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Dreams in the Night... and Discussions During the Day

The Silver Egg has quieted down a little, with the crowd thinning somewhat. Sakura has moved to sit close to the fire, basking in its warmth and in the quiet and continued gentle attentions of Larrikan. Aykuh moves through the tree, talking with people and making sure they're comfortable and don't need anything, having a nearly preternatural sense of when people might need attention. Warmth and quiet conversation fill the room with a comforting and reassuring atmosphere.

The large front door bursts open, Zil swarming through it with Vash's bloody form in her arms. Clinging to her back is Kerry. She whisks through the room on rapid coils, depositing Vash carefully on the warm hearthstones next to Sakura, "Need a medic heah, Sakura-san!"

Vash slumps down onto the floor bonelessly. He grins thinly up at Sakura and coughs, "Sorry to interrupt, Doctora..." He's fairly covered in blood, about half of which is his; the other part of which is a sticky, foul black ichor. There's a huge gout of it covering his left hand and arm up past the elbow; on his chest and legs are five long, ragged gashes, half-concealed in the matted fur.

Sakura fairly flies up out of her chair and runs over to Vash, kneeling down beside him to do an initial check... then looks up at Zil, "Is there somewhere... less public that we can take him?"

Zildjian nods, carefully scooping him up again, "Shoah... this way..." She slithers hastily through the suddenly-interested patrons, with the occasional, "'Scuzeme, 'scuzeme!" and leads Sakura, Douglas, and Kerry into the same room the students were in earlier. She lays Vash down on that table, adding worriedly, "Ssakura-ssan, check for poiszon too pleasze if'n he wasz bitten -- they were red-capsz!"

Sakura nods at Zil, "Thank you. I'll do just that." Zildjian calls something to the aghast looking Aykuh, who nods and vanishes into a wall... and soon thereafter warm water in a sort of tub-looking thingie is placed next to Sakura. Sakura waits until Vash is down on the table and starts poking and prodding at the wounds in a distinctly doctorly fashion, wincing a little at any pained sounds that Vash makes. Unlike many Doctors when she says "Sorry," for hurting him, she sounds like she means it.

Douglas blinks, hovering over Sakura and Vash and trying very hard not to get in the way. "What the hell happened to him?" he blurts out. Sakura starts to wash away the caked on blood carefully, so that she can get a better look at the wounds. Some of the wounds she butterflies or sews immediately, others she waits on.

Vash manages to force one eye open again, panting mostly from the run, "...couldn't... get their teeth in. Scratched me... where they could get around the plates... chest and legs..." He coughs again, wetly, and tries to grin winsomely when she prods him. "S'okay, Doctora... take more than that to kill me..."

Kerry goes back to his overhead perch, watching from above while staying out of the way. "Some incredibly nasty-looking critters attacked him. He killed one, and at least two others scrammed when Zil and I showed up. Plus rats." Sakura digs around in her pack to see if she has anything to test for poisons.

Zildjian nods worriedly, staying out of Sakura's way but rearing up high so she can still see. She adds (as if this should mean something to everyone), "It wass thosse damn redcapss!"

Douglas blinks, looking up to Kerry. So much for this being Utopia... then again, we knew it wasn't when we ran into that vampire bush. "Any idea what they were?" He looks to Zildjian. "Redcaps...?"

Vash groans softly. "Urrgh. The rats... I need another... *nngh* shower." He winces, setting his teeth and closing his eyes, going as limp as he can to let Sakura work. "Goblins... *nngh*! Little green men."

Zildjian nods again, "Poiszonouss li'l vermin. Bleah!" Her long, forked tongue flickers, as if she's trying to rid herself of a taste in the air. Douglas grimaces slightly, nodding to Zil and looking back to Vash, worriedly.

Kerry skrees, "You called them 'redcaps' before. I vaguely remember that legend, but I don't recall them being poisonous. I do seem to recall that you can kill them by taking their hats off. How do they actually work here?"

Douglas looks, slowly, up to Kerry. "Kill them by taking their hats off... This should make an interesting tale sometime, after Captain recovers..."

Sakura comes up with a snake bite kit... she stares at it for a second, frowning.. then shrugs and uses it on Vash anyway. Finally she sets to work on the largest of the wounds, these with two sets of stitches; cutaneous and sub-cutaneous. "Vash-sama.. With all due respect, Sir... What were you thinking?" She strays just a teensy bit on the stitch that she's doing as she says that... accidentally jabbing him a little harder than was intended. "Oops. Sorry."

Vash grunts quietly, opening his eye again, the one not covered with ichor. "Nowhere to go, Doctora... surrounded... besides, I could've killed the others... *rrgh*! Cavalry showed up too soon." He raps the back of his head against the table and bites his lip, restraining himself from getting snippy with the Doctor. Sakura grabs a bottle of saline from the pack and clears out Vash's eye with that.

Zildjian shakes her head, her breathing calming down and her voice far less stressed, "Ah don' know, Kerry. Ah din' mess with 'em at all, so Ah din' need ta research how ta kill 'em."

Kerry nods. "Just curious. What kind of wards did you forget to give us?" At Vash's last comment he snorts at the armadillo and affects a British accent. "So terribly rude of us, Your Nebulosity. Next time we shall be sure to call ahead and make sure we're not interrupting, old boy."

Almost simultaneously Zildjian raises an amused eyebrow at Vash, and hisses in faint sarcasm, "Zzo ssorry we messzed up yo' fun, cap'n!" The she says, "Oh! Heah..." She shrugs out of her jacket, then takes the little be-ribboned sprig of greenery from the shoulder and hands it up to Kerry, "Rowan. So they can't see you, Kerry."

Kerry skrees, "You're kidding. They actually can't see you with a bit of greenery on?"

Vash blinks several times and sighs a bit, relieved. He'd had a vague worry about what that blood-covered eyelid meant, and what it might've done to his eyesight, that he was intentionally keeping far in the back of his mind. "Ah. Thanks, Doctora..." He raises his right arm and middle finger in Kerry's direction. "I won't hold it against you, Kerry."

Douglas blinks. "From an engineering standpoint... that doesn't provide much in the way of structural reinforcement. Then again... this is supposed to be... no, it is a world where magic works."

Zildjian shrugs to Kerry, "Look, all Ah know is what Ah was tole, Kerry. It's s'pposed ta be a lucky tree an' used for charms 'n stuff. It's a counterspell t'evil."

Kerry grins at Zil. "Sorry, I'm just being curious. This is a very odd world at times." Zildjian nods quietly to Kerry, sinking back down on her coils to her normal height.

Sakura sets the last of her equipment down and pulls the gloves that she was wearing off. "Well, Vash-sama, that should just about do it. You need rest. Bed for at least a week and a half." Douglas looks at Sakura with a look that almost says 'I don't think he's going to go for that...' Sakura grins at Douglas.

Vash says, "I don't suppose I can get up and find a hose somewhere, Doctora. You have no idea how... UGLY this feels."

Kerry skrees, "I think she might. Back up to the washroom with you, perhaps, on the way to bed?"

Sakura says, "I just put your stitches in. They have to stay dry for at least 8 hours. You'll have to shower after you've slept."

Kerry skrees, "Oh. Well... a sponge bath?"

Vash says, "That's fine, Doctora. Thank you."

Sakura says, "I can give you something to help you sleep...?"

Vash shakes his head. "No thank you, Sakura. I'm fine."

Sakura says, "Vash-sama.. You really do need bed rest. Ten to 12 days at the least or you'll never heal."

Vash grins a little. "I'll be good, Doctora. I promise. No more fight left in me."

Sakura smiles at Vash. "Just do me one little favor, Vash-sama? When you get jumped or pick a fight from now on, go for their hats first, neh?"

Vash grins widely. "'S good advice, Sakura."

Zildjian looks to Sakura, "Does he need carryin' or can he walk, Sakura-san?"

Sakura hmms. "I think carry, just to be on the safe side."

Douglas says reluctantly, "If the next batch of attackers have that vulnerability..." He nods and moves to Vash. "Is there any particular way he should be carried, Doctor?"

Zildjian nods, "Sponge bath or no, Sakura-san?"

Vash begins to pull himself up slowly. "Gar... I can walk. I'll lean on someone if it'll make you feel better."

Sakura says, "I think a sponge bath would be okay. Just mind the stitches, please. I don't want them to stretch."

Kerry skrees, "Machismo. It'll get you killed, Vash. Let Zil carry you up. It's a neat ride." Zildjian chuckles.

Vash opens his mouth, about to say 'and what would YOU know about...' and then closes it. He sighs a little. "Maybe you're right..."

Zildjian says, "Unless Sakura-san says otherwise, Doug can carry him fine, Ah think... but Ah'll be happy t'come along jus' t'be sure... an' t'show th'way to his room." She heads for the door inwards into the tree, holding it open for everyone.

Sakura nods, smiling at Douglas, "Any way is fine, as long as you're gentle."

Vash snickers brokenly. "'S right. Be gentle now, y'know how delicate I am." Sakura laughs a little.

Douglas nods, then nods to Sakura. "I will be, Doctor." He moves to Vash, not hesitating much as he attempts to gingerly lift up the armadillo, carrying him towards the door. Vash's comment just makes him roll his eyes a little. As they approach the door, Doug says casually, "Look, Captain... I'm carrying you over the threshold. And it's only been a few months..."

A very peculiar noise comes from the direction of the bat. Vash grins and pats Doug's shoulder. "It seems like only yesterday we were just a couple of starstruck kids, doesn't it?"

Sakura puts her paws to her muzzle and laughs! Zildjian covers her mouth... there's an odd hissing noise, like steam escaping, as she struggles to muffle the laugh! Douglas says, "The ceremony went well, though we should remember to not invite the water hag to any family gatherings..."

Vash snickers. "Just to the honeymoon."

