Asuna blinked, looking at the little medusa with a black-tufted blue chick in her hands. The little medusa who was a psionicist. Whoof. “That was Vincent? He seems really nice.”
“He’s a ranger.” Yui gave the chick one more pat, then let it fly to join the rest of the fluffy horde. “He looks like a human, but he’s not. His mind’s all wild, but it’s quiet. Safe.” She reached out, brushing clawed fingers over the outside of a blue-patterned wing. “You’re pretty.”
“You’re pretty, too,” Asuna smiled. Not something she’d ever expected to say to a little girl with snakes in her hair. But she was. “You like feathers?”
Yui nodded, a shy smile on her face like sunlight between clouds. Then she straightened, serious. “You should wash your hands! Aunt Stheno says so. Not everybody has a – a tolerance?”
“That’s right,” Stheno agreed, as Yui splashed her hands in the pool and Asuna joined her. “Touching them won’t petrify you,” she raised her voice a hair, “but it will numb your hands if you’re not used to it.”
“Sorry.” Kirito sounded sheepish. “I never noticed.”
“That’s because you’ve never handled them without Battle Healing,” Stheno said dryly.
Asuna started. That was the players’ name for the Skill, but how would an NPC know that?
“By this time, even if they bit you, you’d probably shrug it off in less than a minute.” Stheno paused, and smirked. “Ranger Kirito.”
Yui jumped. Looked up at Stheno, a thousand questions in dark eyes.
The youkai lord nodded, and held out a beckoning hand. “Let her sense you. Vincent says the way rangers immerse themselves in the wild makes your minds… less edged, was how he put it. For those with psionic abilities, it’s like putting a hand out to grasp cool water, instead of cutting ice.”
Kirito hesitated, then crouched, closing his eyes as Yui reached out to touch his cheek.
“…Oh.” Yui sniffled, and reached higher to comb claws through his hair. “Aunt Stheno wasn’t wrong. You’re not someone who hurts people. You’re just sad.”