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Frostkeeper

Chapter Text

The skyline was littered with elaborate skyscrapers and they clearly showed what they represented to the district of Asaka itself. Technology was thriving in Asaka and it had attracted a lot of attention. Various cultures have left their mark not just on the city's development, but also upon the city's identity; both human and liminal. What historically was a city of little diversity has grown into a multicultural hub and it's this that has united the one million people to this day.

 

However, it hasn’t been a completely smooth transition period for the Liminals. Despite the Interspecies Exchange Bill being passed three years ago, not every shop is liminal-friendly. There are liminal-owned businesses, but they are still on the rise.

 

Elsewhere in the district, a certain young woman had finished her shift and had returned home to her house. Her neighbour was Kimihito Kurusu; he’d been chosen the same day as her to be a host in the Exchange Program. She’d had a shower and was stepping out of the bathroom to walk to her room, with a towel around her when the doorbell rang.

 

She twisted her long, pale hair up in a second towel to dry later. When down, her hair reached her knees and took a long time to dry naturally. Finally, Hinata slipped her feet into a pair of slippers and strode out to the front door.

 

Hinata’s towel was light enough in colour to hide the fact she wasn’t human as she opened the door. Hinata hadn't really been expecting guests, so she was a bit curious to see her co-ordinator, Agent Kuroko Smith, from the Cultural Exchange and a woman with orange-blonde hair and gold eyes.

 

If Hinata had to describe Agent Smith, she would say that Agent Smith was one of those typical government agents. She was wearing a white dress shirt with a black tie, a black blazer and a matching professional skirt, black panty hose and heels. Black sunglasses covered her pale brown eyes and her long black hair hung loosely down her back.

 

Hinata recognized the woman next to Agent Smith as one of the Harpy breeds. The woman had neck-length orange hair that was in a tousled and messy fashion. The woman had bright golden eyes and stunning reddish-orange wings (she obviously had no problem showing off who she was). Hinata noticed that the Harpy was wearing a revealing blue sleeveless top with green-coloured shoulders. The top had a broad yellow stripe over the stomach area and three red stripes – two on the bottom under the yellow, the other on top of the yellow blaze – just underneath the breasts. The Harpy was also wearing a brown skirt with yellow markings. Her feet were taloned with three claws on each foot and a thin layer of scaly skin decorating her upper thighs that disappeared under her skirt.

 

Hinata glanced at the woman curiously as golden eyes took in her appearance. Hinata felt a bit unnerved as those golden eyes studied her, but she pushed that thought aside for now as Agent Smith smiled at her. "Good evening, Hyūga-san. I apologize for the unannounced visit."

 

Hinata smiled warmly at the woman. "It’s quite alright, Smith-san. Please come in."

 

Agent Smith smiled as Hinata stepped to the side to allow them in. "Thank you, Hyūga-san."

 

Hinata closed the door and locked it place after Agent Smith and the Harpy woman entered. Hinata followed Agent Smith and the Harpy woman (Agent Smith had been to her apartment enough times to know where to go by now) to the dining room, which was connected to the kitchen.

 

Hinata had a fairly simple dining room. A decent size round table stood on the wooden floor with four chairs surrounding it. Pictures of her family decorated the pale blue walls and a small light fixture hung above.

 

"I was just going to heat up some dinner. Would you two care for some?"

 

"No, thank you, Hyūga-san. Just coffee if you have it." Agent Smith said as she took a seat.

 

"I'll have some with some water. Thanks." The Harpy woman said as she took a seat next to the government agent. Hinata smiled before she left for the kitchen.

 

Several minutes later, Hinata returned with two bowls of home-made ramen, a mug of black coffee with two sugar cubes and two glasses of water.

 

Once they were all settled, Agent Smith began going through the introductions. "Hyūga-san, I would like you to meet Bima Chandrah. She is a Harpy of the Garuda subspecies."

 

The Harpy now identified as Bima Chandrah smiled widely at Hinata. “It’s very nice to meet you, Hyūga-san. Smith-san has told me so much about you.”

