Well this is it, the end of the official story. I have a few little side bits that I want to make at some point, but I've no idea when I'll get around to it. I always wanted a Melpha/Rei centered chapter and a Amara part that just never fit into the flow of things. So maybe I'll get to that some point.
Epilogue – 3
Walking with Misato down the streets of the capital, Shinji patting his full belly. They just had a lovely meal at Nyx's café, where the woman tried to none-to-subtly convince Misato how she would be a lovely bride, and now were headed back to the castle. Clad in heavy coats as the colder winter weather stung at them, Shinji didn't want to admit he knew something was going to happen soon. Misato couldn't stay forever, and knew that once the new Queen's Blade started his surrogate mother was bound to leave. So he spent as much time with her as his wives, subordinates, lovers, and friends would allow.
"That girl is nothing like the thing that stayed in my apartment, but I can still see the mousy thing hiding inside," Misato snuggled closer to Shinji. He was now almost as tall as she was, time had that effect on people and Shinji had just celebrated his sixteenth birthday. Waving at the people as they passed, Misato had that small twitch about her that made Shinji worried. Making their way down the paved stone road to the market, "How about we pick up something nice to drink, you can't be so weak to booze forever."
Doubting he'd ever had the stomach for intoxicants, Shinji was content to follow. A month after their defeat of the Swamp Witch, Shinji saw a marked change in all his comrades. The weight had been dropped off of them, the future wasn't mired with the looming threat or need to keep him under constant surveillance. "I'll try, but I leave the drinking to Leina-chan, Risty-chan, and you…and Echidna," Shinji knew something was wrong there.
Hugging his arm tighter, Misato just nodded. She knew something, a few of them did, but they didn't dare say anything. Shivering as a cool breeze snuck through their coats, "Not going to miss this cold. Tokyo-3 does have a few nicer things." After the words left her mouth, Misato froze in place and Shinji nearly toppled. The words had been said, in accident, but she had said it. Standing at the front of the shopping district, she bashfully looked away, "You-you had to know. I mean…if I don't go back Kaji will start sniffing around. I miss him, miss Ritsuko too, and the others. Hell I even miss Asuka."
"I know you would leave eventually. I'll miss you, I don't want you to go, but…you have another life there. Other than a few people, I really don't have anything back there. Few friends, my SDAT, and you when you get there," Shinji promised himself he'd stay strong. Over the two years he had spent in Gainos he had hardened a lot, but at times like this he was still that same fearful boy that timidly entered Misato's apartment. He could feel tears welling, but he fought them back, beat them into submission.
Gently yanking on Shinji's elbow, where they were still linked, Misato forced the two to walking again. A bell chimed above the door of Misato's favorite distillery as they entered. Her face, and a rather scantily clad drawing of her body, adorned the places sign. 'Misato's Second Home' had been the newly named bar's christened name. "We're having a party, Marty, so we came for some of your finest. The crew of oh so hidden King's Women will carry most of it. But I'll be taking one of your finest wines with me," Misato blew a kiss to the middle aged owner.
As if waiting for Misato's words, the three King's Women entered and knocked some of the snow off their shoulders. Each passed Shinji with a small caress and adoring eye, they never stopped fawning or caring about him. Marty waved jovially at Misato and the padre of women…oh and the king of the land. "Misato! Did you see the sign? People love it, you have to tell me who painted it. Wouldn't mind another. Though the wife might take offense to me having a second painting of you," the middle aged man was a jolly sort. Married for five years, father of two, was a member of the cult of Misato but still faithful.
"Who would have thought Annelotte could learn to paint so well from her mother," Shinji admitted. Observing the near lifelike image of Misato, though Shinji hoped he never saw the woman wearing a variant of Werbellia's outfit again, he was amazed at Annelotte's blossoming. Sitting on a bench while his loyal bodyguards gathered casks, "Then again not having to run a rebellion will give anybody a lot of time learn hobbies."
Sitting next to Shinji, draping her arm around him, "Just keep that name a secret. Not everybody knows who that bitch was before, and I still think you're to forgiven of her. Woman literally consorted with demons before she was possessed. But I don't have to worry about you, well not a lot. You've an army of this world's strongest women at your beck and call. Not that you'd ever abuse it. They'll fight to the death to protect you, you them…" Misato sniffed hard as she hugged him harder. "You be safe now…don't go getting ALL of them pregnant at once. Two is enough at one time," Misato shuddered.
"Misato-san, you're staying till the tournament aren't you? I thought you said…" Shinji stopped when he saw Misato's face. She was leaving, and not in a few months, she was leaving a lot sooner. He couldn't look at her, so he watched Marty help Tanya load up a barrel and his body went cold. Croaking out, "W-when are you?"
Her hand clenched Shinji's coat hard, it was some of the thickest bear fur and a gift from Risty and blessed by Melpha. "T-tomorrow. I had to bribe Ayanami with my blessings to keep quiet. That girl would cut this world in half for you. Now she has changed more than anybody I've seen, and for the better. She'll be a fine wife…if angels can marry. But-but don't worry," Misato started to gush. A few stray tears escaped, even if this wasn't the end of them seeing one another, it was a parent saying goodbye to her child who was 'moving away'. Taking the bottle of wine Marty gave her, he was a smart enough man not to intrude, "I'll be back every weekend. And I'll bring others. They'll want to see you, see how you're doing, and two days here will make for great mini-vacations from Tokyo-3."
"I'd like that, I'd like that a lot," Shinji had to swallow hard to keep himself from mimicking Misato's state. They would start out every weekend, then every other weekend, then once a month, then…who knew? Maybe, maybe in a normal world…but Misato had a point. With the time dilation Misato might actually keep up with the weekly visits. She was a slovenly woman, the maids complained to him personally about Misato's room's state, and avoiding her work for a few weeks of pampering… "Just promise me you'll come to me if you ever get hurt or sick. I can…you know…and with Kaji-san around," Shinji looked at his guards again.
Each of them stood at the door, a cask between their legs. They were waiting for 'payment' for services rendered. Ah yes, the time Misato got hurt by an ex-noble that attack them. His healing of her made for one very awkward evening when Shinji heard Misato and Echidna moaning through the keep. He'd never do it himself, Misato was his mother not lover, and while he had Menace with him that night Misato had nobody close. Going up to each of the King's Women, he tenderly touched their cheek, they swooned into it, they kissed deeply, and with a small head nod of promise for later, they headed off before him.
"I'll never get over that. My little man, mega player, Ryouji will be so jealous. Going to have to keep him on a tight leash when he does visit. And as for your little healing trick…next time I see crow's feet I'll be right back with him with me. You de-aged me at least five years, I feel like I'm in my twenties again. Now no more tears, no more worries. You have Luna-Luna's and Risty's child to prepare for. I'll have to see my grandchildren," Misato pulled him close as they went back into the elements.
