Until We Waltz Again

Baroness Wake
Castle Eas - Dome of Stars

    Elly has had a rather interesting past few weeks. She has been busy! There is something to be said about how making a safe place for kids across all of Yamato has brought her on the path to make a proper family out of those she loves. More than just setting the desire in her heart, it gave her the courage required to follow-through on her convictions.

    And so here she is, dressed in a sleeveless, black ball gown that flashes with sapphires and diamonds. Were it not the product of a relic, it would be worth more than a small fortune.

    The Dome of Stars is illuminated by a many lanterns around its perimeter. These are veiled in thin cloth to soften the lighting.

    But there is more than light and space needed. For one, Elly needs music. Which she has. The phonograph is once more being put to use. Most of all, though, she wants a partner tonight, and she has let Uta know ahead of time that dance lessons are back on schedule, now that the road trip has come to its conclusion.

    Waiting usually involves fidgeting of some kind, but not in Elly's case. Elly does have much on her mind. Meetings with Uta are wonderful. Yet they also deserve careful preparation and planning. In this way, Elly can ensure that the experience will be healthy and hopefully fun, as well.

Castle Eas - Dome of Stars

The door opens, and in steps Uta, clad in the gown she was gifted on her very first lesson. As it is usual for Uta, she's with her nose in the air, looking at the lamps, fascinated by the general setup of the lighting, and likely the opulence of the room.

There is no real fidgeting on her side as well, but one gets the impression that there should be: while she's been picking up postures and movements at an impressive rate during her first lesson, the residual pool of incredulity in her eyes that seems to whisper 'Me? In such a lavish place?' each time she sets her pupils on somthing new, especially if rich and ornate.

"Oh, Elly!", she exclaims, but quietly: this is as much an exercise in Etiquette as it is in dance -- formal dances are, after all, an elaborate ritual of which the actual dancing is just a part. There's a lot that goes on between a waltz and the next. "Such a pleasure to see you again."

While the words are appropriately restrained and controlled, the sincerity in her enthusiasm at seeing Elly is unmistakeably real.
Baroness Wake
Castle Eas - Dome of Stars

    And with Uta working so very hard to make this a 'simple' formal meeting, Elly introduces what amounts to a graduate lesson in etiquette. Which she does by closing the distance with Uta with hurried steps. This seeming haste does nothing to make her off-balance, though. It demonstrates exactly what she means to, joy in seeing someone she loves dearly.

    As if this wasn't enough of a high wire act, she wraps Uta in a hug. It is a Zen moment. This represents coming full circle from the naive, elegant expressions of a child showing love to this, a woman who has explored communication and emotion to a degree rarely ever seen, expressing the same emotion in the same way, but with absolute control of every nuance that makes it so clear how she feels. She has gone from beginner to beginner.

    "Your voice sings in my ears and heart, Uta. I dread and love parting, knowing that it condemns me to sadness and yet allows me to experience once more a sublime joy."

    She steps out of the hug, smiling warmly. Her eyes glide over Uta's form in one quick examination. It is not invasive, but appreciative. "You look truly lovely, dear! You are so kind to dress like this for me."

Castle Eas - Dome of Stars

Uta is still stuck a few degrees down the ladder of Etiquette, still on the 'professional' level who has a long way to go to reach the Baroness's heights.

But at the same time, due to the strange logic that brought people to be who they are in this world, she also has been made into a 'natural' for soaking up such things; Uta therefore returns the hug, seamless and natural, as if she had done nothing else in her whole life. Perhaps a bit on the reserved and conservative side, as Uta tends to go, but far from being distant, detached and stiff; hints of modesty, rather than rejection.

"It is the rhythm of life. Night and day, rain and sun, being at home and going on adventures. It's what makes life worth living," Uta continues to Wake's statement. "I am also glad to finally be reunited with you."

"You look downright stunning," Uta replies to Elly's appreciation, and not even the Spriggans' Etiquette level can prevent her jaw from dropping a little as she eyes the Baroness's dazzling appearance up and down. Or perhaps the Etiquette explicitly allowed this.

Once she recovers, Uta lets out the hint of laughter. "I should rather say that you are so kind to have made it so I could dress like this for... this." She gestures around at the room. Dance lessons, obviously. "When one goes adventuring, one needs comfortable clothes, and depending on one's role, possibly armor, a weapon, and/or some sort of magical focus. When one handles monsters, one needs enchanted protective gear. And when one engages in formal dance..." She smiles, and sweeps her open palms downward, to point at her figure, before looking up at Elly again, and offering a minimal, nonchalant shrug, still with an amicable tone of voice, "You made sure I had all the equipment I needed for the job. That was very considerate, and I thank you for that."
Baroness Wake
Castle Eas - Dome of Stars

    The hug is had, the warmth exchanged, and Elly is, quite simply, delighted. But now, now it is time.

    "As you have said, we are quite ready for what comes next."

    She draws a breath in, lets it out, and then bows, stepping back and seeming to bring that same curtsey levitation skill to the gesture.

    "Shall we dance?"

    She reaches out to draw Uta into a dance. Like before, it is a smooth shift from words to dance. Unlike before, Elly and Uta have done this before. It has a famiarity to it, though the steps are swiftly shifting from the familiar to new. A flow that follows a song that mingles both the swift and the slow.

    "I heard that you were dueling Kauchemar." Speaking and dancing is as easy as breathing, for those who are well-prepared to do so. "Congratulations on your victory! I hope you had fun"

    There's a playful laugh a moment later and Elly says, "There is something I must show you when we are done. Well. Two things. One larger and important, the other small and important in its own way."

Castle Eas - Dome of Stars

"That is why I am here, is it not?"

Uta goes through the required acceptance motions when the Baroness reaches out, as the former was likely instructed during one of the previous lessons. The dance beginning before the dance.

As expected, Uta glides without much thought through the part she knows already, but the bump in the road of venturing into unexplored territory is enough to yank her out of her blase flow: her wings and even ears perk up a little, and she glances down to figure out the step pattern.

"I was, and I did," Uta manages to reply. Additional challenge! Dancing a new step -and- conversation at the same time. Were it not for her Bardic background, Uta would be quite challenged, as opposed to merely inconvenienced. "Thank you, but in truth, Kauchemar is a formidable opponent, we always end up so close. Sometimes I feel like my victories are more like draws." The sustained pace now ends in a slow sweeping curve, looking almost like a sudden moment of slow motion, before Uta resumes, "And thank you for sending your regards through her. Speaking of which -- I am impressed by that Rose Thorn Charm technique. I had never quite appreciated how effective it was before being on its receiving end."

