Author's Note: Welcome all! I was actually planning to write more for this chapter, but it was getting so long that I only put in one of the major scenes I was planning here (and introducing only one of the future members of the 501st). Hope you enjoy this!
A special thanks goes out to Crosswood, my unofficial history advisor for this chapter (and probably future ones as well).
Also, since this chapter is otherwise light on fluff, here's a little bonus for you, which I originally wrote for Crossy.
Bonus Fluff #1:
Eila gaped, trying to process Sanya's statement. They were already girlfriends? How did that happen? "Wh... wh... what do you mean? Why? How? When?" Sanya caught Eila's arm in her hand, stopping the other girl before she could either get up from the bed and pace around the room, or perhaps run away. Eila wasn't sure exactly what she would have tried to do, but it wasn't an option now in any case.
Sanya held Eila's gaze, the soft affection in her eyes helping Eila calm down a little. "It's hard to pinpoint an exact moment... It feels like you've confessed to me so many times already. But perhaps..." Sanya's eyes looked down for a moment, but they quickly met Eila's gaze again, filled with resolve. "Perhaps you just needed to hear me say it. I love you too, Eila."
Yo-yo - A maneuver in which a plane pulls up sharply to lose speed, then dives back down to its initial altitude. This is the simplest way of going from in front of a bandit to behind them, although it can be risky if they anticipate it or other enemies are in the area. The name comes from the Chinese pilot Yo-Yo, not from the toy.
Chapter Rating: T
Chapter 5: The Strength of the 501st
Ronchi dei Legionari Airfield
Adolfine Galland's Office
Minna glared at Galland for a long minute, trying to keep her eye from twitching. "The nickname isn't the issue here. Trying to keep three wings under control without suffering an aneurysm is the issue."
"Well it's not as if I'm getting rid of the commanders of the other wings to put you in charge of them all," Galland said, cracking a bit of a smile. "You'll still have Rall to manage the 502nd for you. As for the 507th... Anabuki's had to retire, but we'll figure something out. Elma Leivonen is the acting commander for now, but we're having a bit of trouble convincing her to take the post permanently. There are a few other options, but one of them would take even more convincing than Leivonen, and the other..." Galland sat down in her chair as she trailed off. "Well, I'm sure you know how slow Fuso is with promotions, and perhaps it's best if she keeps a low profile."
Minna narrowed her gaze. "Don't try to distract me, though I'm sure I'll need to press you for details on that later. You're giving me more to worry about, however you slice this. Without Sakamoto to help me out, I'm going to have my work cut out just keeping the 501st in line. Barkhorn can help, of course, but beyond her I've got no one else who I'd trust in a command position."
Galland lost eye contact with Minna for a moment, and Minna could picture the Air Commodore mentally going down the roster of the 501st until she got to the highest-ranking member after Minna and Trude: Charlotte Yeager. "Alright, you have a point," she said, meeting Minna's gaze again. "If it's command you need, though, I have a half-dozen retired witches who can't fly, but can at least help you keep things in order. We can figure something out if you need it. What's more of an issue..."
"Sakamoto," Minna said, still refusing to let Galland distract her, particularly now that a golden opportunity had been lain before her. "If I don't need someone who can fly, then she's the perfect choice."
Galland's eyes narrowed, and she let out a bit of a sigh. "Almost anyone but her, I'm afraid. If her magic eye still works - which I'm assuming is the case, seeing as she's still wearing her eyepatch - then she's too valuable. I'd like to snare her myself, to help develop a catalog of Neuroi types and the locations of their cores, but I'm sure someone with more authority already has their eye on her."
Minna sighed, though she tried not to show too much disappointment. Galland was right. Mio had already received a telegram from one of Dr. Miyafuji's colleagues asking for assistance, and it was probably only the first such offer she'd get. Witches with a special ability like Mio's were far too rare and valuable for Allied Command to let their abilities go to waste. Mio might be able to make some use of her eye to help out if she went with Minna, but it would hardly be the best use of it. "Haa... fine... What was that other thing you wanted to talk about?"
For once, Galland seemed to pause before she got back to business. Had Minna let too much disappointment show on her face? Thankfully, Galland didn't comment on it. "Right. Anyway, you're going to need to make a decision on what witches you'll get to fill out your roster. Normally you'd get more time, but there are more than a couple operations starting up right now, aiming to capitalize on our momentum, and we'll have to get the transfer orders out soon or else you'll risk missing out on your picks."
