During winter, one wouldn't think that parfaits would be good, considering the cold temperatures. The chill was enough to freeze the tongue, much less one's skin. That didn't stop a small, loyal crowd of customers at the local Tastee Creem. Year-round this small store was filled with people itching to sate their sweet-tooth, with seasonal treats being more than an inspiration to buy something quite delicious. This was the place Percival had decided to bring Duncan and Coco after their little encounter in the subway. In all honesty, the young boy didn't know where to take people on an outting, but he couldn't imagine other kids his age not having a craving for sweets.
As they came in to the door, Percy tugged it open for Coco, politely allowing her to step in first. "I hope you don't mind this place, I hear it's pretty popular."
The surprising hustle and bustle of the little place surprised the little girl flanked by a friend and her brother. "Wow - I mean - Sugoi!" she spoke in awe, quickly switching to Japanese best she could. "I always remembered that ice-cream was good, but, I didn't think people would want it all year round, let alone winter!" the Littlest-Lich added.
"I never bothered with the stuff during winter, so that's why I never brought you to any of them," Duncan replied with a shrug. Knowing him, it made a certain logical sense why he didn't - cold weather? Get something hot. Hot weather? Get something cold. Duncan, despite having an occasionally grating and sometimes unpredictable personality, did have his own thread of logic. "I'll just take a spot a few seats down if you don't mind," he started, then adding on something else entirely as Coco started to protest, "I want you to make friends, so, uh. Yeah, I'm going to give you room on your own." His shifty, uncomfortable eyes then turned to Percy, and froze hard. "Take care of her, yeah?"
As always, his smile was rather frosty and insincere. Percival hated that about him, a distrustful person was not a trustworthy mage, especially if such a person relies too much on subtlety. Still, the young boy smiled back in that empty, knowing way, as if he didn't approve, but refused to stop it. "Well, I wouldn't be a Welsh gentleman if I didn't."
The 'Welsh Gentleman' looked down at Coco, and gave her a real smile. "Where would you like to sit?"
Coco, still dressed in her school's winter uniform, looked about with a finger to her lip in thought, making an "Ummmmmm," of thinking being barely audible over the noise of the crowd. "How about right there?" she asked, pointing to one of the few open booth seats in the center of the entire little shop - it didn't have the best view of the street outside, but, it was nice and cozy!
Taking note of where they were sitting, Duncan took a spot nearby the corner, overseeing the entirety of the ice-cream parlor, as well as the street outside - true to his word, he was going to chaperone the two, and make sure nothing was amiss.
"Okay!" answered Percival cheerfully as he strode over to the booth, making an effort to sound cheerful. Truly, he was here to make sure Duncan didn't go running, but Coco was invested in this too. Besides, she was an interesting enough girl, what with being a living dead. Still, he felt just slightly distracted by the fact that Duncan was joining them.
In an effort to conceal it, he just smiled and sat down, whipping open a menu. "Feel free to order whatever you like, everything at this table is on me."
"R-really!?" the little girl spoke up with surprise. "What to pick, what to pick?" she worried over the menu - true to its reputation, the Tastee Creem had a menu just as good as its image. She really didn't know what to pick as she was utterly bombarded by parfaits, sundaes, smoothies, shakes, pies a la mode - the list went on to even include juices and teas as well. The variety. It was shocking, and it almost seemed like Coco had gone into diabetic shock as she stared and drooled over the menu.
"Uh, let's start slowly!" she suggested. "Maybe just a pistachio icecream sundae?" she timidly suggested to Percy.
Meanwhile, Duncan sat back and relaxed, bored already. He ordered himself a slice of pie a la mode - it was a "Man's thinking food," his father had explained, and right now he supposed, that's what he needed to do anyways. Though, he wasn't so sure if his father also meant the pie would still 'work' if it came with ice-cream on top. That was dubious at best.
"No need to be shy about it," chuckled Percy as he flipped open the menu, and in that moment, he was glad he couldn't see Coco's face. That meant she couldn't see the grimace on his face when he saw the prices of some of the items on sale. In that moment, he had found out why Tastee Creem was able to stay so acclaimed. From the smallest item, to the widest platter, everything was expensive.
