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The Proposal: Part III-2

Chapter 64 / Chapter 1

Fingers flew across keyboards, their speed rivaled by none. The trained digits of the elite team diligently tapped down on their desired targets, and with each perfect, precise touch they made, their next gift to the people of Gamindustri grew more and more. Their work was never finished, for one job's completion simply led them straight to the start of the next — but even so, these mighty few never gave up, never gave in, never faltered, never-

"Hey, Dengekiko, how do you spell 'magestic'? It's got a 'k' in it right at the end there, doesn't it?"

"How should I know? These new computers have some special elite tools to help with spelling, don't they? Use them! I'm busy!"

"Elite" team indeed.

The blonde journalist known otherwise as Dengekiko waved her hand towards her red haired coworker, Famitsu, in an attempt to shoo her off — she, the far superior and much more skillful Dengekiko, was working on putting together the finishing touches to her newest assignment, given to her straight from The Boss, and she didn't have any time for distractions!

"Besides, shouldn't you be trying to get into Planeptune's Basilicom again instead of wasting time here? You'll get fired at this rate if you don't produce some results, you know..." Briefly, she stopped typing away at her article as the sparks of an idea began to take the form of a flame in her mind. "Hey, hey, Famitsu, if you get fired, can I interview you? I can, right? You'll let me? That might be a pretty good story. If you let me have dibs on the exclusive, I'll treat you to dinner later. I'm getting a bonus for this one, you know!"

The large-gloved journalist seemed to take the blonde's words into consideration, stopping her work to seriously contemplate the offer over whatever she had been working so hard on prior to Dengekiko's approach.

... which actually begged the question...

"Wait, what are you even working on to begin with?" Tilting her head, ponytail bobbing to the side along with her, Dengekiko finally stood up — her curiosity starting to get the better of her — to take a peek at Famitsu's screen. "I know you haven't been able to interview the CPU Candidate, no one has, so how do you have anything for your assignment? You're not making it up, are you?"

"Hmmmm... If you really want to know..." Eyes sparkling in a certain way, a way only a fellow journalist would be able to notice, Famitsu smiled up over her shoulder at Dengekiko. "I decided to do your assignment since I couldn't get in to talk to the CPU Candidate. If I can't do my job, it should be fine if I just do yours twice as well, right? Oh, and I'd like to have a steak for dinner, since you're offering."



Dengekiko's slammed her hands onto the table so hard the keyboard jumped into the air in fear.


Another new day, another morning to start it all off — which meant that once more, it was time to risk a concussion or some other manner of injury caused by her clumsiness while she was hurriedly fumbling out of bed as fast as she could.

Nepgear was fairly certain that it couldn't be healthy to wake up every morning jumping, stumbling, falling out of bed in a desperate rush to reach for a calendar connected to the internet. But here she was for another morning, cursing her body's unwelcome weakness all the while, hurrying to the computer to check the time.

The first thing she did every morning was look at the calendar. After that, she checked the clock. After that, she checked all of the clocks to make sure every single one was in order.

Nepgear hated that she couldn't trust the calendar at her bedside or the one clock on her bedroom wall, but she was smart enough to realize after just the first two days that anyone could just leave that calendar untouched if she were to fall into another long sleep. She couldn't trust it — she, much to her horror, had come to accept she wasn't sure if she could trust anyone fully right now.

Not until she was used to everything that had happened. Not until she had accepted it.

"Is that even going to be possible...?" she mused to herself wearily once she had confirmed that it was indeed the day after the day she had gone to bed, confirming that nothing abnormal had happened and she had slept like a normal person had. "How much more of this do I have to put up with?"

Leaning back in her chair, Nepgear held out a hand towards her ceiling. Her skin color didn't match the color she remembered it being — the tone, shape, feeling... She still wasn't quite used to her body yet. She couldn't even imagine what it was like for people who went through this for even longer than she had. It had only been a few... months, yes, it was months that she had been out...

Closing the fist that she had finally been able to accept as her own, the CPU Candidate sighed.

One day, she had fallen to sleep after a day of working hard for the sake of their ailing Planeptune. She had been working alongside her beloved older sister, all but hand in hand, and then... When she next opened her eyes...

Planeptune was ailing significantly less. Her older sister was hand in hand and so much more with someone else.

So little was the same as she remembered.

Her home, her room, her friends, her sister- Even her own body wasn't the same as she remembered it being.

Biting her bottom lip, Nepgear shook her head. She didn't want to dwell too much on it — not that she had much to do besides dwell these days, what with how everyone still sticking around her was insisting she just stay inside and rest and relax.

