"Fair folk are rather vindictive, aren't they?"
Hanana looked up from the page. "What?"
"Well, I couldn't help seeing that there are a lot of fair folk who hurt humans for the silliest of reasons," Yukiki explained, waving a hand at the book. At Hanana's blank expression, he sighed and looked back down. "Keep reading."
She did, suppressing a little smile. Over the past few days, she'd learned that her friend here was a very fast ready--and not because he just skimmed, like some people she knew. He actually read the words, soaked them in and understood the story. She'd found that out after he tried to turn the page before she was done with it the first few times, saying he was finished already--at one point she'd just shut the book and held it to him, then told him to tell her what was one the page, then, if he'd really read it.
She ended regretting that because there had been a plot twist on that very page.
And Yukiki had to force himself not to smile at the look on her face when she dropped the book and, too late, covered her ears.
But now Hanana finally got to the part he was referring to, and she frowned. "Hmmm...I suppose you're right."
"Are we supposed to cheer for the fair folk in these cases?" he asked, giving the book a mild glare, as if it were the one at fault here. "In some of these stories, yes, it's karma, and I can't say I completely object to that. but in more of these stories it's...it's just hubris. The humans have done nothing wrong, or are victim of something beyond their control. Psyche can't help how she looks, how other people treat her despite her protests. Camion just forgets herself in a moment of panic, and the orders she was given in the first place were for no real reason, either." An unreadable look flickered on his face for a moment. "Why aren't the fair folk ever punished?"
"I think..." Hanana began, closing the book. Her brow furrowed as she thought about that. Truth be told, she had sometimes wondered the same thing. Most of the time when she read such stories, the one who was punished was another human, or a monster. If a fairy or immortal creature had done something wrong, they were only given a light scolding if anything. "I suppose...maybe they don't see the point," she said at last. "Fairies are immortal, and they have incredible powers, right? Well, no matter what punishment they received, they'd probably just consider it a slap on the wrist. If you imprisoned them for ten years, it'd probably only feel like a second to them, and they wouldn't have any remorse. There's no point in punishing someone who won't, or refuses to, understand, right?" That was the best she could come up with. Even to her it sounded horribly unfair.
Evidently Yukiki thought so too, for he just stood up, pushing himself away from the table. "I don't want to read anymore today," he said bluntly, moving for the door.
"Wait a minute--where are you going?" Hanana called out.
"Nowhere...Need to think," he answered, tugging on his sleeve a bit as he went out the door.
Hanana let him go.
He was right, she thought, skimming over some of the stories again. It wasn't fair.
Fair folk went and cursed humans left and right, for the smallest of slights--sometimes, she supposed, they had it coming, but other times the victim was an innocent or had made the simplest of mistakes. Not really the kind of thing she would enjoy. Privately, she thought maybe it was a good thing she hadn't heard some of these until she was older...
But there was more to it than mere unfairness, she thought to herself, carefully placing a bit of paper in the pages to make their place. Why had Yukiki responded in such a way? As if it were a personal issue?
Maybe he took offense to such things because he was better than that: a noble demon, so to speak. N-not that he's a demon-demon! Hanana hastily corrected herself with a shake of her head, a faint blush in her cheeks. What he is doesn't make him who he is.
Speaking of Yukiki, shouldn't he have been back by now? A quick look out the window confirmed that the sun was nearly fully-set, the sky dusky purple and blue. He'd left around mid-day. Had the story really bothered him that much?
Hanana was suddenly reminded of herself and her sisters; when they were younger and upset, they'd pretend to run away and not come back til around suppertime. They'd all grown out of it, but then there had been that occasion when Aruru had been so upset over something that she just walked out the door and hadn't come back til well past supper. Hanana and their dad had had to grab the lanterns and look for her; they'd found her shivering and sulking by the riverbed. She doubted Yukiki was actually sulking--though the mental image was pretty funny--but still...
She'd better go look for him. Fair folk of some kind or no, it wasn't very safe at night in a forest. And well, maybe it was a bit of selfishness on her part--she didn't like being lonely, especially after dark.
The snow and wind felt soothing in a way.
He barely felt the flakes of snow and ice hitting him in the face, but being surrounded by cold air felt nice. Simple. Right.
