“Here you are, lovely. One Sencha green tea with lotus blossom honey,” Pearla smiles at the woman before whom she sets down the delicate cup and teapot, as fragile as robins’ eggs, along with the pot of cloven lotus blossom honey.
“Domo arigato, Pearla-chan,” Akiko bows her head gently, the delicate curve of her golden-red fox ears luminous against the jet black luster of her abundant hair.
“Enjoy!” Pearla flutters back to the counter and busies herself with other orders.
Akiko, meanwhile, sits placid and peaceful in her secluded corner. Eventually, she pours herself a cup of tea with great deliberation and gentle intent. The steaming liquid fills the cup with nary a splash against its delicate sides, the steam curling and coiling cunningly into shapes and characters that only Akiko can discern as she mingles her breath with the wispy steam. It seems that her breath and the airy drawing of her delicate fingertips brings life to those shapes, little silvery-grey maidens dancing with their fans and precise archers shooting at the honeypot.
“Those are pretty!” comes a childish voice.
Akiko turns to find a pair of babyish green eyes looking up at her over the edge of her table. The little boy watching her steamy shadow players with rapt attention is beaming as he does.
The lovely kitsune gives a beatific smile to the child. “Do you think so?”
The boy’s head nods quickly, his little chin just missing the edge of the table and a hard knock.
Akiko smiles and, leaping from her teacup, a silvery horse gallops around the table, stopping to rear majestically before the child’s very nose. His green eyes widen as the horse lowers to all four legs and stretches out its tiny muzzle to touch the tip of its nose to his. Then he laughs with shrill delight, utterly shattering the peace that Akiko had carefully cultivated. But she doesn’t mind. The child’s smile reinforces her own, her quiet demeanor unfazed by his rambunctious energy.
“Come, Kyle,” a maternal voice finally calls to him, much to his chagrin. The horse, however, capers for him once more before rearing and beating its forelegs against the air in goodbye as the little boy lingers over his shoulder as his mother draws him away with a thankful smile to Akiko.
The kitsune gives them a little bow in her seat and returns the wave young Kyle gives as he and his mother exited the Hollow on the busy city street. She then returns to her tea, the little steamy figures bowing to her and dissipating in a cooling mist that kisses her cheeks. Quietly, Akiko takes the cup in both hands and raises it to her lips, which still smile in that soft serenity that seems to be woven into her very being.