It took a while for Edea Lee to sense that something was amiss.
She looked with glazed eyes around the room, unable to get rid of that familiar goosebumpy feeling that told her danger was close.
"Wait, what the—" There was a lump on the bed. And the bed seemed a little warm—
She threw the covers aside. She stared. For some reason, Minette Napkatti was lying at the foot of the bed.
Her sugar-deprived brain took a moment to process before—
Minette jerked awake, literally jumping off the surface of the bed. "Nyaaaahhhh!" she cried.
They screamed thus for three seconds before Alternis Dim burst through the door, exclaiming, "Edea, what—"
"Gyaaaah! Don't come in, you idiot!" She threw a pillow at the dark knight, who handily sliced the poor thing. Feathers exploded outward, showering the room.
"I—uh-oh," said Alternis. His masked gaze fell on Minette on the bed, who'd stopped screaming. "You! How dare you sneak into the Grand Marshal's bed!"
"Munyaahh... good meowrning, Grand Meowrshal!"
"Come with me now. These are Edea's private chambers. I don't know how you got in, but you must leave."
"Yes, please, get out! Both of you!" Her face wasn't quite flushed—she wasn't that embarrassed as she ought to be—but she was still in her smallclothes, and Alternis was... Alternis.
"Meow... Alright then, but I really want to talk with mew, Grand Meowrshal." Minette leaped from the bed, landing gracefully on four feet near the door. "I'll be waiting like a good kitty, meow." She left.
In the ringing silence that followed, Edea swung her stony gaze at Alternis. "Well? What are you still doing here?"
"Um... I'd like to apologize for..." He gestured helplessly at the ruins of her pillow.
"Ugh, never mind that," she snapped. "Please leave. I need to change."
"I understand. Er, by your leave—" said Alternis, who quite literally ran out the door without a further remark.
Grumbling, Edea stumbled into the privy to freshen up.
In the months since Tiz's second miracle, Edea Lee quickly found that the perils of leading a Duchy was not in a sudden emergence of a new, powerful threat against which she could marshal her sword; nor was it in providing for Eternia's people, who even now looked to her aegis for leadership.
She washed the night from her face, gazing into the deep blue eyes reflected on the mirror. She blinked.
Leadership was tedium, and as she held the highest office, she was saddled with a heck of a lot.
Edea got into her dress of office, a simple armored ensemble styled after father's armor, though with enough gaps to allow her to breathe. For a moment, she looked out the window, over the rolling mountains of Eternia below, before heading out.
Outside in the corridor stood Alternis. He stirred when she approached.
"How did she manage to get into my bed?" she asked grumpily. They began to walk towards her office chambers.
"You have my deepest apologies, Edea," he replied. "Rest assured, I shall be reviewing our security measures forthwith."
"Do that, yeah, but only after this whole bunch of..." She stopped, groaning. She turned to the dark knight. "Full day?"
Alternis fidgeted, uneasy. "You're booked until the mid-afternoon. But I did space the interludes enough—"
"Ugh, that's fine," she said, waving a hand. "Just go get me a cup of coffee please."
Everyone always wanted something. Like monster pikes swarming over a boat, everybody wanted a piece of her, from the average Eternian merchant looking for a favor, to such personages as Goodman of Eisen or the King of Caldisla.
Her days were literally full, and if Alternis hadn't put convinced her otherwise, she would have bitten a chunk of her evenings as well. She supposed she was grateful to Alternis for that—it left her time to practice her swordfighting or rest her head.
She wondered sometimes, (even if she knew otherwise) if this ruling business was what drove her father to retirement, or if this is what prompted Agnes' resignation from the Orthodoxy.
Fifteen minutes later, she was snugly seated behind her enormous desk, which loomed over the rest of the room below. She nursed the "Edea"-style coffee in one hand, while toying with the fragments of a crystal with the other.
Agnes' old pendant. Once people figured out that it could drastically shorten the leagues between two speakers, they wasted no time distributing it to various personages of import throughout the world. Each of the former Heroes of Light also had one. They had attempted to replicate the technology in the device, but she knew they were months, perhaps years away from making a single prototype.
