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Putting on Hairs - Post Production

Chapter Text

“Ne, Rinari…”

Rina looked up from her work and turned to face her girlfriend entering the room. She could tell by Ai’s tone that she wanted to say something important. Ai’s hands were behind her back, so she probably found something that reminded her of Rina and bought it, again. Rina loved that side of Ai, the part that always seemed to keep Rina at the back of her mind regardless of where she was and who she was with.

“I know it’s not Christmas or your birthday or whatever.” Ai said, moving toward Rina. “But I couldn’t stop thinking about it once I came up with the idea and I wanted to get it to you as soon as possible.”

Oh… Ai wasn’t using puns or even referring to herself in the third person. Rina realized. This gift must be more than just something that reminded her of Rina. This was something more important. Something planned.

Rina felt a little nervous as Ai revealed the box from behind her back and held it out. Gently, she accepted the gift and slowly undid the ribbon. Despite focusing on the box, she couldn’t help noticing Ai fidgeting a little as the gift was opened. Rina pulled off the lid and…

A ribbon?

The one within the box was yellow and thinner in width than the white one that had secured the box. Strange. Why was Ai nervous about a yellow ribbon? Was she worried Rina wouldn’t like it? She should know better; Rina cherished everything Ai gave her.

She reached into the box to take the ribbon, but gasped as soon as her fingers touched it.

This was no ordinary ribbon. How had she not noticed earlier? There was qi stored in the cloth. It was an ofuda, imbued with the same magic as both her paper and digital boards. Not only that, but the life force within was unquestionably Ai’s.

“I had it made so you could wear them in your hair.” Ai explained quietly, breaking the silence between them. “That way they won’t cover your lovely face.”

Rina looked up at her girlfriend.

“I know Rinari uses her boards to help express herself,” Ai continued “but I believe those close to Rinari are able to understand her without the displays. And I think they deserve to see Rinari’s beautiful face more. And I’d like to see more of Rinari as well.” She reached forward to take the ribbon from Rina. “May I?”

“Mm.” Rina nodded.

Ai leaned down, found an appropriate spot just about Rina’s ear and secured the ribbon. Next, she slowly removed Rina’s digital board before standing back up to admire her work.

For her part, Rina could immediately feel the difference as the normal mix of random qi from her board shifted to a flow sourced exclusively from Ai. It was like switching from a bland protein shake to a favorite meal prepared by a beloved chef.

Given the choice, Rina would happily consume only Ai’s life force; it was her favorite after all, by far and away. However, that simply wasn’t feasible. Not without posing a threat to Ai’s wellbeing. Rina had inadvertently taken more than a healthy dose when the two first met and one of her greatest fears was doing so again. But Ai never seemed to mind and freely offered as much as she could give, often more.

But this ribbon was different, though Rina couldn’t quite place her finger on why.

“This is Ai-san’s qi…” Rina stated her observation while reaching up to touch the ribbon as Ai stood up to admire her work.

“Yup.” Ai confirmed with a nod. “I just finished charging it.”

“You filled it just with yours?”

“It works a little different than your boards.” Ai explained. “It doesn’t passively draw from anyone who happens to be in range, rather it can only be charged directly.”

“So only Ai-san can fill it?”

“No.” Ai shook her head and offered a strange smile. “Anyone can use it, but… I would prefer to be the one…”

Was that… jealousy Rina detected in Ai’s voice? Was she jealous that Rina consumed qi from others besides her? Rina wasn’t quite sure how to feel about that possibility. She was certain Ai knew she couldn’t be the sole provider of all of the qi Rina needed, especially with how frequently she was using her digital board to assist her at the theater nowadays.

Ai suddenly cleared her throat. “Sorry, Rinari, maybe that’s a bit too presumptuous of me.”

“Mm.” Rina shook her head. “I love Ai-san’s qi.”

That seemed to have the intended effect on Ai as her smile brightened. “Anyway, you may have already noticed that the capacity is much smaller, due to its size.”

“Mm.” Rina confirmed. “I would estimate it would last about four hours.”

“So you will still need to keep your boards handy for when it runs low.” Ai continued. “It’s really mainly for special occasions so everyone can see more of Rinari’s lovely face. Oh, and look,” she turned her head and indicated her ponytail “it’s part of a set. This one is charging now and will be ready tomorrow if you want to use it sometime then. I know my Rinari worries about taking too much too fast and all, so I had it tuned to only take a little at a time, but that also means it charges slo…”

Ai cut off as Rina leaned forward and pulled her into a hug. As Rina was still sitting, it meant she was wrapping her arms around Ai’s hips and pressing her head into her girlfriend’s chest, but she didn’t care.

“Thank you, Ai-san.” Rina said softly. “I love it. Thank you.”

Ai responded by wrapping her own arms around Rina’s head and pulling her in tighter. “I’m glad you like it.” She replied in a similar volume.

“Mm.”

The two stayed like that for a few peaceful moments before Ai let go and started to pull away. Rina wasn’t quite ready to let go herself but when Ai started to kneel, she got the idea.

Ai smiled, seemingly sheepishly once she had lowered herself to be face to face with Rina. “I was worried Rinari would think I was being too selfish.”

Rina blinked and tilted her head slightly to the side to indicate her confusion.

“You know, both with wanting to give Rinari more of my qi, but also in wanting to see her face more.”

“I love it.” Rina repeated. “I’m sorry if I cannot express it better with…”

Ai reached out and touched Rina’s lips. “Rinari is plenty expressive for me.” She  slid her hand across Rina’s cheek before leaning in for a kiss. She then pulled away and offered a more genuine smile, the kind Rina could watch forever.

Suddenly, Ai’s eyes widened with surprise. “Rinari, you’re… smiling.”

I am? Rina realized she wasn’t even aware of the change.

Ai grabbed a small mirror from Rina’s desk and held it for her to see. Sure enough, the corners of Rina’s lips were curled slightly upward. It was nowhere near the caliber of Ai’s smiles, but it was a noticeable smile nonetheless.

“I guess… Ai-san’s gift just made me that happy?” Rina surmised.

“Ooooo…” Ai surged forward and wrapped her arms around the other girl. “I’m so happy, Rinari! You’re smile is just so adorable! And to know that I’m the one who caused it… Ooooo….” She tightened her embrace before giggling. “Ai guess you could say Ai hold the qi to Rinari’s smile?”

Now that was the Ai that Rina knew and loved. Rina understood why her girlfriend had been apprehensive earlier, but now that she was making puns again, she was back to normal.

“Mm.” Rina confirmed. “Ai-san’s gift makes me happy, but Ai-san herself makes me happy too.”

Ai pulled back, grinning from ear to ear. “Ai-san is confused. Ai want to see more of Rinari’s smile, but seeing it makes me want to hug Rinari more.” Her expression changed. “Though not just hug…” She leaned in again for another kiss.

Rina moved her arms to return the hug, but as she felt Ai’s hands start to wander, she realized she wasn’t going to be returning to her work anytime soon. But that was fine, she loved this side of Ai as well. And it might make for a good stress test of her new ofuda.