Morning Dew Girl: So Full of Wonder

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    Invites for food from Asuna are very common. In fact, they tend to lead to spontaneous parties, micro festivals, and general happiness. How she funds all that free food is a matter of much speculation at this point. Today, though, is about a LUNCH DATE! (Not like that!) Asuna has asked Uta to visit her. There is pizza to consume, and probably sushi. And bread. Asuna loves making sweet red bean paste bread now.

    The odd thing is, the invite directs Uta to a part of Tolbana that is, well, where Klein's house is. In fact, it is Klein's house. Gossip knowledge unlocked! Return with news to Morri for a reward!

    It is of course right around noon, and the scent of baking practically radiates from the home. As does the sound of a child's laughter.

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What is there in Tolbana? The Doctor of Tolbana of course. And his Clinic of Tolbana.

Uta is known to help there from time to time (although not as much now that the Palace Landers have left Yamato and she's free to return to operate the Slime Labs instead of keeping her slimes in the Tower).

But still things mesh just neatly; it is a relatively short walk (at least for Adventurers' standards), and Uta arrives at a leasurable pace.

She takes one last look at the sheet with the address, looks over its upper edge, and recognizing this as her destination, she realized she stopped up close, right in front of the building's front door. She stares, in silence.

"Oh, hey, you can see Klein's house from here!"
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    Asuna has been keeping an eye out. Well, partially! Uta gets welcomed as the front door swings open and a little lander child darts out. She moves quickly to 'hide' to the left of the doorway, in plain view of Uta, but not of Asuna, who comes out next. The Flash sees Uta of course, but she is up to something!

    "Hmmm, now where did she go?" Asuna looks around, raising a hand to shield her eyes from the sun. Which is of course completely unnecessary. How does light work in the tower, anyway? It's weird.

    "Hmmm.. you know, if I don't find Taka soon, I may have to eat all this bread myself!"

    The Lander girl grins and then makes a little hop towards Asuna. "I'm here!" A pause then, and her eyes get big as she looks at Uta. "Oh hi! Asa, your friend is here. We should greet friends."

    Asa jumps at the surprise. It's all an act, but she sells it pretty well. She scoops up Taka with a grin. "So there you are!"

    The ronin turns to look over at Uta. "Oh, and you are right, Taka. She is here! Hi Uta! I hope you are hungry!"

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Uta was about to raise her hand and offer her services as a bread disposal professional. She could boast past experience at Wake's. Maybe, if Asuna was willing to wait, even get an official certificate!

Taka popping out of concealment derails that plan, but it probably is for the best that this happened too soon. It would have been such a pity to put Ayame through the hassle of releasing a properly legalized attestation of capability only to have it proven useless at the last minute.

"Hungry? I was -born- hungry!", Uta blurts out. Then, silence. "Well, in the... old world, at least. I think that my Adventurer avatar might have had a full HP bar the first time I inhabited it?" She looks up and away, tapping her lips. "And no debuffs..."

She shakes her head, and squats down, forearms on her knees, to place her eyes at the same level as Taka. "You know, if you want, I can be your friend too." In a way that takes Godhand-level skills to pull off, she manages to tilt-roll on her feet, while managing a squatting bow. "Uta Furore, Aerialist, Musical Kung-Fu Nurse, at your service. Pleased to make your acquaintance."

And then, with a blink, she looks up. "...I haven't greeted you yet, have I? Hi Asuna!"
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    Taka seems to be wide eyed at Uta's bow. She tries to do the same in return, and ends up landing on her butt. She laughs, getting up a moment later. "I am..." There is a pause, as if something were loading in the background. "Please call me..."

    "Taka." Asuna is rather used to this by now. Uta will notice that is not how the girl inspects. As for her real name, well, hopefully that can get ironed-out in time. The Flash has rather gotten used to this and assured herself it is okay. No serious problem here.

    "And thank you for coming, Uta! I'm glad you were able to find the place. We haven't been here very long." After all, Asuna was known to be living in Mac Anu. Cause she loves Italy and it's got canals. "The food will be ready soon."

    That should be Asuna's tag line, really. Food is never far away!

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Uta manages to maintain a straight face when Taka DPS's the floor.


"Oh, so you've moved?", Uta asks Asuna. "Moved in? In here? Into the place where Klein lives?" She taps her chin. "It mean, it makes sense. Rent must be ridiculously high in Mac Anu these days. Not that I know anything about rents in Root Cities, but rent being a nightmare in world-class cities has always been a favorite subject of complaint, so I will just roll into it without any warning that I wait I have rambled off topic again, haven't I?"

