Author Topic: A Horse for the Astral  (Read 630 times)

Minoko Funaki

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A Horse for the Astral
« on: October 16, 2012, 05:25:39 PM »
September 7th, 2012

She was carrying a bag for once. The oversized messenger bag didn't suit Minoko's light pink kimono very well, but it was something that she always brought with her when she went shopping. Most of the time said shopping was for her inn. Today, though, it would be for something that was much larger than fruits and bottles. Dark eyes looked up to the late morning sun. Jamie's present had already been bought, thanks to Katan's guidance. But Kingsley's gift would need a little more advice. That was why Minoko was approaching the O'Connor household this early on: she was seeking out the Gunslinger.

She wouldn't have far to look, the Gunslinger being exactly where she wanted him to be for once. He was out front of the O'Connor homestead, occupying the large and otherwise vacant porch. A wicker loveseat adorned with white cushions and pillows, each dabbled with tiny floral designs that were too pretty to surround the cowboy, was where he sat, legs stretched out in front of him with boot-covered ankles crossed. He was enjoying a smoke, a habit that he didn't often delve into but recently had discovered reason, and a half-filled glass of whiskey sat atop of a small table beside him, right next to a large bottle of the same poison.          

Once the house came into sight Minoko was very pleased to see the Gunslinger sitting on the porch. Her pace quickened, and the front steps were cleared. "Saiii!" His name was held out in an obvious expression of her excitement. She saw that he already had some whiskey with him, but Minoko had thought to pack a bottle in her bag. Just in case.
 
Just in case. If Sai knew that, he'd smirk. He'd probably smirk when he saw her bottle anyway, so... He didn't react much when he heard the Japanese woman call out his name, just the arching of a dark eyebrow beneath the lowered rim of his hat. His arms were folded, only moving one hand when that smoke needed to be ashed, and he didn't look like he was going to be moving any time soon. Still, he greeted the woman with a lifting of a hand. "Hey there, Minoko. How's ya been?"

"I'm good. You should come birthday shopping with me." She hated to drag him off the porch while he looked so comfortable, but Minoko didn't want them to stick around here for long. If Kingsley saw that she was here then they'd probably get to chatting, and that wouldn't work in well with her intended schedule.

"Shopping?" Did she actually just asking him... to go shopping? Dear Lord, this woman was endlessly hopeful, wasn't she? She probably thought she could save his soul or something, too. Poor woman. But she had said 'birthday shopping' which meant, more than not, that it was for Kingsley. Groaning a bit as his pinched the cigarette at his mouth, he unhooked his ankles to draw his feet beneath him so that, reluctantly, he could hoist himself upward. "Where ya thinkin' of goin'? I'll tell ya now, Min-o-ko," just to give her name some pizzazz, "I ain't the best person to be walkin' 'round doin' shoppin' wit'."

Her eyes shifted from the front door to a few of the windows as if Kingsley would jump out at any second. "Don't worry, it's not like I'm buying her jewelry or anything." And that was the only hint the Astral would get if she was listening! "Come on then. I brought something for you too." A smile was offered to the Gunslinger before Minoko hopped down the steps of the O'Connor porch.

He still wasn't all that happy about this but--wait. Did she just say she had a present for him? Again that brow arched, this time more suspicious than anything. But surprisingly, he chuckled. Couldn't be much less exciting than hanging out here, waiting to either bicker with Jonas or blow a demon's head off. Besides, the other man could do some of the dirty work for once. Stepping down off of the porch, he moved to follow and then walk up beside Minoko. "Where're we goin'?" he dared ask when they were a safe distance away from the house and any possibly sneaky areas the Astral might have been listening from.

"Wellllll..." Minoko searched through her messenger bag as she spoke. "I want to get her a horse." Or a colt? She wasn't really sure how horse buying worked. "A friend of mine directed me to the guy she buys from, but I don't know anything about animals, so I figured I'd have you come along... Here it is!" Out of the messenger bag came the bottle of Dalmore whiskey that Katt had given her. They had already downed a good portion of it, but at least two-thirds remained.

"A horse?" Well now that was something that Kingsley definitely didn?t have, but the Gunslinger knew she would die for one. Not literally, of course but--okay, Sai. You don't have to be so defensive. Get a grip, dude! "You're going to buy her a horse?" Again with that brow arching business. He was already looking down at her before she drew out that bottle of prize. Without hesitation, he let out a low whistle. "Where'd you find that piece of pretty?"

