Ruarc heard a knock on his door, and the silent butler was the one to deliver it. He had, for the Irishman, a note, scribbled in Raiko's writing, asking him to come up to the mansion and meet her. It was quite the unusual request, especially since Ruarc had never been allowed inside the large house yet, only as far as the large porch. This time, however, the note asked him specifically to come inside.
Ruarc, who had simply been passing time by reading though his tome, a chore he had been putting off recently, was rather caught off guard when he stood face to face with the mysterious butler; who simply handed him a note before going on his way.
"Man that guy is odd," Ruarc mumbled to himself as he shut the door to keep out the cold before opening the letter. "Wait, she wrote me a note saying to go to the mansion? Why not just come here, or have that butler tell me?" He thought about the strange request as he straightened his clothes before leaving the cottage en route to the mansion.
Now at the door, the Irishman stood rather awkwardly wondering if he was expected to knock on the door or not, and suddenly feeling slight deja vu of the first time he stood at the front gates of the mansion. After a quick shrug, he raised a hand to knock on the large door.
The knock never landed, as just as it was about to hit, the door suddenly swung open, with Raiko having been the one to do so. Today, she was less traditionally dressed, but still wearing more formal attire than any person would normally wear unless they were at a nice party, or owned half a city. She wore a long, strapless dress of deep purple, with a dark purple band around her middle, and a pair of matching purple heels which brought her slightly closer to the Irishman's own height. Her arms were clad in white gloves that went nearly to her shoulders, and her hair was done back quite fetchingly.
"Ah, good, so you got my note!" she exclaimed, though aside from that she showed no indication that this was anything but normal. "I was about to come get you if you'd taken too long, but please, come inside!" the girl stepped aside, allowing Ruarc to see, and walk into, a rather large Foyer, which, while not exactly resplendent, was certainly well-appointed. on either side were doors leading to other rooms, and at the back was the opening to the main hall, flanked by a set of staircases which lead up to the second floor.
"This is your first time inside, isn't it?" Raiko asked, rhetorically.
Caught off guard by both the sudden opening of the door as well as the general appearance of Raiko, Ruarc blinked a couple of times before recovering. As he stepped inside he noted that Raiko was a different kind of formal today, but still made the country boy feel under-dressed, and that the mansion's foyer was almost as big as his cottage back in Ireland.
"Heh, uh, yeah, Ah got yer note," Ruarc replied awkwardly as he held up the piece of paper. "You look nice today, what's the occasion? Going to a party and need some chores handled inside?"
Raiko arced an eyebrow at Ruarc, as if what he had said was odd. "Huh? Oh, no. You didn't think I wore my school uniform or a Kimono all the time, did you? Sometimes I like to wear more comfortable outfits, you know!" Raiko spun as she explained this, as if it were plainly obvious that formal attire was generally thought of as comfortable.
"But I digress, no, there is no party and I am not going anywhere. It's just, sometimes, I get lonely. The butlers, you know, they don't talk." The last part, Raiko whispered, cupping a hand over her mouth as if to make sure the butlers didn't hear her talking about them. "And besides, today is too cold to do anything outside, so I figured inviting you in for a movie and a cup of tea, or possibly even snacks, might be nice, you know?"
Raiko then reached forward, grabbing one of Ruarc's hands in her own, the silk glove soft against the Irishman's skin, and pulling him forward, in toward the hallway. "And don't act so stiff!" she added "This isn't anything fancy or whatever you might think."
Ruarc watched the animated Raiko say what she needed to say, all the while thinking about the definite gap between his life style and hers. "Wait, there's more than one butler?" Ruarc sort of mumbled to himself after that little note, genuinely surprised at both the existence of multiple mute butlers as well as the fact that Raiko's family can afford to keep a constant staff like that. "And they couldn't manage a groundskeeper before me?"
Once again though he was surprised when Raiko suddenly grabbed his hand and pulled him further into the mansion. "You'll hav'ta excuse my mistake then, but you're not exactly dressed in what I would call 'casual wear'," Ruarc replied to the girl as he steadied his stride. "So, if ya wanted ta hang out ya coulda just said so. What'd ya have in mind for a movie, then?"
Raiko's index finger tapped against her lips for a moment as she thought about it "You know, I actually hadn't thought about it," Raiko admitted, grinning sheepishly and spinning on her heels to walk backward down the hallway, hands clasped behind her back as she looked at Ruarc with a bit of a goofy grin. "How about we watch some Science Fiction! Star Wars is always good!"