Kerry chirrips laughter. "Enough, you two. Get him put to bed, Doug. Honeymoon, indeed..."

Sakura giggles, "If the water hag is going to the honeymoon, I'm going to have to go too, you know?"

Vash grins and nods to Sakura, "See, Doug? I told you she was kinky like that."

Sakura goes brightly red in about a split second... Zildjian rolls her eyes amusedly, "Ah think if this keeps up th'doc maht wanna give you somethin' t'help you sleep, cap'n!"

Vash laughs softly. "And not wake up, right?"

Kerry skrees, "Or maybe just fix him..."

Sakura says, "I did fix him."

Douglas chuckles, and nods. "Of course, Pilot. In this case you would be more than welcome, Doctor." He looks to Vash, arching an eyebrow as he carries Vash to the room, and can be clearly heard to say, "Captain, I have a feeling the Doctor might find reason to stress-test those stitches.

Sakura says, "OH! You meant... 'fix' him... No-no... I wouldn't do that." Vash laughs out loud at Sakura's comment... only stopping when he realizes he's going to blow a seam if he keeps it up. Zildjian hustles folks along to the shower room, where a nice hot sponge bath is applied to the filthy captain. He's tucked neatly into bed in another room a bit later... and eventually everyone withdraws to let him sleep.

Vash is neatly tucked into bed in one of the Egg's small spare rooms, with strict instructions to stay put! Zil's curled her coils in a corner so she doesn't fill the whole room accidentally. She still looks unhappy. Vash lies quietly, eyes closed. "Are you still there, Zildjian?" His chest rises and falls slowly.

Zildjian says, "Yeah, Vash... me 'n Kerry both."

Vash says, "Kerry. I appreciate your coming to look for me. I'd like to speak to Zildjian alone a moment, if you don't mind."

Kerry nods, then responds vocally. "Certainly, Captain. Just... keep in mind that she's trying to protect her whole species. And... I feel fine." Zildjian looks guilty, as Kerry heads back down to the common room, overcoming the temptation to stay outside and listen.

Zildjian coughs once, then her expression smoothes out. She'll slide over next to the bed and settle again, resting her chin on her arms and her arms on her coils, so she and Vash are closer to eye-to-eye. "Whatcha need, Vash?"

Vash waits, listening to Kerry leave the room. He opens his eyes slowly and begins to force himself to sit up. With a small grunt he props himself against the head of the bed, wincing slightly. He probes softly at his bandages, then decides the better of it and leaves them alone. "I think there's some things," he says very softly, turning to look her in the eye, "-that we need to get worked out. Agreed?" Zildjian pushes a pillow behind Vash as he sits up, but otherwise doesn't fuss at him. At his comment she looks a bit bemused, but nods once politely. Vash says, "I think firstly I owe you an explanation." Zildjian nods again, still looking a bit bemused. Vash leans his head back against the headboard, looking up at the ceiling. "How old do you think I am, Zildjian?"

Zildjian hms, eyeing him gaugingly, "Umm... waaall, th'dillos don' live as long as humans, so... ten, fifteen-ish, maybe?"

Vash says, "Thirteen. I'm thirteen years old. For... every one of those years, I've been hearing... about this man. A Montoya. My grandfather. He was a hero... well... they always told me that he was a hero of the Uplift War. I don't know if it's true or not... but since I was small, I've been hearing about him... and trying to be like him. I was supposed to have the most promise of my quad... I got held up closest to him." Zildjian smiles quietly, her slitted golden eyes unblinking on Vash as he talks. Vash sighs a little. "So... I think about him. When I'm trying to decide... I think what would he do. I talk to him sometimes. Ask him for help. Real Confucian, huh?" He grins wanly. "And all my life... I've been tied up in this idea of honor and tradition and living up to the memory. You know?" Zildjian nods quietly.

Vash says, "You've got your ancestors' memory... and I've got mine. Maybe not chemically... but down through time it all filters down, mouth to ear and back. So... I know you, too."

Zildjian thinks a moment... then hisses quietly, "You know of me, Vash... of my kind. Not me, I'm afraid... just as I don't know you exactly, but I do know a great deal about 'dilloes... and a little of your grandfather." She's silent a moment, then adds, "And whoever told you he was a hero... was right."

Vash says, "That's kind of you to say. But now you understand where I am, a bit. Look... a long time ago, back in El Paso, I absolved you, your sisters, and every other Texan uplift from whatever it was that they were supposed to be fighting for. I saw how the cowboys treat their soldiers. I saw a dead Texan with spare collars on his belt... just in case. Can't collar someone in the field, of course.. but they did it for the shock value. Just to say, 'If we want you, we'll take you.' So... I don't blame you, or that other snake that vanished all those decades ago along with my grandfather. But... the possibility exists... that maybe, somehow, you are that same snake from all that time ago. And if that's the case... then what do I do?" He slowly adds, "I like you so much, Zildjian. I don't want to hate you. I don't hate you. But... all that ancestral memory weighs down real hard on you. And I don't know what I'm supposed to do now."

Zildjian looks a bit puzzled. She's silent a moment, then says slowly, "Vash... I'm sorry, I don't see where you are, actually. Lamia think fo' themselves... we ain't Texian puppets any mo' than y'all're Stateside ones. We sspecializse in covert ssurvival amongsst the Texsianss... ssoo... could yo' maybe 'xsplain a bit moah, pleasse?" She adds, "An' Ah personally have nevah seen yo' granddad."

Vash says, "I'll put it simply, then. Whether it was you or not... something got left unfinished in Texas. And I don't know whether or not it's my duty to try and finish it... or just put this whole stupid feud to bed for good. And Juan-Miguel... wherever he is... isn't talking." He smiles a little. "Crotchety old fart."

Zildjian thinks silently for a bit, absently and repeatedly running her prehensile tail tip through one slender golden hand. Finally she says, "Lamia are kinda clannish, if'n that word can be used for an entire species... mah dam, Yasmina of th'Sidhe bloodline, an' Xenon of th'Rupali bloodline, were real good frien's. Mothah's daid now... but Xenon 'n I were still good frien's 'til we lost contact when Ah went out to space. So... lessee... durin' th'Border Squabbles Xenon was temporarily th'second in command of an uplift prisoner of war camp. She took good care of th'uplifts... we's ruthless, not cruel -- but th'human in charge thought it was beneath him t'be doin' this. An' theah was this..." she grins quietly, "-this damn overconfident 'dillo..."

Vash nods, ears canted forward. Zildjian says, "He was determined t'escape. Was diggin' his way out with th'others, slowly, over weeks. Xenon could feel him diggin' underground, through th'belly plates, on her patrols... so she'd make sure t'thump her tail a coupla times so he'd keep diggin' an' not come up theah."

Vash nods, and runs a claw tip idly along his forearm, thoughtfully tracing back an old scar. "Never told us..."

Zildjian sighs quietly, "It was jus' damn stupid bad luck that the night they made th'break fo' it... that th'human commandant was out takin' his nahtly constitutional with his human bodyguards. Walked raht into Juan Miguel comin' outta th'groun'." She smiles faintly, "Xenon ripped through th'bodyguards lakh a hot knife through buttah... they nevah knew what hit 'em. She said yo' granddad's eyes were bigger'n saucers... an' she dropped th'command'nt an' said to him, 'Naow y'got th'hard part ahead of y'all, 'cause they'll think it was y'all that did this... but Ah din' know no other way Tel's y'all out safely.' She made him promise only one thing... that he'd nevah tell what he'd seen... that he'd nevah let nobody know a lamia'd helped th'prisoners all escape."

Zildjian smiles faintly, "She used mesmerism on him, with his permission... an' he said he din' know how ta thank her... so he asked foah her name, so he could keep her memory alive." She smiles slowly, "Her name is... Xenon Wili Vashti Undine Totentanz Synchronicity Rupali."

Vash blinks. He nearly pushes his claw through his arm. "Wh... at?"

Zildjian just grins, "Be kinda embarrassin' if'n y'injured y'se'f, cap'n, yeah?"

Vash says, "You're.... not lying to me."

Zildjian rears back a couple of feet, looking down at Vash with an insulted look. Then she hmfs, settling back down comfortably, muttering, "Damn over-confident 'dilloes..." under her breath... she seems faintly amused more than angry.

Vash's head hits the board with an audible thud. "Estas apedrear, Vashti... diosmio, Zildjian... I'm sorry." Zildjian grins quietly, resting her chin on her folded arms on her coils again. Vash lets this sink in for a few moments. Spend thirteen years looking for it.... and you were joined at the hip with it all the time. You knew, you old bastard! You KNEW this was going to happen someday! He closes his eyes again. "He let it go this entire time... Zildjian..." He sighs heavily. His entire body seems to hurt. "I guess I understand now."

Zildjian looks a bit puzzled, "What's wrong, Vash? He was a brave, clever, determined, loyal person -- he was a war hero -- that was the biggest prison break of the entire war! He didn't have a lot of choice, really, as to whether he could tell you or not. Neither of them did."

Vash shakes his head, looking far away. "Nothing... nothing's wrong." He starts to laugh softly under his breath. "It's... just like him. To let me run around in circles. I was imagining it the whole time. There never was any stupid feud."

Zildjian smiles quietly, "It wass probably ssafesst that way, Vassh... to let folkss believe there wass a feud." She adds a touch admiringly, "Damn good idea."

Vash says, "And he knew someone would figure it out and put it to bed eventually. God."

Zildjian grins appreciatively, her forked tongue flickering, then adds, "Ssoo... what was it y'needed from me, Vash?"

Vash says, "Nothing, now.... there's no feud to end. There never was a conflict... and no need for me to have gone off and put my hand through a goblin." He grins a little. "Thank you for coming to get me, Zildjian."

