"I'm home." Momoko sighed in relief as the door shut behind her.
The kitchen light was on, but no response came. Knowing her guardian that meant Sylvia had locked herself back into the study. Momoko set her haul on the counter. She grabbed a small plate and threw some daifuku and a cream puff on it. If she was going to interrupt the studying beast, she would need an offering. She pressed the button on the coffee maker and placed a mug under the dispenser, then adjusted her purse strap on her shoulder.
"This will probably be rough."
'Will she believe you?'
"You're pretty compelling evidence..." Momoko glanced at her companion. "But I don't know... we'll have to see. I know she knows a lot, I think it's the right thing to do."
'I trust your judgement, then. We're in this together.'
Momoko felt warmed by Flere's words. Despite the snarky attitude, the little thing really did seem to care about her, and she couldn't help but kind of love it.
She grabbed the coffee and the plate, taking a deep breath. Armed with her edible defense, she determinately made her way her way to the stairs. She made it up one at a time, willing herself to focus on the speech she had come up with on the trip back. She practiced it in her head once more, until she got to the study door, the light peeking below, confirming her assumption. She steadied herself in front of the door, mentally preparing. She lifted her hand to knock, and the door swung inward, revealing a much disheveled image of Sylvia.
Their eyes locked, and whatever emotion that plagued her guardian's face quickly vanished. "Ah, Momoko. Time for our dinner date all ready?"
"Ah..." Momoko glanced at her offerings. "Not yet—I'm sorry to interrupt, but—"
"You weren't interrupting." A crisp, smooth female voice drifted from the interior of the study.
Sylvia's face paled. Momoko tried to peek to see the source of the familiar voice, but Sylvia blocked the doorway with the sleeves of her kimono-style robe.
"You're meeting someone in your robe?" Momoko's curiosity was thoroughly piqued. While Sylvia met clients from time to time in her study, she always was impeccably dressed when she received them. To see her guardian in her normal late night study rampage gear hosting a client was.... Well, beyond odd.
"She dropped by unexpected-- listen, Momoko, take the food downstairs and I'll meet you in five, okay?"
Sylvia's eyes darted back into the room, and then she glanced at Momoko again, her eyes drifting down to Flere-as-a-keychain. This time, they lingered.
Momoko felt her heart skip a beat, and she too glanced down, but Flere was obediently as still as a plushie. He had, unfortunately, opened his eyes.
"Ah...." Momoko quickly glanced up, lifted the plate as a distraction. "Sure! I'll go put these-"
"Quit Stalling Sylvia, you can't delay the inevitable. Invite her in."
Sylvia's face twisted in anger, and she turned to shout. "Now's not the time, you can talk to her later."
"I may talk to her now." The figure came into view from the back of the room.
Her tall elegance gave her away, long before Momoko recognized the pale blonde hair with a blood-red streak.
"No...." Momoko felt the floor shift from under her, but nothing moved.
Of course, she had been spending the day looking for this ghost of a woman, and some part of her acknowledged her to be real.... But most of her was still operating under the assumption that Midnight Hong had been a figment of her imagination. Sylvia's arms and face fell, and she moved to the side to allow Momoko entry into the study.
"Well, come in, if you must." She huffed, ushering Momoko into the room.
Momoko numbly let her guardian brush her in, standing shell-shocked in the middle of the room with the willowy figure whose dark eyes shimmered in the light of the lamp on Sylvia's desk. Momoko didn't flinch, even as the woman took a step forward to take the plate and mug from her hands, and set them down on the desk in a quick and graceful motion that even a cat would envy.
"Momoko, this is Midnight Hong." Sylvia sunk into the nearby armchair. "But... I believe you knew that already."
"Yes." Midnight smiled coolly. "We met once before."
Momoko glanced from the imposing figure to her guardian, realizing that it had been Sylvia who had sent her to that place, and Midnight was here, at their home... so...
"You two know each other." It was an affirmation, not a question.
Sylvia just sighed. "I understand this is probably a lot to come to terms with—and I understand why you didn't want to talk about it when you met her the first time.... But I wish you had told me, Momoko."
"You.... You meant to send me there. You knew.... This whole time?" she began to tremble, from anger or fear, she wasn't sure. "You knew this whole time what really happened--- wait, do you know about everything?"
Sylvia's eyes wouldn't meet hers. "I do. Midnight contacted me right after.... The project I've been working on so much this whole time, has been for you, Momoko. I was researching everything I could on Phlox Spores to try to keep you safe."
"Forget about that!" Momoko grabbed her head, her mind reeling. "You're telling me you knew about everything, this whole time—you've been lying to me, this whole time?!"
"We've been lying to each other." Sylvia snapped back. "Why didn't you ask me for help?"
"I thought I was going crazy!" Momoko felt the anger boiling now, and she couldn't stop herself.
"Everything was crazy! I thought she was a dream—" she jabbed a finger at the tall figure leaning against the desk. "I thought I was losing my mind, seeing things, hearing voices, and the dreams.... How could I explain any of it without sounding like I was nuts?!"
Momoko grabbed the largest book next to her and threw it down on the desk, heaving as the dust clouded around her. "Now you're telling me you knew everything the whole time, and I could've just been spared losing my mind if I had confessed?"
She began to tremble, the tears she had held back earlier at her old house pushing forward with double force. "You knew everything and you let me just think I was going crazy, even though it's all real?"
"How could I brooch the subject?" Sylvia's voice trembled. "You didn't give me a single opening to do so. You were locked up so tight, how could I have comforted you and reveal what I knew? You never gave me the chance."
"No. You had every opportunity, but you locked yourself away in here, instead." Momoko hissed.
The silence that followed grew heavier than the weight in her heart. Everything that didn't make sense..... would make sense if Sylvia had just told her.
"May I speak to the Phlox?" Midnight's voice cut through the tension.