With that suddenly decided, no input from the Irishman needed, Raiko spun around once more and dashed off, opening a door to her right as she went down the hallway, flicking the lights on, and pointing in "The theater is in here, I'll go get some snacks, you make yourself comfortable!"
Again, Raiko dashed off, her heels making a less than poised THUNK THUNK THUNK on the rug-covered wooden floors as she made her way toward what must have been the kitchen. When Ruarc reached the 'theater', he was greeted by a room about the size of a large living room or family room, with a silvery movie screen on one wall, and several red, velvet-covered couches facing said screen, a few armchairs were also available, as was a beanbag chair. All of it, save for a sofa right near the screen, seemed mostly unused, though.
Ruarc stood where he was for a little while after Raiko had dashed off, chuckling lightly to himself. "She really is energetic today," he said as he then made his way over to the theater. All chuckling the Irishman was doing stopped the moment he opened the door to the screening area and his jaw dropped. Back in his home town there was the main theater, but if you wanted to watch something else you went to the inn that had a small room with a small television in it, but this one room in a single mansion was much larger than that room and the screen dwarfed the rustic television.
After coming to his senses, the country lad slowly made his way inside as he inspected the room; his jaw still somewhat ajar. Once he got to the front of the room he stood around feeling a little out of place, and then giving a slight shrug he went and sat down in the sofa.
Before too long, the young lady of the manor arrived, balancing several bowls on a tray, as well as a number of cans of soda and other soft drinks. "Ah, good, you picked the good sofa!" she exclaimed, setting the tray down on the arm of said sofa. The bowls were found to hold popcorn, and a party mix of various crunchy snacks put together.
Raiko sat down on the sofa, with less dignity than Ruarc was used to seeing from her, and fished around in the cushions of the sofa, pulling out a remote control with a small exclamation of victory when she did so. pointing it at the screen, she clicked a few buttons and the screen lit up, a projector placed above the door behind them sending the image to the wall, which currently displayed a random newscast about the weather. Raiko rolled her eyes and poked another button, a menu coming up and obscuring the news cast, from which she went through and found a list of movie titles, finally stopping at the desired film.
click. The lights in the small home theater went out, and the movie began with fanfare, accompanied by the sound of Raiko popping open a can of soda.
With a quick laugh, Ruarc gave Raiko a slight smile. "Well, alright then," he said as grabbed a can of pop and a large handful of popcorn before settling in to watch the movie.
It became obvious, a few minutes into the movie, however, that Raiko had no intention of leaving Ruarc alone on his side of the couch. Indeed, slowly, but surely, she had leaned over toward the Irishman, and having doffed her shoes and put her feet up on the velvet couch, begun scooting over slightly to get more comfortable, and finally, coming to rest her head on his shoulder.
The Irishman's attention was called away from the movie a short ways in as he felt Raiko lay her head on his shoulder. At this point Ruarc began to put some pieces together as he began to better understand the situation. "Oh dear, mum told me this would happen one day. Alright, what to do," Ruarc thought to himself as he felt his face blush a bit as his thought became a bit flustered.
Glancing down at Raiko he tried to better gauge the situation to make sure he simply was not making a misunderstanding. It has happened in the past, and it did not help that he had never been in a situation like this one before; and he most certainly did not want to mess things up. After all, he did like Raiko, but he could not be sure if she felt the same way or if this was simply how Japanese girls behaved.
In an attempt to settle his thoughts, he took another sip of his drink before taking a deep breath. Cautiously, he lifted the arm that Raiko was leaning against and rested it on the back of the sofa as he adjusted his body language to appear more receptive.
Without a word, Raiko simply nuzzled in closer, her shoulder making its way under his arm, as she seemed to have been expecting this very result. Still, aside from the movement, she made no indication that she was doing anything more than getting more comfortable to watch the movie that was currently playing, especially because the dark combined with the glare of the screen made it impossible for Ruarc to tell which direction her eyes were looking at any one time.
A sudden question broke the silence between the two, dissipating the odd atmosphere which had been drummed up by Ruarc's awkward reactions to Raiko. "So, how are you liking the movie so far?" she asked the Irishman, looking up at him intently.
