I move along, heading straight for the dining hall. If what I’d been told is indeed true, then I really can’t afford to keep the others waiting. That’s a mistake I’ve made once before, and that incident ended in a disaster.
While I can’t say that they’ve given me any major grievances, it’s still notable enough to mention that the girls had, at some point in time, come up with some bizarre set of rules that still keeps them from beginning until I join them. I do recall one instance, not too long ago in fact, where I’d decided that I would come in early and await their arrival, largely because I wanted to show some consideration. When they did finally join me, they looked as if the world might end any second.
They’d then proceeded to drown me in a virtual flood of apologies. Even Vampir and Kühling, both among the more prideful sort, had fallen on their hands and knees to show their regret.
… Honestly, that had been a bit much. In any case, since they seemed to be under the odd misconception that arriving after I did was some egregious error on their part, I’d made sure to make it a learning experience. I’d decided that I’d always make an effort to come just a little bit later than they did.
I can do well without ever hearing their agonized screams again, thank you kindly.
Oh, would you look at that. I’d been so absorbed in my own thoughts I hadn’t even noticed that I’m standing right in front of the dining hall.
I consider the possibility that not all the girls had made it in yet, realizing that simply bursting in right here and now might be a bit unwise. They might even hold it against me later. Just to make sure, I allow my magic to probe the interior of the dining hall.
While I won’t claim to be the most adept at its use, I do at least have some measure of confidence in my magical capabilities.
… Yep. They’re all here.
Here we go then. Time to go inside.
The second I come to terms with my intentions, the doors open out of their own accord.
…I’ve always been curious about these doors, come to think of it. Just how were they made? The question persists, but I nevertheless step into the dining hall.
Given the fact that ten people were meant to dine in here, it’s only reasonable for the hall to be incredibly spacious. Pricey-looking lighting equipment hangs from the ceiling, and the edges of the hall itself are decorated with ornaments that look so expensive I’d rather not guess their actual net worth.
But I’ve never really had an eye for fine arts. I suppose it’s just not my place to comment on them. Vampir seems like she might have a better grasp of it all. I’m sure she’d be much more appreciative of their value.
A long, narrow table stands in the dead center of the hall; each side decked with five chairs that clearly hadn’t come cheap either. Each seat is filled out by one of the other guild members.
At the head of the table is another chair, one much more decorated and expensive-looking than the others. I head towards it.
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I should probably mention that while I’d made an attempt to explain that I’d be perfectly fine with having a chair that was just like everyone else’s, not to mention happy without having to sit at the table head, they others had been incredibly insistent.
Once I lower myself onto my seat, the other guild members present simultaneously rise from their own.
“A new day has come, and once again do we offer the Great Master our thanks.”
Anat’s the one who speaks, ever the mediator between this diverse, unique cast of members. Once she’d spoken, each of the members places their hands in a very specific location. To be more concrete, they place them on the spots adorned by their guild crests.
Each of the crests glows with a dim, bewitching light.
For Laladi, the light comes from her right cheek. For Sorglos, from her right shoulder. Ritter, her rear. Vampir, her abdomen. Reese, her tongue. Kühling, her right thigh. Krankheit, her left. For Anat, it comes from her chest.
The bewitching glow falls in line with our somewhat ‘peculiar’ nature as a guild, and it does indeed make this come off as being just a bit unsettling. However, one could hardly look at Ritter and not consider it at least somewhat comedic.
That doesn’t change that they all look dead serious. I’ll be frank. That scares me a little.
They’ve made a habit out of doing this each and every day, but I really don’t think I’ve done anything that might deserve daily praise. And I’d be happy to tell them that, if only I weren’t so afraid that they might go into some sort of shock if I do. For now, I’m content just sitting here, smiling and playing along.
Upon my instructions, they all take their seats again. It’s good to see that we’ve finally settled back into our usual mood, especially after all the unrest that had been floating about not moments earlier.
Each one of them; Laladi and Sorglos, Ritter, Vampir, Schwald, Reese, Kühling, Krankheit, and finally, Anat.
This guild is practically teeming with peculiar, unique members, each one of them blessed with an entirely different personality. There’s really only one instance wherein they act similarly despite all their differences, and that would be whenever they give their so-called ‘thanks.’
It’s their eyes, really. They all grow a strangely muddled, almost intoxicated gaze.
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I snap out of my thoughts, only now noting that food had been set on the table. Laladi had been kind enough to go and fetch us my cooking. She’d carried it all the way here, practically wobbling on her own two feet but doing the best she could.
When I thank her for a job well done, she looks up at me with the happiest look in her eyes. How adorable.
Strangely, Laladi doesn’t seem willing to return to her seat. She continues staring at me, almost expectantly.
…Oh, of course. It finally clicks in my head, and I realize what she’s asking for. I reach for her soft, green hair and pet her.
Laladi more than happily leans into me. Seemingly satisfied, at least for the time being, she lumbers onto my lap. She looks even happier when she sits there.
“Come on now, Laladi. You’re at the table; it’s best to show some manneeers…”
(What do you think you’re doiiing? Get off already.)
“Master, am I being bad?”
(You’re really getting on my nerves, y’know. Just shut it, you damn fanatic.)
Anat softly reprimands her, her expression one of worry. Laladi looks back up at me. She looks more imploring than anything; her eyes are wide and round, not to mention uncomfortably close to shedding tears.
Oh boy… I know that Anat’s playing the voice of reason here, but that look… There’s really nothing I can do…
“Yaaaay! All clear!”
(Hmph! How was that, you fanatic?)
Laladi waves both her hands in glee when I give my consent. I’m sorry, Anat. She’s just so dependent on others; there was nothing I could do.
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Vampir sinks her teeth into her handkerchief and stares my way… well, to be more accurate, she’s staring at Laladi. The other guild members follow suit, each glaring at her in silence.
…What? When did the mood get so thick?
“Master. I wish to do the same.”
The first one to break through the strange discomfort is Ritter. She points at Laladi with vigor.
Hm? Does she want to sit on my lap too?
Ritter gulps, nodding.
I see how it is. She hasn’t grown out of her dependence on others either, has she?
“…It’s Lala’s turn now.”
“That doesn’t matter.”
That point doesn’t detract from Laladi, though. She’s pampered enough in her own right. Why, she’s anchoring herself to me and glaring daggers at Ritter at this very moment.
Well, that’s always been the norm for the members of this guild. Once they’ve made up their minds, there’s little that might make them reconsider their stance. I can already guess that Laladi doesn’t have any intention of stepping down, and neither does Ritter.
What can I say. This is a classic case of the early bird catching the worm.
“…Of course. I understand.”
Only when I offer to give her the same treatment, only later, does Ritter return to her seat.
That said, she’s clearly not fully on board. For all I know, she might just come back again.