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The amber-and-red girl completely breaks down, right in front of you; her nervous tension unfolds and collapses into great big wet tears rolling down both cheeks. She sniffs and sobs and covers her face, gripping her braided hair with one hand, obviously embarrassed but too far gone to control herself.
'No, no!' She croaks out through the sobs. 'B-but this was the last- there's n-no other leads-'
You just stare at her, sleep-fog clouding your reactions. You step back automatically, holding the door open.
'Uh, do you want to come in, sit down?' Even as you say the words, they seem lame; you've never invited anyone into the Sealing Club's secret room before, but you can hardly just shut the door on a weeping girl.
She just holds her face in both hands, sobbing and sagging toward the floor. Oh gods, she's not going to fall to her knees in front of you, is she? You run a hand over your own face in shared horror.
Mary bustles past you without a moment to lose, all patting hands and soothing, meaningless words in that fluffy-pillows and honey-milk voice she uses sometimes. Her tone even relaxes you somewhat, as she puts an arm around the girl's shoulders and steers her into the room. Mary hands you the girl's bag as she passes, and you almost topple over as you take the weight; what is she carrying in here, bricks? The bag makes a resounding thump as you place it on the table.
'Here, here, sit, sit, come on, you're welcome to sit, sweetie!' Mary purrs at the distraught girl, getting her to sit in the second chair in the room - an old office armchair in the corner, more comfortable than the peeling one at the desk. The girl nods at everything Mary says, sitting and hunching up with distress, holding her face in one hand. Mary takes out a handkerchief and gently coaxes the girl out.
'Here, you're all wet, let me just- there, there, it's okay, it's okay.' Mary wipes the girl's eyes, crouching down and smiling at her. 'Here, want some chocolate?' She produces - oh Mary, how does she do it - another chocolate roll from somewhere inside her skirt, or maybe up her top, unwraps the end and presses it into the girl's hand.
The amber girl stares blankly at the chocolate roll for several seconds, and for a moment you think she's going to burst into tears again. But she only sniffs and little and starts eating, chewing and swallowing slowly.
You sit in the peeling chair again, leaning back and letting Mary do her thing.
'Feeling better?' Mary chirps at the girl. 'What's your name, sweetie?'
'Yu-' The girl swallows again, looking empty-eyed. 'Yumemi.'
'Yumemi!' Mary repeats it and smiles. 'I'm Mary, and this is Renko.' She gestures at you, and you try to give Yumemi your best reassuring smile. It feels more like a slasher's grin. Yumemi looks slowly between you and Mary, and then stares at the now-empty wrapper in her hand. At least she's not crying any more.
'I found The Professor's office in the university records,' Yumemi starts in a small voice, still staring at her empty hand. 'But ... ' She gulps, looking at Mary for a long moment, and then switching to you. Her wide, still-wet amber eyes pleading with you, like a lost puppy. 'But this is where her career ends, there's nothing ... no trail ... ' Yumemi sniffs and hiccups twice, rubbing her nose.
You nod slowly in response; it just seems like the appropriate thing to do. You pick your hat up from the table and slowly tap your fingertips on the brim, for want of anything else to occupy your hands.
'Why are you looking for her?' Mary asks softly, placing one hand on Yumemi's shoulder
'I ... ah-' Yumemi tries to laugh, a self-depreciating, hollow sound. 'I've read all her papers, you see,' she gestures at her bag. 'I've even typed up and uploaded ones she never published, I ... I- I was hoping she would ... would ... ' The amber-and-red girl trails off awkwardly.
You lean forward, interest piqued. A problem, maybe with a solution; or perhaps a mystery? And at the very least, a beautiful girl with nobody to help her except you and Mary. You slip your hat on.
'Hoping she would what, Yumemi?' You ask.
Yumemi's head snaps up, meeting your gaze.
' ... su- ...supervise me for a phD.' She says, raising her chin slightly, a ray of pride beaming through her tattered ego.
'Oh! You got accepted in here for a phD? Good for you!' Mary chirps at the girl, and you swear in any other situation she would instantly pull her into a hug.
'W-well.' The girl looks down at her lap, blushing with embarrassment. 'Not yet. That why ... I came to see The Professor.'
'Oh.' Mary says, glancing at you and trying to recover. 'Well I'm sure there's other ... physics? Physics professors, that's Renko's department! I'm sure there's others who'll take on a student like-'
'No.' Yumemi shakes her head sadly. 'Metaphysics ... magic.' She croaks the work out, screwing her eyes shut, barely able to say it. 'It's not ... ' She hunches over again, consumed by failure. Even Mary seems at a loss at the sight of the girl's abandoned expression.
'Maybe it's not even real after all ... ' She whispers to nobody.
[ ] 'You, miss, have come to the right place.' Lean back, put your feet up, pull the brim of your hat down. 'Welcome to the Sealing Club.'
[ ] Pound your fist on the table. 'I want to believe.'
[ ] 'Metaphysics? Explain.' Lean forward, look interested. But get her to open first.
Couldn't actually update from work. But I had some downtime. So, big update.