A/N: this chapter is dedicated to Gaginun Girl, thanks for all the encouraging messages :D

Chapter Five – Banter


Gaignun berated lowly as he heard the email chime from his connection gear, announcing the arrival of a new message.

"I'm your ward alright, but not also your slave. I'm sacrificing legitimate free time and weekends in order to run this foundation on your behalf and for the greater good, so at least be mindful of the three hours time-difference between this space region and Miltia and stop flooding me with your orders past my work time already!"

He sighed as he decided to ignore it for the time being as his nails tapped the side of his tea cup to check upon its heat before picking it up with its saucer nursed on the other hand to pivot himself on his swivel chair to face the unmissable sight of the foundation, slowly being colored with the golden and reddish hues of the setting sun, a real setting sun that was not the reconstruction of billions of lumps of nanomachines -Shelly had intentionally commanded that the entire foundation be tilted a little backwardly to elude the unmerciful heat that the solar star that he was now beholding radiated that could disturb the adjusted interior heat of the of the colony.

Unlike the imitation that was created by technology, the rays of the real thing were bright against his eyes like a torch, and lukewarm against his skin like a comforter, that soothing sensation reminded him of his childhood settlement planet Zavarov, when he and his older two brothers would hang out in the gardens, bathed in the golden light of the afternoon sun after being cooped up for hours within the dive pods, passing the time until dusk chitchatting and planning dinner's and tomorrow's pranks.

"Hmm, this green tea is bitter, but surprisingly refreshing!"

He inwardly commented as taking another sip of the herbal beverage that Shion had recommended to him to 'flush out his accumulated stress at the end of the day and relax him', whether that statement was based on a scientific find or was just an archaic recipe in the Uzuki family it proved none the less to be quite credible.

He placed aside his empty cup and rested his chin on his knuckled arms that was propped on the arm set as he mused on the suffocating circumstances that were wearing down on his endurance and stealing away his social life from him. Ever since the retrieval of the last Zohar Emulator, official demands and predicaments had been deluging on the foundation, it was as though the entire universe had been given some cue and commenced accelerating towards something and that the galaxy federation and even the immigrant fleet were the white and black pieces of a chess game that were meticulously manipulated by someone who was operating behind the scenes, but who could be benefiting from plunging the entire galactic community into chaos?

"Fu..." he cut himself off in the middle of that heinous word as he heard the intercom peeping and shook his head chastisingly -he always castigated Jr. to watch his tongue around the others, especially MOMO whenever he opens his mouth, but since old habits cannot die that easily he just reminded him to loose the reins on the obscene language only around him or the Godwin sisters. It was quite bothersome, always feeling the obligation to make the example for the older, but rash brother, but he couldn't help but feel empathy in the end towards someone who shouldn't and at the same time should act his true age. He quickly composed his seething self and clicked on the answering button as he replied flatly.

"What is it Tsubaki?"

"Sorry to disturb you Mr. Kukai, but your house guest Ms Shion Uzuki is requesting to see you."

Bewilderment replaced the contained exasperation on his face, but quickly regained his composure as he issued, "send her in. You can leave once your work is done, I'll be fine."

"Thank you sir. Have a nice evening."

And once the communication ended, Gaignun hastily tidied up the papery mess on his desk, all the time wondering what was the reason behind this unexpected visit and briskly sat back on his chair with his fingers intertwined on his stomach as he heard the double door to his office whish open.

"I hope I didn't come in such a bad time!" Shion beamed apologetically once she stepped in.

"Not at all," he replied cogitatively as he got up, picking up his empty tea cup and walked over to the hospitality cart that housed the confectionary and caffeinated beverages, "what can I serve you to?"

"Coffee will be fine!" she replied, taking one of the leather seats in front of his desk.

"You went shopping?" he inquired, eyeing the bag that she had tucked by the metal stands of her chair as he handed her cup and placed a small plate of cookies on the glass coffee table in front of her.

"A shopping spree to put it accurately," she gave the two sugar sachets that came with her saucer a few abrupt waves before tearing them to dump its content in her steaming brew, "I'll make sure to invest this opportunity to make up for the hectic two years that I've been cooped up day and night between the plain walls of First Division and pamper myself with the finest luxury that this colony can offer!"

"Glad to hear it!" he chuckled and added playfully, "now, don't forget to tell your friends and co-workers when you return home about all the good times that you had in our foundation, ok?"

"Oh, you've earned all the free publicity that you're winking and nudging me for mister," she laughed reciprocally, "the merchandizes are outstanding, the people here are nice and the means of entertainment are almost endless!"

"That's our equation to how we have managed to stay on top in the tourism and entertainment business." he then brought up the question that had been bugging him, "so, what's the cause of this pleasantly unexpected visit?"