"Yeah, I thought I would. It's something that I know she loves, and I've been saving up money ever since the inn got renovated..." This was her non-snobby way of saying that she had more gold than she knew what to do with. The Black Scorpion made good profit, and Minoko rarely found herself spending money on things other than liquor and food. "Have you had this stuff before?" The Asian grinned upon hearing Sai's whistle. "Katt gave it to me..." When she found out about Toby. The former ginger didn't need to be mentioned, though. Putting Sai in a murderous rage seemed like a terrible thing to do when horse shopping.

Horse steaks anyone? Hey, it could be a good meal, you know. ...If you were left starving to death in a desert, that is. Not that the cowboy knew anything about that, of course! Not at all. Both dark brows were pushed up in admiration of the bottle she now held in her hand. "Yeah, I've had it before. Somethin' close to gold, from what I's remember 'bout it. The girl just gave it to yah, huh?" A quiet snort of air, the smallest bit of sound. "Mighty nice of her." Now back to the horse thing. And no, not the steaks! "You have any idea of where she's goin' to keep it? I know there isn't much room at the house, and I don't know what the situation is at that stable she's been workin' at." Not that she remembered that she worked there anymore... Oh well!

The Dalmore was tucked back into her messenger bag. "Yeah, she's been really nice to me and Kings." Though she hadn't been so nice to Toby, that past was entirely forgotten. Knowing the former ginger, Katt probably had a good reason for her actions anyway. "If she can't keep it at that stable then she can keep it at my place. I'm sure you remember that my inn has some horses..." Unless Sai had lost his memory too.

If only. "You sure you wouldn't mind? It'd probably work out the best if it's there at your place, since that way she can take care of it easier." Seeing as she wants to be working there. Oh wait, she had forgotten about that too, hadn't she? Another point for Sai! "Nice girl, that Katt." As if they had been talking about her all along. "Seems a bit jittery. But that might be a blessin', livin' in a place like this."

"Of course not. I'm buying her the damn thing, so it's not like I can just drop it in her bedroom and go home." Was there any way that they could start talking about Katt without Toby coming up? The answer was most definitely no. Time for a subject change! "Probably. So when's your birthday, Sai?"

He couldn't help but smirk. If there was one thing he liked about the woman, it was that she was a spitfire. "My birthday?" Well wasn't that random. Giving a small snort, the cigarette was on its way up to his lips. "Don't got one." Inhale here, puff out there. "Whad'a'bout you?"

"Um..." This was almost as bad as the time that Mayu said she didn't have a name. Brown eyes were wide with confusion. "October 30th. So you weren't born?" Maybe the Gunslinger had simply descended from the sky, already fully grown. That same stubble had been there since the very dawn of time, most likely.

Most likely. "No, I was born. Just don't remember the day. Hell, don't even remember the year. Can guess at it, though, seein' as how I'm all cowboyed, as people 'round here like to say, but I ain't got no specific date. Ain't no matter anyway. Wouldn't have any use for a birthday even if I had one." Inhale, hold, release. It was calming, ebbing down that smoke. He was gentleman enough, however, to be sure to keep it far away from Minoko's face.

Oh, she wouldn't mind. Spencer had blown enough smoke in her face over the years to get her more than used to it. "So how old are you then? Do you do Christmas?" Minoko realized over the years that they were kind of dumb, but she really liked to celebrate birthdays. Everyone deserved their own day. It seemed like less people around here would object to Christmas, though, so if someone denied having a birthday that just meant an extra special Christmas would have to do.
 
Another almost-noiseless snort. "No idea 'bout that either, not that I'd really ever cared to know. I'm young 'nough to do my job and old 'nough to know how to do it better than most. What about you?" So he wasn't always a gentleman. At least in regards to her he had a valid point in wanting to know. "And I do Christmas, if only 'cause the O'Connors like to do it. Seems a good 'nough time as any to spend with family and such. And besides, demons don't take holidays." He finished the smoke and flicked the smoldering butt off to the side.

Frustrating, as always. What Minoko really wanted to say was that he had to have an idea of how old he was. Most people tend to know the difference between thirty and one hundred and thirty. But saying anything like that would be useless. Sai was made of secrets. "Twenty-four," was grumbled as they turned a corner. "I think that's the place up there..." A stable could be seen down the block. "How does this normally work? Do you buy a grown horse or a colt? What color would she want?"

