Chichiri-sama? repeated the voice, as Chichiri fell over backwards into the workbench. The somewhat rickety structure came down with a crash, scattering a variety of interesting, mysterious, and a few slightly ridiculous items all accross the floor.
Chichiri didn't care in the slightest.
"Blue!" he cried, his eyes stinging with joy. "Blue, you're alright!"
Chichiri-sama? Where are you?
Chichiri was startled to notice that Blue was nowhere in the room - or out in the hallway, or anywhere else. "Blue - where are you? I can't find you . . . "
I was in a gold lake, but I fell asleep under a tree. Why is it so hard to hear you?
"A gold lake . . . ? Just keep talking, Blue, I'll get Taitsu-kun to - Blue, can you hear me? Blue? Blue!"
But the air in the workroom was as still as a tomb.
"Excuse me . . . "
Blue felt someone shaking her, and she relunctantly awoke from the deepest sleep she had ever had. She gradually became aware of the rough bark pressing into her back, and the pleasant scratchiness of grass beneath her. The hands shook her again, and her eyes opened slowly, as if she still dreamed.
"Excuse me, would your name happen to be Blue?"
The man standing over her had wings. Real, solid, man-sized wings. He sat patiently as she inspected them, marveling at how soft and warm they were. The gold soil and plants reflected their deep crimson, as well as the lighter red of his robes and hair. The character on his forehead glowed softly as he smiled at her.
"You must be Blue. Taitsu-kun said you were a curious one . . . she's really worried about you, you know. Why don't you go home?"
Blue's brow knotted, and her mouth drooped a little at the edges. "I'm sorry. I really want to go back, but I don't know how! Can you lead me?"
He laughed as if she had told a joke, and she drew back a little, hurt. "I'm sorry, you wouldn't know. I can't get into that world except through a very special ceremony. I guess I can teach you how to get back, though . . . oh!"
His exclamation came in response to a glow that began to envelope Blue. "It looks like you know already!" He rose and dusted off his robes, and Blue felt a momentary pang that she had caused him to dirty such beautiful garments. He seemed to hear her thought, and replied, "Don't worry. We don't get many visitors, especially ones like you. Take care!"
"Wait! I have things I want to ask you! Why are we the only colored things here? Why doesn't anything live in that lake? How do I get home?" Blue's hands curled into fists, and she felt a surge of . . . something. Her face grew warm, and she felt the urge to clutch him and make him answer.
"You're going home, Blue, you're on your way! Your other questions . . . something does live in that lake; it's the wellspring of life. And we're the only things colored because . . . " His voice faded in and out as Blue slipped away, feeling herself fall an interminable distance.
"Blue? Can you hear me?"
Blue's first sight was one that, all things considered, would have killed a lesser person. Blue just smiled and hugged her mother as hard as she could.
"Don't you ever scare me like that again!" fussed Taitsu-kun, rocking Blue gently. "If my hair wasn't already white . . . !" The Nyan-nyans crowded around, patting her hair and arms and murmuring soothing words. Blue squeezed Taitsu-kun once more, then sat back, wiping away a tear.
"I'm so glad to see you! I'm sorry I worried you - " Blue stopped and stared. "What is it?"
"Taitsu-kun, you're beautiful!"
"That's it," said someone out of her line of vision, "her mind's been damaged, no da." "Excuse me?!" growled Taitsu-kun, turning far enough so that Blue could see Chichiri. He grinned at his sensei, knowing there was no way she'd let go of Blue just to punish him.
"Nyan-nyans?" said Taitsu-kun, and Chichiri paled.
"Fix Chichiri's sense of humor."
The old sorceress turned back to Blue, ignoring the frantic pleas and cries of "fix, fix, cure, cure!" coming from the massive tangle behind her. She patted the girl's head gently. "Thank you, Blue. How are you feeling now?"
"Better. Different. I - whoa!" Blue's arm brushed her chest, and she stared down in disbelief. She poked them again, then pulled forward her shirt and stared down it. "What are those? They aren't dangerous, are they? Taitsu-kun, I have swollen places on my chest! Can you fix it?"
The movement behind Taitsu-kun stopped. As one, the Nyan-nyans and Chichiri looked at her; then a mass of blue hair and huge eyes hurtled towards her, while the mage blushed hard enough to see through his mask. He quickly turned towards the wall, stuck his fingers in his ears, and began to hum.