[Nishinoya's] The Amaranthine and the Ascendant

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Kokuten
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[Nishinoya's] The Amaranthine and the Ascendant

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Nishinoya's
Metropolitan Osaka
A Week After Healing the Heart and Mind


You could always count on Nishinoya's.

Percival had said that once, about three years ago, a couple of months before he disappeared. Nishinoya's was named after the eponymous Nishinoya Yu, an orc that founded the pub twenty years ago as a small confluence for wayward mages. No simple wine bar, Nishinoya's pub was a relaxed place for any status of mage without a stratified mentality to unwind.

In the years since the rise of the Menagerie, and Safeholme, Osaka had become more sprawling in the mystic world, and more places had opened. Still, you could always count on Nishinoya's.

The venue was familiar, and, as it turned out, Ruarc had made sure the place had no trouble staying in business in the time the Alchemist was gone. Yu still remembered Percy's face, if not his name, and that was a comfort at the least. In the last couple of visits, he and Ruarc had shared quiet drinks, and then some loud ones when the game was on.

It was difficult to unwind at the cottage these days, the Druid's two apprentices were always busy in the den upstairs or peeking into their conversations. They had made it an effort to always be privy of their master's goings on, whether it was their business or not. So, it was off to the pub to let their proverbial hair down, and drink away the strain and stress. Today was different, though.

As it turned out, you could always count on Nishinoya's, but you could not always count on Ruarc. Right as they left the gate, the druid got a call, and had to take care of something at his second job. There had been an assertion that Ruarc would try to make it back before the end of the night. So now the Alchemist, with an empty evening and no plans, was sitting at the bar with a drink in front of him. His fingers drummed next to the glass of French Connection, reflecting upon the quiet, meditative atmosphere of the pub.

It was quite peaceful between football and auraball seasons.

The bartender was the first indication of a change, as he went from idly passing the time to fixing a drink without so much as a word. The next was footsteps sounding from a pointed heel moving in his direction. The drink was prepared by the final indication; the chair next to Percy slid out and someone had taken the seat and was promptly welcomed with a sweet smelling cocktail. The newcomer picked up the drink and sipped contentedly.

"How does the day find you, Percival?" asked a familiar voice, almost purring as they enjoyed their drink.

The man's fingers curled in, a single index finger resting on the amber drink in front of him. Those green eyes of his eyes lingered on the television screen reflected on the back of the bar, but in the edge of his vision, he could see her. A beautiful devil. A faerie.

"Are we speaking again?" he asked, a disinterested drone rolling off the tongue. He avoided her gaze, as if it were a trap to look at; for some, it was. "I had a feeling you were avoiding me."

"I avoid everyone," Caoranach said in an even tone as she swirled her drink. She was reclining in her seat, seemingly content with the location. "And seeing as I have spoken to you, it would be reasonable to assume speaking is fair game."

"Now, Are we speaking again does not answer the question. So, asking twice at the risk of asking thrice, how does the day find you, Percival?"

Percival furrowed his brow, as he carried his drink to his lips. He thought about his answer for a moment, before setting the drink back down.

"Good," said Percy, taking a breath, trying to be better than he had been. "How about yourself? Looking for Ruarc?"

"As it so happens; yes," she responded wryly. "He had said he would be coming out, but I see only one man of the Isles here. I assume work called him away, but it is no matter. I'd actually been wishing to speak with you privately for some time now. If it's all the same to you."

"I'm engaged, ma'am," answered Percival, finally looking at her with a sly, self-satisfied smirk.

"Indeed you are, and I am booked to sing, unless you feel differently now that you are more sober," the faerie was holding her drink loosely and resting her chin on the back of her hand. "As it so happens, though, your engagement is irrelevant to the matter I wish to discuss. Sorry to deflate hopes you may have had."

"A regular heart breaker," droned Percy into his glass, humming a chuckle as he tipped back more amaretto and brandy. He rested his elbow on the bar and sat quite equally aloof, the arm contorting just so in absence of the other. "and here I was thinking you had finally fallen for me. Bad dreams aside..."

The Welshman tilted his head, keeping the edge of his vision on her, "You had something you wanted to ask? If it helps: I'm deathly afraid of buzzsaws, my favorite color is purple, I was actually born in Germany, and yes, it is my natural hair color."

"Irrelevant; figured as much; already guessed that; and sure it is," her gesticulations were exaggerated by tilts of her glass. "But no, witty repartee aside, I wanted to ask if you were alright." Her tone had lost its disinterest. It sounded about as genuine as Percy had heard her, and it caused him a sudden sense of discomfort.

He set his drink down, to let him occupy himself with the task of reorienting his smaller form. It took a little effort, but it let him disguise the unease in some way. She could see his fingers draw in, as he considered her motives.