The hair on the back of Ruarc's neck stood on end as he felt like he were sitting in pins and needles. Raiko had moved closer, but he was even more unsure now than he was before. His mind was screaming at him, "What now!?" over and over again as he had already exhausted his entire playbook with putting his arm up.
Then when Raiko went and asked her question his free hand twitched a little as his mind then thought, "How should I know how the movie's been? I haven't been watching most of it. Resting his head against the back of the sofa real quick he came up with a good response.
"It's, it's good. Good. Yeah, good movie," Ruarc said quickly as he thought he heard his voice crack a little, and then the pause. That horrible pause after something you just said falls flat. "She just brought me in here to torture me."
"How a...how do you like the movie?" Ruarc asked in return in attempts to fill the void.
"Well, that's a stupid thing to ask. She owns the damn movie!"
'Well, would I have suggested we watch it if I thought it was bad?" Raiko asked rhetorically, grinning at Ruarc's obvious awkward sheepishness. "I think the action and explosions and everything creates a great atmosphere, you know? When everything on the screen is turmoil, it forces you to do one of two things: ignore it and focus on staying impassive, or join in with the chaos and create a more fanciful energy." Raiko scooted a bit closer, resting more of her weight upon Ruarc's side.
"When I watch movies like this, it's hard to be satisfied without somebody to share the excitement with, you know? It's like running a race with no competitors." Raiko frowned for a moment at that sentiment, before looking back toward the screen. Maybe one of these days we should get everyone in here, and watch movies and have fun, you know?"
Ruarc, after paying a bit more attention to the situation as a whole once he began to regain most of his thoughts, calmed down and began to plan his counter-offensive. "Ah can definitely see where you're coming from, and Ah would say Ah am partial to the idea of joining in," Ruarc said as he tried to focus on what he considered himself good at; namely, analyzing media and archetypes. "Once you find an angle that allows ya to become more immersed, the setting takes on a whole new meaning. And, of course, such immersion is best enjoyed in the company of others."
As he spoke, Ruarc slid his arm down and rested it on Raiko's side while he continued on. "That being said, Ah am glad ya invited me, reading alone can be just as bad as watchin' movies alone."
Raiko made no indication that she was opposed to Ruarc's movement, letting his hand rest at her side without a fuss. "Being along sucks in general, don't you think?" Raiko mused as she watched the screen, though it was impossible to tell if she was actually paying attention. She pulled the bowl of party mix closer, and grabbed a handful, and began to munch it, apparently actually watching the movie this time.
"Ah definitely know what ya mean," Ruarc agreed as his thoughts shifted a bit. "In Ireland, Ah had lived alone with just Laoise, not really needing other company. But with Laoise gone, I actually feel alone for the first time since Ah can remember. So again, thanks for inviting me."
With that said, Ruarc reached over and grabbed his own handful of snack food before munching on it thoughtfully.
"You're right. Laoise was always a nice sight to see," Raiko started up again, after swallowing her mouthful. "I think we should try harder to find her, shouldn't we? It's getting cold, and I doubt a spirit like Caoranach would keep her forever." The girls arms had somehow managed to wrap their way around Ruarc's waist, and she looked up into his eyes. "I could help you, you know. I, I really want to. It's been hard on me too, seeing you sad all the time."
Where just a little bit ago Ruarc's eyes looked panicked, they now looked solemn. The lad gave a deep sigh as he tightened his own grip around Raiko. "Ah appreciate that Raiko, but Ah don't know how much more Ah...we, could do. At first Ah was out multiple times a week looking around; then Ah just became discouraged that Ah could find nothin' at all so I went out less. Ah still make a lot of detours when walking to try and look, but Ah am not Laoise and thus have no wings to search out farther. Ah also have no clue where she was taken."
Ruarc then popped a few more pieces of food into his mouth as he hated how pessimistic he sounded.
Raiko nodded as Ruarc spoke, but she seemed to be waiting to say something. "What if I told you, I knew where Laoise might be headed soon? I'd been so busy this afternoon when I received the message, that it had been pushed from my mind, and by the time you had gotten my message, I had completely forgotten why I sent it." The girl seemed to be a little bit ashamed at her slacking, but she was also resolute.
"There's also something else. Something I've been meaning to tell you for a while, but I'd understand if you don't want to know just yet..."
Ruarc immediately perked up as Raiko spoke, his mind once again focusing. He quickly released Raiko and got up from the couch, at which point he knelled down so that he was face to face with the Japanese girl.
