I looked over the search-results on the monitor and nodded in satisfaction before I took a sip from the teamug in my hand. With this, all traces of Sebastian’s past should be shrouded well beyond recovery. Well, unless one considered the backup I had safely tucked away on a USB drive, but that was beside the point. I have also already printed out a set of the offending database entries. I planned to hand those over to the stuck-up bastard later (he always struck me as an analogue person, hence the tree-carcass based information carrier), but as far as the actual Celestial Hub was concerned.
Now granted, we were talking about the repository of the biggest, most well organized information network of the world (according to them, at the very least), so if they couldn't figure out the man's real identity with all this data at their fingertips, Sebastian's secret was probably fairly safe… until a suitably dramatic moment demanded its reveal, but that was just my speculation based on the setting, so it was neither here or there.
Of course there was another way to quickly figure out his identity, considering his name was literally a variation of 'Fafnir' from the Nibelungenlied. However, taken that other people here didn't seem to be aware of the significance of their names, be they placeholders or 'main characters', the chance of someone connecting the dots like I did was vanishingly low.
Anyways, I spent the extra time I had after editing the database with trying to figure out if the Hub offered me any way to deal with my newfound supernatural stalker, but the best advice my roundabout inquiries got me as 'admin' and under a different alias (I started using several sock-puppets for editing and questions, by the way) was that I should talk to the local Magi representative. It was apparently one of those ‘unspoken rule’ things; any such disturbances were supposed to be run by them first, as they didn’t take kindly when other factions operated in the open like that.
I sat back on my chair and thought about that for a second. I had to talk to the class rep and her ilk sooner or later anyway, as they were the logical next step in my exploration of this world. The celestial hub provided me with recent and relevant information. The Dracis library should, hopefully, provide me with cross-references and a less ‘dear leader’-centric history of the world. Those were both very important in terms of helping me pass as an informed player in the local secret societies, but neither of them helped my ultimate goal of figuring out the actual nature of the world.
My biggest obstacle in that regard was magic. The very existence of it. So long as I didn’t know the exact nature or limitations of it, I could never be sure if something was an actual indication towards how this universe worked or just plain old, run-of-the-mill magic, silly as that might have sounded. On top of all that I still had my Far Sight to experiment with, plus there were all those other times I did inexplicable things. For example, during the time when the princess and Snowy were fighting, I remember jumping through a glass door without actually hitting it. And if we were at that, on my very first day I had fallen down the stairs and somehow landed on the locked roof. That couldn’t have been normal either.
So yeah, I might have had other superpowers as well, though I had no idea how to test those. Maybe run into walls and see if I passed through them? That could cause some headache, quite literally.
Oh, right, and on top of all that I was also embroiled in Josh’s harem with my own love-triangle, because why would I ever catch a break? Well, okay, that last one I could solve fairly quickly, but I was still waiting for the right opportunity to do so. It wasn't like I was indecisive or anything, no sir.
In the end I simply let out an exasperated groan. Sometimes I wished that there were more hours in a day. Not having to sleep (a minor superpower in and of itself) already made me unnaturally efficient, but it just wasn’t enough.
I stretched my arms and looked at the clock. It was a little after six. I still had a good hour before I had to set out for school, and I already had my fill with the Celestial Hub and I really didn’t want to think about my relationship hardships either, so instead I decided to focus on my powers.
As I mentioned before, walking into walls wasn’t my idea of fun, so instead I tried to concentrate on Far Sight, and I already had a target in mind. I emptied my mug and put it on the desk before I closed my eyes and focused on the image of Sebastian.
There was a moment of mild nausea, as usual, before my consciousness expanded towards my target. If I had to visualize it, I would say it felt like I extended a very thin and long tendril towards a dot on the edge of my sight, and once the two connected I was suddenly seeing everything like I was actually there. It was eerie, but I already got used to it.
