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“Alright, now just quench it until the hissing stops.” The blacksmith instructs her sworn brother.
Following her instructions, he dips the curved shovelhead in the prepared oil, causing it to let out a lot of steam as it rapidly loses its heated glow. Once the hissing is done, he brings it back out up from the trench to show his partner.
Hand covered by a thick leather glove, she grabs the curved metal sheet and examines it carefully. With her other hand, not covered by a glove, she flicks the shovelhead and listens for the ring it lets out.
“Give it one more cycle and it’ll be perfect.” She enthusiastically hits his shoulder, showing what can best be described as pride. “Still, this is something you should have been able to do easily by yourself.” She notes. “Of course, I’m always happy to help, but don’t you think you’re taking this a little far?”
“I might be.” The alchemist admits, staring into the flames, watching the metal sheet heat up again. “But this is all I can do; all I know how to do.”
“Yeah, I get it.” The blacksmith takes off her glove and pockets it, pushing the other glove down with it. “We’re surprisingly simple creatures. But,” she leans down against her brother’s back, “I think that’s to our benefit.”
“Maybe.” The alchemist doesn’t take his eyes off the fire. “All I really know at this point is that I want to make her happy. And crafting is the only thing I’m really good at.”
“And I think she appreciates the effort.” She reassures him. “Just be careful to not overwhelm her too early. If she starts feeling like you’re giving her more than she can give back, it’ll become too much for her.”
“I know, but when is it too much?”
“Dunno.” She shrugs. “That differs from person to person. Take you and I, for example.” She stands back up. “I’d wager we know each other better than anyone else, but just look at how many years we’ve spent together. This is the kind of thing you just have to feel out over time.”
“I guess.” He looks back at her. “Thank you for helping me, by the way. I don’t think I could make this nearly as perfect on my own.”
“Don’t mention it.” She waves him off. “That’s what family is for.” The blacksmith takes off her apron. “I’ll leave you to it, then.”
Flying high above the ghostly mansion, sits a big phantom looking down towards the sandy garden. From here, the phantom can see the whole garden from end to end. It watches as its young human-half is dragging a rake through the sand.
Tending to the full sized zen-garden is one of the most time-consuming tasks she has as the gardener of the mansion, but it’s far from her least favorite task. Lady Yuyuko has given her free reign in handling the gardens, allowing her to freely change them as she wants so long as she maintains their beauty.
It is as she floats up there with her bird-eye-view that she spots a familiar figure walking up the stone path that divides the front half of the garden.
“Ren!” The little gardener shouts, waiving at him before running across the sand. “Sorry I haven’t had time to come visit at all.” She immediately apologizes. “I’ve been busy making preparations to remodel the garden.”
“Don’t worry about it. I’ve been a little too busy myself.” He looks out over the sandy garden. “You’re remodeling this?”
“I haven’t started yet, but I’m getting ready to.” She starts walking down the stone path leading to the center of the garden. “I want to put a small pond in the back; one that fills the entire back area. It would extend until about halfway through to the center.” She points across the first, then to some lines she drew with the rake earlier. “I think having some jikangyo would liven up the garden slightly.”
Jikangyo are a fish species native to the netherworld. They’re almost a mirror image of the human world’s koi fish. They have one key characteristic that makes them distinct from other known fish, which is that they change color at set intervals. Their color varies from red, purple, blue, green, yellow and then back to red, cycling in that order. What really make this trait noteworthy is that when studied, all fish observed appear to change at the same time, with only a few minutes of variance. The local residence uses them as a means of telling time, since they have no sun in the netherworld.
“Don’t you already have clocks in the mansion?” The alchemist asks.
“We do, and that’s not why I want these fish.” She explains. “Have you seen them when they’re at their brightest?”
“I don’t think I have, no.”
“They glisten, as if reflecting the sun. It’s beautiful.” She says, practically beaming with growing excitement.
“Now, you’re giving me some huge expectations here, Youmu.” He gives her a smirk. “I’ll have to look forward to seeing it when you’ve finished.”
“You better.” She huffs, with a smile stretching from ear to ear. “Oh, by the way, what brought you here today?”
“Can’t I just drop in to visit my favorite girl?”