"Alternis," she said, nodding to the dark knight who stood below, halfway to the door. "Send her in."
She glanced at the paper in her hand. It held a list of the people who had an appointment with Eternia's Grand Marshal for that day. It was a long list.
The first name on it was her morning visitor, the former wielder of the catmancer asterisk. What did that one want?
"Myahahaha! I'm very sorry, Grand Meowrshal! I was just so very excited, meow!"
"... Why are there cats with you?" Felines crawled over the floor below. One black cat even sat to stare at Alternis, who was standing to the side.
"Meow? Oh, they're just Minette's little escats! Short for escort-cats, if you're asking, because Minette needs them for the journeying to Eternia, meow!" Minette then proceeded to name each and every one of the cats.
Edea wanted to interrupt, but she felt that it didn't seem quite "diplomatic". Minette may be like this now, but she had been a top agent for the Empire. Alternis had even remarked that she would have made a great asset to Eternia. Surely there was something serious if she requested a formal appointment with her.
"So, to make things short and meowy, I'm here to ask a favor, meow! Can Minette have the Rubadub?"
"The what?" A moment later, she remembered—the flying hotsprings. "Oh that? Wait, what do you mean by that? Use?"
"It's like this, meow... Minette wants to surprise Master Kamiizumi for a special day... And Minette remembered the Rubadub! It is where Minette met Master for the first time, so I wanted to reward Master with it!"
"Er... I can't really give it to anyone, Minette," said Edea. "Y'see, that belongs to the King of Yunohana, and we'd already returned it to His Majesty after our adventures."
Minette giggled. "I know that, meow! Minette was there, meow, talking to the king! He says it's alright to use, but to make Rubadub fly I need a 'bathport', meow! And King says bathport no longer with him, he gave it to mew, meow!"
That stupid King...! What the heck was he playing at?
"So Minette begs, meow... Wants to have the bathport for to use the Rubadub like flying, meow! Then Minette and Master fly over the sea, meow, and spend a mewtiful day with Tsubaki and everykitty!"
Minette got on her knees, clasped her hands together, and gave her the wettest, most lip-twitchingly saddest look she'd yet seen. Edea groaned.
While she did still have her "bathport" it was only a small keepsake she kept with all the other trinkets from her journeys. She was a bit hesitant to part with it, particularly since she'd assumed it no longer held any value, after they'd returned the Rubadub to its rightful place at Yunohana.
The others certainly had their bathports, but last she heard Yew and Magnolia had gone to the moon, and she also couldn't just bother Tiz and Agnes.
Still... it was kind of touching that this girl wanted to do this for Master. A far cry from the vicious girl they'd had to fight many times before, fanatically loyal to the Kaiser.
"Very well," she said. "I shall lend it to you shortly. When do you propose to use the hot springs?"
"Meow! Lux Mewniversary, meowbe?"
The New Luxendarc Anniversary? Everyone in the world had agreed that the day the Four Heroes of Light had once more returned from the Grand Chasm would be a day for celebration. "Well alright." She shrugged. "Return here a day before, and I shall personally fly you to Yunohana, to present the bathport myself. Alternis, mark that date please." With that, she could also talk to the King personally, to demand an explanation for sending Minette her way.
Alternis nodded. "Very well."
"Wow! Thanks very much, Grand Meowrshal! You're a real nice cat!"
"Please come this way, Miss Napkatti," said Alternis smoothly. "And please take... this one."
"Nyahahaha! I think he likes mew, mister dark knight! He says he can sense your inner meowty!"
When the last of the cats had left, Edea allowed herself to slump back into the chair. Alternis shortly returned, and she could feel his questioning gaze through the mask.
"Next," she said, taking a sip from her cooling cup.
The next was a crystal-call from Yunohana. More specifically, it was from her old superior, Argent Heinkel, who was now an inspector of the "Yunohana PD".
"Good morning, Grand Marshal," Heinkel said gruffly. His image on the crystal was small and only showed a bit of his surroundings. No doubt he was using the Yunohana King's share of Agnes' pendant.
"Just call me Edea, Heinkel," she said. "It's not like I'm your superior now anyway."
"Hmph. Whatever happens, my home shall always be Eternia," he replied. "In any case, Edea, I shall not take too much of your time."
