Hollowstone I Feel Pretty
#1

Outfit and Macaria



Ophelia was still struggling to get a handle on the new emotions and new instincts that came with being a Were. There had been plenty enough times that she'd found herself shifting in the middle of work, or whilst traveling through the acres of wood that surrounded her home. She'd unwillingly eaten a good many animals, and woken to a pile of feathers, bones, fur, and torn flesh.

Walking in on a murder, only the murderer had been her the whole time.

It was scary, and while Ophelia dealt with dead animals on a daily basis, she was not the biggest fan in being the one to kill them. She also wasn't a fan of the fact that the remains were hardly usable when it came to taxidermy and she was left to simply clean and bleach the bones so that their lives were meant for something even after death.

Still, while Ophelia was dealing with all of these things, she could not neglect dear Marcaria. Today was the stock show, and Macaria was to be judged, cleaned, and primped to the 'T' Ophelia could not think of a prettier cow than she. They had never truly won a place at these shows, Marcaria hardly being the stocky cattle that most looked for, but she did tend to steal hearts, and the cow certainly loved the attention.

Leading her through the crowd by a light harness, Ophelia would be forced to stop as a group of men on horses made their way past, giving Marcaria the chance to inspect a stranger's food up close and very personally.
#2

outfit



Sometimes Usui just ended up places. It was the odd side effect of not liking to sit around home all the time, and also not really knowing where he was going to begin with. He had spent a good bit of time recovering from his last adventure, truth be told. Studying feverishly up on his English to try and get better, more competent. Resting and feeding and recuperating from the horrible ordeal in which he almost hadn't made it back to the apartment he hated at all...

But cabin fever had set in, and now he was here. In this place crowded with American and their animals.

Though his card he'd been given was slowly running out of money, he could not simply stop eating food, and so he had bought himself a pretzel at one of the many stands here, having managed to successful get through the transaction with actually a good bit of grace for once. It left him feel good and apparently somewhat careless as he stopped and stood and marveled at the horses that passed. His feline passenger suggested one would be interesting to eat, and he sniffed at the thought, unhappy that it was tempting.

And then he felt a little tug on the pretzel in his hand, and he startled when he realized there was a soft-faced cow chewing on it!

"Yameru! Ushi! Sore wa anata no tamede wa arimasen!" he scolded swiftly, posture defensive as he pulled the food away from the animal and sidestepped in protest. The woman attached to said cow was not exactly in his field of attention.
#3
If the man's foreign words hadn't been attention-grabbing enough, Macaria's attempts to follow the food would have, her arm tugging outward as the weight of the cow forced her to the left. Eyes widening, an audible gasp would escape her, as her gaze zeroed in on what had the cows attention, and then up towards the owner. "Oh no, Macaria." She chided, pulling Macaria away, much better at controlling the cow than she had been in the past.

Was this the cats doing?

"I am so sorry, I can buy you another." An apology thrown the man's way as she wrapped her arms around the cow's neck, just now realizing that there was something off about this man.

It wasn't the foreign speech, but his scent... A scent that had the cat bristling and spitting at the edges of her mind.
#4
The cow was pulled away, leaving Usui with the remains of the pretzel, though he still kept it back and away like the cow might lunge. He felt... bewildered, at best! And even if he had had the capacity to understand the words given to him now, he did not listen hard enough to pick them out.

The slight, pale woman wrapped the cow in what he took to be a hug. The owner, then. Was she afraid he was going to hurt her animal? His brow furrowed and he refused to relax, partially related to the bristled cat in his mind, reacting to hers. But he was barely cognizant of it.

Flustered and frustrated, as he ever was, he dragged up two of his more recently learned words to explain. "Don't English."

His perpetual nightmare. His now-hazel eyes fixed on the cow, accusing.
#5
Don't English?

It would take a moment for those words to process in her mind, the cat quite a distracting presence along with the need to hold Macaria back from the treat she'd designated for herself. What in the world did he mean that he did not English? She was relatively sure that-

"Oh!" OH!

It suddenly became clear what the words meant, and while Ophelia certainly felt foolish in her own mind, she was now rather stumped on how to proceed. She was pretty certain that she did not speak whatever language he had been speaking just seconds before...

"I- uh? Sorry?"
#6
Her reaction was nothing new to him. Many people reacted to him with confusion, their tones modulated for apology or concern. He couldn't understand and they couldn't understand! It was far more shocking when that wasn't the case.

Nonetheless, he sighed, slowed for a moment as he looked out, across the place they were both in. As if there were answers there, or something he could point to that would mean anything to anyone. But all there was were more animals and dozens upon dozens of people who couldn't understand him, either.

But she was like him, he could feel it. Not a perfect match, but... hardly mattered. He'd never counted on another snow leopard in his life. And so he opted to take advantage of the moment, teach himself at least one thing.