After the first second of disorientation I quickly recognized the place as the stuffy old trophy room in which I met Sebastian just a couple of hours before. He was sitting in his large arm-chair behind the big desk opposite to the door and was in the middle of gingerly polishing the detached front plate of the gilded armor from the corner. I glanced over there and I involuntarily raised a brow as I noticed three large tears running in parallel on the exposed back-plate. They honest to goodness looked like claw-marks, and as far as I knew, they were just that.
The butler raised the piece of mirror-shined metal in front of him and grinned with a childish glee that was incredibly weird on his face. He stood up and carried the plate over to the rest of the armor with a satisfied chuckle and skillfully buckled it back into its place. Then, and I swear to god I am not lying, he put on a pair of large, floral-print oven mittens and picked up the worn spear from the floor and positioned it in the hands of the suit until it looked exactly like it was when I first came to the room.
He spent the next couple of minutes moving around in his lair and arranging his belongings, which wasn’t particularly riveting to watch. I was about to leave and get to my next target when his antique rotary phone rang. He walked over to the desk and picked it up.
“Yes?” He growled, quite literally, into the anachronistic receiver. There was someone talking on the other side, obviously, and he sat down and began stroking his beard while he listened. “Of course. It appears the boy took a fancy to your daughter. … Yes, as much as it pains to admit it, the attraction seems to be mutual. … No, you do not need to worry. I believe he is only doing all this in order to try and impress us. It’s typical courtship behavior, I believe. Yes? No, I do not think there is any harm in giving him access to the library, though he may require oversight. Yes. Yes, I will do that. No, I shall only tell him about your decision in a couple of days. It will do good for the newt to learn that not everything will fall into his lap. … Thank you, I wish the same to you.”
He put down the receiver with a smug smile and promptly returned to fiddling with his collection. I took a deep breath to stop myself from trying to whack him over the head with my nonexistent limbs and put my simmering irritation aside for the time being. I purposefully averted my attention and began slipping out of the Far Sight. I was just about to return to my room when I stopped mid-transit and pondered for a second.
I have already determined that I could observe people with whom I have been in physical contact. Because of this I couldn’t detect the Faun… but maybe I could detect his boss. I tried picturing Crowey, though I had a slightly harder time considering I have only seen the guy in person once, yet I could still make out a fuzzy ‘dot’ I could reach towards. I did so, and while the nausea was a little stronger than usual, I still found myself in the presence of my target all the same.
Not only that, I somehow managed to show up in my non-corporeal form at the best possible moment. Why’s that? Well, I just happened to barge in on a meeting between the bastard and my stalker.
“I believe,” The Faun spoke in a deep, rumbling yet surprisingly articulate voice, “we have to observe him further.”
“You are testing my patience!” Crowey snapped at him from the dining table. Speaking of which, they were in a large room in what looked like a fancy hotel and the guy was in the process of stuffing an entire turducken into his spindly frame for breakfast. The Faun stood at a respectful distance, and to my surprise I found him hard to make out, as if he was covered in a kind of dark haze. As I thought about it, maybe there was something similar going on during our nightly encounters and I just didn’t pay it any attention and attributed his low visibility to the darkness of the late evening.
That said, the Faun bowed his head subserviently and answered.
“It is my sincere opinion that the young man is more than meets the eye.”
“No he isn’t!” Crowey exclaimed while waving his fork threateningly. “I have touched that boy and tried to set the Mana in his veins aflame. He is so powerless he didn’t even notice!”
“I believe there are measures of power other than the amount of mana one holds within their body.”
“No there isn’t! And stop growling already and talk like a normal person! You are taking away my appetite.”
I swear I saw the brows of the Faun twitch even through the haze, and I couldn’t help but feel sympathy for the poor bastard. I mean, I didn’t like him stalking and ambushing me, but having that prick for a boss must have been harsh.
“Yes, lord,” He answered with an abrupt change in his tone, suddenly sounding like the stereotypical brute his appearance suggested.
“I want you to shadow that guy, and if an opportunity presents itself, off him. Make it look like an accident. You are good at that.”