"Oh, I almost forgot!" she exclaimed and picked up the bag that she had brought with her from the floor.

Gaignun raised a brow as she stood up, holding up with both hands the bag beckoningly with a slight blush clouding the bridge of her nose and followed suit as he got up and took it from her. He lowered himself to sit back after she did and took out the package inside and read out the bold capitalized dark fonts that he supposed was the content's name, "a foot massager?"

"Since it seems you spend most of the day glued to your office chair, I figured that you have a high risk of thrombosis, this will keep the blood in your feet from clotting and ensure it's circulating normally!"

Gaignun couldn't contain the redness that spread across his cheek and kept his eyes fixated on the box in his hands as she flashed him that tender smile, feeling a bit privileged; not even his own brother ever thought about all the health risks that were associated with his seated work while running a foundation of this magnitude, heck, he even pointed the finger at him at occasions, accusing him that he was intentionally dumping all the arduous work that he didn't feel like doing on him or the Godwin sisters with no consideration that the matters that he had selected for himself to attend to could in no way be handled by that red head's impulsion and recklessness. He murmured his appreciation, "how kind of you."

She chuckled as she rested her cheek on her palm and eyed him, "makes me wonder how you and our company's CEO manage to keep your physique in proportions despite of the nature of your work, you're using lipo-suction?"

"Of course not!" he replied a bit sharply than he intended to sound.

"I was just kidding there!" she waved both hands defensively, "most conglomerate owners like you that I've seen on TV were obese and bald and yet you look as fit as a movie star! In the case of Mr. Wilhelm, many people at the company are gossiping that besides lipo-suction, he might be using a special type of nanomachines that preserve his youth."

Gaignun held back the laugh that threatened to escape his throat as he heard the way she was talking about her boss behind his back and he wondered if his own employees were doing the exact same to him, he confessed, "I work out whenever I get the chance, but I'm also a biological weapon as you already know, unlike Jr. who often gets to show off his gunplay and acrobatic moves that he copies off those action movies that he's addicted to against the gnosis and the U-TIC organization, the only way I'm stuck with to satiate my lust for battle is via the EVS." he smiled to himself as he recalled how his brother sometime manages to talk him into playing tag in the virtual world, like the three of them used to do in their younger days in the institute.

Shion watched in fascination as she sipped the remainder in her cup as her host's eyes lowered with his mouth curving into that genuine smile as though his previous statement had unearthed a treasured memory and as she placed down her empty cup on the coffee table before her, she frowned as returned her hands on her lap as she eyed the plate of frosted cookies.

"Go ahead," he smirked as he interpreted that body language, "they look quite appetizing, but they're actually low in fat!"

Shion blushed, but reluctantly picked up one and obverted it from one side to another as she inquired playfully, "another method to keep you in shape?"

He chuckled as he noted the pout that wrinkled her peach-painted lips, "no, but when you get too many shareholders who are chronically suffering from heart diseases and such you should be mindful of what you serve them with, it's a good approach if you want to leave a favorable impression, you have no idea how long of a way little details like these could go."

Because it wasn't always fun to get people to do as he says with his soothingly hypnotic voice that his father had exclusively bestowed him with for that very purpose.

"Wow, you're not so admired and successful in the business world for nothing!" Shion commented in astonishment and took a bite off the cookie and as her eyes spotted the darkening sky out of the view window, she bolted upright with a start, "Oh my God, I've lost track of time!"

"You have an appointment or something?" he inquired worriedly and offered, "I'll get my driver to take you wherever you should be present at."

"No, it's just I get to prepare dinner and I promised Jr. to cook sukiyaki tonight, do you have any idea how much time that dish takes to prepare?"

Gaignun rolled his eyes, that's right, ever since she cooked curry that night, she took it upon herself to nourish his household during her settlement with home-made meals and that got him to cancel the dinner orders with the Royal Orleans, well, he wasn't complaining since Shion's food was scrumptious and prepared with so much heart, not to mention he quite enjoyed watching her in an apron and barking at the others to give her a hand.

"Well I gotta go," she turned around to leave and tossed him a smile before she stepped out of the office, "don't overwork yourself!"

Gaignun eyed the closed double door for a moment before sighing as he gripped on his mouse and clicked on his unread mail, "I wonder if this what is like to have a mother...or a missus!"

He snickered at that last thought.

A/N: Episode III filled me with the inspiration and enthusiasm that I needed to continue this fic. I must note that the rest of this story will not follow the events of Ep III since I've been aiming from the start for a happy ending for the two, but the history of the URTVs and the myraid of Xeno mysteries will still heavily influence the plot.