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Mar 22, 2019 6:19 PM
Cat gets invited for a peaceful tea with Felix's family
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The pudding might actually be the best part of this party. Other than Felix. 

...Leo can't tell if this is a crush or just 'someone finally accepted me for who I am therefore they're the best person ever'. But it's not like it matters, because Felix probably doesn't have a reciprocal crush and even if he does he might have a problem with the gender thing. 

Small talk doesn't actually take much brainpower. Leo can keep thinking about this for the rest of the party. 

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Leo will learn all about variously interesting (which is to say not at all interesting) history of property ownership in the Milirevi metropolitan area. Mercifully, people will eventually depart as the tea ends. Dal-Jaon smiles at him before he leaves and there are vague hopes he will attend future events like this.

When Leo gets home, there is already a message... from Paroma.

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Leo does a good impression of being flattered by Dal-Jaon's approval and doesn't make any promises. It would be nice to see Felix again, though.

A message? Oh, but not from Felix. Leo ruthlessly pushes down the disappointment. Making friends is good even if they're not cute boys, and Paroma seemed alright when they were talking earlier. What does the message say? 

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Paroma's message starts with a very informal: "What's your secret? Please help me." Followed by a formal request to the effect of "please return this message at your earliest convenience."

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Leo spends almost a full minute panicking about how Paroma found out.

But, of course, she's just talking about the way Leo apparently charmed one of the coveted Vaesteri triplets in the space of an evening. 

Sorry, I'm not sure there's a secret there you can copy. All I did was be honest and be myself. 

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I wasn't being dishonest. I don't know what they are looking for.

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Leo didn't have very long to get an impression of Paroma, but she didn't seem terrible. And it says good things about her that she's asking for help. So Leo puts some actual thought into the next message, trying to find some advice that might be useful for someone who doesn't trip and fall into a friendship(?) with Felix Vaesteri.

(He's Felix in Leo's head, but Paroma will know him as Feliaris, so that's the name that goes in the message.)

Obviously, the triplets are all different and are going to be looking for different things. But what worked for me was talking to Feliaris about Earth, asking him what his life was like there and what he thought of it.

To generalise that...you could try taking an interest in the things that interest them, and talking about those, but ideally, it should be something you actually want to talk about. People can tell the difference between genuine and polite interest, and the former is more attractive. So maybe my advice should be "find a common interest".

Approach it like you would approach making friends with someone, I suppose. It's the same general principle—you want them to like you and spend time with you. 

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That's better advice than my family could give me. Thank you. We might get you invited over for tea if you want that, though, it's more likely one of my aunts will invite you over on my mom's behalf.

Which is code for "my family not being that wealthy", though only in the relative terms of anyone with an "esteri" in their family name.

Shortly later there is a message from the Vaesteri home, asking if she is free at around this time in the afternoon a couple of days from now and asking Leo to meet Feliaris (whoever wrote the message also does not prefer to call him Felix) in front of this place.

The place is a super-fancy orchard restaurant, the kind of place where you go around tasting magically enhanced fruit straight out of the trees, and then they feed you a unique meal based on your favorite fruits.

Leo heard of this place, it's super nice, super romantic, also super exclusive. Even by the Vaesteri standards.

It's likely they are going to just meet in front of the place and go somewhere else.

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Likely, but not certain. Leo accepts the invitation, because that's what one does when invited somewhere by a Vaesteri, then spends the next couple of days agonising over what to wear. Conveniently, this is a good distraction from worrying about what's going to happen alone with Felix in a famously romantic location. 

And at the agreed time, Eleonora Paresteri is in the appropriate place, dressed in something pretty enough for a romantic outing but also modest enough to wear when meeting Felix's grandparents. Just in case. 

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Felix is waiting for him in the place's reception hall, under the sign with the name of the place in font so elegant that's hard to read.

He is wearing a very nice tunic, very fitting for a romantic outing in a place like this.

There is no sign of his grandparents.

"Hi, Leo. How have you been?" He says smiling brightly.

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Oh, okay, this is already going better(?) than the worst-case scenario. Somehow that doesn't make it any less terrifying.

"Hi, Felix. I've been alright; you?" Small talk isn't terrifying at all, Leo can do small talk. 