“Will do. Throw in front of car?”
“That should do.”
“If there is car, I will do.” The Faun grumbled, and while Crowey was apparently satisfied with his answer, I couldn’t help but laugh. He didn’t see it, but the Faun was definitely rolling his eyes in exasperation.
“Go wake my sister and tell her to continue with her task. I want the area prepared by the end of the week.”
“Of course you will. Now go. You are dismissed.”
The faun bowed deeply to his irritating master and disappeared down the doorway I didn’t even notice was behind him. I stayed around for a few more minutes to see if there would be any further developments, but all I got to see was Crowey stuffing his noggin, which got old really fast. As such, I returned to my room and made a quick note about not going anywhere near traffic for the foreseeable future.
That said, I was also reminded that I should start getting ready for school, so I proceeded to engage in a slightly more elaborate morning routine than usual to help all the new info sink in, including a full bath, some extra time fixing my permanently unruly hair and I even had a full meal for breakfast (at least as far as instant noodles plus a plateful of frozen spaghetti could be considered a full meal).
Even with all those, I was a couple of minutes early when I left my house and headed for Judy’s place. She just finished her breakfast when I got there, so I only had to wait for her a little before we both headed to the princess’ mansion. On the way I gave her a quick outline of the data I gathered from the Hub and the extra tidbits I gained from observing Sebastian and Crowley.
“I think I can recall a certain person saying he would not use his powers to spy on people.”
“Who was this person?”
I waved a hand dismissingly.
“Pics or it didn’t happen.”
“I have eidetic memory and I can vouch for it.”
“Objection!” I exclaimed as I pointed a finger at her. “I would like to forward a motion to dismiss the testimony of the lovely young lady on the witness stand, as she is obviously biased.”
“Objection overruled,” She answered as she brought down her fist on her palm. “The jury finds no problem with her testimony.”
She pointed at herself. “Me.”
“Ack! So you are both judge, jury and executioner?”
“Indeed,” She nodded emphatically. “I am the law!” She followed up by a deadpan yet somehow still over-the-top exclamation. I forced myself to stop snickering and nodded in approval.
“So I guess you watched the movie we talked about?”
“I did.” She answered with a nod of her own.
We would have probably engaged in further memetic conversation if not for our arrival at the gates of the mansion. Once again proving that my timing was absolutely impeccable, the princess exited the front door mere seconds after our arrival. She was followed by Melinda, and I waved for both of them to come over.
“Hi Leo,” She greeted me with a surprising lack of embarrassment. “Judy too.”
“I was relegated to an afterthought,” Judy stated in a whisper, but she still returned the greeting in the form of a nod.
“Morning, princess. I figured we should pick you up for a change so that we wouldn’t need to run into each other by ‘accident’.”
Now that I finally got a blush out of her (not that I was looking forward to it or anything), I switched my attention to the maid diligently standing by at her side and told her; “Could you please ask Sebastian to come out for a moment? I wish to speak with him.”
Melinda twitched in surprise and shook her head apologetically.
“I am sorry, but von Fraenir has left on a business trip this morning.”
I looked at her skeptically before I peeked a little with my Far Sight and shook my head.
“Melinda, please. I know he probably told you to say that, so could we cut the chase short and just pretend you didn’t say that? Please go in and tell him to stop arranging his creepy Japanese dolls on the cupboard and step out for a moment.”
She opened her mouth to argue, but at last she closed it without a word and she left after a short curtsy. I shook my head and turned to the curious pair at my side.
“This won’t take long, but you can go ahead if you’d like. I will catch up with you.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah, I have long legs.”
The princess gave me a flat look and turned on her heel with a defeated sigh. Judy followed suit, leaving me alone in front of the mansion’s gates for a good minute until the disgruntled steward showed up and walked up to me.
“What is it, boy?” He asked with thundering eyes hidden behind low-set brows. I smiled at him in turn and reached into my bag.