"Two things?"

At the foreshadowing of two things, one larger and one small, Uta's imagination, of course, wanders off into picturing herself in the Gardens of Eas, hugging a slime taller than her, while a regular-sized one slithers around with the trademark vacuous smile of its species, and leaves a trail of acid-mowed grass in its wake.
Baroness Wake
Castle Eas - Dome of Stars

    There is no need to focus on the steps, once they become familiar. This frees the mind to attend to other matters. In this case, it has to with conversation. Not just idle conversation, though.

    "That is like many conflicts," Elly says quietly. "I was once taught that the only thing worse than winning a war is losing one. But in this case, it was fun competition, not a battle of the more unpleasant sort."

    The slightest of nods and a warming of her expression is the response to the thank you. "She is my favorite messenger. And she showed it to you? That is... rather a strange thing, to have my own technique used on my... on you."

    She is deeply troubled, certainly, but it shows only slightly, as a moment's tightening of the left side of her lip, drawn in, then relaxed into a pleasant smile. There are some emotions that go beyond her ability to easily control.

    Fortunately, the topic moves on. "Yes, two things. One is to return to you your yurt, since your brother was willing to help a difficult woman in another of her many moments of need. You and Haru are both equally wonderful, you know that?"

    As for the second, smaller thing? She says nothing. It is a total surprise, after all. Elly uses the opportunity to take initiative in the conversation.

    "What are your plans for the next week?"

    Such a simple question, and behind it is a multi-volume series of purpose.

Castle Eas - Dome of Stars

"It's how things are." Uta sounds untroubled at having suffered the effects of the Baroness's technique; in fact, there's even a hint of joviality in her words. "Duels are exactly for that reason. Be assaulted in controlled conditions, to practice for when the monsters try to maul you for real." The tightening isn't lost on Uta. This is, after all, an integral part of formal dances. The people aspect. "I'd be delighted to learn it at some point in the future, if... you're up for teaching it, that is."

Uta is left speechless by the announcement of her finally getting a yurt: her reaction amounts to her eyes popping open, her pupils widening, and her step, after a moment to let the implications sink, acquiring an extra spring.

By the time she's raked her brain for an answer, Wake has already commented on Haru. At which point Uta lowers her gaze, and smiles. "He is my brother," Uta states, and the sentence is interrupted by a passage of quick steps with mutual orbiting of the dancers, which causes the Spriggan to focus on the moves for a moment. This one was new. "We seem to equate and, at the same time, complement each other in so many ways. Their numbers surprise me as well."

The next steps take Uta to step backwards, to match the Baroness's forward lead. "I... I have not made any specific plans, yet, no." She looks up and away, lost in thought for a moment while her body flows with the music. "I suppose I should go check on the Slime Labs after our road trip. And maybe I could look into better medical equipment, futons, possibly hammocks, so I can properly operate the Yurt as a mobile clinic..." After she trails off, though, she shakes her head. "Nothing has been decided yet, though." She returns to look at the Baroness, and back with a firm, conscious control over her movements, she asks, genuinely interested, "And you?"
Baroness Wake
Castle Eas - Dome of Stars

    For just a moment, Elly diverts her attention more to her feet. Swiftly she leads, a sprightly race across the dancefloor as the music races into the allegro.

    There is a story to be told, if one digs deeply into the music. The joy and excitement of a new discovery, and then after a rest in the music, a sudden change to adagio. A discovery of a deeper meaning, past joy and amusement to truest connection.

    With this change in tempo, Elly draws Uta more closely, and instead of steps in parallel, she moves forward in slower, confident steps. There is eye contact, as well. Intimate, certainly, but not at all romantic. This is entirely something else that she brings to the song, subverting its original intentions so that this dance can tell a story utterly its own.

    "This week, I plan on going to meet with the Landers who are managing my orphanages. We are gathering to discuss a matter most urgent. In Carmina Gadelica, to be precise."

    A pause. Deeper thought.

    "After that, I mean to return. I have some plans for my birthday. To draw people together to celebrate what adventurers can do when they embrace this world and each other. I may visit Haru again for lunch, if he has time for me. I do like dropping in on both of you from time to time. I will try not to overdo it." But certainly no promises.

Castle Eas - Dome of Stars

Uta is known to be a big storytelling buff who is likely to frame anything that way; sometimes even things that probably shouldn't. In this world, also a Sage of Song with a musical Knowledge beyond what most people can achieve. Whether or not she picked up on the Baroness's message, she does not say, nor gives any indication either way through other means.

She returns eye contact as much as Etiquette, previous lessons, and general Japanese customs go. She even smiles at that, a polite smile. At her current point in time, Uta does not seem to feel the same deep personal connection that the Baroness has towards her; but at least, she is not stopping, nor squirming. And even offering as much of a polite smile she can, without looking fake.

She is making a honest attempt.

"The Peko Ranch is close to Carmina Gadelica Marina," Uta notes, over the notes and the movement of the dance. By now, she's gotten the moves down so well she can engage in effortless conversation, "so it's a relatively short trip. We can visit each other."

"A celebration! I love celebrations." And after a little thought, a spark of amusement flashes on her features. "Embrace this world? What Alliance are you in, again?"

Uta, of course, is just being playful about that. She is the one who created a Conservatory inspired by the desire to protect the Landers' traditions from the Adventurers' potential cultural disruption.
Baroness Wake
Castle Eas - Dome of Stars

    What Elly sees or feels about that is kept more carefully under control. Her feels are, after all, her problem. And she would assert she has no right for any expectations. Love, by definition, is given without expecting to be returned.

    This is not to say it is easy.

    "I will certainly stop by. I like seeing what you are working on. I can bring something to eat, too!" This is always an important matter in a world where people regularly and suddenly decide that starving to death is just a thing one does when working on a project.

    The comment about the alliance draws a reaction. It is very unusual, to be sure, that the priestess and baroness should reveal uncertainty and doubt. Here she does so, and she does not draw it back.

    "I sometimes wonder if I am in any alliance at all, honestly. The people I most closely associate with and honestly, love, are in Olympus and New World. My greatest work is to make a home and dedicate it to a Goddess of this world. Guided by my meditations of The Beautiful One, I have made an enormous effort to bring together orphanages across all of Yamato and turn them into schools. All for the Landers. All of this was not supported by alliances. It was supported by good people with lovely hearts and great skill. So... what alliance am I in, Uta?"