"Okay then. What is it, Heinkel?"
"Do you remember Sholmes?"
"That detective wannabe? Yep. How is he doing?"
"He's brilliant," said Heinkel, with more than a touch of pride in his voice. "He's already got a dozen of solved cases under his belt. Only that Whitson keeps eluding our justice, but I suppose his reckoning will come sooner or later."
Edea thought back to that fateful day, when she'd decided a man's career path for him. Now she was doing it on a larger scale, knowing full well her decisions would shape a lot of people's lives.
"Anyway, the anniversary of his joining the force is coming up. Me and the boys—well, including his family too—were thinking of rewarding him for all the good work he's done."
"That sounds reasonable."
"And I was thinking—well, do you remember that flying ship of yours, the hot springs building that floats?"
A full moment passed before she blurted. "You're joking me! You—I mean, you want the Rubadub?"
"Oh, is that what it was called? Yes, we want to use it. We're going to have a grand celebration for our rising star."
She was on the verge of scratching her head. "And why..." she said instead, "Are you asking me about it?"
"Well, we asked the King—" Again with the King! Mrgr...! She was going to have words. "—And he said that if we needed the hot springs to fly, then we had to get a bathport."
"And he told you that I had one," she concluded for the knight.
"Why, exactly, do you need it to fly?"
"We should very much like to have it near Eternia. As I said, it's our homeland, and there's just something to it that seems... symbolic." Heinkel's lips twitched, as if he were about to smile. "And besides, I am a former Sky Knight. I'd love to feel the sky on my shins again, even for just a day. Or two."
"Well, we haven't ironed out the details yet."
Edea groaned, rubbing her forehead. "Fine! I can lend it to you. When do you need it?"
"Ah, we shall have it at New Luxendarc Day. Perhaps we'll make a weekend of it."
"What? This week? On New Luxen-" She frowned. She'd already promised that to Minette and Master. "I'll have to think on it, Heinkel. There's... well, I'd already promised it to someone else."
"Who?" She told him, explaining Minette's previous request.
Heinkel harrumphed, a dangerous glint coming to his eyes. "Beg pardon, Edea—though I know Sir Kamiizumi is an honorable man, I cannot just find it in me to forgive someone from the Empire. Not yet. There are also my men here who also feel the same. It... If you are suggesting we go together, then..."
"Heinkel, they've already been given pardons all around. The Empire doesn't exist anymore!"
"Be that as it may, Edea," Heinkel muttered. "So is that your answer then? You'll refuse to give the bathport?"
"I didn't say that!" she cried. "Look, if you don't like it, how about you postpone until next week?"
"We have already booked the weekend, Edea." Heinkel sighed. "It is no matter. Perhaps we shall merely content ourselves with the spa left here at Yunohana..."
"Alright, look—I'll go and ask Master about it, maybe he can—" she stopped herself. Master didn't know; only the catgirl did. "Well, I'll just call you back. Er... I'll send a messenger by airship about the... details. I promise, I'll make it right for Sholmes!"
"I... thank you, Grand Marshal."
She pointed to Alternis. "Can you still get a hold of that cat?"
"She's already left via an airship, Edea," Alternis said. "It is bound for Gathelatio. Shall I send a runner?"
"Ugh, no. Never mind." She leaned back, biting her lip. "What a mess. Um, Heinkel, I'll get back to you on this but—I promise, okay? Sholmes'll get his celebration. I've got to go, bye!" She switched off the connection.
She quickly made a note on a spare piece of paper, to remind her about the situation. When she was done, she shook her head. The situation felt so familiar.
Her eyes fell on the next name on the list.
"What does he want this time?"
"A most lovely greetings to you, m'dear. Ze day is ever brighter for your—"
"Cut the pleasantries and get to the point, Profiteur," she told the rat-faced man on the crystal. Profiteur was using Eisenberg's crystal, and as he led one of the Duchy's sanctioned projects, she had no choice but to allow him access. She had supported his project of building a new trading port for Eisen after all, much as she loathed having to take his side.