Zildjian murmurs dryly, "Waall... if'n y'gotta come face t' face with a redcap... killin' it's a damn good response in mah book." She smiles, "Wasn't a problem, Vash. Ah lahk you 'n Kerry 'n all too... an' Ah feel lahk it's kinda mah responsibility t'help y'all handle things heah. It's... kinda weird..." She grins dryly again, well aware of how much of an understatement that is!

Vash smiles lopsidedly, "Senyora... my entire life's been nothing but, since I left home."

Zildjian chuckles quietly... then adds curiously, "What didja think you needed ta do, Vash, 'bout th'feud-that-wasn't?"

Vash sighs very softly. "I don't know. I think I wanted to talk to you for awhile... I thought that maybe speaking to you, I'd come to some realization. Secretly, I think I was hoping that if grandfather really was this ideal that I've been trying to be... then he'd want me to kill off a stupid tradition that died in Texas decades ago. I think I was hoping you'd say something to me to justify that hope."

Zildjian smiles gently, reaching out to close one slender golden hand about Vash's clawed one, "If'n theah's one thing lamia learn real early, Vash... it's that ain't nobody ever got too many frien's."

Vash smiles a little and closes his hand gently around Zil's. "Wish I'd thought of that sooner."

Zildjian grins, "As mah dams are fond of sayin'... live 'n learn." She's silent for a moment, studying Vash's hand, then says slowly, "Vash... Ah'd lahk t'ask a favah of you. It's... kinda a big one..." She hesitates, then continues quietly, "With yo' permission, Ah'd lahk t'... Ah'd lahk t'mesmerize you t'not mention what y'all learned 'bout lamia, from what Kerry blurted out... an' also from what y'learned t'naht, Ah think... please?" She adds, "Ah already did it t'Kerry, with his p'mission... that's what he was talkin' 'bout 'fore he left."

Vash says, "Do what will put you at ease, Zildjian."

Zildjian looks a little surprised... then smiles, her face a little less tense than it was a moment ago, "That's very kind of you, Vash." She thinks a moment, then says a touch apologetically, "If'n y'don' mahnd, Ah'd lahk t'explain it t'you first... so you know wha's up exactly?"

Vash nods, "If you like. I trust you."

Zildjian nods a little sheepishly, "Ah'd... feel bettah if'n y'did know?" She pauses, then carefully explains what she'll be doing. "So... does that make sense, Ah hope?"

Vash says, "I'm doing this for you, Zildjian. Because he did it for Xenon. And because of how I feel. You do.. whatever will make you feel better."

Zildjian studies Vash quietly for a long moment... then smiles slowly, "You definitely yo' granddad's boah." She leans forward and gives Vash a careful, gentle hug, "Thank you."

Vash smiles. "My body's a roadmap of why humans and uplifts don't get along. There's no sense in making things worse for each other." He grins, "Can't ever have too many friends, right?"

Zildjian leans back and grins, "Yo' said it!" Then she carefully arranges her coils so Vash doesn't have to turn his head much to look at her. She'll check that he's comfortable, then lean forward and down so they're eye-to-eye, carefully cupping his long face in her strong, warm hands, "Ssoo... tell me 'bout yo' granddad moah, Vassh? Wha' wass he lahk wi' fam'ly? Did he curl up musch with y'all?"

Vash looks distant for awhile. "Grandfather... I didn't know him for long... he stayed with us for as long as my father remembers... just the way he was wired. Defender, all his life. Totentanz... Tony... he remembers him best, he's the oldest by a few minutes. Said he was always smiling. Even when the fire came down through the barrio... like he wasn't afraid of anything. He was always gentle with us... never spoke a harsh word to anyone that I can recall." He pauses, then adds, "When he died... I remember... he was sitting in a chair by the window... watching the sunrise. He had this... little smile on his face. Like he'd just thought of something funny to say. He'd made his peace years ago, I guess... he never was afraid. I always wondered... if I'd get to... to go out that way... or if I'd go... on my... on my feet... n' if he'd... be there... waiting for me..."

Zildjian is humming faintly, a peacefully monotonous drone... her hands are warm where they gently hold Vash's face still, and the tail tip lying by him is warmly and loosely curled about one wrist... warmth and stillness and huge golden lamps over him, and being held very, very still...

...it swims up out of memory (his? hers? whose? does it matter?)... a tall, battle-scarred lamia, powerful and sturdy, mahogany skin and faint, beautiful gold and chocolate diamonds across the backs of her arms and body and down her forehead, curled up closely with you. Soft hissing, her triangular face resting against yours, telling of the feisty armadillo; Zil's story of Juan Miguel echoed word for word in memory... and then it fades away...

Vash's brow furrows a moment, like he had dreamed of a question. He stirs for only a second, murmuring something, a half-Spanish fragment out of dream, and then relaxes, face still to the ceiling. On his lips is a little smile... like he had just thought of something funny to say.

When Zildjian finally slithers slowly into the dimly-lit main room of the Silver Egg, it is much later at night. The number of patrons has been rather sharply reduced by the lateness of the hour, with most of them being either a bit 'off' looking (nocturnal creatures that look mostly human perhaps?), along with a tiny smattering of humans. Zil looks a little tired herself, heading silently into the kitchen... then coming back out with a well-wrapped package that's about the size of a large loaf of bread. She slides quietly into the tile-lined inner hearth that the fireplace is built into, and settles down rather flatly there, soaking up the heat with obvious pleasure.

Douglas sits quietly by the fireplace, a bit drowsy and being contemplative. It has been an exceedingly long day, but he doesn't feel completely tired yet. He looks to Zildjian as she enters and then returns to the fireplace, and nods pleasantly. "Good evening."

Zildjian smiles tiredly and nods in return. Her long, forked tongue flickers slightly as she hisses softly, "To you alsso, Douglass... sso, how're y'takin' y'firsst day downsside heah?"

Douglas smiles a very little. "It has been... interesting. Of course, all the engineering certifications in the world would never have prepared me for a place like this." He grins wryly. "Neither would any swimming courses either. If we do not see another water hag on this world again, it will be far too soon." Kerry mutters under his breath.

Zildjian chuckles softly and hissingly, resting her chin on her folded arms, which are resting on her coils, "Ain't sso bad oncse ya get ussed to it, y'all." She's silent for a moment, then murmurs, "'Scuse me," and rises up a bit, reaching for the package. She turns her back to them and takes a moment to inhale slowly...

Douglas vaguely suspects that Zil is taking her own delayed evening repast, and politely makes no comment nor looks in her direction, instead looking into the fire. "I hope our further adventures here will not involve any water hags, but rather other somethings which we have yet to see."

Doug's not watching, but can tell the other patrons appear to be quietly and surreptitiously watching. To Kerry it's almost old hat -- he can tell from her motions that Zildjian is eating. She leans her head far back, the short mane of hair tumbling down her muscular back, and raises the well-wrapped package slightly above her head... then lowers it slowly, until it vanishes from sight behind her head. Several more moments pass... and then she slowly lowers her torso and turns, settling heavily down amongst her coils. She sighs gustily, her nictitating lids crossing her eyes once, then smiles at the other folk in the inn. They grin (some a little sheepishly), nod to her, and then go back to their food and drink. She looks at Doug and murmurs, "Prob'ly... but Ah cain't know f'sure what or who y'all'll find. Depends on what y'all believe you'll find... and how y'feel 'bout it."

Kerry skrees, "And even if she did know, she couldn't tell us. It would spoil the magic. We'll have to see what happens day by day."

Zildjian glances at Kerry thoughtfully, then smiles faintly and nods, "Magic's lahk that, from what Ah c'n tell... belief is jus' as import'nt as fact."

Kerry nods. "Belief and intent. It does have a tendency to punish attempts to cheat, according to the tales."

Zildjian chuckles softly, and nods, "Ah guess so. Dunno... Ah was so relieved that Ah was free heah that Ah din' spend a whole lotta time fightin' local beliefs, y'know?"

Douglas smiles a bit wryly, looking back to Kerry and Zil. He wasn't sure if Zil had wanted privacy or not while she ate, but, he belatedly realizes, with the other patrons in the inn commons she probably didn't mind. "A good point. I learned very little, if anything, about magic at Stamford. That wasn't exactly in the uplift accelerated curriculum. Still, it does make sense: if magic is indeed 'willworking,' belief or expectation can have much to do with it. Though," he adds -- perhaps wryly, perhaps a bit sourly -- "-as the Doctor has found, fortunately not all magic here appears inimical to us."

Kerry has managed to clamber up to the branchy ceiling and is hanging from one of the beams. "Never a good idea. The locals know how it works, and evidently it -- or at least Azteca -- has something to do with gods. Rather, something the locals consider deities. Intriguing concept."

Zildjian nods to Kerry, musing aloud, "Lahk eatin'... Ah useta eat in private, lahk usual on Ole Earth. But then Ah foun' out that seein' a lamia eat is supposeta be good luck heah... has somethin' t'do with bein' trusted by 'em, Ah guess. So... Ah dunno if'n Ah'm really lucky fo' 'em heah... but Ah ain't about t'tell th'nice folks heah that've helped me so much that their beliefs 're wrong."

Douglas arches an eyebrow. It's luck to see a lamia eat? I hope I just didn't nuke a chance to get a bit more luck we might very well need! "I have to wonder, actually, how long the gates have been around. If this world is Crossroads perhaps it wasn't so much 'parallel' development -- our legends are their reality -- as there actually was perhaps some commerce between this world and ours."

Kerry skrees, "Hmm. The Gates are there, after all. Interesting idea. It certainly would make it less bizarrely unlikely."

Zildjian's hissing murmur is quiet, "They know 'bout th'Gates, mostly most of 'em... 's why they call heah Crossroads."

Kerry nods. "I thought they must. Can they get to them? The locals don't even have aircraft."

Zildjian says, "Nah. Not that Ah know. Don' think they cayre atall."

