“I noticed that you landed a few hours ago, Duncan. I trust your flight went well.” commented Lady Pendreigh.
“Yes, thank you. My flight landed much earlier than they expected due to strong tailwinds.” he explained.
:Nii-san wouldn’t really try to pull anything over on her.: stated Ai.
:No, but I do think he was testing her.: I replied.
Lady Pendreigh had smiled slightly. An average person probably would’ve laughed at nii-san’s joke had they understood he always helped planes along with his magic. Unlike us, his affinity was for manipulating air, gas of any sort, really. In combat, he could be precise enough to separate gases enough to combust with a spark, which he’d casually provide.
:Still not a match for us.: teased Ai.
:Not together at least.: I agreed.
Lady Pendreigh politely told him “Funny how often that happens for you.”
Nii-san smiled and nodded before raising his hand to catch a waiter’s attention. In Italian, he said, “Please bring out the wine you’re keeping for me.” Then he explained in English “I deposited a wine here earlier as a gift for you. I hope you enjoy its flavor.”
:His Italian’s slightly better than his English.: mentioned Ai.
:He really needs to spend more time practicing with a native speaker for both.: I agreed. :If only mother would let him call us more…:
Ai gave an internal shrug as she said, :She won’t. We’re a bad influence in her eyes.:
I knew she was right, just as she knew I wished she wasn’t.
My sister then asked “Nii-san, how long are you going to be staying?”
“I’ll be staying until the end of the upcoming charity auction. Mother sent a donation.” he replied.
:Lady Pendreigh must have orchestrated his visit.: I suggested.
:Agreed. She probably told mother about what she planned on donating while also offering a business proposal.: replied Ai.
We wondered what Lady Pendreigh had planned. Too great an offer would have drawn mother here in person, but something important enough for a courtesy call from nii-san was on the table, something that would keep him here for weeks..
:You don’t suppose…: started Ai, thinking about how our attachment to Jarod had obviously been mentioned.
:He’s part of her plan. We’ll have to wait and see what comes next.: I finished for her.
“Sixty-one Château Latour?” I asked, surprised by nii-san’s choice.
Ai quickly said, :Mother’s choice probably.:
She rarely let anyone else around her make a decision.
“Can we open it, nii-san?” Ai asked, smiling at him.
“The wine is Lady Pendreigh’s, so that would be her choice, though I would wait until our meal arrives.” he replied curtly.
Giving a slight nod, she said, “Let’s wait then. I’m sure you’ll find the food here equally appealing, Duncan. I asked the finest chef I know to rearrange the menu not long ago. Unfortunately, he wasn’t willing to take over as the head chef.”
“Oh? I’m surprised anyone would refuse one of your offers.” he told her.
“She shrugged and explained “He works for James at Somerset Estate. You’ll be able to sample plenty of his excellent cooking during your stay.”
My sister and I smiled. Neither of us came close to Marco’s cooking, and we weren’t so bad ourselves. The man knew more variations on more dishes than anyone we knew. We had questioned him extensively over our stay and had him teach us numerous techniques. Sadly, he was even better than us in regard to making Japanese cuisine, though we did manage to teach him a couple recipes he seemed to like.
“I look forward to anything that earns your praise.” stated nii-san.
We nearly laughed, but managed to control ourselves. Nii-san surely had no notion of how his words could be purposefully misinterpreted.
“What are you going to have, Jarod?” asked Ai when the waiter returned.
“We’ll gladly order for you.” I assured him.
Jarod casually ordered in Italian as if he had always spoken the language. We couldn’t control our grins.
:His fluency has to put nii-san to shame.: I suggested.
Ai agreed, saying, :Not that he’d admit it to Jarod. Did you see the scowl?:
She only saw it through my eyes, so she knew I had.
“Trust me to order?” asked Lady Pendreigh to James.
“Please do. I can’t say I’ve ever studied Italian.” he admitted.