They never spoke of Luna-Luna's tribe, a good number where also carrying a daughter of his, but Shinji felt a sense of pride when thinking that Luna-Luna and Risty deemed him worthy of being the father of their child. "Going to be different. But we've been looking at a nice big house to move into once the tournament is over. Just in case one of them doesn't win the crown again. With all the changes we've brought, they will grow up in a different world than they did. Might have to bring them to Tokyo-3 some time to show them where I came from," Shinji felt oddly better. Misato WOULD visit more, he had faith in her, this wasn't the end…just the end of this phase. Yes Misato wouldn't be with him every day, but he had lived here without her a lot already. And it wasn't like Rei-chan wouldn't take him to visit if he missed her.
Heading back to the castle, the sun setting and the magic crystals that Yuit and Ymir created started to flicker to life. An alteration of the street lights from Shinji's documents that they created. Just one of many new technological marvels they were making and providing for free. Not that Ymir had made a bundle with some of her new alloys and weapons thanks to his tech. But something was missing, something Shinji worried about but wouldn't dare speak aloud.
"Your money or your life, and your coats…" a degenerate pair stepped out from an alley. A dirty man and woman each had a dagger in hand, one at Misato and the other at him. The man hoisted his dagger up and nearly cut Shinji, "Look at that one, she's got looks like you used to have! Before the pox got ya. But we ain't got time to worry bout selling no body of some olive."
With a sigh, Shinji pulled his staff free of the leather strap that held it to his back. Spinning around quickly, dropping to his feet, Shinji knocked both to the ground and kicked their weapons free. "If you're cold, got to the City Park and look for the homeless shelter. They'll keep you warm and give you food," Shinji warned as he ground the daggers into scrap. Touching the woman and man gently, he healed them both before standing back up. "Shall we?" he missed Branwen.
Once the brand was gone, Branwen wasn't the same person. And she asked meekly if she could go speak with the dragons, and took Irma with her to look for that goblin. Shinji expected it wasn't for revenge, but to bring the slaver back to reapply the brand. But knowing Branwen, his constant companion, was gone was another sad sense. Drawing Misato closer to him, she shuddered, "You're too nice. They would have hurt or killed us, glad we have that one with us."
Making it back to the castle without other event, Shinji's nerves had relaxed by then. Ah yeah, Echidna, she had changed the most since the Swamp Witch's defeat. She stayed away from him a lot more, drank more, and it when Shinji was able to see her she eyed Luna-Luna and Risty with such intensity…Shinji wasn't stupid but he dared not think. The guards stepped aside with a salute and nod to the King and his most cherished guest. It was rare for him to be out without guard, but things were a bit in party mode after they returned with news of their greatest threats defeat. "Why don't you get everybody and we can plan a big celebration your going away party," Shinji patted Misato's hand.
"Don't do something stupid now," Misato warned but did head off. Shinji watched her go, Misato sensed something that he had as well, but she would always worry about him. That made his heart glad, he have women he loved, ones that loved him, but Misato was different and would always be.
Walking about the castle, Shinji found himself in the garden that now hosted a greenhouse cover to keep it green and lovely year round. Walking and waiting, he found a secluded bench and sat down. Gazing up at the elaborate murals on the walls, artwork of most his comrades in artistic styles. One person was missing from the display though, "Echidna," he muttered.
"You should have killed those two thieves. They don't deserve another chance. Those who can only take and destroy don't deserve a chance at redemption. They'll just fuck it up again," Echidna rounded the heavy bush. Keeping her distance, she played with Kelta and her curved blade. Pacing around him, but not getting in arms reach, "So Katsuragi is finally leaving. Going to miss that one, she had a nice body, and could handle her booze."
What happened to her, why was she so distant, what was she hiding from him. Knowing when to push and when not to, Shinji stayed seated. Clearing his throat which felt clenched, "Everybody can be redeemed. Look at Werbellia, she's making progress. And those two were just hungry and cold. People are still worried the shelters are just fronts to capture potential slaves." Every motion, every action, Shinji watched and analyzed. Alleyne hinted that something bad happened to Echidna when they got separated during the last push in that cave. But his elfin wife refused to say what, same went with Tomoe and Leina. Secrets were kept, but not out of malice or fear for his physical safety.
Flicking her blades into the air, they span so fast they appeared a circle and practically sang. "Guess today isn't the best day for it, but I've never been good with timing. I'm leaving tomorrow as well. Been here to long and I'm ready to strike out again. Risty can lead the Fang without me. So…was nice knowing you," Echidna winked at Shinji and spun back around the hedge.
"NO! You can't!" Shinji screamed and found his body moving without thought. Faster and faster he ran. Rounding the hedge he saw Echidna already a good distance away. Not like this, she couldn't do this! She couldn't leave before telling him what happened! Dropping his staff, he ran faster than his body could handle. Forcing his powers to heal him as he literally broke bones and tore muscles to catch up to the woman. As he closed in, Echidna increased her pace effortlessly, but he didn't falter. "What happened to you! Don't leave like this. Were you…were you pregnant?" Shinji guessed. It made sense, the envy she had, the change from sober to heavy drinker again, and the changed armor.
Leaping at a wall, Echidna redirected herself and slammed into her pursuer. Taking Shinji to the ground, sword to throat, the woman appeared ever the demonic assassin she was feared to be. "Who told you?! Which of those dead bitches will I kill before leaving here!" Pushing the blade close enough to cut flesh, she was savage as she was beautiful.
Pregnant. She had been pregnant with his child and lost it. Cold and numb, Shinji just grabbed Echidna, she resisted and fought back, yet he pulled her closer. In a moment of panic she threw her weapon away less she cut his head off. "What are you doing? St-stop! Are you upset, are you angry, do you even care? SAY SOMETHING" Echidna screamed at him.
"Why didn't you tell me," Shinji muttered and unlike before he couldn't keep his tears from falling. The pain he just felt, she lived with for well over a month? It wasn't fair, it wasn't right, and he was to blame for leaving her to dwell in it. Swallowing hard as more tears fell he saw Echidna was still emotionally muted. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry you had to suffer alone. I'm sorry I didn't know…and I'm sorry I'll never get to hold our child. B-but…we could t-try again. I love you, Echidna. It is different than the others, but…don't leave like this. Don't leave me after telling me this. Don't…" he had no other words.
There in the cold billowing hallway of the castle, Echidna did something she rarely did, something she swore she wished never do again. She cried. Long and hard and clear, she fell upon Shinji sobbing. And when the tears were spent, "He was proof that I can create something and not just destroy and kill. He was going to be something special but that whore slime took it from me."
