To travel with you?
Moon as Aeria
Threads as Dante
It was rare for Aeria to fuss over her appearance, but it was equally as rare for her to actually go on a date with someone, so she was taking her time to make sure that she looked right. The spurii didn’t even own a dress and wasn’t likely to wear one even if she had one. It just wasn’t her style. Instead she opted for some nicely fitting pants in a neutral light brown tone, a fitted shirt of violet hue to match her hair and a simple leather belt with a silver buckle to tie it all together. She wore a pair of mid-calf boots and had to resist the temptation to take her halberd along.
By the time that she was ready, she glanced out of her apartment window and saw Dante about to come up, so she shouted down to him.
“I’ll be there in just one minute!”
After checking her downy hair one more time, she closed and locked the door, slipped the key into her pocket and jogged lightly down the stairs to street level where she met Dante with a grin. “Hello! How are things since the party in the pub? I hope you’ve been doing well!”
The athlete was leaning to the side of the building as he waited. He wore a long, dark blue coat with three separated coattails. Underneath a black sleeveless vest, dark green pants held by a silver buckled dark leather belt and grey boots. The athlete had swept his hair back more than usual so that it would not look as unkempt as it tended to.
”I have, things have been as they should be, mostly practice,” Pulling himself from leaning to an upright position, ”But aren't you looking well,” giving her a cursory look over while smiling gently.
Aeria was rather shocked by Dante’s appearance. His clothing was of particularly fine quality and it seemed more fitting of one of the city’s more elegant gentleman than a kinner. On the other hand, kinchaa players weren’t exactly short on funds, were they? She gave him a smile in return.
“Well you certainly did dress the part for the evening! I’d say you look well too. Shall we?”
The spurii gestured towards the city that stretched out all around them. The night seemed full of a whole variety of possibilities.
“So where to? If you don’t have any suggestions, I have a particular restaurant in mind that we could visit.”
Looking him up and down, Aeria again tried not to find him as attractive as she did. She certainly didn’t want to give him the eye in an obvious way. It would only be embarrassing if he caught her staring. There was a great deal about the kinner that she wanted to learn, but rushing it wasn’t a good plan.
”That is fine, I am unfamiliar with this part of town. Lead on,” he gestured as Aeria began to lead him towards their destination. All the athlete hoped for was that there were not going to be any complications and that he could focus entirely on her and tried to spark a conversation to make the travel feel not as long.
”So how about you, anything exciting happen since the pub?” Dante asked nonchalantly, trying to read her reaction from body language.
A laugh bubbled up from Aeria and she glanced across at Dante, raising eyebrows at him.
“Funnily enough, it has gotten crazy again. I was so hoping for a nice settled time of things, but now it looks like I’ll be going north on an expedition to Arctoa with two of my companions who were at the pub with us. I also got a new engineering job, but I don’t know how that will go.”
Nodding at Dante, she continued to speak. “So what about the kinchaa business? Tell me what life’s like as a kinner. Do you get tired of people recognizing you everywhere? I always wondered what having that kind of celebrity was like.”
While she had a certain type of recognition from some people, Aeria was hardly a celebrity. It always made her curious. She guided Dante through the streets and stopped outside a pleasant looking café. Inside they were greeted by the chef who knew the spurii personally and seated at a table in an intimate corner.
”Hah, gladly I am not that famous yet,” Dante chuckled before he took a more serious tone, ”You know those people who say that playing sports is not hard work? Well, those people never see the amount of hard work we players do to maintain their physical condition, it leaves little free time for other things, especially during a season,” Dante paused and sighed, ”But every night I go out there and play, it is thoroughly enjoyable and exciting, so I keep doing it.”
The athlete had taken his coat off when they had gotten inside.
”Are there struggles for you at your job? He inquired while looking her straight into the eyes.
“My job? No, not struggles. I guess switching from fighting battles and running around nearly being destroyed by evil beings bent on world destruction to working in an engineering office is just kind of a change of pace.”
Aeria smiled and said, “It sounds a lot like what you do is more than just money making. It sounds like you genuinely love it.”
She paused and looked more seriously at Dante. “So where were you in all that fighting and daemon invasion? I am sure you were part of it or else you wouldn’t have been at the pub. What did you experience?”
It was interesting how they seemed to be moving in between topics and tones. They ranged from light and easy to heavy and darker. It was comfortable for Aeria nonetheless. She felt at ease and was surprised by how easily she fell into chatting with the kinner.
He sighed. Even though he had somewhat expected that they might approach this topic, it did not make it any easier for the athlete to talk about.
”I helped out in Navale in a missing person rescue operation, before boarding and defending the Hydrus from the daemons,” the athlete paused to take a drink to try and muddle the memories from emerging too strongly, ”it could most aptly be described as a chaotic mess, especially on the ship.”
Even if they did not explicitly say to it each other, the athlete shared her feelings of being at ease and open to talk about even the heavier topics.
”What about you?” the kinner asked while taking another sip.
“Well,as you may or may not have heard, I ended up in the middle of the Battle of The Black Portal. Everything sort of fell apart and I somehow ended up being the rallying point for the troops. I didn’t intend to do it but it just happened. Ever since then, reports have been circulating about me being some kind of hero. I gotta tell you that I don’t feel like any hero. So many people died that day…”
Aeria stopped. It was still too much for her to talk about and so she changed the topic again.
“How did you feel when you were just kind of an ordinary person? I mean you were helping out and it didn’t matter that you were a famous kinchaa player. I feel strange because I’m an ordinary person who people seem to think acted in a heroic way. I just wondered how you felt in the opposite position.”