"That's really not something we should be rushing," Minna said, trying not to focus on the fact that Mio was one of the two witches she had to think about replacing. She had to fill a couple spots in the roster; that was it. "And I really prefer to see a witch in action, or at least have someone I trust do so, before I recruit her. Is there any chance that I'll have long enough to scout out at least a couple of witches before I make a decision?"
"If you have to," Galland said. "But I'd still prefer if you can at least narrow things down for me today." She pushed her chair back from her desk and began to search through one of her drawers. "I wasn't expecting you today, or I'd have this file ready for you, but let me see if I can pull out a few recommendations..."
"Plan? What are you going to do?" Trude asked. Getting Erica to elaborate was probably hopeless, but she had to at least make sure it wouldn't interfere with her own plan.
"We need to make this thing descend, right? Well, I've got just the thing. Cover me after we take out the engine," Erica said.
Trude didn't have a chance to question Erica further, as the Neuroi was almost in range. With the Neuroi in sight, she was finally able to appreciate just how big this one was. It had to be at least 50 meters across, probably more. It was going to be tough to take down, but she had to try. She leveled her guns at the Neuroi, adjusting her trajectory so she would fly just over its left wing. As soon as she could make out the bulge of the engine, she began to fire. The Neuroi wasn't making any effort to evade, so it was an easy target, at least for this pass. It hadn't even begun to shoot back at Trude yet, which meant the only difficulty was keeping her trajectory stable in the Neuroi's wake.
Trude lost a bit of speed as she passed the Neuroi's wing, but she and Erica had done a fair bit of damage to the engine as well. It wasn't enough to cause the engine to cut out, though, and they'd gotten the attention of the Neuroi now. Trude swerved to avoid the Neuroi's first attack, then pulled up into a yo-yo to fall back behind the Neuroi again. She was far above her combat ceiling right now though, so her maneuvers were rapidly depleting her speed. She would be able to make one more pass at a decent relative speed, and she would have to make the most it, as after this she'd be much more vulnerable to counterattacks.
She quickly glanced around to find Erica, but couldn't spot her. "I'm coming in again, Hartmann. Do I have your support?"
"I'm on it! Finish the job, Trude!" Just as she spoke, Erica dove in at the Neuroi from almost straight above it, weaving out of the path of its attacks as she fired at the engine. Trude didn't bother to ask how Erica had managed to attain that height - there would be time later - she simply leveled her guns at the engine and followed up on Erica's assault.
Despite their combined efforts, Trude still couldn't see any sign that the engine had given out. Fritz had been right; this thing was certainly heavily armored. She had to take a risk if they were ever going to force this Neuroi to descend before it reached Maastricht. The armor on top of the engine had to have been weakened by now, so it was time to strike a killing blow. Trude quickly holstered her left gun and reversed her grip on the other rifle. As she zeroed in on the Neuroi, she gripped her rifle with both hands and channeled magic into it to reinforce the butt.
It couldn't compare to Sakamoto's sword, but her rifle got the job done. It broke through what remained of the engine's armor and hit something inside. Trude had no idea how Neuroi engines worked, but this seemed to do the job. The Neuroi's body shook as it adjusted its flight, and Trude was quick to pull away from a fierce counterattack.
Trude had no idea how long the engine would be disabled before the Neuroi could regenerate it. Did more complex parts of the Neuroi take longer to regenerate? She'd never had to worry about that before, but it would certainly be nice to know now. Not that she had the time to worry about it.
"I'm going for the other wing! Cover me, Trude!" Erica called out. Hoping that she had something good in mind, Trude pulled up and maneuvered toward the Neuroi's right wing. She had to avoid beams shooting out from both of the Neuroi's wings and sides as she moved, but she found Erica in a relatively safe spot, just in front of the Neuroi's wing. "Time to see if this works," Erica said. "Shield me!"
Trude could feel the buzz of magic in the air early enough to pull away safely. Almost as soon as she was clear, a whirlwind began to pick up around Erica. It wasn't immediately clear what Erica was trying to do, but as Trude turned to shield Erica from the Neuroi's attacks, she figured out what her wingman was up to. As she stared at the Neuroi's nearest weapon emplacement, Trude could see it begin to dip lower, and she had to keep adjusting her position to keep Erica safe.
Erica was definitely going to deserve a commendation for this strategy - or at least a couple days of Trude not nagging her to clean her room. While she'd whipped the air around her up into a whirlwind, it was traveling in any direction except straight over the Neuroi's wing. With no smooth airflow, it could barely get any lift, and it was already beginning to lose altitude. This close to its ceiling, and with one engine already down, the Neuroi was falling fast.