“Good morning to you too. Here, my part of the bargain.” I handed over the documents and swiftly explained what they were about, including the original sources he should look into if he wanted to make sure others wouldn't make the connections in the future. He looked fairly surprised at first, but then he rapidly forced himself back into his angry butler persona. I shrugged off his scowl and told him, “I am going to come over with my assistant later this evening to see your library. I will hand over my intelligence on the knights then.”
“Now hold it right there, boy. As I told you yesterday, I still need to contact the head of the household to—”
I cut him off by raising a hand. I took a deep breath and straightened myself, which I followed up with deepening my voice and adopting a British accent (which came quite naturally) just for the heck of it.
“Von Fraenir, I would prefer if you didn’t take me for a fool. You have already contacted your patriarch and he allowed me to browse your library just this morning, a little after 6:00 AM, to be precise.” At this point I leaned a little closer and tried to plaster a very friendly smile on my face. “Also, just to be clear, I do not like being called a ‘newt’.”
I was ready to leave it at this point and let the old man boil in his own confusion for a while, but I was stopped by a hand clasped around my upper arm as I tried to turn around. I glanced back and found Sebastian looking me in the eye with literally glowing pupils.
That was all he said, and against my better judgment, I tried to brush his hand off… which I magnificently failed to do so, so I just pretended I was only fixing the creases on my uniform around his hand and said:
“Who knows? Maybe I have all your phones bugged. Or I am listening to all telecommunications everywhere. Or it could be that I have informants everywhere. Or I am just reading your mind. Hell, I might even be an omniscient physical god pulling your leg for shits and giggles! The possibilities are endless!”
“That wasn’t an answer.”
“No it wasn’t, but we all have our secrets, don't we?” I told him with a strained grin.
After a few long seconds he finally let go of my arm.
"Whatever method you used, stop it. I do not tolerate anyone compromising the security of my household," He told me sternly before he leaned closer and added, "Are we clear on that?"
"I'll think about it," I told him noncommittally, earning me another glare. Maybe the princess picked up the habit from him?
"You better do," He growled, and then in a softer voice he added.
"What, not death threats this time?" I joked, but to my surprise the old butler shook his head.
"They seem to be ineffective, so I won't even bother anymore."
"Look at that! Someone is learning!" I told him with an expression that was most certainly not a shit-eating grin.
"Indeed. Now I am looking into way to make your personal life with Lady Eleanor difficult."
The not-shit-eating-grin immediately disappeared from my face and I flatly told him, "Don't."
"I will think about it," He answered with a small smile that was somehow a hundred times scarier than all of his glowy-eyed glares, so I decided to change the topic post-haste.
"Speaking of death threats," I began while poking at the hand still clasped around my upper arm, "Do you have anything on the Faun?"
"Nothing substantial," He told me while he squeezed a little harder, but I endured it without flinching.
"That's too bad," I answered, then I finally forced a smile on my face and asked, "Could you let me go already? I don't want to make the princess wait for me.”
We stared daggers at each other for a few seconds, then he finally relaxed his grasp so that I could slip out of it. I ignored the impulse the massage my stinging arm and gave the old man a small nod, which he returned without a glare this time, much to my surprise, and I decided to stop dallying around and hurry after the girls. As I have noted before, I had long legs (or they were moving really slowly to make sure they wouldn't leave me behind, one or the other), so I managed to catch up with them fast, but not quickly enough it seemed.
“What is this about a goodbye kiss?!” Came the question from the princess, accompanied with an accusing finger shoved in my face as I arrived.
“I said,” She repeated while punctuating her words with a poke at my chest, “What is this ‘goodbye kiss’ she is talking about?”
I gave my assistant a critical look before I returned my attention to the princess.
“I have absolutely no idea what you are talking about. Why do you keep letting her push your buttons like that?”
“Your accusations are completely baseless,” My assistant retorted as I got in line between the two of them as usual. “Also, your denial hurts my fragile feelings.”