 

Bima’s eyes seemed to brighten as she stared at her with her golden orbs. Hinata felt her stomach turn again. There was something about Bima that she could not figure out.

 

“R-really-y?” Hinata stammered slightly as she tried to push the uneasy feeling about this strange Harpy away for now. She couldn’t be doing what she thought she was doing, could she?

 

“Yep!” Bima said with a huge smile that confirmed her earlier statement. However, her eyes seemed to show surprise when Hinata began to stammer. "This ramen is great! It's different than the one I always buy."

 

Hinata blushed profusely and turned her head away, embarrassed. Never had she met anyone who was so forward with their emotions for her. It was hindering any chance she had of asking Smith-san why she had brought such an open individual to her house.

 

Agent Smith smiled to herself as she drank the last of her coffee, stood up and walked over to the sink. She washed the mug up and placed it on the rack to dry, before turning on her heel.

 

“I’m off.” Turning to the Extra-Species she had brought with her, Agent Smith continued. “Don’t get up to too much mischief, Bima. Remember that Hinata is a timid person.”

 

Noticing Hinata was still looking away from her, Bima gave a cheeky grin to the co-ordinator. “As you wish, Smith-san.” Bima couldn’t wait to have fun with her host.

 

“Hyūga-san!” Agent Smith called, startling Hinata out of her thoughts. The young woman glanced at her co-ordinator, confused. “The girls are, and will get, passionate with you. Just some advice.” Then she walked out the door and was gone.

 

No sooner than Smith-san walked out the door, Bima was pushing herself onto Hinata. The Garuda teased her host by slowly pulling back the collar of her shirt to reveal her breasts… that were unhindered by a bra.

 

“N-No!” Hinata stammered, attempting to draw away from Bima. She didn’t want the Harpy to find out her secret before she was ready to reveal it. Bima kept after her, however, still showing off her breasts.

 

“What’s the matter, Master?” Bima asked in a sultry tone. “Don’t like my openness?”

 

Hinata didn’t trust herself to speak, so she didn’t answer Bima immediately. Bima forced the issue and pressed Hinata into the kitchen bench, ignoring her host’s struggles to get away.

 

“B-Bima, please! Stop.” Hinata pleaded again. The request fell on deaf ears once more as the Harpy took great pleasure in ever so slowly removing the towel from around Hinata’s chest. The result left Hinata flushed red from extreme embarrassment and Bima herself blinking in surprise.

 

“You’re a li-” The Garuda began, but Hinata swiftly pressed a hand over the other’s mouth.

 

Hinata nodded once in confirmation. “Smith-san can not know this. She will learn when I’m ready to tell her. Understand?”

 

Before Bima could reply, the doorbell rang again and Hinata jumped, startled, grabbing the towel off of Bima. She hurried into her bedroom to get dressed, calling out to Bima to please answer the door.

 

Still stunned by the revelation she had just discovered, Bima took her time walking to the door. She opened it to reveal a tall young man standing there. He looked in his early twenties’ and wore a black short-sleeved shirt with white pants.

 

“… Ah, hello?” Bima finally greeted. She noticed a Holstaurus subspecies, the parent breed being the Minotaur, standing beside him.

 

The liminal resembled that of a cow. The upper half of the cow beastman was that of a human with white hair that had strips of black, cow ears and horns adoring her head and eyes as green as the grass she munched on for lunch. The lower half was that of a cow. The liminal had white cow legs with grey spots and a long thin tail that had fluffy fur on the tip. On her wide hips, she wore her jean-like shorts and around her neck she wore a bright golden bell.

 

“Hi. I’m Hyūga-san’s neighbour, Kurusu Kimihito. This is Alyssa. Smith-san dropped her at my place two weeks ago. Is Hyūga-san in today?”

 

“Master is getting dressed after I interrupted her. I just arrived here myself, Kurusu-san. Smith-san left not long ago,” Bima answered her host’s neighbour.

 

It wasn’t time for Bima’s mating drive so, despite being bisexual, she had absolutely no interest in males. Her preference was for females. Now, her interest in Alyssa was piqued.