"You'd probably want to buy her a grown horse. She ain't got the knowin' for trainin' a baby horse. Although, I suppose that I could do it for her." Now there was an idea. Sai hadn't broken a horse in... however long. He wondered if he still had the talent. "I guess it'll depend on what they've got for sellin'. And she'd like anythin', though I do know she likes Palominos." Reaching up to shift his hat, he didn't say anything for a short while. Then, "Thirty-two." Again a pause, lips together. He nodded. "'Bout thirty-two. That'd be my guess."

Was Sai actually cracking? ...Nah. She just got him thinking, that's all. Or something.

"Roza said they would probably have a few colts, but that it would mostly be grown horses. Palmino?" A syllable was lost as Minoko tried to repeat the foreign word. "Thirty-two...horses?" That would be a little much. Then it hit her. He was talking about his age. Really, they were only eight years apart? Eighty has always been closer to her guess, but eight was perfectly fine. Minoko didn't have any response to that, though shock was evident on her face. The woman's checks even seemed to brighten as she looked up to Sai like she had never seen him before.

"Foals," he gently corrected her. "Colt means that it's a male baby. Filly would be a female. Foal just means a baby horse in general." Not that she was entirely incorrect but... he figured he'd let her know. He was even wearing some kind of gentle grin when he looked down at her, especially at her misunderstanding of what he had meant. And that's when he noticed her cheeks and that staring look. He blinked. "What?"

Oh yeah, wasn't Colt one of the guys at the Red Dragon? Maybe that's how she got mixed up. Foal sounded familiar, though filly definitely didn't. Minoko promptly looked away from Sai when she began to speak. "Nothing... I just...know something about you now." In the past they had mostly talked about things other than themselves: Kingsley, Toby, whiskey. Sai knew some things about Minoko, but she had never learned anything about him. When it came down to it Minoko didn't even know if he had a last name. Sai...Jones? That didn't sound right.

He kept his eyes looking down at her as they walked and she talked, the smallest hint of a grin tugged stubbornly at the far corner of his mouth. "You're not used ta' gettin' answers outta people, are yah, Minoko?" He already knew the answer but he felt like asking her anyway. Vacant of the cigarette now, both of his hands slipped fingers-first down into the deep front pockets of dark, loose jeans.

"Not really. Everyone's always vague. But I tend to have a lot of questions, so I can't really blame them." Dark eyes searched the entryway of the stable. No one appeared to be around right now. What had Roza said the guy's name was? The saleswoman's words echoed in her head: Pete's an old drunk, but he doesn't overprice his horses. "Pete?" No answer. After taking a few steps inside she noticed a man passed out on a folding chair that was shoved in a corner. The man looked like he hadn't given any concern to his appearance before showing up to work today. His chin was littered with silver stubble, and it was obvious that he hadn't showered. A beer belly poked out from underneath a white tank top that was a size too small. After taking a good look at his face, though, Minoko came to the conclusion that he was fairly handsome. That was Rhy'Din for you. "...Huh. Let's look around, I guess." Her gaze was fixed on the obligatory unicorn that stood not too far from her.

"Not that," the cowboy said, following Minoko's gaze to the unicorn. "I ain't had no experience trainin' one of those, and I ain't sure she's ready for the challenge either. C'mon," he said, reaching out an arm to herd her further into the stable, not touching her, just hovering up behind her. A glance to the dozing stablehand, then the man got a shake of the Gunslinger's head. Continuing on into the building, he started them down one row of stalls. "Any idea what kind you want ta get her? As much as I'm sure you're lookin' for my guidance, a lot of this should come from you, you know." He glanced down at her. "Would mean a lot more to Kingsley that way."

But it's so pretttyyyyyy. "Well, you said she liked Palminos..." Minoko probably should have done some research beforehand, maybe asked Kingsley what kind of horse she liked back at the Black Scorpion's stable. None of that had occurred to her, though, since she hadn't thought picking a horse would be this difficult. This stable had horses of every color, and most of them looked the same to her. Other than the unicorn, the only animals that stood out to her were a zebra and some strange winged creature. "Oh, there are the babies." In the last stall were two foals, one golden and one black with white spots. They were much sweeter looking than the other beasts in the room.