“Oh the humanity,” I mumbled flatly.
“So… No kiss?”
I sighed and pointed at my face. “Only a peck on the cheek. It’s perfectly normal.”
“No it isn’t!” The princess objected loudly.
I spent the rest of my commute trying to convince her that it was nothing particularly damning, but in the end I had to surrender myself and let her give me a supremely embarrassed peck on the other cheek in the name of her weird sense of ‘fairness’. The things I had to put up with sometimes…
Once our small group arrived at school I tried to avoid the prying eyes of the others, to no avail, and while it did lead to some headaches in the form of Joshua complaining about my horrid womanizing ways, at this point I couldn’t care less, so I shrugged him and his insistent challenges to a gentlemanly duel off. He was probably getting lonely, I surmised, so I might or might not have given him some vague and in no way specific promises to whoop his ass so bad he would need half of the arctic ice-sheet to treat the burn. Or something like that.
Nothing particularly noteworthy happened until lunch break, when I finally managed to pull the class rep aside. She looked a little haggard, so I felt a little bad about troubling her with my problems as well, but since the guys at the Celestial Hub told me I should ask a Magi about my Faun problem, and she was the only Magi I knew, I more or less had to go to her.
"I'm listening," She told me after we arrived to a fairly deserted part of the courtyard. Once again, the placeholders seemed to have a sixth sense that told them to avoid places where we were talking about meaningful stuff, like the supernatural or my relationship-tribulations. Since this was the former, the amount of idlers seemed even lower than usual, which was a good thing, as it meant we wouldn't have to keep our voices down.
"I have a problem."
"With Judy or with Elly?" She asked back with a stern look.
"Neither!" I retorted. "I mean a real problem, the supernatural kind."
"Oh," She crossed her arms in front of her chest before glancing around, then gestured for me to continue.
"I am stalked by a Faun," I told her straight up.
This time her eyebrows shot up, drawing even more attention to the circles under her eyes, and she hurriedly asked, "Are you all right? Did you get attacked?"
"I'm fine, and no, I didn't get attacked… Or at least I don't think so."
"Please tell me exactly what happened," She asked, and I complied. After my quick description of the two times I met with my would-be-assassin (speaking of which, I naturally didn't tell her about me witnessing Crowey ordering the hit on me, as then I would have had to explain my Far Sight, and that would have drawn things out even more), she let out a pent up breath and shook her head. "So there was no actual attack?" I nodded in response and she clicked her tongue. "That's a problem."
"How so? I thought it would be a good thing."
"That's not what I mean," She said hurriedly. "If you were attacked, I could report that to the Assembly and we could get some seniors to investigate, but since the Faun only spooked you in the dark, we can't do anything."
"So you need them to actually do something before you can kick down Crowey's door?"
"That's…" I wanted to say 'surprisingly rational, almost like real law enforcement', but then the class rep told me:
"Sorry, our rules can tie us up sometimes." She paused, then raised a finger to her chin and added, "Though if you can provoke him to attack you, and then survive, we could actually start an investigation."
"Wouldn't that be entrapment?"
Instead of answering she just shrugged her shoulder. I never knew she had a side like this to her, but I was too disappointed about her answer to try and argue about 'due process' and stuff.
"Well, at least I know my options. I will try and do something about him myself."
She gave me a strange look and then said, "Why don't you just talk to Neige?" There was a short pause, during which her brows furrowed into a frown, after which she continued with, "Speaking of which, do you know what she is doing?”
The question honestly took me aback for a moment.
“You mean right now or in general?”
I scratched my chin to hide the fact that I was peeking with my Far Sight, and I found Snowy on the sports field. She was still in her gym clothes, so I figured they had PE class, and she was dourly walking around the field. There was a bit of a glow about her, but that happened to everyone nowadays, and the only immediate thing I got out of the observation was that I wanted to pat her on the head and cheer her up.
I returned my attention to the class rep and shrugged.