 

Alyssa seemed to notice as well and fluttered her eyes at the Harpy. She stopped when her host looked over at her when he realized Bima had fallen silent. “I’m sorry, Master,” Alyssa apologized.

 

Bima regained her composure and defended her fellow liminal. “Why are you sorry?” She challenged.

 

“Master Kimihito doesn’t like me flirting with other females.” The Holstaurus replied, her tone sad.

 

Bima couldn’t believe this outrage. The Garuda was moments away from tearing into the human, but then Hinata appeared on the scene. She was fully dressed and had black gloves on her hands. Hinata felt the intent to maim and placed a hand on her homestay’s shoulder, feeling relieved when the intent died down in shock.

 

“Liminals can’t injure humans and vice-versa. P-Please remember that.” Hinata whispered into Bima’s ear to remind her of one of the laws.

 

Bima’s eyes widened. “Oh!” She couldn’t believe she had overlooked one of the most important laws regarding Extra-Species integration into human society as ‘absurd’. Now, she understood why it was so crucial for the two groups to get along.

 

Apologies, Master. I won’t do that again, Bima thought honestly. The Garuda bowed her head in genuine remorse and saw Hinata nod, satisfied her job was done.

 

Turning towards her neighbour, Hinata continued. “H-Hello Kurusu-san. It’s a pleasure to meet you and Alyssa. Is Smith-san sparingly giving you homestay participants?”

 

Kimihito grimaced. “Not really, Hyūga-san. I’ve got two already – Alyssa here and Papi, a Harpy.”

 

Hinata let out a little gasp and put a hand over her mouth. “I-I’ve only got Bima at the moment, even though we were chosen on the same day.”

 

“Yeah,” Kimihito responded, knowing the co-ordinator better than Hinata. On top of that, he was due for a third homestay in the coming days. “Smith-san told me she’s ready to drop another homestay on me in a couple of days. Says this one’s called a Jinko, a tiger woman. Not sure how I feel about that.” He laughed nervously.

 

Hinata paled at the thought of how claw-heavy the Jinko would be.

Chapter Text

Bima remained silent as her host and her host’s neighbour talked a little more about the Jinko Kurusu Kimihito would be getting soon. The conversation was filled with nervousness and uncertainty (on both hosts’ accounts) and annoyance (on Kimihito’s part anyway when he began complaining a bit to Hinata). Bima had a feeling that the two were on friendly terms with each other with the way Kimihito was venting a bit to Hinata as he told her about his conversation with Agent Smith and the unexpected drop in of homestay participants he had over the last couple of weeks, including the one that was coming to him.

 

Bima briefly wondered if the two were dating, but that thought was pushed aside as her host kept the conversation rather formal and guarded as she conversed with her neighbour. Though, Bima wasn’t sure why the liminal wasn’t dating anyone. She seemed to be nice, and shy, but very nice. She would be stupid if she didn’t admit that her host was attractive and clearly someone she would openly flirt and make out with in public and a possible mate in the near feature.

 

Hinata might not be that forward, though, now that she thought about it, judging by what she knew of her so far anyway. Although, the thought rather pleased her if she was honest. It just meant that she was very honest about her feelings when she felt comfortable telling them to others (and maybe not as straightforward and direct as she was) and obviously untaken. Just thinking about it pleased her even more. She would definitely look into this.

 

The conversation between the two hosts lasted another ten minutes before they parted ways and said their goodnights. Bima watched as Hinata waited for Kimihito and Alyssa to return to their apartment before Hinata directed her to return inside, followed by her closing the door to her apartment.

 

Hinata turned her attention to her. Her liminal host gave her a small timid smile as she ran her gloved hand through her very beautiful, long pale hair. Bima figured that this was a nervous gesture of hers; considering what almost happened a few minutes ago, Bima figured her behaviour was justified. Bima was never one to feel guilty for her attitude towards others, but at the moment she was.

