April 26th, 2098

06:43:54 [Porthman] Meredith had a night and morning to mull over what transpired in the graveyard. The second ticked by in a way that made hours feel like years and by mid-morning, he’d decided to put a stop to his thinking and brooding. Aleicester – the noisy little puffin – was armed with a note and a purpose shortly thereafter. Its intended victim: Noriko Sakada. Meredith washed up and dressed himself at a slow and steady pace (with greater attention to detail than usual) in the meanwhile. When he was finished ahead of schedule, he fussed with his clothing. Any invisible debris was brushed from the jeans he’d hand-picked. The pale yellow, gauze scarf he’d chosen never sat right on his neck, but he agreed with himself enough to wager it looked better with its short ends bundled and tied off to the side. Those seemed to be his biggest struggles—he had no such quarrel with the dark tee (or his wand, its sheath, and the oddly-shaped envelope he stuffed in his pocket) he’d chosen to offset the lighter colors of the whole outfit. No matter how long he’d been dressing himself and how long these particular items had been in his possession, Meredith couldn’t stop feeling like a child that’d been allowed to dress himself for the very first time. He was half-expecting his mother to pop up when he descended the stairs to tell him to march right back up and try again. When the only thing that greeted him was Bobby’s wagging tail and wiggling body, Meredith exhaled—but he felt no better than before. A clock on the wall declared he didn’t have any time left to have second thoughts about his choices. Bobby received an affectionate pat on the head before the auror evaporated with a noise the dog was all too used to by now. Mop had faith that Aleicester delivered his message by now. I’ll be at Liliput’s at noon. See you there? The only variable in the air was Noriko’s response.

07:01:57 Noriko || Noon. Noriko didnt actually need to read another word of that. The others came to her a little bit in a jumble: Liliput’s, you, there, I’ll, see. She scratched down a response on the back of the note and sent it back on the noisy puffin, after feeding him a little fish. A puffin. Alceister was a good puffin; Noriko still thought it so strange that a puffin had brought a letter to her door. Who had a puffin after all? Our hero didnt often have free time at noon; she actually technically had none today. Regardless her response read simply: See you there-Nori She had skipped quite a lot of practice recently. Hoped, she guessed, that her teammates would be forgiving: she hadnt told them about the prophecy but some had guessed. There’d been some chastising over her part in various scuffles round Diagon Alley too; she was getting a reputation with them as a disturber of the peace. Before leaving Nori spent precariously little time dressing: the flowers and veil Lady Blossompop had crafted yesterday [her hair she wound into a tight twist], a sky blue sundress, black flats. Over the top a different coat than usual, black gabardine: the red she presumed might clash with the pale blue. Nori liked to be colourful; she also liked to be neat. Completely unacceptable to clash. Then it was out the door and through the floo: Liliput’s awaited her. ||

07:18:30 Porthman should have guessed he’d be disturbing quidditch practice. Even if the thought had crossed his mind, he let his wants (needs) outweigh sense – something he’d surely veritably flay himself for later when his head was on straight and all this trouble was behind him. It mattered little if Mop received Aleicester’s return notice before he left (he hadn’t) – he arrived at Diagon Alley and trotted down the beaten path to Liliput’s all the same. He was undecided on if he should purchase tea before his expected guest arrived and surprise her (risking a disappointing gift) or let her decide when she got there. What did she like, anyway? Would she want something to remind her of home… or was she adventurous in her tea selection? Meredith’s indecision gripped him long enough to freeze him while staring pensively at the menu.

07:28:47 Noriko || Our hero hadnt been to Liliput’s in days: not since her first brush with noted evildoer Cyrus Valen, when he exploded part of the wall in his brawl with Hippolytus Botts. The list of locations Noriko avoided grew long; time was it started growing short again. Right? She spun through the door all colour and energy. Drinking with Blossompop was good for the soul: more, telling someone the secret she’d kept held against her breast was liberating. As though all the troubles in the world werent hers and hers alone anymore. “I like roasted teas; kikucha is my favourite,”she whispered over Mop’s shoulder. It wasnt really a very good greeting she didnt think; next time she could do better. Ireland, England, Australia, the axis of tea-ruiners. She didnt completely believe that. Just that she liked her teas not burnt and full of cream. ||

07:46:14 [Porthman] If his nerves were as frayed as his scarf, Meredith might have jumped at Noriko’s sudden intrusion of his personal space. Composure was a hard thing to find after his foiled run-in with Valen and the outburst that followed it, but he found it somewhere in the waiting. “Kikucha?” He asked in word as thoughtful as his stare to the written menu. Slowly but surely, he turned his head away from the suddenly unfulfilling list to cast a glance over his shoulder and a sincere smile to Noriko. “Is that green tea?” Meredith’s mother was a chai woman… and so were her children – she made sure of that. The concept of tea without milk was absolute insanity. “Do you want to stay here? Anything to eat?” Mop didn’t question Noriko’s decision and approached the counter to order hers and his (a red chai she’d likely find as awful as the rest of England’s tea decisions) along with tacking on any food if (and as) she added them to the list.

