JUN: This isn’t so bad. It’s pretty comfortable, actually.
Krystoff evaluates me from all angles pretty intently, nodding to himself here and there before he says anything.
KRYSTOFF: I thought that top would fit you well. The sleeves always came up a little too short on me. And the shorts? Not too frou-frou for you?
JUN: Nah, they’re cute. I have to admit, I don’t wear stuff that shows my legs very often… but the stockings help.
KRYSTOFF: Stockings are flattering on everyone. In my opinion. And they’re versatile. Stylish, but not overbearing.
He circles me one more time.
KRYSTOFF: Lift your arms for me.
JUN: Uh, like this?
KRYSTOFF: Yes. Okay, good, looks like all is well. It sits nicely on you. Complements your shape well. I don’t think I need to tailor anything this time. Do you like it?
The fact that he’s asking my opinion rather than christening me with his own and sending me off on my merry way surprises me somewhat. I try to curb my embarrassment and give an honest answer.
JUN: I think so, yeah. I feel a little silly, but that’s mostly just because I’m not used to seeing myself dressed up nicely like this. Usually trying on clothes makes me feel kind of, uh. Uncomfortable.
He lands on his feet, approaching me at a more equal level.
KRYSTOFF: Why’s that?
Oh, geez, explaining that is too humiliating. But he’s asking sincerely, so I have to try. I already find myself laughing awkwardly to soften the blow.
JUN: I’ve, er, never felt all that good about myself? Hahaha.
KRYSTOFF: I see…
I brace myself for a jab, or a joke at my expense, but it mercifully never comes. Instead, he folds his arms and regards me with softness in his eyes.
KRYSTOFF: To be frank, I cannot claim to understand a human’s relationship to their physical form; apparitions choose physical forms for themselves to manifest in, so pardon me if I misspeak in this regard.
KRYSTOFF: As burns within you, so too shall all that goes before you—an apparition adage meaning you’ll only ever be as powerful as you are tenacious, and with tenacity comes the ability to carve a self and a future, but those with flimsy convictions trap themselves in their own self-imposed boundaries.
KRYSTOFF: It is, of course, a proverb uniquely rooted in apparition values… But I also take it to mean that you yourself can lay the foundation for who you want to be, if only you have the resolve to actualize it. You’re as striking as your conviction, so to speak, and for whatever my opinion is worth…
KRYSTOFF: You have a remarkable sense of conviction burning within you, Jun.
JUN: Ah… well, th-thank you…
My face goes up in flames, and I’m so relieved my mask blocks some of the raw embarrassment from the outside world. Krystoff’s chronic inability to be earnest has the curious side effect of making anything he does say in candor almost unbearably potent. Not to mention, I’m just bad in general at taking a compliment.
Mutual embarrassment catches up to him belatedly, and he hastily turns his back to me with a rigid posture.
KRYSTOFF: Indeed. …Shall we be off, then? I think we’ve spent quite enough time dawdling over clothes…
JUN: Ha, yeah. Let’s go.