 

I’m sorry for my behaviour, Master.” Bima lowered her eyes to the ground and bowed slightly to show how sorry she was. “I didn’t mean to almost break one of the laws. I… forgot…” Bima returned her eyes to her host, taking in her appearance more closely. Hinata was a very tall and slender woman. Bima figured she was about five or five foot two. Hinata had very pale white skin, which added to her beauty, and her long pale hair reached her knees. Hinata was wearing a simple kimono sleepwear, adorned with small snowflakes. Bima found her appearance to be quite pretty.

 

I-It’s fine. Please remember it, though. I-I do not wish for you to get in trouble because of it.” Bima saw Hinata giving her a sweet and honest smile. Hinata was such a forgiving and honest person. “Bima, you must be tired. Follow me; I’ll take you to where you will be sleeping.”

 

Bima didn’t feel that tired, but nodded nonetheless. Bima followed Hinata silently, not sure what to think of the many surprises she learned within the last several minutes. Nothing was as she expected at all when she signed up to be a homestay participant with the Interspecies Cultural Exchange Program. But they were good surprises and something that perked her interest.

 

T-This is your room.” Bima was snapped out of her thoughts when she came upon a cream coloured bedroom. The room was styled in the traditional manner with a low loft bed and bamboo dresser.

 

It was tasteful and elegant, much like her host. From what little she had seen of the house, Bima rather liked it. “Your house is a wonderful place, Master.” Bima admitted, to both herself and Hyūga-san.

 

Hinata’s nervousness was still evident as she was brushing her fingers through her hair, the movement distracting her so she missed what Bima said. “I-I’m sorry. What did you say, Bima?”

 

Hinata’s jumpiness was making her aware of small reactions, so when Bima leaned forward to continue speaking, the yuki-onna’s body stiffened.

 

Your house is perfect,” the Garuda sing-songed, now more aware of whether Hyūga-san was interested in her or not. Bima suspected it would not be too much longer.

 

T-Thank you.” Hinata stammered.

 

Part of her wanted to say the house wasn’t actually hers, but the Exchange Program’s that they had given her while she was a host. For now, she didn’t, but decided to try and tell Bima another time.

 

D-Did you want to head in?” She asked Bima.

 

No thanks. I’d actually like to sleep with you.” Bima replied cunningly.

 

Part of her reasoning was that she wanted to see how long it was before Master gave in and let others into her heart. Bima wasn’t very fond of the very notion Hyūga-san was keeping others at a distance because she didn’t want to let them know what she actually was.

 

Flustered, Hinata stammered incoherently. “I-I should keep my-” She began, but was cut off by Bima.

 

The Garuda closed the distance between them remarkably quickly and placed a wing to her Master’s mouth, ignoring the iciness she felt. “Nope. You need more people in your life. I can see how lonely you are, Master.”

 

Hinata blinked at Bima’s words, taking them into consideration. For as passionate as the Garuda was and, indeed any Extra Species, she was surprisingly thoughtful. And able to restrain herself, for a while anyway.

 

Y-You’re right,” Hinata answered, sighing. Admitting she needed people was harder than she honestly first thought.

 

Bima rubbed a wing up and down Hyūga-san’s back, still disregarding the cold emanating from Master’s body. “It’s okay, Master. You’re not used to it, that’s all.”

 

While she was still rubbing Hyūga-san’s back, the sharp change in Master’s emotional well-being was finally starting to make her wing ice over.

 

Ah...” Bima grimaced softly, feeling the ice spreading. “Should we head to your room, Hyūga-san? My wing is freezing over.” She tried brushing the ice off with the index claw on her other wing, but it wouldn’t come off.

 

!” Hinata put her hands around her mouth and gasped. “Sorry.”

 

You weren’t to know, Master.” Bima responded, smiling despite the ice on her wing. It wasn’t every day that she became a homestay to another Extra Species.

 

Hinata retrieved a towel from the nearby hallway cupboard and wrapped it around Bima’s right wing. “I-I’m still so sorry. Forgive me… p-please. I should have been keeping a check on my emotions.”

 

For now, she beckoned Bima and headed to her room, the Garuda following. Hinata’s room was even more extravagant than Bima’s had been: it had a more modern style about it and the bed appeared absolutely comfortable to lie in. The dresser was a treated pine item.

