The sound of feet clapping rapidly as they tapped against the tile floors of Sabertooth's Guild Hall was heard loud and clear as Namine desperately tried to escape her fate. It had been only a week since she had been found in the guild. That day, it was reported that one of the guild's mages had been killed in action. To make it worse, his sister had gone missing but no body was recovered to confirm or deny her death. Namine was found in the hall, with no traces of having used the guild's teleport crystal to enter; as was the only method of entering barring flying through the front door...
A very young woman, who had no identification, no signs of flight capabilities, no resemblance to anyone in the guild, and not a single person in all of Ace of Spades was able to say they knew her from anywhere. Not even a single person said she looked familiar in the slightest... it was as though two members of the guild was gone, and the universe spat up someone to take their place. However, this wasn't what had caught the guild master's eye... It was reported that for the first three days, Namine had sat in the main hall of the building, in the exact same seat, in the exact same position. The only time anyone ever saw her eat was when she had finally passed out on the fourth day, and was ordered to eat. The guild master was nice enough to explain to her that nutrition was important for not dying of hunger, or dehydration... information that the girl had never questioned.
However, the fact that the guild's leader was helping her would only beg the question 'Why is she running? Doesn't she know by now that she's safe within these walls?' A pair of questions that would only be able to be answered if one observed that the guild master had also been the one to force her to take up a job where she learned what it was like to kill... A job that left Namine in a state where she would avoid Frederick like a germaphobe and the black plague. It was reported that after killing only 1 single creature, she fell into a state of shock and was unable to continue the mission... she was immediately teleported back to the guild hall.
Namine had turned a corner, sliding a bit as the tile was freshly polished only the day before, but able to catch herself and swing the door open, turning to slam it shut. She was shaking as she panted and leaned on the door, using it to support herself while she tried to think of a plan of escape. 'MISS, CAN YOU AT LEAST READ THE LETTER!?' a muffled sound came through the door, drowned out by the distance from said door, and the door itself. Namine began backing up slowly, both of her hands clasped over her heart as beads of water formed at the corners of her eyes.
It was then that she noticed the sounds of food cooking, only then realizing she hadn't escaped danger as she turned around to see a shrine maiden with three tails and a pair of ears. The door swung open behind her, looking over her shoulder with wide eyes she saw the messenger who was chasing her for so long. A single step was made in an attempt to run for the door on the other side of the room, but the floor here was well kept by the one who used it so frequently, and thus she slipped and immediately fell on her face. The man went wide-eyed at the sight and approached Namine, attempting to reach out to help her up. Having seen it, in her panic Namine had spun around with a wave of crimson energy that was decorated in rose petals shooting out. It slammed right into the messenger, hitting him in the stomach and sending him flying back to the door and into the frame, slamming right on the very edge of it and producing a loud crack.
She'd already forgotten Itori was in the room, and began slowly backing up. User her legs to push herself, and arms to stay upright she continued until something tapped her back, sending a shiver up it. A small foxesque creature had sniffed her, and Namine shot off in the first direction her body felt like going, instantly hitting a table and flipping over it, knocking down multiple tables in the process. She didn't spend time caring about her aching body, and quickly grabbed one of the tables and pulled herself into a corner, using the table as a form of horrible cover. Namine grabbed her hood, curling herself into the fetal position to make herself seem as small as physically possible as she kept the hood over her head and shivered with tears streaming down her face. Her heart pounding in her chest, and adrenaline serving to numb away all the pain she would surely feel when it wore off.
Meanwhile, a small letter with the guild crest stamped in wave to keep it sealed had gently touched the floor after being in the air for who knows how long... If Itori were to open it, the letter would read:
'To our mysterious new member who's name I am yet to find out. I offer you a full apology for sending you on that task, and hope you might in time come to forgive me for it. However, I would like you to perform a task for me that will require you to utilize a different set of skills... At the top of our guild hall is a box with various lacrima inside. I'd like you to retrieve the red one, and bring it to my office. Yours truly, Fred.
PS: I advise you bring someone with you to show you the way.'