    Her tone is calm. Her question a matter of curiosity to her. She doesn't know. There is an impression, however, that something lies ahead. She is not up to something, but she is troubled by this doubt.

Castle Eas - Dome of Stars

"'Something to eat' is always appreciated," remarks Uta. "As someone who leads a nomadic lifestyle, believe me, I'd kill to have some decent food that is not Instant Ramen when travelling." As little annoyance is shown as cirumstances allows, in the form of the tiniest huff. "I should really take up Gwen on her offer to teach me how to cook."

That cloud lasts an instant, and Uta returns a smirk to the Baroness. "I have developed anesthetics and painkillers which, effectively, are only of use for Landers." a chuckle during a double spin, after which Uta continues, "You're in the same alliance as I am."

The phonograph continues with its song, a passage that demands some concentration due to the complex interlocking of steps; but once that is done, Uta reprises, "What did you mean, earlier? That the only thing worse than winning a war is losing one?"
Baroness Wake
Castle Eas - Dome of Stars

    "Well, that would be a good skill to have, yes. With you travelling so often, it would be helpful to always have the ability to get something good to eat for yourself."

    She considers Uta's comment about painkillers. She wonders when she'll be used for experiments like that next. Still, it was pretty fun. She got to know what it feels like when your feet and legs are like cotton candy!

    "Oh, you are quite right. So we are."

    That's all she'll say about Olympus for now. That topic, as they say, did not precisely go anywhere. Her uncertainties are her problem, anyway. But then Uta opens up a different question.

    "In war, people die. Hundreds, thousands, sometimes millions. Those people are on both sides of the conflict and often outside it entirely. The loss is harder, of course, as it tends to stem from being more horribly ravaged in the conflict and to be maimed by the peace. But to win is only little better. The price in blood and pain is paid forever forward and the reward? Well, at least you may get to live by your own design. Naturally when one person makes the decision for war, a lot of people may be lost for something that has no value to them. Or even for something that actively harms them. As we just saw."

    Throughout this, the steps go on, but they now take on strange patterns, adjusted, manuevered to somehow match the heavy topic and the more gentle music. It is a slowing of things, and a reduction in the drama of each movement. Elly managess to convey a sense of apathy, of numbness with her talk of victory in war.

Castle Eas - Dome of Stars

Time seems to slow down at this particular passage of the song; the deceleration ends with the two women looking like they have been frozen into a painting, with Uta leaning backward, held by Wake's arm. "I think I get it," Uta says, as time begins to flow again. "It's not about the obvious ordering of the two events. It's about how close they rank to each other. The loss being the obviously devastating reference."

There is more thought on Uta's part, as the dance goes through a more standard set of twirls and side-steps.

"I don't know," Uta finally sighs, during a series of long steps. "There are times where I also feel like I do not belong in any alliance. And those times coincide with the times when I try to determine if I am in the right alliance." Erratic movements, in various directions. Turning, no, snapping of the head in various directions. "I'm caught in the middle. I have no reason to favor one theory over the other. Even my feelings about which one I'd prefer to be true are on the fence these days."

The two women describe a circle on the dance floor, while, at the same time spinning around, like a binary system of planets orbiting each other, and an imaginary star at the same time. Pluto and Charon.

"How time and tide change you," she finally comments, with a glance down and away, thus admitting her own confusion on the matter.
Baroness Wake
Castle Eas - Dome of Stars


    The dance has grown strange in a way. Most dance has metaphor and simile involved in its expression, but this one has become rather abstract. Yet not austere.

    "It is becoming a matter of math," Elly says softly. "In over two years the Scale Emblem has ascended through the 11th floor. If the belief is accurate that there are 100 floors to get to the Key of Twilight, that math would say that, conservatively, the remainder will take us another 18 years. Assuming that things do not grow more difficult as adventurers ascend. This math needs to be considered. Moreover, it needs to be challenged. How long can people maintain a desperate sprint to the top? Can anyone truly last so long?"

    She doubts the drive can last much longer, honestly. "All that dedication. And for what, exactly? I do not say this to mean that it is for nothing. I say this because it is time for people to think seriously about their situation and what they really want and how badly they want it."

    She smiles suddenly, and her pace changes. It is like night suddenly giving way to day. The music is ready to join her, it seems. Or it is when someone changes the record. Uta may notice that Tae has wandered in and then settled herself in the shadows near the edge of the room. But Tae is otherwise staying silent.

    "We change indeed," Elly says, her voice now playful. "Often due to the situation around us. But we should do our best to maintain our own sense of direction through the storm."

Castle Eas - Dome of Stars

"Last year the estimate was more in the ballpark of something over eight years. We have been held back." Another passage where, for a moment, the duo seems to twirl through molasses, with few precious sprints onward. "We are also facing a portion of the tower that was never witnessed before, even if in altered form. Completely unexplored territory." Not that she knows much about what has been going on in the tower -- the information that has reached the Spriggan is fragmentary. "The longer it grows... hm. If that were the case, there will be people who have spent more time within ETO than outside it. The prospect of spending the rest of our lives here becomes more and more real each passing day." She looks up and away. "I wonder if we age according to how time passes in this world, with the 50:1 time ratio, or... we don't age at all. That's another good one to consider. People like Gilgamesh, I understand, have been around for centuries." She quirks an eyebrow. "Haven't they?"

Once again, whether or not Uta notices Tae, she gives no outward sign either way. She is, after all, very focused on the dance. Whether at this point etiquette demands noticing Tae and acknowledging her, she leaves to the Baroness to point out, be it by conscious decision or obliviousness.

The waltz pushes on, a regular, churning progression of pushes, turns, returns, a slow spiraling advance in a specific direction, with only the occasional swaying left and right. "Isn't that the same that Scale would be doing? Manintaining their course of direction through the storm, no matter how long it takes?"
Baroness Wake
Castle Eas - Dome of Stars

    "Therein lies the problem. How many years do people really want to spend on a tower that may not even set them free? How long can a body last hooked up to one of the machines, anyway? How many memories will be lost on the way? I want to invite people to really think about these questions. If they wish to continue, so be it. But I think it is fair that if people do, that they expend effort to help us mitigate the impacts of their obsessive climb."

    Elly's tone is calm. Her steps seem more playful, despite the heavy topic. She is taking control of the situation and of the conversation, as well.

    "Of all the changes to yourself, which do you find most surprising? Hm. What are you most proud of?"