She then resumes, "Where was I? Oh, right, I mean, with what the rent must be like in Tolbana, sharing an apartment makes a lot of sense. Especially considering how I have zero idea of rent prices in Tolbana."

She moves to stand up again, at the sound of "Mmmm, food," and then, looking down, she asks, "Taka, huh? Have you been helping with the food?"
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    "Yes, into the place where.. Klein lives."

    Her cheeks turn a bit pink at this explanation. Wait, is she... living with him, now? Is that what just happened?! While Asuna has an existential crisis, Taka listens attentively. Not understanding a word. Seriously, she might as well have one of those anime question marks above her head.

    Finally the conversation comes back to Taka, though, and Taka knows about Taka. Well, sort of! It's confusing.

    "I have been helping with the food! I broke eggs! And I put flour in a bowl with the eggs. And then we used a cooking tool..." There is a pause. She is thinking. Confused. Looking for something... found it!

    "A whisk! To mix the things in the bowl before I threw flour on the counter and we hit the thing from the bowl and then Asa threw it above her head."

    She has no idea why. Adventurers are weird!

    By now, Asuna has recovered from her own moment. "Oh, I still have my place in Mac Anu, as well. It's too nice to give up. And Klein bought this one." Wow, they have a vacation home in the Dukedom, then. Asuna wonders if they are rich, now. "Oh, and we made dough and then I hand tossed it for the pizza." She shows no reaction to Uta going on in random ways. "And you know, you are right, prices in Mac Anu are pretty high."

    Taka returns to an earlier point. "Asa threw the pizza in the air! And then she put red sauce on it. And we made little balls out of grunty meat. That was gross!"

    Asuna laughs, "Okay, yes, some things we touch feel a bit odd, yes." Taka nods and says again, "It was gross."

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Uta's smile acquires a more bittersweet nuance while Taka scrambles to grasp on concepts and memories. But nothing is said out loud.

Instead, when there's an opening to talk, Uta asks the little girl, "Do you like gross things?" dead serious. "I know that some adventurous kids do. If you feel like, I can teach you about all sorts of squishy medical- okay, I can teach you about -some- sorts of squishy medical stuff." Red Light, you are so mean for keep so much of the squishy stuff inaccessible. But it's okay, at least it helps keep things child safe. "And if not, that's fine as well. You know, some things may seem gross while they're made, but then you taste them afterwards... just wait until you try the grunty meat balls after they're cooked."

Returning to Asuna, she asks, "Pizza? Do they make that as well in Mac Anu? I mean, being a proxy for Venice..." She taps her lips. "Although pizza is more iconically associated with Naples. Venice would be a better fit for carpaccio, or perhaps tiramisu..." She stops, blinks waves her hand, and laughs. "Sorry, sorry. Was into Renaissance poetry in a past life. Accumulated a bunch of... kind of useless factoids."
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    "Oh, they don't, but I do," replies Asuna. Make pizza, that is. She is watching Taka curiously, though. She likes seeing the little lander try to navigate things with new people.

    And navigate she does. Sometimes. "Gross is kind of fun! I like squeezing things in my fingers. And throwing things is fun! I threw an egg!"

    Asuna laughs nervously at that part. "There was.. a bit of an incomplete direction on my part, but we cleaned that right up!" Thankfully.

    And then Uta starts talking about Naples, Venice, etc. Taka's eyes are staring and there's a clear sign that she's got nothing there. What is going through her head is uncertain, but roughly translated it is BrrrrRrrrrRrrrrrRRrzzzzzzzznrk!

    She resumes blinking after a little while. "Let's go in the backyard, Uta!" She steps forward to grab Uta's left hand. "We can roll in the grass and look for gross things!"

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"I wonder what kind of misunderstanding could have lead to-"

But there is no time to cry over spilled eggs. Uta's hand is grabbed, and she is yanked into a glorious world of Adventure!

To the Back yard!
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    Taka is good at dragging. She's quite strong for her size. In no time at all, they are in the backyard! Which looks like most of the Tolbana area. But there is the start of a garden back there. Asuna's work, no doubt.

    Taka reaches the middle of the yard, then unceremoniously flops down on her back. She stares at the sky as she does. The child's face squashes itself into something indicating hard thought.

    "What do you think clouds feel like?" she asks. "Have you touched them often?"

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Uta gives her non-funcitonal wings a quick flap. Her mouth is twisted in disappointment while she looks over her shoulders. But no! Back to the Child it is! No saltiness shall spoil this conversation.