"From us," Shinji corrected, and saw that shocked look on her face. "You can create, Echidna, you are more than just a killer. I know this, I see this, and if you stay you can show them all. I'm just now…feeling what you lived with for so long…I don't have the right to ask you to stay if you want to leave…but…"
Kissing him deeply and savagely, Echidna didn't let him speak again. Alone in the upper rafters of the castle where her chase ended, Echidna sat up on him and pulled open her armor and let it fall to the ground. "If you mean it, if you truly want…not me stealing it from you," Echidna was actually bashful. Ah yes…when she first got pregnant it was when he was sleeping, taken from him without real consent. Not for the first or the last time, they made love. Shinji wanted to prove he cared, that he knew Echidna was more than just a Fang. And in the following week after Misato left, Shinji sat with Echidna as she had her painting done to join the others…her hand never left her belly or the scar that was there, but she teased the others that she was the Third official mother only to have Claudette correct her, she was the Forth.
Did she press her advantage or trust her instincts and back off, Leina trusted in herself. Taking a back step from her towering position over Tomoe, Leina felt the wind of the upswing she just missed. Tricky Tomoe HAD been playing coy with her positioning. A good challenge, Leina had a harder time finding such anymore. All her years training and fighting have put her in the pinnacle of skill, and among the world's finest. Backing handing her shield at the small of Tomoe's back, Leina frowned when she didn't feel the connection.
"You're frustrated today, slower than normal Leina-chan," Tomoe grunted out. Springing out of her forward roll, just dodging that little shield tap, Tomoe spun around and leveled her blade. This dance had been done before, they circled around one another, tips touching, and waiting for any indication of action. They were sparring in the courtyard in front of the castle, enjoying the warming weather, spring had finally come. Acting first, Tomoe stunned Leina with her Warrior's kick instead of a swipe, the gong of foot on shield echoed in the afternoon air. Yelping as Leina grabbed that leg and pushed forward Tomoe fell on her rump, "Thought I had you there. So what is on your mind?"
Pulling the miko off the ground, the mud had splattered all over the red gi, Leina couldn't help but giggle. "So you do get dirty from time to time, so used to you being pristine where we are covered," Leina patted Tomoe's back in friendship. Well, it was more than just friendship, they shared a bond that went far beyond that. Last night even they had shared a bed, first without Shinji and then with him…it was different loving a woman as she did a man, but Tomoe was easy to care for. Opening Shinji's snack bag, he was off at some meeting, "And I'm frustrated because I know you'll be leaving back to Hinomoto now that spring has come to thaw everything. I don't want you to be gone."
"Only for little over a month. I must go back to receive the blessings of the temple to participate in the Queen's Blade. And I did say you could come with us if you wish. I would love to show you my ancestral home," Tomoe would forever be gentle. Brushing off the slop before it could get caked on, Tomoe poured herself some tea. Still steaming thanks to the odd container that Shinji helped create. It locked in heat and cold, kept it for as long as the drink was there, a true marvel. Helping herself to some of the jerky that was provided, "I will miss his food, his smile, his touch, and his love. Just as much as I will miss yours if neither of you can come."
Twist the daggar a little more, Leina fidgeted. "I do wish to go with you. From what you've said of your lands they must be beautiful. But with Claudette and Risty being…is now a good time for me to leave?" Leina was worried. Her beloved and much closer than ever before sister was pregnant, as was her hero! Oh and that wicked wild elf and the odd amazon woman that had many of the same touchy tendencies. And by HER husband of all people, not that she was upset at the fact. No, just a small growing sense of envy. Thumbing her chin, "We never did have the honeymoon that we planned. Not his Tokyo-3, but a very fine idea." Could she get Shinji to go with Tomoe and Shizuka to Hinomoto for a trip?
"Oh but it will be gorgeous this time of year. The trees will be in bloom with beautiful flowing buds. Flower viewings, fresh sake, festivals, and the temple will be having some of its pageantry. Both of you will love it. That and I can show you around as your 'private' guide," Tomoe batted her eyes. Ever since the reunion with Shinji and Leina, and the recovery of her sight, Tomoe was increasingly affectionate. Woman was subtle about it, an upturned eye or a leading comment and the like, but she let both of her cherished ones know she cared.
Striking her palm with her fist, Leina nodded with a savage grin. Gobbling up the perfectly spiced jerky, she got up. "It's settled then. I'm going, and if I have to kidnap him so is my husband. They can do without him for a month. And with Melpha being at the castle so much…" Leina liked this idea. Melpha could keep the pregnant women safe and healed if something odd happened. Shinji could leave notes or orders about things…yeah this could work! Spotting a sprig of black hair approaching, Leina groaned just a little, "Your protégée is on her way here. Is she going to come too or can we be free of Shinji's 'personal guard'?"
"Izumi-kun is just excited to officially be part of Hinomoto's diplomatic house. It is a big honor, and Shin-chan is practically her age and got her the position. And even you have to admit, he is very easy to love. Just like you are. But I will agree, Izumi-kun can be a bit to…excitable," Tomoe finished her tea. Rolling her shoulders as she got up and headed towards Izumi's bouncing hair bob. But before she left, she gave Leina a glamorous smile, "But our envoy must stay near the alliance for now, we can't have all of us gone. So sadly she will be staying while we journey to my old home." This was her home now, Shizuka, Leina, and Shinji were here and Tomoe could command the shrine from here.
Leaving the courtyard as Izumi's challenge of 'I'll show you what the improved Sword God can do' Leina wondered if she had been like that in her youth. Not feeling old in any regard, her injections of Holy Milk stunted her physical aging quite nicely, she felt more mature. Fighting for fighting sake, just one challenge after another had lost some of its luster in light of facts she knew now. Family, friends, and peace were of greater importance than a strong sword arm and a good move. She would be the sword and shield that protected her beloved Shinji and her sisters (Tomoe included), but her days of wandering the wilds for no reason other than to see what was beyond the next hill would be much smaller.
"I can't be forever removed from wandering. Just I won't wander alone," Leina acknowledged. Her spirit could never be fully bound to a place, and her husband encouraged that. But he was a worrier, just as he was making her into, and asked if she'd take a friend if he couldn't go. Rubbing her belly though, Leina wondered if maybe after Claudette gave birth, maybe a little before, it was her turn. Tilting her head back as she wondered to the meeting room, the sound of voices already easily heard, "Wonder how cute their child will be?" Would it be more Claudette or Shinji?
In the Alliance room, each table was populated again, only it wasn't the heated arguments of power challenges that it had started with. Alliances between kingdoms had become routine and joyous and not tense and angry. Amara and the Undersea Kingdom had left most new realms humbled. Once Shai-Fang joined, Hinomoto fully accepted, and the pledge of the Amazon's all others were lining up to join. But right now it sounded a bit troublesome, "We should send some of the Fang to investigate this threat," Claudette's voice was still somber yet powerful.