After they completed the job which had cost them Kaede's life (or at least his first one, if Itori had any say in it) the fox had waited for Miyuki to return, but the girl had never showed up. After waiting for quite a while she had tried to see if she could find a way to either enter Miyuki's world or pull her out of it, but she couldn't find any trace of it. Faced with the fact that she had no way to contact or help Miyuki, and with no idea how long it might take before the girl returned to this world the Kumiho was forced to accept that for the time being she would have to treat Miyuki as missing and return to the Guild Hall. At least she had managed to grab Kaede's soul and put it in a safe place, so that was at least one blessing. As for Miyuki, the only thing she could really do at this point was hope that she would return eventually.
She had taken Kaede's soul because she felt that his death had been premature. He and Miyuki had challenged that knight together, who had most certainly be a worthy opponent, but the Kumiho still felt like Kaede didn't have to die there. The fact that he did was more of a sign of her own incompetence, since she had been fully intending to keep the both of them alive whether the siblings would appreciate it or not. Not liking the feeling of the realization that she had been incapable of doing anything but watching the fight and standing there as Kaede's vitals got ruptured she had done her best to create a world in which that death was not fatal by luring Kaede's soul and keeping it safe inside herself, so she would be able to revive him at a later point if she either managed to become strong enough or if she found herself in a peculiar situation which allowed for the possibility. The question was if Miyuki and Kaede would be that happy about what she did. She didn't think either of them would mind the fact that they would be reunited again after Kaede died, but humans tended to have strange beliefs. Would they object to the idea of their soul being trapped for the sake of reviving them again? Itori didn't know. She herself did not think she would mind if it happened to her, at least if it didn't harm her (what she had done so far to Kaede didn't harm him at all. She only hoped that when she found the method for reviving him it wouldn't inflict any harm either). But she wasn't a human, so she couldn't say for certain that what she herself would think about being revived would also count for others, even if Miyuki and Kaede were not exactly like most people.
Well, all things considered there was nothing Itori could do in that regard but wait and offer a small prayer. She had no way of reviving Kaede in the present, so she would just have to make sure his soul was kept stable and whole while she tried her best to improve and become strong enough, and keep an ear out for any news about any kind of mystery which might be able to help in that aspect. Although she wasn't sure if she should revive Kaede while Miyuki was missing. After all, she would revive Kaede for Miyuki's sake, so if she was gone the fox didn't know if reviving the boy would be of much use...and Kaede would probably react badly to the news that Miyuki was missing and that nobody was looking for her. Itori was somewhat annoyed that there was no way for her to enter Miyuki's world, or at the very least some way for her to check if Miyuki had survived or not. Death was a sorrowful thing, but at least it gave you the opportunity to accept what happened and come to terms with it. If someone went missing you either had to interpret it as them being dead, which not everybody was capable or willing to do, or you spend the rest of your life hoping that they were still out there somewhere, alive and well, and that they would return someday. Granted Itori wasn't inclined towards acting soppy, but it was still nagging her that her current position was to just wait and hope she would receive some sign or message regarding Miyuki's status.
She couldn't spent all her time moping, however. For one thing she didn't like moping. It wasn't her style. For the other she had responsibilities to fulfil. Just because the siblings were out of the game for now didn't mean that Itori didn't have to look after herself (and Mashyuu, somewhat, although the Earth Dragon Slayer did a pretty good job of looking after himself). She had to go on jobs to earn the jewels to pay her upkeep, she had to train and keep her body clean and flawless, she had to look after Kaede's soul and her own mind and soul as well. Even though she was worried for Miyuki the daily motions helped distract her, and it didn't take very long at all before the fox was once again in one of her favourite locations, the kitchen. Her upkeep was a bit higher than usual, and the reason for that was the fact that most of her time was spent in the kitchen. That and it appeared that she could literally keep eating forever and still feel the urge to eat more, and more importantly never gain any unwanted weight. She had been born with a pretty insane metabolism, although she didn't mind too much since it meant that she could freely indulge herself in eating as many delicacies as she wanted without ever having to worry about it being harmful to her body. Throughout her many years she had found that cooking and eating were some of the most consistent pleasures she had in this life, so she dedicated a good amount of time to making sure she would always be able to prepare delicious food both for herself and any companions she might have at the time.