"Oh, clouds are pretty much big lumps of steam," Uta replies. "Have you made any soup with Asuna?" Slight hesitation, "Asa?"

"See, the ocean is a big fish soup. Kinda cold, but the ingredients are as fresh as they come. Anyway, ever noticed how a soup, especially hot ones, often have this sort of column of steam rising up, and they make something that looks like little clouds? That's exactly what it is. Little clouds. You can touch them too. Soup clouds."

Uta stops, blinks, and looks around, this time shielding her quickly narrowing pupils from the actual, very real sunlight. "Wait, how did we end up in the yard?"
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    "We make clouds," murmurs Taka.

    That only comes after much thought. Uta has given her so much to think about. The ocean is soup! This has implications for a little Lander girl who used to fear hunger.

    "I wonder if others know this. Food is so easy to get! Adventurers are smart." Just eat the ocean!

    Taka is staring up at the clouds and reaches out with her left hand, as if to touch them. "How? Well." A pause. "I took your hand, held on tightly, and pulled until you followed. Then we both took several steps and we were in the backyard. Hm." More deep thought. "I wonder... where does the backyard begin and the front yard stop? Is there a side yard? If there are caves under the house, is that the bottom yard? Or if the house is in the side of a mountain, would its peak be your top yard?"

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"Well, that's the basics of it. There are, of course, complications." As Uta talks, she looks down at her hands, which gestures, as if for rolling and kneading thoughts. "For instance, the ocean is -raw- soup. So raw the ingredients still swim around it. It takes skill to take them out of the big soup and place them into a soup of a more manageable size and less manageable temperature." Looking at Taka directly, she continues, "And how easy it is it depends on how much you've practiced."

"You can have as many yards as you want! Your house can be your inner yard, if you so want. Your ceiling, your upside-down yard. Vertical yards for the walls!" Her arms are spread at this point. "Up! Down! Side! Front! Back! Inside! Outside! Right-side-up! Upside-down! The whole nine yards!"

"But be careful whom you discuss such matters with," Uta adds, a whisper, while she hunches over conspirationally. "Some people don't like to think about things they haven't been thinking about before. Discussing vertical inner yards with them is likely to elicit reactions ranging from puzzlement, to discomfort, to downright hostility." She gestures vaguely, looking up and away. "For them, you might want to... ah... stick to a more traditional theory of Yards. The yard starts at the door, encompasses the outdoor part of your property, and you don't even mention hypothetical scenarios."
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    Asuna is watching this interaction. Though she does so only ever once in a while. She trusts Uta to keep Taka out of trouble. And she trusts Taka to keep Uta out of trouble as well. What that says about her judgment as a parent is debatable. But there is food to prepare and it's Tolbana. It's safe!

    Taka's eyes are so big when Uta dives into the finer details of proper consumption of the ocean. There is a palpable feeling of focus there. She's remembering everything that Uta says and filing it away for future reference. Probably at just the right time to confuse Asuna and Klein.

    "An upside down yard..." she whispers faintly. Just add the Keanu 'woah!' and one has the idea of just how amazed she is. Her expression really goes wild when Uta gives her social advice on sharing this information.

    "Is this... one of the secrets that only adventurers know?!" A pause to make her next leap of illogic. "Wait, if everything could be the yard. Do we have a sky yard, too? A cloud yard? And if that cloud moves, is it always our yard?"

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"If it was such a secret, I guess it no longer is now that you know it as well."

"You can spend hours discussing if something is a yard; the matter of property, however, is a bit of... a thorny subject," Uta mentions with a wince. "A lot of adult bickering is about who owns what, so, you'd have to own the sky, or at least the clouds before you can call it your yard. Which then brings an interesting question. If a cloud wanders off your section of the yard, is it still your cloud? Is it more like wandering cattle? Or fallen fruit?" She shakes herhead and bursts into laughter. "Sorry, I guess it's a bit too early for Yamato to come up with Space Law."

"We can still discuss the clouds if you want, tho," Uta reprises, calmer. Squatting down again. "They're good for poetry."
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    The little Lander girl smiles at the first. She has a secret! Her bright eyes shift from clouds to Uta. A study for a moment or two.

    "Maybe..." That little face shows such concentration. There is a thought building, then struggling to turn into words. At last, a glow and her smile is back. "Maybe we can share the sky. And then these are all our clouds. It doesn't seem right that anyone should try to keep them as their own, does it?"

    The mention of space law is another one of those fzzzzrrrk! moments. Lander.dll has caused an error! It doesn't last long, though, before Taka moves along from it.