At least when she was stuck around all by herself like this, there was something she could do about it. Recalling the little "project" she had been working on the night before, Nepgear made her way over to her desk to turn on her computer.

"Hello, little one, how are you this morning?" the purple haired goddess quietly asked the little stuffed dogoo that she'd left to guard her computer while she rested. Yet another of the many presents she had found herself surrounded by in her room when she had returned to it after waking up. The clothes she was wearing, come to think of it, had come from them too — and they had fit perfectly!

Fighting a fuzzy feeling warmth that spread from her tummy to her toes, Nepgear shook her head in the hopes of rejecting her growing blush as her computer came to life, rising from sleep in the same place she had left it in the night before. Nepgear was reminded yet again why that was another subject that she told herself not to dwell on for to long — albeit for very different reasons than the first.

"Though I guess out of those two things, I'd rather get stuck on that one..."

Her computer ready for her to get back to business, Nepgear reached for her keyboard — but just as Nepgear opened up what she had been working on, there was a knock at her door. Before Nepgear could so much as say "Just a minute!" or go to open the door herself, it opened on its own.

For a moment, Nepgear felt her heart rising into her chest, her hopes along with it — and they promptly fell the moment her eyes locked with the person entering her room.

"Oh... It's Noire, huh..." Nepgear mumbled to herself, averting her gaze from the black haired goddess standing in her doorway.

Taking in the sight of the CPU Candidate before her, raising up from her desk to greet her, Noire placed a hand on her hip and gave the girl a once over.

She had to fight back the urge to smile. She still remembered the first day she had seen Nepgear when this whole mess had started. The change from then to now was simply staggering, and the girl still had quite a ways to go even then.

"You look good, Nepgear," she started off. But the look she got... wow, what an expression!... that was a look that told Noire that the topic of Nepgear's appearance was still going to be off limits for a little while longer, it seemed. "R-Really, you do! I'm not just saying that, you know, it's just..."

Sighing, Nepgear closed her eyes. With a shake of her head, she returned the attempt at a comforting look Noire was trying to give her with a sarcastic one and raised her hands in a dismissive shrug.

"Yes, yes, yes, yes, I know, I wasn't awake to see it, but oh how I must have looked so..." Blinking a few times, Nepgear trailed off, quickly looking away from the other goddess — anywhere was fine. She had just been incredibly disrespectful just now, hadn't she? She could feel herself blushing furiously. And with good reason! How positively insolent of her! E-Even if this person was her sister-in-law now — what a thought! — she was still... "I-I, oh goodness, Noire, I'm sorry, I didn't-"

Much to Nepgear's surprise and relief, Noire held up a hand to hold her off, a knowing smile playing on her lips. If there was one thing Nepgear was a little thankful for, it was that if Neptune had had to marry someone, it was someone she got along with... not that she particularly felt like getting along with any of this situation right now, but with time... maybe...?

Aaah, it was still too much to try to think about, she just couldn't imagine it!

"Don't tell Neptune, but I'm actually glad to see you getting like that. I'd be pretty mad too if I was cooped up without anything to do with myself. But chin up, okay? I'm sure that..." The goddess paused, noticing the visible reaction of Nepgear's when she brought up a certain something — or rather, a certain someone. "Nepgear... You don't have to answer this if you don't want to, but has Neptune still not..."

Nepgear didn't hesitate to answer — and the quiet air of coldness in her voice, far more frank than her earlier tone, did not go unheard by Noire.

"No, she hasn't. She's too busy, isn't she? And..." Nepgear pursed her lips. She looked back towards her computer — to the letters she had been in the process of writing. Her gaze lingered on one for a moment, before she looked back at the waiting Noire. Could she bring this up to Noire? Was that okay? Noire of all people would be able to do something about this, wouldn't she? Opening her mouth, Nepgear prepared herself."And... And, well, um, Vert hasn't either."

Noire blinked.

"Eh? Vert?" Noire looked around the room. The once cozy, organized room of Nepgear had since become overrun by presents — clothes, games, toys, dolls, and more. Pointing to a pile of the stuff, Noire turned back to the Candidate. "Seriously? But didn't she send you all of this stuff? Why would she do that and not come say anything?"

If it were up to her, Nepgear just wanted to ask what this woman's wife was doing that was keeping her anywhere but with her own sister, but managed to hold that question back. Was she supposed to be used to it? Was that the idea? Just like old times, maybe?

"I have no idea." Nepgear answered curtly. It wasn't exactly a question she really wanted to know the answer to as much as it was one she would have liked to no longer have meaning. Thinking about it just hurt her self-confidence. "Oh, but Rom and Ram came by again yesterday... And Peashy's been coming by a lot with Plutia."