 

Hinata and Bima got into the bed, with Bima choosing the right side. Hinata was fine with that and, as she settled into her side, made sure she started repressing her emotions again.

 

Good night, Master.” Bima said her final words for the night and closed her eyes, snuggling into the sheer comfort the bed offered. All things considered, she would probably end up on the other side of the bed by the time morning came, but that wasn’t surprising.

 

Hmm? Oh… ah… g-good night,” Hinata murmured as she concentrated on controlling her emotions. It wouldn’t do any good if she accidentally froze her new homestay (and the rest of her home for that matter) because of her inability to control her emotions when it was supposed to be kept tight unwraps behind the layers of walls she had built around herself. 

 

However, she found herself having some difficulty doing this and was taking far too much longer than she would have liked. When Hinata tried to focus on getting a grip on her powers, her mind would wander. Hinata found it frustrating when she would suddenly think about the Harpy that was sleeping in the same room as her… sharing the same bed… right behind her… 

 

Oh, dear, this sleeping arrangement was starting to remind her of when she and younger sister went into their parents’ room when they were younger, when they lived in their small village. Her parents always worked long hours in order to make sure they lived comfortably, despite the war and destruction that was occurring in theirs and many other villages. In fact, no matter what was happening her parents always seemed to be lively, despite working long hours a day and somehow always making sure they were happy and safe, especially with her and her sister being nobles from their small clan. 

 

They weren’t surprised though when her parents (along with several other clan parents) allowed them to leave the village. The village was on the verge of destruction due to the war with others. Hinata just regretted losing touch with some of her close friends. She really did miss them.

 

Hinata let out a sigh of relief when she felt her powers come under control. Usually, it wouldn’t take an hour to calm down, but the Harpy next to her was bringing old and new feelings to the surface. Feelings she really did not want to think about at the moment. 

 

Hinata groaned at the thought. She shouldn’t be having these feelings to begin with anyway. She was a hostess for the exchange program for goodness sake! Any feelings (no matter how embarrassed or painful they are) would be invalid in this situation. It was as Smith-san said, the participants would get  passionate  with her, so any feelings she would feel would not be mutual or wanted.

 

Hinata frowned at that thought as she listened to Bima’s soft breathing, with the occasional snoring. As much as she hated to admit it, she was a bit lonely. She was away from her friends, her childhood crush, and her family and now living in a city as a hostess for humans and liminals integration with just her neighbour to keep her company and distract her frantic mind for a little while. 

 

And then there was Bima, her first homestay participant to stay with her. As much as the Harpy’s advances confused and embarrassed her on massive proportions, she couldn’t help but try to analyze her motives. The Harpy reminded her a bit of her sister and best friend. They were open about their feelings, to some degree. 

 

Tears soon pricked her eyes. She really did miss everyone. She would have loved to get in contact with her old friends again, but who knows what happened to them now or where they went too once they left the village? 

 

Hinata sighed as she snuggled into her sheets. Bima was right about her being lonely. But it was different now that she lived among humans. Hinata was no longer among those who were from her own village any more or among those that did not know her through and through. It was for this reason that she had to keep her distance. She could easily hurt them if she wasn’t careful. It was the right thing to do, even if it hurt her in the end.

 

The sound of shuffling sheets soon got her attention, making Hinata look over her shoulder at the Harpy. Bima was sound asleep as her sleeping form turned to face her direction. Hinata couldn’t help but notice how cute Bima looked.

Chapter Text

Her wings were tucked behind in a relaxed position and her facial features seemed to be relaxed and peaceful, but also guarded as if waiting for something to jump at her from just around the corner…

 

Hinata pushed that thought away as quickly as it came. She could not think this. Not now. Not ever. It was for the best for her to keep her distance, from everyone. She could very well harm others if she wasn’t careful.

 

It’s a shame, she thought sadly as she closed her eyes. It would have been nice to be close to someone again. 


 

The sun slowly rose over the horizon as it chased away the cool chill of the night, arousing the residents of the earth below from their deep slumber and happy dreams, and announcing the start of a new beautiful day. As the sun rays moved passed the curtains of the elegant bed, one said resident arose from her slumber in utter confusion. The younger warrior Harpy was used to waking up in odd places, but waking up in an elegant room without someone pointing a spear to her throat or threatening her was new for her.

