, Meiling is displeased with the new 40mm grenade la.jpg
Since there were a decent number of votes for "more about your injuries," you get that, too. I AM INFODUMP
>[x] So what exactly do you teach?
>[x] Meiling, tell me more about your injuries.
>[x] *smirk* Maybe if you did that a little slower...
Despite the color rising in my cheeks, I have to grin at that display. "I dunno. Maybe if you did that again, a little slower this time?"
She laughs. "Have you finished your tea?"
"Not yet, no," I reply.
"Too bad, I could have made a show of bending over the kettle."
I make my own show of hastily mock-gulping down the last of my cup, making both of us break out in giggles. "Okay, that's enough of that."
"For now," Meiling replies with a Cheshire cat smirk.
"For now. Do you mind telling me more about these injuries?"
"Not at all. They are what they are." She pauses for a moment, smile vanishing as she starts to think. "What do you want to know?"
"Well, you're a youkai, aren't you? Don't you heal extremely fast?"
"Yes and no," she replies. "My wounds mend very quickly, but there's..." She halts again. "...I'm not really sure how to explain it. Or if I want to."
I nod understandingly. It took a while for me to explain my leg to her. "Whatever you're comfortable with, Meiling."
"Well... for now, suffice to say there's something slowing down my recuperation. And..."
"Flandre?" I venture.
"Flandre." She looks down intently. "When she broke loose, and I brought her back, she--overreacted."
Enough said, that. "How bad was it?"
Meiling sighs. "Bad. I was missing an arm and most of my torso. Hundreds of years of damage, just from lashing out once."
Once. That girl hit her once, and... I shudder a little, despite myself, remembering that low, deadly "come here/"
"But!" Meiling adds, cutting off the gloom before it can take root, "I came home, alive, successful, with Flan sleeping on the arm I had left. And I'd do it again in a heartbeat."
"You really love her, don't you?" I ask, trying not to sound incredulous. I think I succeeded.
"I cherish her, Kazuki. And besides--it's not as if she did anything permanent. I'm getting better. I can feel it, little by little, every day, just like I have for five hundred years." Well, that's optimistic, at least.
I have to smile. "You do know how to play the long game, don't you?"
"You could say I'm strategic, yes," she agrees. "It comes with being a dragon."
"I'm a very, very patient woman," she says, voice strong, awash with confidence. "I know what I want, Kazuki." And after a moment, she turns those incredibly blue eyes my way. "And I always get what I want."
I find myself swallowing hard as my heartbeat picks up, taken aback by that burst of... startling confidence. I actually feel a little taken aback, quickly fumbling for another conversation topic. "So what were you saying about teaching?"
Abruptly, that intense, striking presence vanishes, replaced by the cheerful, kindly gate guard I've always known. "Oh! That's right. Actually--It'd be easier to show you than tell you." Abruptly, she stands up. "Come on."
Meiling takes me to a small courtyard around the back of the mansion, clear of anything more ornate than well-kept hedges. Unlike the ostentatious statuary and decoration of most of the grounds, this is a plain box of grass. The most noticeable thing in this place--
--Is a perky fairy girl, wearing an oversized peacoat and beret, a small bugle banging against her hip. She beams up at Meiling, her equally-loud hair done up in dangling maroon curls.
"Good morning, Reveille," Meiling says warmly, patting her on the head. "How's the training going?"
Reveille snaps to attention, clocking herself in the head as she salutes in response to... hair tousling. Okay. "Ma'am! Basement Brigade training continues apace!"
"Wait, Basement Brigade?" I ask. The strange fairy turns and regards me for the first time, her wingtips twitching behind her. Abruptly, the twitching redoubles and her bright eyes go as wide as saucers.
"I-it's you! Mister the Applepicker! ...Just Applepicker? Master Kazuki? Lord of the Scarlet Dev--"
"Whoa, whoa, whoa, hold on," I say, raising my hands. "Just Kazuki is okay."
"Of course, Master Just Kazu--I mean, Kazuki." She grins, bobbing on her heels. "I'm Reveille, current head instructor for the Basement Brigade under Miss Meiling!"
"So what is this brigade?" I ask, still faintly bewildered by what seems to be an animated bowl of sugar with wings and a military jacket.
"Sakuya and I co-train them," Meiling explains, unsuccessfully hiding her amusement at my face, "When the staff have duties in the basement, where they could come in contact with Flandre."
