Their plans had fallen through because of a murder. It was an all too common occurrence with them, being a prosecutor and forensic detective, of course. Chief Prosecutor Edgeworth had requested her service, and he had come along for his own reasons, so here they were, in L.A.
Ema had kept mum about her plans, until they were at the small restaurant right next to a middle sized mall. The sign was covered in pink butterflies that almost looked like soul butterflies, but not quite.
"I know you wanted some Gingihl, and to see Purification Rite again--this time, preferably without a murder. But an inconvenient murder happened--a couple of them, actually--so hopefully this is the next best thing. Taa-daa!" She gestured to Holy Cui'sihne, the only Khura'inese restaurant she could find within a two hundred miles.
It also marked their anniversary. Not that Ema had publicly told many people that seven hours of that 'eight hour sermon' were actually spent smooching.
The room was largely empty. Strange, for such a big night. Maybe they'd missed the big boom of dinner time by coming in this late. Still, she'd think there'd be at least some late stragglers.
Ema rubbed at her aching back as Nahyuta waited for the hostess to get them seated. Maybe these cute heels weren't the best choice. When she got called in on a case, she hadn't realized it would be a case with multiple homicides and she'd have to process not one, but three bodies in succession.
It didn't help that Chief Prosecutor Edgeworth drove his labbies hard. Prosecutor Sahdmadhi would've at least allowed her a couple lunch breaks, while Chief Prosecutor Edgeworth hadn't yet read the Lord of the Rings (or even seen the movies) and wouldn't accept second breakfast, elevenses, and luncheon as possibilities.
She didn't have time to change into something cute out of her work uniform, but she'd tried to freshen up and smell a little less like death in the bathroom, and put on a cute new lipstick which she planned to leave all over Nahyuta tonight.
"Ema, the seating has begun," Nahyuta said.
He always managed to make everything sound so dang formal. Once, he'd solemnly told her our number has come when their too expensive airplane fast food came up during a busy time.
Paper lanterns hung from the top of the dark room. The dark walls were covered in depictions of soul butterflies and souls that seemed just a little off, like they were traced by someone who had a warped image to draw from. The thick scent of incense didn't quite cover up the strong stench of cooked Gingihl.
The chairs and table seemed oddly western, and even more to her surprise, there were metal utensils and no chopsticks.
Just as Ema was about to speak, her phone went off.
Ugh, who the hell would call her this late? "I should just ignore it," Ema said.
Just as Ema was about to turn it into airplane mode, a thought came to her. What if it was Lana and something horrible happened? She checked the read out and nearly dropped her phone.
Chief Prosecutor Edgeworth!
"S-sorry, Chief Prosecutor Edgeworth. I thought it was a telemarketer," Ema said quickly.
"Make sure you are in my office at 5:30 AM with the evidence. You'll be testifying by nine."
"R-right," Ema said.
"Get all your eating done beforehand. It's going to be a long day."
Which meant she'd have to be up by at least four-thirty. Ema wanted to sink down onto the table. The thought of so little sleep left her already exhausted. She should already be sleeping now, but like hell was she going to ruin her date.
"Good night." He didn't wait for her response before hanging up.
The call ended abruptly. Ema sighed and put her phone away.
Her pride at being considered such a top tier forensic scientist was headbutting with a extreme irritation that Chief Prosecutor Edgeworth would try and cockblock her anniversary plans at every single level with this case. Sure, it felt great to finally have reached a point of expertise that Chief Prosecutor Edgeworth would ask for her even across seas, but did he have to pick her and Nahyuta's anniversary to do it? Honestly, if her pride hadn't gotten the better of her, she would've called up Phoenix and told him to tell Chief Prosecutor Edgeworth to let her have her smoochy time already. Or she'd have to start barraging their date time with evidence that just couldn't wait until morning.
"Chief Prosecutor Edgeworth called you in early, I surmise?"
Ema puffed out her cheeks. "Yeah, five-thirty AM. I guess we can head back early and finish up celebrating there."
"If you wish, we may cancel our reservation and eat in your hotel room," he said.
"We've been waiting for this for ages. I'm not going to toss it away just because Chief Prosecutor Edgeworth is being anal about evidence processing."
She let out a sigh, and opened up her menu and recognized many things from her time in Khura'in. Hahtin'supaise, Mehl'tenmoht, Banu'puun, and even Magatama buns which she'd gotten downright addicted to. Not quite Snackoo level addiction, but she tended to get two whenever she went out to the market, and took them back to share with Nahyuta for every lunch.
"You're the foodie and the expert here. What should I go for drinks?"
"Hmm. Perhaps, pu’erh. It has a deep nutty taste, and is made rich with fresh yak butter," he said.
"This isn't going to be like the time you told me I should definitely try Vietnamese coffee, is it?" Ema said skeptically.
"Vietnamese coffee is as black as the deepest hell, full of dark force, and a deep energy unlike any other drink. I told you it would be a 'unique experience,'" he said.
"You say that, but you haven't brewed coffee with monster energy drinks," Ema said.
