -43 - 0 - 0

Haru can't help but smile there. He shakes his head, "I think that it is your choice to make. I didn't ask either of you to stop being friends with Fuka after the two of us split, did I?" It is one of those 'elephant in the room' topics, for sure. However. It is intentional. He takes a deep breath and continues on, "I do not know the man. You do. You know the risks as we see them. The requirements as we've clarified them. You are my sister, my peer, my family. Protect me as I protect you. If you feel there is a path that this person can be loyal, honorable, and strong? Then send him on that quest. Let his action speak, not our 'wisdom' on the matter."

"I hope he can become an ally in these times, even if he is not ready now," he goes on, "I am simply not willing to risk my family's wellbeing on another's recklessness, that is all. If we were that jaded, we wouldn't invest in LOONS, would we? Where Schneider, who holds a grudge against Gig, can still share secrets about the Chaos Gates in exchange for information about Crowns and Helba. Because the foundation is made clear: /exchange/ of information. We all accept those risks when we meet. This is new, different." He coughs, "But if Elly's notion of romantic interest ever enter the table, I will not abide. There is no man or woman worthy of my sister and they would have to convince me otherwise." In a mountain of blood and fire, most likely. Chuuni Brother.
Baroness Wake
Yamato - -43 - 0 - 0

    Elly smiles a little as Uta recovers. Her head tilts just slightly, but for a long time she simply listens to Haru speak. Silence, in this case, being consent. A little nod at the last, and it's full-on approval.

    However, there is the matter of the question Uta directed to her. "I would say instead that when we pick out the perfect Yurt and then start to properly equip it for your needs, we will talk about a few things. Let us say, it has to do with being a woman in this world. There is some general advice I would like to give for your safety and, frankly, for the safety of those who travel with you."

    Because it would be most unfortunate if they had to be slain and spend the rest of their lives looking over their shoulders. As if Wake would ever let them see her coming for them.

    "Specifically for Borywick, he has some issues he must address before he is ready. He must find his footing. Of course I approve of you keeping your word. And I will, with your consent, Uta, continue to travel with you."

    Elly carefully avoids flustering Uta. Or at least she tries to. "There are many things I would like to talk about. Again, if you don't mind. I have some ideas that may help you."

    No assumption, every word an offer, a proposal, and invitation. Elly clearly wants Uta to try, though.

Yamato - -43 - 0 - 0

Maybe it's not over her shoulders, but Uta does exchange glances left and right, to Haru and Wake. To continue with our animal kingdom metaphor, this time it's a small mammal carefully peeking out of a hole in the ground, and twitching its nose to make sure the predator they've just run away from is gone. Heartbeat still faster than average, but not racing.

This goes on, without any visible change, through the entierity of Haru's speech. And then, it's Wake's turn.

"It... it's what I'd have pointed out as soon as the opportunity arose," Uta ventures. "Borywick needs to grow. He needs to get out from the hole in the ground he's dug himself into, so he can finally see the light; and once he's done this, he can finally follow his dreams. Which probably involve digging himself into a deeper hole." Silence. Slight crossing of eyes and frowning as Uta goes over what she's just said. "But... with... gems to mine out this time." A nod. This is a satisfactory conclusion.

Uta's fingers... not quite -squirm-, but they loosely look at each other, as if for assessing if it's finally appropriate to disperse. And slow, hesitantingly, do so.

"I will take all advice anyone more experienced than me can give me about this world," she finally says.

This, she suspects, is going to be far more critical advice than 'hats are important'.
Yamato - -43 - 0 - 0

"Then my emotions got the better of me," Haru explains in a short, sweet, and direct sort of way. Haru on a good day! "Forgive me for jumping to the final chapter when you were amid the telling of the third act," the silver haired man gives his head a nod to the flow of Bory's fate that was already underway. "Do not let that mire or weigh on your confidence. We were all reading from the same book. The only advise I could give there is to speak more with Elly on the matters of men and decorum," he considers there, looking to Elly, "I think that in that case, it is easy to send the wrong signals. Or open one up to predatorial advance." Perhaps not with Dos, specifically, but the scenario gives him a chill down his spine.

Haru considers the area. Construction efforts are not his strength. He has always relied on Curtana for that or Goldenblade when the are not bickering of Magic versus Mundane methods. "So. Yurts?" he asks to adjust the subject away from the bruised topic and onto something more uplifting.
Baroness Wake
Yamato - -43 - 0 - 0

    Elly is rarely so quiet for so long. She does enjoy conversation greatly, after all. Yet her only responses are silent. There is a shift in her expression, a gentler smile building towards an approving one as Uta speaks. Then there is a nod of assent when Haru suggests that she and Uta have the conversation. Whether it is more important than hats remains to be seen.

    As for Tae, she is watching this conversation, nodding approval in turn at a few points: Uta's assessment of Borywick, the acceptance of advice, and the suggestions of Haru. The turn to the yurt topic gets her laughing softly. Moods she can lighten!

    "Yes, yurts for your yurt yearnings are here in Agrabah. Whether for yodeling or yawning, you will feel youthful yearlong in your authentic yurt. And as for quality, these yurts will leave nothing to yammer about. And now I must yield, as the merchant has a few ready." Tae does, indeed, throw in the odd Aladdin reference, there at the start, before she thoroughly abuses alliteration.

    She's not wrong. By now, the merchant has a few color patterns laid out on a table, both for the twrga (outer wall cover) and the tsavag (inner wall cover) and apparently is ready to demonstrate the strength and light nature of the uni (roof poles) and khana (lattice wall).

Yamato - -43 - 0 - 0

"I -wish- it was the final chapter," Uta mumbles. "I don't even know how far into the second act we get. Second act, part one, mind you. I get the feeling we're still grinding somewhere in the early phases. And not for lack of trying..." She begins to count on her fingers, "I've been to Eastal, Fourland, Westelande; we've still got Ninetails left, and even accoounting for running of a few quests in the Palace Lands before the stay there gets too suspicious, I was already resigning myself to showing him the area just outside the bubble in Ezzo." She scratches the bridge of her nose with a tight squint, the way someone who's just removed their glasses would. "Really scratching the bottom of the barrel there..."

She sighs. "But yes, been postponing the Meeting with the Goddess until I felt he was ready." Gwen, goddess of fashion. "And once there, maybe one could have come up with more reasons to stall. Until, that is, we could segue into a return trip whose degree of convolution would have depended on the exact development of our protagonist, but which I was already foreseeing as resulting in the ultimate apparent success of reaching your Atelier only for it to be revealed that Borywick was no apprentice material. Low point, right there. But only then he would finally come to the realization that-"


"...uh, I don't know yet. We haven't gotten to the Meeting with the Goddess yet." She repeatedly jabs the upturned palm of her hand with the opposite finger. "That's where we find out what this story is all about. Not earlier."

And then, the conversation is moved firmly to a different subject. Yurts. By Haru at first, and firmly beaten into place by Tae's hammer of alliteration.

What follows is, of course, a quite colorful discussion about the pros and cons of various options, and quite an interesting reaciton when Uta finds out that one cannot mount a Yurt alone -- and how long it takes to build one. But as they say, this is a different story.