Nii-san quickly said, “Please order for me as well. I’ll trust your expertise.”
We nearly laughed again, knowing he probably didn’t want to demonstrate his poor speech again in front of Jarod. Lady Pendreigh politely nodded to him before ordering. She was, of course, perfectly fluent, being the one to instruct us.
“James, my sisters tell me that your business started just this year. I find your success to be quite impressive, considering the niche your company fills.” stated nii-san to strike up a conversation again.
“Well, we’re managing to stay afloat largely due to my secretary’s amazing organizational skills.” replied James. “Jarod, on the other hand, single-handedly designed an incredible electric engine. The original prototype is what gets me from place-to-place.”
“Yes, I read about his design. Most impressive.” begrudgingly admitted nii-san. “How do you manage to find clients for your company?”
“I originally relied heavily on my website and viva voce, but Aaliyah, my secretary, seems to use some of her own contacts as well.” explained James.
Smiling, nii-san said, “Your secretary sounds like an amazing woman. I should like to meet her someday.”
“You already have.” stated Lady Pendreigh.
My sister and I nearly giggled again as nii-san stared in shock at Lady Pendreigh.
Quickly standing, nii-san bowed and said, “Sumimasen. My sisters failed to mention this.”
:Bit extreme…: I muttered.
:Well, the assassin is rather well known to our family.: replied Ai.
:Figures nii-san blamed us.: I told her.
:We’ll make him pay later.: she teased.
“Don’t worry. She gladly tells everyone about working for me. She’s even listed on my website as my secretary.” explained James, looking a bit confused.
We grinned at nii-san as his gaze turned to us. He wasn’t amused.
:He’s going to lecture us again.: stated my sister and I. We didn’t really mind. He’d at least be paying attention to us.
As we waited for our food, nii-san continued ignoring us as well as Jarod as best as he could. We didn’t mind that either, since he couldn’t say anything about us holding Jarod’s hands under the table that way if he actually was paying attention. Nii-san could locate people through vibrations of the air if he concentrated much like we could find people through water. None of us could compare with Lady Pendreigh. Locating people seemed effortless for her, as did most things.
Our food was quite good, and nii-san seemed satisfied as well. The wine was quite delicious, but we were surprised how much Lady Pendreigh seemed to enjoy it.
“You must try this, James. It’s pretty rare.” I insisted.
“I’ll order you a cola if you wish, but you should at least take a sip.” suggested Lady Pendreigh.
He looked hesitant, but he went ahead and took a sip. Then he said, “No offense, but I think I’ll have that cola. Alcohol really isn’t something I’m comfortable drinking, being underage here.”
“Ah. Sorry. Sorry. I never thought to ask your age. My family is highly resistant to ill effects from alcohol, so we don’t often consider such things, though my sisters probably could have warned me.” explained nii-san, look at us sternly.
We commenced with akanbe, but he wasn’t amused.
Conversation continued with pleasantries at a little business discussed, largely between nii-san and James. Nii-san was ignoring us again, not that we were surprised. He could be incredibly stiff.
When dinner was finished, we all walked out to the parking lot. My sister and I rushed to nii-san’s sides as the cars were being fetched, clinging to his arms and smiling up at him.
“Nii-san, don’t you want to ride in Jarod’s car with us?” we asked.
He crossed his arms, and told us in Japanese “No. You two need to learn proper etiquette before I’ll be seen in public with you. I am surprised Lady Pendreigh admits to knowing you.”
“Well, we might be home late.” suggested Ai.
“We’ll have Jarod all to ourselves.” I added with a grin.
“Let’s go, Jarod!” we exclaimed, rushing to the mustang.
Nii-san sprinted to the front passenger seat of the car, despite the witnesses. I argued with him a little about who should get to sit by Jarod before sitting by my sister in the back. Jarod was amused, and we convinced nii-san to join us, even if he looked rigid with his arms crossed. We still won. He was going to get to know Jarod no matter what he wanted.