    She directs a glance Tae's way and laughs. "My wife means to change the music on us without so much as a greeting! Of her many talents, though, I don't recall DJing on the list."

    Tae shrugs from the shadows, then steps out where she can be clearly seen. She's dressed up nicely, as well, but her dress is slit to the hips for movement, and the skirt is only knee-length.

    "You are being too dreadfully serious again, dears. Do not forget that at the heart of this motion is music. It is feeling, intuition, and improvisation. To react to your environment, including the emotional one."

Castle Eas - Dome of Stars

"If by 'machine' you mean the Dive Gear when you say 'How long can a body last hooked up to one of the machines', then that is exactly what compels Scale to get out as quickly as possible." An abrupt halt, look both ways as if for crossing the street, dash. "They believe that we are on borrowed time. The longer we remain in here, the longer the risk that life support, out there, will no longer sustain us. Getting out as soon as possible is a matter of life and death for us players."

There is little time for the two women to bob in sync before Uta addresses the next question. "Which change was most surprising changed over time... Hm. Right now, I'd say..." The dance continues while Uta keeps thinking, more deeply, seriously, but showing no obvious signs of stress this time. And then bursts into a liberatory laughter, "Oh goodness. So many surprising changes. It's hard to pick one..." A shake of her head as she says so. "I think I'll start with 'most proud of; that one is easy: I get to actually -do- things." Uta launches into the fastest spin she's performed so far; when she's done, she continues, "Would you believe I used to spend all my free time sitting down and reading, and sought nothing else?"

The music changes, and yanks Uta away from this line of discussion. "Life changes the dance music from under our feet all the time." Yes, that doubles as a greeting to Tae, in whose direction Uta glances with a smile and a nod of acknowledgement.

Shift into a different posture, step, rhythm. "And speaking of changes, the most surprising one, as of now?" Uta unrolls from Wake's proximity, her body a spinning spool, her arm a thread which unrolls until it's completely taut, and she leans back and extends her other arm further away, open palm up. "This. Being incorporated into the rich and elegant world of formal dancing."

Nobody expects the Lavish Acquisition.
Baroness Wake
Castle Eas - Dome of Stars

    "It compels at least some of them. All of the alliances were rather assertive in their recruiting of members. I would say it is time to hit pause and invite people to think again why they are where they are. And if that is truly where they wish to be."

    This is a matter that even Elly is pondering these days. She is, after all, growing into rather a poor fit in Olympus. Something to do with devoting her energy to Landers and falling out of love with steam power.

    She attends to what Uta says with interest. She's quite curious. The answer draws a laugh in return. "Well, it is good to actually do things, certainly! A beautiful, wise woman once told me that life is not a spectator sport. Which I took as an invitation."

    Tae laughs at this, "It was, and it wasn't. Who knew a maiden of ice would melt so swiftly?"

    Even in the dance, this draws a dramatic eyeroll from Elly. "I think this is the point where I must point out, with all the appropriate grace I can muster, that my wife is, indeed, hot enough to melt me."

    But Elly swiftly weaves her way back on topic, and gets to the point. "And do you enjoy this... incorporation?" she asks, her nose wrinkling in amusement at the word.

    "I suppose once we get this down we can try something else. Dancing more along Tae's style of work than my own. A less formal, more intuitive kind of dance involving communication, grace, skill, and considerable levels of energy."
Castle Eas - Dome of Stars

The amusement Uta was displaying at the exchange between Tae and Elly swiftly turns into sudden confusion. She wasn't expecting to be asked if she liked this.

In fact, she hadn't even paid active attention to it until explicitly asked to do so.

"I have to admit it's kind of fun!", she finally concedes, as she proceeds with the next twirl. "I am not sure I will be able to keep it up in the long run, or even manage a real ball, but I think I got the hang of the tutorial of this dancing mini-game." Gamer jokes? Whom has she been hanging out with- oh, right. Adventurers.

She turns to Tae. Then Elly. Tae. Elly. "So... informal dance?"
Baroness Wake
Castle Eas - Dome of Stars

    While Elly continues dancing with Uta, Tae is moving up. She isn't sneaking up behind Uta, though. She's stepping behind her wife. A firm tap on the shoulder brings a pause to the dance.

    "May I cut in?"

    Tae's smile is all innocence, but it's clear she's itching for this. Uta is a good dancer, and Tae has never had the pleasure. So she's just taking over.

    Elly gives her wife a look that is, well, a bit displeased, but only for a moment. Tae's effective argument against that displeasure is the slightest pout. She has such a natural pout that the expression is even more potent. Elly has to laugh and kiss her wife on the forehead.

    "It is only fair to let you have fun, too."

    Tae doesn't giggle with glee, but she is giddy. She requests playfully, "Let's get some rise in that tempo and if you could give us a bit more of a light show to work with that would be so good!"

    And that is how Elly becomes a living mirror ball, filling the entire ballroom with beams of light. Holy Diva, indeed. And the music is there. It's no match for club music or trance or high energy k-pop, but it has a strong, fast beat, and it's clear that a lot of effort was made to make it as contemporary-sounding as possible.

    Fun as it is, Tae gets serious. "Now! No set steps. No rules about how partners hold on to each other, it's all about intuition, music, and feeling."

    She wastes no time setting the pace. Her motions are not chaos, they have a flow to them, but unlike the patterns of formal dance, these are alot more like musical phrases, combined in myriad ways.

Castle Eas - Dome of Stars

If you want to be the belle of the ball, you have to be the ball. The disco ball.

While Elly, the local disco belle, launches into a heavenly display of Light, likely making the hall into more of a Disco Paradiso than a Disco Inferno, to quote Dante Alighieri, who was notoriously a big disco fan, Uta begins to study Tae's movements

The immersion is gradual. After looking at the stream, Uta's metaphorical dipping of a foot comes in the form of, in reality, tapping it; one hand swipes into an orchestra director's motion, to dentify the beat, the metre, the tempo.

The tentative steps further into the flow, swaying, left, right, slower, in a multiple of the basic beat. Shoulders rise and fall alternately, a running start to jumping right in: the splash into the dance comes in the form of leaping close to her new dance partner, and improvising a response to Tae's moves from the previous measure, symmetrical, if delayed, re-elaborating the second half into a mirrored version, where leaning forward becomes pulling away, left becomes right, but otherwise remaining similar; a "yes" part of acknowledgement, followed by an "and" part which adds something new for Tae to react to if she so desires.

