Not really that serious.
"But lots of girls wear them! They're cute! And it's black, just like your outfit now! I even got a red sash for you. Isn't it silky? Isn't it pretty? Red goes well with your eyes!"
Fay beamed. It was a look Kurogane had come to know very well, and every time she saw it she wanted to wring the stupid mage's neck. Even Tomoyo-hime, focused as she had been on being elegant and well-dressed, had allowed for ease of movement and modesty. The mage, on the other hand, had an unhealthy attachment to lace. And silk. And combinations of the two that were barely appropriate for a waitress, let alone a warrior. Kurogane allowed herself a long, low growl. "You want me to flash the whole country every time I take a swing, huh?"
"Oh, no, not every time." The idiot smile was back. "You'll only flash them if you have to balance with your hips! And look, I got you really nice panties, too." Fay held them up for inspection. They were black. They involved lace. They looked as if they would slide off her hips in a faint breeze. "Kuro-rin, don't you want to fit in? This is normal for this county. Well, normal-ish."
"I'll go back to the tailor," she growled, "and get a proper outfit."
"Oh, but you can't. We're out of money!"
Kurogane could think of a number of responses to this, but none she was willing to utter in front of the kids.
The kid kept looking over at her - not exactly at her legs; he was too polite for that, and anyway they weren't very impressive legs, even in silk stockings. But he looked. She had put him on her right side as they walked, in hopes of reinforcing his other senses. It had seemed like a good idea when she came up with it, but she had come up with it before Fay had come up with the outfit. Finally she growled, "They're just legs. Won't your princess be jealous?"
Syaoran promptly looked away and blushed. "Um," he said, and appeared very focused on the lamppost across the street. "I wasn't staring ..."
"Looking over every five seconds counts as staring, kiddo."
"They're nice legs!" he blurt out, then appeared to realize what he had just said and clapped his hands over his mouth.
Despite herself, Kurogane chuckled, and ruffled his hair. He was a nice kid, and she couldn't blame him for staring at her legs when they were on such adamant display. She couldn't remember the last time she'd worn so little in public. Even the shoes were strappy sandals; they stayed comfortably on her feet even when she swung her sword, but she couldn't shake the feeling they were designed for other things. Dancing, maybe, the kind with overtones. "Don't worry about it. Just don't do it in front of her, 'kay?"
"I won't." Syaoran glanced anxiously back at her. It was almost dark; the lamps were flicking on. "Um. You do look very nice in that dress, though. I can see why Fay-san picked it for you." The idiot mage again; who else would have done something like this to her? She growled and stalked on, fantasizing idly about wringing Fay's skinny little neck.
Later on, when Yuzuriha looked at her with sparkles in her eyes and declared that Big Puppy was the sexiest woman she'd ever seen, Kurogane wondered if it wasn't worth it.
Syaoran was subdued when they collected their reward money. He'd had a difficult night, after all. Kurogane briefly considered dropping by the tailor to get a less ridiculous dress, but they had things to do, and anyhow the kid looked so miserable that afterwards, she took him to a chocolate shop. It had the desired effect.
"I think I like it here," he confided. "There's a lot of things that don't make sense, but everyone's so happy." He looked happy himself; he looked positively ecstatic. "Don't you think? I know I shouldn't say this, but I hope we don't find the feather here right away." His expression softened. "Sakura seems so happy ..."
"And Fay." Kurogane leaned back and stretched, and Syaoran closed his eyes. "It's a good place. Don't worry about it." She was a little disturbed herself; this world fell squarely under the category of 'too damn quiet'. They'd stick together, she told herself; it couldn't be that bad.
Syaoran got a heart-shaped box to take home for the princess. When they walked back they weren't exactly holding hands, but their hands kept brushing against each other from time to time, and Kurogane found herself glancing over to make sure he was still there. Of course, when they got back to the cafe, it was Fay who threw open the door, with a broad and improbable grin. "Ah. Puppy love!" Kurogane growled and launched herself at the mage, and by the time the dust had cleared the princess was there, squeaking and waving her hands, and the pork-bun was sitting on Fay's head cheerfully expounding on how cute they were.
From time to time Kurogane glanced over at Fay, who was watching with a distracted smile, hand clenched white-knuckled on the stem of what Kurogane realized with a sinking heart was her drink. Somehow it didn't surprise her that the idiot mage had a casual attitude toward other people's beverages. The singer was wonderful, absurdly wonderful. She reminded Kurogane a little bit of Princess Tomoyo, with her secretive smile. Kurogane had never had a woman whisper sweet nothings to her in bed, but this woman sang like she imagined it would be like. It was a pity the song was so pointless, though.
Fay didn't say anything.
When they left the bar, though, Kurogane offered Fay a shoulder to lean on, and got a laugh. "Aren't you going to carry me away? You've got that look in your eye."
"You'll be fine." Kurogane glared. "I can help you, but I can't walk for you."
"Aah, Kuro-rin said that before." Another laugh, no less carillon and convincing. "If I want to go somewhere, I should pick up and go." Kurogane sighed and grabbed the mage's arm, hauling it over her shoulders. "I was always, waiting, though. Like the princess in the tower."
"Princess in the tower?"
"Ahah, that's an old story. There was a princess and she was shut up in a tall tower, and she stared out the window and dreamed of the prince who would come and make her happy ..."
"Stupid," Kurogane grumbled, as she stumbled forward. The idiot mage wasn't helping much with the walking. "Who'd put a princess in a tower? A princess should have warriors to guard her, and then she can go wherever she likes. Put her in a tower, and anybody could come along and run her through who had the wit to bring a ladder."
Fay laughed, a little more drunkenly, and whispered, "You're so protective, Kuro-tan."
"'Course. It's my job."
"That's not the point," Fay declared.
"Then what is?"
But Fay wouldn't say anything else.
The kid was nervous about just holding a sword, Kurogane could tell. Nervous, but determined. He hadn't carried a weapon before, hadn't been brought up as a warrior.
He'd have to learn to deal with it. "I'm not going to go easy on you just because you're a boy," she said. Despite himself, Syaoran grinned. "You have a princess to protect, don't you?" Syaoran nodded firmly and shifted his grip on the sword. "Remember that. The purpose of a sword is to protect."
Syaoran nodded again, and tilted his head. "I have to protect Sakura," he repeated, then paused. "Kurogane? What is it that you're protecting?"
This wasn't the question she had been expecting, but the kid was pretty perceptive, and curious. He was a scholar. It was easy for Kurogane to let her guard down with him; he was so earnest and determined. She was glad for his company. But she wasn't sure how much she wanted to tell him. The mage had been utterly mysterious, except those strange comments yesterday about the princess in the tower. Kurogane wasn't sure that was the best example to follow. Really, what did she have to hide?
"I have my princess too," she told him. "Her name's Tomoyo." She realized, to her surprise, that she was smiling. "She's annoying as anything, but she never lets you down. And I have a lot to talk to her about when I get back."
The kid blinked. "Oh," he said wonderingly. "That's ... I'm sure if you liked her, Kurogane, she must be really special."
"That's one word for it." Kurogane took up her stance, feeling her muscles shift in the old familiar ways, and the sword fit in her hand comfortably. It was no replacement for Ginryuu, of course, but this was a good sword. A worthwhile replacement, until she was back where she belonged. If she could deal with a different princess, she could deal with a different sword.
"I'm going to do my best," the kid declared.
"Good," Kurogane told him, and let herself grin.