And probably more up the Astral's alley. The cowboy came up alongside the front gate of the foals' stall, leaning his forearms atop of it, hands together on the other side. "You ever been on a horse before?" Why does that sound more along the lines of something Kilean would say? Thank God the Gunslinger's mind wasn't half as dirty at the Irishman's.

"Yeah. It's not something I enjoy, though." Her sister had always been much better with animals. Motoko, Sam and Patrick were the only people that had gotten any use out of the Black Scorpion's horse. "Do you have a horse?" She had never seen Sai with one, but that didn't really mean anything. His horse was probably some demonic thing with red eyes that would materialize whenever he called it. Minoko's imagination always seemed to get the best of her when it came to Sai.

It'd be amusing to find out just how much of that imagination was correct. But not right now. "Why don't you like it?" It seemed odd to him, a woman that didn't like riding. As far as the Gunslinger knew, every girl liked horses. "I used to, back home. Had horses runnin' wild back there. Was a sight to see, that's for sure. Ain't nothin' like it, watchin' a whole herd o' mustangs runnin' 'cross a prairie while the sun is just comin' up." It wasn't often that the cowboy reminisced about the old homeland. It was even less often that he missed something from it. "How're you holdin' up?" It was a random question, sure, but maybe not so much when you were the one inside of the man's mind. He kept his eyes on the horses, watching the foals search around, hesitant to sniff out the two new observers.

It was a shame that Minoko wasn't afraid of heights. That would have made a much better sounding excuse for disliking riding. "They're kind of scary..." She peaked over to a neighboring stall to get a good look at a chocolate colored horse. Yes, that confirmed it. The long face, the eyes that were too far apart, the sheer size of the grown animal... It was a frightening sight to her. "You're American, right? I didn't know there were wild horses there." She hadn't seen any in suburban Boston, at least. Very confusing. Watching the foals search around their stall jogged Minoko's memory. She began to search through her bag for some treats that she had brought. Sai's second question threw her off, though she didn't stop looking through the bag. "I'm okay. But Kingsley... You know about her memories?" He had to.

He smirked a bit at her confession. He had grown up on the range, right alongside of these 'terrifying' animals. They didn't look all that scary to him because of it. Still, he could understand. At her next question, he nodded. "Yeah, guess you could say that I am. We had won the war by that point, were explorin' out to the West in the search for gold." The way he said it made it sound like that was the least interesting reason one could ever travel out West for. Leaning the way he was, it made it easy to put most of his weight onto one leg. Then there was her next question. Again, he nodded. "Yeah, I know 'bout 'em. I did it." As if it was the most casual of things to say.

Minoko didn't know anything about American wars and 'the West' and gold that wasn't used as currency. The Gunslinger might have inspired her to ask another string of questions if those last three words hadn't been uttered. "You did it? " Having finally located a carrot in her bag, Minoko pulled the vegetable out. Instead of handing it to the young horses she clenched it tightly in her right hand, similar to the way that most men would hold a dagger.

Again, a nod. It was likely that the earth would crack if he moved his head any other way, so prone to nodding this cowboy was. "Yep. I did it." Finally, his eyes moved to her. Since she was right beside him, it took a small movement of his head, too, to be able to see her clearly. "Can you think of any better way to make her forget how miserable she was tryin' to be?" If Minoko tries to stab him with a carrot... Oh, just do it. I've got to see this one!

"Couldn't you have-" 'Afternoon, miss.' Minoko's head spun around to look at the figure that had just pulled the carrot out of her hand. No vegetable stabbing would take place today, unfortunately. The fire instantly drained out of the Asian's brown eyes. "...Pete?" 'That's me.' The man took a large bite out of the carrot. "Uh... Roza sent me. I'm trying to buy my friend a horse. A palmino?"

He would have let her finish her sentence, knowing full well that incredulousness would have been followed shortly by anger and that raging fire he knew her so well for, and they hadn't even known each other for very long. But someone was interrupting her; the Gunslinger glanced up to the man who had taken the carrot. Was like stealing candy from a baby, right? Candy, carrot, baby, foal. Same difference.
 
'You mean a palomino? Did you want that one right there?' Pete pointed towards the light yellow foal with his half eaten carrot. "Yeah, he'll do." 'She'll do, you mean. That'll be 250 gold.' "Alright... Is there anything else we should be buying?" Her words hung in the air since she refused to look back at Sai. Instead, Minoko occupied herself with rummaging around in her bag and counting coins. Eventually several handfuls would be handed over to Pete, who would dump them in an empty feed bag.