Yukiki couldn't help sigh in annoyance though, at the sight of just how much was still falling and how hard the wind was blowing. The storm still wasn't over? This was a long one. At least there wasn't too much snow on the ground, against the trees. That at least meant that it had calmed down a few times, though not enough for it to be safe for his guest to go back home. This was getting ridiculous; he was starting to think the gods were laughing at him, making it this stormy on purpose or something. He hoped she didn't have family back there (he'd have to ask her, he suddenly realized. He'd just assumed she was living alone the whole time, seeing her come out of a house so close to the forest. He knew well enough that no one would willingly live there, and that maybe this one girl was just special), worried sick about her. And not even the mirror would be enough to dispel any worries she or her hypothetical family would have--it only worked one-way.
"You'd better stop soon," he said aloud, partly to himself and partly to the howling wind. Miraculously, he still heard himself over it. "You're inconveniencing everyone."
He whirled around, his hands and the inside of his mouth suddenly feeling much colder. That suddenly faded away when he noticed the bit of pink up ahead, moving clumsily in the wind and deep snow. "Ugh--what's she--?" he started to say, starting forward, effortlessly making his way to her. "What are you doing out here?" he asked again when he was close enough.
Hanana jumped, turning to look at him, and he felt a bit guilty just then. He didn't know how long she'd been out there, but her lips were blue, there was an odd blue tint to her face, and her hands shook slightly. At least she had a better coat now, and a scarf--both of which had once been his, he couldn't help noticing. "You're going to freeze to death!" he added, grabbing the scarf and tugging it tighter around her--it was too loose, like she'd barely thrown it over her shoulders.
"S-s-sorr-ry..." she said between chattering teeth. "I j-j-just...w-wor-ried."
Worried? About him? He wasn't worth worrying about. "I repeat what I said before: You're a strange one," he said, almost affectionately. Enough of that. They'd better get back inside. Mercifully, they weren't even that far from the house now.
Hanana had to shut her eyes against the snow and wind, but she felt something heavy go around her shoulders, supporting her as she walked, and something else prying her hands out of her sleeves and shoving something warm onto them. Opening her eyes a little, she looked down at her own hands, seeing they were gloved now.
"There..." Yukiki sighed, practically collapsing into a chair after helping Hanana into one. He tilted his head back, rubbing a bare hand over his eyes. "Again. Strange one," he said.
Hanana smiled nervously, tugging on the scarf--
"Don't take it off yet; not til you're warm again."
"Oh o-ok-kay..." she stuttered, rubbing her arms. Trying not to stare at his hands.
She hadn't known what was under those gloves--or even really thought about it. But she certainly didn't expect branches. Two of those fingers parted, a blue eye opening in time to see her staring. Hanana ducked her head, pretending she hadn't been looking.
"...it makes sense, doesn't it?"
Wait, was that humor in his voice? Hanan looked up again, noting the slight smile. Oh, so it was. "I g-guess..." Oh good, the stutter was nearly gone. "I never th-thought about it." She paused, watching as he pulled his hand away from his face and rested it on the table. "Do...if you touch your face like that, do you ever get splinters? Or does any of it break off?"
"Never has yet," he answered, lifting his hand and turning it a few times, as if seeing it for the first time. (Or maybe not, he mused silently. He was much calmer now than he was seeing his hands for the first time in their current state.) "They feel...they look harsh, but I think they're rather smooth. I've never splintered, in any case, not in a century." He didn't even realize what he'd inadvertently said.
Hanana looked down at her own hands, the feeling starting to return to them at last. Carefully, she tugged off a glove and held her now-bare hand out to him. "Can I?" she asked.
For a moment, she thought he'd say no. She should have expected it, really; one didn't normally ask to touch another's hands. She was about to put her hand back down and awkwardly laugh it off as a joke when he nodded, barely inclining his head.
He didn't move, but she nervously outstretched her fingers, stopping just above his palm. The stories of being frozen to death came back to her against her will, some dark corner of her mind whispered that maybe bare touch was what would freeze her, not a gloved one. But he would have said no, if that were true, wouldn't he? And the stories had called him heartless and angry, and he didn't seem that way to her...
Swallowing nervously, she closed the distance, lining up their fingers as if to compare their hand-sizes. Nothing happened. She exhaled lightly, smiled. "You're right," she said, taking the liberty of entwining their fingers. "It doesn't feel bad at all."
Her smile made his heart twist again, his chest feel a bit warmer; he tried not to show what he did to him. "Nope."