So he looked back at her, trying to soften himself from his frustration at the animal she clung to. "What... ushi." He pointed to the soft-faced bovine. "Ushi wa... what English?"

He knew what he'd call it on his own. Dorobō ushi. To steal food from a man down on his luck was cruelty, truly.
#7
Ushi...?

Is she? What is she?

Ophelia blinking in obvious confusion, doing her best to decipher the words, and utterly failing. She couldn't say for sure if the man was asking for the name of her cow, or if he was asking what cow would be in English, and so she would settle for both.

"My cow is named Macaria?" She offered, her voice tilted in question.
#8
He was expecting one word, and she said many.

But named. That was... name. He had learned 'name' recently.

"Ma... karia," he repeated back slowly, thoughtfully, digesting what appeared to be either the cow's name or the woman's name. He was willing to be on the cow, but not completely certain. "Co...w?" Not an easy noise for him to lean into, turned out. Ending on a consonant confounded his mouth. Tried really hard to make it a 'wu.'
#9
It seemed he was getting it, and so despite her confusion, a smile would pull at the edges of her lips.

"Yes, Macaria the cow." She answered, patting the side of Macaria's neck for confirmation. "I'm Ophelia."
#10
Cow cow cow... he would not remember the cow's name, but he was desperate to put another word into his vocabulary, for all it was a largely useless word to him. What good would a cow do him! Nothing, short of make him feel less competent than even a child learning their animals and numbers.

The next, though, he knew. She was giving him her name. He bowed, instinctively, and supplied his own, "I'm Usui," before he straightened back up swiftly to look at her. O... fee ree ah. He tried to sound it out in his head but didn't want to stumble over it out loud.
#11
Funnily enough, Ophelia was doing much of the same thing in her own head. Usui was nothing something that you came across often in either America or Sweden, so she had very little doubt that it would be butchered by her inexperienced tongue.

"It's nice to meet you." She answered, realizing that it might be too much for the foreigner to understand. "Where- Where are you going?" Maybe she could help him with that to make up for Macaria's mistakes.
#12
Nice to meet you! He knew that one! It was nice to hear someone use the phrase--so often he found that Americans did not say that, even upon meeting him. It had made the phrase feel somewhat useless, but here it was, offered to him by a woman whose name he would never effectively pronounce. It made him smile, and perhaps forgive her cow a little.

But then... where. Where what, he wondered? He didn't really know what she was asking him. Something about him and where... go? Maybe?

More studying was clearly necessary. He raised his shoulders in a shrug, no good answer for her even if he understood what she was after.

He decided, then... a gesture of goodwill so that this nice woman did not think he was going to hold a grudge because her cow had tried to take his food. Tore off a piece of it where the cow had nibbled and offered it out to the animal.
#13
The shrug let Ophelia know that there would be no gestures of goodwill coming from her today, not while they both spoke two entirely different languages. Ophelia had always hoped that being bilingual would be beneficial for her, but with the number of languages in the world, it didn't seem that it ever would.

Still, it seemed that her attempt to appease the current situation still struck the man one way or another, as he was now feeding Macaria.

Normally, she might have stopped the offer, because pretzels surely weren't the best for her, but Ophelia would let it slide this one time. If it made the man feel better, it made Ophelia feel better as well, and Macaria had already made herself at home with the treat before.

"Thank you."
#14
The cow nibbled it from him and he pulled his hand gingerly back, not quite trusting the creature. But then he reached to pat pat the animal on the snout, curious as to why the cow was so... pretty.

But then, another phrase he knew. "You're welcome," he responded in learned reflex and sincere response both. He did not have much to offer other than a polite, benign presence. Difficult, but it was the reality he lived with every day.

Maybe someday he would reach a point where his main focus could be the fact that she was a magical animal person as well. But he could not articulate much of anything about that at all, and it was impractical to try and mime his way into it here in public. Could not risk an information breach without good cause.
#15
Ophelia was not certain as to where to go from there, her hand coming to pat against Macaria's fat neck as her eyes wandered towards the cowboys that were finally clearing up the walkway and allowing others to pass by. It was probably best for her to get Macaria signed up and into the show, but it felt rude to just... Leave.

Still, it seemed that their conversation had come to an end, and just standing here awkwardly also felt entirely rude.

"I have to go to the show." She finally called, her finger pointing towards the large barn that she'd been heading to originally. "That way."
#16
Go. Go go. He knew that word because he'd made himself learn it after the jaguar had yelled it at him.

Did she want him to... go there? To the barn? Maybe she was going there and would like him to come with. He nodded in what he hoped was understanding. He didn't mind--he really was just wandering here aimlessly in order to have something to do and things to look at without needing to go back to his boxy apartment.

