"Wake up, damn it! WAKE UP!"
Frey was forcibly jostled from a perfectly nice, restful sleep by someone shaking her like they were trying to dislodge her head. "Gah! I'm awake, I'm awake!" she shouted, shoving the person's hands away.
She sat up, rubbing her eyes tiredly as she took in who was standing in front of her. A small-ish girl with gray hair, blue eyes, and...
"Who are..." Her question cut itself off as her mind replayed the girl's voice from just a moment ago. Her eyes widened. "Oh, no. Venti?! Is that you?!"
The girl nodded. Frey gaped.
"How... Did this happen?" she choked out. "Am I dreaming?"
Venti shook her head, and Frey groaned. "Okay, what do we need to do, then, to fix it?"
"I was hoping you'd have an idea..." Venti sighed.
"Why would I have an idea?!" Frey cried out. Then she sighed, trying to calm herself down. She stood up, heading over to her wardrobe. "Let me get dressed, then we can go gather up Leon, Dolce, Dylas and Amber. We can all try and come up with something together."
"Ugh. I didn't want anyone else to see me," Venti said in a whining tone.
"Why not?" Frey said, already pulling on her regular clothing. "I think you look really cute!"
Venti didn't reply. When Frey looked, she saw the (former) dragon staring at her with wide eyes and a dark blush on her cheeks.
"Did I say something weird?" Frey asked, obviously bewildered.
Immediately, the gaping expression on Venti's face was replaced with a scowl. "Just hurry up," she snapped.
They decided to start by going to get Amber. Frey and Venti entered the flower shop with the key that Frey had been given a while back. Illuminata and Amber both seemed to still be asleep, so the pair headed right on upstairs.
They entered Amber's bedroom, and Frey took the job of waking her up - seeing as how Venti hadn't exactly been gentle when she'd been waking her up.
"Wha... Frey?" Amber mumbled, rubbing at her eyes as she sat up. "What's going on?"
"There's something wrong with Venti," Frey said. "Look, see?" She motioned to Venti, who was impatiently tapping her foot.
"...That's Ven?" Amber asked, suddenly sitting up.
"Okay, uh... I'll get dressed and meet you back at the castle," Amber said. She was suddenly so much more serious than Frey was used to seeing. It was jarring, and it took Frey a moment to respond - and when she did, she could only manage a nod.
However, as Frey and Venti were starting towards the staircase...
"Stop right there!"
Frey let out a high-pitched shriek, spinning around in shock. Venti blinked and turned as well, seeing Illuminata there, pointing accusingly at the pair.
"Lady Ventuswill!" Illuminata shouted. "I overheard you talk to Amber, and I already know what's going on!"
"I highly doubt that," Venti mumbled.
Frey placed a gentle, placating hand on Venti's shoulder, and forced a smile up to Illuminata. "Um, Illuminata, we really don't have time to-"
"It's the power of love!"
The exclamation was so shockingly strange that both Frey and Venti shut up. They stood there, gawking at Illuminata as though she'd grown an extra head.
"Speechless, I see," Illuminata said, smirking. "Well, I can't blame you, since I deduced this so easily." She tilted her chin up. "It's really quite obvious, you know. Lady Ventuswill, with a heart full of love, looked up to the sky one day, and wished to be human so she could be with the one her heart belonged to!"
"Is she serious?" Venti whispered to Frey. Illuminata was not deterred.
"But! Because you do not believe in wishes, you did not expect it to come true! Fear not, however! This new form was entirely your own doing!" Illuminata gave a wicked grin. "And as for who it is you love-!"
"That's it, we're leaving," Venti declared, grabbing Frey's arm and yanking her down the stairs.
"Wha-! Hey! I wasn't done deducing!" Illuminata shouted from the top of the stairs. Venti pointedly ignored her and continued tugging on a laughing Frey's arm until they got outside.
"Aww! But I wanted to know who your heart belongs to!"
"Okay, okay! I'm done!" Frey let out a few more stray giggles, then offered Venti an apologetic smile. "Dylas is closest from here, so let's go to him next."