    "Clouds are good for poetry? How does that work, Musical Kung-Fu Nurse Uta?"

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"Poetry is one of those things that is hard to nail down, but you'll know it when you see it. Much like clouds." A pause. "Or yards."

Uta points up at the sky. "When one mentions poetry, A lot of people will immediately think about some sort of underlying structure that constrains it. They often neglect the symbolism. Which is a pity." She stands up, and begins to pace around, looking in various directions and gesticulating. "Symbolism! The art of throwing things together. From the greek syn-, 'together', and 'bol-', from 'ballein', to throw things; not quite as in throwing a soup together, but more like, throwing things against each other. Like eggs and walls." She glances in the direction Asuna went off to, then back at Taka. "By the way, kids should not be practicing unsupervised poetry with physical projectiles. Only literary ones."

She turns towards the sky, and makes quick sweeping motions between a couple of clouds floating lazily by, "You take a thing and you throw another thing at it, you compare, you contrast it. You see if they look alike, or completely different, or something in between. For instance:"

Uta returns to squat next to the young lander girl, and points up at a cloud. "That one, over there. Does that cloud look like anything to you?"
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    Asuna is keeping an eye on things. Mostly because she wants to make sure Uta isn't looking bored or stressed. If anything, though, Uta seems to be engaged and having fun. There is a growing scent of pizza fresh from the oven in the air. Asuna has left the back door open!

    She comes out to setup a table. Which means she just pulls a few things out of inventory and voila! Table. Table cloth, plates, silverware. Not for the pizza! She's brought out a salad. Sashimi, too. It's her go-to super lunch, really.

    Taka listens as much as she can. There are moments that little face glazes over. Bits here and there take considerable attention. There is that 'glowing question mark' hint in her expression.

    The mention of eggs and walls, though, produces a giggle. Well, more than one. She enjoyed that, even if Asa was a bit shocked. It was like a game!

    Her attention, though, is suddenly and completely brought to focus. A cloud. Does the cloud look like anything to her? This is... a considerable operation it seems.

    "It looks like... this cloud is white. White like momma's apron was," a dash of sadness on that little face. Tears almost there, but drawn back. Pain is always going to be there, but it doesn't have to overwhelm her. Asa said so. "It is white like the sheets Klein put on my bed. Like... like a noodle. Hm. But more white than that."

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"Just ignore the color for now. Focus on the shape. Just the shape." Uta is not sure what is up with this kid Asuna is babysitting, white aprons, and mothers, but if the subject is upsetting, it's best to distract. "That one, for instance, over there. It looks like a grunty. A very fat one. And it has stolen a tall, curly wig from someone."

"...I think," Uta then adds, rubbin her chin. "Does it look like that to you? Or does it look like something else?"
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    Ignore the color. One can almost tell that Taka has mentally switched to grayscale. No colors needed. Her attention is redirected by Uta to another cloud. Judging by her slow, long look at this cloud, Uta has opened up a lecture of high-speed particle interactions in a magnetically-contained plasma. It is not the same question mark expression that comes up when she's lost though. Taka is doing something. There is clearly mental activity. She has no hard drive light, but that CPU is certainly firing.

    A little hand extends at the cloud. "A grunty.. is shaped like this." And there, staring up at the sky, the little girl traces the outline of a grunty. "It's head is here.. and then the wig would be on top of the head, here."

    Her hand is slowly brought down to rest on her chest. She's still laying in the grass, but her world has just been blown. She blinks slowly. There is a prolonged, thoughtful silence. And then...

    ... the dam BURSTS!

    "Over there! That's like a felin. And that's Asuna when she's tucking me in at night. Her hair is a bit messy in the cloud, though. Her hair is really pretty usually. And there is a pizza! A tree! Oh, and there.. that's a slime!"

    From shape to shape, her fingers dart. Tracing each form swiftly as she names it before racing to the next. She could keep going, it seems. This is new. This is exciting. Clouds look like things!

    Asuna is standing nearby, watching all this with a pleased smile. She didn't know how much imagination a Lander child might have. So far it hasn't been much, really. "That's amazing, Taka! Look at all those shapes you are finding!" Asuna turns an appreciative smile towards Uta. "And thank you! You have been so wonderful to spend time with my... with my little Taka!"

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"There you go!", Uta grins, hands on her hips, chest puffed in pride, as she nods in confirmation at each finding. Felin, nod. Asuna, nod. Followed by, "When you have to ignore a few details, it's called a 'poetic license'. It's a fancy and polite way poets use to say, 'shut up, I'm working here!'" Pizza, nod. Tree, nod. "Wait, wait, where's the slime?"