“Of course, you can visit anytime.” The little gardener hides her flushed cheeks behind a smile. She’s been practicing to not let herself get caught off guard by Renkin and Yuyuko anymore, but she still needs more practice. “But,” she continues, “what you’re carrying seems to say you came here for a reason.”
“No point in hiding it, I guess.” The alchemist pulls out the giftwrapped hand-shovel. “Your project with the human world trees got me thinking, and I started to look into the logic behind it.” He holds out the gift. “I think this might help you with that.”
She looks at the gift, at first a little confused. Realizing she’s frozen, she picks up the shovel and unwraps it from the thin cloth.
“A shovel.” She concludes, after looking at it for a second.
It’s first when she touches the metal that the special property imbued within the tool is revealed to her. The Konpaku clan, existing in a state between life and death, are more sensitive to life force than living beings. The renewed energy flowing into her from the shovel hits her like a jolt of electricity and she immediately pulls her hand back from surprise more than anything.
“Not just any shovel.” The alchemist starts explaining. “This one was specially made to reinvigorate the earth here in the Netherworld. It should help with growing plants from the human world.”
“How in the world did you make this?” Knowing what to expect, the gardener grabs the shovel’s head once again to examine it.
“The handle.” He points to it. “It’s carved from a special tree that’s channeling it’s effect through the steel.”
“This is amazing.” The little ghost concludes. “Are you sure I can have this? This is not some joke to make me flustered, is it?”
“That’s yours you keep. If you feel like its effect is starting to wane, let the handle soak in some pure spring water for half a day or so.”
Without warning, the little ghost throws herself at the alchemist, forcing him to take a step back to not fall over. She embraces him tightly, trying her best to convey her appreciation.
Taken aback by this, it takes a second for him to respond and by the time he can, the little ghost decides to pull herself away from the embrace and look straight up at him.
“Really, thank you.” She says, as if the gesture wasn’t enough.
“It actually makes me feel a little bad to say that I still have more to give.” Giving her a second to step back, he pulls out the glass ball from his belt-pouch.
Since it’s creation, it has been adorned with a fixture, allowing it to be hung, mounted or placed easily. The metal frame will cover some of the light the ball emits, but it should have limited effect on the light.
“This is the second tool I managed to create.” He explains, holding out the ball. “It has been blessed by the harvest goddess and will increase the bounty of any plant exposed to the light it emits.”
She looks at it, with an ever-growing amount of disbelief. “You couldn’t have.”
“But I did.”
She places the shovel on her ghost half, hovering right next to her, before reaching out for the orb. “This really is too much.” She states, holding the orb with both hands. “Do you even realize how big of a deal these tools are?” She asks still in disbelief. “These can be considered artifacts, you know. And you’re just giving them to me.”
“Well, if you don’t want to receive them as gifts,” the alchemist pockets his hands, “how about we make a little trade for them instead?”
“I don’t know what I can give you for these.” She states. “I don’t think it’s possible.”
“What I want is simple, Youmu. Once you get a good harvest from your little experiment, set aside a batch for me.”
“I was going to do that anyway.” She states. “So, it’s not really a trade.”
“It is for me.” He retorts. “That’s my price.”
“Since you insist so hard, I guess I’ll have to accept them.” She tightens her hold of the glowing ball.
“Great. Then that brings me to the last thing.” He says, folding up his sleeves.
“No, I really can’t accept anything more.” The little ghost insists.
With his forearms exposed, the alchemist folds his hands, and through a sleight-of-hand, pulls out a rose made of light milky chocolate. “Happy late valentine.”
Seeing the rose, the little ghost freezes up completely, barely regaining herself in time to not drop the glowing ball.
She looks up at him, then back to the rose.
“I don’t know what to say.” She admits.
“Then don’t say anything.” He says, handing over the rose. “Just seeing you smile is enough for me.”
Though he said that, the moment he pulled out the rose, he felt himself filled with enough desire to last for months, conveying the little ghost’s feelings better than words could ever achieve.
“You really like to overachieve, don’t you?”
“For you, I’d jump over the moon.” He states. “So yeah, you can call it overachieving.”
She chuckles in response. “I really like you too.”
Think I'm gonna have to skip on the April's fool update, cause it's tomorrow and I can't write a satisfying update on such a short notice. There's probably going to be a small hiatus while I work on my other story and think up more interesting things to do with Youmu.