Venti rolled her eyes, but followed Frey along the path to get to the restaurant.
And right as Frey was about to put in the key Porco had given her, the door swung open. Frey jerked back, her shocked expression being mirrored on Doug's.
"Um..." Frey said slowly, "Doug, why are you-"
"Frey! Hey, who's your friend?" Doug said, moving his head to beam over at Venti. He flinched back, however, at the deadly glare she shot him.
"You'd better treat Dylas right," she said in a low growl.
"W-what?! Who is this chick?! How does she know Dylas, Frey?!"
"N-never mind that, Doug," Frey said quickly, placing a hand on his shoulder. "Just, uh, we won't tell anyone about you sneaking out of Dylas's room-"
"You don't know that it was-"
"Whatever, we just won't tell. As long as you keep my friend here under wraps until we say otherwise. Got it?"
Doug eyed Frey and Venti carefully, then gave a slow nod. "Sure. You got it."
And with that, Doug slipped past Frey and Venti, heading down to the general store. "Honestly," Venti mumbled as she followed Frey into the restaurant. "Leaving before Dylas even woke up. What terrible manners."
"Venti, are you that protective of Dylas?" Frey asked teasingly as they went up the stairs. "I think he can take care of himself."
Venti didn't respond, other than giving a low grumble. Frey giggled in reply, then entered Dylas's room, with Venti following close behind.
Frey, once more, took on the job of waking Dylas up. He looked bewildered - maybe at the lack of a certain red-headed dwarf, maybe at the fact that someone was waking him up - then his eyes settled on Frey. "Um... What's going on?" he asked, blinking slowly.
"Venti. Something's wrong with her. She's... Kind of become human," Frey explained, motioning over to Venti.
At that, Dylas shot up, all traces of sleep gone from his expression as he looked at Venti. "Got it. I'll get dressed and head down to the castle. You two go get the others."
Frey nodded quickly, and spun on her heel, gently pushing Venti out of the room. Just before they made it to the stairs to the right...
Frey and Venti spun around, and met the tired, confused gaze of one blond prince - Arthur.
"Who is your... Friend? And why were you talking to Dylas?"
Frey pursed her lips. "Uh..." She looked to Venti, hoping she'd come up with a lie.
Instead, the former dragon said, "I am Ventuswill, the Divine Wind. I have found myself in a bit of a... Predicament."
"I... See," Arthur said, eyes wide. Then, he gave a firm nod. "Well, Lady Ventuswill, if there is anything I can do to aid you, I hope you will let me know."
Something came to Frey, and she spoke quickly. "Actually, Arthur, you have lots of contacts, right? Like, outside of Selphia?"
"I certainly do."
"Can you, uh, contact your contacts? Maybe one of them will have information on this."
Arthur smiled. "Absolutely. I will let you know if I find anything out."
"Thank you," Frey said. "We're going to go talk to Leon, now."
And with that, the pair of them left the building, heading straight for the inn.
By this time, people were starting to wake up. Frey tried to move quickly, as did Venti, but even so, they passed by Forte, who gave Venti an odd look. Luckily, the knight seemed to dismiss her as a traveler, because she didn't stop in her jog.
As they got inside the inn, they saw Lin Fa and Xiao Pai just tidying up the lobby. "Hello Frey!" Lin Fa chirped. "Who's your friend?"
"I am Vent-"
"No one!" Frey shouted, pushing Venti up the stairs. "She's no one!"
"How dare you!" Venti shouted, struggling in Frey's grip. Frey didn't respond, and only forced her up the stairs and towards Leon's room.
Frey knocked on the door impatiently. Venti tapped her foot on the ground, lips pursed as the two of them waited for Leon to open up. When he did, he looked between the two girls.
"Ah... Hello, Frey." He smirked in Venti's direction. "Who's this? She's cute."
Frey slapped her hand over her mouth in an attempt to muffle her laughter. She could hear Venti let out a deranged-sounding squawk, much to Leon's clear confusion. "Is she like Forte? Can't handle compliments?" he loudly whispered to Frey.
Frey let out a few muffled giggles behind her hand, then lowered it, grinning mischievously at Leon. "Meet Ventuswill, the Divine Wind."
