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Even trying to explain her own name — or what counted for one — felt awkward to the faerie called Daiyousei, as did talking about herself in general. As soon as the words had left her mouth, she wanted to excuse herself and go bus a table. Anything to get out of having to talk with this strange tengu woman.
The journalist, Teru, gave a long hum of interest as she scribbled in her notebook. “Daiyousei, eh? That’s got a nice ring to it. Maybe a little long to pronounce, but…” She looked back up at Daiyousei, pushing her half-moon glasses up. The faerie could swear her forehead almost had a glow now. “Anyway, how long have you been working here? From what I’ve seen, you already look like a natural.”
Daiyousei scrunched her face in thought; despite being part of her job, numbers had a way of not working well for her. How long had it been? One, two… She resorted to counting out on her fingers after losing count for the second time.
“Ffffffour months?” she concluded, holding up as many digits.
Teru seemed to acknowledge the figure, dubious as it was, and jotted it down anyway. “And how’d you land your job here? Did anything draw you to it?”
Daiyousei winced. Of all questions to come out with. She fiddled with the bow on her collar. “I don’t like to talk about that.”
Hoping for some help, she looked to Miss Manager, whose ears jumped to attention right away. She immediately raised her hands in front of her, making a clear ‘X’ with them — an oft employed signal when she was around.
Either ignoring the signal or not seeing it, Teru went on. “Aw, come on. I’m not a scary person. If there’s any big, juicy secrets, your big sis’ll keep—”
Miss Manager cleared her throat loudly, causing Teru’s pointed ears to twitch. Finally, the crow woman couldn’t ignore the call to stop her prodding. With a quiet click of her tongue, Teru crossed out a few lines in her notes and carried on, her smirk noticeably lessened.
“Right, moving on. Mind telling me where you came from? I mean, I’m guessing you’re not from around here, right?”
“The, um… big lake. With all the fog. Out by the huge red house. I lived around there.” Still not a real nice question, but she’d been away long enough that thinking about it didn’t make her stomach all queasy like it used to.
Teru nodded as she continued writing, the edges of her mouth curling back up. “How interesting! That’s an awful long way from Amaden. Surely, you could tell me just a little about how you got here. Pretty please?”
Daiyousei didn’t even have to look at her manager this time. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Miss Manager’s hands going up in an even more emphatic signal. About the same time, a third pair of eyes drew her attention: her coworker Oboro, the short girl who could have either been a tiny, stocky human or a pudgy kappa; she’d never told either way. Ever the curious one, Oboro had hoisted herself over the booth back to watch what was going on, sending a cheery smile and a wave at Daiyousei.
Fight the growing urge to crawl under the table, Daiyousei tried to block out Oboro and flicked between Iroha and Teru. It looked like the latter was ignoring the signal to stop again. Well, maybe it didn’t hurt to answer this time.
“I… erm, walked. I mean, I could have f-flown, but—”
“Alright, enough, Dai.” Miss Manager interrupted, then gave Teru a look, her ears lying flat to show she was coming to the end of her patience. “If you’re going to keep bothering her with personal questions, maybe we should just end this here.”
Teru and Miss Manager locked onto each other, neither one showing any willingness to back down now. Just as Miss Manager was looking about to get up from her seat and escort Teru out, there was an airy laugh from the next booth.
“That’s our dear Miss Iroha, sticking up for Dai when she’s in trouble,” Oboro said, now hanging over the back of the bench, looking on in total interest.
A look of inspiration flashed across Teru’s face, and she jabbed her pen in the air toward Miss Manager. “Alright! I’ve got one that isn’t personal, I swear. So, you’ll be kind enough to let me ask it, right?”
“I will throw you out if you keep screwing around, just so you know,” Miss Manager answered after a pause.
“How are you getting along with your coworkers?” Teru asked Daiyousei immediately, ignoring the obvious threat.
“Oh! If I can chime in, I’d just like to say that Little Dai here is just the sweetest. She’s so considerate!” Oboro piped.
A wave of dread struck Daiyousei, sending heat coursing through her face and all the way to the end of her pointy ears. Once Oboro got onto one of her little doting streaks, there’d probably be no end. She opened her mouth to speak, but all that came out was an embarrassed squeak.
Just when she’d thought things had got their worse, a hand descended from above, tousling her hair roughly. She looked up to see another one of her coworkers perched over the seat back of the booth behind her, another crow tengu with short, scruffy mauve hair, wearing the stoic look of someone who works all through the night without rest.
“Really, Iroha? That’s not like you to do others’ work for them. You know protecting Dai is part of my job description, right?” her crow coworker remarked dryly.
“K-K-Kiki!” protested Daiyousei.
Miss Manager cleared her throat again, louder this time. “I don’t believe I ever said you two could join in. In fact, I’m sure there’s someone who needs—”
“Um!” Daiyousei squeaked even more loudly. She hadn’t exactly been optimistic about the interview, but everyone’s attempt at helping was, well, unhelpful.
[ ] So she pouted and harrumphed until her coworkers gave her some space.
[ ] So she just let her coworkers answer questions for her.
[ ] So she panicked.