It is hard to asses how incongrous Uta's formal ballroom attire is when it comes to this style of dance, but then again, those who know Uta, also know that expectations are going to be thrown out of the window, after which Uta will wonder, stunned, "...Wait, there was a window?"
Castle Eas - Dome of Stars

Uta's moves second Tae as far as diving deeper and deper into a crescendo of improvisation goes. As stated earlier, though, Uta's moves are also quite impressive -- but with added restraint; unlike Tae, the Spriggan is not used to perform in the kind of attire she's in right now; and this not only encompasses the obvious limitations posed by her lack of practice with dance shoes and long skirts with delicate decorations, or the intrinsic limitations posed by them (a handstand would probably be a terrible idea, for instance): on top of that she further seems to take particular care in ensuring that Elly's present doesn't get dirty, thus avoiding, say, breakdancing in it.

But within these self- and exeternally imposed conservative parameters, she does go about as wild as Tae, ensuring that any wild spinning movement that involves jumping in the air is rapid enough, and that she mostly just moves around with her feet, concentrating most of the wild action in the arm area.

And as she lets more and more of her instincts take over- well, it seems like that all that training to commit wild wuxia moves to muscle memory is paying off: kata, or martial arts forms, are performed with a dancing flair, recognizable yet adapted. "Not before the Apocalypse," Uta replies to Tae. "I would like songs, but mostly as a consumer. I would occasionaly have some music in the background while reading a book, and... well, I've been told I wasn't offensive at karaoke nights, but that's pretty much it." A short silence, as she turns, sweeps an arc with her foot as she makes a ninety degree turns, and twirls her hands to parry an invisible blow, raising a forearm over her forehead, other fist yanked at her hip. "What about you?"
Baroness Wake
Castle Eas - Dome of Stars

    Elly allows her focus to drift more to the light and music than the conversation. It means she can have fun her own way. Which, interestingly, involves adding lyrics to the music. Clearly she knew about these and simply didn't record them previously.

    Tae notes the song. The lyrics are, of course, her own. She smiles. The style isn't quite her own, but she enjoys her wife's particular spin on it.

    "As you already know, I was a pop star in Korea and retired from that before I met Elly in Tokyo. My mother and father were both singers, and I wanted to be a singer from childhood. Since my second year of middle school I had professional vocal lessons. So, I've always known and wanted it."

    She sighs softly and once again the pace changes. One send ends, another begins. Still informal, but softer. It's a ballad. The translation does its thing to Elly's singing. It's about getting over a lost love. A very different kind of song, with a very different kind of dance. It stretches the very definition of what one might dance to, and while it has no formal structure, it is slower, mixing both movement and facial expressions.

    "You know, I have never tried to dance to this song before," Tae admits. A pause and she breaks her dancing character to point out, "It's really weird, isn't it? Sadness isn't my usual mood for dancing."

Castle Eas - Dome of Stars

"Unusual is another way to say 'original'," Uta replies to Tae, in her attempts to find a suitable interpretation for the song according to Tae's less formal dance style. It's a process; if the Artist herself admits unfamiliarity with the activity, one can imagine that Uta has a slightly more uphill battle; but still, her familiarity with the unfamiliar in general, and adaptability, help make up for that.

"Advancement. Progress," Uta continues, while she wiggles her arms slowly in a wavy motion. Backwards step, a spin, while leaning away. Eyes closed. "It's all about venturing into the Unknown."

Uta opens her eyes, and noticing that Tae is no longer dancing, she stops herself, and quickly composes into a standing position; without even noticing, she retracts her limbs, straightens her back, and returs to a default courtly standing pose, more appropriate to a formal ball than impromptu informal dancing. "Are you tired?", she asks, her neck tilting forward slightly in concern.
Baroness Wake
Castle Eas - Dome of Stars

    "Not tired," replies Tae. "Just feeling a bit nostalgic. About twenty years ago I would be performing this song in front of tens of thousands of people. I could pack Tokyo Dome, sell-out Seoul, and well, I do miss that. It was the rest that I got so tired of."

    She laughs at herself, then, shaking her head. "I should really focus. Elly! Give us something with a beat. I don't want to cry my eyes out on the dance floor!"

    Elly does jerk herself to alertness with that order. And the music changes. It's still Tae's work, but it's upbeat, playful, and far more fun to move to.

    "Have you ever performed in front of a crowd, Uta? I know you've studied song here."

Castle Eas - Dome of Stars

"I... well, it's one of the ways I've been gathering coins when on a trip." Uta is careful to change the subject, and keep it away from the one that made Tae melancholic. "Especially when travelling light, without my wagon or a full set of medical implements: taking gigs at taverns and inns is usually a good way to make a coin or two on the go." She taps her lips, as she looks up and away. "Then there's that time I helped in the background for Merek's debut concert, after he learned Song."

She finally shakes her head. "But... if you mean more specifically if I've ever held a concert where I'm the main attraction, like you used to be... no, not really at that level." she says, and scratches the back of her head, and smiles: "But it's okay, neither have I looked into doing that, so..."

"I have learned the ins and out of the art of Song in this world, yes. I've gotten a Bard as one of my classes, so it was only natural..." After a bit of silence, Uta smiles wide. "But you, you have had proper lessons! In the Real World. Maybe... maybe you can teach me better?"
Baroness Wake
Castle Eas - Dome of Stars

    "Well, I'm not sure about teaching you better than others," Tae says, suddenly sounding a bit shy, even uncomfortable. "This world is not like the one before. I don't know if the game even cares about proper warm ups, vocal exercises, or anything of the sort. I do them out of habit, and they help me center my mind."

    She will step into another dance, but this time it's less distant. There is still a good pace to her motions, but it's close. Not romantic, but near.

    "I don't know all the details, but I understand that you sometimes find it hard to concentrate. If so, we have that a bit in common. When I first started performing, I would get very nervous before events with a lot of people. Really stressed. I couldn't stop my thoughts from wandering everywhere."

Castle Eas - Dome of Stars

"I still like to learn how things were done in the old world," Uta replies. "In case we return there. If possible, I would like to retain some of the skills I have picked up here."

Tae slipping into another dance is a cue for Uta to do likewise. Uta does not seem to go the romance route; likely because, by her own admission, romance is something she has never really experienced; but she still goes for something appropriate: slow, soft, careful.

"It's complicated," Uta explains, without interrupting her flowing with the music. "A lot of factors come into play. Stress, exercise, medication, information rate, meditation, concentration, accumulated attempts at control...", she rattles off, the counting on her fingers becoming part of her dance.