Douglas smiles mirthfully. "If they do, the only question would be how the inhabitants got there. This is a distinctly non-technological society; I doubt they have a few gravity drives, now or in the past, squirreled away somewhere. Which will make the answer to that mystery quite interesting." He's silent for a moment. "Which brings to mind another concern, Zil, Pilot. What will we be telling TAG when we get home? I, for one... well, I have not been here long, but the nature of this place... I find myself unwilling to open it up for wholesale access to our world." Zildjian quirks a thoughtful eyebrow at the two other uplifts, remaining silent. Doug clarifies, "Perhaps I should rephrase: I find myself unwilling to open it up for wholesale access from our world. I think I do not need to elaborate further..."

Kerry skrees, "My recommendation will be to open a respectful trade between equal partners, if we can find something worth trading. It will include some very strong warnings about the capabilities of a magical world, and unless I have a chance to talk privately with a lamia I do not intend to mention Zil's presence." Zildjian smiles with quiet warmth at Kerry. Her flattened coils seem to relax a bit more. Kerry grins at Zil from his position overhead. "Hey, if we don't mention you, no one will ask what you're up to. Your sisters may have a need to know, but no one else."

Zildjian grins up at the bat from her lazy sprawl by the fire. Then she hisses softly to Douglas, "Doug... if'n y'got a moment... c'n we talk privately fo' a bit? C'n bring Kerry along if'n y'want?"

Douglas shakes his head quietly, sighing. "Not speaking to them of Zildjian is a given. There is no debate necessary or required as far as that goes. Yet... I accepted the spoon-fed morsels of history I was given at Rutgers -- the obligatory one-credit 'history for uplifts' class. Even then... hmm? Oh... certainly, Zildjian. And if you do not object, Kerry would be welcome as well..."

Zildjian looks faintly relieved, her upper torso raising slightly, "Wunnerful. C'mon, Ah'll show y'all t'a room." She slithers slowly and heavily out... a small bulge can be seen as she moves. Probably her dinner.

Kerry sighs silently. Poor short-lived folk. So much to do, so little time they have. Have to find out if Crossroads can do something about that, as well... The bat spreads his wings and floats down from the ceiling in a tight loop, alighting beside Zil and Douglas. "Lead on, MacDuff!" Douglas nods, standing and following Zildjian out. He notices the bulge -- one part of him stifles a chuckle, remembering a co-worker who once complained of 'unsightly bulges' -- peripherally, briefly considering the engineering mechanisms that would combine a snake digestive tract with a human torso... but since that's biology, that doesn't really interest him, though he's sure it would interest the doctor.

Zildjian leads the group slowly to an upstairs room next to the ones given to Vash and Sakura respectively. She grins quietly, hissing, "Took a bit of fast talkin' t'convince Aykuh y'all din' wanna share mah room. She's still not useta uplifts wantin' their own rooms." She holds the door open, adding, "Lamia share... but then we ain't lahk th'othah uplifts, Ah been tole."

Douglas tilts his head to the side as he steps in. "Thank you. And I do confess, Zildjian, that the number of apparent uplifts here is surprising... though I begin to suspect that most of them are more closely related to beings from our legends and myths than beings from our genetics labs."

Zildjian slides slowly in after the other two uplifts, curling herself up against an inner corner so her coils don't fill up the room. She settles down a bit lethargically, nodding to Doug, "They ain't uplifts, tha's fo' sure."

Douglas nods, subdued. "Indeed. And I suspect that the people back home won't appreciate the difference." He pauses. "You may begin to see my concern. While the natives of Crossroads might have significant powers and abilities beyond technological ken, I do not know how much that would matter if -- rather when, should we tell Aurora about Crossroads, for you know they'll send many follow-up teams -- our world decided to... ahrm, expand. Here."

Kerry chuckles. "But even you keep referring to them that way, Doctor."

Zildjian's nictitating lids cross her eyes in surprise, "Ah do? Howso?"

Kerry skrees, "You just said, Ayka isn't used to uplifts wanting separate rooms. She's only just met us, and you're the only other one she could have met."

Zildjian nods, looking interestedly confused. "So?"

Kerry skrees, "So, who would she have met to have any expectations of us?"

Zildjian says, "Oh! Me, a'course."

Kerry looks enlightened. "Oh, okay. But I thought you had your own rooms in the old shuttle?"

Zildjian says, "But lahk Ah sayd, lamia are diff'rent. We lahk sharin' warmth 'n space with frien's." She also looks enlightened at Kerry's last comment, "Oh, that. Waall, we've discovered that mos' folks kinda um..." she grins ruefully, "-kinda object at havin' coils tossed all ovah them."

Kerry chuckles. "Maybe you just need to lose some weight..."

Zildjian's face wrinkles slightly in distaste as she adds, "An'... on th'Rose, Ah din' have whole lotta choice..." She laughs then, her demeanor lightening, and adds, "Kerry darlin', Ah been tryin' t'gain back alla th'weight Ah lost while collared!" She grins mischievously at Kerry, "Yo' welcome t'come snuggle wi'me any tahm y'want, Kerr... Ah'm pretty sure Ah c'n keep from rollin' ovah on you in mah sleep!" She giggles softly, then glances at Doug and smiles, "You too, Dougie. Fur's niiiice."

Kerry grins and gives the friendly snake-girl a wing-hug. "I'll pass on that, Zil. And I noticed you looked a bit thin, but I put it down to the injury. But at what, 75 kilos per meter? -you do have a bit of mass there."

Zildjian lazily hugs Kerry back, still grinning, "Yeah... Ah run 'bout 350, 400 pounds at peak fitness. Ah tend t'lose it durin' whatevah mission Ah'm on, a' course."

Douglas chuckles softly at Zil's invitation. "I will consider it, Doctor Zildjian.. Though certainly the evenings have been warm here."

Zildjian smiles, "Ah heah th'winters can be kinda cold... but Ah'll manage. 'Magine y'all will too, if'n y'all are still heah." She takes a deep breath, then lets it out slowly. "So! Doug, Ah gotta favah t'ask of you, please? It's somethin' Ah've already got p'mission to do, an' have done already, fo' both Kerry 'n Vash."

Douglas tilts his head to the side. "Please, feel free to ask, Doctor Zildjian."

Zildjian looks a little rueful, "Waall... Ah'd lahk yo' p'mission t'umm... t'use some mesmerism so yo' cain't communicate th'stuff 'bout lamia that Kerry uhh... kinda blurted out earlier t'naht?"

Douglas looks at Zildjian for a long moment. "I should assume, I take it, that you mean this as a measure against unwilling communication of it."

Kerry looks embarrassed. "More against unwitting, I think. Accident prevention."

Zildjian reaches up and gently patpats the small bat hanging from the ceiling. To Doug she just nods quietly, "Ah'm not doubtin' y'all's word, Doug. Jus'... worryin' 'bout force bein' used on y'all. That... or accident."

Douglas nods slowly, allowing his reluctance to show. "I... have prided myself in the past to no small degree on the amount of self-control that I have. It has been necessary often in trying to beat down the assumption people have that all cougars are psychopathic, sociopathic, and violence-prone." He sighs. "Of course, said self-control means little to a dedicated interrogation." He knows of what he speaks, too, or at least has some idea; late-night spy films on nights at college were de rigeur between semesters. Though he doubts that a Texan would suspend him over a pool of piranha, grilling him about lamias... "I will... agree, yes, but I must note my reluctance. I can't say that I'm happy to submit to it... but I will."

Zildjian studies Doug for a long moment, her chin resting on her folded arms on her coils. She finally sighs softly, stirring. "Ah'm sorry, Doug. Ah wouldn' ask, but fo' mah people's sake."

Kerry sighs. "It's a precaution. Ask her what the usual precaution is." Zildjian winces slightly. Kerry gives Zil another hug. "I know. Times change, though."

Zildjian sighs and gives Kerry a quiet, warm hug in return, "Thank goodness, eh?"

Douglas nods quietly. "It's all right, Doctor. I understand. I imagine that it was for my own people's sake that I didn't join a miserable, rotten rugby team to gleefully take my frustrations out on both some leather ball and some guy on the opposing team." He lets out a breath and spreads his arms, making no move or mention of interest in asking what 'the usual precaution' might be. "What do I have to do?"

Zildjian nods to Doug quietly, her accent almost gone at her seriousness, "Thank you, Douglass. I and my people very much apprecsiate what you're doing for uss." She gestures, "Jusst lie down on the bed and relaxss, Doug. I'll ssettle nexst to you."

Kerry skrees, "We may yet manage to save the humans from themselves. If not, we may be able to save our own people."

Zildjian smiles ruefully at Kerry, "Ah'd be happy juss' t'ssave th'othah upliftss."

Kerry shrugs. "Well... most humans are people, too." He goes back to the ceiling, watching quietly.

Douglas actually finds himself mildly surprised; he's never referred to other cougars as 'my people' before. He nods and moves over to the bed, lying himself down upon it and clasping his hands upon his chest. "Should I have my eyes open or closed...?"

Zildjian slides over to settle next to Douglas. Her strong, golden hands gently frame his wide feline face, "Open, pleasse... look into mah eyess and juss' relaxss... tell me 'bout th'earliesst mem'ry y'got?" She lays a strong, warm coil across Doug's chest, almost cuddling him close to her, as she speaks softly to him.

Douglas, if he has any opinions about saving their home society from whatever, for the moment at least keeps it under a light veil threaded with a little nervousness as he looks to Zildjian. He takes a breath and nods, sighing softly, becoming more relaxed. "My earliest memory... it's my mother's birthday... I'm in grade school... or 'garten..." His voice steadily becomes a little more slurred. "Ma's askin' me... what wanna be when her age... say I wanna be... wanna be... space-man..." His voice sort of trails off at that, not really into incoherence but simply growing more distant than mere vocal chords can present.