"We've all been talking about you," Reveille goes on, still sparkling at me. "And how you bravely saved that miscreant witch invader! Oh, that reminds me!"
"...Miscreant witch invader?" I mumble.
"No, no, no, hold on, I have it here..." she fishes around within her voluminous coat, dumping an implausible number of things from tongs to cutlery to what appears to be a length of antler out onto the courtyard grass, until finally she gives a triumphant 'a-HA!' and produces a small pin, handing it to me with a flourish.
Turning it over in my hands, it's made of sterling (if slightly smudged) metal, embossed with a knife and star over a stylized English letter B. Reveille goes on as I inspect it closely. "It's my pleasure to inform you that you have been made an honorary member of the Basement Brigade, for your courage and sacrifice in honorable combat with the little sister."
"I...that's...thank you?" I offer.
"The honor is all mine," she says, saluting again, shortly before fumbling for her beret as it slides off her head. She goes on regardless. "So, what brings you here?"
"I wanted to show him what I teach," Meiling explains patiently.
"Ah! Miss Meiling handles the close-quarters combat drilling!" Heh. Drilling. "And of course, negotiation and aggression control."
"What, really?" I ask. The chipper little thing nods enthusiastically.
"Yessir! We can't properly stand and fight the little sister, nor are we expected to."
"I teach them open-hand styles and conflict avoidance," Meiling adds. "Most of safely contending with Flandre is not agitating her. Open hands are more plaintive gestures, whereas a closed fist presents hostile body language."
"Miss Sakuya instructs us in danmaku and ranged defense," Reveille chirps. "Meiling is more up-close and personal. She also helps with injuries and first aid when the girls get rough."
"She even does therapy with Miss Patchouli!"
If I'd had anything in my mouth, I would have done a spittake. "Really? That old ba--err, shrew?"
"She's not so bad, Kazuki. I think she actually likes you."
"I don't. So what does 'therapy' entail?"
"Her physical health is poor. I help her as a consultant and give her a small exercise regimen. She's awful about keeping up with it, though. Though that reminds me, Kazuki..." I turn and look at her as Reveille starts recollecting the things she dumped out of her coat. "I've heard you're doing some magic training?"
"Yeah," I admit, "With Marisa--err, that miscreant witch invader. Abjuration and enchantment, mostly."
"Enchantment?" Meiling leans in, interested. "Can you do some body reinforcement?"
"Uh, some, yeah. I'm still pretty new."
"That's a good match for you, Kazuki, with your size and strength. Make sure you incorporate what I've taught you."
"How do you mean?"
"I mean redirection and body posture," she says, abruptly seizing one of my arms to demonstrate. "Deflecting a blow rather than blocking it head on. Leverage that strength to work with, not against, nature. It'll go further. And what's this?" My eyes widen as she pulls me closer, drawing the silver blade Sakuya gave me from where I stowed it. "She gave you her knife?"
"One of them, yeah."
"She only has one knife, Kazuki," she says, gently turning the weapon as she examines it. Wait, what?
"Awesome?" offers Reveille.
"Terrifying. A-and she gave it to me?"
"You should take good care of this--and she must have asked you to train with it, yes?" Meiling (finally) lets go of me and slips the knife back where she found it.
I rub my wrist reflexively. "She did. How did you even notice?"
"Awareness!" exclaims the fairy. "Miss Meiling teaches us that, too."
"Awareness. Yeah." Just...give me a minute to get my heart beating again.
"Actually, Kazuki, one more thing." I freeze up a bit as Meiling speaks again. "Before you set out, be sure to come and see me. I want to give you something too."
"I, uh, I will." She looks at me and frowns, expression concerned.
"Are you all right?"
"Yeah! Yeah, I'm good, you just--surprised me." It's easy to forget that Meiling is six feet of lean muscle and unnatural strength.
"No I didn't," she says. "I terrified you. I can smell the adrenaline."
"That... really isn't helping any, Meiling," I manage thickly, wiping the sudden burst of sweat from my brow. Fortunately Reveille seems to have noticed the change in atmosphere and given the two of us some space.
"Kazuki..." she says hesitantly, looking almost stung. I wince again at that. "Do you... trust me?"
[ ] Of course. Do you really need to ask?
[ ] Yeah, it's just that...
[ ] ...
[ ] Write-in
[ ] I should go.
[ ] New topic: What's this about Sakuya and her knife?
[ ] So you have a bunch of maids out here training?
[ ] You want me to try to combine my magic and melee?
[ ] Write-in