Leon blinked, and looked over to Venti. She was levelling him with the deadliest glare he'd ever seen on such a petite woman, and that was all he needed to let a dark blush spread over his cheeks. "Well... This is not supposed to happen."
"Which part?" Frey asked innocently. "You flirting with Venti or Venti being human?"
"Shut up, Frey," the two of them immediately said in unison.
"I assume you're gathering all of the Guardians?" Leon said, obviously choosing not to comment on what had been said a moment ago. "Where are we meeting?"
"The castle. We still have to go get Dolce, though," Venti responded, also not mentioning it.
"Right. Let me get dressed and then I'll head down to meet you there."
Venti nodded, and Leon shut the door. Frey rolled her eyes, turning to Venti. "So, is he the one Illuminata-"
"Frey, I swear..."
Frey grinned, and grabbed Venti's wrist. "I'm kidding!" she said, tugging her towards the stairs. "Now let's go get Dolce!"
They all but ran down the stairs and out the door, pushing past a few travelers who were wanting to get into the bath or check in to the inn.
Even more people were out and about now. Bado was standing in front of his shop, advertising his latest money-making 'venture' (read: scheme). Frey pulled Venti along faster, but it didn't stop Bado from calling out at them. Still, they didn't stop or turn around or say anything, and went right into the clinic.
There, Dolce was already awake and coming from downstairs, with Pico hopping along at her side. "Hello, Frey," Dolce said coolly. "Who's your friend?"
"I am Ventuswill, the Divine Wind," Venti responded before Frey could explain it herself. Frey sighed, and looked up at Dolce's shocked face.
"Yeah. Everyone's meeting at the castle. C'mon," Frey said.
"Pico, stay here," Dolce said immediately.
"What?!" Pico cried. "No! I wanna help Ven, too!"
"If we need your help, I'll come find you. Until then, stay away," Dolce said firmly. Then, she looked away with a slight pout. "Just, you know... Don't go too far."
"Aww! Dolly! You really do love me!" Pico gushed. Dolce merely huffed in reply, and went down the rest of the steps, meeting Frey's eyes.
When the three of them made it to the castle, the other three Guardians were already there, all in various states of disarray. Amber's typical bow was missing from her hair, which clearly hadn't been brushed. Dylas's hair was even more tangled, and his jacket wasn't straight. And Leon was normal, except that he didn't have his usual fan.
"So, did you just wake up like this, then?" Dylas asked immediately.
"That's right," Venti said with a nod. "I went to sleep as a dragon, and woke up as a human."
"Leon used to be a dragon priest, right? Leon, do you have any ideas?" Dolce asked.
Leon, however, shook his head. "Nothing that could account for it being against her will, no. The only way I can think of is that she did it herself - but that makes no sense, since I doubt she'd lie about this."
"I wouldn't," Venti immediately said with a frown. "But... Leon, really? That's the only way? There's nothing else you can think of?"
"I'm afraid not."
Everyone sighed in disappointment. Then, Frey forced herself to sound cheerful and optimistic as she said, "Well, we did ask Arthur to talk to those people! Maybe one of them will have an idea?"
"Somewhat doubtful," Venti said, "but it's better than nothing."
"Lumie said she told you about her theory," Amber said. "What was it?"
"Stupid," Venti said, before Frey could answer.
Frey shot the former dragon a 'look', then turned to Amber. "It wasn't really 'stupid'," she said, ignoring the scoff Venti gave. "But it didn't make much sense."
"What was it?" Dylas asked.
"She said that I 'wished on a star' to be human so that I could be with the one I love," Venti said flatly, sending a glare to Leon so that he wouldn't make a joke.
Amber, however, missed Venti's distaste for the theory entirely, and gasped. "Ven! You love someone?!"
Venti sighed. She looked at Amber, and spoke in as patient of a tone as she could, "No, I don't. Illuminata, however, seems to think I do."
"A half-baked theory with no evidence is certainly more than what we have," Dolce said with a sigh. "Though I'm not exactly inclined to believe Illuminata, no matter how sensible the theory sounds."