By the time Uta has reached the question, however, Taka had time to rattle off a quantity of other items, that didn't get a nod or any form of confirmation due to her mentor's distraction.

But that's ok, the little one seems to do great on her own.

"Uh?", Uta wonders at Asuna. She doesn't tilt her head like an uncomprehending canin, but that's the general vibe. "You're thank me for spending time with friends?"
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    Taka drifts back to the slime. She traces out a big, completely imaginary circle, then points at two little round clouds, and finally a bent, scraggly cloud at the bottom. "This is the body, and these are the little eyes. Slime eyes are very cute and funny. And it's smiling. Probably because it ate some's shoes. If you leave your shoes outside at night, the slimes will eat them. So that's bad."

    Asuna may or may not have made up that slime story due to lost shoe issues. Slimes can eat anything, so it's not like it's a lie! But she does rather casually change topics.

    "Well, thanking you for looking after Taka while I finished up. I know she loves to play! Oh, and the food will be on the table soon. The pizza, that is!" She directs her attention to Taka, then, "So little girls need to wash their hands right away or they may not get to eat!"

    The threat is completely empty, and the little girl laughs in response. She is back on her feet quickly, though. But not to run to get her hands washed. She hops over to Asuna, then raises her arms, "Up please!"

    Asuna moves quickly to scoop her up. First a quick lift skyward, followed by spinning, laughter, and then settling the little Lander into a more comfortable position for carrying about.

    "And now.. to the kitchen for hand washing! And pizza serving!"

    And so it is. The Flash does move quickly, but only enough to get Taka excited. Which is pretty easy. There are hands to wash and a pizza to bring out. But in short order, the table holds a fresh, steaming-hot pizza. The steam draws an immediate reaction. Take reaches out to put her hand above it, feeling her skin getting wet. "I'm touching clouds, Uta!"

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There is nodding, and there is complimenting on Taka's grasp of slime anatomy. Followed by an impromptu lecture on more detailed aspects of slime anatomy, how monsters are pretty much driven by instincts, how slimes' instincts is pretty much to eat, and how shoes make viable slime food, just as almost anything else does.

And no, she doesn't do this to 'play along'. She's just nerding out about slimes.

Another impromptu lecture about hygiene follows (really, is there anything that doesn't trigger an impromptu lecture from Uta?), one which is cut short by the arrival of the main course.

"Congratulations! You grasped poetry!", Uta exclaims with a spread of her arms. "Now you can publish your first book. As soon, that is, as you write things down. You -might- try to publish a book which is meant to be heated up and generate clouds of steam, so each reader can have a personalized experience, buuuuuuuuuut that might be a tiny bit too avant-garde for theis world." A little silence. "Oh, uh... 'avant-garde' means... 'experimental', in this case. New. The kind of new that makes people who don't like to think about new things uncomfortable."
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    By all signs, Taka has absorbed every word. Of course she's five, so in reality, she heard something like, 'Slimes, slimes, slimes... slimes-slimes... eat shoes! Slimes... Eat everything!' Which gives Taka ideas.

    Asuna pays more careful attention to the lecture. And helpfully contributes what a concerned motherly type would. Which is more along the lines of 'never go anywhere near a slime without me or Klein there' said at least five different ways but multiple times each, during the lecture.

    The hygiene lecture is a big relief, from Asuna's point of view. Taka likely only hinges on the idea of little creatures on her hands. This causes a lot of very deep thought to occur on that little face. "So... tiny slimes are on everything? And soap keeps us safe from them?"

    In the midst of the discussion, pizza is served. Asuna is using a mix of meats on this one. She's using a bit of peko and grunty meat, both ground up and fried to perfection.

    "So Uta, what is new in your world?" Asuna asks, rather gently guiding the conversation away from lectures and play to something like, well, adults might talk about. In other words, boring grown-up stuff! But with food in front of her, Taka seems well setup to weather the storm. Besides, Uta is kind of the opposite of boring to her.

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After a confirmation that regular (but not excessive) washing with soap is a good idea, she explains in more detail what she means, "Something that looked a lot like tiny slimes was on everything in the World we Adventurers came from," Uta explains to Taka. Landers at least understand that Adventurers 'come from another place' and were 'summoned during one of the great changes to their world'.

"We actually got to see them, there. The tiny slimes," Uta continues. "Now, about -here-, things work so similarly to the old world that we have no reason to doubt they are different. But nobody has actually -seen- the tiny slimes here. Yet."