 

The young Harpy tried to blink the sleep out of her eyes as she took in where she was. The room was too clean to be a prison and too neat and spacious. If this was a prison then this was a wonderful prison and her captor was nicer than the last one she encountered, which hadn’t been very long, unfortunately. But, hey, who was counting?

 

As she swept the room, she soon realized that she was sleeping with another cool body (which was rather odd now that she thought about it. How could one be cold and still be breathing?). The young Harpy blinked as she glanced at the young woman that she was current cuddling. After a moment of confusion, Bima soon realized that she wasn’t at a prison as her sluggish mind had once believed and the liminal she was sleeping with was not her captor either.

 

Bima’s confusion was soon replaced with a sense of awe and awareness as she studied her host. Hinata was cool to the touch, but it didn’t hurt like before, nor did the ice spread up her wings (and arms) like the night before. Hinata’s pale white skin and long pale hair reminded her of those pretty porcelain dolls that her mother used to have back at home before they were… accidentally broken. Bima grimaced at that. Her mother never really forgave her for breaking her dolls (especially since her mother had them since she was a young girl), not that she cared anyway. They were just dolls! Besides, her host was far more prettier than any doll!

 

Bima smiled as she silently watched Hinata sleep. Her host was indeed very pretty and was someone who she would very much like to mate with. However, there was the problem of her host hiding who she was and figuring out her host in general. Bima’s smile turned to one of determination. She was never one to pass off a challenge, especially one involving a possible mate. Bima’s smile grew wide as an idea came to her. Now would be the perfect moment to explore the place.

 

With a plan in mind, Bima made her way out of the bed (without waking Hinata) and out of the room. Bima walked down the hall and began to explore her host’s home. Now there just begged the question: where was she going to start?

 

Bima paused for a moment as she walked into the living room. The room was rather modern looking, much like her host, and held many books and figurines. Bima’s eyes wandered to the book collection and was surprised by the collection her host had. She had several copies of the fairy tales written by the Grimm Brothers and Hans Christian Anderson; several copies of Moby Dick, Frankenstein, The Time Machine, The Hound of the Baskervilles, Treasure Island, Around the World in Eighty Days and Emma; and, to her surprise, at least three signed copies each of The Tale of the Utterly Gutsy Shinobi, Icha Icha Paradise, Icha Icha Violence and Icha Icha Tactics.

 

Mother has this book,  Bima thought as she picked up the first instalment of that series. Who would have thought that Master would have the whole collection? Her brows furrowed slightly. But why three of each?

 

Bima placed her hand on the orange cover and glanced at the two men and woman on it.  Master must be into romance , she thought silently as her finger lingered to the corner of the book.  She must long to be loved.  Bima decided to open the book in the hope of finding out a little more of her host, or at least she tried to. “Hmm!” The book would not open. Not even a little.

 

Bima found herself frowning when the book would not open.  Strange,  she thought as she applied a little more force to open the book. That one action proved to be a mistake on her part. For what she heard next caused her to freeze up in panic.  Crack!

 

“…” Bima felt her blood run cold as she stared, widened eyes at the delicate orange book in her hands. Please tell me I didn’t just break Master’s book?

 

She didn’t want to believe it. But she could not ignore the huge visible tear that travelled from the spine to the opposite edge of the book or the fact that it was several inches deep. Bima bit her lower lip as her eyes wandered to the book in her hands. How could this have happened? She wasn’t using any of her enhanced strength. The book shouldn’t have torn the way it did. There must have been another reason for the book tearing the way it did. Although, at the moment, those thoughts didn’t even penetrate her mind.

 

Oh, god! Oh, god! Oh, god! What to do? What to do? What to do?  Bima, in a panic, looked around in hope of finding something to fix the tear. However, all she saw were interesting looking ice sculptures. (Bima made a mental note to ask Hinata where she got the sculptures. She had never seen anything like it.) Hinata had to have tape or glue somewhere. But where?