"Raiko, please, if you know something that could help, please tell me," Ruarc said as he locked eyes with the girl, their faces a little more than a foot apart.
Raiko was shocked as she suddenly found herself alone on the couch, with Ruarc next to her on the ground. "Ah- all I know is that she's been spotted a ways north. In a couple of days, they think she'll be only a few hours drive away, and we could probably pick her up then. Or at least, there's reports of a white dove up north, and I know those are not common around there, especially in winter."
By now, however, Raiko looked a little hurt. perhaps it was guilt for forgetting something so important to Ruarc, or perhaps it was because he had completely ignored her request. "Like I said..." she continued "I'll do what I can to help you find her... I don't want to see you sad anymore."
Without missing a beat, Ruarc reached over and reflexively gave Raiko a hug. "Thank you, Raiko. It may not be much, but it has raised my spirits more than you know," he said, the gratitude in his voice was easy to hear. "And any help you are willing to offer, I would be more than happy to accept."
Raiko brushed the beginnings of tears from the corners of her eyes, and sniffed a little, to regain her composure. "Of course, Ruarc. I'll do everything in my power to help you find her, I promise. But..." the girl paused, looking into Ruarc's eyes intently, her makeup a little smudged, and her eyes slightly red. she seemed sad, but resolute. "But, If we never find her, you, you don't have to be alone."
Ruarc had a warm smile on his face as he looked at Raiko, his cheeks blushing slightly. His heart was beating fast and his breathing felt a little pained, but oddly enough his thoughts were relatively clear. Thoughts kept forming in his mind as he thought of what else to say that had not already been said. One thought stuck out though.
"Ah don't think Ah'll ever feel alone anymore. Since comin' to Japan Ah have made great friends, and thanks ta you Ah have a home where Ah feel like Ah really belong," Ruarc said as he voiced what had been on his mind for a while now. "Raiko, I am in your debt."
Raiko smiled at that, somewhat awkwardly, and stood up from the couch, holding out a hand gingerly to pull Ruarc up from his kneeling position from the floor. "Don't be stupid. I'd give you everything I have and call it gain. Ruarc, since you've been here, I've been happier than I've ever been since I first arrived here. Anything I can do to help you, I will. I won't pander to you of course, you're better than that, and I'm not that foolish." She looked away, and chuckled nervously, coughing into her hand in an attempt to calm her nerves.
"Ruarc, what I'm trying to say is, Um. Well. Ruarc, Will you be my Boyfriend? I'm pretty sure I love you, and can think of nothing better than being with you, right now."
Standing up once more to his full height, he looked down at Raiko a smiled ever wider than before. "Of course I'll be your boyfriend, Raiko," he said as he once again gave her a warm hug. "There is no other place I would rather be than right here, and no one I would rather have helping me than you."
Raiko smiled, leaning into the hug and squeezing back. "Then, I don't think you'll mind this, would you?" She asked, standing up on her tiptoes, and giving Ruarc a kiss on his lips. When she finished, she looked into Ruarc's eyes for a moment, an expression of contentment, before leaning forward to bury her face in his chest. "We'll find Laoise, together, Ruarc, I promise."
Three days later
The large, black car, which was normally used to simply shuttle Raiko and her friends to school and back, had made its way a bit north of Osaka. It had made its way out past civilization, and to the edge of the rural areas, and into the mountains. Suddenly, as if at an order, it stopped, and the passenger doors opened, with a kimono-clad, parasol wielding Raiko and the be-robed Ruarc making their way from the vehicle. The silent cheauffer, whom had yet to speak during the journey, did not even bother to look at his charges as they left the vehicle. The Irishman would have sworn the man was a robot, but he could sense life from it, and an energy that while not exactly famailiar, was certainly human enough that it could simply be an odd form of human energy.
Regardless, Raiko stepped her way across the road's shoulder, and onto the nearby embankment. "It looks like there might be good shelter for a bird up this way, perhaps we should investigate?" she asked Ruarc, looking back at the taller, slightly older Irishman.
Ruarc had spent the entire car ride deep in thought, not even noticing the constant music that Raiko had occupying the interior. His thoughts were occupied with the chance that his familiar Laoise might still be alive, and that he might be able to finally find her. With distant eyes he stared out the window at the passing scenery, hoping to catch a glimpse of his lost friend.