The first taste of pizza is enough to send Uta into a state of ecstasy. "...MY GODDESSES THIS IS AMAZING!", she exclaims, tears almost (but not quite) descending from her cheeks.

It takes some time for her to finally come to terms that there is a much boring reality to come back to, compared to completely losing oneself in sheer flavor and texture, but when she does, after, of course, some time to remember where she left off again, she replies, "Uh... er... I'm just back from a tour of Yamato. And you were along for the time we Netherwig. Uhm. Uhm. I'm taking dance lessons? Does that count?", Uta rattles off. "What about you?"
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    There is a bit of that question mark expression, mixed with a touch of brrzzzrt! Overall, though, it seems that the information was successfully understood. She takes a very close look at her hands between taking bites of pizza.

    "No slimes!"

    Asuna laughs at that and Uta's outburst, as well. "So the peko is a hit, then? I'll have to remember that one. I've been thinking it's time to take this dish to the next level. And make some real pasta, too. I've always loved Italy. The food and the place. That's how I ended up with my place in Mac Anu." Cause The Flash is loaded!

    She eats strategically. Asuna slips in bites here and there, following the conversation and coaxing Taka to eat her vegetables at the same time. Salad is a hard sell with children and it seems Landers aren't much different.

    "Yeah, that Netherwig thing was creepy. I've never liked insects all that much. Still, a pity we couldn't capture it for you. I bet you could have learned a lot from it. Not to mention it'd be great in a fight!" It gives Asuna notions, but still. It's yucky. She's all about the kawaii.

    "Oh? Wow, dance lessons? That's interesting." How weird, really, since Asuna can say, "I learned the new Shibuya dance everyone keeps talking about. Haru from New World taught me." And he will never, ever tell anyone how hard it was for her to learn.

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"Oh, that's amazing! I think I've mentioned that-" There is a moment of hesitation. While the rush of enthusiasm dilutes a little after she reprises, she's still cheerful, "I was really into European Renaissance poetry. Dante. Petrarch. Even studied them in the original. As I did with other European poets of other periods. Schiller, for instance. Even though my German has gotten a bit rusty since..." She laughs. "You'd think that knowing German is a skill that doesn't come in handy in this world where we have the Babel Tower to translate for us -- but you'd be surprised. It seems like the Machina occasionally throw in a German word, and that one doesn't get translated. Fascinating, isn't it?"

"Boss level monsters are probably best dispatched, I suppose," Uta continues, on the subject of capturing the Netherwig. "Too big and difficult to handle."

She totally still doesn't want a giant gelatinous cube as a mount. YOU haven't let go of that idea yet.

"Ah, my brother," she laughs. "The Shibuya Shuffle, isn't it?" And then shakes her head. "It will be a while before I can learn that one. I still haven't learned how to master the element of Fire." Looking up and away, again, she trails off, distracted, ", no... it's more like... you know... formal ballroom dance."
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    This is the point where Taka is brzzzrting away. But not so much, really. She's busy being a hungry child with food in front of her. She's also trying her best to evade further vegetable allocations. She'll instead get a second slice of pizza. Asuna delivers that with practiced ease. Naturally the child is getting much smaller, easier-to-handle slices than an adult.

    "I mostly focused on Japanese literature in high school, and frankly I've forgotten pretty much everything but a few poets. Oh, and some Chinese, too. I like some of it. When it's simple, like Haiku. Mostly I don't quite grasp it."

    She is curious about the use of German in the game, though. "That makes sense. Easier to just borrow a language and pretend it's mystical than to make one from the ground up. Has it helped you figure anything out about the world?"

    Focusing for a time on the food, Asuna ponders. Monster pets of huge size would be so useful. "It is kinda hard to see bapping a giant enemy on the nose to control it. It works great with Tomoe, though. She's becoming pretty great, honestly." When she's under constant, focused supervision!

    "Yeah, that's the one. It was a lot of fun. I, well, frankly." A long pause. "Well, I had some problems. I figured it out, though." The Flash doesn't fail! "But wow, formal ballroom dance? Where are you studying that? And wait.. brother?"

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"One time," Uta mentions on the subject of whether knowing other languages has been useful. "A machina mentioned something about the Adventurer Were Fangs that were along as being Were Fang 'Ausfuehrung Zwei'. Which means something like 'issue 2'. MKII, I guess you could also say. Same for Cait Sith. Issue 1 and 2 of the Cait Sith seem to differ only in their 'Urspruengliche Versammlung', or 'original/primordial/primary assembly'" Some pause. "I've also learned that one of the original developers of Fragment, Harold Hoerwick, was German. So, maybe..." There is some tapping of lips and trailing off, while Taka will likely go bzzxbfffbvbzzz.