07:58:46 Noriko || “Yes and no, its made from the twigs and stems of the camellia; rather than the leaves or buds.” Noriko actually didnt have a quarrel with reds, but rooibos wasnt tea it was tisane. Different! She sidled next to him and counted off things to add onto the requests for tea: “Scones! Real scones; the kind that arent soft and disappointing, with lemon curd!” It was like our hero told Blossompop the night before; some things she couldnt escape the shackles of. British mightve been tea-ruiners but in most other ways she held Britishness in relentlessly high regard. “How are you doing? How’s your friend?” Our hero meant Gloriana obviously; she couldnt be referring to anybody else. Noriko kept meeting friends of Mop [like he was the centre of all society in London] but only one was confined to the hospital; the rest as far as she knew hadnt been kidnapped or cruciated by noted evildoers with stupid demonic arms. ||

08:09:38 [Porthman] Mop answered Noriko’s question after they’d secured their tea, scones, and table. He wanted to be sitting down and enjoying himself before he delved into anything else. “Gloriana?” He asked, forgoing the question of his mood. “She’s… she’s being cared for. She won’t speak to me, but… she’s been through a lot.” It was easy to make excuses for the woman, but it wasn’t as easy for Mop to believe what he said. The chair in front of him steamed while he put more effort into retrieving an envelope from his pocket to put safely on the table nearby. “She just needs some time. She’ll come around.” With that, Meredith drummed out his tension onto the table and smiled. “How’s practice? Energy has got to be up with the Cup around the corner!” Before Noriko, Mop had his World Cup plan down to a science. Now that he’d fostered a relationship with the seeker, he couldn’t even be certain about that much… but the small talk helped to put him at ease.

08:32:37 Noriko || Gloriana didnt ring like a topic Mop wished to focus on; Noriko nodded solemnly over the top of her cup of proper non-ruined tea. “I’m sure she’ll be alright.” Nori didnt have any excuses to make: she didnt know very much about Gloriana, only that she was full of conflict and needed to resolve it herself. “Practice is, Ive been distracted a lot. Actually, missing afternoon practice right now; I decided I’d rather be here. Everyone is very tense. Probably I’m not helping by letting so many things get to me! I wasnt even born yet the last time Japan qualified; so the expectations are very high. I just want to be done; win or lose. When I play there isnt anything I worry about: its always before.” It wasnt quidditch she was actually worried about though; our hero [the splendiferous Princess Sparklefists] hadnt slept well in a week for a very different cause. Only last night she had cracked under pressure and done something, recruited help. Noriko might even do it again; she hadnt yet decided. “I get impulsive when I’m under stress; I guess you already knew that though, didnt you?” Mea culpa: Noriko batted her lashes and smiled. She’d promised already that this time she wasnt going to do anything mad. ||

08:50:44 [Porthman] It seemed cruel to laugh at Noriko’s confession, but Meredith couldn’t help when he did. It didn’t last more than a few breaths. “You don’t say.” He was apologetic coming out of it, though. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know! I should have—hell—I shouldn’t have pulled you away from practice! Is it too late to go? I’m sorry.” Mop back-tracked with a serious tone and a solemn expression. Less seriously, he offered: “I’ll keep your tea warm and cheer you from the stands.” From the sounds of it, Noriko might need a distraction just as much as Meredith did.