Why? He thought, suspicions flaring, and his mind spinning. Does she know? She knows. There's no way she doesn't know. Is this a test? Is that how it works? Just like...

It took a moment for the Alchemist to chill his spinning brain, halting a spiral that had consumed him from night after sleepless night.

"Me? Oh, I'm alright," assured Percival, picking up his drink and taking a sip while putting his eyes on one of the bottles on the wall. Then, as if he had forgotten a common courtesy, he spun it back to Caoranach, "Are you alright?"

"I find myself worrying about the wellness of an individual in a way I have not in a couple thousand years, and I cannot help but worry I am making the same mistakes I made way back when," Caoranach spoke frankly and without hesitation. "Now, if you were asking how the day finds me; I am doing just fine given pleasant environment and a delicious drink. I asked if you were alright."

Pensively, the man lightly drummed his fingers on his drink; he stared down at the contents.

"I don't know," he answered her finally, a small tinge of vulnerability showing in response to her own. He turned, leaning back on the bar as if it were the support he needed to speak, "I don't know. I can't... I don't sleep anymore. That's all I really say, but... I think a lot in the many hours. It's all I do. I..."

He cast a side-long glance at Caoranach, sensing an opportunity. "Can I ask you a question?"

"Certainly," Caoranach answered after a moment's contemplation. "What is it you would ask?"

"How do you not think about it? All the time? Every time you talk to him. Every time you look in his eyes."

Caoranach sat and thought about the question, a thin ring on her middle finger tinking gently against the glass. It seemed she was giving it a reasonable amount of thought. "As unfortunate as it is to say, it is a result of practice. I have lived through many lifetimes of man. I do remember, from early on, not even realizing the time had passed by. Drifting back in from the wild, asking after a friend, and finding out from one of their descendants that you friend perished a generation before. It was... surreal. Coming to terms with the concept of time. Over time, after the concept had sunken in, it became depressing in a way. Even now, I feel as though I might turn around and see people I knew from before I was sealed away. Now? With Ruarc? I..."

Her voice trailed off as she thought about how to respond before answering simply. "I value the moments I spend with him. So that way I will have memories to carry with me after he is gone."

"That's it?" Percy asked, broken out of the trance that held him as he listened. He held up his cocktail, "They're the drink."

He tossed back the last of it and set the lowball glass down on the table. "And you're the glass. Once it's gone, you're all that's left. Empty. Just memories of what it was, and you just keep going?"

The hand on the glass started to shake, and he brought it up to his mouth, his eyes started to water, "Carrie, I don't know if I can do that."

"As opposed to what? You either carry on, or you don't," Caoranach stated with confidence. "Existence is many things, Percival. It can be painful. It can be beautiful. It can seem never-ending in one instant, and impossibly fleeting in the next. Regardless of which it might be, the only option is to keep going. For myself, and those like me, I was a part of the cycle before I could realize what was going on around me. For yourself, I imagine it will be like diving into a nigh frozen lake. Shocking; intense; painful. Will you drown? Or will you swim? I will not fault either decision."

Percival thought on that, managing to cup his emotions in his hand before they spilled from his mouth. The Alchemist was not an extraordinarily strong man, and the firm words seemed to break him down as much as they built him up. When he seemed to get a grasp on them fully, he straightened himself.

"It's been a hell of a time since I figured it out," said Percy, looking a little more ragged than when he started the conversation. "Whatever I am, I can sense it, inherently. The permanence. It's frightening. I know I don't need to face all of these things now, but I can't stop thinking about it. It feels like needing to rebuild your entire home from the foundation in an afternoon."

The man tossed a hand up, exasperated, "And who do I talk to? Ruarc? Miyuki? Should I even tell them? I feel like I'm hiding something from them, but what good would it do them to know I'm going to outlive them by... who knows."

"One way or another, they'll figure it out. They are your friends, they love you, and they will support you how they can. I see no benefit from withholding the information. If you are looking for a different perspective, you are always welcome to speak with me," she said, her voice sounding soothing. "Another option, however, is to leave. Not leaving for God-Knows-Where, Greenland; mind you. And not unannounced, either. If you cut your ties, sever the bonds, then the pain will be mitigated. I for instance could return to the Feywilds, live among my own. An undying land. I doubt you became as you are without also coming by some place of seclusion you could return too."

"Sure, I can hole up within the Elementalia, and hide away in a realm of my own making, but if seclusion with mortality has taught me anything, it's that I do not like being alone," Percival evened himself out a bit more, now speaking with a little more candor and comfort, "Seclusion with no end in sight was maddening. Perhaps, in time, I'll get used to it, but for now, I'm deathly hungry for contact."