"Of course," the man squeaked, tapping a smug finger to his forehead. "Business always over ze pleasure, no? Though in zis case, ze pleasure is being closely tied to ze business."
"What are you talking about?" Edea asked, already on edge from talking to the guy.
"I am in need of another... boost to ze project's capital."
"Again? I just sent over those soldiers to you last month!"
"And as I have said in my report, ze money was considerable and was also well-spent. But we are of needing just a bit more to help the project."
"Hey, you aren't just pocketing the money I helped you raise, right?"
"Of course not!" the merchant cried. "Why, if it were anyone else to suggest- but of course, ze Grand Marshal is right to be skeptical. Particularly after our previous... encounters."
"And I do support her suspicions," Alternis cut in. She glanced over at the knight, who had gone closer to speak. "Edea has already done all she can to help you 'raise money'. Now it is on you to produce results."
"Alternis Dim, eh? Ze man who cannot grasp ze basic economic concepts, hmm? Khamer spoke much of you and your... ideas on ze Grandship."
"Hmph. Is the disgraced former Minister of Tax with you, Profiteur? It would make the most sense," said Alternis, a sneer on his voice.
"Alright, stop it you two. My time's limited, and my day did not start well. Tell me what it is you need, Profiteur, and why I should."
"As to ze why," said the merchant smoothly, "It is for ze acquiring of adequate materials for laying out ze foundations for ze quays and ze piers. If I cannot pay for ze acquiring and transporting of ze goods, I am forced to rely on lesser materials, which by my calculations would be bad for ze port in the long run.
"As to ze what..." Profiteur reached off screen before displaying a sign for Edea to see. "It is a promotional campaign, for a lottery yes? Ze winner will, on ze night of New Lux, with another person, be having ze flight cruise on ze wondrous piece of technology—ze Rubadub!"
Edea choked on her coffee. Alternis was quick to provide her with a napkin.
"The—the-the what?" she demanded.
"I am sure you remember my thoughts on ze matter," said Profiteur, who puffed up. "If we could but use the Rubadub to generate ze income, we would scarce need ze fundraisings anymore."
Edea groaned, again. What was with today and the Rubadub?
"Can you defer the prize to another time?"
The merchant paused. "Ah, zat... zat is impossible. Ze lottery is all the more alluring to be joined when ze prize is, shall we say, attractive? Ze first Luxendarc Anniversary is not easily topped."
"Ugh. Well, I won't be able to answer you—yet. I'm adding you to the list."
"Eh? List? What are you—"
She sighed, glancing at Alternis. "Do you need a break?" he asked.
"No, let's just finish this all." She wrote Profiteur's name below Heinkel's. "Who's next?"
"... And what would the favor be, Your Majesty?" she asked. The King of Caldisla nodded.
"I wished for their bravery to be rewarded with a feast at the world-famous Grandship. Then Egil had an idea: why not the equally famous Rubadub from Yunohana? So I then contacted the worthy lord, to petition this favor. But then he said—"
"To contact me."
The King blinked, surprised by her interjection. "Err... yes, quite. He said something about a—"
"Can I get back to you on that?"
"Edea, that was no way to treat the lord of another kingdom," Alternis said chidingly.
She smiled at the dark knight. "Alternis?"
"... Your next appointment is—"
"Artemia want gift. Want Mephilia to sail seas. Want Einheria to loosen up. Artemia want—"
"Ooh! Grand Marshal Edea smart! Maximum girl power! Make father proud!"
"Just for a day. New Luxendarc—"
"I'll have to get back to you on that."
"What? Edea say no? Edea grow old and wrinkly and crabby as Grand Marshal? Artemia pity Edea."
"I'm not going old!" she shouted to the room, when Artemia had ended the connection. "This situation is! Mrgrgr!"
She paused, breathing heavily. "Alternis. I need to make an appointment with the King of Yunohana. Also, I'm taking a short break." She stood, and went back to her quarters.
"Very good, Edea."
Unfortunately, the time after break did not lighten her mood. She was half-tempted to throw the bathport out the tower, so it could fly off into the distant mountains. Perhaps then she'd be free of such frivolous requests.
"Edea, here is a gift," Alternis announced, heading into the office with a box in his hand.