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"I am great myself. My grandmother knows the owner of this place and when they got an opening in their schedule she got it as a favor," he offers him an arm, "do you want to walk inside now? I heard it's very pretty."

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Sure, Leo will take his arm. Smiling, smiling, definitely not nervous at all. 

"I've heard good things about it." 

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Felix already talked to the hostess, so they can just walk in by the main entrance.

A short set of stairs leads them inside a huge garden area.

From the outside the building looks like a normal house, but now they can see the absence of any walls from the first floor up. They can notice some old structural remains, indicating that the building probably lost its interior during a disaster or calamity and then was repurposed for this use. The walls are half-covered in flowering ivy, often forming geometric patterns in different colors and shades.

There is a waitress/guide that greets them warmly. "Is this your first time at an orchard-restaurant?"

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Is she talking to Leo? 

"Yes, it is." 

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Apparently the question is directed at them both.

"My first time as well."

"It's a privilege guiding you two through the process," the waitress says.

"The privilege is all ours. What's your name?"

"Lianca," she says, smiling just a tad more sincerely at that, "I actually already know yours from our guest list. Honorable Feliaris and Honorable Eleonora," Lianca inclines her head, "Well, let's proceed! To enjoy the experience that we delightfully offer you, the first step is that we will hear what sort of food preferences you have - likes, dislikes and allergies - and then you are free to roam the garden and sample the fruits. At intervals, you will see pillars where you can deposit fruits and say if you liked it or not. Now, our fruits are made to be non-allergic, but in the off chance you shouldn't eat something it will turn hard and cold in your hands. We also have delightful flowers that you can smell and hidden around the garden we have a trivia game to entertain you. Once you have completed a circuit around the garden we will call you to your table, where you can start sampling our chefs customized dishes based on your preferences. You are free to take the food with you and still walk around, enjoying the sights. Now, we absolutely encourage you to enjoy everything, but if you want to take fruit home it's unnecessary to collect from the garden itself. You both will get a complementary fruit basket to take with you. Any questions?"

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"Not at the moment, thank you." 

This sounds like it might be fun, especially the trivia game. Hopefully, Felix thinks so too, or he wouldn't have picked it. 

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"Me neither, thank you. This place is even better than advertised." Felix replies.

"Thank you, we do our best."

With that said, Lianca will ask a few simple questions from her form. Felix apparently favors sweet and spice flavors.

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Leo has some tolerance for spice and doesn't mind sweetness, isn't allergic to anything but dislikes sour flavours. The texture of raspberries is mildly offensive but the taste is fine, and the same for these other three berries. 

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All those details are diligently written down before Lianca declares that she will leave them be to enjoy themselves.

"Okay, I hope this isn't too much," Felix says a bit self-conscious. "But it does sound like a fun way to spend the afternoon."

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"I can think of worse ways," Leo agrees. "...I have to admit, I'm glad your grandparents aren't here." 

Time to explore an orchard? 

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Time to explore the orchard.

The place is quite beautiful, now that they can move around it's easier to notice that there is a single tree that sprawls around the entire thing. It grows in arches, creating new roots when it touches the ground, and its branches are used as the supporting structure of a balcony space. There are other plants, obviously, the fruits mostly grow in tall bushes which are made to grow in a shape convenient for picking, with geometric topiary surrounding them. Even the grass is patterned.

Felix frowns. "Really? Is that... usual?"

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"For adults to insist on chaperoning their younger relatives on romantic excursions? It's not universal but it's common." 

Leo crouches down to inspect the grass. "See, if your grandparents were here I'd be too busy pretending to be a proper young lady to do things like getting a closer look at this weird patterned grass." 

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Felix crouches besides him. "Good thing no one is here to scold us about being a proper young gentleman."

The grass forms honeycombs in different shades of greens, the patterns appear to be achieved not by a change of color, but by having the blades bend and catch the light in different ways.

"I am still getting used to the things you can do with magic," Felix says about the grass. "It can be really beautiful," he says looking at Leo.

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Aaaaah that was almost definitely flirting what—

Leo decides to pretend they're still talking about the grass. "I guess magic must still be strange and new for you, since you lived on Earth until recently. If you've lived with something your whole life, it can be harder to see the beauty in it." 

Yup. Totally still talking about the grass. 

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