Zildjian is humming faintly, a peacefully monotonous drone... her hands are warm where they gently hold Doug's face still, and the coils leaning against him are firm and warm, cradling him snugly... warmth and stillness and huge golden lamps over him, and being held very, very still... to Kerry it seems to take much longer than he recalls... Zildjian stays where she is, swaying very slightly, curled up against Douglas, staring intently down into his eyes.

Zildjian sighs after a moment and starts whispering very, very softly to Douglas... low, sibilant words that Kerry would not be able to hear were it not for his superb hearing, "Douglass, shugah... you're ssafe, relaxss pleasse... no one can harm you, darlin'..." One hand starts gently brushing the fur back from his forehead in a slow rhythm that matches her re-started humming... time passes...

...and swimming slowly up from atavistic genetic memory it comes... closeness slow constant warmth reassuring warmth closeness warmth security love warmth fur closeness stay don't go don't wake up stay warmth closeness...

Douglas's half-closed eyes start to open... then start to close... then start to open... then start to close, then actually do close, a quiet, and distinctly non-Douglas rumbling, buzzing purr. He stretches out, oddly languorously, stretching out his neck and head slightly, the claws upon his hands and feet slowly extending with the stretch, before he relaxes again; he curls up only slightly upon the bed.

Zildjian sighs softly in relief, carefully lifting her coils and hands away from Doug. She smiles down at the contented-looking cougar, then looks up at Kerry. She grins, holding a shushing finger up to her lips... then pointing towards the door. Kerry also grins and nods, slipping quietly out with the lamia. When the door is shut he sighs again. "And so things are fixed. Thank you, dear Zil."

Later that night Sakura is curled up comfortably in bed, the piglet snuggled up close and snoring gently on her. Swirling through her dreams like moonbeams are the light, airy strains of music... fiddle music! Dancing music, she somehow knows... she opens her eyes and can still hear it calling cheerily to her, making her toes itch to be flitting gaily about. The moonlight sheens the room in soft silver and, dream-like, she can see the notes drifting lightly about the room... which is of course impossible... so perhaps she's still dreaming? Her window casement is open, and the music beckons.

Sakura sits up and looks around the room. She gets out of the bed cautiously and peers out of the window, without sticking her head out, to try to figure out where the sound is coming from. She's suitably cautious, considering the world that they're in. Outside the night is quiet and fairly warm, rich scents of springtime growth and sweet night scents drifting through the window. The music continues from the ground outside, its sound dancing up through the night, entrancing and energetic. The piglet trots over and climbs up on to the windowsill from the bed, also looking curiously. Sakura waits a second before she leans out. She's watching to make sure that something doesn't grab the piglet, which would be a good signal not to stick her head out the window... when she's reasonably sure that tentacles aren't going to fly out of the night and get her, she leans a little ways out the window, just for a quick peek.

Outside, almost dancing to his own music, Larrikan walks around the curve of the giant oak which houses Aykuh and the inn, the music seeming to swarm about him. He appears to glow with life and energy. The piglet looks too, and snorts a little sort of satisfied sound as he settles down, apparently to listen. The warmth and light reaches up towards the window, bright and upbeat. Sakura blushes quite furiously. She's only ever heard about this in fairy tales. Wow. Neat. She smiles down at Larrikan and pats the piglet on the back in thanks.

The fox below smiles up to the lovely vixen and waves, the light and music around him not seeming to fade despite what must be an interruption. He beckons towards her, wordlessly inviting her to join him. The music seems filled with life and energy, suffusing the watching vixen with energy and a warmly content feeling. The piglet steps out to the edge of the sill, its curly tail wagging in time to the cheerful fiddle music. Sakura is still smiling, but looks a little shocked at the piglet, who seems to show every sign of hurling himself out of the window. She puts a paw out to try to stop the little guy before he falls...

The music continues, the motes of music or light swirling up over Sakura and the piglet, washing them both in a warm and inviting wave, gentle caresses of sound or pale color which seem to all but say come, dance with us! Sakura starts to look just a little concerned at all of this. Apparently she's the only one who has noticed that there are no stairs out of this window... the lights brighten and Larrikan smiles, fiddling all the harder, and for a few moments he is surrounded by a swarm of notes... or are they lights?...which swell up from the fox and his fiddle to surround the watching vixen and the gleefully squealing piglet; gentle motes which seem to lift and tug softly at them, filling their vision with nothing else and leaving them slightly dizzy and with a mild sense of vertigo, although Sakura is more than reassured by a feeling of security and excitement, and a quiet ache to dance with those little lights...

Sakura smiles and closes her eyes, finally deciding that she's going to allow herself to be swept up in the music. She does her best to stay calm, reminding herself that she can (probably) trust Larrikan to keep her safe... the motes swell with the music, and when she opens her eyes all she can see for a moment is a rainbow of tiny sparkly lights. If she didn't know better, she might think she saw a tiny, brightly glowing, winged humanoid form within each of them, while they surround her. When she opens her eyes, the sense of vertigo is gone. The riot of dancing lights swirls away from her and she realizes she seems to be standing on the ground outside the tree, near the fiddling fox. The little piglet, also on the ground, cavorts happily in the night, prancing after the lights with carefree squeals. Sakura giggles a little at the antics of the piglet, but spends the majority of her first few moments on the ground staring about in wonder at the dancing light around her. She smiles a little shyly at Larrikan.

The russet red fox smiles back at her and almost-prances up to her, his jaunty walk stepping in time to the music of his fiddle. He begins to dance slowly around her, still playing. His eyes rarely leave her, and he brushes close to her with his gaily swishing tail. Sakura tries to keep her eyes on Larrikan as he dances around her, turning slowly when she needs to, to continue watching him. She's blushing a little and had a sudden attack of shyness... the situation is almost overwhelming, but in a good way.

Larrikan smiles reassuringly and gestures, an unmistakable follow me!, then takes a few steps away, glancing back over his shoulder while still playing his fiddle, with an encouraging glance. The dancing lights seem to follow him, swirling a silent pattern of Brownian motion around the sounds of his fiddle. The piglet follows happily, still prancing in time to the lively music. Sakura smiles at her small but brave guide for this world and quite happily follows along behind Larrikan, alternately watching him and watching the dancing lights...

Larrikan smiles invitingly, and leads slowly away from the oak tree, exuding a sense of reassurance and safety, his path twisting oddly through the quiet of the night. The motes of light swirl around the vixen and piglet, the piglet bouncing and chasing after them happily and the vixen being led through them as they swirl through her long, flowing brown and green skirts. The walk seems slow and sedate but covers a surprising amount of ground, familiar landmarks spinning oddly past and behind them. Sakura continues to follow behind. She is doing her best to keep an eye out on where they are, but overwhelmed by the magic of the whole situation she quickly loses track -- and probably doesn't care much that she has... she finds her feet moving with a will of their own as she is swept up in the music and dances a little... shyly at first, but slowly gaining confidence.

The walk out of town passes in a musical daze. On the edge of the deep forest other dancers appear, some playing instruments, some merely dancing in time, each seeming to add to the swarms of dancing motes and to the energy and serenity at the same tempo the dance seems to have. Pipes and flute and drum join in, as do at least one other fiddler, the music becoming truly intoxicating. The dancers join, swirling together with everyone or one another or no one in particular, the piglet prancing just as happily amongst them, seeming to know them all as friends. They move again outwards, the cool night breezes plucking at Sakura's dress. Sakura can't help but gape a little at this incredible display.. Her mouth is open in a small 'o' and her eyes are alight with child-like wonder...

As the group slows, the dancers seem to cross to an island in the middle of a little pond, its smooth and untroubled surface unmarred by the dancers who cross over it, undaunted by water and lifted by the spirit and the feeling of the dance. On the island Larrikan approaches Sakura again, smiling, his fiddle for the moment gone. He bows to her, sweeping one arm out in an unvoiced question or invitation to join him in the swirling dance. Sakura smiles back at Larrikan. She moves in towards him and into his arms, accepting the invitation to join the dance. The fox's smile shows how pleased he is to be dancing with the exotically beautiful vixen. He waltzes carefully, letting the dance engulf them in its delightful wonder, both leading her and enjoying her closeness. The music and light surround them, time seeming to slow, the moment lingering. Sakura sighs happily and lets Larrikan lead her around in the magical dance. She certainly seems to be enjoying his closeness as well...

After a long timeless time, which is also painfully short, Larrikan separates again to play his fiddle for the others. He makes sure to lead Sakura over to where he winds up standing and playing with some others in the impromptu band, where she can settle and rest or continue to dance, pulled in to the warm and attractive embrace of the dance itself. The little piglet seems content to dance in its piglet way, always near a partner who seems pleased to share the dance with it. Sakura settles herself on the ground gracefully, as near to Larrikan as she can be. As much as she enjoyed the dancing, she could use a little break herself, so she is quite content to sit and watch the other dancers.

Larrikan plays for several dances, and Sakura has more than enough time to catch her breath. At one point a thin, nearly twiggy-seeming, dark skinned girl passes by, offering cool water to drink. Sakura takes the water when it is offered, smiling her thanks at the girl who brought it. It is only after a song ends and another begins, settling in to the 3/4 time of a waltz, that Sakura notices that there is no fiddler playing, and that Larrikan is again standing by her and smiling happily down at her, one hand outstretched to her. She reaches up to take Larrikan's hand and lifts herself off of the ground.

Larrikan brightens as he leads Sakura into the waltz. The music leads them both, and it seems perfectly comfortable and natural for him to be dancing so close to her. In the warmth of his careful, close embrace, with his scent drifting warmly across her senses and his whiskers visible so near, one of his hands gently rubbing up and down her back and trying to drift to her oh-so-velvety ears, with the music and other dancers surrounding them and the soft tugging of the constantly moving motes of light... it seems almost as if they are buoyed up off the ground, drifting gracefully and serenely through the air, with the dance engulfing and supporting them. Sakura looks down and gasps a little as she is lifted into the air. Her grip on Larrikan tightens just a little, but the combination of his closeness and soft caresses is enough to immediately relax her. She laughs softly at the unique feeling and continues to dance.