“Sorry, I know you were doing a thing there, but I still don’t get it.”
She momentarily deflated, but then she crossed her arms in front of her chest again and told me, “She has been acting strange lately. Aloof, distant, secretive... does that ring any bells?”
I thought about it for a moment and shrugged again.
“Maybe. I don’t think it’s particularly unusual.”
“It is. She barely talks with any of us and she looks like she isn’t getting enough sleep. Then we have this whole Faun business. It is way too suspicious for my liking.” She paused, as f if trying to get her feelings to coalesce into words, and finally muttered, “I am not saying I am suspicious of her, I am just… worried about her. A little.”
I almost chuckled, but I held it down and nodded instead. It was a little funny seeing the person with the greatest reservations about Snowy reaching a 180 turn so quickly, but her sentiment rang true and laughing at her because of it would have been wrong. I took a deep breath and nodded in agreement.
“So you want me to go and talk to her?”
“Yes. You are her patron.”
“That is a needlessly fancy way to say it."
"But it's true. She should also be able to help you with the Faun where I couldn't."
Once again, since I saw Crowey give the order, and knowing their relationship, I was fairly sure Snowy couldn't really tell me anything new about my ram-headed shadow, but the rest of the class rep's concerns sounded legitimate enough for me to say, "All right. I’ll go and see what this is all about.”
As such I turned down any pending lunch invitations and headed for the sports field. I didn’t expect her to still be there, yet there she was, walking around the perimeter of the field with the same dejected look on her face while softly glowing. I was reaching the point where I was unconsciously tuning out such ambient glows, but hers was prominent enough to see even under direct sunlight.
When I reached her she was in the far corner of the field and tapping her feet as if she was getting impatient over something. She was so immersed in her thoughts that she didn’t notice me even though I was standing only a couple of steps from her. I waited for her for a couple of minutes, but at last I ran out of patience and cleared my throat.
She visibly shuddered and glanced around like she was being caught doing a prank, and even then it took her several seconds to notice me. We stared each other in the eye, during which she gave me a classic ‘deer in headlights’ expression, until I lost my patience again and called out to her.
“So, what are you doing?”
She twitched again and looked around as if she was expecting that I was talking to someone else. When it became clear there was no one hiding behind her back she sheepishly raised her hand and pointed a questioning finger at herself.
“Yes, I mean you. Do you see anyone else loafing around all alone out here?” She honest to goodness though about that entirely rhetorical question for a second before she pointed at me. I smiled and shook my head. “That doesn’t work. I am not alone here, now am I?”
“No, you are not…” She muttered uncertainly as she did a weird, complicated motion with her fingers and the glow suffusing the air around her dissipated. “What… are you doing here?”
I pondered whether I should tell her I was sent by the class rep to check up on her, but I figured there must have been a reason why she didn’t want her to know she was worried about her (otherwise she could have done this herself), so I only smiled and said; “I saw you wandering around with a long face and I decided to check up on you.”
“I… see…” She mumbled with a nod.
I waited a few seconds for her to continue, but when she remained silent I decided to simply walk up to her and pat her on the head. At first she twitched, but then she gave me another confused deer-in-headlights stare that made me wonder if I have overstepped my boundaries. Well, she didn’t reel back and ran away, so I figured I probably didn’t offend her that much, so I finished rubbing her head and pointed at a nearby bench. She followed after me meekly and we sat down next to each other.
I was already prepared for this part of the conversation, so I reached into my pocket and pulled out two soda cans I picked up on my way there. I handed one over to her and she accepted it without a word. We sat in silence for a few minutes as we emptied our cans and I waited for her to get calm and comfortable enough to finally open up and tell me what was bothering her. It apparently didn’t work, for she stayed silent for several minutes after we both finished drinking. As such, I once again had to be the one to speak up.
“So,” I turned to her with a jovial smile. “What’s eating you?”
She swiftly averted her eyes, but then she took a deep breath and faced me again.