"We can't just quell them for no reason. Do you have anything other than just a suspicion of this?" Annelotte's collected voice answered. The two were standing at their respective tables as others watched on. Upon Leina entering they both turned quickly and looked around her, worried somebody else might be with her. Relaxing a little when no shaggy brown hair joined, "Good of you to join us Vance," Annelotte would never call Leina by her name out of a friendly rivalry. Leina had been the first travel companion and Annelotte the second for the dimension traveling king. Each took that as a point of pride.
Taking her seat next to Claudette, Leina felt that spike of mental pain…Elina had been gone and Leina was wanting her sister back. "So, what are today's issues? Normally we don't have sessions this late in the day," she poured herself some water. Typically these sessions were held early in the morning with the full accompaniment of people. Many empty spaces at the tables showed that this wasn't the typical meeting. Eyeing the small swell in Claudette's body, hardly noticeable which could be a hearty lunch or a growing life, Leina felt warm. Old memories of how distant they had been back in the Vance Barony, shamed her.
"That one thinks we need to worry about those stupid rich fools. I say we find the one that dared to poison my Co-queen and attempt to sell her…well did sell her to you!" Menace was back for a short trip from Amara. Using her wrappings to hold her goblet and turkey leg, Menace was a dervish of actions. Without Tiina or Shinji around to temper her edges, the spoiled queen came out in full force. Hucking an old bone at the center of the tables, "That Crimson Sorceress pair is growing in power unchecked. While you worry about your baseless fears I'm finding their sign in new Amara! Those twins should be the primary threat. Drugs, slavery, and spies are not something to allow!"
Leina almost expected Menace to demand Shinji leave with her until the 'local threat' could be dealt with. Menace was always asking for the king to visit as a show of 'peace'. They all just thought Menace was lonely without Tiina and Shinji there. Leina hadn't heard of Menace's old ways of a large harem of men and women, of being spoiled, of not caring happening. So that meant Menace had learned her lesson…and was teaching the newly rebirthed Lillianna in the ways of proper living.
"Those heretics are nothing compared to the forces brewing to the south. With the Swamp Witch's exorcism, a power vacuum has been created. Orcs, trolls, cultists, and other foul creatures are vying for power! If we leave this unchecked they could find a leader and become a real threat. We should stamp them out now!" Sigui took full use of Melpha's absence to push the 'purge the heretics' agenda. Melpha was with Shinji and Sainyang and Tarnyang, something about comparing their energies, Leina still never had a head for magic.
Having heard Claudette's fears before, they had a family dinner the night before, Leina chimed in as she sided with her sister. "But the nobles have money, and we still have a mostly fighting based society. We've made great strides towards moving away from it, but the nobles want the old world to stay. They will continue to pay for any sell sword and mercenary they can find. Once they get enough, and get their people in the right places, they'll try to destroy all we've worked for. They might even have a fighter or fighters for the Queen's Blade. Imagine a noble puppet on the throne!" Leina could see the other threats as bothersome, but not as life changing.
"With the new checks and balances having a queen from outside our circle wouldn't be THAT big a deal. Hate to admit it, but Shinji's triangle approach will keep the abuse of power in check," Yuit sat confidently at Annelotte's side. With Vante idling in behind the duo, the twin mothers and their tiny elf daughter, Yuit and Shinji's rivalry had simmered down to friendly competition. Pulling her controller out, she controlled Vante to extend her arm down, "For now I will agree that sending the Fang out to investigate each of these is best. Not to do anything other than plant a bug or get some recon. Once we have a more prevalent threat, then we act on it. Now…why DID you show up here Leina? We all agreed to let you stay out of this so you could say goodbye to your friend." With how Yuit looked at Annelotte…Leina suspected Yuit might start asking Leina how to go about a little lily action.
Having the half-filled room of the Alliance suddenly turning on her, Leina suddenly felt like fibbing. They were worried about big topics, potential threats, and she was wanting a vacation with her husband who happened to be the king. But she didn't do fear well, "I was with Tomoe until Izumi came to challenge her. With Tomoe leaving, I was thinking of going with her to see how our embassy is coming along." They still didn't have an appointed diplomat for that. Seeing the accepting eyes of her colleagues, she added, "And I'm taking Shinji with me."
Her statement caused all side conversation to stop and Leina had one hundred percent of their attention. Now Leina knew Shinji had become near and dear to many of those that had travelled with him. It was something she took pride in, she saw that attraction before others and secretly suspected she still had lion share of his heart. But the utter and total denouncement from all sides of her taking him with her was distressful. The church didn't want to let him go and 'spread his influence', Sigui was never going to accept him. The free nations didn't want their husband/consort/lover out of sight for however long it was going to take. And Claudette feared for his safety without the King's Women or Branwen who was still working with the dragons.
Disheartened, Leina left the room defeated. They outright denied Shinji's leaving the capital with her. It wasn't fair to him or her, keeping him a prisoner in the keep. But what could she do, they actually all agreed on it. Mulling about the castle for the rest of the day, Leina was going to go. Tomoe said so many great things, and she wanted to see Hinomoto so much. Maybe after the new queen was in power they could visit it again. Just traveling with Tomoe, Shizuka, and Shinji again would be a dream. Not for long, a month or two like this Hinomoto trip would fill her wanderlust for a good time.
"Sharing is hard, but I understand their opinions," she just didn't like them. Leina knew she was still a bit selfish when it came to Shinji. He was hers first! Yet all these others were getting things before her. Alleyne the first wife, Claudette the first human wife, Luna-Luna the first child, and so on. Finding herself outside the king's chambers, a room she knew intimately, she contemplated sneaking in and waiting for him. Whatever energy training he was doing with Sainyang couldn't be that draining could it? But he was with Melpha…Melpha hardly got free from the church and they had an unspoken agreement to let the wholly selfless woman have some time when given the opportunity or she'd never have any.
Sucking it up, Melpha was a darling woman and Leina felt better knowing she was helping Melpha, Leina went to her own room after telling Tomoe the bad news. It had been a sleepless night, and in the morning Leina found Shizuka was demanding they leave at the crack of dawn. Saddled on her horse, her stomach mostly empty, "Why are we leaving so early? We couldn't even say goodbye to them or get breakfast!" Leina was not a morning person.
"If we stayed for that, we'd never leave. Puppy would just spoil us and we'd stay longer and longer," Shizuka countered. On her own horse, keeping close to Tomoe who also looked half asleep. Tossing a pebble off Tomoe's forehead, "Wake up or you'll fall off! Can you imagine that girl? Drooling and talking in her sleep. I know a lot more about Puppy and you two's little trysts thanks to her. Is it true she actually likes it in he b…"
Suddenly very awake and very loud, Tomoe, shrieked, "DO NOT SAY THAT! Do not…I do not talk in my sleep. You are just teasing." But the red face said a lot, and Leina had to hold back a chuckle. It was true, Leina knew for a fact that Tomoe did have a bit of a fetish for such play. Leina tried it once, and nope…definitely not for her. Tomoe however was the opposite. But such thoughts were for the bed chamber not the ride.