"Need a... need sleep..." Erica muttered after holding her attack for a solid minute. Using her attack for this long had to have been putting quite the strain on her body.
"Hartmann! Cut the attack and pull away! You've done enough," Trude ordered. A bit slowly, Erica obeyed the order, pulling off to the side of the Neuroi as the winds around her died. She would need some time to regain her focus, if she even had enough magic left to continue to fight. "Get to a safe distance and glide for a bit. I'll take care of things here until you're ready."
"Right..." Erica said, pulling farther away from Trude and the Neuroi. Trude was able to hear Erica take a few deep breaths over the radio. "Should be... fine in a minute or two. Just a bit dizzy."
Trude pulled away from Erica, aiming for the Neuroi's left wing again. It didn't seem as angry over losing altitude as it had about losing its engine, though judging a Neuroi's emotional state was likely a waste of time. It probably didn't know - or didn't care - that it would be vulnerable to the waiting FlaK now. But until they got there, the best thing Trude could do was to make sure it didn't regenerate its engine.
It was hard to get in a solid attack against the engine again, now that the Neuroi was focusing all of its attacks on her, but Trude was at least able to strike it with the barrel of her gun a couple more times before she finally heard a new voice over the radio. The voice spoke Britannian, not the Karlsländish she'd been expecting, but now wasn't the time to think about what that meant. "Flight Lieutenant Barkhorn, this is Lieutenant Colonel Haszard in Maastricht. Do you read?"
"I read, what's the news?" Trude snapped, trying not to lose focus on the Neuroi while she spoke.
"The Neuroi should be in range of the outer batteries soon. Assault will begin in one minute. My plan is to bombard it for a couple minutes to weaken its armor, then alternate 15 second barrages with 15 second breaks for you to go for the core. If we keep it regenerating, it won't be able to spare energy to attack you. You should have a few minutes before it pulls out of range of our guns."
"Acknowledged," Trude said. "Hartmann, did you get that?"
"I got it," Erica said. She seemed to have gotten her breath back now. "Ready to shield."
"Hartmann, meet me above the Neuroi after the barrage. We'll go for the core," Trude said, right before a sense of danger in the air made her instinctively raise her shield. She caught the initial blast from the Neuroi and slid out of the path of its beams. Over the next minute, she tried to avoid as many attacks as possible to save her energy, though she still did have to shield a few more times.
"Incoming!" came Haszard's voice over the radio, and Trude quickly prepared her shield. The Neuroi rumbled beneath her as it was struck by the assault, and Trude's shield caught any shrapnel that happened to miss it. With a target this big, the Neuroi was easy to hit, and the FlaK seemed to be equipped with a proximity fuse, making things even easier.
Trude had heard that Britannia had developed a reliable proximity fuse, but this was the first time she'd seen it in action. It certainly did seem to be working better than the timed fuse Karsländer FlaK used, causing the Neuroi to take almost all of the shots fired. There were still a few shells that passed the Neuroi without exploding, or which exploded off to the side of the Neuroi, so Trude had to be careful not to let her guard down.
Trude moved over to hide above the Neuroi, where she was safe from most of the shrapnel flying through the air. The Neuroi attacked her a few times half-heartedly, but it was trivial to dodge the attacks while it was spending most of its energy on regenerating. She couldn't count on the FlaK barrage to do much deep damage to the Neuroi, but it at least provided a distraction, and hopefully an opening, for her.
"Hartmann, how are you doing?" Trude said as she waited for the initial barrage to end.
"Should be good to attack, as long as I don't have to use my shields against the Neuroi's beams too much," Erica said.
"Alright. We'll search for the core once the barrage dies down. It should be somewhere near the head," Trude said. She shifted into position above the Neuroi's head, shielding herself against the shrapnel that made its way past the Neuroi while she waited for her chance to strike.
As soon as she felt the barrage softening, Trude dove toward the Neuroi and began to fire at it. She spread her fire around, hoping to gain a glimpse of the core, perhaps just a hint of red making its way through the Neuroi's armor. There was a lot of space to cover, though, and her shots weren't revealing much of it. As her mental count reached 15 seconds, and she'd still seen no trace of the core, Trude pulled up and raised her shield again.
"Hartmann, did you find the core?" Trude called out over the sound of shells exploding around them.
"Negative. It might be too deep, or maybe we just didn't get lucky."