Uta then shakes her head, and chuckles. "See, one of the reasons why I was excited to try this game" she gestures around at the world (sorry Taka!), "was the promise that it would have allowed inter-server communication. I was so eager to meet up with some European players to discuss poetry..." Because that's obviously what people sign up to MMORPGs for, of course!

"Oh, ballroom dance? Studying that in Eas. Elly-" Pause. Wait, does Asuna know her by name? "I mean, Baroness Wake is teaching me. At Eas. Well, at least when I can go there: recently I've been on a road trip, and my traveller's wagon doesn't come with a ballroom large enough for this kind of activity. While she and Tae traveled along with Dosbox and me, we had to make do with whatever was available at the moment. Rough camping life. Hm. Perhaps things will improve once I have a yurt?" She bursts into laughter. "Of course, it will be nothing that can compete with the ballroom at Eas. You should see it! It's got so many chandeliers, and windows, and lavish decorations... oh, and mirrors! The flat kinds. Hm. Maybe I should suggest adding a disco ball to shake things up a bit, one of these days." She taps her chin. "But first, we'd have to bring back disco. Now, whom do I know who's a skilled musical necromancer?"

After a very short tapping of her lips, she snaps her fingers, "Kauchemar! That settles it."

"Brother," Uta confirms on the subject of Haru. "That's what we are: brother and sister." She doesn't elaborate.
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    "Huh, you really go into the deep lore about this game, don't you?" Asuna is embarrassed to admit the truth on this, but, "I barely know a thing about ETO. I only was logging in to play because others asked me to. I had never played anything else before."

    Attention shifts to Taka. A kiss of the top of the child's head. "Sorry, dear, we're talking about weird stuff! Adventurers are like that sometimes."

    Taka did have a whole bunch of those bzzzrt moments, as long as some full-on kzzrnts, too! But ultimately, it doesn't seem to bother her much. She can shift her attention elsewhere. In fact, she has a diversion in mind.

    "May I be excused? I'd like to look at the clouds some more." Adult talk is too much for her. And as soon as Asuna nods in assent (after a careful pause to review Taka's plate), the little Lander is off to go flop in the middle of the backyard.

    "You do travel to a lot of places, don't you? So learning to dance, too. Well, next lesson, send a thank you. I heard she has something to do with these Links places that are all over the server now. I use them to make sure Taka is looked after while I'm adventuring. It's a real life saver. And they even teach her things, like reading."

    The mirror ball tangent is amusing, to be sure, but Asuna settles her focus on the real big news. "So, Haru is your brother? Wow. I was supposed to be playing with my brother in here, too." The whole random appearance thing makes family resemblance a non-factor, so she's just going with this being the literal brother kinda thing.

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"I like stories," Uta replies to the question about going for the deep lore. And then laughs at the admission, "Hey, that makes it two of us then. Never played anything either before. I just..." There is some tapping of fingers while Uta looks away, and considers. "...I just think that whatever has happened to us- no, whatever -is still happening- to us is somehow tied to this world's Lore. I'm hoping to find answers, there."

"I will make sure to take your gratitude to Elly. The Links were a truly inspired project. One that I'm glad I could somehow help with! It-"

Cut to a clip of a dead tree being cracked apart by a lightning bolt

Back to our scene, Uta's jaw has dropped as a result of the realization. "The Links? Looking after Taka? You mean..." She glances towards the outside, where the little kid is conceivably practicing her skill in pattern recognition on the local cumulus population. "That explains the apron..."

Asuna's comment about her brother makes Uta turn towards her again. "...So, that... sort of makes you an... orphan as well? Albeit a temporary one?" She sighs, and rubs her eyes. "I suppose that's a pretty common occurence for an Adventurer. Except few lucky ones. Gwen's probably the one with the most complete set..."
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    Asuna is, for a moment, not quite realizing what is just dawning on Uta. In a way, it's like trying talk to Taka about an airplane. She soon gave up on that idea. It just didn't seem to be good for the child.

    "The.. apron?" She always wears an apron when she's cooking, doesn't she? She looks over her apron, curious. This one has little flowers on the hem, so it is a bit cuter. And like aprons must be, it is perfectly clean, showing it has, in fact, served no purpose whatsoever.

    "I am taking care of Taka and others are looking after her when I'm busy. Like you did, when I was finishing our food! She's going to stay with me and Klein from now on. You know, as if she were our own. So she'll never be alone."