If she moved off, he would follow, but not with a lot of intent. It was tentative, curious to see where she was going, if he was right to follow her, and ultimately... it wasn't like he could be taken more out of his element and embarrassed.
#17
The nod was all the confirmation that Ophelia needed to begin guiding Macaria back across the way, a soft tugging of rope that the cow reluctantly turned into, leaving both the man and his pretzels behind.

Only they weren't leaving him behind, as he was following them to the barn, which was unexpected but not off-putting in the slightest. Perhaps he had just been on his way there as well? He seemed to like cows, maybe the show was where he'd been intending to go the whole time.
#18
For how their interaction had started, he found he did like cow. He chewed on the remainder of his pretzel as he went, watching the fuzzy bovine with some dark amusement. He realized then that he was nearly as capable of communicating with the cow as he was with the person who led her. Ironic and sad, but also... well, comforting in a small way. People made friends with animals all the time. Not him, usually, but... people.

So maybe he could make friends.

The barn was interesting as he got inside, and he found himself distracted by all the different cows. Most of them were not nearly as cute as the pretzel thieving beast.

And it stank. Badly.
#19
Ophelia absolutely loved the smell of barns, which surprisingly didn't change even as her sense grew stronger. It just reminded her of home, and the barn had always been a relatively safe place for her to practice her crafts and be herself growing up. The feeling hadn't changed as she got older, and was very much the reason that she'd chosen to live where she did now, and why she'd gotten Macaria in the first place.

Glancing back towards the man, she'd offer him an encouraging smile as she moved to the registry, picking up the pen and placing down both her and Macaria's name. A number was then given, which would be quickly stuck onto the rope that Ophelia had been using as a halter for the day.
#20
She came in here with such purpose in her step. Aiming to not get in the way, he hung back and realized she was signing in for something. Did he need to sign up to be in here? It didn't seem so. His observations were sharp and sure and he'd deal with them later if he was wrong.

Perhaps the cow was here for a contest. There seemed to be a lot of those in this strange event.

...quietly he decided to stay and watch. Perhaps this was a part of American culture he could come to understand.
#21
Macaria signed up and ready, Ophelia would release her to one of the handlers helping with the show, before turning back to Usui, her thumb pushing towards the stands that lined the wall. "We can sit together?" If he intended to stay that is... And if he was picking up on what she was trying to say.

"Over here?" She'd slowly back towards the seats, eyes observing his face for any sign of understanding.
#22
Continuing to hear nothing but the usual rise and fall of English with little meaning, Usui did not miss the pointing gesture. He also understood... here. And the way she watched his face with expectation while she walked away, now without her cow.

Deciding this was a more blatant invitation, he abandoned his hesitation to nod, straightening himself up a little primly. His pretzel was gone, eaten, and now he could sit and observe with her, if that was agreeable to his new acquaintance.

"Thank you," he told her again when he got close enough. Then... "Where... cow?" Not exactly what he was trying to ask. He could see where they'd taken her. But more he wanted to know why Ophelia wasn't with her. For all the good asking would do him--he was unbelievably unlikely to understand any explanation. But sometimes he did hope just listening to someone speak might magically absorb learning into him.
#23
First instinct was to point out Macaria from the small group of cows that had formed for the lineup, but then common sense reeled in and she realized that if she could see Macaria, then clearly he could too.

'Where cow' was not to be taken quite as literally, "A competition." She tried, voice raising a bit in question to whether he'd understand that or not. "They judge her."
#24
Competition. He sounded out this word to himself under his breath, thinking. It didn't really help, but he felt he was certain to understand if he... watched. He nodded, accepting the answer that meant little but was appreciated nonetheless.

He looked at the cows, observing. It was the only way to learn, now. He was grateful to Ophelia for letting him do that, and for sitting with him. For a moment he didn't feel entirely out of place.
#25
Own head nodding in response to him, Ophelia's attention would move back towards the cows, more having gathered in a matter of seconds. There were some pretty ladies out there, but Ophelia could not help but feel that her Macaria was the prettiest of them all. Mothers were biased after all, and Ophelia had no problems admitting that she very much adored her adopted daughter.

Slowly, because cows weren't very fast creatures unless forced, the cows would be placed about a foot or so apart, judges already making their rounds as they inspected each of the cows. "This part is always the most nerve-wracking." She'd comment to the man, despite his inability to understand.
#26
She spoke to him while they watched. But he found he didn't mind it. It was nice to be spoken to conversationally without being expected to understand it. There was no pressure in listening. Ophelia didn't seem to question him or look for his input.

"Kon'nani takusan no shurui no ushi ga iru nante shiranakatta…" he admitted in that same sort of tone that wasn't pressing to be taken and used for anything. Just heard, for the sake of speaking it.

He decided he liked the longer haired cows the most. Their soft faces seemed more like pets than prey.
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