He slapped down the menu, forcing his smile now, his voice becoming somewhat mechanical, "No need to rush ourselves, either, though! Hah ha!"
"Hi hi!" chimed a young girl as she came bouncing over to the table. She was wearing the Tastee Creem's waitress uniform, which on her looked almost two sizes too small. The girl was a little round on the edges, but most noticeable were the two large round edges under her Tastee Creem Tastee Associate Shirt! A small foot could be felt kicking the boy's shin as Coco smiled back at the waitress. At that, Percival resisted gawking after having his short 'male moment'.
She looked between the two of them, and smiled warmly, "Welcome to Tastee Creem, I'm Tanaka, and I'm going to be your waitress! What can I start you off with?" With that said, she tucked an arm under her weights and used them to hold a small clipboard in place.
"Ah, I'll have the... Hm... I'll have the Orange Smoothie," sheepishly admitted Percival, picking the cheapest item on the list. "With a bit of that blueberry stuff. Hm... That stuff you use... You pour it on ice cream and stuff like this... Uhm... What's it called?"
"Shiroppu?" Coco suggested with a helpful smile, the Japanese loanword for syrup sounding slightly odd. Despite the kick to Percival earlier, the little girl seemed to be in good spirits, and didn't seem to be aiming to give the waitress any grief whatsoever.
"Blueberry Syrup! Got it!" said Tanaka as she wrote it down on her pad, before winking at Percival, "You need to work on your Japanese, cutie!"
The boy blushed a little bit, before coughing into his fist, in a mix of admiration and embarrassment.
"Now!" the waitress turned to Coco, all smiles, "What would you like, nee-chan?"
"I'll have a pistachio parfait-desu!" she quickly replied with sparkling eyes, her cute factor going up to 11 as she did so! It was now obvious she was deliberately trying to conceal whatever was on her mind from the waitress to Percy! But, was there retribution planned? The Leetenbaums were still a mystery to the young lad, and he had yet know learn much about Coco as a person! That fact ramped up his stress a little bit, as he had little idea what he was doing wrong.
"Oooooough!" squealed Tanaka as she wrote down Coco's order, she began to bounce on her toes, causing other things to bounce as well. Once again, Percival's attention was pulled toward the distracting things, quickly stealing a glance once, before he accidentally stole a few more. "Ooooh you're so cuuuuuute! Oh my goodness!" she turned onto Percy, and leaned in a little bit to him, forcing him, with every ounce of energy he could, to look at her eyes. "Is she your little nee-chan?"
"Ah... well... Not exactly. I guess... Well, she's..." Percy fumbled with the question like tight-end with a football.
"He's sitting me!" Coco explained, the words coming out very literal in Japanese. She looked up from the rainbow explosion of a menu in her hands. "Our parents are friends, but they're always so busy, so they often have him take care of me!" she happily lied with a smile, delightedly kicking her little feet that didn't reach the floor, further adding on to the image she had so far spoon fed to Tanaka the waitress. Incidentally, though she would see Coco dangling her little feet about, the waitress wouldn't see them hitting against Percy's shins in the slightest!
"Oooh! Really? A boy baby-sitter? How unheard of!" Tanaka smiled at the Caxton boy as he struggled to keep as straight a face as possible. Even though Coco was a little girl, her undead body put pain in her toes, and Tanaka put pain into his eyes. "You must really be trustworthy, onii-chan! But! I shouldn't babble too long! I'll get your orders in and I'll be back in a bit!"
"Th-Thanks!" Percival's voice cracked after her as she turned to the kitchen, and the moment she left, the Welsh-boy immediately thrust his attention on Coco. "H-hey hey! What was that for!? That actually kind of hurts!"
"Stop staring at her like that!" the little girl pouted, her cheeks adorably puffing up in annoyance at the boy as she said that. Her eyes stared daggers at Percy for a moment, but finally relented, breaking the piercingly furious stare as she looked away, "I just get a little uncomfortable when you do that," she admitted to him, a slight blush on her cheeks. The little girl looked to be only six years old, but, the way she was now holding herself seemed remarkably different now that the waitress was gone.