 

Bima, what are you doing up this early?”

 

Bima, startled by the sudden sound of her host’s curious, soft voice, dropped the book that she was holding tightly in her hands and spun on her heel to see Hinata gazing at her from the archway where the hallway intersected with the living room.

 

It’s only 7:15 in the morning,” Hinata soft voice said as she walked into the room. Bima was sure some of the colours drained from her face, considering Hinata went from curious to concerned within two seconds. “Is something wrong? You’re not sick, are you?” 

 

Bima didn’t move as Hinata placed a cold hand on her forehead. “N-no… I’m fine.” Bima was slightly surprised by the kind touch of her host and how gentle she was. Bima had never met someone like Hinata before. She was different from other Extra Species. She was special. Unique.

 

Bima stopped herself from reaching out for Hinata when her smooth, icy hand left her forehead. Bima was surprised by the yearning she felt for Hinata to touch her, even the simplest touch.  Could this be what mother meant?

 

Bima thought back to the conversation she had with her mother.

 

Mother, why don’t you find another mate?” Bima had asked her mother as they walked into the foyer. “I’m sure father wouldn’t mind.”

 

Bima, you are young and might not understand now…” Her mother stopped walking and gazed at the picture of a proud Harpy with orange-blonde hair (much like hers), dressed in silver armour. “But there will be a time in where you will find a mate and not the flings you have now.” Her mother gave her a knowing look. Her mother knew that she had several relationships already — ones that never lasted. “We are all made to have that one true mate that completes us and your father was mine.” Her mother looked at the picture with longing. “There is no other.”

 

Bima looked at her mother with a small frown. Would she ever find someone like that? “How would I know it he or she is my mate?” she asked.

 

Her mother’s golden eyes looked into hers as she smiled softly. “You will know, my dear,” her mother said, her eyes softening as her hand rested on her shoulder. “You will know. Just listen to your heart and not your eyes. And all will turn out as it should be.”

 

Could Hyūga-san be the one?

 

W-well, you don’t have a fever?” Bima returned her attention to Hinata, who was frowning in concern. “So, what’s the matter then?”

 

Hyūga-san, I—”

 

Bima never got to finish what she wanted to ask for Hinata took that moment to look down when she realized she stepped on a book. “Why is my book on the floor?”

 

Hinata bent down to pick up the book. Bima looked away in shame. She didn’t want to see Hinata’s expression when she saw the damage to one of her books. “Master, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to break it.” Bima had expected Hinata to yell or at least question her on what she had done.

 

However, she was not expecting Hinata to ask: “What are you talking about, Bima? You have nothing to worry about. You didn’t do anything wrong.” Or for the tone of her voice to be laced with confusion and not disappointment or anger.

 

Bima returned her gaze to Hinata and saw her holding the broken book in her small hands. Hinata’s brows were raised in question and her head was inclined slightly as she stared at her. “But it tore when I tried to open it.” Bima was confused now. Of course, it was her fault. She was careless and broke Hinata’s book.

 

However, that didn’t explain the blush that started to tint Hinata’s cheeks or the way she shifted from one foot to the other, nervously. Bima was really confused now. “W-well, the reason the book broke was more because of me than you,” Hinata stammered, nervously. Her cheeks grew darker in her embarrassment. Bima wasn’t sure how to response to that, so she didn’t. Hinata took her silence as an okay to continue on. “You see… I love to read…” Hinata gestured to the books on the bookshelf. “I’m not sure if you noticed, but…”

 

Bima looked at the books as Hinata trailed off. Bima blinked. And then blinked again. “Is that ice on the books?”

 

Hinata nodded. I-I can never finish a book without f-freezing them, I’m afraid.”

 

Bima didn’t say anything for a long while. She continued to stare at the books in bafflement. At least one of the several copies had ice on them. They weren’t noticeable on some of the books. But now that she was looking more closely…

 

Is this why you have several copies of the same one?”

 

Y-yes,” she stammered, as she blushed harder in embarrassment.

 

Bima hummed at that. She was sure there were ice proof books somewhere, but she would look into that later.