Nellberry Juice

“Could I try the nellberry juice green tea please?” the customer asks.

I flick my gaze to the side.

Yorani’s ears swivel in the direction of the words “nellberry juice,” followed swiftly by her intent gaze. She knows what’s coming.

“How would you like to make a friend?” I ask the customer. They look tense, but so far have been holding themself together rigidly.

“I’m sorry?” they ask blankly.

I gesture in Yorani’s direction. “Yorani, the tea spirit, is… extremely enthusiastic about this blend. If you don’t wish to meet her I can move her to the back room.”

“Oh!” They look curiously in Yorani’s direction, then nod, smiling shyly. “I don’t mind.”

That’s a relief.

This will be for the best for both of them.


 

As I prepare the tea, Yorani flutters around my head. She’s not really trying to get to the juice—she knows it’s not at its best yet—but she’s so excited.

“You know,” I tell her, “if you flap your wings over it too quickly, you might cool the tea before it has a chance to steep at the right temperature.”

She freezes absolutely still in mid-air.

Of course, this causes her also to drop, since she’s no longer flying, and I scramble to catch her before she lands on the tea tray.

“Thank you,” I say dryly, and still cradling her begin walking back to the customer tables. “I have an idea. Why don’t you sit here and wait together while I prepare your tea? You can tell them how excited you are.”

In the abstract, this is an unfair thing to do to an unsuspecting customer.

In the specific, the customer goes from shy worry they don’t know how to treat a tea spirit properly all the way to delighted laughter by the time I’ve returned to the tea counter.


 

I bring a pot far larger than the customer ordered so I can pour a cup for them and one for Yorani.

“The extra is on the house, in the manner of self defense,” I explain.

They smile, a light of mischief in their eyes that wasn’t there before. “Are you sure you don’t need a bowl for the little one?”

“She would bathe in it, and splash as much as she drank,” I explain. “Ask me how I know.”

They laugh. “Is it okay for her to have as much as she wants?”

“Yes, as long as it’s spread out over time,” I say. “Otherwise you’ll end up learning about some other functions of tea spirits.”

“Duly noted,” they answer, relaxing entirely. “We’ll take our time savoring this then.”

The customer stays until closing, ordering two more pots and insisting on paying for them. They smile along with Yorani all the while.


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