09:00:45 Noriko || “No, dont be sorry. I made my choice today and I dont regret it. I can smooth it over with Akio with singing chocolate; I have an eye for these things.” Our hero couldnt think of anywhere she’d rather be: hadnt left things in a good place last time she’d seen Mop. “He knew I might not always be around when he scouted me; he knows that I can see. I want to be here, you can cheer for me when I play against Ireland.” He would hopefully; she didnt expect his support over England clearly, Ireland shouldnt be so much to ask for though. “Do you still fly?” ||

09:15:04 [Porthman] “That’s a promise.” Meredith swore, lifting his chai to practically toast and take a sip. His free hand continued to tap at the table idly until a finger found his envelope with a metallic clack. Meredith’s cup found the table about the same time he replied. “How can you stop once you start?? Blasephemy!” His eyes reflected the enthusiasm in his voice. “My broom’s no good for Quidditch. I stopped thinking like a sportsman when I quit the game… got something…” he lifted his hand and thrust it to the side as if it were an arrow “…vroom-fast.” Another sip of chai filled a small gap of silence. “Not great on handling… but it seemed more practical for work at the time.” Meredith excused his decision that was, admittedly, a much less mature than he made it sound. “I’d be rubbish at a game, but flying—can only get better at that, aye?”

09:24:05 Noriko || Noriko broke off a small piece of scone and tossed it into the air; then nonchalantly caught it in her mouth. Skills. Skills that it might even be said could pay the bills. “You have a Suisei dont you? I should be more loyal; national pride, right? Most Seekers really like them. Chasers too. Never nimble enough for me though.” Like a civilized proper person with very good manners, our hero [the cultured Princess Sparklefists] next dipped her finger straight into the lemon curd and licked it clean. “Would you like to try the Princess? She isnt quite as quick as a Suisei but she can dance.” Nori hadnt made that offer to anyone else before; let people touch her lucky undefeated broomstick? Le Sacrilege! ||

09:38:15 [Porthman] “I do. Got her last year right after the release.” He admitted as Noriko made work of her desserts – there may have been a midnight camp-out a day of doing nothing but trying to see how fast he could go in circles without falling off. Very professional handling tests, if you asked Botts – who Meredith hoped would go to the grave with that variation of the truth. “Not very dexterous, but she does what I need her to.” The thought of using the broom in a beater’s position was horrifying and unnecessary, but the thought slipped away as soon as it came, helped along by Noriko’s offer. It’s a good thing Mop’s tea was securely on the table, or it could have been the victim of a terrible crime. The thought didn’t process properly at first and left the auror befuddled. “..come again?” He asked, twisting his face back to life. The question appeared to be rhetoric; Meredith was back to babbling again in a second. “Are you sure?? Your—I… well… if… I couldn’t. I couldn’t. It wouldn’t—…” Declining would mean missing out on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Furthermore, declining might be rude! Accepting, on the other hand, might seem too fanatical, too boyish… too undignified. Meredith was caught at a crossroads.

09:48:21 Noriko || That, was adorable. Noriko tittered delicately behind the palm of her hand at poor Mop and his befuddlement: “It wouldnt what? Of course you could; I wouldnt have offered if I didnt mean it. I’d say dont hurt her, but its Katya’s work; she does very good work.” Nori extended her hands across the table, palms up: an offer she wasnt recanting. “If you’re afraid I can fly with you; I wont let you fall to your untimely death, Mop, I promise, really really.” Yes, our hero was teasing him a little bit; she couldnt help it. How could he be so dashingly heroic when evil was afoot, yet so muddled and frazzled right now? She couldnt help it, she couldnt help laying it on a little thicker either: “Come, take my hands. I’ll show you the world from so high above the ground! The places we’ll see, the places we’ll go!” Then: coy wink. ||

10:05:36 Porthman was quiet – in shock or respect – until after Noriko really put on a show. He grinned when she was finished and slowly, agreed. “Yes. Alright then.” Meredith’s hands snaked across the table to tangle his fingers in his would-be hero’s. “Where ever will we go!?” He asked in play – but there was sincerity there, too. “I put my life in your capable hands, Noriko Sakada.” Meredith signed up for whatever adventure she had in mind. Maybe this was better than worrying and plotting… but he couldn’t silence the thoughts that rolled and rumbled in the back of his head: there were many things to address elsewhere.

10:23:01 Noriko || “I promise I wont let you down, Mop.” She squeezed his hands lightly; her pulse quickened, just like it did every time, because feels were dumb. No time wasted at all, Noriko popped to her feet and tugged Mop towards the door: this now was a sacred quest, to take Mop flying on a broom that she didnt ever let other people touch at all. Even the remnants of her scones and tea she abandoned, unimportant now; the quest overruled all other thoughts. Our hero [the sensational Princess Sparklefists] reached the door and soon as it was opened cast her favourite charm: accio, for her uniquely sculpted broomstick. “I think its only right that I warn you; I might have a selfish motive in all this.” ||

10:26:56 Porthman ripped a hand away as Noriko pulled them toward the door to snatch the envelope from the table and stuff it back in his pocket as quickly as possible. He found his way out the door with one hand still attached to his fearless leader. Noriko’s ominous warning almost seemed like a cause for concern—and he sounded as much when he ventured to ask: “…whhhat would that be?”