"Damn it..." Trude muttered. She took a moment to check her ammo belts while the barrage was ongoing. She was beginning to get low, and it was likely that Hartmann was in the same situation. If they weren't able to find the core within the next opening or two, they'd be out of luck. They couldn't take their chances here. "Hartmann, we're going for the engines. Left wing, take out the other engine there first."
Trude pulled up into another yo-yo, letting herself fall back again so she could strike at the engine as soon as her opportunity arose. She could see Erica falling into position beside her this time, and the pair of witches began their dives almost simultaneously. Since they were only getting this one pass, Trude switched from shooting to preparing to strike with the butt of her rifle before she even reached the engine. Erica held to her course longer, firing until the last possible moment and barely avoiding crashing into the Neuroi.
When Trude struck at the Neuroi this time, she didn't have quite as much luck as before. She was able to dig in past the outer layer of armor, but she didn't manage to hit anything beyond that. Her swing had been a bit lethargic this time; the constant shielding must have been causing her magical energy to begin to run out. Erica seemed to be doing a bit better, despite her earlier exhaustion, so perhaps it was Trude's attacks with the butt of her rifle that were straining her. Sakamoto never seemed to get worn out this easily when she was at her prime, so perhaps there was some difference with how swords held magical energy that made them more efficient. The cutting edge would certainly be a plus if Trude was going to do this more often.
That was a thought for later, though. For now, she just had her rifles to work with. She would have to at least knock out this engine if she wanted any hope of this Neuroi crashing before it could do too much damage, but her chances of even being able to do that were running out.
She had to try, though. If she and Erica could only knock out this engine, the Neuroi would still probably be able to get to Maastricht, but the city's defenders - and their backup, whenever she managed to arrive - would at least have a fighting chance against it. Or she could go for the core again, and try to dig deep in a couple of likely locations. If she got lucky, she could prevent any deaths today, but if she didn't, this Neuroi would be able to cause a lot more damage.
As the FlaK picked up again, Trude drifted back over the Neuroi. She tried to let down her shields for a few seconds to save energy, but she quickly reconsidered this when the Neuroi shot a quick blast at her. That certainly wasn't good. First of all, it forced Trude to keep shielding, meaning she couldn't recover as much energy, but it also meant that the Neuroi was able to tell when she was shielding, even when nothing was hitting her. Did the Neuroi have some way to sense her use of magic now? That could certainly be bad news for night witches, if there was any range to this ability. She would have to make sure she lived through this to pass the message along.
When she had her opening to attack, Trude made a snap decision on what to attack. She quickly pulled back and began to fire both of her rifles at the engine. She couldn't spare the energy to reinforce the butt of her rifle for another attack, but she could still do some good at exposing the insides of the engine. A sudden flurry of beams from the Neuroi forced Trude to cut off her attack early this time, though Hartmann was able to last a bit longer while she searched for the core. The Neuroi had either adapted to the assault, or it was focusing more effort on attacking while it let the damage pile up. Perhaps at least that meant the FlaK would be able to destroy a few of its bombs before they were dropped, but it still made it harder to actually down the Neuroi before it got into range of Maastricht.
"Haszard to Barkhorn. This looks like it'll be our last barrage. The Neuroi's getting out of range of us. Make it count."
Cursing under her breath, Trude pulled back into her safe spot above the Neuroi. She had to make a decision. There was just too much she didn't know, though. How much defense was left at Maastricht? Just how far away was their backup? She might at least be able to get an answer to that last question while she waited out this barrage, she realized. "Barkhorn to Schwartzekatze. Do you read me? How far away are you?" Trude said, not sure if she would even get a response, now that Fritz wasn't helping to connect them.
"Schwartzekatze-2 to Barkhorn. I'm in visible range now. I'm running low on power, though. I probably only have a couple good passes in me."
It was something, at least. "Schwartzekatze, hit the engines on the right wing when you get here. Hartmann, let's take out the left engine."
"Copy," Erica said.
"I read as well," Schwartzekatze said, just as the FlaK began to taper off and Trude pulled back to the engine again. "And it's Schwartzekatze-2. 'Schwartzekatze' is Squadron Leader Nowotny, not me."
Trude tuned out the correction as she began her attack. Her subconscious tried to alert her that there was something very familiar about that voice, but she shut it up for the time being. She had to focus on her attack for now. She still couldn't spare the energy to strike the engine with her rifle again, so she focused on shooting through the holes her previous attacks had opened up. Although Trude's ammo ran out before she'd finished the job, a follow-up by Erica at point-blank range finally did the job.