“Leo… I would like to thank you for all you have done for me.”
Now that came out of the left field.
“You are… welcome, I guess? What is this about?”
“I…” She glanced away yet again before she absent-mindedly tugged at her choker and said. “We are moving.”
“By ‘we’, you mean you and your brother?” She nodded. “And by ‘moving’, do you mean another town or back to the Abyss?”
She hesitated a bit before she answered this one.
“The political situation at home is… difficult. We are needed back there.”
“I see,” I nodded solemnly. “I suppose you didn’t tell that to anyone else.”
She shook her head surprisingly hard.
“I can’t. It’s supposed to be a secret. My brother says it’s important I wouldn’t tell anyone.”
“But you are telling me.”
To my surprise she smiled a little and told me, “You are a special case.”
“Thanks, I guess.”
We sat in silence for a few minutes more as I digested the news. I would certainly miss her; there was no question about that. I was fairly sure she would be back sooner rather than later. She was a ‘main heroine’, so I doubted she would be gone for good, but still. I was starting to think of her as something of an awkward little sister, and I was sad to see her go even if only for a while.
I was just about to share the sentiment with her when she reached out and took my hand into hers.
“Leo,” She spoke softly, but with an unusual conviction in her voice as her fingers squeezed mine for emphasis. “Promise me you look after yourself. Don’t go out after dark and make sure that Amelia or Eleanor is around you even during the day. Promise me that.”
“Sure, I promise, but…” I agreed by reflex, but then I finally realized what she was referring to and I couldn’t help but grin. “Ah, I get it now! You are warning me about that Faun guy!”
She was genuinely shocked by my words and it took her a second or five to ask; “You know?”
“Yeah, I met the guy already. Big, hairy fellow with ram’s horns? We ran into each other twice already, and he was a good enough sport not to try and bash my head in when he had the chance. Please tell him I appreciated that the next time he wakes you up in the morning.”
Snowy studied me for a while, no doubt trying to figure out whether I was serious or not, and in the end she surprised me again when she began to giggle, then chuckle and finally outright laugh as the tension visibly drained from her shoulders. I let her let it all out, though I would be lying if I said I wasn’t mildly perplexed at the time. At last she returned to a demure smile and told me, in an impossibly soft voice; “Sorry, I was getting worked up over nothing. I keep forgetting that you are amazing.”
“Oh come on now,” I chided her awkwardly as I reflexively patted her on the head. “You are just trying to butter me up at this point.” It was then that I remembered her previous reaction to my patting, so I gave her a questioning look to seek her approval. Instead of words she leaned against my hand, so I smiled and continued rubbing the crown of her head. I honestly wouldn’t have been surprised if she started purring. She didn’t, but it would have been funny.
We stayed like that for a few minutes, but then my growling stomach reminded me that it was lunch break and I still didn’t eat anything. I removed my hand and used my thumb to point at the dining hall.
“I think we should get going, or we won’t have time to eat. You have to change too.”
She looked over herself and nodded, and I noted with relief that color had finally returned to her face. We stood up and headed for the cafeteria, but after a few steps she tugged on my sleeve to get my attention.
“Um… Please don’t tell anyone I’m moving.”
“… Sure, it will be our secret.” I was getting ready to wink like the rapscallion I was, but then instead I paused and added, “Actually, I think you should tell Josh. At least the day before you leave. He will miss you too.” After some hesitation Snowy gave in and nodded, her cheeks flushed with just a hint of red. I had a feeling she would get depressed again if I ended our discussion on that note, so I grinned at her and said, “All right, let’s go and get lunch. What would you like? My treat.”
As expected, her eyes immediately sparked up, and I didn’t even have to hear it to know her answer.
“Apple pie,” We said in unison. She gave me a surprised look, and then giggled as she dashed ahead to change out of her gym clothes. Yeah, that was much better. Smiling suited her way more than moping, and I was dedicated to keeping her smiling until the day she left. I guess it was my duty as her ‘patron’.