The kitchen was occupied by her preparing one of her signature full-course meals (enough food to feed several people for about a week, almost all of it meat or complimenting meat), the fox humming to herself (she really was happy that she could finally do something as simple as humming without worrying about enthralling someone. It made doing her usual chores even more enjoyable than they already had been). There was nobody else in the kitchen, at least until one of her ears twitched as she caught the sound of one, no, two people approaching the kitchen rather rapidly. Itori's ears were out of the ordinary in terms of what they could catch, so the Kumiho did not show any surprise when the girl burst into the room, only giving her a curious glance and inspecting her briefly before returning to her cooking. She didn't know who this girl was, but she couldn't see her as a threat. Literally, the idea of this particular girl being someone she should be wary of refused to take solid hold inside her mind. It wasn't like she was put under a spell. It was just that the girl, if anything, looking like a victim through and through. Her appearance, her behaviour, it all made it clear that this girl was someone who had things happen to them, not someone who made things happen to other people.
Itori listened as a man rushed in after the girl and tried to talk to help her after she slipped on the clean floor only to receive a blast of crimson energy, the Kumiho wincing slightly when her ears received the knews of him smashing against the edge of the door frame. Okay, so this girl knew magic. Itori continued cooking until finally the girl knocked over a table after being approached by Niinii, who Itori had been looking after so far as the little creature appeared to need it. This made the fox frown, since if the girl was going to turn her kitchen into a mess she would have to gently remove the girl. The table that she knocked over didn't have any food on it, but there weren't a lot of empty tables left. Fortunately(?) the girl used the table as some kind of pathetic shield while curling up in the corner, where Itori could hear her sob. It wasn't exactly a good thing, but at least she wouldn't cause any more trouble while there. Still, letting a girl cry in the corner, ignoring her for the sake of preparing food, was kinda...not Itori's style. It was a bit too apathetic for her tastes. Which was why Itori did her best to finish what remained of her cooking as quickly as possible before turning towards the girl behind the table, taking several steps forward until she noticed that there was a note lying on the ground. Picking it up she frowned as she read the contents. Not even the guild master knew who this girl was? Well, she still didn't give the appearance of being any kind of threat (randomly throwing someone against hard objects while in a full state of panic wasn't so much a threat as a hazard), and the job that Fred wanted her to do wasn't particularly difficult. After the siblings had become unavailable (one way or another) Itori hadn't felt like doing anything grand, so she had enough spare time that she could help this girl get that red lachrima. Although first she would have to calm the girl down. Luckily she had something that should do the trick.
Walking back towards where she had been cooking the Kumiho picked up one of the dishes before slowly walking over to the table that the girl was hiding behind. As she walked she began to hum, a soothing melody. Sitting down a couple of feet away from the table she began to softly sing a song, allowing some of the enchanting effects of her voice to fill the song to help the girl calm down. She placed the plate next to her on the ground, folding her hands in her lap as she continued softly singing, her three tails swaying from side to side as she waited to see if this girl would listen to her song and reveal herself.
The sound of porcelain tapping on the floor hit Namine like a freight train, making her flinch, tightening her every muscle and shivering even worse than before. Suddenly, a sweet sound tingled at her ears, trying to invade her mind. While normally Itori's song, the song of the Vulpine Siren would grab a person by the heart and throw them to insanity in an instant, making them question themselves, or making them perform actions they normally would not, turning them into Itori's pawn if she so desired... the fear in Namine was strong, the desire to be alone if only for the safety behind solitude was a difficult barrier even for the song to beat down.
It was a fair ways into the song when Namine's shivering ceased she didn't move, but she did stop shaking, and her breathing had toned down to a gentle pace. Niinii had leaped up on the edge of the overturned table, jumping down the other side, slowly walking to Namine's side and pressing a paw against her leg. A small twitch came from Namine, Itori's song preventing the full blown effect from taking place. Niinii put the paw down before jumping up to stand on Namine's knee and pressing her nose against the red cloak's hood that covered Namine's head. She winced as the nose moved under the hood and began lifting it up, the small fox like thing then going further to begin licking her head.
