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“It's certainly unexpected, but not unpleasant to see you here.” Eirin put on her best diplomatic smile as she sipped her tea, politely waiting for the guest to take her own sip. “What brings you to our humble home?”
The two women had been sitting now for a good quarter hour sipping tea. With Kaguya away, it fell to Eirin to be the figurehead of the household. Sure, she may have run the day to day affairs but being the face of Eientei was something new to her.. The princess loved to while away time chatting over a cup of tea, and would often entertain visitors with tales of bygone eras and generously carry herself in a manner befitting, well, a princess. Probably everyone that had spent time time chatting with her would remember the encounter fondly.
That's not to say that Eirin was a poor conversationalist. It was quite the opposite, really. She knew how to carry on, how to make people feel at ease. She could hold their interest while making them feel a part of the conversation if she felt like it. Which is why it had taken a good fifteen minutes of polite small talk to get to that question.
“I guess I have to admit that I don't come around here very often,” Keine spoke, a sheepish smile accompanying her words, “It must be a bit puzzling for you – me just showing up out of the blue like this. I'd like to apologize for inconveniencing you. I must imagine that you're awfully busy this time of year, with it being flu season and all. ”
“It's no inconvenience at all. It's been a while since I spoke to someone that's not from Eientei. And there haven't been very many patients in to see me lately either, so I'm relatively free.”
“That puts me more at ease. Though I suspect I should just get on to why I decided to come like this.” The schoolmarm put on something of an expression of mild distance, like she was recounting some sad inevitability. It would surprise any that knew her and her usual cheery and robust personality. “To be absolutely frank, it's because I've felt a bit lonely, neglected even. I just wanted some time with someone else. How very silly of me, no?”
“Not at all, we all get like that at times.” The good doctor truly did empathize. Often left alone to her devices, it sometimes felt like she was the only person left in the world. She reassured the youthful teacher, “There's no shame in admitting it and I'm more than glad to keep you company.”
Keine took another sip of her tea, looking relieved. It wasn't easy being on the sidelines for so long, ignored for what seemed to be forever. She sometimes thought that it was her fault, that no one would have anything but a passing interest in her. They all seemed to gravitate towards Mokou – not that there was anything wrong with that, but surely there was going to be just one that would favor her?
“I'm sorry if I'm a little out of line here, but I take it that you're thinking about our permanent guest?”
“Yes, I am.” She sighed. She had read the history over and over again, and knew of what had been and what could have been.
“It does seem like you were completely ignored after a while, even after you were so helpful and kind.”
“Ah, you knew?”
“Well,” Eirin chuckled, “it's not hard to follow what he's up to. Reading up is easy for me, since I'm in the middle of it all anyways.”
“I suppose that's true. But isn't that overstepping the bounds of confidentiality and privilege?”
“Not at all. As a major player I get all my prints directly from the publisher. I'm even on a first-name basis with the author, you know.”
“So was I, once...” There was a wistful sigh that followed.
“He still cares about you, you know. There's a bunch of things he's written about and for you.”
In that instant, between taking a breath and organizing thoughts, both women thought about what was going on now. Somewhere near, yet so far away. Out of sight, did not mean out of mind – the kids being alone invited all sort of imaginative scenarios to crop up. Eirin had already had a hefty piece dedicated to her want but Keine's lust has only been hinted at. It may be unfair to make another heifer joke here, but someone at the table certainly was thinking about a certain protagonist fondling her dairy jugs. These thoughts caused faint lustful smiles to flash across their lips. That was before they got on with the onerous and serious topic, presenting their feelings and thoughts in a much more dignified matter.
“It's not the same. I don't want to seem selfish, but...”
“You want a route, right?” Eirin chuckled again, knowing the feelings Keine had all too well. She confessed, “I want the same.”
“Ah, you too?”
“Well, naturally. I don't think there's a single person here that doesn't want a route. It can feel like one has been... forgotten. All the attention goes somewhere else and we're discarded.” The silver-haired woman admitted with certain reserve. She knew what she was talking about. It hit close to home. 'And some of us deserve one real bad. Your friend is one of them.”
“You mean Mokou?”
“Yes indeed. She's popular enough, but she hasn't gotten her due yet.”
“Isn't that a bit like that girl here, um...”
“You mean Udonge? Yes, there's her too.”
As if on cue, the moon rabbit came in with more tea.
“I'm sorry master, did you call for me?”
“No, I didn't.. We were talking about you though. And routes.”
“Oh, you mean how it always looks like I'll be chosen and then...”
It was an awkward silence. The courageous moon bunny was the first to break it with her observations.
“Well, I rather think that he likes me all the same.”
“You mean our plucky lad? Well, yes, probably. He likes all of us.”
“Yes, well, master. I meant that he may have had a thing for me.”
“Oh, what gives you that impression?”
“Well, he seemed genuinely upset after the bath incident.”
“He might have seen it as the end of the world. Probably some did.”
“How else was I supposed to react? I knew he wasn't at fault, but it was too soon to just forgive outright, especially with all the whitewashing he tried.”
“Harsh of you.”
“That's the thing though, I've got a pretty ok relationship with him though. The rocky part didn't last long...”
Surely, in her maidenly heart, Reisen thought about what ifs. Though she knew deep down what was going on somewhere out there she couldn't help but think. - About being the object of continued and dedicated affection. About being the central force in a route. She thought of being held and sweet nothing being whispered in her ears.... Beyond a shadow of a doubt, she was a romantic.