"Feed, if you don't already have it, and anythin' else special they give 'em since you want 'er to be comfortable and not scared when she firsts gits there." She wouldn't look at him. 9 times out of 10, when a woman did that, it meant they were pissed. Sai had a feeling that this was no exception. Shifting upright from his lean, he gave the lazy man a small nod of his head before looking back at the filly. "She'll be a good one for Kingsley. Got confidence 'bout her but not too much wild spirit." Heh, spirit. Oh wait, Minoko doesn't know much about that yet, does she? Oh well! More secrets not to tell.
 
Horses get scared? She stared at the chocolate horse once again. Impossible! 'I'll give you a bag of feed and a halter for her.' Pete didn't name a price; the man simply shook his feed bag in Minoko's direction. She rolled her eyes as she dropped some more coins in. 'Thank ya kindly.' A greedy smile was given. Pete stashed his coin/feed bag in a pile of hay and grabbed Minoko's purchased items. The bag of feed would be handed to Sai before he opened up the stall and began to equip the foal with its headgear. "I'm glad you think so." She meant those words, though her tone was rather frosty.

The cowboy took the bag of feed like a champ (no pun intended), slinging the burlap sack over one shoulder. It added a sense of broadness to him that he had no need to amplify, but it happened all the same, standing with just one arm looped around it to make sure it didn't tumble for the ground. Stepping back enough to allow the man to lead the foal from the stall, he waited for Minoko to take the lead and start them out. He had a feeling that once they stepped foot outside of the building's large doors, she was going to snap at him and let him have a peek of her fangs.

After handing the foal's lead rope to Minoko, Pete settled himself back into his folding chair. 'Make sure to tell Roza I said hello. That woman...' The man let out a short laugh that Minoko didn't understand the reasoning behind. It seemed that everyone felt strongly about Rozalina, though those feelings could go either way. "I will. C'mon, pony." She made awkward eye contact with the foal before giving a slight tug to the rope. The young animal followed without question.

If he were any other person, he probably would have laughed. But being that he wasn't, he only smirked, then followed alongside of Minoko and the foal, keeping to the right side of the animal so that it was sheltered between the two of them. The bag of grain was heavy but not heavy enough to hinder the cowboy's steps. He remained quiet as they went through the door, not giving the stable hand a second look, and stayed that way as they continued their way back to the Black Scorpion.

She had given Sai's revelation some thought during the time it took to purchase Kingsley's foal. "So you just erased Toby and Mayu?" Her voice was laced with frustration, but the words were said at a softer than usual volume. Screaming at Sai would be loads of fun for her. However, the foal probably wouldn't think so, and the last thing Minoko needed was for the newly bought animal to run off on her.

"For the most part, yeah. She won't remember anythin' aside from meetin' him that first time, and even that is a bit fuzzy. Mayu's completely out of there." A hand found itself placed atop of the young foal's growing mane, gentle and steady. It gave the beast a sense of familiarity and calmed her. "It was the only way to get her over his death." At that word, the Gunslinger snorted. So long for enjoying Rhydin without the demon-spawn running rampant.

"The only way." An exasperated sigh came from the woman as she turned a corner. "She never would have gotten over that? She would have lived the rest of her life in misery, huh, Sai? Not that that matters anyway, since he's back. Did you know he was back? And now Kingsley thinks I'm f*cking crazy because I'm trying to tell her that she used to date this kid, who doesn't remember jack sh*t either. It's just me and Katt now." Speaking of Katt, Sai was definitely not getting any of that Dalmore. Minoko would probably stash the bottle in her room for when it was needed. In case of emergency, break glass.

He let Minoko's steam puff out of her like so much smoke, weathering the storm as any good Gunslinger would do, his face remaining stoic, his gait the same as before. When she was done, he glanced at her over the neck of the small horse. "I know he's back," he said finally. "And I'm sorry that you have to deal with the fact that only you and Katt now remember anythin' that happened between the two of them. But it's for the best. He don't remember, she don't remember, and by the sounds of things he don't seem much interested in gettin' to know her again so we don't have to worry 'bout that. And besides," he looked back to the front of them, "he's just a kid now. Ain't got nothin' in that head of his 'cept workin' for that church and gettin' his crush back on that girl." Meaning Mayu, of course. After a couple of steps, "you know as well as I do, Min, that Kings wouldn't have ever gotten over it," he said quietly. "She's a create of heart, and if that heart gits broken... ain't nothin' short of makin' her forget she ever had it to let her git back to bein' herself."