"Good point," Leon muttered.
Amber looked at everyone, obviously bewildered as to why everyone didn't seem to want to believe Illuminata. However, she didn't ask. "Well, what else do we have to go on?"
"Nothing, at the moment," Venti said. "We just have to wait until Arthur finds information."
"You could talk to Kiel, too," Leon suggested. "I remember he once told me he was interested in Native Dragons - he might have learned something in his studies."
"Fine, we have Arthur and Kiel," Venti said with a sigh. "Frey, let's go find Kiel. The rest of you can go... Do whatever."
"Hmm..." Kiel searched through his bookshelves, so full of books that both Frey and Venti feared that they would all suddenly fall out. "I can't really remember if I've ever read about this," the bookworm said, plucking down one of the many books. "I'll go through and reread everything I have on Native Dragons, though, and I'll be sure to let you know if I find anything out!"
Venti sighed softly. "That's better than nothing," she said. "Thank you..."
"No problem, Lady Ventuswill!" Kiel chirped, already opening the book he'd gotten and beginning to read.
With that, Frey and Venti left the small house. "Well, I suppose we should introduce you to those who haven't properly met you," Frey suggested.
Venti groaned. "Can't I just hide out in the castle?"
"Don't you think Volkanon, Vishnal and Clorica would notice?" Frey said. "Actually, I'm surprised they haven't been running around town over your 'absence'."
Venti pursed her lips. "I already told them. Before I woke you up. You know those three would be causing absolute chaos otherwise."
"Still, I think you should tell everyone. People visit you all the time - I think they'll be worried."
Venti crossed her arms, and sighed, seeing that she couldn't really argue with that. "Very well. Let's get started..."
So, for the rest of the day, Frey paraded Venti around town, introducing her properly to those who she hadn't met up with earlier. Almost everyone commented on how cute she was now - and every time, it was met with a menacing glare that shut the person right up.
And at the very end of the day, Frey brought Venti back to her room in the castle. "You can't sleep on the floor while you're a human," she said, "so you can share my bed." She paused, for a moment, then said, "I don't even think you should have been sleeping on the floor as a dragon, really. I should get you a giant pillow or something..."
"The floor is fine for me as a dragon," Venti said. "You'd never find a pillow that size." Then she sat down on Frey's bed. "But I don't mind sharing your bed as long as I'm human... I guess."
Frey beamed. "Great! Just let me change into my pajamas, okay? Oh, we should have bought you something... We'll do that tomorrow."
Venti smiled softly, watching Frey as she moved to her wardrobe. She rolled over onto her side, and gave a soft sigh. Unbidden, the memory of Illuminata's theory entered her mind, and she rolled her eyes.
The power of love... Preposterous, really.
It took a full week before Kiel and Arthur both found something. Kiel had gone to Arthur to double check what he'd found, only to discover that the prince had found out the very same thing. Arthur went to get Frey and Venti from the castle, while Kiel rounded up the Guardians in Arthur's office.
It didn't take long before they were all standing there, in front of the young bookworm and the prince. And both looked quite uncertain.
"What did you find?" Venti asked, barely able to keep her nerves out of her voice.
"Well... You're not going to believe this, but-" Arthur began, only for Kiel to cut him off.
"It's the power of love!"
Venti, the Guardians, and Frey all gawked at the pair, while Arthur gave Kiel a suffering look before turning back to the group. "It's a bit more complicated than that," he said. "It's... How do I put this simply... The runes that run through Lady Ventuswill picked up on some... Romantic feelings she had for a human. The fact that Lady Ventuswill herself has not picked up on them matters not - the runes did, and so they, in essence, gave her a new form."
"That's it?" Leon asked.
"Well, yes, I suppose."
Venti groaned. Before she could even think of something to scream, the doors to Arthur's office burst open, and in stormed Illuminata. "I've heard enough!" she declared. "My deduction from days ago was correct!"
Frey looked at Illuminata. "You said you had an idea as to who she loves?"