Namine seemed to open up slightly, mostly due to the music preventing her from lashing out at Namine like she did the messenger. He head lifted slightly from her knees, Niinii seizing the opportunity to force her way into Namine's lap by pushing through the small gap. She loosked up at the scared girl with an aquamarine pendent hanging around her neck, gently glowing. Namine slowly moved her right hand, hesitantly he moved it just shy of an inch away from Niinii's head. In response, then it was close enough, Niinii pushed her head upwards into the hand and began nuzzling it while closing her eyes. Namine's other hand came around, wrapping around the side of Niinii as she looked down at the creature, her face still not shown to Itori since she (Namine) was looking down the whole time. Niinii's large eyes met with Namine's crimson ones, her white fluffy tail beginning to sway side to side with the small animal cutely placing her paws against Namine's upper body before laying down. Namine's hands rested on Niinii's back and neck, the one on her back instinctively moving up and down.
Her head began turning upwards to face Itori. Black silky strands turned into a creme colored canvas with dulcet crimson hues, a pair of soft lips with a small nose stationed in between. Her face contained gentle, child like curves rather than that of a teen's signature look of being more mature looking. The eyes, crimson, a color that would normally be off-setting as it was standardly accompanied by a piercing gaze... Namine's were far from the predatorial glare of others with her eyes however. Her eyes contained ignorance, curiosity, and sadness all wrapped inside a blanket of fear that was tied off with straps made of despair. Streaks of water lined Namine's face while she stared at Itori, listening to the song. It was beautiful... Namine didn't know this, all she knew is it made her feel less afraid. She didn't know why it made her feel better, she didn't know why she was afraid, she didn't know she was afraid to begin with... All she knew was that she was, and she is...
The woman had placed a plate next to her containing something that Namine had no idea what it was. It smelled strange... causing water to form in her mouth at a rapid pace, but Namine didn't know if this was a good thing, or a bad thing... Niinii had jumped out her lap, quickly moving to the plate with Namine half outstretching her hand with her mouth partly open as though she were about to speak. A look of loneliness combined with sadness adorning her face, the bottom of her eye quivering ever so slightly as a bead of water began forming. Niinii had moved behind the plate and pressed her nose to the edge, pushing it towards Namine to tell her she should eat something. A rumble came from her stomach, the smell was truly strange to her in that it was the cause for her sudden... reaction.
When Namine had passed out the first time, she was told that she passed out from dehydration; but she was also told that she was in desperate need of food as well. She was told that she has to eat in order to have energy to do things, and if she didn't eat she'd eventually pass out from starvation. The words didn't register for her, but the message came across as something that was bad, and she should avoid it. The same occurred when she was made aware that she had to drink a definite amount of water per day to avoid dehydration. She saw a knife and a fork, and remembered that the nursing staff in the guild hall had used it to feed her. The long, stick looking one was used for cutting and the other one with multiple tips was used for holding the food.
She reached over slowly, her hand shaking as she tried remembering how the person used the utensils. Her grip on the fork was more like someone holding a hammer, and her use of the knife wasn't much better. Her hand quivered horribly while stabbing it with the fork, and had it not been for the meat cutting like hot butter the knife would have never been of any use since Namine was using the wrong side. Her hand shook more as the meat was lifted from the plate that was still on the floor to Namine's lips, her forgetting to open her mouth to receive it she ended up failing for the 'plane to land' on the first try. It only took the edge of the meat touching her lower lip for her to notice where she'd messed up, and quickly made the correction required and putting the food in her mouth properly.
Namine's cheeks flushed pink as it hit her tongue, another reaction she didn't know anything about... Niinii had sat up tall, looking at Namine while waving her tail. Namine had took another piece, still not cutting it right at all, and offered it to the small fox. While normally pets and most wild animals still would readily take it, Niinii knew the difference between cooked meat and raw meat, and instead of eating the cooked variant, walked to Namine's hand and nudged it back towards the girl. The small fox then walked through a small crevice between Namine's back and the bottom corner of the wall to appear on her other side, the young woman looking over curiously and watching the animal lay down, keeping her side pressed against Namine.