Big surprise there. A switch flicked in Minoko's head, and her mouth formed a snarl that looked entirely foreign on the woman's face. "God, you were there, weren't you? I bet you had a good laugh watching me get drunk and try to explain things to them. Maybe she wouldn't get over it, but she would move on! Have you ever lost your memory?!" If he said no then the Gunslinger would have hell to pay. Everything that had been going on lately was just a constant reminder of the things that Minoko had lost ten years ago. Where were the memories of her parents, her first love, her entire childhood? All of it had been lost to a rock that she happened to smash her head on. No matter how good the present was, there would always be a finite emptiness to her past.

Another nod. "I was there. Wouldn't have done any good showin' my face though. What happened needed to happen. Just be glad that it's all over with." Too-blue eyes cut back over to her. "She wouldn't have moved on, Minoko. That isn't an ability that she has. Bein' an Astral... that changes how your heart works. It was 'cause of him that all of these changes started in the first place. And then he has in him to go off and die for someone that ain't ever cared nothin' for him 'cept to use as a place to wipe her feet?" This was the first time his head went the other direction tonight, left to right and back again. "She was too attached, too in love. She would have become somethin' you ain't wantin' to see 'fore she turned for the better, I can guarantee you that. And is that what you wanted for Kingsley, to be stuck wallowin' in her misery and have her lose all that she is just 'cause of some boy?" He watched her for a few moments longer before looking ahead again. He carried that feed sack like it was nothing more than a bag of feathers. "I've lost a lot of things in my time. Pretty sure memories would've been a good trade." The way he said it wasn't humorous or light. He spoke in all seriousness, his opinion that the one would have been better than the other a solid one, felt deep to the bone.

"Of course I didn't want her wallowing!" By this point the tone of Minoko's voice had escalated quite a bit. The foal seemed to be inching away from her. "I don't know how Astral hearts work. But I know what it's like to lose memories and to have people telling you about things that you can't remember. I can't remember my mother's face, Sai. I've lost her, but I rather have those pieces of her than nothing at all." Dark eyes were cast downwards to her side. She was very suddenly aware of how empty her hip felt without her father's katana resting on it. "How many times have you done this before? You sound like you're speaking from experience."

It was sudden, how the Gunslinger came around the front of the horse to end up standing directly in front of Minoko. The foal, bless its little soul, didn't skitter far enough to yank the woman's arm. Something about the way the cowboy moved, without hesitation and very little fear that the animal would spook, kept it from doing just that. A hand on top of its long nose just added to its comfort. "Are you mad that I did it, or 'cause you can't remember? Kingsley will be fine; she ain't common 'nough to dwellin' that she's goin' to keep askin' you what the hell you were talkin' 'bout, so there's no need to be upset 'bout that. But you..." He just looked down at her, at those eyes that weren't looking back at him, at the fall of her dark, black hair. "I know what it is I took from her, Minoko, but it was better than the alternative. If I could give you back your memories of your mother, I would, but I wouldn't do it until you asked me first. They're not missin'." Now this was a rare occurrence. The Gunslinger reached out, brushing a calloused finger down the slope of one of her temples, brushing away any stray strands before pausing, resting there. "They're still in here. It's just figurin' out how to shake 'em loose." And then just as quickly as it had happened, his hand was taken away again. He was back to the other side of the horse, making a brief tug at the lead just under its chin to start them walking again. "I've done it twice with Kingsley. This time and once before, 'for we got here."

"I'm mad because I think Kingsley would have wanted to remember Toby. You didn't ask her, did you?" Sensing Sai's gaze on her, Minoko's dark eyes flew up from the ground. She interpreted his change of stance as confrontational. The urge to run overwhelmed her. But once the Gunslinger began to speak about her mother she felt entirely frozen. Not missing...? Her small mouth had rounded itself into a stunned gape. Sai reaching out to touch her only added to that, and it was likely that she wouldn't have been able to move unless someone set her kimono on fire. "Um..." It took her a couple of moments to resume her walk. A million thoughts were buzzing through her head. What would Motoko think of this? Though she rarely spoke about it, Minoko knew that her twin thought she was better off this way. She would probably get along just fine with Sai, as odd of a pairing as that would be. The Gunslinger and the Mother: Adventures in Aggravation. After what seemed like a very long time, Minoko managed to speak. "Was that for her brother-in-law?" Unsurprisingly, the volume of her voice was barely above a whisper.