They fell into silence as they started away from the castle, Leina waved longingly at it as they did leave. The others would tell Shinji where she was, not that she hadn't hinted at it before. With a yawn, Leina noticed the big saddle bag Shizuka had, "I hope you have our food in that bag of yours. I have some clothing, my gear, and that's about it."
"I've everything we need in this bag, don't worry," Shizuka gave the bag a solid smack. It jostled but didn't fall off. They kept a solid pace until they got out of the city and really let their horses run. A few days of travel, good company, and a nice time away from the rigors of ruling, Leina was ready for that.
But Tomoe just had to be herself and ask, "Leina-chan, did you ever tell Shin-chan about his mother's soul? You said you wanted to find the best time to let him know she has passed on to the spirit realm. I am sad she is gone, she was a lovely woman, but being freed from that staff is also good."
"What!?" Shizuka's bag yelled out in a startled manner before falling off onto the dirt path. Leina and Tomoe gazed at the bag then at Shizuka. Said ninja was whistling and looking at the sky as if she did nothing wrong.
Cutting the bag open, finding her beloved inside startled and confused, Leina yanked him up and onto her saddle. "Was looking for the right time to tell you, and I think…we'll have time on this trip," Leina wasn't heading back to return him. Shizuka eventually admitted to forging a note from Shinji saying he wanted to go, and to let Yuit run things in his absence. Tricky girl, glad Shizuka was on her side. It was going to be a great honeymoon after all!
Far away from normal life and the non-celestials she called family, Rei flew before the High Angel. Head bowed in utter respect for the creature, Rei still was mystified by the giant woman. At times tender, others cautious, and still rarely doting. But never harsh, even when things might call for it. As time passed and the next Queen's Blade tournament drew near, Rei dreaded her summons to her better. Would she need to fly about and officiate battles, would she be reassigned from her current location and not be able to be with Shinji and Melpha, or any number of other more worrisome things?
"So Ayanami, tell me of your time down below. You are still new to our ways, fresh and inexperienced in them. Ones such as yourself rarely live through the transition from artificial to pure, and I am every so glad you did," the giant woman's multitude of wings fluttered. Far removed from the other islands in the sky, the court of the High Angel was private and respected. The guardians of the multiverse kept their gatekeepers safe and their word and decree the highest of order.
Her old analytical mind was running scenarios and options, one never could take the influences of Gendo Ikari from the minds of those he touched. Finding it still mystifying that a cloud could support her weight, Rei wiggled her knee deeper into it. "I find it…different. They either see me as a deity or a symbol of scorn, mostly the younger look on in fear or distrust. Not surprising as we are longer lived and have powers far beyond them," Rei's wings flexed out in an iterated tick. Even after five years of having them, Rei still didn't have total mastery over her newest body parts.
"With the coming of technology and the changes of time, it does seem the worship of us has started to dwindle. I am hoping this new Queen's Blade might stoke the fire in their souls, and remind them of all we've done for them," the Head Angel's tone was somber. Floating down slowly, getting more on Rei's level, the woman reached out and lifted the girl off the cloud. Smiling softly, "And how are YOU doing? I must say I find you quite the unique specimen. Created from part of the trial, yet uncontaminated. Capable of such love and caring yet showing so little of it. I worry about you my dear. Have the others treated you poorly?"
Bereft of the cloud and forced to gaze into the unblemished face of her superior, Rei found her tried and true emotional detachment wavering. "They mostly ignore me, or call me a freak," Rei was used to that. In Tokyo-3 she was an 'ice queen' or oddball, treated as an outcast or ignored, now the angels did the same. As her newer emotions weren't as detached she felt that cold ball of animosity grow, she hadn't asked to be created the way she was, hadn't known angel's considered her type an abomination. How was this her fault? Why should she be punished! But then she remembered a few things. "But I have friends…lovers…Laila has become something of a tagalong since Nanael vanished. And on earth I have…" Rei's cheeks burst red.
"Ah yes Nanael and Laila, part of why I wished to speak with you," the Head Angel retracted a little from her imposition spot. Now no longer holding Rei to her face, she extended her arms out and set the girl back down, heavy inquisition over. Her hand went to her chin and in the rarest of showings she frowned, "Nanael is feared to be falling if not fallen. We have not heard from her in some time and word and rumors are spreading about her new actions. So with a heavy heart I must ask you to take over as Laila's trainer and take her on as a vassal. In such, you will inherit all that Nanael has abandoned."
Wings extending outwards to maximum, that strain feeling so good Rei moaned just a little, but the mental shock was more so. "All of what she has? Melpha…Shinji?" Rei could hardly speak. Nanael had registered them as her vassals as well, spiritually owned and branded as her property. Not to be touched or bothered by other celestials! Nothing could have made Rei happier than that if it were true.
Tittering silver bells of laughter, the Head Angel nodded. "You are quite strange my dear Ayanami. Aside Nanael, most of our kind thinks little of humans. Yet I see your heart is lightened by this news. I am glad. We need more interaction with those we guard and watch over. Maybe it is our aloofness that has the younger generation removed from our worship. So go back down to your beloved mortals, but those two make me intrigued. A woman of the most devout faith and a male healer not corrupt with power. Someday I would like you to bring them to me. Just to ask them some questions," the Head Angel quickly amended when Rei tripped and fell over.
"B-by your leave," Rei quickly got up and flew off as her embarrassment swelled. For a moment Rei fell for the odd rumors she heard from the other angels. Head Angels could only get pregnant from Holy Milk which was why there were so few of them. But why want Melpha as well? Best to just head back down to them, it was her day to spend with Shinji and if she was late she might lose that. Oh the others were in a frenzy when Leina ran off with him. And the last week since he'd returned was a feeding frenzy!
Passing other angels as they flittered about playing with one another, games Rei was barred from thanks to her origin. "Oh hey it's the mangel! Did the Head Angel have bad news for you? We heard they were giving you the freak to watch after," one of the long blond hair angels called out.
Ah yes their little pet name for her, Rei found it fitting so didn't take offense. She was an angel created by man, and that made her more powerful than they were. Something she learned from Asuka, Rei flexed her wings out wider than the insufferable angel to shower her dominance over her. "Yes, I have been given all of Nanael's holdings. I now have vassals and the position to watch over the Queen and her consorts," Rei kept her voice level. Flying past the gaggle of angels now bickering over Rei's continued rise of power, she allowed herself a small smile. Yes, she didn't need these false faces, she had two real ones down below waiting for her.