Namine's stomach made another sound, letting her know to stay focused on the task at hand. After the first few bites, Namine had picked up the plate and sat it down in the space between her thigh and stomach, the edges of the plate pressing against the two and keeping the bottom of the plate from touching Namine. Due to how shaky her hands were, and sometimes the meat cutting where the fork had stuck in, or falling off the fork entirely, it took a bit over thirty minutes for her to finish half of the meal. It was steak and potatoes, obviously seasoned to perfection and cooked with the utmost care to produce something so divine as to make Namine continue eating despite feeling uncomfortable. Her stomach had felt full even though it was only a half eaten meal, but the people in the white clothes said never eat more than her stomach will let her. They told her how to know when she was full, and the feeling in her stomach seemed to match the description... heavy, and a sense of relief about her at the same time...
Namine had half reached out her hand towards Itori, her mouth opening again to try and speak but not even a squeak came out. The hand retracted, a sullen look taking over her face just before a second instance of her moving her hand towards the kumiho occurred but stopped not even an inch after beginning. She reached to her side, picking up Niinii and setting her on her stomach, placing both hands over her like before and looking down sadly at the fact that she couldn't thank Itori. She wanted to show gratitude, she didn't know why but she did... She didn't know what gratitude was, so she obviously wouldn't know how to express it.
As Itori sang her song to help the strange red-cloaked girl feel at ease she studied the intruder to her kitchen, hiding her curiosity behind a warm and welcoming smile so the girl wouldn't feel as if she was being seized up by the fox sitting in front of her. Although she had to admit that she was surprised when it became clear that it would take a while before even her voice would be able to make the girl feel at ease. Most people would quite quickly reach a relaxed and possibly even dreamlike state if she began to sing a lullaby for them, so if this strange person could resist it to this extent she either was extraordinary indeed or whatever it was that was scaring her was managing to be extraordinarily scary. Either way Itori wasn't going to stop. While the girl wasn't immediately calming down it was clear that the song did actually have an effect on her. That and she wasn't running away or trying to avoid hearing it, which meant that Itori could also just take joy in the fact of being able to sing something for somebody. After thousands of years of having to stay silent in front of everybody for fear of entrancing them and inciting madness the fox girl had developed a bit of a liking to actually singing for people, now that she knew that she could do it without actually bringing disaster upon their heads. And with 'a bit of a liking' it was meant that she did it whenever the opportunity presented itself. So she would continue to sing, especially when it looked like it was finally getting through to the red girl and she began to calm down.
Although Niinii also appeared to play a large part in that. Itori was getting the suspicion that the little critter was a lot more intelligent than something of its size was supposed to be. For one thing it had somehow managed to keep showing up wherever they went once the siblings had originally encountered it, which couldn't have been done with animal smarts alone. Instincts and good senses were all well and good, but at some point you encountered obstacles which required you to actually think about how to solve them. Then there was the fact that the little thing kept avoiding all forms of trouble as if it already knew what was going to happen, which indicated that either it possessed some kind of precognition ability or was just really, really good at noticing when stuff was about to happen. And after Kaede had died and Miyuki had disappeared instead of running off in an attempt to find them Niinii had instead followed Itori, as if it had already realized that it wouldn't be able to find them and would be better off following the Vulpine Siren. And now it was behaving as if it knew exactly how to help the red girl feel at ease, after the initial approach waiting until Itori's song had managed to touch the girl before approaching her again, and then when it looked like she wouldn't freak out any longer the critter pushed the plate of food towards her to remind her of the plate and that she should eat it, the girl following the suggestion. Although when the intruder looked up into Itori's eyes the fox nearly blinked in surprise. Her own vermilion vulpine eyes met the crimson orbs of the girl, which in itself was surprising since humans usually didn't have that kind of eye colour. The other thing which had an impact on her was how the girl's eyes seemed to be completely filled with nothing but negative and fearful emotions, sadness, despair, loneliness, and fear. There was also some curiosity in there, but all things considered this girl's face could be used as the inspiration of a painting of utter helplessness, and without any apparent cause. Itori felt the strong urge to figure out why this girl would look like that, and if possible get rid of the source. She would have wiped the girl's tears off of her cheeks but she had the feeling that right now doing something like that was still pushing it.
