- (646.81KB, 796x1103, no this isn't it.png)
I’ll only consider the second vote after there’s a winner for the first one. This is because different characters react to situations in their own way. And things can play out in varied depending on the choices made. And so only in effect you’re only voting to stay or go with that particular character.
“You’re staring at me like a lost soul, is something the matter?” she asks softly, her voice preternaturally soft, almost lost in the background noise. Typical of her, she is concerned for you. Caring, perhaps a little more so than was warranted for an initial exchange. You know that her words were meant for you alone but, should they have been heard by others, it would not displease her.
“Nothing is the matter,” you tell her with a smile. “I’m glad to see you, that’s all.”
She scans your face with an unguarded smile. As usual, you can’t tell what she’s thinking. Those soft but intense eyes of hers seem to absorb all your thoughts. They fill with a fantastic energy, irrepressibly positive, as she reaches a conclusion. “And I’m glad to see you,” she says with a nod, “I hope I haven’t kept you waiting.”
“Not at all, I’ve only just arrived,” you tell her, gears whirring in your head.
If you’re at a slight loss for words, it’s only natural.
Anyone would be having a hard time centering himself if he saw her as she was now: the clothes she normally wore—flowing, thick and comparatively plain—were nowhere to be seen. In their stead, she wore something light and nimble, a tone in between lilac and a misty blue but with hints of ochre near the final hem at the bottom. In the dark of evening, it seemed to make her seem otherworldly, so was the way that light shimmered ever so slightly off the fabric. It was sleeveless, at top ending with delicate crisscrossed straps, and showed off her long and dignified arms. The material was smartly cut and sown, betraying no obvious lines where the fabric had been stitched together. It was neither too form-fitting or loose, instead subtly accentuating hips and bosom without drawing too much attention to either. The dress ended without scandal, sensibly, at knee-height where it was hemmed with a soft-looking frills with a white fabric.
In a word, she was stunning.
And you aren’t the only one to notice. A look so universal that it’s difficult to misinterpret came from the other men in the room. They each asked themselves who was this long-haired beauty? And who was that lucky fool who was with her? You have to admit that it feels good to goad just a little bit.
Byakuren starts again, trying to say something about the wait ahead of you. But you have other plans. “It looks like we may be waiting a while yet,” you tell her, trying to sound cool and collected, “would a change of plans be alright with you?”
It takes a simple nod for you to see that she doesn’t mind the alterations. As it’s spontaneous, you don’t have anything particularly in mind but it doesn’t seem that she minds. You exchange a few words about what kind of food she prefers as you walk from the restaurant towards your home. The lights and excitement die down as the village is mostly quiet. Barely any shops would still be open and most people would be gathered in their homes or at a bar. You look at the nearby park and almost think of walking alongside it, to set a mood. But there’s little point to that and navigating the maze of similar-looking homes takes more precedence.
Your home is on the second floor of the store your family runs. There’s no one else living there at the moment and so you lead the way confidently, biding her to follow. There’s not much to impress a guest, either, as the living quarters of a single man tends to place a premium on practicality. The small table you keep by the rear window has a view out towards the direction of the fields and lake. It’s a cozy little nook that you love best during rainy days and one that will do nicely for this encounter. You light a few candles and ask forgiveness for the messy state of the other rooms. If she has any objections, she keeps them to herself, politely telling you that it’s quite alright and that she’s more than happy to be seated there.
You leave the door to the small kitchen open as you talk to her. Pangs of anxiety strike as you as you talk to her, trying to keep her entertained as you get to work. Not having anything prepared beforehand, you can’t help but feel on some level that asking her to your home was too rash a decision. She is patient, yes, but there is little to build up an atmosphere as you need to start the cooking process. Music would have been a nice touch, if you could somehow had managed it. You open up a bottle of wine that was gifted to you long ago and pour her a drink. An appetizer, you explain, while offering her a few simple rice crackers. She thanks you and tells you to sit down for a moment so that you may enjoy a glass together.