"Mhm." The brim of his hat bobbed with the answer. "It was durin' the same time as that, anyway. Wasn't his passin' though, as you can tell since she's still able to talk 'bout it. Was somethin' else I had to take from her. Sad as it is, leavin' Brandon's death was the better of the two choices." The Gunslinger ran a well-calloused hand down over the bottom half of his face, the dark stubble scratching against fingers and palm.

Brandon had come to mind because Minoko was simply trying to think of deaths in Kingsley's life. The fact that she even knew about it being pointed out to her made her feel stupid for mentioning it in the first place. A voice in her head was saying 'Duh, Minoko.' "Didn't that all happen on her birthday? ...I forgot about that." She glanced over to the foal. Now it seemed even more important, as if a pet could heal old wounds. "Do you think I should give the horse to her today or tomorrow?"

The cowboy would never rub something like that in Minoko's face. He hadn't even thought of it that way. To him, it had been a valid question. "Yeah, it did. Four years ago, come tomorrow. Still a wound needin' healin', for both her and the rest of the family. Quillan, well... she took it the hardest." Which went without saying. It explained a lot, of why the woman was so snippy and cold. Having your loving husband torn from your life without so much as a goodbye kiss... That was enough to make nearly any woman bitter, the hardened Irishwoman not excluded. His hand had come to rest atop of the yearling's neck again. He looked down at it, at the pale cream mane sitting against its golden coat. "Tomorrow. Would mean a lot to her that way, give her somethin' else to think 'bout, and git her out of the house." And away from all the smoldering pain.

That was the answer she had wanted to hear. Hopefully Quill wouldn't hate her for it. "I'm excited! Aren't you?" Oddly enough, that question wasn't meant for Sai. Minoko's gaze fell on the foal, as if it had any idea what the hell she was talking about. "I wonder what kind of name you'll get."

His gaze shifted over to the foal's young face, half expecting it to verbally answer Minoko's question. This was Rhydin after all. A talking horse was probably as common as seeing dragons at the Inn, which seemed to happen most every day. "I'm bein' honest 'bout your memories, Min." It was off-topic, or rather back on the topic from before. Soothingly, he ran a hand down the young horse's neck. "You think on it awhile, ask that sister of yours her opinion. Just remember what I'm offerin' yah. I can't promise that anythin' will come from it but, I'm willin' to give it a try if it's what you truly want."

Minoko's cheeks puffed out a bit. "Can you read my mind?" This one wasn't for the horse. She hated mind readers. Well, not all mind readers. She always forgot that Lyric could do that stuff now. Minoko hated the inconsiderate ones, who dropped into your head without any consideration. That type had been at the Black Scorpion, and they were huge annoyances when they were drunk. That waitress said some nasty sh*t about me! No, she thought it. Big difference. Sam had a mouth on her, but the Canadian girl knew how to keep it shut until the place emptied out.

"Nope." Simple answer to a simple question. "I'm just good at not forgettin' that you've got a busy mind, and a quick one at that. Plus your face says a lot more than your mouth ever does." Which is saying a lot since Minoko most often spoke her mind without hesitation. "Just keep it in mind. Somethin' to think 'bout, but don't let it bother you none. The offer ain't goin' to go away, I promise you that."

A faint laugh was let out. She certainly wasn't good at masking her emotions. That had always been Motoko's thing. "I guess you know me better than I thought you did." Her pace slowed as the woman began to dig through her bag once again. "I will... Thank you." The bottle of Dalmore was pulled out for the second time today. If anything proved her thanks, it was that precious bottle of whiskey.

Sai held out a hand to her. "Nah, it's all yours. Or if you're determined to have it with me, we'll share it sometime when we have a chance to sit down and take our time with it. That's stuff's too good to go chuggin' on a whim. It's meant to be enjoyed." Among other things. A half-c*cked grin went down to Minoko. "You?re a good friend to her, yah know. And to him, too." Meaning Toby, the one who should not be named. "You just be careful, alright? There's no tellin' what will happen in the future. Don't want to see you gettin' hurt all over again either."