When the car finally came to a stop, Ruarc got out and immediately began scanning the surroundings; his distant eyes now looking quite sharp. He could not sense anything yet, either with his bond with the familiar or with his right eye. "Yeah, that seems like a good place ta start," Ruarc agreed with Raiko's suggestion.
"Alright Laoise, where are you hiding?" Ruarc thought, focusing his mind on where his friend would set down to rest.
At this point, Raiko hiked up her Kimono a little, showing off the anachronistic hiking boots that were worn on her feet, as well as the hems of a pair of not-so-ladylike trousers. Obviously, beneath the shell of class was a person who knew how to travel in the outdoors, and yet, the kimono remained worn, despite it having no real place on a mountainside.
"Well, let's head on up then," the girl announced, as she began her hike up the hillside toward a rocky outcropping barely visible behind the trees. As they had seen this same outcropping earlier, they knew it to have overhangs that could provide adequate protection for feathered friends.
After the slight reveal of what was beneath Raiko's typical kimono, Ruarc smirked. "How dainty. And Ah thought ya weren't a fan of gettin' dirty," Ruarc chided as he began to make his way smoothly up the incline, all the while making sure to keep an eye on Raiko just in case she did need help.
"Af course I don't mind getting dirty!" Raiko assured Ruarc, pretending to be indignant about the comment, as she deftly made her way for the outcropping, reaching it before the Irishman could.
When the two got closer to the outcropping, the Irishman picked up his pace as he went to inspect the area. "Now, if Ah know Laoise, she is not a fan of small spaces, so she would take one of the outer spots," Ruarc monologued as he looked around the area. He couldn't hear anything from the way he and Laoise usually communicated, but he wasn't all that sure if that was still an option after the bond between them had been partially severed.
"But, it is also getting colder, and she hates the cold. Which means she would look for shelter on a South face with protection from the North winds while keeping access to the Sun in the South."
After searching all the logical places on this outcropping, as well as the ones that would have been ruled out, Ruarc concluded that Laoise was not present. "She's not at this one," Ruarc concluded as he looked out across the landscape, not being able to help but feel dejected.
"Let's head North a bit more, it looks like there are some clusters of spruce along a slight bluff," Ruarc said as he wanted to press on to the next potential spot.
"Wait-" Raiko interrupted, pointing north over the top of the Outcropping. "What's that? I see a smaller bird flying this way, alone." She scrambled over toward the top of the rocks, and squinted to try and see better. "It's glowing orange in the evening sun, but, I think it's white!" she called out, excited. "Could that be Laoise, Ruarc?"
Ruarc stopped instantly and quickly looked to where Raiko was pointing. He too squinted to get a better look, but already his spirits were rising by leaps and bounds. In a few large strides and some quick climbing the Irishman made it to the top of the outcropping.
"Laoise!" Ruarc shouted at the top of his lungs. "Laoise! Over here!"
With a burst of energy he waved his arms fervently and jumped to get the bird's attention.
The bird approached the two for a while before arcing away slowly, and Ruarc's heart sank. With saddened eyes he watched as the bird circled away from where he stood. With his head hung low, the druid turned away and went to climb down from the outcropping. Then suddenly and surprisingly something hit his back like a rock square between the shoulders causing him to stumble and fall off of the rock.
"Owowow," Ruarc groaned as he picked himself up and looked back up to the top of the rock just in time to see the white bird barreling towards his face. With a definite shout of surprise he covered his face as the bird began to peck and pull at his hair. "Stop it! Stop, Laoise!"
With that, the bird circled around again for another approach, only this time the bird landed quickly on the lad's shoulder and pressed itself against his neck.
"I missed you, you moron," Laoise said to Ruarc, sounding as though she were crying, and indeed she began to coo sadly.
"And I missed you, Laoise," Ruarc replied in Irish as he put and hand up and hugged the bird. "Now, let's get you home and cleaned up. I have all your favorite foods waiting for you." he then looked up to where Raiko stood and then called to her in Japanese. "It's her! Now come on down, and let's head home."
Raiko smiled at the reunion, and then did as Ruarc said, hopping down from the outcropping, and making her way to Ruarc and Laiose. She gave Ruarc a hug, and a peck on the cheek, before adressing the dove. "Good to have you back, Laoise!" she welcomed the bird, before making her way down the mountain, stopping partway and giving Ruarc a coaxing glance before making it the rest of the way to the car.