Much, much later the dance slows and ends, the floating feeling fading and the earth reasserting itself underfoot; Sakura's long silky dress swirls softly about her. The band has dropped off to quiet now, and the cool of the night airs begins to blow softly on the breeze among the dancers, who seem content to drift off into the woods... somehow not appearing to cross the lake. Larrikan settles to the moonlit ground, and pats the earth next to him invitingly. The piglet rejoins, coming over to lie contentedly on the fox's other side. Sakura watches the other dancers depart with a little tinge of sorrow... this evening was so magical that it is difficult to watch part of it coming to an end. She settles down beside Larrikan, still flushed and smiling from the effects of the dancing and magic.

Larrikan slides a warm arm around Sakura, quietly and softly humming the gay dance tune, and begins again to stroke her ears, enjoying a moment of quiet and calm with her. The long evening begins to catch up with her, the lack of sleep and the slow realization that it must be very late indeed contributing no more to the inarguable desire to sleep than does the warmth and closeness of the tod fox, with his gentle stroking of her ears. The tune he's quietly humming wouldn't have anything to do with it, either... Sakura leans up against the handsome fox, quite content to trust him in this and do whatever it is that he's doing.. She just can't seem to find the will to resist the ear rubbing that he's giving her...

Sleep finally claims Sakura, stealing her away for a long-seeming night of serene and restful slumber. The last thing she remembers is a gentle kiss on the forehead, and Larrikan's warmth.

Sakura wakes up the next morning feeling rested and relaxed... far more so than she's been since leaving the Alshain, in fact. A shaft of sunlight illuminates the room warmly, lighting up the contentedly snoozing little black piglet. He's lying on the bed, sprawled out against her and snoring softly, on some glistening, silky looking material that's sort of tossed across her and the bed... she doesn't remember it when she came to bed, but... well, it's certainly pretty.

Sakura doesn't sit up or move around too much yet, but she does inspect the fabric from where she's laying, running a paw over it curiously. It's lovely... it feels pleasantly sensual under her exploring fingers. It's all in browns and greens, of an extremely light, rather silky-feeling material. It seems to sweep up the bed to her... in fact, now that she studies it, she realizes she's wearing it! It's a long, swirling-skirted dress, with a pattern of brightly colored ribbons woven down the shoulders and into the bodice. The ribbon ends trail down to the dress's cobwebby hem.

Sakura gets out of bed slowly and admires the dress. Carefully she slips out of it, worried that her normal activities would damage the dress. She gets back into her flight-suit and drapes the dress across the bed, smiling to herself. The piglet snorts and wakes up, stretching and yawning, then grunting companionably at Sakura. She notices the sharp little trotters don't seem to affect the delicate-looking strands of the dress' fabric at all. Sakura giggles and scoops the piglet up, "Good morning, little one. Are you hungry?" The piglet grunts happily, stretching to reach, then lick, Sakura's nose. She laughs. "Me too." She keeps the little piglet in the crook of one arm and walks (nawww, more like floats) out of her room.

The common room has a few people in it, mostly in small groups and eating something breakfast-like, except for one pair of dark-furred wolves who are on their way to bed after doing something all night, and eating a hearty stew which seems vaguely out of place at this hour. The two wolves are noteworthy, completely aside from the courteous, wide berth that the other patrons are giving them. Huge, plantigrade, heavily clawed and furred, they appear to be classic movie werewolves... aside from the colorful beads and few bright feathers they have woven into the fur behind their ears. That, and the polite tones in which they converse, give an interestingly jarring feel to the scene.

Sakura finds somewhere to settle down and sets the piglet on the bench beside her. Douglas nods pleasantly to the doctor as she enters the room, taking his time with a moderate bowl of porridge and a still warm half-loaf of dark, very aromatic bread. "Good morning, Doctor."

Sakura smiles, "Good morning, Douglas-san! Is Vash-sama up?"

Douglas smiles quietly, sliding the loaf towards Sakura. "I certainly hope not. I am hoping that he's resting well." His smile fades slightly. "He seemed in much worse condition than when you rescued him from the water hag."

A sudden movement overhead attracts the attention of some of the diners, and Kerry spreads his wings and circles down to land beside Sakura and Douglas. "Zil stayed up with him a while last night. I think he's still sleeping."

Sakura nods, "He can join us for breakfast if he's awake in the mornings, if you'd like to bring him down Douglas. I think he'll enjoy the company. How are you both doing this fine morning?"

Douglas nods, "I'll go up and ask him then." He takes a couple more spoonfuls of the porridge and sighs contentedly. "Doing very, very well, thank you, Doctor. The food is excellent, by the way. How are you doing?"

Kerry sniffs at the bread, but isn't all that tempted. "I think I'll have cheese and fruit. Or maybe some stew..."

Sakura opts for a bowl of porridge for herself... and passes little bits of fruit to the piglet. He's sitting dog-like next to Sakura on the bench, carrying on a small, contented commentary of grunts with himself. He happily snuffles up all the pieces of fruit passed to him, of course. Sakura smiles, "Well, thank you Douglas-san."

Douglas smiles, "Good!" He stretches a little, making something of a rather content sound, as he stands. "I shan't be long," he says cheerfully. "I imagine the Captain is somewhat famished by now." He nods, then heads upstairs to Vash's room."

Kerry skrees, "The little fellow is still here, I see."

Aside from eyeing Kerry with avid interest as he flits down into reach, and yawning once -- showing way too many fangs in the process! -the wolves behave in an exemplary fashion. Soon thereafter they've licked their large wooden bowls, their chops, and their front paws clean. They trot out quietly together in an odd, almost driftingly sideways gait... like true wolves running long distance. The general mood in the room lightens somewhat after they leave.

Sakura whispers, "...that was a little strange..."

Kerry chirrips in amusement. "What, stranger than us?"

Sakura grins, "I suppose not. But they thought we were... uhm... neat. Didn't seem so for them."

Kerry skrees, "Well, they probably weren't medical students. There are certainly enough odd folks around here that we aren't that outlandish. The students are convinced Vash and I are Azteca, whatever that is... which means that there are probably folks similar to us somewhere over there."

Sakura nods at Kerry. "Maybe that explains what happened to us over South America?"

Kerry skrees, "Or for that matter, it may explain what didn't happen."

Douglas reaches the door to Vash's room, and is about to knock on the doorframe... then realizes that a dryad lives here. Instead he raps lightly upon the door itself. "Captain? Are you awake?" And if he answers 'no,' Heaven help me...

Vash is sitting up a bit in bed, holding in his claws a very small book. It's not readily apparent how he can manipulate the pages, but he seems to be handling it easily. How it survived the trip into the pond with him is anyone's guess. He glances up. "I'm up, Douglas. You can come in."

Douglas opens the door and leans in. "Pilot and the Doctor are down in the commons having breakfast. Are you hungry?"

Vash sets the book aside. "Actually... yes." He levers himself up to a sitting position, and sets his feet experimentally on the floor. "Give me a second to get dressed."

Douglas nods and looks away politely. "Certainly, Captain."

Vash finds the ragged pair of shorts the students left him, and his deck shoes, and slips those on quickly. He also grabs his blackguard T-shirt, figuring that it's breakfast time and healing chest wounds aren't acceptable at a polite table. "Yeah. Let's go." Douglas nods, and manages to get Vash into a similar carry as he used the previous evening. This time, he makes no comment about crossing thresholds, instead intending to bring Vash forthwith to the breakfast table. Vash throws his arms around Doug's neck, and grins, "My hero."

Douglas *grks!* a little as Vash wraps his arms around his neck. "Captain," he deadpans (albeit somehow with a light, not threatening, tone), "-feline uplifts retain the ability to extend their claws. And remember, I'm carrying you..."

Vash snickers and releases Doug before they actually get anywhere that could be visible by the rest of the crew. "Hey now, Doug. You think I look bad... you should see the other guy."

Douglas brings Vash into the commons, and heads towards the table with Sakura, Kerry, and the piglet, trying hard to maintain a straight face. Zildjian slithers over to the table shared by the Indigo's crew, with the short wispy form of Aykuh leading her along, nearly tugging at the lamia's arm, giving an air of youthful impatience to her young face. Zildjian hisses, "Aykuh wanted y'all t'know she sent a message to the trees around yoah shuttle, an' they replied they could clear a path to the larger meadow, no problem." The dryad adds something and the lamia grins, adding, "And they sayid they'd hurry. It'll only take a coupla a' weeks."

Sakura nods, "Well, Vash-sama needs bed rest anyways. Two weeks will be plenty of time for him to have recovered."

Kerry chirrips. "I think that counts as hurrying for trees, yes. Let's hope we can actually get her to move. I still don't know what has her locked down like that."

Douglas blinks and smiles, looking to Aykuh and bowing his head slightly. "Thank you very much!" Then he blinks. "Erm... do the trees have any idea why the shuttle is being held?" Zildjian hisses to Aykuh for a moment, who shakes her head.

Vash says, "Two weeks is a dead run, for a tree... we're indebted to you."

Sakura smiles, "Hai! Arigatou gozaimasu!"

The door to the inn opens and a short, round, balding humanoid with a full beard and sideburns (which seem to be trying to make up for the lack of head hair) steps into the room. He looks around with keen eyes until he sees the group of spacers. He exclaims something, and gestures through the open door before hurrying over to the table. Kerry nods, and tries the greeting that he's overheard other folks using. Sakura smiles and dips her head to the new arrival. Vash blinks a little and just nods politely to the stocky newcomer. The little man gives Kerry a strange look and takes a step back, looking somewhat shocked.

One of the students from yesterday's introduction holds the door while four others, one of them Annifred, carry a heavy package in between them. The older man nods once and says something briskly unintelligible -- then looks over at the laboring students. He tchs and darts back over to them with surprising speed, directing them with wild gestures and more emphatic speech.