Her eyes couldn't help but light up. "Really? Who's it from?"
Alternis' reply was unnecessary and also went unheeded when she saw the design etched on the box. She'd know that sigil anywhere.
"From Angelo? Wooow!" She eagerly opened the box. Inside was heaven—guaranteed in a small pan of creamy delight. Panettone's creations no longer sent anyone to a literal heaven, but they were still to die for.
One week into her rule as Grand Marshal, Alternis had to put his foot down and tell her that in no way should the coffers of the Duchy be used to acquire a dozen cakes for Edea's personal consumption.
She didn't even know what this particular pastry was called, but she didn't care. She took a taste of the cream. Even just that tiny bit sent her heart aflutter, like she was caught in a Charm spell.
"Of course, this came in just in time. Mr. Panettone to be the next appointment, you see."
"Oh really?" So this was a bribe of sorts? Well, the Grand Marshal could be swayed, as long as it was reasonable. A tour of Eternia? She smiled, when a thought occured to her—could Aimee be pregnant, and Angelo wanted the best medical care, Eternia's, for her? That would just be so cute..!
"Angelo, thankee very much for the cake!"
"Think nothing of it, milady," said the patissiere, beaming. He bowed. "Simply a token of appreciation for all the hard work you've done, as well as this peace you have given to the world."
"Anymore sweets and Aimee'd probably get jealous," she said teasingly.
"Oh, heavens forbid," said Angelo, chuckling.
"Then, what can I do for you, Angelo?" she asked. She took another spoonful of pastry.
"Ah, it is such a small matter. I wanted a little celebration for my dear cupcake, and a thought occured to me that it would be very heavenly if we could spend an evening basking under the stars inside a hot spring inn—"
"Mrk!" She inhaled a crumb, making her cough violently. She slammed the desk, gasping for breath. After Alternis helped her clear her throat with a glass of water, all she could tell Angelo was "...What?"
The pastry didn't taste good anymore. It was pushed aside, even as Edea met with the next appointee.
"Are you kidding me?" she shouted.
"W-what's wrong, Grand Marshal?" asked the red mage.
"No, I won't think about it, beardo! The Rubadub is off limits!"
"You'll be making a lot of Praline's fans angry, Little Miss Idiot! How dare you speak to me that way? I'm gonna sue!"
"Hmph. Well, you and your fans can always share-"
"Me? Share?" The idol laughed. "You're still stupid, Edea. A respected idol like moi does not share."
"Then I guess you're not getting the bathport."
"I must ask again, for good measure—"
"...Mmmmyeah no. The Rubadub's schedule for this week is full. Try again next time!"
"I've just about had it with the Rubadub, you hear? Spread the word around! No more calls about the Rubadub!"
"Et tu, mother?"
"I—" She frowned, glancing over to Alternis, who looked like he wanted to say something. "I'm sorry mother. Perhaps next week? I've already given my word to several others, and—"
"Oh, then it's alright," said Mahzer with a brilliant smile. "I'm sure I and your father can wait. It's no trouble, really."
"Mother..." she said, her eyes filling with tears. "I'm really, really sorry!"
"There, there, I'm sure being Grand Marshal is hard work..."
When the call ended, Edea buried her face into a cushion and screamed. For a full minute.
Lunch break. Drained from the morning's tribulations, Edea elected to have her meals delivered to the office.
There had been five more requests for the Rubadub after her mother's call. She could not understand why they'd all want it now. And now she had to choose.
Few of the petitioners wanted to share. Artemia, for example, didn't care if there were others. Neither had the King of Caldisla, or the Sagittans.
She was almost tempted to give the bathport to them, never mind the rest. Well, there'd be a lot of upset personalities, perhaps even to the point of holding a grudge against the Grand Marshal, or Eternia itself.
She pinched the bridge of her nose. Bathport. Definitely needed to give the King a piece of her mind. He couldn't be allowed to get away with this.
She turned her seat around, sighing when she saw Alternis holding a sheaf of papers. He placed them on the desk.
She groaned. "Alternis..."
"Maybe we can stop the appointments for now," he said, his voice softer than the usual. "I have a feeling the remaining people on the list also want to use the Rubadub."