She interrupts her counting, finger still on a finger of the other hand. By a minimal amount, she lowers both her voice and her head. "You couldn't?", she asks Tae.
Baroness Wake
Castle Eas - Dome of Stars

    Tae nods to Uta. "If you would like, I can teach you. It will be an interesting thing, honestly, if we get out. My mind knows how to control my lungs, abdomen, and throat, but what has happened to all the muscles? Will they know how to respond? But... that's not today."

    And with a little wave of her hand, she dispels it. As if it were just that easy. With a sudden wave of laughter, she moves on.

    In this case, moving on is a lot of nodding in agreement.

    "Sleep, exercise, stimulation! The right balance was basically impossible. Oh, and definitely not. My schedule regularly gave me six hours of sleep and everything else was planned. You know those pictures of factories they show in school when you are a child? I was like that. Riding the conveyor belt. Tae, smile! Tae, you are on in two minutes! Tae, the cameras will be to the right. Remember to look surprised and delighted when your fans show up at the airport! Pause at the top of the stairway and wave! Your morning show needs you there an hour earlier so I put some food in the dressing room. Eat it as you walk to the car, but make sure to throw it away before the last door and clean your teeth. There are cameras in the lobby.."

    She lets out a sigh, shaking her head. "So I was always worried. Worried what people would think. Worried about where the cameras are. Worried because I had to find the right place to stop and wave to them so I would be safe and they would be safe and the pictures would be flattering. Oh and worried about the setlist and where I would be given a proper break to rest my voice. Oh, and worried because other idols weren't always the kindest."

Castle Eas - Dome of Stars

"That sounds... inconvenient." There is not much to add to Tae's story. It mostly speaks by itself. "Then again, my old life ended up not being -that- different at its core: Wake up. Head to work. Wait tables. Head home. Meditate. Read books. On designated days, go buy new books." Each step is marked by a swish of her hand, and a sashay. "Ensure no surprises, no deviation to the carefully tuned routine, and you can pass as a normal member of society, if one does not look too closely." A twirl of her hand. "Repeat."

"I suppose I was... nothing." She clicks her tongue. "I know this is not meant to be a contest about who had it worse, but if it were, I suppose you would win it. All those worries and pressure... at least I was actively avoiding them, and... theoretically, I could have stopped whenever I wanted. Which... I technically did."
Baroness Wake
Castle Eas - Dome of Stars

    "Everyone has a tale of woe and sadness. We call it life. But on the other side, we have joy. For me, those joys were pretty awesome. Standing alone in front of almost 60,000 cheering fans, for instance. Being able to make beautiful music that people heard everywhere in the world as great, too. Finding the woman I loved in a cozy little club in Tokyo and then, well, I'll leave some things to the imagination."

    She cannot help but giggle a little at herself. "But ultimately, Uta, you were doing what you felt was right. But what is right can change. Ultimately, though, it's all down to two questions, right? As Elly likes to throw at people... Who are you? What do you want?"

    The dance is casual, playful, even a bit silly at times. Tae has officially kicked formality out of the door and left it there to languish on the ground.

Castle Eas - Dome of Stars

"Who I am changes over time. A man never steps into the same river twice and all that Heraclitus." Uta's answer flows forward, without much thought. "And what I want is not the core question. The core question is what I need."

There is no need to emphasize that when the going gets silly, Uta is probably one of the main suspects when it comes to instigating of said going; but this time the responsibility is likely shared. "And with 'need' I mean 'what is that you currently miss, and is good for you, as opposed to satisfying your wishes'. Or, in other words..." she says, as she performs as much as a Crane Kick pose as the current song (and gown) allows. "...it's not about what I can teach. It's about what I can learn."

"And you two? Who are you? What do you want?" Kung-fu lowering of her center of mass. Slow, circular motions with her arms, while looking off to a side. "And bonus question, where the answer is for yourselves only: what do you need?"
Baroness Wake
Castle Eas - Dome of Stars

    "And who are you, alone and names, against the crushing weight of an empty concert hall?"

    Tae puts the best cheesy, ominous voice to it she can. Which is horribly cheesy and not at all ominous. Her voice just seems completely unfit for ominous.

    "Let's start with who I am. Tae. Nice to meet you! I guess I'm all about joy, peace, calm. Because I love being happy and seeing people happy, but sometimes we can't get there, you know? Sometimes you need sad songs and tears to get to calm from wherever you started. Then you hvae a shot at that happy business."

    She tries to look deeply contemplative, but seems to rather get to an expression that more accurately says, 'Just caught a whiff of rotten tomatoes.' Regardless, she makes progress with her ideas. "Now what I want? Hm. Well, I want to stay with Elly. I want to have plenty of time with you, cause you are fun and help me relax. I also want to perform in front of a packed house again. And we just so happen to have a theater and an ampitheatre! I can have it both ways!"

    Elly shakes her head a little, letting out a sigh. "I'm apparently a light show that can curtsey," she says playfully. "With some of that faith stuff, dedication, and I occasionally have a sense of humor." Rarely! "I want... hm. Family. I want to have a sense of family. I miss the way my family was. Having children all over Yamato is a good addition. And having a gorgeous wife who can cook is pretty much the pinnacle of my life's joys."

    There's a pause, then, and Tae comments, "Having a gorgeous wife who can't cook is my pinnacle. This waistline wouldn't survive western cooking!"

Castle Eas - Dome of Stars

When Tae makes a face as if she caught a whiff of rotten tomatoes, Uta sniffs under her armpits. The chance of sweat, as stablished earlier, is very real.

"Thank you, ladies. And now that we've introduced ourselves, I think we can move on to the next step." A frown. "...What was the next step, again? Not... cooking, I hope? I haven't learned to do that yet. Gotta learn how to formal dance first."

"Speaking of which, I'm surprised you still cook," Uta comments at Tae. "I'd have guessed that, given your status and estate, your estatus, if you will, you'd have had a bunch of maids cooking for you. Especially Spriggan refugees from Ezzo, in need of a job..."
Baroness Wake
Castle Eas - Dome of Stars

    "Oh, they do like cooking! And they help." That's Tae's story and she's sticking to it. Until Elly points out...

    "Mostly they are giggling and goofing around, actually. I wanted to get a snack once and walked in to find five of our maids covered with flour and you, my dear Tae, were up on the counter, singing. The exact lyrics are unfit for innocent Uta's ears, but it was quite surprising. I just walked away without saying a word."