Percy raised his hand for another drink, before gesturing to Caoranach, "You are evidence enough that it's worth it. You know what's coming, but you insist on chasing that fool until he relents."

The fae smiled a toothy grin. "It's a matter of pros and cons. On one hand, you can lock yourself away and be starved for companionship; or you can find what interests you most and pursue it despite what it may cost. For myself, I've always enjoyed the company of mortals. You... They have always been most interesting to keep as company than the fae. And Ruarc... He saved me. He was ordered to return me to my imprisonment but showed me mercy. I suppose you could say he renewed my faith in humans. And to that end, he earned special treatment."

"I imagine it may not always be that way, the way it is now. I love Miyuki dearly. I love her more than I've ever loved anything in this world, but the fear I have is how that may linger after she's gone."

Percy rubbed at his chin as the bartender put another bronzed beverage in front of him. "I'm not going to belabor it, but I'm terribly attached. I look at what you're doing with Ruarc, and it gives me a little faith in what I hope to keep with Miyuki. I don't want to be alone, I don't think she does either. If anything, she deserves this part of my life more than I do, even if I'm not sure of what it will look like after it's done."

He laughed, and shook his head, that somber thought pinched off, "Of all the people to know for an eternity."

"Take it from Ruarc, my company grows on you over time," Caoranach laughed along. "And if you ever need a change of scenery, let me know and I can arrange for you to stay in the Feywild for a time. Though bear in mind, I am the more personable and friendly member of the Fey Courts."

"Jakku and Zippo keep my hands full, I don't know if I could handle an entire plane of them wanting me off their lawn," carried on Percy, before a thought struck him, "on the other hand... There's so little written of the Feywild; to be able to study the ancient plants of the Primal Realm... Kingsroot, ghostseye... You can't find ghostseye anywhere else, it can't grow anywhere else. Yes..."

He snapped out of the sudden murmurings, realizing that he was beginning to mentally salivate, "Ah... Rook, for that matter, and your parents... I'm still trying to grasp the fact I'm referring to them like we're in some sort of sitcom, but... do they know him? About him?"

"Not exactly, no," Caoranach sounded evasive as she sipped on her drink. "I'm sure they've only just realized I'm free from my banishment, much less considered why I stay in this realm. Regardless, there is little to tell. That man continues to sit on his laurels, so technically speaking I am still just an Elder fae bothering him."

The woman crossed her arms and huffed.

"For what it’s worth, his attitude has changed after the rescue. Along with rugged scars, he's been... warmer. Not keeping me at arm’s length. Although, he has decided that he would prefer keeping the events that transpired under wraps. So, who knows, perhaps it’s about time for another change in the status quo."

Percy's grim tincture of curious expressions, slow spread into a smile that mirrored Caoranach's usual countenance towards most. For once, he knew something the fae didn't, and it made him feel a little more at home, a little closer to his brother.

The cold cocktail tipped up to his lip, keeping the pace going.

"I try not to let out too much about Rook, he's more secretive than myself, even if he doesn't realize it. The nature of druids, ya'see." Percival, feeling comfortable in his own skin for the first time on his own, smiled a bit wider, "If I can say... anything... for a friend... it's that he's finally found room in his heart for something new."

The Alchemist took another sip of his mixture, "Perhaps room for another change in the status quo."

"Believe me, I know plenty about druids," she responded as she relaxed, once again reclining in her seat. Her own expression softened as she seemed to be thinking of something fondly. "But Ruarc is special. Each of your group is. After all, you bested me when you were youths. While I may have not been at full strength at the time, it was still an accomplishment; and I feel accomplishments like that will become important in the days to come."

The words seemed to strike Percival shortly after she finished with them. He turned in his seat and raised the back of his hand to her forehead.

"No fever."

At that, he leaned back on the bar, staring at her with a doctor's discernment. "No discoloration. No shortness of breath. The pupils are at normal contraction..."

A fist came up to his mouth, partially in thought, partially to hide his puckish smile, "... and yet, that sounded like a compliment."

"Contrary to what you may think, I do not think ill of any of you children," the fae swat Percy away as she spoke. "Ultimately irrelevant to most of my interests, but not actively in my way. As for the compliment, well, everybody gets one."

"Well!" Percival's grin became a bit more genuine as he grabbed his drink again, "I'm glad we're good in each other's books at least. If I promise to stay irrelevant, you promise not to go back on your judgement?"

"Now now, those are promises neither of us should make," Caoranach hummed. "We cannot tell what the future may hold and making promises with my kind isn't as trivial as humans tend to treat the concept. So instead..."

She raised her glass towards Percy to make a toast.

"To an amiable acquaintanceship."

Tink! The two glasses chimed in agreement.

"To an amiable acquaintanceship."
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