"Sounds like a plan." The bottle was tossed back into the bag where it made a noise like it had hit something hard and metal. "I try to be. Don't worry about me, though. I am alright. I'll be alright." A pause was taken for Minoko to wonder whether or not something was appropriate to say. In the end she decided to go with it, since it wasn't like she was saying anything bad. It was fact, really. "I?m going to warn him, y'know. About how dangerous things are always following Mayu... Maybe it'll play out better this time." She certainly hoped so.

"Will yah warn him 'bout me?" To be fair, the boy probably should be given at least a head start. Demons didn't usually last long when the Gunslinger was hunting after them, and now that little Kingsley wasn't around to beg for the boy's life... Maybe it was best if Minoko became friends with him again, that way the kid might have something of a chance.

There was no way he didn't know. Minoko looked over to the Gunslinger, clearly confused. She had assumed a long time ago that Sai had aura sensing abilities like she did. "No. I didn't think there was any reason to. He's human this time." Now if Kingsley starts hanging around him again, that's a totally different story.

"I'm not too sure 'bout that." The Gunslinger reached up, plopping a hand atop of his hat to shift it. It ain't coming off, Minoko. Sorry. "It's doubtful he'll be much interested in Kingsley this time 'round so, I ain't too worried 'bout it. Got other fish to fry. S'much as I wouldn't mind shootin' him, he's not the biggest threat 'round these parts."

Baby Toby hardly seemed to be a threat in general. The kid probably couldn't even wield a knife like he used to. Old Toby would slice up church delivery boxes beautifully. "And who is 'the biggest threat 'round these parts?'" She had tried to imitate Sai's accent in a teasing way. It sounded fairly ridiculous. Minoko knew it, too, judging by her grin.

It earned her an equal grin from the man. It wasn't an accent easily replicated, that was for sure. "There's plenty of them. The one that's got the most worry goin' his way is Malachi." The cowboy tried his hardest not to cringe while saying the name. Luckily, he succeeded. Still, the distain that the man held for the name was clear, plain as day. "Haven't heard much 'bout him in awhile though, so I'm guessin' he's backed down."

"Malachi... Doesn't sound familiar. I've dealt with ChiChis before, though. They're awful." ChiChi wasn't an official name, so since the old Toby was dead nobody on this planet probably had any idea what she was talking about. Regardless, Minoko looked surprisingly pleased for someone who was recalling a time where she had almost died. The biggest threats ?round these parts (in Minoko?s opinion) had been quite adorable.

Sai hadn't, in fact, ever heard of a ChiChi before, but he didn't make much fuss about it. "Malachi's a demon, been after Kingsley for a long time. Had a few run-ins with him in the past, none of 'em good. He's 'bout the only devil that's ever gotten away from me." If that slight shift of facial expression could count as it, the Gunslinger looked mighty proud of himself. Either that or he was really pissed. Hard to tell with a face like that. The Black Scorpion was coming up on the horizon. He pointed to its neighboring building, the stable. "You want to put 'er right on in? She'll probably feel more comfortable, bein' with others of 'er own kind."

What would the demons do if they got a hold of Kingsley? Eat her to gain Astral powers? Minoko decided not to start asking questions. The Toby and Mayu business had left her confused enough. "Sure." After approaching the stable she swung open the door and led the foal inside. "I'll let you and Patrick take it from here, I guess." Minoko found herself in the stable fairly often. Just because she liked the room didn't mean she knew anything about taking care of horses.

 "Sounds good." The cowboy followed the two of them inside, bringing the bag of feed over to one corner and dumping it down with the rest. Brushing his hands off on the thighs of his jeans, he looked over at her. "Yeah, that's fine. I'll come in and let yah know when I'm leavin'. Might spend some time with our little filly here." While talking, he had walked over to the foal, running both hands down her neck and across her back. "Git to know one another, tell her 'bout her charge." He sent a small grin over to Minoko. "Yah did good, Minnie." Olden time days brought out that silly little nickname. He didn't catch it. "She's gonna love 'er. Now go ahead and do what it is yah gotta do. We'll be fine in here, don't you worry."
[img:ac4ccb478f]https://66.media.tumblr.com/132c5066959875bc460d8f587e94ad6c/tumblr_moilapx6dc1sw5m5io1_400.gif[/img:ac4ccb478f]
[i:ac4ccb478f]And you're a cherry blossom
You're about to bloom
You look so pretty, but you're gone so soon[/i:ac4ccb478f]