Eyes wide with surprise, Ryou spoke first - something which was a feat given he was up against a girl he remembered above all else for her inability to stop talking.
The girl's mouth had already exploded into the widest grin the moment she'd seen them, and that mouth opened wide, fated not to close for a long time coming.
“Aye, that’s right, so you remember me! Good, this’ll be mighty efficient now that I fewer the introductions to do, right? Pardon me, but you don’t know how excited I am to give you the tour of Dakara-sama’s private vessel, been waiting hours, tch!”
Midori rubbed a spot of soot from her freckled nose and bounded forward, first offering an equally blackened right hand to Moxie. She tapped her left against her forehead in cheerful salute.
“Pleased to meet you Captain, as Ryou said, I’m Midori Kyota, but who cares about me, Moxie-hime? I’ve always wanted to meet you, his daughter! Do you know how lucky you are, and how long I’ve been waiting for this day? We’ve just got to catch up, my Captain!” her cheeks were already tickled pink with breathlessness, “I’m so pleased to be of service and I do insist I know what I’m doing here better than any other engineer you’ll find in this nation. Actually, I knew how this ship would work before he’d even finished building it. So please, don’t you worry.” She bowed an inch and turned to Kyuuen next, flicking the girl a wink, “Not forgetting you of course, doc! I know my way around maintaining this place and I’m careful but sometimes I get so lost in his creations and I trip and break or bruise something or other, so it’s good to have you on board.”
With that Midori pushed past her to where Ryou and Toya were at the rear, moving between them. Despite standing two or three heads shorter than both of them, she lifted herself onto her toes, draping her arms across their shoulders. She laughed.
“And now here we go, my saviors! If I’m going to list out all the reasons why I took this job you’ll be right up there with this ship and Dakara and Moxie, still can’t thank you enough, boys. Glad to know you remember little old me, since I’m never going to forget you after that crazy day. Nice to see you again!”
Ryou chortled back, expressing his first sliver of positive emotion in several hours. The appearance of somebody who both admired his contribution, or seemed to care for his existence her at all was one of few things which could relieve the frustration which had been bubbling within him for the last two hours in the wake of this deal. Sure, it could have been worse, but why didn't Moxie understand that there were better means of doing this?
Did they really have to go to all this trouble? Just looking at size the ship itself seemed to give an indication of how complicated this ensuing mission was going to be, did they need all this extra trouble?
“Now then, shall we commence the tour?”
Midori slid off them and jumped to the side of the main hallway's entrance, beckoning them through first. Ryou kept his smile and followed, glad that he did.
Perhaps the quality of the airship would be very the thing he needed to make the mission's course more tolerable. If he were to judge it by this first room, anyway.
The sky deck was ovular in shape, and gorgeous.
Three sides were crafted of a wood which had the lustre of bronze. The fourth wall, opposite them, was crystal glass which let them peer into the seemingly endless sky panorama ahead of them.
The same glass made up the rear half of the floor too, such that the porcelain tile of the other half melted into the afternoon sky's orange, dotted with the first city lights.
Otherwise, the chamber was empty save for a long brass dining table in the center, set with brass and red velvet chairs. A dark-wood piano sat against one wall, and several telescopes were propped against the wide window.
The remaining open space allowed them to roam and truly appreciate the view.
“Alright, this is the main deck, it’s stunning, I know. He just has a way with his designs, manages to make everything look so much more gorgeous when you’re looking from up here. Really, even when you’ve got a thick layer of clouds in between up here and down there, the view’s magnificent. You’ll see what I mean when we encounter it.”
She actually ran to the window, hands pressed against the glass like a child would do before the others had caught up. She gave them a moment there to do the same, Ryou actually giving into the urge to hold his own palms against the window, looking to touch the clouds.
He'd barely fallen into the inevitable trance when Midori suddenly stepped away, bursting again with the excited impatience which had filled her all this time. She motioned them to her, already setting off past the dining set and to the other side of the deck.
“Mm, I don't want to drag you off, but come on, we should move, I’ve got a limited timeframe to show you all this, you see, the kitchen’s down there, …and they’re in the process of preparing your welcome dinner, nothing for me of course, you know I don’t like this over-indulgent hoo-hah - can’t do any work the next day - but they want you to be down in fifteen so you can enjoy it while it’s hot.”
She indicated a steel door in the corner, draped with velvet curtains. It hung slightly ajar, with the indulgent scents of honey and pork, berries and warm steam wafting through.