Trude pulled away as the Neuroi lurched and adjusted its course. "Both left engines are out. It's all yours, Helma." It wasn't until after she'd spoken that Trude realized her subconscious had already identified that voice for her. There would be time to catch up later, though. There would also be time later to reprimand Erica for groaning over the radio.
"I read. Leave it to me," Helma replied, waiting until after Erica was finished groaning. "Get clear of the right wing."
Trude pulled up, remaining above the Neuroi. She wouldn't be much help attacking it, but at least she would provide another target once the Neuroi's weapons started firing again. She kept her eyes open for the telltale red glow that signaled that the Neuroi was preparing to attack, but her attention was instead captured by a series of four explosions blanketing the Neuroi's wing. She was barely able to make out Helma's figure as she passed the Neuroi, though Erica's follow-up attack was easier to spot.
"I'm out of ammo," Erica said as she pulled away from the Neuroi, "but I think the inner-right engine is out."
"Copy," Helma said, "but it's still a threat. We're too close to Maastricht now. Even if we take out the last engine, it could crash within city limits."
After a few moments of searching the sky, Trude was able to catch sight of Helma's figure making a wide turn to come back for another pass. "Can you get the core, Helma?" Trude said. "Erica and I tried, but we couldn't find it. If you know where it is, though, you might have a chance."
"Affirmative. I can't afford to waste time searching for it, though. You're going to have to be ready to catch me."
"'Catch'...? Helma, what are you doing?" Trude demanded, even as she began to descend toward the Neuroi. Helma hadn't seemed like the crazy type when they'd met before, but that wasn't a sentence she wanted to hear from any witch.
"Ramming it. Trust me," Helma said. Trude caught sight of Helma raising her shield in front of her and cloaking her body in a white glow as she flew toward the Neuroi. There wasn't enough time to tell her to pull up, so Trude could only watch as Helma plowed into the Neuroi.
Helma's attack might have been crazy, but it hit home. The Neuroi's body shattered within seconds after Helma struck it. Trude wasn't paying attention to it, though. Rather, she was searching through the debris for sight of Helma.
"I've got her," Erica called out. As the Neuroi's debris faded from sight, Trude was able to make out the sight of Erica diving down to catch Helma's falling figure. Holding her breath as she hoped that Helma was somehow still alive, Trude dove down to meet Erica.
To Trude's relief, Helma had miraculously survived without a scratch, though she did seem to be quite dazed. "Warrant Officer Lennartz! What the hell were you thinking?"
Helma turned her head, blinking her eyes at Trude. It took her a moment to focus. "I was thinking that you would be the one to catch me..." she said. With a pained groan, Helma's eyes fell closed. "At least Hartmann is wearing her pants this time..."
Ronchi dei Legionari Airfield
Adolfine Galland's Office
Name: Helma Lennartz
Rank: Warrant Officer
Affiliation: Kommando Nowotny
Striker Unit: Messerschmidt Me 262 Schwalbe
Armament: MK 108 cannon, 4 x R4M "Orkan" rockets
Confirmed Kills: 12
Special Ability: "Iron Head" - Heavily resistant to inertial shocks. Capable of handling higher g-forces than most witches, and able to survive high-speed crashes if she braces herself. Has been working on expanding her power to reinforce her striker unit, with mixed success so far.
Notes: Helma was the youngest member selected for the etherjet striker evaluation squad, at my recommendation. I wanted to see if someone who hadn't built up too much familiarity with reciprocating engine strikers would perform better with jet strikers, and Helma was the most promising enlistee at the time. Helma didn't disappoint. She kept up with the kill counts of even the experienced aces in EKdo 131 and Kommondo Nowotny, and even holds the best record of victories over large-type Neuroi bombers. She's risen through the ranks rapidly, to the point that we can't promote her any further without giving her a commission.
Evaluation: Highly recommended.
"You'll probably want to meet her first, though," Galland said as she passed the file to Minna. "Helma has an... interesting personality. Most of her squadmates I've talked to see her as more cute than annoying, but I'm sure she must rub at least one or two people the wrong way."
"We've met, actually," Minna said as she read through Helma's file. There would certainly be some tension with Erica, but it would probably be worth the headaches saved by the fact that Helma actually cared about following regulations. She would just have to make sure that any complaints Helma might have would be filtered through Trude first. "Certainly a promising choice, though I would like to see what other options there are before making any commitments," Minna said as she placed Helma's file on the desk.