She took a sip of the wine that had arrived and savoured the rich, round tones of it as it rolled around her mouth. She was sure that whatever meal the chef created for them, it would be amazing.
”I did not really think about it in that way. I helped out because anyone with their head in the right place and the capability to help should do so in face of great threat,” the athlete replied.
Exploring his own thoughts briefly, Dante felt that he had helped out simply because it was the right thing to do, even if it was a bit of cliche.
”People like to over embellish brave things others do, particularly so when they are not present at the event and its related to war,” the kinner reached out and gently touched her chin, ”So don't agonize over it.”
The sudden gentle touch was a surprise for Aeria, but she resisted the urge to pull away and let Dante’s fingers linger there for a moment. It was an intimate gesture and it was something with which she felt surprisingly comfortable. She smiled softly at the kinner.
“Thank you, Dante. I’ll try not to agonize for it.”
Lightening the mood, she added, “I’d probably get bored if I didn’t have people going on about it.”
There was a momentary lull in the conversation and the slender spurii woman didn’t try to fill it. She let her hand touch Dante’s and rest there a moment before she moved it off to rest beside his hand on the table. She had to move it again when the waiter delivered to their table a steaming iron pot of seafood stew giving off aromas of wine and garlic.
Inhaling, Aeria grinned, as the waiter ladled them each a serving. When he’d gone, the spurii raised her wine glass to Dante.
“A toast to good food with wonderful friends!”
She lowered it again and sipped, her eyes meeting Dante’s.
“So why did you agree to have dinner with me? I mean apart from my obvious charms.” She grinned in a self-mocking way as she said this.
“Seriously though. I was surprised that you wanted to spend this kind of time with me.”
He met her toast as the aromas of the food enticed him for a taste. He had been to many a restaurant in his life and just from them he could tell the chef had their chops in order.
”This kind?” he asked with a raised eyebrow before continuing, ”Well, I find you attractive and want to get to know you better, is it really that surprising? And just to point it out, you approached me first at the bar, so don’t be surprised about it,” he answered back accompanied with a smile.
Taking a careful taste of the stew, he was surprised of the dish's flavour complexity which was well balanced among the various seafoods and sauce.
Aeria tried to bury herself in the food to cover up the blush that had spread across her face, enjoying the complex flavours but she knew that she’d eventually have to respond.
“Well, it’s just...you’re way more direct than what I’m used to. I mean nobody has ever just said they found me attractive point-blank. I find it hard to get used to it. Nobody’s ever really told me that they wanted to get to know me better either.”
She paused, turning even redder.
“I...find you attractive too.”
As if to move them on, she quickly shuffled to the next topic of conversation.
“Now in the spirit of getting to know you more, tell me something about yourself that no one else knows. It doesn’t have to be any deep revelation, it can just be any small factoid or interesting thing that you haven’t really shared with people. I’ll share one back.”
He had to hold a chuckle in order to not embarrass her more as he was sure she'd not like it, given how she had reacted to his words previously.
To no one else, huh? Was there anything about him that he had not told to others? As the athlete pondered these questions in his head, an idea finally emerged to him.
”Most of the stuff is related to kinchaa, I guess?” he began, pausing for a chuckle at the realization that his entire life revolved around the sport, ”but to tell you something outside of it, I try to give myself time to travel to at least one other city yearly, but it is getting harder and harder to do that as of late,” Dante finished with a small sigh.
Aeria waited until Dante had told her the one thing that no one else knew and nodded at him to acknowledge his sharing. Before she asked him the follow up question that she was dying to ask, she had to fulfill her part of the agreement.
“You shared so now it’s my turn. I fell out of a tree and nearly died when I was a small child. It was in Boreas when I was playing with the enlil children. One of them glided down from the top of a tree and I thought I’d try it too since I was half-enlil. Of course, I forgot that I didn’t actually have the ability to glide. Luckily my clothing snagged on a branch on the way down and my parents rescued me, but it left me with an intense fear of falling from high places ever since then.”
She paused and asked, “Why is it getting harder to travel of late? Just because your kinchaa playing schedule or….”
”That sounds terrifying,” he replied to her story.
”Well, there has been something missing from my travels lately. Even though I enjoy the views and seeing different places it all seems awfully dull compared to the excitement of high stake competition or a combat situation. There is no equal to the rush I get from them, so maybe I am currently doing it just for tradition's sake,” the athlete paused.
”Maybe traveling with a companion would make it exciting?” He nonchalantly thought out loud.
“Oh? What sort of a companion did you have in mind for these travels?” A smile and a soft blush spread across her elfin features as she regarded her companion. She was quiet as she half-met his gaze while her eyes scanned back and forth over his face.
”Oh, I don't know, someone whose company I enjoy and who would enjoy my company,” the athlete held a pause, ”It's not like I am out camping in the wild, though maybe a camping trip to somewhere could be fun too,” he rambled on a bit before setting his eyes on Aeria again.
”Does that interest or scare you?” Dante asked while gently looking into her eyes.
The blush had receded a little, but Aeria still wasn’t able to fully meet Dante’s eyes. She looked across at him and back towards the window of the restaurant, seeing her face and his reflected there.
“It...does both? I...have to admit that I’d enjoy have a companion to travel with, but I’ve been so used to being on my own.” Her voice was earnest even as she failed to meet his eyes again.
After a moment, she managed to look right into Dante’s face, their eyes meeting now full-on.
“I’ve spent a lot of time being afraid in my life, but this is one scary thing that I might actually want to be a part of.” She breathed in deeply, let the breath out and said, “I’m willing to try and travel the road with you.”