    Tae explains with dreadful seriousness, "It involved a bet. Or a deal? They do something, I do something. Quid pro innuendo, I think it is called. But anyhow, I cook because I love to cook. You take some stuff, mix it together, put it on a plate, and people feel good and praise you. That's kinda neat! Or, if Elly is cooking, people either make excuses to avoid the meal or make arrangements for medical care after."

    Elly rolls her eyes. "I am not /that/ bad." A pause and she adds, "I cook through others, anyway. By hiring them to do so. Not to engage in some kind of weird commerce of kitchen battles for musical performances."
Castle Eas - Dome of Stars

Uta mostly manages to not let anything show, but a fleeting blush and sideways glance do show when there's a mention of potentially bawdy lyrics; furthermore, if any medical arrangements were made with her when Elly was on cooking duty, Uta does not mention. "Hopefully they do work when there's banquets? Or formal dinners?" The question has a hint of concern. "I would expect that Etiquette demands everything, from preparation to presentation, to be perfect in those cases. The kitchen is a crucial component of the complex machinery that is Diplomacy."
Baroness Wake
Castle Eas - Dome of Stars

    "They do real work!"

    Tae is giggling a lot, so the blurting response is not angry, obviously. "They keep the whole castle clean, they tend to refreshments for guests. They handle laundry, changing curtains, beating futons, and a bunch of things besides. Plus they wear really pretty clothes. Picked out by the Baroness through myserious processes that involve Ayame giggling nervously when I ask what they were up to."

    It's a long story, which means it's time to change the subject!

    Elly just so casually says, "The food is important. The presentation, as well. Plus so many Landers are racist when it comes to Spriggans. I rather like to show how wrong they are."

Castle Eas - Dome of Stars

"Oh yeah!", Uta exclaims, punching the air in the biggest breach of formality since the beginning of the lesson. "Show them what Spriggans are capable of!" A short pause. "IN A GOOD WAY. Gotta be specific there. I mean, once you show them that your whole staff is Spriggans, handling every single task in the castle, they will certainly-"

Pause, freeze in mid talk, hands previously extended in excitement hanging limp. "...well, think that you are surrounded by an entourage of ninja assassins, and they'd better behave while they're in Eas, I suppose?", she says, scratching her head. "Racism will do that. But..." She narrows her eyes, and doubtful, she almost squeaks, "...it keeps the Lander Nobles on their toes? I suppose?"
Baroness Wake
Castle Eas - Dome of Stars

    "Honestly, nobles generally don't pay attention to the help," Elly points out. "Which is disappointing, but it seems to come with the territory. It is apparently jarring to them when I thank servants. Of coures I thank them regardless. They get used to it eventually."

    With the conversation involving her so much, Elly has joined the group on the dance floor. It's a different kind of dance, but she can keep up easily enough.

    Tae, who is only kinda paying attention to the dance at this point, hip bumps Elly with a grin. "About time you got back out here with us, Amazon Lady," she teases. Tae turns back to Uta. It occurs to her she has never asked something important! "So how do you like your character? I mean the shape, race, all that. We did body scans, so it's kind of familiar."

Castle Eas - Dome of Stars

Uta's composture has been under tight control during dance lessons. It certainly has not escaped Elly's attention that Uta's responses have been more measured and limited; it might therefore come as a surprise that Tae's question comes as a surprise to Uta. Or perhaps not -- could the former idol's shift away from the Etiquette and Formality have been a well-concerted ploy to get Uta to lower her defenses? Probably not. But you have to be on your toes all the time, with the kind of nobles that hire Spriggans as their whole staff! (<_< ) ( >_>)

"I... uh...", Uta's dance stops all at once; then, standing still, she sinks into thought, silently rubbing her chin with the slightest frown of concentration. "I'm still getting used to it," she answers. She turns to look over her shoulder; her wings spread, and, for good measure, she gives them a flick. "The wings, for one, still kind of freak me out. I mean, -wings-?" She gives them a good flutter to prove her point. "And I can't even -fly-." No, she is not salty. YOU are salty.

She looks down at herself, then at one lifted arm, and the other, in turn.

"It feels like I've been turned inside out," she then adds. "I think I've mentioned this. At first it was unbearable. A symbolism of what was wrong with my past life. A Godhand, someone who lives the life of a monk: a repetitive cycle of work and study. A Bard, someone who lives only of stories. In my case, someone who ignored everything else, to the detriment of all other aspects of life. The Doctor, mocked by that academic title I so much coveted, and could never earn in my past life. And the theme of a Nurse, someone who could very well have enough skills to be or, in some case, even -teach- proper Doctors, but, nonetheless, is not one, because of a lack of official certifications." She looks up at Tae and Elly. "A giant parade of all my failures, and their results. And as far as my self esteem went..." She smirks. "...I'd say that casting me as a Spriggan nailed that."

Uta walks slowly, and sits down on the nearest available item fit for the purpose, be it a sofa or a chair, and, hands clasped, resumes, "But then..." Look lost in the distance. Fingers wiggle against each other, nervously, then relax. "...then I realized this was not about me. Not mainly, at least."
Baroness Wake
Castle Eas - Dome of Stars

    Tae is a listener, that much is clear. When Uta stops, she does. There's a slight closing of the distance. Close, but not too close, and casually managed. Her last step just happened to be there.

    Tae follows Uta as she moves. Not a dance, but lockstep none the less. Even using light touches of elbow and shoulder to express concern, comfort, and sympathy. When Uta is settled, Tae joins her. Not in sitting in a chair that was here, but in one that Elly produces with such impeccable timing that Tae is settling down before it is even beneathe her. Elly settles in a moment after.

    Tae is taking the initiative. "Uta, aren't all those all your own interpretations of those roles? A godhand might also be a gregarious hero, exploring the world and righting wrongs. A bard, deeply invested in her audience and living a whole and complete life on the road. The doctor which you wished to be and now you are. Hmm, and the winged one who might find that flying has nothing to do with proximity to the ground."

    Elly looks over at Tae. She's curious just where this is going. She gets the point, surely, but it's still rather fun to watch Tae dig into Uta's very intersting past.

    Still, there are things to say. "This was not about you? But what, then, is 'this'? And what do you mean in general?"
Baroness Wake
Castle Eas - Dome of Stars

    Tae is a listener and she's paying far more attention than might be obvious to a casual viewer. When Uta stops dancing, she does, too. There's a slight closing of the distance. Close, but not too close, and casually managed. Her last step just happened to be there.