Watching the girl eat it was clear that she wasn't used to the utensils. Or eating properly, for that matter. The Kumiho was busy singing, but even as she sung she had no problem noticing all those small things that surrounded this girl. No matter what happened she never said anything, she had magic but had so far only used it once to blow that messenger away in a panic (Itori would have to make sure he was all right and heal him after she was done with this girl), she was afraid of something as small and innocent (not to mention cute) as Niinii, and she seemed to be foreign to something as fundamental as filling her stomach. At least she looked like she was enjoying the food, although she was eating very slowly and not a lot. Seeing how it took so long for the girl to finish eating Itori continued singing other lullabies as well, trying her best to keep the atmosphere one of peacefulness and safety so the girl would continue to feel better, although after she had seen those eyes she also began to add a bit more happiness to her songs, hoping it would be enough to counterbalance the sheer sadness and fear that had filled those eyes. She wasn't too confident on that ground though: while there was nobody who knew the power of her voice as well as she herself did, she had rarely encountered somebody as expressive with their eyes, and whose eyes had contained so much raw and unbridled emotion. While her voices induced sensations and feelings within people they didn't automatically get rid of the feelings that were already there, and if this girl was already filled to the brim with sadness replacing that even partially with some form of peace and happiness would become a true challenge.
When the girl finally finished eating Itori noted that she had only eaten about half of what was lying on the plate. As a cook she was somewhat annoyed at the idea of someone not finishing their plate, but on the other hand she couldn't really get angry at this girl right now. Especially since she had given the girl a pretty full plate and the red-cloaked intruder was rather small. She had assumed that the girl would be ravenous, but apparently she either wasn't or she was one of those people who just didn't eat a lot (a concept which always puzzled Itori, the girl who would eat as much as a dozen people and still never lose her perfect form). She would just have to empty the rest of the plate on her own, something she would have little trouble with since she had been planning to eat the entire plate together with the rest of the food lying around the kitchen anyway. But that could wait. She watched as the girl reached out to her, opened her mouth to speak... but no real sound came out. Itori frowned as she was a bit quicker than usual to jump to the right conclusion: this girl couldn't speak. The main reason she immediately thought of that possibility was because she herself had for a very long time not been able to use her voice freely, so the concept of being a mute had become a very dominant one inside the Kumiho's mind. From the way that the girl acted her suspicions were confirmed: she was giving the strong impression that she wanted to speak but couldn't, and felt ashamed for it. Smiling Itori took the plate and put it aside, then bowed towards the girl, spreading her tails out behind her before she finally spoke, allowing some of her enchanting effects to seep into her voice to ensure that the girl would listen and belief her.
"Greetings. I am known as Kurobara Itori. As I understand it you are unable to speak, something which I have prior experience with. Do not feel shame or embarrassment for this. Not everyone has the same qualities and advantages, and you should feel no shame for that fact. I realize that this situation might be both disconcerting and unpleasant for you, but I assure you that I will attempt my utmost best to aid you and assist in your attempts at becoming used to this place. I assure you that neither I nor anybody else in this establishment harbours any ill will towards you, and shall all be willing to aid you should you require it. Seeing how you cannot speak I shall not bother you with questions that you are incapable of answering. Instead I merely have one question for you: the letter that the messenger brought was one which requested that you would fetch some equipment located at the top of this building. Will you allow me to assist you in the recovery of this equipment? Along the way I shall attempt to explain this location and the situation you are in, so you are in a better position to understand and decide what your next action shall be."
While she spoke Itori kept eye contact with the red-cloaked girl, her warm but confident gaze helping affirm that she was indeed speaking the truth and had no ill intentions. She didn't know this girl at all, and honestly had been planning to spend the rest of the day feasting, however it looked like this girl needed help, and if she ended up in Itori's kitchen of all places the fox wasn't going to ignore such a coincidence.