Meanwhile, Duncan made his order as well, and without incident - for him, it really did look lik it was going to be a boring day.
Her response had jarred a sudden pause in the boy, before he looked own at his lap. Coco was indeed a small girl in stature, but she wasn't that in the mind. The way she acted was completely unlike any young grade-schooler that looked like her. Grade-schoolers didn't care or were even aware of the hormonal reactions of teenagers. She acted more like... a middle-schooler going on to high-school. With an upward gaze at her, and a bit of a penitent tone, he asked her a question.
"You're around my age, aren't you?" The words almost slipped out unconsciously, filled and pressed by his curiosity.
Coco's feet stopped paddling about, kicking the air as he asked. "Yeah, I am," the little girl admitted to him. "I'm two years younger than you are. Well, am going to be - my birthday is in a few weeks, so I'll be fourteen soon," Coco explained to him. "It's not really easy being like this you know," she added on. "All my friends, the ones that survived that mess, are grown up like you are. Still friends though, but they can't look at me without remembering. And any new people I meet at the I.O.N. are always creeped out right away."
The bitter words hung in the air as she looked down from the table, refusing to make eye contact with Percy. "I can't talk to the kids I do look like either - they're none too bright. It's not like they were trying to make potions when they were five," she huffed. "Not that I could get alchemy and potion making to ever go right - I'm a terrible cook too!" she lamented. "Everything either burns or turns into a spinach casserole monster my brother has to shoot in the face!"
At first, Percival didn't know what to say. He thought he'd start a little small talk, maybe something innocent, but instead he popped open a can of worms all over the table, and they hadn't even started talking yet. There was a short pause in his actions as he stared down at his lap, a little unsure of how to speak at that. Coco hadn't been around long, but he knew a few things about her.
He popped his hands on the table, "Well, I think you're amazing."
Percy got her attention.
"Y-you do?" Coco asked, looking up from the dour table at the boy sitting in front of her. Her expression had changed to one of hope, but she seemed to wipe it away with doubt. "You don't think I'm scary or anything? Zombie games are the latest thing on the game market right now!" she added in. "I have a hard time imagining you not enjoying those kinds of games," Coco went on, crossing her arms.
"Zombie games?" Percival cocked an eyebrow up into the air. The boy felt a little better about the direction of the conversation, but he was unsure about this point, "What kind of Zombie Games? Is that some kind of hobby for Necromancers?"
Tanaka came by, in a rush, quickly dropping off their order, nodding quickly apologies to the both of them. She set Coco's parfait down in front of her with a wide smile, before bouncing on over to Percival. Once again, she broke his attention, and he looked, but quickly drew a way again, opting to stare at his order. She set down his orange smoothie and blue-berry syrup with a frown, likely thinking she had offended him. Though, she had little time to worry about that, as she quickly moved on to another table.
"So... uhm..." he started again, quickly shifting his legs, "zombie games?"
This time, Coco didn't seem to mind as much, going so far as to say, "Thank you nee-san!" as the waitress handed the little girl her order. She didn't kick Percival for looking ether, which was perhaps a good sign. When Tanaka was gone however, she greedily dug into her ice cream as though to drown out her woes in food. "Yeah, you know? The expansion pack in Call of Honor Nine? Modern Wargrounds and its bonus mode? Or, maybe Left 4 Haven?" she started to explain to him between mouthfuls.
"You kill zombies en-masse and get bonus points for headshots, and even more for a complete decapitation with the guns," Coco added on, her expression completely deadpan. Percival looked completely lost as he tugged off the cap to his blue-berry syrup. He dipped a finger into it, but instead of taking it to his mouth, he pressed the tip on the table. Slowly, and gently he began to trace a small sigil on the surface.
"Is that... some kind of spellbook? Call of Honor Nine? Is it a series?"