Ronchi dei Legionari Airfield
Destinatario: Minna-Dietlinde Wilcke
Indirizzo: 501st JFW Southern Romagnan Base
Città, Provincia, Regione: Pomezia, Roma, Lazio
Numero del Destinatario: 8135971
Tell Sakamoto if her eye still works contact Roberta FULL STOP
"I'm sorry, Squadron Leader, I can't help you with that either," the telegraph operator said with an apologetic smile. "MI is Britannian military intelligence, and all their numbers are classified. It's rare to even get a telegram that identifies them as the source. Usually it's just the name of the sender or the sending station."
"I see..." Mio said. She stared at the telegraph as she tried to figure out what she was supposed to do. Roberta didn't have an address on file that they could find, and the only thing Mio knew about her activities after the death of Dr. Miyafuji was that she'd moved on to work on the Land Striker for a while. After that, though, Mio hadn't heard anything about her.
Mio's magic eye tried to zoom in of its own accord as she got lost in thought, so Mio blinked a couple of times to refocus on the room around her. There was no point in wasting its power now; this close to the front lines, she could very well find a use for it later. It did remind her, though, of how much she wanted to use it to help out somehow, so she couldn't give up easily on this possibility.
"Do you know anyone else who might be able to put you in contact with this Roberta?"
"Maybe," Mio said. She ran down her mental list of the other researchers she'd gotten to know while working with Dr. Miyafuji. Dr. Kurchatov would have been a good option, if only she knew where he was right now. He'd been in Fuso helping design the new Striker Units for Mio and Yoshika up until a few months ago, but now that those projects were finished, there was no way to know where he would have been called off to.
As Mio thought about it, there was really only one person on the team who was likely to be in the same place after all this time. Unfortunately, the same habits that made him likely to stay in the same place also made him a bit difficult to talk to. It was the price paid for genius, though, and if it weren't for his solution to layering multiple glyphs into a Striker Unit without interference, Dr. Miyafuji's new model of Striker would never have been possible.
"See if you have a number for Bletchley Park, in Britannia," Mio said. "I believe they have a telegraph on site. Tell them, 'Sakamoto Mio asks A. Turing if he knows location of R. Oppenheimer.'"
Author's Note: If the name drops aren't ringing a bell with you, Google is your friend. But in any case, I hope everyone enjoyed this chapter. I've already gotten 1,000 words or so of the next chapter written, but I do have another fic I promised to a friend that I need to write first. Hopefully it won't be too long this time before I update.
Edit: Thanks to OZ7UP for the correction on my Italian here!
Elma Leivonen: Canon character. She was the original leader of the Suomus Misfits squadron, before she recognized her own incompetence and passed the role to Anabuki Tomoko.
Promotions in Fuso: It was discussed how slow they are, compared to other nations, in one of the drama CDs, thus explaining why Mio has a longer service record than Minna but a lower rank.
Haszard, Kurchatov, Turing, Oppenheimer: All non-canon.
Callsigns: The identification of Nowotny as "Schwartzekatze" is non-canon, though likely. Helma's callsign is canon.
Helma Lennartz: Canon character, who appeared in the Season 1.5 manga. Most of the information about her here is canon, except for the change in her affiliation, her specific number of kills, and her special ability.
Location of the 501st's base: Non-canon. This is just a guess based on the short drive to Rome and the location of the real-world Pratica De Mare air base.
Bonus Fluff #2:
Sanya's eyes blinked open slowly. Something was off. Eila was missing from their bed. Once her vision cleared, it wasn't hard to find Eila, as she'd turned on a soft light at the desk. "Eila...?" Sanya said. "What are you doing?"
"Uh!" Eila turned around quickly, nearly falling out of her chair in the process. She managed to stabilize herself before she could fall, but not before she'd managed to cause Sanya to break out into laughter. She narrowed her eyes for a moment, then let out a sigh. "Sorry, I couldn't sleep. I kept feeling like I had to be dreaming, so... Well, my Tarot's always more accurate when I'm dreaming, so I decided to try to ask it if I was dreaming. ...Does that make sense?"
Sanya rubbed a bit of her sleep out of her eyes. She sat up in bed and moved closer to Eila. Once she was in range, she leaned forward and gave Eila's forearm a pinch. At Eila's yelp, Sanya crawled back toward the pillow. Just before she dropped down to let her face hit the pillow, she said, "Now come back to bed."