Leaving the heavens and descending to Gainos, Rei felt her heart spike as a giddy feeling washed from tip to tail. They were 'hers' now, both of her most cherished people were officially accepted as her vassals. Flying over farmland and village at speeds that most angels couldn't consider, Rei flipped and rolled about enjoying it. This was far better than swimming any day! Spotting not one but two different qualifying matches being displayed in the globes, Rei did worry since she didn't recognize any of the fighters. If somebody not in Shinji's circle won and became the new queen, where would he move? He was mortal, he needed food and shelter! Well if worse came to worse he'd stay with Melpha again, Rei wouldn't mind that at all.
Flying over the high walls of the capitol, Rei flew lower to the ground as she approached the grand cathedral. Down on the streets, people noticed her and pointed, children ran along with her flight and she favored them with a small wave. A cleaner city, a healthier city, one that her actions had helped shape. Landing before the doors to the cathedral, she saw the man and woman that flanked the door bowed their heads. "I have come to speak with Dame Melpha," she'd gather Melpha first and then find whoever had taken Shinji and remind them she existed.
"H-Holy Angel, I-we…Dame Melpha is with a guest right now in the training room. We could get her for you," the man kept his head bowed as the woman was to stricken to speak.
Flapping her wings as a few children had kept up with her and jumped at them. Choosing to molt two feathers into the children's hands, they ran off joyfully, Rei shook her head. "I will see her personally. One who has power over the Holy Poses must be reviewed. The door?" Rei nodded her head towards the massive bulk of a door. The door keepers had been mollified in the past when she opened the door for herself, it was their duty to serve the angels and she had taken that from them. Rei could learn, she could adapt.
Dropping her spear with a loud clatter, the woman grabbed the handle and yanked it open so hard it bounced off her head. "Sorry for the delay. Dame Melpha is in the smaller training room with…that man," bigotry of the 'corrupted male healer' still existed and would forever in the annuls of the church. So Rei 'accidentally' slapped the woman in the face with her wings as she passed. Nobody shamed the one male that showed her human warmth. Shinji had tried to be her friend when nobody else did, he cared for her and worried about her, and he showed her not all people had ulterior motives. And since her rebirth he showered her with love and she reciprocated.
Walking through the vestibule past worshippers and acolytes, Rei nodded appropriately to their prayers and alms. They saw her as superior based upon class, Rei didn't agree but wouldn't cheapen their efforts. Passing the training areas where the sparring was nonstop Sigui instructing them, preparation for the tournament, Rei stopped for a moment when she saw movement in the shadows. Just the outline of a woman in the darkness, one of Shinji's silent protectors was following him as standard. For a moment Rei wondered if Branwen had returned with the goblin since she had been gone. "Best not check," Rei didn't want to know.
"Holy Pose: Healing! Holy Pose: Healing! Holy Pose: Healing!" the chant repeated from the mirror room. Shinji and Melpha were practicing, and Rei could feel the magic surging out through the shielding and wash over her. Those two were the most powerful practitioners of the holy craft. After a prolonged silence, "Sir Shinji…t-thank you for coming to see me today. Since you've left I have been lonely. Her Holiness has been gone as well. I feel I have been spoiled by the two of you," Melpha's voice echoed in the small glass enshrouded room.
Walking into the room, less she give Melpha more time to work on Shinji's mind. Melpha had that way with Shinji, Rei noticed and suffered as well. Melpha's self-deprecation just made her want to please and sooth the adoring woman. "I apologize for my absence as well. But the Head Angel needed me for…" Rei's mouth went dry at what she saw. Their clothing was in a pile by the door, they were covered in sweat and the smell in the room was that of rampant sex. Rei could see Shinji standing tall and Melpha was dripping water of life. Clearing her throat, "Am I interrupting?"
"No! No! No!" Shinji quickly clamored over to Rei and his acolyte robe. He must have disguised himself when he left the castle to go about unmolested. Quickly donning the itchy and heavy clothing, Shinji handed Melpha hers while keeping his eyes skyward. Blushing heavily, "It gets really hot in this room, and I wanted to take Melpha-chan out into the city after we finished. And it isn't as if…" Shinji looked over at Melpha who was struggling to get her clothing on.
Seeing Melpha leaning forward to pull up her stalkings, Rei saw something she had only seen a few times. Melpha was presenting to both of them and she was gushing. Rei knew Shinji and Melpha had made love in the past, Melpha gushed about it so, and Rei and Shinji had been together more than once and it was bliss on tap for the emotionally starving girl. Shinji just made her feel cherished and loved, something she never had before or from anybody else. But never had Rei been with Shinji AND Melpha…maybe it was time for that to change.
Coughing lightly as he caught Rei gazing deeply at Melpha, "Did you want to come with us Rei-chan? I've missed both of you a lot." He embraced the girl lightly, careful not to clip or tug on her wings. She nuzzled her nose along his neck and felt his body hitch just a little, she remembered he responded to that. When her wings enfolded around him, "Are you alright? You don't get summoned often, something you can talk about?" He always worried about her, always cared, and Rei just squeezed him tighter.
"I would follow you to any world you wish to go to, anata," Rei whispered just for him. With one last surge of squeeze, she unfurled her wings and held his hand. Finding Melpha putting her habit on, she reached out for her hand. Melpha took it instantly, "If you would not mind my infringing on your time Melpha, I would like to accompany you both." It was her nature to ask, but Rei knew already Melpha would never deny here anything just as Shinji wouldn't. A life that was born of pain and neglect was fading away into her memories as this new life of joy shattered those old days. A single tear left her eye and tinkled on the ground as it turned into a diamond. The Head Angel said such things could happen from time to time.
Shinji bent and reclaimed the flawless gem and held it in his hand. "R-Rei-chan? Is something wrong?" he extended his hand to her holding the diamond.
Melpha shut his hand and shook her head, "No, Sir Shinji, I have read when an angel sheds tears of joy they become…" Both humans looked at the angel in their midst with a smidge of worry and concern.
"You two are now officially my vassals. And until I saw both of you like this, did not know just how much that means to me," Rei sniffed hard and kept her eyes dry. Feeling utterly nude before them in her moment of confession, Rei didn't know what to expect next. They enveloped her and washed over her with a unique form of healing magic, soothing emotional support. Life was perfect now, sure she'd have to share both Shinji and Melpha with others, there would be strife and problems, but with these two she'd shake the pillars of heaven and cave in hell.
Leaving the training room, Melpha donning a masking cloak, they left the church. Rei was aware that Sigui and the other unknown woman followed, but she didn't care. Walking among the throngs, they whole-heartedly enjoyed the day to themselves. Melpha and Shinji healed a few people, they played with the children at the orphanage, Shinji cooked lunch for them there and for the kids, and the ended at a lovely orchestra playing music Shinji leaked to them from Tokyo-3.