Nahyuta scrunched up his nose in disgust. "...Sounds putrid."
"Put some gummy bears on top, and that was how I got through college," Ema said.
"The more you reveal about your past, the more worried I become," Nahyuta said.
Ema laughed. "The gummy bears aren't the thing to worry about. It's the blackmailing and framing and failing. But I guess you know plenty about that."
He nodded. "Far too much, I am afraid."
Before Ema could say another thing, a waiter in traditional Khura'inese robes came to their table.
"Hap'piraki. Welcome to Holy Cui'sihne." The waiter bowed the traditional Khura'inese greeting.
"How may I take your order?"
Nahyuta set the menu aside.
"Gingihl, for purification upon this holy night, and water for substance," Nahyuta said.
"I'll have what he's having, and some pu’erh," Ema said.
"Would you like almond milk, soy milk, or traditional yak milk?"
"Er, traditional," Ema said.
The waiter wrote down some notes. "All right, I'll be back soon with your drinks. Happy Purification rite night."
"So, the case today--"
"Ema, you must remember," he said.
She gasped. "Oh, that's right. I can't speak about people who aren't on the case, and definitely not in public."
She was so used to only working with Nahyuta that she kept forgetting. But he allowed Chief Prosecutor Edgeworth to occasionally call her if need be. Though he'd often find a way to stay near, even if he wasn't assigned to the case itself. He'd probably have a cold case done by the time she had all this evidence processed.
It was kind of awesome, having these two super high powered prosecutors both wanting to keep her around. Though Nahyuta's reasons were a whole lot more personal and had a lot more kissing than Chief Prosecutor Edgeworth, who only wanted to be kissing Phoenix.
Ema smiled. "So, what's next on the queue? I was thinking season six of The Love Lives of Lawyers. They've been trying so hard to get Phoenix on. But most of the prosecutors and lawyers are resisting. Except Prosecutor Gavin." She puffed out her cheeks. "He hammed it up for almost all season 5."
"You spoke of that one documentary you wished to watch?" he said. He closed his eyes serenely. "The Secret Lives of Trees."
"Oh, right! I think it better wait until later. It's pretty long. And we--we won't have much time together tonight," Ema said.
Actually, if they were to get any time to be romantic tonight, she might not fit in any episodes at all. Even though she was dying to tell Nahyuta about what was going on in the case, she couldn't.
She was so used to relaying each part, and hearing his insights, and building her case stronger from it. They'd pool their strengths and weaknesses and come out like some form Voltron super power.
Two steaming plates were laid out before them.
"Oh! That's fast!"
"It's the Purification night. We've been making Gingihl all day," the waiter said.
"Thanks," Ema said.
He bowed, but didn't quite get it right. Nahyuta's jaw twitched as the waiter disappeared. Come to think of it, Holy Cui'sihne worked in almosts. The decor was almost right, like they'd copied the royal seal from a drawing by a five year old. The incense had a bitter synthetic scent, and that dragon fountain was full on Zheng Fa, not Khura'in.
But, Ema shrugged off these incongruities. It was her anniversary, and she damn well was going to enjoy it. The tower of Gingihl rose high and glimmering, cooked with savory meats, carrots and complementary fried buns and some kind of breaded food she didn't know the name off.
Well, they certainly got the stink right. Ema took a bite. It didn't seem to have quite the savory mix of flavors as the ones in Khura'in, but maybe freshness was lost in transit. In fact, it tasted a little overcooked and even soggy. But it was hot enough for Ema took a break to drink some pu’erh tea with yak butter.
Nahyuta's description of it hadn't been too far off. Though maybe a bit more bland. She'd have to try some genuine Khura'inese pu'erh when she was back overseas.
She tried one of those sausage shaped things. The inside was made with yak butter--at least in Khura'in. In here, it seemed to be cow's milk, or more precisely, very watery powdered milk, with a heaping of extra grease added to try and boost the flavor. She set it aside after one bite.
Nahyuta's expression remained completely blank. When it came to food, that was a bad thing, to say the least. It was quite often he would stop while prosecuting a case to speak of whatever food they'd had last. Sometimes, it went on for quite a while--much to her amusement.
He mechanically chewed and forced himself to swallow. He attempted to force a neutral expression, but she saw a faint shudder. He twisted the food around his fork, and while his mouth hadn't changed from its grim line, his green eyes had narrowed, like this food was an accused he would like nothing more than to personally send to hell.
Ema frowned and looked down to her food. It'd tasted a little different, but she couldn't figure out something which would bring about a reaction like that. She couldn't really say Nahyuta was extremely picky. The only thing he really had a reaction to was certain cheeses. She'd even gotten him to relent and try some things like pizza, and cheeseburgers, but the stinkier the cheese, the more Nahyuta hated it.
Which was saying something, as Gingihl was smellier than any cheese could try for, even Limburger.
It was only then that she noticed the thick draping of white across the dish, like a spider's web. She had absently taken a bite from the side, and missed the extra flavor. She lifted it up and took a bite, only to recognize the taste right away.