She raised a brow. "You, Mr. You-must-stick-to-the-appointment-schedules, want to suspend the day's list?"
Alternis shrugged. "I had thought it'd be far more productive for you to do... other things for the day." He gestured to the papers he'd brought. "Intelligence reports from our spies. Perhaps we can spend the afternoon decoding them? Together?"
"Me?" she said, goggling. While she privately admitted that it would be a tad fun, having tried her hand at it before, she knew such work was not meant for the Grand Marshal. "That's surprising. Wow, that's twice you've been out of character today. Are you sick, Alternis?"
Alternis cleared his throat loudly. "I... have been here with you, Edea. I've been witness to everyone bombarding you with the quaint and frivolous all morning. Thus I had merely thought to... destress you."
Edea stared at his helm for a few seconds before she chuckled. "And why didn't you take the chance to invite me to the Rubadub, Alternis? Surely this would have been the perfect time."
Alternis turned his head; Edea could tell he was flushing. "Now that would have been impudent, and insensitive of me. Well, if you don't want to, we can always call it a day, Edea. I'm sure you'll need—"
"No, let's do it," she interrupted. She snatched a page from the pile. It was filled with gibberish characters. She enjoyed decrypting them using the proper key—and only when there was a proper key. Cracking codes, developing "algo-whatevers"? She'd leave that to people like Yew, or Alternis.
"Very good," said Alternis. He drew a chair for himself. He produced a small box and laid it on the table. He opened it, drawing several rolled-up sheets from within. "Here is the code for the first one, I believe."
The message wasn't long. There was some satisfaction to lining up the symbol to the correct character, and slowly but surely transforming the mystery message into something understandable.
She solved the first. "'Rat and Bell venture lottery fundraise'," she read. "Wait, is this...?"
"I believe that refers to Profiteur and Khamer, who have the code-names 'rat' and 'bell', respectively. And this perhaps tells us about their fundraiser plan."
Edea scoffed. "A little late for that now, thanks, mister or miss spy," she said, tossing the paper aside.
"My sincerest apologies," Alternis muttered. "I shall do my best to impress promptness on our people. Though this does point to several conclusions."
She shrugged, reaching for another paper. "That Profiteur only just got the idea for a fundraiser? Wouldn't put it past the guy."
"Were it up to me, he'd never have gotten his hands into yet another cookie jar," Alternis said, a little heatedly. "Though, I do see the merit in the project, milady," he hastily amended.
"Yeah, I know," Edea murmured. No point resurrecting another argument, now that she'd gotten a little bit of peace and sanity with Alternis. "'Norende to expand one section'. Huh. I guess Tiz wants more room for any little Tiz or little Agnes coming along." She giggled, imagining it.
"It is... heartening, yes." Alternis cleared his throat.
Edea stared at Alternis for a few moments, before picking another paper.
It was kind of relaxing, just poring over intelligence reports like so for several hours. Several times she'd explored the decision of the Rubadub with Alternis; and she'd gotten more than a few insights on the matter from her childhood friend.
"... So you do think I should give it to the Crystalguard?"
"It is imperative that we give leeway to the Crystal Orthodoxy," said Alternis. "The rifts have been healed, thanks to Pope Agnes and the Crystalguard, but the scars remain."
"Well then, we're really not going to alienate the former Glanz people right? I hope? Hmm, why is this so hard... mrgrgr..."
Alternis shrugged, pushing another completed report towards her. "In the end, we do have to put our foot down. Well, you will, I mean. If we explain the truth of the matter though, surely they'd understand."
"I'm more worried about what they might do if they get mad about it," said Edea, shivering at the memory of having to beat up the other side in an argument just to defend her point. She'd have preferred to use wit and will to convince either side to back down.
"Worry not, milady," said Alternis. "I shall ever defend you, no matter if an army of them come knocking. And of course, our security force is forever committed and competent enough to withstand them."
"I'd rather it didn't come to that, honestly," Edea said wryly.
"Mm... yes, of course."
She smiled at the dark knight. "Well, thanks for sharing your opinion with me, Alternis. I can think on it a little more clearly now."
"It was—I—" After a second, Alternis sighed. "It was my pleasure, Edea."
