"What is it like, running a company?" A dark-haired girl tilted her head at her friend as she asked.
An orange-haired girl, sitting on the other side of the table, chuckled. "Well...it's a lot more work."
Summer has arrived in full force in Neo-Venezia. The sun, high in the clear sky, shone brightly and heated up the town. The three friends have found time to meet once again over lunch - Anzu and Atora have scheduled the day off, while Ayumi's colleagues almost had to shove her off the office. They'll be fine and will not work until she's gone, they insisted, as they guided her out of the office and locked the door behind her.
"...I can't stop worrying about the girls," Ayumi admitted. "There's only four of them, so there's only one boat running since someone has to mind the shop while the others are rowing."
The red-headed girl smiled reassuringly at Ayumi. "It's a very slow day today...it's so hot, even the residents don't feel like going out today. Don't worry, they'll have it easy today. Besides, Tomoe and Eliza are there to guide the newbies.
"But I know all that won't stop you from worrying." To that, Ayumi only nodded and ate a spoon of parfait.
"The other companies have been doing well with their traghetto programs," Anzu said. "I heard Himeya's route from Garibaldi Square is expanding since Akira started emphasizing the traghetto for Single training. She thinks the social skills traghetto work develops are critical for Undines, so she's pushing for every Single to row in a traghetto a lot."
"It does make sense, when you think about it - you have to work together with someone you barely know for a whole day. That's what you call social skills training!"
Atora nodded. "Our program -based in Santa Maria- is much smaller and less intensive, but it's there, and some of the trainees liked and learned from it. I heard Akari and Ai went there for training the other day. The trainees were a bit surprised!"
"Surprised by what - that Aria Company's well-loved 'Aquamarine' came to visit, or that Akari was not like they expected her to be?" A giggle was shared by the three at Ayumi's remark.
"Enough about the traghetto - I talk and think about it every day for work! How are your Prima careers doing?"
The two Undines shared looks with each other.
A nervous giggle from the two. "It's not that. We both have enough customers to get by, and every day is busy and pleasant.."
Anzu spoke up, almost cutting Atora off. "It's just that we're hearing some rumors...I heard that some of the Primas in Orange Planet were in some kind of investigation."
"Some customers complained, and the Gondola Association got involved..."
Silence from the three as they looked down into their parfait.
The silence was eventually broken by a nervous chuckle by Ayumi. "It's probably just a misunderstanding."
Her two friends quickly agreed, giving some dismissive half-hearted laughs.
"That aside, it was really good to see you two again." The orange-haired girl beamed at the two girls. "I'm just glad we were able to meet."
Atora retorted. "Ayumi, you had to be pushed out of the office by your employees. You should thank them, not us.
"Oh, and don't forget to get some groceries!"
"Dear customers, have you noticed that there aren't any motorboats in the canals?" A pink-haired gondolier slowed her gondola.
Her customers, a couple bringing a young child with them, nodded. "When we came here for our honeymoon, we did see some motorboats..."
"Recently, due to environmental and beautification concerns, the city council forbade all motorboats from entering the canals. The motorboats that acted as ferries were replaced with larger gondolas named traghettos. The people that live here use the ferries every day. Look," the gondolier pointed, "there's one coming up to dock."
A traghetto came up the canal, filled with passengers. In front is a green-haired woman, leading the other raven-haired gondolier at the back. Their uniforms, pristine white, were emblazoned with a green vertical line.
"Tomoe, Arya - hello!" The pink-haired gondolier beamed and waved at the ferry gondoliers, who exchanged hasty greetings as they positioned the boat to dock.
"Hehe, they're a bit busy. They're the Undines of this whole town - it's no wonder they don't have time to chat. Shall we move on?" The white gondola glided forward as the Undine continued on with her tour.
The traghetto had been emptied of passengers and tied to the dock, and Tomoe and Arya came over to the waiting area where Kaela and Eliza sat.
"Thanks for the hard work," the two girls greeted Tomoe and Arya as they sat.
"Thank you," Tomoe said. "Akari just passed by and showed her customers the dock."
"You're kidding!" Kaela almost jumped out of her seat. "Akari? Like, Akari Mizunashi of Aria Company? The 'Aquamarine'?"
Eliza nodded. "Yes, it was her. She was so pretty! There was a baby on board and I waved at her."
"Aww, man," Kaela leaned back on the bench. "I really wanted to see her."
The three immediately looked at her and replied simultaneously. "But you were staring at her all this time..."
"Wait, was I? Huh." Teasing giggles came out of the other three. "Pay more attention next time!"
Summer evening in Neo-Venezia - warm and humid, it was a sultry night filled with tourist couples wandering around and taking in the romantic views. Ayumi had just come out of the city market with a basket of groceries and made her way to a nearby dock, taking her place in a small queue.
"Hey, that uniform...you work for this ferry," a woman alongside Ayumi remarked.
The woman was met with a smile from the gondolier. "Yes, ma'am. I'm Ayumi Jasmine, founder of Green Dream, at your service. I'm letting my employees pick me up after groceries tonight."
The two tittered, drawing attention from the rest of the queue.Some other passengers started to congregate near Ayumi, having noticed her uniform.
"Wow! An Undine!" A gaggle of children circled the orange-haired girl, marveling at her white uniform.
"Miss Undine, miss Undine," a small girl pulled at Ayumi's dress. The gondolier squatted and patted the girl. "Yes?"
The girl beamed at her. "You're so cool! I wanna row a boat when I grow up."
Ayumi grinned at her. "I bet you'll make a beautiful and cool gondolier. Talk to your parents about it first, okay?"
"Okay, miss Undine." The girl ran off to her parents, who were watching them converse. "Mama, Papa, I wanna be like her when I grow up!"
The remaining children, having found a newer or more captivating distraction, gradually moved away from the gondolier.
One of the children pointed. "Mama, look, a boat!"
A large gondola emerged from the larger main canal to the dock's canal, bearing a good number of passengers. The two gondoliers piloting the boat, a blonde and a brunette girl, eased the boat as it approached the dock.
The mother nodded at her son. "That's our boat, honey. We take it every Saturday after market, remember?"
"Yes! And the fare is three coppers for you and three coppers for me," the boy proclaimed with triumph.
Having heard that, Ayumi scrunched her brow in thought as the exiting passengers passed by.
"We're ready for you now," Kaela called out. "Please move to the ferry in an orderly manner and prepare your fare."
The queue moved forward, and Kaela stood face-to-face with Ayumi.
"Ayumi! It is you! Let me get those groceries out of your hands." Kaela grabbed the basket of groceries from the orange-haired girl.
"Thanks, Kaela. We'll have a great dinner when we get back."
Ayumi walked to the boat and saw Eliza, who was holding the boat steady with one foot on the dock as she helped a passenger with her belongings.
"There you go. Thanks for joining us tonight, ma'am. Good eveni-ah!" the brunette smiled and gasped as she locked eyes with Ayumi.
"Hehe. Good evening, Eliza," Ayumi stepped onto the boat and handed the brunette girl three copper coins. "Take good care of me, please."
Eliza reddened and nodded in response. She stuttered as she greeted the next customer, drawing some giggles from the passengers.
The last of the passengers alighted. "We're fully accounted for - sixteen passengers and five large baggage items," Eliza called out to Kaela, who looked to confirm.
"Alright - I closed up shop here. Let's go home." The blonde took the forward position, holding her oar. A swift, coordinated push from the two girls started the traghetto towards the main canal.
"Gondola casting off!"