After the music, Rei felt her needs growing and had seen the same look on both Shinji and Melpha's faces. Getting a wicked idea, she took to the sky and flew the two of them to Shinji's old room in the cathedral keep. Melpha kept the room clean and empty and nobody else seemed to care about it, so it was ready for them. When she let her tunic fall to the ground, Melpha nearly fainted at the idea of being so intimate with her friend and her revered 'holy angel'. So it took Shinji and Rei to assault Melpha to get her into the mood.
They both nursed on those massive glands, still no milk…guess the number still was only four…but they got Melpha to sing. Then it was Shinji's turn to get double teamed as Melpha used those assets along with Rei's to earn Melpha a shower in Holy Milk. Once it was her turn, Rei felt apprehensive, but it wasn't an option. Shinji was upon on in her before she could scramble away. With her wings she couldn't lay on her back without a little pain, so she was on her hands and knees. Melpha laid under her and worked her pale pink nubs. But the evening didn't end there, it went on and on until the wee hours of the morning. Rei's legs had gone out well before then, but those insufferable mortals just healed her to keep it going. Both lavished her with love and nearly broke her mind with pleasure. And there in the morning light with Shinji and Melpha sleeping on her sides, Rei rubbed her exposed belly and wondered…
Sitting at her easel with her paints and brush, Annelotte contemplated her next painting. In one of the corner rooms in the keep, with a wondrous view of the city, she pondered what to capture next. Another of her sisters, younger or older that she hadn't already painted, the city itself, or maybe just maybe her husband? She never had painted Shinji yet, oddly afraid she would mess his up where she hadn't before. Oh she had made mistakes in painting, she started quite terrible, but once she started to fully understand how to capture things in oils it became less and less. Not yet, she wasn't ready to try and capture Shinji's likeness. With everybody else she knew exactly WHAT she wanted to capture about the person. Yuit her small body yet powerful mind, Sigui her overwhelming faith, Luna-Luna her…
"Her belly," Annelotte's thought train derailed. Rubbing her own muscular and flat belly, Annelotte couldn't help but be reminded that her sisters were stepping into new phases of life and she was mired in stagnation. Did she want a child like they were having now, or did she want something else to do? With the Queen's Blade officially starting in less than a month, she was debating. Finding the tray of food and bottle of wine Shinji left for her lunch interesting, she started painting a still life. Sighing, "I want to compete still. I'm not ready for a break in this life, but what then?"
All around her the world was changing in ways she hadn't even considered! With Yuit and Ymir adapting Shinji's technology going further into restructuring the world, new options for living were opening all around them! But with that came change, and that change came at the cost of strong swords being the rule of the land. While the queen would forever been chosen via combat, the queen's power had diminished greatly! Dabbing some green on her brush she started with the bottle. "Mother…my real mother," she paused with her brush on the canvas.
"Thinking too much and not concentrating. Glad I didn't chose to finally do this painting," her mind was all over. Being queen would have her still living in the castle, would change her place on the council, but not much else. Giggling a little, "Revolutionary to politician and ending a mediocre painter. How my life has changed. Maybe this country is fated to be ruled by half demons and possessed women…or a lovably and meek man." Angels she would have thought over the months her feelings would start to level off for her squire, yet they just keep growing between them like a mighty oak.
Rapping on the door lightly, Shinji peeked in, "Oh good you're taking a break. I heard you talking and worried Yuit-san was here. Wouldn't want to interrupt." Stealing a more careful look in Annelotte's studio for any other of her hiding little sisters, finding none he entered with Branwen in tow. Sitting on the bench Annelotte used for her models, Branwen sat next to him, "And I'd never call you a mediocre painter. You've improved so much and so fast…Werbellia is a great teacher. S-she isn't here is she?"
"No, my mother and sister have gone to oversee the final steps of the repairs to my family's keep," Annelotte's tone peeked a little. Light hearted and giddy, Angels she was still so happy to see this man. Spying the new slave brand proudly on Branwen's leg, woman finally tracked down the goblin and forced him to do what she wanted, Annelotte and the bronze gladiator shared a smile. Moving from the bottle to the bowl of fruit, "So you don't have to worry about her making eyes at you. Seriously my mother should know not to try to seduce my husband." Every morning first thing she did was put her ring back on.
Another of the few of her sisters to yet have a painting, Branwen wiggled on the bench and tried to cover some of the brand. To willingly offer oneself up as a slave as a unique thing, and Branwen hunted a vile goblin to invoke such a thing, a unique thing. "I would agree normally. But your mother's body is roughly our age thanks to the possession stopping the aging process. Though I would rather we not share more than we already are. But your parentage is not why we are here. Master has a few strange ideas he wishes to pass by you before addressing his concerns to the council. I find it dangerous," Branwen's gentle tone reverberated off the walls.
"So you thought you'd try and convince me in private to get some support? I hope you have a better bribe than just a little talking," Annelotte could try being seductive. She was terrible at it, but like her mother taught her with her new art skills, it takes practice to improve. But looking at how Branwen was sitting, poised and graceful yet with the slave brand proudly showing her status…Annelotte pulled out what Shinji gave her and labeled a 'sketch pad'. Starting to draw a rough sketch of Branwen, "What is this idea of yours?"
That continents on his face spread when she started drawing, Shinji loved it when the women in his life enjoyed their hobbies. "Well it is sort of two different questions, and one is very selfish. So I'll start with the hard one. I was thinking we set Lilliana free as a privateer under our name. Have her hunt the growing mass of pirates in the seas and oceans," Shinji took hold of Branwen's hand. Ever since Branwen returned and threw the sniveling goblin into the room, she stayed at his side like glue. No longer hiding in the shadows, the proud dragon maiden was up front and gladly showing herself. It didn't hurt that the next day after she had the brand, a dragon met with both Shinji and her and did some sort of ceremony.
"You'd let that woman go free? When she was under the Swamp Witch's thrall she stole and pillaged countless cities! We were present for one of them! And you want to just set her loose and expect her to follow orders?" Annelotte was perplexed. Her husband was always so quick to look for the good in people and hope for the possibility of redemption. It took the younger and older to reign in his grandiose designs. But he had been right about many things, though when he was wrong it hurt him devastatingly so.
Comfortable with Branwen leaning against him, Shinji was so much better with casual contact with those around him now. But he fidgeted under their combined questioning, "Not 'free', she would be under contract. I read a copy of the Pirates Aesthetics, and its clear that while under contract it never be broken. And that a debt need always be repaid. She owes…" Shinji pulled on his collar a little and that sweet man of hers showed again, bashful and adorable.
Being forward as was her want, Branwen answered, "As she stated when Menace brought her last week, she claims to owe master he life and pledged a life debt. That was when she wasn't trying to drag him to a bed chamber. One must wonder what Menace has told her of him." Branwen tapped her bicep and closed one eye as she examined her master. It had been a very odd meeting between King and Queen. Menace had made only a few visits over the winter, hating the cold, but since the weather warmed she was over at least twice a month to see her 'right hand'. Those meetings were a spectacle that the people adored, and the private meetings were loud and got Annelotte a little randy. Menace could really wail.