10:40:19 Noriko || The broom, The Mighty Princess Sparklefists, snapped to her free hand when she called it, she offered it over to Mop: “I get you alone, even just for a little while.” She kept the broom extended until he took it; she had offered to let him fly it and she meant it completely even though it was very strange of her to offer at all. She did clearly mean to attach herself to him while he flew [she could seize the yoke if he did anything to hurt her darling that way], that was only good clear thinking. “You cant blame me for that, can you?” ||

10:48:49 [Porthman] Mop had a smile prepared for his hopeful and generous companion. “Well!” He huffed out as he accepted the woman’s offer – albeit a bit sheepish in taking the lead. “It’s not very gentlemanly to keep a lady waiting.” Meredith brought them up nice and gentle once they mounted the Mighty Princess Sparklefists (the broom said as much!). Of course, flying wasn’t exactly conducive to his plans for their meeting, but it wasn’t an unwelcomed setback, either. The conductor for this adventure hesitated after they were clear of Diagon Alley to consult with his copilot. “Where to?”

11:03:35 Noriko || Impulsive. Someday our hero wasnt going to get away with acting on every little impulse like she did; it wasnt always bad though. As we see now: “Trust her, dont try to push her. She might push back,” Her advice wasnt critical. It was meant mostly to inform; her broom was unusual. Also meant to bring her cheek next to Mop’s: for practical reasons like hearing over the wind, not anything else. “I know you dont have real mountains in this country; Ive always wondered what a glen is though.” Nori didnt realize at all she was setting Mop back; she mightve even felt bad for it if she had. Its true after all that she so far had mostly been a force of nature that happened to Mop, much more than a companion or confidante. ||

11:15:45 Porthman was not dressed for the first place that popped into his head when Noriko told him her desired destination. He listened to her advice all the same and directed them northward. “You’ve got it, Mum.” Meredith told her. It wasn’t until after they were moving again that he spoke up again – over the wind this time. “I know just the place.” Mop would be absolutely frozen by the time they got there, but Glen Albyn would be the most dramatic to show her from the back of a broom—and if she wanted to see a sight, that’s the one he was going to bring her to.

11:26:39 Noriko || Really really, Noriko wasnt at all dressed for flying in the cold either. This wholly extemporaneous expedition somehow hadnt been thought through all the way; the shock, the horror! Mop knew just the place though: clearly this was a good idea and there wasnt anything in the world that could convince her otherwise. Maybe a fiery death. Nothing else though. “I had a question! Whats in the envelope?” So she had noticed that; also, best timing for possibly intrusive questions. High above Scotland on a swiftly flying bundle of twigs and wood. While challenging fate and British spring weather with lacking protection. Best timing, very best. ||

11:34:56 [Porthman] Noriko’s question about the envelope was inevitable. He’d set it out on the table to reveal its contents during their noontime tea… but… well—here they were. The thought that she’d pry had crossed Meredith’s mind as soon as he’d snatched it off the table and though he’d expected the question much later (preferably while they weren’t in the sky on their way to a far-off, Scottish destination), he didn’t dither too long in answering her. “It’s for you.” His answer wasn’t exactly the most forward and didn’t get her any closer to knowing what it actually held, but he figured there wasn’t any harm in offering: “take it, if you’d like.”

11:41:11 Noriko || It wouldve been wise to wait until not flying at bone-splintering velocities to reach forward and carefully pull the envelope from Mop’s pocket; wise however wasnt a word often ascribed to our hero [the recklessly impulsive Princess Sparklefists]. She didnt drop it fortunately [it wasnt her wand], though acknowledged soon enough that she couldnt possibly both open it and hold onto Mop and the broom all at the same time: this meant that while they were in transit, she stayed in the dark. “That wasnt aaaactually an answer to my question,” she gently chided. All in good humour. ||

11:59:55 [Porthman] “Well—“ Mop nearly barked to speak over the wind. He changed their direction ever-so-slightly and continued forward. “You’ll just have to wait until we get there to find out!” Their day-trip was just beginning—but could she wait until they were at their destination to unveil her gift? He hoped so… if only to delay having to see a disappointed response, should one occur. The suspense wouldn’t kill him, but sub-par gift-giving might.

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