    The whole orphan thing for her makes her laugh, though. "Well, I suppose. I'm a bit old to worry about it, though. Besides, I have Soujiro, he's like a big brother to me! And Klein is wonderful. And I have a great friend in you! So I'm doing very well."

    In the background, Taka is indeed, making elaborate clouds. She's even naming them as she does. There is a canin, a spoon, several food items, Soujiro, a rapier, Tomoe, Uta, Asuna, and several Kleins (sitting, jumping, fighting).

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At this point there is so much for the Adventurers (and the little Lander) chat about. When, that is, Uta is not busy being completely enraptured by the flavor of pizza.


So many subjects are discussed. Asuna will get a full account of Uta's Adventure at the The Dragon's Eye, for instance, about how they found a working Chaos Gate there, and how they got out by having Setsuna contact the Barista Kunie, the one which was involved in the foundation of the Realm of Uruk... so many stories to tell.
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    Eventually, conversations wind down. Children get a bit sleepy and need their naps. It is time, in short, for the lunch time visit and associated play time to conclude. Naturally, Asuna wants Uta to stay. She also knows that her friend tends to move around a lot. Uta lives in a wagon, after all.

    "Would you like to stick around for a while? I assure you, my dinner is going to be something amazing!"

    Yes, Asuna is selling it. She rather likes just being normal for a bit. It can't always be riding out into the wilds to beat back the next horde of mobs in a never-ending quest for experience points. I mean, it was. But it can't be that now!

    "I don't want to pressure you, though. It's just nice to have a visitor around. And Taka likes you!"

    The child has fallen rather quiet, though. She's staring up at the sky with a distinct expression of sleepiness. It's really nice out today, the air feels good, and well, drowsy is practically demanded after one eats pizza, right?

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"I would -love- to stick around, but there are places I have to be, unfortunately." The regret in Uta's voice is honest. Dat pizza. And Asuna's friendship, of course! And Taka! But. DAT PIZZA. (/;_;)/.

"...But I'll take an invitation for next time I'm around?" There! A glimmer of hope!

"For now, alas, I must bid you goodbye. Goodbye, Asuna. 'Til we meet again," she says, removing her cap in a possibly exaggerated gesture, bow and all. Cap placed back on her head (hats are important!), she squats down to Taka level. "And goodbye to you too, little one. Don't identify too many clouds. You'll need some rest between poetry sessions." In a lower tone, "You don't want to become a Bohemian artist wasting away in a cramped attic, living only of Art!" The excessively serious face at the end makes it obvious it was a joke.
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    Asuna does look a bit, well, bummed that Uta has to go. It's especially quiet during Taka's nap times. But it does give her a chance to clean the house. Which really can be fast, but she likes to do it the normal way. In a maid outfit with a feather duster! It sets up the necessary shenanigans should Klein pop in unexpectedly.

    "The kitchen is always open, Uta! I mean, when I'm here." She pauses, thinking of Taka. "Which honestly is going to be pretty normal, until Taka goes to The Links for her education."

    For her part, Taka leaps up at the sign of a goodbye occuring and races over. The energy, it has returned! For now.

    Uta then gives her important advice. Which is dreadfully serious. Then gets question mark face when talking about Bohemian artists. It kinda flies by in moments, though. Which leaves Taka focused on the most important thing.

    "Ups and hugs please!"

    She raises her arms, laughing. Hugs are, after all, the solution to all serious issues. And if one hug doesn't work, you just keep making more of them! An endless supply!

    Asuna smiles in amusement at the child's exhuberance. She doesn't even feel compelled to pull out any mom comments. She is the Flash and she endorses this sign of affection.

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After a glance towards The Flash to ensure that what is to follow has been greenlit, Uta lifts Taka from the ground and-

Wait, wait, what's that? Taka will suddenly feel herself traveling all over the Spriggan -- rolling around her shoulders, being caught, being swung around her waist, up over the other shoulder, around one lifted leg, around the waist again, this time the other way, around the -other- lifted leg.

It probably was pretty confusing, but Uta -is- the Musical Kung-Fu Nurse. Where Kung-Fu is a bit of a misnomer -- there's a bunch of fusion martial arts in her style. Judo included.

And so, Taka got treated to being swung around just for play, as opposed for combat; most importantly, always held, never thrown. Safety first!

At the end, she's put down, and Uta looks at the child with raised eyebrows, and a smile.

"Oh, right, hug!"

And up for another half-round goes Taka, this time ending in a hug.