"I have FIVE ideas, in fact!" Illuminata said, holding out her hand as if to emphasise the word 'five'. She stormed further into the room, and stood next to Arthur. "Number one! Leon!"
"Number two!" she continued, ignoring Leon's reaction. "Dolce!"
"What?!" Pico cried, but Illuminata was already on-
"Number three! Dylas!"
"Number four! Amber! And, the last, but not the least of the suspects- Number five! Frey!"
Everyone stood there, rooted to the spot as they stared incredulously at Illuminata. Even Amber seemed doubtful of Illuminata's 'deduction'.
But then, Kiel and Arthur looked at each other, both of them seeming to do some mental calculations. Then, they both nodded once, and looked to Illuminata. "You could be right," Arthur said. "Those five are certainly the most likely-"
Kiel, Arthur and Illuminata all jumped at the volume of the sudden, simultaneous, six-part scream. Arthur looked at them, hesitant, then turned to Kiel and Illuminata for help.
Seeing as how Illuminata's words would not carry much weight, Kiel stepped in. "Think about it. Lady Ventuswill's not as close to anyone else as she is with the five of you. Who else could she have fallen in love with but one of you?"
No one could find a response that made sense, so they all stayed silent, all six of them with burning red cheeks.
"Lady Ventuswill," Arthur said carefully, "do you know who you're in love with?"
Silently, slowly, Venti shook her head.
"Then at least we've narrowed it down," Arthur said with a nod. "Might I suggest that each one of you take her on a date? If you spend time together in a romantic setting, it should help her figure out exactly whether or not she is in love with one of you."
"Do I get a say in this?" Venti asked.
"Of course. If you have no interest in going back to your former self, then you are free to decline this suggestion," Arthur said. "But we also learned that if you confess to the person you love, you will be able to transform between your dragon form and your human form at will. So..."
The rest of what Arthur was going to say hung in the air. 'This is your only option if you want to go back to your normal form.'
She sighed. "Fine."
The next day, Venti - reluctantly - went on a date with Leon. She asked him to choose the location, and he ended up selecting his own room.
"What a gentleman," Venti said mockingly. "Couldn't even wait until the second date to get me in your bed."
"Are you saying there will be a second date?" Leon asked with a wicked smirk.
Leon let out a loud laugh. "Seriously, though. I thought it would be best to spend time alone, so no one who you don't want to will find out the whole issue. No ulterior motives, I promise."
Venti sighed, and folded her hands in her lap. "That's... Very considerate," she mumbled. "I suppose I should have seen that coming. You're not exactly what you seem on the surface."
"What do I seem?" Leon asked with a smirk.
"An uncouth womanizer who just makes fun of people for fun," Venti immediately replied.
Leon let out another loud laugh. "I suppose I do seem that way," he said, offering Venti a smirk. "In any case, I asked Lin Fa to bring up some pancakes. Hopefully she won't forget... Or have Xiao Pai make them."
Before Venti could respond, there was a gentle rapping on the door. Leon opened it, and accepted the plate that was given to him by Xiao Pai with a charming smile - then promptly slammed the door in her face before she could see Venti on his bed.
"You could have been a bit nicer with that," Venti said as Leon sat down next to her on the bed.
"Meh. I'll worry about it later," Leon said with a shrug. "Now..." He lifted the lid off of the tray...
And immediately, a puff of smoke enveloped them. They started coughing violently, and Leon dropped the tray. "Yeah, Xiao Pai made them."
The two looked at each other, horrified. Then, little snickers bubbled up from their mouths, eventually forming full-on laughter.
"H-how did she manage to do this?! This is as bad as Forte!" Leon said, one arm over his stomach. Venti was laughing too hard to manage any sort of response.
Leon managed to stop laughing before Venti did, and sat up straight, looking at her with a sparkle in his eye. 'You're beautiful when you laugh,' came to his mind, but instead he said, "Sorry you couldn't eat pancakes. I'd have made them myself, but..."
Venti finally managed to stop giggling and said, "I know you. You'd have poisoned them or something."
"The sad thing is that I can't deny that, either."
Venti let out one more soft laugh, and stood up. "Well, thank you for trying, Leon. I should get going, though."