Douglas blinks at the man, and the sudden burst of activity his coming heralded. He stands, not warily but curiously, and on impulse to help if needed. Kerry tries to look apologetic, and asks Zil, "Uh-oh... what did I just say to him?"

Zildjian is making that odd, stifled, escaping-steam noise behind one hand... when she recovers herself from the giggles she says, "Oh mah! Kerry, yo' accent really needs work! -an' comin' from someone that talks lahk me..." She giggles again, then adds, "Roughly translated, yo' addressed him in th'informal female form, askin' him if'n he was impregnated yet!"

Sakura winces a little. "Oops."

Vash snrrks, facepalming. "Oh, there go the... *snrk* Interplanetary relations."

Kerry chirrs. "Oh, my... that was a bit off, then. Isn't that what Larrikan said to Sakura, though? Seems a bit forward for a hello..."

Zildjian grins, "Don' worry... he's one a' th'local university's professahs... he's used ta strange students. Jus'... don' go askin' th'locals that, 'kay?"

Douglas blinks, glancing between Zil and Kerry. "That was quite a mistranslation, Pilot."

Kerry skrees, "Well, maybe you'd better tell me how to say hello, then. Or... maybe you should just catch us up on all this? What's the occasion, eh?"

Zildjian laughs! "Nah, Larrikan used th'formal female form, not th'informal... and the tone he used inquired 'bout comfort, not pregnancy." She grins, "Hang on, Kerr... let th'man finish settin' up!" Sakura looks infinitely relieved at Zildjian's words, even letting out a little sigh. Zildjian gives Sakura a sympathetic grin.

Vash grins, "Maybe he was asking permission, Kerry." Sakura blushes right to her ear tips. Douglas clears his throat a little, meaningfully, looking purposefully towards the... man; the professor as Zil identified him.

The wizened little man begins to speak to them, then focuses on Zildjian when she is pointed out by one of the students. With many emphatic gestures he points to the large and heavy thing the students have laboriously brought in, which appears to be a big chunk of polished crystal; a gentle oval, making a deeply shining lens. Kerry skrees, "Betcha that isn't a telescope. Is that the local equivalent of a TV camera, Zil?"

Vash squints a bit, shielding his eyes. He wonders if they realize that thing is directly between them and the open door. "The ants of the world shriek in collective terror." Douglas looks at the object interestedly, crouching down beside it and looking it over. He glances, hopefully and expectantly, to Zil as the man directs his comments to her. A couple of other students arrive, carrying some more of the professor's equipment, mostly note-taking materials and a small portable desk. Blue, the artist, has also returned, as has Larrikan, who smiles in a very self-satisfied way at Sakura. Zildjian smiles and nods to the short little man, patting her arm where the bracelet is and beaming. Then she nods again, and with a few of the free students hastily clears things off the table the Indigo crew are sitting at, "Okay! This is gonna help y'all talk t'th'prof!"

Kerry looks intrigued. "Indeed. A group translator, eh?"

Vash smiles politely at Blue and nods, then glances between Larrikan and Sakura. He spends a little too much time catching Larrikan's eye, giving him a look that says 'be good.' Larrikan's stunning pelt is caught in Doug's peripheral vision, and he glances at the foxy person, at the... well, what could only be called a smirk on an uplift... follows said smirk's line of sight to Sakura; blinks... then turns back attentively to Zildjian. Sakura beams a smile at Larrikan.

Douglas blinks. "That sounds very useful. I wonder what he's brought. It looks like an ordinary lens at first glance, but knowing the world we're in, it's likely anything but..."

The professor gives slightly imperious sounding directions, and the students move around behind the crew; Blue coming up to Vash, taking one of his hands, and setting it on the smooth crystal surface. Larrikan does very similarly with Sakura. Annifred comes up behind Douglas and beams widely at him, her tail curling cheerfully about his ankle as she also takes one of his hands and places it palm down on the glass. Zildjian slithers to right behind Kerry, settling on her coils next to him, and attentively watching the professor. She doesn't say anything or interrupt until he's finished speaking, at which point she whispers to Kerry, "Put yo' han' flat -- uhh... well, as much of one a' them as is comfortable, that is... put it onna surface of th'crystal -- an' watch th'crystal, 'kay?"

Kerry looks a bit nonplussed... he doesn't really have a palm to place there, but places his left hand-claw there and as much of the wing membrane as will fit. Douglas blinkblinks at the sudden curl about his ankle. "What...?" He looks back... and up... then blinks and smiles. "Oh! Oh, ah, hello... erp?" He makes no move to resist his hand being placed on the lens, and looks into the glass as Zil instructs. Sakura watches the glass carefully, forehead creased a little in thoughtfulness.

The professor frets and points to the students, commenting on something. Annifred moves Douglas's hand a little to the left at his directions. The little man is finally satisfied, and directs all the students to place one of their hands on the crystal too. Vash smiles gently to the artist, and stifles a snicker. "It's a seance, then." He very gently rests his palm on the crystal, keeping his fingers as straight as he can to keep his claws from scratching it. He blinks a moment, reminding himself to look at the glass and not at Blue.

The crystal is cool and very hard under everyone's palms. The high polish reflects well, showing each member of the crew clearly, if darkly, along with their accompanying student or friend. At the head of the table, with a bit of a flourish, the professor seats himself, then studies the crystal and everyone around it carefully. Kerry peers at the glass, wondering if polarizing lenses are going to affect whatever is supposed to happen.

Once all the hands are in place, the Professor raises both hands in the air and intones several long phrases. At the end he sprinkles over it a pinch of some aromatic powder from a little pouch that the students brought in with the rest of the paraphernalia. Finally he places both of his hands on it and says something portentous and important-sounding. Douglas's eyes flick briefly, towards the professor, then back to the lens. This is most assuredly not going to be a lab period for Optics 101... The reflections in the crystal seem to fade away, and in pleasant script each person can see, in their preferred language, the words the professor spoke, "Can you all read?"

Vash grins slowly. "Wow. Cool." He nods, "Er... yes, we can." Everyone else sees Vash's words written out for them. Kerry just nods, not wanting to overload the gadget, whatever it is. Sakura also smiles and nods.

Douglas glances again at Annifred's rather large clawed hand beside his, then manages to get his attention back on the lens. "Er... oh, ah, yes..."

Annifred grins at Doug's distraction, and murmurs next to his round, furred ear. In front of everyone appears the words, "You smell nice too... are you mated?" Vash blinks several times, then just stares at Douglas, grinning maniacally.

The professor begins to speak, a transcription of what he is saying writing itself along inside the glass. "My students tell me you are all also from far away; and they say you are all very different. I am so far willing to believe them. I know they and I would enjoy talking to you more." At the interruption the professor coughs and adds, "Among other things."

Annifred grins at the professor cheerfully and barks something. The crystal shows, "Sorry, sir!" Douglas blinks, and while it's perhaps hard to tell with his fur, his ear tips have become a most remarkable shade of red. He also seems to have lost his voice. Zildjian covers a hissing giggle with her free hand.

Kerry chirrips, regaining his composure quickly. "Ah-heh. Yes. Our aircraft is presently stuck in a clearing a few kilometers from here, but we have films of our approach to Crossroads if you would care to see them."

The professor shakes his head, but doesn't reply. Instead he says, "If you will be willing to speak to us and answer our likely innumerable questions, I believe I can help you make translators as the honorable lamia already has." His words write themselves into the depths of the crystal.

Vash clears his throat a little, and turns to the professor. "Ahem. That would be most gracious of you, senyor. I do not think that any of my crew will have objections to answering a few more of your questions; it's the least we can do to repay your hospitality." He peers at the crystal, wondering what exactly it will do with the honorific that he let slip just now.

Douglas tries really, really hard to just concentrate on the words. The professor's non-comment on their current status brings a new level of their situation to the fore for him. We're interlopers here, he thinks. It's not all that bad, though, to help them do this. They've given us so much so far, after all. He nods in agreement with Vash.

"If this is acceptable," the white-haired elder continues, "-all that must happen is for you to collect the needed components and bring them to me at the University... and be willing to participate in the simple binding to make them work properly for each of you."

Kerry nods. "It would be our pleasure, sir. Our mission to Crossroads was to see if trade would be possible, and the first step to trade is mutual understanding." Well, one possible route, at least. The Phoenicians managed without it, after all...

Vash nods again, "That seems agreeable, sir. I don't foresee any problems." Then he blinks. After the week he's had... he CAN'T BELIEVE he just said that.

Sakura nods in agreement with her crewmates. "I'd be more than happy to, Sensei." I hope that translates right...

Kerry skrees, "What components are needed?"

Douglas looks over to Vash, giving him a look, thinking, I can't believe he just said that. Vash looks up at Douglas with a strikingly similar expression. Douglas grins, with a touch of apology, back to Vash, then looks to the professor. "And is it safe to assume that said components won't be easy to get?" Vash clears his throat again, shaking his head, and returns his attention to the professor.

With a wry grin the oldster says, "Ah, profit. A clear and understandable motivation makes many things simpler to comprehend." Glancing at the students, who remain quiet for the moment, he adds, "I am pleased that you agree." He looks to Sakura and smiles benevolently at her. Then the Professor explains to the vixen, "Straight south of here there is a particular lake. If you will bring to me a pebble retrieved from the bottom of the lake by a swan, plucked from the lake when the moon is at its fullest, I will be able to complete the charms."

Kerry blinks. "One for each of us, or will one pebble do for all?"

Sakura blinks. "Okay..."

Vash's eyeridges slide back. "Er... all right." Douglas resists the temptation to ask if it has to be a swan. It's magic, of course it has to be a swan.

"A valid question indeed," replies the teacher, "One pebble will suffice for charms for all of you."

Kerry skrees, "So. May I ask a question, sir?"