"Swiss Cheese? That doesn't seem right, it isn't even a Khura'inese stable. It's all about yak stuff there," Ema said.
He dropped his fork, his green eyes burning with fury. "Swiss cheese is most certainly not a Khura'inese staple! This is putrid--truly a sacrilege to our holy festival and food! Swiss cheese! To think, anyone would put Swiss Cheese upon the glorious dish Gingihl! Far be it from being purified, my mouth has been defiled upon the eve of this most holy night."
He clutched to his rosary in fury. "...Ema. Hand me your phone. I must find this 'Yelp' and leave a judgment upon this unholy den of putridness," Nahyuta said.
She opened the app and passed her phone.
Ema sighed and sadly glanced down at her dish. "Sorry our dinner didn't go as planned. It looks like this whole anniversary is doomed."
He closed his eyes and let out a long breath. "No...I am sorry for losing my temper. There is a saying within Khura'in: the best dinner is made of good company."
"It sounds like you're going to eat me," Ema said teasingly.
Nahyuta didn't look up from the phone. "Later."
Ema blushed just a little at his bluntness. "Oh!"
He tensely brought another bite to his lips, but Ema cut in.
"You don't have to keep eating if you don't enjoy it. Honestly, the only decent thing I've had is the pur'eh."
Holy Cui'sihne? More like Holey Cui'sihne.
"I don't suppose you want to try anything else?" Ema said.
He shook his head, and posted the review. "If they have so maligned this most holy dish, I cannot bear to think what they would have done to the rest of our food. No. I must escape this hell before my very soul is dragged down into the depths of its putridness. May the Holy Mother protect us all," he said. He held to his rosary and made a warding gesture towards the plate.
"I mean another restaurant," Ema said.
He sighed. "I suppose."
Ema finished the rest of her tea as he paid the bill. He left it with a very spirited complaint note along with the money, and they ended up back on the street. The lights of passing cars illuminated their faces for brief moments. His silvery braid had come lose over the events of the day, and wisps fell about his face. Half the time, Ema found enough crumbs in her bra to make a whole new Scnackoo and here he was, looking damn perfect.
"There's not much open at this hour. Just fast food. McDonalds isn't much of an anniversary dinner, let alone a purification night dinner," Ema said.
"No time is truly horrible if you are beside me," Nahyuta said.
"Even if Swiss Cheese is involved?" Ema teased.
He nodded. "I would withstand even that rat food for you. Had you not spoken up, I would have downed more bites and known that horror deep within me for the rest of my days."
The large clock down the street let out several chimes.
"Hey, happy one year," she said. Technically, the whole anniversary point was hard to pin down. Something had changed between them in Khura'in. She narrowed it down to the kiss during that 'sermon,' as the definite moment they had truly become an item, but that 'sermon' had lasted until past tweleve, and neither could remember the exact moment they had shifted. There'd been definite understated flirting from the minute she hopped on the plane with him.
Really, if she was going to be most accurate with data, it started the very minute she met him. Everything about him had been so—memorable. Long before she had flown across the sea with him, he'd been on her mind.
He came closer. The wind had picked up, filling the air with the ocean salt and a bit of the fry place down the lane.
"...I hope we see this Purification Rite together many times, many years," Nahyuta said.
"Me too," she said.
He bent down and kissed her, right there in the middle of the sidewalk. It wasn't a gentle peck on the cheek, either. Ema eagerly gripped his collar and returned the kiss with all the pent up frustration from a long case and a boss who didn't even let her have twenty lunches a day, and all they'd been through in these 365 days, from Snackoo shortages, disappointing restaurants, layovers, and overthrowing a queen who had been blackmailing him and his family for decades of his life.
"Get a room!"
Ema broke away and glared at the heckler. "Go to hell!"
The heckler had already disappeared into the crowd of people leaving the nearest fast food restaurant, or she would've launched a Snackoo right at him.
Nahyuta laughed. "Oh, Ema. I have rubbed off on you, it seems."
"Hey, I still think hell is other people, and probably just near death experiences. You know the science behind near death experiences is really interesting? You wouldn't believe what the brain chemicals can do!"
"I'm sure you are about to tell me."
Ema puffed out her cheeks. "If you don't wanna hear, then just say."
He leaned down to kiss her forehead. "No, that is not it at all. I love your science sermons, and I love you."
"More lectures than sermons. But I'll be glad to tell you. And...I love you too." She smiled up at him.
He held out his hand, and she took it.
They settled for some greasy burgers and salty fries. A long cry from the garlic and other herb stinkfest that was Ginghil. A whole year had changed a whole lot. He wasn't being controlled anymore, and at times she could almost tell what he was thinking. Other times he was an enigma that she was still trying to figure out. But then, she was a scientist. Her favorite thing was discovering things. Somehow it wasn't a surprise she'd fall for some mysterious foreign prosecutor.
There'd be other anniversaries, each memorable in their own way. But she treasured this one for its flaws, just as she treasured the many other mistakes they'd made along the way.