Taking it in, Ryou was inundated with relief. He'd just been beginning to realize how hungry he was after the entire temple ordeal, and had been wishing that he'd asked for Tsuruna to pack him more of that stea-
...speak of the devil.
The boy, whose voice Ryou could hardly mistake after growing accustomed to hearing it a hundred times a day, came practically running out of the kitchen, dusting off his apron. He took a moment to pant and then bowed at Ryou's feet.
“Oh – Tsuruna!”
Ryou nodded, motioning him up. So the summons he'd sent with one of the couriers had gone through - he'd had his worries, so this was good.
Again, this was a necessity if he were to make this whole trip more comfortable.
“Hello, Master, welcome aboard. This really is a great ship, I’d have never have imagined something like this would even exist. Thank you for calling on me, it’s an honor to be here. I hope to serve you well during the course of our journey.”
“Sweet, I’ll let you know when I need something. Speaking of which, check on my meal, will you? I’m hungry after all this, don’t want it spoiled, I’ll trust that you know what I want and don’t want.”
“Was already on it with your dinner, but don’t worry. I’ll make the arrangement with your dessert now.”
Ryou waved after him when he bowed again and headed back to the kitchen, his manner more composed now that he knew he hadn't somehow messed something up. This boy never questioned him. Ryou honestly couldn't have asked for a better servant.
Beside him, Midori had been trying to act just as compliant, though she'd so far failed in trying to stop one or two impatient grunts from escaping her.
"Okay, sorry, let’s get this over with then.”
Broad grin up, she skipped forward and threw open the next door which led them towards the front of the airship and into a side room taken up almost entirely by a great oak staircase with golden handrails, which twisted around as it rose. They stood at the bottom, and she gestured up it.
“Right, tsk tsk, don’t know how much time I have but see these? Elevator’s here also. They’ll lead you up to the other decks, where most of the facilities are. Second floor you’ve got the bedrooms, you four have them on the far end, largest suites, you’ll find them and the crew was already working on depositing your things, so no worries. Third floor’s where the rest of the facilities are, I think you heard about the library, there’s a room for you guys to organize your tactics and there’s a shiny giant bathroom too, but he’s even got a private training room. It really is no surprise though, all those muscles...” her fingers laced her cheeks, which were again the same color as the velvet, “Oh, upper deck is above that. Again, just a marvellous view out in the open. You’ll love it, but I think I’ll leave that for you to discover in your own time. For now well, I have to show you the best part!”
They crossed past the staircase and into the front-most chamber of the airship.
The heart of it all.
“Ta-da! Here we have it, the engine. My little territory around here, yes, didn’t I mention I’m the whole engineering corp for this baby? It’s all mine, heehee!”
Strangely, it was hard to fault her for her pride in it.
There was something inspired about the dark little room, which smelled and tasted even heavily felt of steam. There were no windows, instead walls upon walls lined with pipes and boxes and gears which interlocked and whizzed and puffed. Pipes darted across the ceiling, intertwining like cobwebs. Some did the same along the floor, though Midori, even with the flighty, dream like walk which had overtaken her the moment she'd stepped inside, knew the layout so well she didn't trip on even one. A small, narrow spiral staircase stood off to one side, and after giving them a second to admire her domain, she led the team towards it and up, one by one.
The second level of the ship's bow section had the same air as the engine, though there was nothing on the landing except a door straight ahead of them, with the words "engineering section 2" etched into its golden plaque.
“...yeah yeah, so all of these rooms are where I do my work, all three floors of this front section. Now, this middle level, please don’t go through there. I know you wouldn’t break anything but well, Dakara-sama’s private order to me, like, he actually told me personally, is that I’m to keep this guarded for him since it’s an important project and I’d well…I can’t upset…I…I'm sorry, it’s not that exciting anyway, here, I’ll show you the bridge. That’s the real marvel of this ship.”
They moved up one more landing.
This room was already occupied by the bustling navigation crew.
The airship's wheel was set into a bay window which was lined with ivory and extended the height of three decks and the width of the vessel, through which they could see themselves plunging towards the yellow light of the setting sun. Behind it, another large table, made of a wood which complimented all the brass and gold and ivory all at once. One whole wall was dedicated to the largest radio they'd ever seen, from which command from Hanabira itself boomed, along the opposite wall was an equally vast blackboard, routes and plans were crammed into one corner, making room for the large message which covered the rest, letters alternating between yellow and blue chalk.
WELCOME, FOUR HEROES
“Heh, how can’t you be in love.”