The professor looks stern and adds to the students, "None of you can go with them, either. This is something they must do themselves. Is that clear?" Annifred looks disappointed, and Blue merely nods meekly. Larrikan smiles, nuzzling Sakura's ear gently, and whispers to her. The crystal reveals, "We'll miss you..." Annifred cheerfully growls to Douglas. "Come back quick, eh? We talk more then, ya, strong-pretty-feets?" Vash stares at the crystal for a few moments, silently mouthing out some syllables. Strong... pretty... what? Sakura smiles at Larrikan over her shoulder, who smiles back at Sakura and leans softly and warmly against her, apparently content.

The professor ignores the students' good-byes as irrelevant if pleasant, and answers Kerry's query with, "Of course."

Douglas blinks. Strong-pretty-feets? I had no idea digitigrade legs were that popular here. And to think how much trouble I had trying to find dress shoes that would fit, back home... He smiles quietly up to Annifred. "Er... I'll try, thank you..."

Kerry nods. "So far, we have been able to converse primarily with Zildjian, and her familiarity with your world is still limited. Do you know what -- or who -- could have locked our aircraft to the ground?"

The professor reads Kerry's question and considers it. He replies finally, "There would be magics powerful enough to pluck something from the sky, yes. Last I knew there were none anywhere near here. I shall look in to it, and see if there is any trace of something so powerful."

Vash says, "We would appreciate that, sir." Douglas thinks, 'none anywhere near here?' We didn't exactly get pulled down on the other side of the planet and took Crossroads Express to get here! But all in good time, I imagine...

Kerry nods. "If it is still there we will need assistance to free our craft from it. But first we will work on the translator. Is there anything we might provide other than this pebble?"

The professor nods solemnly at Vash and answers Kerry's next question with, "I will need a drop or two of blood from each of you, to bind the translator to you and make it your own. I presume you have plenty on your person."

Douglas says, "I think I can spare that much, yes..."

Vash grins lopsidedly. "More than I was aware, sir..."

Kerry snickers. "Aye, I think we can provide a bit of hemoglobin. I meant something in the nature of more exotic materials, rare elements or such things. If not, is there anything of that sort that we could provide to thank you for your trouble? We are well supplied with sample trade goods."

The professor adds, "You are not from around here, and there are some things you may need to know." He launches in to what can only be called a lecture, in detail and with enthusiasm, about things that they need to know. The protective powers of the wood of the Rowan tree, the power of gifts and of signs and symbols locally. He says, "You must not forget this, as it seems you come from a technological society, as is that of The United States Of Nippon in the far east, and probably do not know such important things."

Sakura quirks an eyebrow up at the mention of Nippon... Vash starts a little, forcing his hand on the crystal to keep still from scratching it. "The United States of...?"

Douglas keeps as much track of the lecture as he can. Then the professor mentions- "The... pardon?"

Kerry skrees, "Japan."

Vash says, "I KNOW what Nippon means, it's that first part..."

Sakura smiles, immensely please that Japan is actually still here in this world. Douglas also says, "I knew that, Pilot, but thank you. I'm just surprised that it has that name here. That it exists at all here, as a recognizable entity. And that it's a technological civilization..."

Kerry skrees, "Well, someone besides you-know-who had to be able to do it." He nods, keeping track of the lecture and correlating as much as he can of it to the old legends of Earth Home that he remembers.

Douglas says, "Not necessarily... but I imagine that it makes for interesting interactions between here and there. If I were a sociologist, I'd have the potential makings of my master's thesis, my doctorate, and my Nobel Prize..."

The professor looks a bit confused by this interplay, saying, "Of course it's still here. Once they'd killed off all their gods, of course, technology was all that was left to them. The poor bastards." He gives Kerry a calculating look and says, "If you would allow when you go to your shuttle, I would be very pleased if you would take a few of my prized students and a recording device to it so that I could have some really good details of such an incredible sounding thing as a flying machine."

Vash doesn't say anything, but he frowns, thinking for a few long moments about the phrase 'killing of their gods.' Douglas looks a little startled at the Professor's words. He starts to open his mouth to ask... but then closes it a little sullenly. 'Killed off all their gods.' Unwittingly he remembers the Io base, a month and a universe away, and his throat constricts slightly. There's something rather appropriate about that turn of phrase. Kerry smiles at the professor. "Certainly they are welcome. I'll even take them for a ride if we can get her loose. I'm rather proud of her." Vash smiles a little, and opens his mouth, then closes it. There's no way the crystal could handle the idiom he was about to voice. He just grins cryptically.

All of the students except for Annifred and the professor look a little shocked at this, and Blue finally says, "That... might be rather... overwhelming?"

Kerry shrugs, as well as he can with his hand on the crystal. "Aww. You'll never know what you're missing if you don't."

Vash smiles a little at the artist. "It's actually not so bad, Blue. Kerry's right; it can be quite exhilarating."

Larrikan shudders, "I shall not, unless an emergency demands my injury so." Annifred looks a little wistful, as if she's torn. The artist looks at Vash, pale and wide-eyed, and shakes her head very slightly.

Vash has a hard time maintaining eye contact like that. He smiles again more gently, "I understand."

Kerry nods to the fox. "Hmm. Yes, I wasn't thinking of such things. Our world has had to depend solely on technology for as long as our history records. We have legends of gods and fantastic creatures, and many of them match the reality of Crossroads... but on Earth they are all gone -- if they ever really existed there."

Sakura says, "Most don't believe that they did exist as anything other than flights of fancy."

Larrikan looks aghast... then gently strokes Sakura's ears, "Welcome home then."

Sakura smiles, "Thank you, Larrikan-kun." The local fox smiles sweetly at Sakura and nuzzles once again.

Vash leans a little closer and whispers to Blue, even though he's still got his hands on the plate; he's afraid to damage the contact by moving, "I'm sorry. I hadn't thought of that."

Blue is still pale and wide-eyed... but at Vash's whisper she smiles and nods, murmuring softly, "It's all right. We know how hard it must be for you." She leans her head against Vash's shoulder, turning back to watch the crystal. Vash smiles tenderly, and turns back to the crystal.

Kerry shrugs. "Oh, well. You can watch us take off then, if you don't want to ride with us. I'll warn you, she's quite loud." He pauses, then skrees, "Oh, one last question. You mentioned 'a particular lake' due south. Is that part of the puzzle, or does this lake have a name?"

He is answered with a brief reply, "Yes, of course. You are going to Swan Lake."

Vash laughs softly. "How convenient."

Sakura looks a little hopeful at this... "I hope it lives up to its name..."

Douglas blinks a little to Sakura and Larrikan... then only smiles quietly, and looks to Kerry. "That was a play, wasn't it? Some kind of... musical, with dancing?"

Vash says, "Ballet, as I recall."

Kerry skrees, "A ballet, actually. Tchaikowsky. And a fairy tale before that. Oh, my..."

Larrikan grins cheerfully, "Oh, music and dancing is inspiring and magical, yes!" Sakura is trying very, very hard not to blush. Larrikan grins again, mischievously, and gently rubs Sakura's ears with his free hand.

Douglas's voice drops a little at Kerry's comment. "That's a bad 'oh, my,' isn't it, Pilot."

Kerry skrees, "Not necessarily..."

Douglas nods slowly, then becomes a little chipper. "Well! I'm sure you'll tell us all about it on the way there, yes?"

The professor clears his throat and harrumphs once, saying, "I see we're into frivolities, and I shan't wish to use the University's equipment for such. When you have collected this needed ingredient and have brought it to me we shall speak again. Good luck." He smiles then and tosses another handful of a different powder over the crystal. The reflections of the room fade back in to it.

Annifred grins, nipping the edge of Doug's ear lightly as she removes her large hand from next to Doug's... by running it slowly up his furred arm. Douglas blinks and manages not to flick his ear at the nip... and some small part of him notes that he doesn't think Annifred's hand is necessarily following the standard operating procedures of the translating lens... Vash gently rests his free hand on Blue's shoulder, fingers curled in to hide his claws, and grins amiably at the Professor. You'd fit in so well with the Company. We ever start trade here, you could get yourself a Vice Presidentship.

The Professor gathers students to lift and carry and pack the equipment away again, and sweeps imperiously out of the inn, rather like a gnome trying to herd college students... Larrikan grins and winks at Sakura as he leaves, shouldering his share of the huge crystal, while shy Blue smiles and waves back at Vash as she disappears last through the door. Vash smiles after Blue. He waves a little with a couple of claws. Sakura also waves to Larrikan as he goes. Kerry turns to Zil. "Well, that was interesting and informative. I don't think you're supposed to tell us about your quest, either. Where do we find rowan wood?"

Zildjian grins, "Nah, he din' ask me t'run a quest for him... he thought Ah was a real lamia, lahk th'ones heah. He jus' wanted t'question me lots... days 'n days worth! But rowan will be easy... an' we'll give y'all some oak, ash, an' thorn too, jus' t'play it safe."

Kerry skrees, "Heh. He wants to do that to us anyway. Que sera. Even the questions will be informative. Have to bring a recorder, I think... although it might not work well with a translator. Rats."

Douglas is watching after the departure of the professor bemusedly, smiling and waving to Annifred. "Well," he says, after the students depart, "-we at least have an immediate purpose and direction." Please, whomever is listening to our prayers, I'm asking nicely... don't let anyone of us say 'this should be no problem.' Because we both know that it will be, and that it will be thrice as much of one if someone says that. He adds dryly, "And the home office decided that we didn't need paper, either. Can we do more than just complain about that 'foresight' when we get home?"

Vash says, "I'll write a real nasty summation report, I guess."

Kerry skrees, "I think we'll arrange to provide that particular idiot with a paperless bathroom."

Sakura grins at Kerry, "Only if we can use that paper on his car."

Last modified: 2000-Dec-19 23:25:52

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