Edea saw that they'd reached the last piece of intelligence. She rose and stretched her arms above her head. It had been a good long while, but it felt far more satisfying than in the morning. It was rather like being able to spar in the training halls.
"Ah... this one," said Alternis. "A bit more interesting than the rest, I am told. It comes from our source in Grand Ship. Here is the special code to crack it. I'm told it's a trickier piece to solve."
"Trickier?" Edea stared at the page like it was weeks' old cake. At first glance, it seemed like a pretty long piece of intel. "I'm not sure I'd enjoy that."
"W-well, try it out first, see if it's really hard. Then, if it is, we can leave that to me instead."
"If you're sure..." Edea took the code-sheet and began to decode. A few minutes in, she saw that Alternis was right. She was able to solve it a sentence at a time, and after a few repetitions she vaguely memorized the codes and could decode entire lines in seconds.
"How is it, Edea?" Alternis asked.
"Whew," she said, looking up and blinking her eyes. "It is kind of fun."
From the sentences she'd uncovered, the intel seemed to be about the mysterious owl creatures, and their recent movements around the world. Apparently, one enthusiastic Eternian soldier had spent a lot of time tracking them.
From what she could remember, the cranky owls were somewhat related to the summoning spells of Luxendarc, though she didn't really know to what extent. She remembered Yew once talking about that, in a conversation she was sure she'd slept through.
They were certainly creepy enough to hang out in the strangest of places, and speak in weird, harsh voices.
"And... done. Hm? There's something weird here..." She looked closely at the last sentence. It seemed to not fit with the rest of the passage. Nothing in the code helped solve it.
"Ah, I forgot. Here is the separate code for the last part. It's a security measure," Alternis explained, giving her another short piece of paper. "Usually reserved for the most sensitive of information."
Edea quirked her brows. "Ooh. I wonder why." She immediately set to using the new cypher. It must be something really important, to require a separate piece of code. Edea rather felt like she was exploring some old ruins, and now she stood at the door to the last room.
The passage said: ... It is impnt to hide info frm bad i's bcz owls see nto celes rlm. To see ril msg pls tek 1st wrd frm each prgrph above. GL, ty.
As she understood it, the spy feared the owls were omniscient and could see the information here, and so she had to find the real message by taking the first word of each paragraph.
Her finger traced the first word lightly. "Don't." With a thrill, the finger went down to quickly read the rest.
"'Don't. Get. Mad. Please. Date. Me. Edea Lee.', wait what?" She looked up, confused, at Alternis. Then she did a double-take.
Alternis had gotten rid of his helm, exposing the familiar face beneath. Only the lack of a proper pompadour let Edea know this wasn't "you-know-who". The dark knight was holding up a bouquet of flowers; his expression shy and cheeks red.
"What." Her thoughts summed up in one, eloquent word.
"Edea... I sincerely apologize for deceiving you in such a way," said Alternis, stuttering like he was pre-Arrior Agnes incarnate.
"So if you could, Edea, won't you p-p-please go out on a d-date with me?"
Edea stared at the man, her right-hand man, her childhood friend, her unofficial majordomo, supposedly the only sane anchor in this Rubadubadubby day, in silence.
Then she took Panettone's pie and threw it right at Alternis' face.
AN: Shurpuff here. This took way too long to write.
I'd always wanted to write something for the Bravely series, but I held back when I knew there was a sequel coming. Now that I completed the sequel, I found myself with the urge to write at least one thing for it. Still, I went over different story ideas before settling for this. Poor Alternis.
As an aside, writing a multi-chapter story for the series is hard. For me, Bravely's just one of those series where it's kind of hard to make fanfiction for it. Not that it's got the most perfect and well-rounded story or setting, but there is a sense of "completeness" in it. I asked my uncle, who basically just did a crossover (on this account) which was also hard to write, however short it was. For myself, I could not even think of a good AU, or divergence-even a continuation story would be arduous, and personally pointless. Bravely's just... Bravely.
Mind, there are some good crossover material in it, most particularly the asterisks concept or the whole "celestial realm" thing. I might do just that, if I'm inclined.
Anyway, thanks for reading!