Coco's eyes widened in shock. "Uh, have you been living in a straw house or under a rock?" she asked him, her entire pretense of 'cute little girl' vanishing as she started coming out of her shell. "They're the latest and greatest video game for PC and console!" she explained. "Not that I could every really get into them - they're really fun, but, well, it makes everyone else think of zombies in a bad light so they don't quite look at me in a good one either," Coco admitted.
"You probably have it easy - I think Duncan said you make potions and have a whole bunch of little friends come out of your spellbook?" she asked him, not quite getting the facts quite right. "I wish it were that easy to have friends, or even company really." Her admittance of this was quickly followed by copious spoonfuls of pistachio icecream topped with chocolate syrup going on a one way trip into her mouth.
"I beht youh cahn koohk too!" she spoke through a mouthful!
"Well, I don't cook very often, but I do have a Class-B license in Alchemy," answered Percival proudly, carefully looking around the shop, in case anyone was listening. Though, one thing was sure, Coco was extremely adorable, despite her inner life as a thirteen year-old. There was a lot of distraction happening at that moment, so he cleared up the air quickly as he rushed the completion of the sigil he had drawn on the table.
He looked up at her, with a small smile on her face, "In fact, would you like to see an example of a rare sub-set mix of Alchemy and Summoning?"
"Ha! I knew it!" she declared proudly. "So it's not that I was bad at Alchemical Potions, but I was bad at cooking!" Both of Coco's hands were rolled up into fists as she came to this realization, a glint of glorious vindication in her eyes as she looked towards the heavens. Percy's scrawling went unnoticed however, but when he made his offer, her attention as all his. "Really? Yes, I'd love to see!"
She leaned forward, gleefully anticipating what Percy had up his sleeve. He placed his hand over the sigil, and smiled with a little pride. His other hand pointing to the resting one.
"Can I get a little charge from you?"
"I got plenty to spare!" she delightedly added with a smile, thrusting in her own hand and placing it atop his. Her faintly pale cheeks seemed to blush ever so faintly as her cold hand touched his. Another color arose beneath their touching hands, a blue one, as small hiss took sound in the room. The noise was loud, but no one seemed to hear it but them. Percival turned his hand over, and gripped Coco's before setting down aside to reveal what the had summoned.
The little animal was a dull blue, with glowing scales speckling over its back. It was a lizard, and its ice-blue eyes looked up at Coco first, and then Percy. After a moment of staring, it let out a needy little whine, before Percival pushed his cup of blueberry syrup over to it. The little animal, rising up from where the sigil was once placed, leaned over the cup and began to slurp it up needily. Strangely enough, even as a waitress went by, the lizard went unnoticed.
"Have you ever heard of a small elemental called the 'Cho-caw?" asked Percival, petting the lizard with his finger.
"Wooooow!" The little girl sitting in front of Percy exclaimed - the people all around them were oblivous to what had just happened thanks to the field they had put up, but she was most certainly not! "Aww, you're so adorable!" she cooed, giving it a small spoonful of her ice-cream to eat. "I hadn't ever heard of those - what are they exactly?" Coco asked, now the young magician part of her taking over in curiosity.
The Cho-caw turned to look at the ice-cream, and giving it a few experimental sniffs. After taking in the scent, it nibbled from the spoon, before gobbling up the entirety of the spoon's contents.
"Cho-caw's are a mage's best friend," explained Percy as the the little lizard began exploring their table. "Even without a barrier, they're invisible to the naked eye thanks to their chameleon skin, which acts as a cloak to non-mage eyes. Though, their main purpose is to let us talk freely! We could say our most forbidden words in a non-mage setting, and the Cho-caw, when properly fed, will make our conversation sound something more like a normal non-mag subject."
He raised a finger, putting a period on his point, "It comes in handy when you're talking about alchemy and undead girls."
"Oh wow! That does come in handy!" she exclaimed. "Just like my smartphone!" Coco reached into her little baggie and pulled out one of the latest models. "It's I.O.N. Edition, so it has the very same spells tied into it. Though it's nowhere as cute as this!" Coco practically squeed. "Can you please teach me? Please, please please?" she pleaded, holding her hands together and looking up at Percy with cute puppy eyes.