"Let me walk you out," Leon said, standing up, clearly being playful.
Venti rolled her eyes. "What a gentleman," she said again, this time saying it more kindly. She followed Leon the full three feet to the door, and then opened it.
Before she could step out, though, Leon grabbed her arm. "Wait," he said quickly.
And when she turned, visibly confused, he leaned down and pressed a kiss to her cheek.
He held it there for a second - just a second - and then he pulled back, looking at her somewhat nervously.
She wasn't angry. She just looked... Confused.
"That all?" she asked, tilting her head.
She hadn't taken it as he'd meant it. Either she'd thought he was playing along with the 'date', or she thought he'd meant it platonically.
He didn't move to correct either one of those assumptions. "Yeah. That's all."
Venti eyed him carefully, then shrugged and left his room.
When the door shut behind her, he leaned against it, and let out a shaky, ragged breath.
The next day was a date with Dolce. She'd chosen the lake for their date - and had specifically asked Pico to go away for the duration of it.
"It's so nice here," Venti said with a sigh, sitting down on the picnic blanket Dolce had brought. No food, unfortunately, but it was nice enough to just sit there and enjoy the scenery.
"You never visited here very often before you transformed," Dolce noted.
"As weak as I am, it's better that I stay in the castle," Venti replied softly. "But in this form, I suppose I don't need as many runes, so I can safely leave without worrying about, you know, passing out."
Or dying, she added mentally, but she chose not to say that.
Dolce smiled softly. "I'm glad," she said softly. "It's nice to see you enjoy yourself."
Venti blinked, and looked around. "Uh... Did you hear that?" she said.
"It's just Pico," Dolce said with a shrug, looking at the water.
"I thought you said she would leave us alone."
"You should know that when I say that, I mean she'll be watching us from a very close distance."
Venti gave a soft laugh. "Yes, I suppose I should..." She sighed. "Though I must say - she's gotten quite a bit worse over the years, hasn't she?"
"It's only natural. It's been, what, 750 years? She's been... Lonely."
Venti frowned, and drew her knees to her chest. "I suppose she has... She wasn't the only one..."
Dolce frowned, and shifted closer. "We'll never leave you alone again," she said gently. "I promise we won't."
Venti blinked, and looked at Dolce with a soft smile. "I know. Thank you."
Dylas's date came the next day. He chose the restaurant, and managed to - somehow - convince Porcoline to vacate the place for the day, having the same concerns that Leon had.
He brought Venti a plate of fluffy pancakes, giving a small smile as he saw her delighted expression. "Well, that's three people I have to cook for now," he noted as she began devouring the sweet breakfast food.
Venti managed to pause in her eating long enough to ask, "Who're the other two?"
"Porco and..." Dylas blinked, and looked away with a dark blush. "No one."
Venti grinned wickedly. "It's Doug, isn't it?"
"Wha-! No! Shut up!"
Venti laughed loudly at that. "You do know Frey and I saw him sneaking out the first day I changed, right?"
Dylas blinked, a dark blush overtaking his face as he stared at the former dragon. "Please tell me you're joking."
"Nope. But don't worry - we haven't told anyone." She winked playfully. "Our little secret, as long as you keep making me pancakes. With honey!"
Dylas sighed, visibly relaxing. "Yeah... I think I can do that, Ven." He smiled softly. "Though that'll make me feel really bad if it turns out I'm the one you love."
Venti snorted. "No offense, but no. You're a good friend, Dylas - nothing more."
"Ah, that's good," Dylas said, nodding. And then he turned towards the shut door of Arthur's office. "Ya hear that, you pebble-brained dwarf?! You can stop eavesdropping!"
Venti heard a distinct scream, a loud crash, and then frantic footsteps followed by a door opening, then slamming shut.
"...Well, then," Venti mumbled. Then, she shrugged, and went back to eating.
And, of course, the next day Venti had a date with Amber.
Amber, however, had to work, so the date turned out to just be Venti helping her with the flowers. Not that she minded - the flowers were lovely and Amber was good company.