“Well, every relationship has its ups and downs,” Keine observed, “it's silly to think that everyone deals with tension and misunderstandings in the say way, and sillier still to expect them not to move on with patience and dialog.”
“Ah, that's what I think as well!” Reisen piped up excitedly. “That's how it's always worked, right? Anything else is just cheap shot of instant gratification.”
“Things, whether it's understanding or relationships, take time.”
“Well, despite some panic, that's the way it is with some people.” Tewi popped in her usual casual way. She sat at the table and produced her own tea cup and joined them. She handed the moon bunny a note that made her frown – a reminder that an elephant would sooner fly than she get a proper route.
“Whatever could you be implying?” Eirin asked with feigned ignorance.
“I just meant things now, doc.”
“Oh, you mean like how despite the big show he put on with wanting to help with this and being involved with that, he's run off somewhere acting like an idiot? How he's not only absolutely failed to follow up on his promises but also is ignoring what is perhaps the most important point of the plot?”
“When you put it that way...” Tewi thought about her own feelings. She knew he would be fun, but probably didn't pine as much as the others. It came with the territory, being experienced that is.
“And I do. And another thing-”
“You're just jealous he's not giving you much in the way of attention.” Arms crossed, the same old delightfully terse Mokou speaks her mind while leaning up against the door.
“A lunarian, jealous?” The forgotten plot accessory of a moon rabbit manifested herself as well, taking up position by Reisen. Her sharp eyes looked around the room, her aquiline face as stoic as ever.
“I see all the gang has gathered. Lovely.” Eirin said with mock enthusiasm. She did not enjoy being spoken to in that tone of voice by that straggler of a moon bunny. Reisen might start getting ideas.
“Denying it then?” Mokou asked.
“There certainly is something to be said about his absolute lack of consideration...”
“Something about jealousy, I'm sure.”
“That's just not true.”
“Right, says the woman who was is a favorite for a route. Pfeh.”
It was not clear to Mokou whether that jaded bitterness came from jealousy of her immortal rival or from something else entirely. There could be little doubt that within that crusty and tough exterior beat the heart of a still very lovable and innocent girl. One that found it hard to let her defenses down around others. The fact that she could somehow imagine herself doing so until just recently... even as a remote possibility, made her strangely passionate, in a dismissive sort of way, about this subject.
“Now now Mokou, there's no need to get like that,” Keine interjected, “We're all in the same boat.”
“Yeah, you're right. Besides it's not like this is going to get anywhere.” She appealed to the side of them that wanted to hear all about his failings, “Chances are that things will just blow up in his face. He's good at that.”
“You say that like it's all his fault,” Tewi stood up for him. She always had her own agenda, but it seemed like a genuine sentiment truth be told.
“Who else is to blame, not us surely?” Eirin inquired.
“You're not perfect you know. He isn't either. But if anyone is to blame, it's those who are taking part in all of this. Blame them and their flighty panic and lack of dedication.”
“Now that's just unfair. There's a lot of blame to go around. It won't do us good to bicker pointlessly. As much as I hate to admit it, everyone should just dive into their respective role with the utmost sobriety and dedication. I'll be sure to pass along this sentiment to the source.”
“What, do you really think that people will just be smart? Just like that?”
“They can if they try, same goes for the publishing house.”
“You'll get no where.”
“We're all going to fail then. It's a collaborative effort, you know. We all knew that deep down from day one.”
Ending on a good and generous vibe wasn't what Eirin had planned, however. She added something which invoked the direst of dangers for all,
“If things go wrong,I'll be the one to clean up as always. If anyone that shouldn't get hurt, gets hurt, I will personally take delight in exacting revenge. Whether it's me, the readers, or even that lump of a writer, compensation will be had. That much I promise.”
“Scary.” The chorus of voices rang in the room. They all looked at one another and then at Eirin's stone cold gaze. They knew she would do it. It was her duty, and despite her personal feelings she would carry it out with no qualms.
They all thought about him, far off, doing what he was doing. He was insane, they realized. But that wasn't a bad thing. He could make progress if he wanted. If he didn't see every small defeat as a tragedy and kept his eye on the prize, on that one focused objective. If he did that he would be fine. If not, it would be bad... and sure they'd be happy in a way, but paradoxically, the chances for their own routes would go down. And as well all know, that would be a bad thing. They deserve their time in the limelight. They're all interesting people with very different routes and personalities. It was owed to them to get a fair and lovely shake.
“Isn't this a somewhat preachy note to end on?” Keine murmured, all too aware of how the school children reacted when she gave one of her sermons. Sure, it was for their own good, but they didn't see it that way oftentimes.
“You're right,” Tewi said, “Maybe if we take our clothes off, it'll make it up for them.”
“I, um... don't want to.” Reisen said, “I'm too shy.” The other lunar rabbit scoffed.
“It's not a bad idea, I ought to give the lot of you a checkup. So tops off ladies.” Always quick to take advantage of an opportunity to exam, Eirin jumped in leading by example. Supple breasts framed in a black bra were shamelessly exposed.
“Bite me, you're all freaks.” Mokou began to walk out, no doubt feeling that she would not be able to measure up to the schoolmarm and lunarian. Not many could, but she took this sort of matter personally.
Topless shenanigans then ensued. Yet another thing that our protagonist missed. What a pity. I'd describe it, but I'm being called into the office again. Time for another motivational drill with the boss. You know, promotions have made
me my life hard. I may have to consult with the good doctor later as well. Though she doesn't show it, she sometimes needs a good hug. They all do.