Nepgear couldn't help but smile a little at the thought. Being here alone or with Noire like this just... didn't sit right with her, but visits like those made her feel like nothing all that terrible had happened after all. At the very least, she felt like she really was welcome then, which was more than she could say about the minimal time she'd spent with her sister and Noire after everything had settled once she'd woken up.

She couldn't believe herself for thinking it, but it really was a shame she couldn't just become a CPU Candidate of Lowee for a little while — just to cool down, of course, just only for that reason. Maybe.

Sensing it might be a good time for her to make her exit as she watched Nepgear start to smile, Noire's hand reached forward a little — as if she wanted to touch Nepgear somewhere, like her shoulder or head — but quickly retracted back to her side. She may have been a dense, prideful girl about a lot of things, but she did at least understand enough to know she and Nepgear had a ways to go before they could have something akin to the friendly relationship they had had before everything had happened.

"Well... I'll be seeing you, okay?" Nodding at the Candidate — the girl she had come to start to consider her charge over the past few days — Noire made her way out of the girl's bedroom, but not before pausing to look back at her dutifully. "I-I don't know if Neptune will be back from Lastation for dinner, but Histoire and I will still be here if you feel up to joining us."

"Okay." Nepgear wasn't able to meet Noire's gaze even now, and she hated to face that part of herself. But still... She did feel like... She didn't just want to leave things at that. "Ah... Thank you, Noire."

With a simple nod of acknowledgement in response, perhaps fearing any more would push it too far, Noire raised a hand to signal her departure and headed off to do who knew what.

Just like that, Nepgear once again found herself alone.

Letting out a burst of pent up air she had been holding in for the entirety of her encounter with Noire, Nepgear looked back towards her computer now that Noire was gone. Whenever she had to talk to Noire now, she felt a weight drop into the pit of her stomach, and every time Noire left her, it vanished almost right away.

Would she ever get past this? If nothing else... She wanted- No, she wasn't sure if she wanted to, really, but she was fairly sure she did have to.

"One day..." Nepgear murmured.

Setting thoughts of her sister's wife aside (how much time were they spending together? she wondered darkly to herself), Nepgear made her way to her door to close it once again. Privacy once more hers, the Candidate returned to her computer.

It was true that she had started a letter the night prior to Vert with the intention of checking in and not-so-subtly asking if and when she would finally visit, yes, but...

The CPU Candidate bit her lip as she settled on looking at the other e-mail she had been drafting before she had gone to bed.

Vert wasn't the only person from outside of Planeptune that she had been longing to see who hadn't visited or otherwise been in contact.

Unlike with Vert, whom she had simply assumed would come eventually seeing as she had already sent her all of these gifts, and was simply busy with her duties as a goddess (... or maybe being the late night gamer that she was...), this person had given Nepgear no sign of contact since she had woken up — and this letter would be the third of its kind that Nepgear would have sent to them once she finished it. The first two had still not gotten responses.

Recalling that unfortunate fact, she hesitated. Would this third letter once again go without a response back? Would her letter to Vert go without any response as well?

When she finished them... then what? Was she just wasting more of her time with this?

"Well... If I finish them," the Candidate finally added to herself. Looking from one of her open drafts to the next, contemplating which she wanted to start on again first, Nepgear finally let out a sigh. "I... don't think I feel like writing these anymore... I'll just save them as drafts and come back to this later."

Shaking her head, Nepgear began typing away, now in a hurry to be done with what now felt like it was just an exercise in futility.

"I'll just give them some easy names so I can find them quickly if I decide to get back to them." She assured herself, nodding for good measure. She wondered if anyone would believe her if they could see the little show she was putting on for herself — did it mean she didn't if she was thinking that way? "Well, goodness, it's just that... That way... It's not like I'm not trying anymore. I'm just taking a break from this for now to do something else."

It didn't matter now, she supposed. She'd decided on this course of action, so she owed it to her resolve — meager as this scenario was in the scheme of things — to see it through.

"Dear... Vert... dot... tee ex tee... There we go."

Well, that wasn't so hard, was it, Nepgear? She should get herself some breakfast, oh, and maybe even some yummypudding after this — just after she closed out of the other letter and put it out of her mind for a while. One down, one to go, and then it was off to get some pudding.

"And then... Dear... Uni... Part... Three... There."

Her letters saved, Nepgear closed out of her work and set off for the kitchen.

If she could say anything about her situation, at least she had become able to go back down that hallway without having to fear she would walk in on something that would ruin her for marriage.

"... But is that because I've gotten over it, or because I was so sullied the first time there was no going back for me..."

Oh well. That was just one more thing she'd have to remember not to think too hard about.