24th December Time:
13:00 hours Location:
“Miss Meiling, are we done yet? We need to get back to the mansion before night time.”
“Not yet, Anne! I still want to try on some more of these,” Meiling answered and took another bite of the skewered meat. “Mmph! This is delicious! Grilled catfish, best eaten during winter!!” she proclaimed. “Mystia, three more pieces, please!”
“Grilled catfish, coming up!” Mystia announced.
Anne had no idea of what to do anymore. She never expected a quick stop at the village’s market would take longer than she thought, and Meiling had insisted that they try every stall they could find before they left the market. It couldn’t be helped, since both of them forgot to have their lunch. She took a bite of the meat, carefully munching it as to avoid accidentally burning her tongue.
“What do we have here?”
Both girls turned to the all-too-familiar gruff voice. “Captain Ivanov?”
“Fancy meeting you, Anne,” Captain Ivanov said. “And you, too, Meiling.”
“Good day, Master Wong!” Meiling greeted. “What brings you to the market at this time?”
“Still calling me that?” Captain Ivanov said in amusement. “Had an errand to do with Reisen and Tatyana, but we went a separate way.” He took a seat next to Anne and made his order. “Having vodka would be nice, too,” he told Mystia. “You have a bottle?”
“We don’t have any of that drink, sir,” Mystia answered. “But we can offer you the strongest sake to compliment the grilled meat.”
“That would be nice,” he said. He turned to Anne, who was still slowly munching on the meat. “I’d hate to ruin the mood, but how’s the interrogation?”
“He wouldn’t talk,” Anne said bluntly and put down the empty skewer. “I’ve tried every technique in the book, but he just wouldn’t budge. I just hope Miss Remilia can do it better.”
“Which is why Anne’s given a day-off,” Meiling continued. “She’s been working around the clock ever since she returned from the graveyard. You should be lucky you weren’t there when she flipped out.”
“I figured as much,” he uttered. He was handed the sake and took a chug of the beverage. “So! I heard that the vampire lady’s going invite everyone to her Christmas party tonight.”
“Yeah, but we still have a lot of works to do right now,” Meiling said. “We’ll send the invitation once we’re ready.”
“You’re coming, aren’t you?” Anne asked.
“I’m not sure if my body can handle another drinking competition… if there’s any,” he said. “But it’d be a great disgrace to my comrades if I decline the invitation. I’ll talk with Kaguya about taking her, too. She’d greatly appreciate it, I can say.”
“Thank you, captain,” Anne replied.
The trio continued their conversation until it was late in the afternoon. “Well, all of us better go back home before someone gets worried,” Captain Ivanov said.
“Not us, though,” Meiling said and pulled Anne into her arms. “We still have an adventure to be had!”
“Well, both of you go have fun exploring,” he snickered and paid for the meal. “I’ll pay for the ladies, as well. Thanks for the meal, Mystia.”
“It’s my pleasure, sir!” Mystia replied cheerfully. “Please visit my stall again!” Anne, Meiling and Mystia bade farewell to the Russian soldier before they started chatting. Apparently, as Mystia told them, Anne became insanely popular among the villagers, especially children. The revelation was enough to make the tank girl blush furiously, and she fervently insisted that she was not very attractive. “Oh, really now? Then how come I could see the men swooning over you the moment you showed up?” the night sparrow asked teasingly.
“Aw! My little tiger has gathered a lot of fans already!” Meiling squealed and tightened her embrace. “I’m so jealous of you, grr!!! ♥”
“B-both of you, please stop teasing me!” Anne moaned in distress.
A sudden gust of wind startled them and almost blew their meal off their hands. The three girls looked at the newcomer, who was as agitated as they could imagine. “Hey, where did he go?!” Aya asked. “I swear I saw him eating right here!”
“Uhh… Aya, he already left,” Mystia told her.
“What? Really? Aw, jeez! When I thought I could ask him about the operation, but it doesn’t matter!” The tengu journalist turned around and pointed her pen at Anne’s face. “You! You must be an acquaintance to Ivanov, correct?”
“Good!” Aya sat down, not even bothering to make her order. “I’d like to ask you a few questions about the military operation he carried out. Is it true that he took on an entire expeditionary unit by himself?” Before anyone knew it, Aya had started bombarding the tank girl with questions after questions, and Anne found herself dangling for dear life as the questions became more private.
“Mein Gott…” was all she could mutter. [[TO BE CONTINUED]]
I fear this will end up becoming a full-fledged story, but who am I to complain? Anyway, I’ll try completing it before the end of this month. I hope.