"This one's a tulip, Ven! Isn't it so pretty?" Amber gushed, showing her one of many potted plants.
"It's lovely, Amber," Venti replied. She was about to turn back to the flowers she had been asked to water, but Amber kept standing there, holding out the plant. "Amber?"
"Take it! I want you to have it!" Amber said, pushing it out towards Venti. "As a memory of our date! Even if you end up not loving me, it'll be nice, don't you think?"
Venti couldn't help the smile that crossed her lips. "Thank you, Amber," she said softly. "Maybe put it on the counter for me? I'll make sure to take it home."
Amber gave a bright giggle, then placed the flower down on the counter as she'd been asked. Venti watched as she skipped over to her own watering can, a soft smile on her face.
The girl was adorable, truly - but she didn't seem to be the one who held her heart.
The fifth and final date went to Frey. She excitedly led Venti up to the airship, and took off, leading them in a random direction.
"Will you know how to get back?" Venti asked warily.
"Of course," Frey said with a scoff. "I always do." She smiled, draping an arm over her friend's shoulders. "Besides, I figured you'd be missing flying, seeing as how those wings of yours don't exactly function."
As if being suddenly reminded of them, Venti reached back, touching her left wing with a slight pout. "Don't remind me..." She sighed. "But it's not like I flied that much anyway. I mostly stayed in the castle."
Frey hummed, and dropped her arm. Venti blinked as she watched Frey move towards the wheel again, steering them somewhere. "Still," Frey said, shouting over the rushing winds, "that's all the more reason for me to bring you here!"
Venti smiled softly. She went over to the edge of the airship, looking down at the trees and the ground and everything else that was so far below them.
Then she turned and looked at Frey, whose long pigtails were flowing back behind her, and whose cheeks were turning rosy with the force of the cold air against them.
"Frey?" Venti said softly. But Frey didn't hear her.
Venti hesitated, then sighed.
She would tell her later, she decided. For now... She wanted to enjoy the date.
"I told you I would be able to find my way back!" Frey declared as she led them back to the castle. And when they got there, they saw all of the Guardians - minus Leon, for some odd reason - standing there, waiting.
Frey turned, her smile softening. "Venti, you've been on dates with all of us, now," she said. "Do you know? Do you know who you love - if it's any of us?"
Venti swallowed thickly. She moved, pushing past the Guardians to stand in her normal spot. Then she turned to face them. "Dolce," she began, "you are a dear friend. I know you value me, and I value you as well. But I do not love you as anything more than a friend."
Dolce nodded with a smile. "I understand."
"Dylas," Venti said, turning to him, "you're also a very close friend. But I think we both know that a relationship between us wouldn't work out - we're not exactly compatible in... Certain areas."
Dylas rolled his eyes, but he smiled as well. "I understand."
She turned to Amber, then. "Amber, you're so sweet and full of happiness and life. You're a dear friend, but I'm afraid that's all you'll ever be to me. And... Thank you for the flower."
"You're welcome!" Amber chirped.
Then, Venti turned to Frey. She allowed herself to believe that the expression on the woman's face was hope. "Frey... You've allowed me to open up again. When I thought all hope was lost, you came, an angel who plopped right down on my head. You brought back my dearest friends. And even when I thought I was gone, you forced me back to my place." She swallowed thickly. "And beyond that... Beyond all that you've done for me... You're the sweetest, kindest, most wonderful being I've ever known. And I love you."
Frey's face lit up like the sun. Before she could respond, Venti felt her body begin to tingle, and she began to glow. Quickly, Dylas pulled Frey back, and they watched from a safer distance as Venti began to morph back into her dragon form.
"Venti!" Frey shouted. "You're back!"
"Arthur said you'd be able to change at will," Dylas said. "Can you try?"
The words weren't even fully out of his mouth before Venti did indeed 'try'. She shifted easily back into a human form, and immediately looked at Frey with an uncertain look.
But Frey was beaming, tears of joy in her eyes. "Venti," she whispered. "I love you, too."
And as Frey pulled her into a hug, Venti gave a soft, relieved sigh. And she made a mental note to apologize to Illuminata for doubting her.