    Tae follows Uta as she moves. Not a dance, but in lockstep none the less. Even using light touches of elbow and shoulder to express concern, comfort, and sympathy. When Uta is settled, Tae joins her. Not in sitting in a chair that was here, but in one that Elly produces with such impeccable timing that Tae is settling down before it is even beneathe her. Elly settles in a moment after.

    Tae is taking the initiative. "Uta, aren't all those all your own interpretations of those roles? A godhand might also be a gregarious hero, exploring the world and righting wrongs. A bard, deeply invested in her audience and living a whole and complete life on the road. The doctor which you wished to be and now you are. Hmm, and the winged one who might find that flying has nothing to do with proximity to the ground."

    Elly looks over at Tae. She's curious just where this is going. She gets the point, surely, but it's still rather fun to watch Tae dig into Uta's very interesting past.

    Still, there are things she wants to ask. Uta is putting much out there that is far from clear and so, Elly prompts, "This was not about you? But what, then, is 'this'? And what is it about?"
Castle Eas - Dome of Stars

"I am on a path to become a Moonlight Doctor." Neutral. Matter-of-fact. "The Nurse part is not as daunting as it was in the past. Same for my profession." Uta is stating this with a level voice, but her clasped hands twitch. Much like the early days with Elly's greetings; she mostly undergoes, rather than actively seek, physical contact.

"It might be like that," she concedes to Tae. "Or it might be a massive coincidence. I doubt so, though -- there is plenty of anecdotal evidence of the Random Generator being surprisingly good at picking something fitting for everyone who randomized." She mumbles, "Granted, most people -paid attention- to what they were getting before confirming..." The dark muttering is over as quickly as it started, and the Spriggan resumes, "But, case in point, this avatar certainly has multiple layers of symbolism."

"'This' would be... this." With her hand, Uta makes a circular, sweeping motion while her fingers generically, vaguely point at herself, a bit like a searchlight scanning her figure. "This Avatar. See, you mentioned its shape, earlier; it's funny: while the classes, the profession, the race, the general 'nurse' aesthetic... the character sheet, if you want, was a pretty obvious reminder of everything I should have been facing, and hadn't, I couldn't figure out the reason for the exact details of the appearance. Black hair? Amber eyes? Shorter? Well, kind of. I'm no Fuka or Pela." Uta points at each body part as she mentions it; the 'shorter' part is a hand held horizontal, palm down, to mime a height slightly above her current one and then is lowered to match the top of her head. "It made no sense at all. Couldn't find any reason why I got -this-."

"But then..."

Her gaze is lost in the distance. Few seconds pass, and then, slow, she turns to Tae again. "I don't know if Haru has shared anything of his own personal story. I won't, if he hasn't. But if he has, or will in the future..." Inhale. "...You might notice the patterns I have. My character sheet was an even better match for -his- story. Exactly what he needed. And what I needed to be to be next to him." After a short pause, she adds, "And on top of that..."

"Tall, short." One finger points in the distance while she says the first word, and to herself as she says the second. "White, black." Point in the distance, then to her own hair. "Yellow, blue." Distance, her own eyes. Complementary colors. "And so on."

She looks down, hand clasped beteen her knees. The fists disappear in the fluffy mass of the skirt. "How do I like this shape?" There is the slightest movement in her bare shoulders, as she shifts in place a little, left and right. "I used not to at all. But..." She looks up, with a more nuanced smile, bittersweet and serene. "I'm shaped like Haru's sister. That's what I am. And it finally all makes sense."

Her gaze falls into her lap again, where she idly fidgets with her fingers. "It's a good shape."
Baroness Wake
Castle Eas - Dome of Stars

    There are two different reactions to this entire section of the conversation. And they are hard to explain. The gulf between them is perhaps uncomfortable to even witness.

    Tae meets this entire explanation calmly, with a nod here and there to encourage Uta to continue, to show she is understanding. It is, admittedly, a lot to take in. However, Tae has been here before, in a sense. Uta is not the first person she's met with some serious psychological scarring.

    It can be so very easy to to forget that Elly was broken completely not so long ago, though, and others can certainly be forgiven for operating under the belief that Elly is a rock against which all waves break. Unyielding, steady, and absolute. And in that same line of thinking, somehow also kind, gentle, and loving. Always supportive, patient, and... well, a lot of things that in all honestly, are obviously impossible for a mortal woman to be.

    And so they are, in this moment, revealed to be.


    It's not clear to Elly what it is that hurts right now. But she knows this pain. It comes at her when something horrible occurs. She has a choice. To stand and weather it as best she can, knowing she cannot, and risk being utterly shattered, or she can do something else.

    And so it is, that with a murmured sentence, she rises and sets a beautiful detailed plushie in Uta's lap. It's a plushie of Uta herself. With the outfit that Elly got for her. The mix of a nurse's uniform and fighting gi. What she says the translator can't quite get right.

    "... just you."

    And then, she leaves. The first few steps are remarkably poised. Etiquette has a power in this world, and she has it incredibly honed. Yet even for her, those smooth steps cannot last. She races away from the room.

    Tae's mouth is open as she watches it happen. Like she is just beginning a gasp that never fully forms. Her mind has to balance a scale. To measure. To go?


    She does not go after Elly.

    She stays, and turns her attention back to Uta. An uncertain smile is offered.

    "She'll... be okay. I think she just needed a moment."

    Unblessed by the poise and deceit that etiquette brings, Tae's uncertainty is obvious.

Castle Eas - Dome of Stars

Uta is completely engrossed in this miniature Spriggan. She holds it in her hands, studies it, with concentration. So much concentration. Turn up, down, back, front. She's engrossed, and at the same time, mesmerized.

She does not turn when Elly walks out. She does not turn when her step pick up momentum. She's just looking at this simulacrum, the same simulacrum that's in her character sheet.

"...It's me..." she states. And it's as if the same muscles that pull the corner of her mouth into a smile also performed double duty as closing her eyelids, such is the synchronicity between the two events.

One moment of silent enjoyment, and then she looks up, "Thank you, Elly. Yes, 'just me.' It-"


Look around.

This is when Tae delivers her line. "She'll... be okay." (Maybe?) "I think she'll need a moment." (Hopefully?)

The uncertainty is not lost on Uta. But now is likely not the moment to bring it up.

"I will wait a moment."

And Uta sits on, holding her plushie. Hoping, but deep inside not really convinced, that the situation will solve itself in a matter of minutes.