It’s strange seeing her like this. Her normal good nature shines through with the casual smile she shows after she takes a sip from the wine. Candlelight casts a few shadows on her face, making it so a contrast forms with some of her more feminine features, like her long eyelashes and the rest of her face. There’s nothing about her that says holy woman or monk—besides the dress that would be inappropriate for meditation, the lack of prayer beads makes her seem less like that inspirational leader and more like, well, a normal woman. The long strands of her hair were more than ever interesting to look at, the transition between darker and lighter color all the more alluring. The casual, unpretentious nature of her appearance made her all the more striking.
“You’re staring again,” she says with a light giggle, before bringing the glass closer to her lips again. It was then you notice something that you have never seen on her before—lipstick. It was a fleshy, between yellow and pink tone but one that added more to the contrast that you had been observing. It complemented both dress and hair, an in-between that made you focus and almost obsess. But, staring was rude.
“Sorry, I’m just thinking about how lucky I am to have you here, “you say, doing your best not to scratch your head in awkward reflex. “You look absolutely beautiful tonight.”
“Thank you, “ she replies with a nod, once again doing a good job of looking humbled by my attention. “I was worried that it was perhaps too much,” she explained, swirling the dark liquid in her glass in front of the candlelight and watching it refract the light, “it took me a long while to decide what to were and a lot longer to make all the necessary adjustments.”
“They were worth the wait,” you say, pushing aside the ever-present anxiety inside you. “It’s the first time I see you dressed up and I don’t think it’s possible for you to make a better impression than you have already.” It’s an awkward sentence and sentiment both, but it feels like you could die happy after tonight.
“They’ll be glad to hear it,” she says softly, “ever since they learned of our plans, they insisted I try to look as pretty as possible.” Byakuren laughs, adding “I honestly thought they went too far in places with some of the things they made me try,”
“Ah, so all the others-?” you think about who she could mean. That priest-in-training, the other youkai in the temple… those were the likeliest suspects. You would thank them silently if you weren’t also sure that they may have perverted Byakuren’s expectations by being too eager to help out.
“If you are enjoying my look, I suppose it was worth it, “ she says, “but I’m really not vain to begin with… obsessing about looks has always seemed like a folly.”
Her words enough to remind you of her true nature, that of a the leader of a temple. It tenses you up, as you’re not quite sure how to break the ice between you anymore. You excuse yourself in order to continue cooking, not before adding, “I would have been happy to see you even if you had just shown up in your normal clothes.”
“Maybe, but change can be a good thing sometimes,” she says. “Though I do feel a little self-conscious about this dress. I’m tempted to meditate and forget all early desires just to put myself at ease.”
“Oh, you better not do that,” you joke, “I’d hate to see you not try my meal.”
“Don’t worry, I’m open to all sorts of new experiences tonight,” she says casually, softly, her words once again almost lost before they reach your ears. A nearly impossible feat given how quiet an evening it is. You try not to look at her, aware that your mind has already gone to places which may not be entirely appropriate. It is unlikely that she means it in the way you may wish in your heart of hearts she does.
You keep quiet, steadily chopping and preparing as best you can. On such short notice, without much in the way of ingredients, you settle for a simple but hearty stew. It’s something that you feel that you can make well and not something that’s easy to mess up.
After you refill her glass with some more wine and join her to talk some more, you think a little about your present relationship. There’s tension in the air and some of that is due to your history your history together. Another part of it is how events culminated in this date.
 Your mutual friends thought it’d be a good idea to prod you two along, since a combination of shyness and dedication to work made it frustrating for them to watch. So they orchestrated this date.
 After spending a long time studying under her at the temple, and one time witnessing her use of magic, you made her promise to indulge for an evening if you made significant progress in your studies.
Byakuren relaxes her shoulders and stares out the window, “There’s a good smell coming from the kitchen. Most of my meals are simple and plain so it’s interesting to try something different for a change.”
 You’re not sure it’ll be to her taste since you mostly cook only for yourself but you’re sure she’ll understand it’s the thought that counts.
 You’ve tried your best and are confident it’ll be great; it’s the only reason why would have dared invite her home to begin with.
Pick one from each. I picked whatever the hell I felt like, next time try not to leave it tied because I'll take that as an excuse not to write. Happy Valentine's day, chucklefucks.