"Well, of course I will! I'd be glad to spread some knowledge to someone who can actually use it," smiled Percival widely as settled back into his seat. The young boy leaned over onto his side of the table, becoming a little more excited, "If you'd like, I wouldn't mind helping you with your alchemy either. If you're interested. I mean, you're an amazing mage, seeing how you held off five mages at once in your form, but judging by what you've said, your alchemy could use a little brushing up on!"
For the first time, Coco's cheeks blushed a much brighter red.
"D-don't say that, that's not true!" she spoke, shaking her head. "I don't have the same fine manipulation like my sister does, or my brother's firepower!" Coco explained. She muttered to herself, "It's nothing that special..." But, perhaps for her, being overshadowed by her older brother and sister, it really did seem like nothing special at all. "It's not like I can bring back the dead like big-sis can either you know," she smiled with a grimace.
"But, don't get me wrong!" Coco suddenly perked up again. "I'd absolutely love to have you teach me magic! I mean, it's great that, uh, the spinach casserole monster spoke in uh...what was it?" she asked herself, looking down at her feet and again, placing a finger upon her lip. "Oh! trochaic heptameter! Duncan said it sounded weird because it spoke in trochaic heptameter!" The little girl's excitement suddenly died down. "What's tro-cha-ic heptameter?" Coco asked herself again, her voice dropping low into a whisper that Percy could barely, barely hear.
"But yes! I 'd love to!" she exclaimed!
It was that moment that Duncan came back into their concern however, as he came right up to the two at the table. The teenage boy looked disheivled overall, with his clothing slightly burnt here and there and hair toustled by what seemed to be an intense fight. A single shurikan was sticking out of the shoulder of his stylish vest as well, but he didn't even seem to notice it in the slightest.
"Hey guys?" he started, sounding a little bit tired. "So, you both already know I was planning to move on from Osaka since I didn't find much." He paused. "Well, I was wrong," Duncan explained to them. "Sort of. Since a certain anime became popular, some sicko has been persuaiding girls to become Mahou Shojou in return for a wish, capitalizing off of the show's success. And naturally, they've become enslaved, with nothing to show for their newly gained powers as they're pitted against local Yakuza or Hidden Ninja Villages."
He pointed over his shoulder with a thumb, directing their gaze to a street littered with unconcious or moaning ninjas dressed in black. Duncan said all of this, his face deadpan with seriousness.
"Oh. And this is Tanaka by the way. She's part time waitress here, and part time Mahou Shojou of said coven," he added, directing their attention to the same waitress that served them moments a go as she sheepishly stood off to the side. Unlike Duncan though, she was spotlessly neat.
"Wa-what?" Percival stared blankly at Duncan as he stepped in and delivered his explanation. The Welsh-boy couldn't help trade glances between Tanaka's upward curvature and Duncan's odd face. Since he was raised in Bangor, along with other mages, Percival was used to seeing and knowing about magical conspiracy, but the level of absurdity right in front of him was... well... Absurd! There were ninjas collapsed outside, there were chest-heavy magical girls serving parfaits in this store, and Duncan was talking about some sort of police work.
After letting it process for a moment Percy, looked at Coco with a confused expression on his face. The Cho-Caw scurried to the edge of the table, and let out a lonely howl, before scurrying around the plates.
"Uhm... A pleasure to meet you... Miss... Tanaka?" started the young boy, not sure where to start at this point.
"This day keeps on getting better and better," Coco facepalmed.
"It's a pleasure to meet you two again, and I hope you two enjoyed your...Kawaiiiiiiiiii!" the newly introduced Mahou Shojou spoke in awe upon sighting the adorable little summon. Yet again, she bounced on the balls of her feet in excitement, making other parts of her bounce as well, yet again. "What is it? I'm entirely new to all this, so I've never seen anything like this before!" she exclaimed.
"O-oh! Well... It's a Cho-caw, its a lizard summoned through a mixture of - " again, Coco kicked him for not looking at Tanaka's face.