"So we use that debt she owes to you to put a yolk around her neck. Get her a ship and turn her loose? What would she get out of it?" Annelotte was starting to see. Adding more to her sketch, Annelotte wanted to capture both the power and gentleness of Branwen.
His head bobbing as Annelotte seemed to understand him, Shinji inched closer to the edge of the bench. Licking his lips, "We let her keep ninety percent of the pillage, the rest is tribute to us. We use that money to repair her ship and pay her crew. And was thinking of asking Tiina-chan to give Lillianna a chime to contact her father's people. It would give the King a symbol of our trust in him, and increase our countries ties. A gambit I know…but I think she'd do it." Shinji bounced just a little as he talked, he truly had gotten better at ruling. Well as long as he worked with others, he never made a decision on his own, always involved the others to balance.
"Ninety might be too much, eighty sounds better. And we use that to get a few more ships. One ship isn't going to strike fear into a pirate fleet, even if they have the kraken at their command. But I can see us at least trying this. Now what else did you want to ask?" Annelotte had to suppress her laughter. He was so excited when things went his way, when people agreed with his plans, it filled her with joy. Finishing the drawing of Branwen, Annelotte saw how the two sat and thought she had the idea for Shinji's painting finally.
Pulling away from Branwen, Shinji stood and started to pace the room. Oh bother, he was nervous, which meant it was either another pregnancy or he was going to ask something he deemed 'selfish'. "You said Aldra and Werbellia were overseeing the final repairs?" Shinji went to the window and gazed out.
Annelotte saw Branwen's gaze was on that slim back, her focus and soul wholy on the man she offered her life to. Branwen was the most open of her sisters in her aims for Shinji. She would protect and serve Shinji until death, with no abandon she'd strike down any that threatened him. "That is true. Our keep was never very large, but it was cozy and the seat of many of my earliest happy memories," Annelotte had an odd childhood. But from the odd childhood where she was raised a boy, to the escape from Queen's forces, the pained training and life as a rebel, and now a politician with a man she loved…odd life.
"W-would it be alright if some of us…start living there? I mean, if we don't win the Queen's Blade we won't have the keep to live in anymore. And I wanted to start setting up some…children's rooms. Luna-Luna is starting to really show, as is Risty. It's not to far from the capital, so even if we do win it would be safer to have the children…" he was panicking, man just hated asking things.
Joining Branwen in flanking the man, Annelotte slowly stalked Shinji's right side. It was a great idea, and Annelotte was a little sheepish that she hadn't thought of it herself. Tip towing towards her significant other, she pounced in tandem with Branwen and tickled his side…had to keep him positive. If they let Shinji start get depressed, it was a downward spiral. He still thought so little of himself in comparison to all of them. Getting him to laugh, "Its closer to Yuit's lab as well, be nice to see her and Mirrim more than once a month. Not like Aldra and mother will take up much space. Oh and Aldra's husband." An odd man, but he suited Aldra well and got along well with Shinji so it wouldn't be a problem.
"See, master, I told you that she would not be bothered by your request. They even have a large enough quad for…Asher to stretch out with when he visits," Branwen's tickling ended with her putting her hands on his shoulder and side. Leaning in closer, Branwen's gaze went to the window and became wistful. Upon her return, Branwen started brokering a greater connection between the world of dragons and the land of men.
Wiping a tear from his eye, his laughter trickled out, "I know, but it's hard to just ask if we can move into her home. But thank you. S-so what are you up to now? Did you want to get some late supper? Maybe take a bath, I'd wash your backs." Always so quick to give if ever given something, Shinji didn't want to ever feel he was abusing his position.
"I could use a bath. It's been a long time since we took one together," Annelotte felt her breath go light. It had been a few weeks since they last made love, and Annelotte would end that tonight. Letting Shinji take her hand, he kissed it as the romantic he was, and they left the studio. Yes, Annelotte had the perfect idea for Shinji's painting now. It wouldn't, no couldn't, be a solo painting. It would be a group painting of him and all her sisters both younger and older. Some were lovers, other wives, a couple rivals, or friends. But they all supported one another in one way or another. Checks and balances, support and aid, and they all circled around this strange man from a world different than theirs. Each solo painting was beautiful, but without that small man incomplete just as he was lesser without them.
They took a detour to the kitchen to gather a few small fixings to eat and a fresh bottle of wine to enjoy. Waiting for the King's Women and the Shai-Fang sisters to finish their bath, they slipped in unnoticed. If Sainyang or Tarnyang saw them they'd take another bath and then things would get messy. Thankfully they were not noticed. When Shinji joined them, towel around his waist, they quickly stole that from him. Why hide what they all saw before, he was still squeamish and that was adorable.
Just enjoying one another's company, they let Shinji cherish and clean them. A large sponge and cloth, he washed their hair, and cleaned their feet. If the people saw their king working so studiously on cleaning the council they'd either laugh or mock him. But Shinji didn't care, Annelotte basked in the attention and accepted her new life. Peace wasn't guaranteed. The worries of the noble army still existed, a rogue angel was spotted, the forces of darkness would never stop, and those crimson marks still were sprouting, but that would be what it was. If they lost the Queen's title, maybe they just moved to the keep and let the system Shinji helped make take over. They'd fight when needed, where they could, and then return to one another. They would go separate ways from time to time, but they knew where home was.
After Shinji finished both Annelotte and Branwen's cleaning, they turned to him. It was his turn to be pampered. After they cleaned him…and he made a little mess from the teasing, Branwen took her leave and Annelotte had her husband perform his duties. In the morning, her arms around her husband, she squeezed him close and felt him…so they had a morning quickie. Nothing would ever be perfect, Tomoe's admission of being with child over breakfast added another wrinkle, but life was what Annelotte wanted. It was what she fought for, peace and justice from tyranny, and it was time for her to accept her due reward.
Walking around in the old stadium where they had first saved Branwen, Shinji was liking his idea more and more. This place could sit a lot of people, would accommodate food stands, and was open enough to let healers have a permanent fixture. For this world's current fixation of fighting this could be the thing necessary to feed that need while keeping those that did it safe.
"So what do you think of my idea? Only thing we'd need is pick somebody to overlook it. Make sure the fighters aren't abused or treated like they used to," Shinji asked. Whenever he had one of these more 'unique' ideas he did worry. Would they support it, think it stupid, or worse hate the very notion of it. Seeing the assembled three deep in thought, Shinji felt that growing worry broaden, "I mean fighting is so steeped into your culture. Having them fight here where we can keep an eye on them seems best to me."
Annelotte was the first to react. Stepping up to Shinji she took his arm by the elbow and nodded. "Just strange we didn't think of this before, and that it was YOU that came up with it. You've always been leery of our fighting, and you know some of us will want to join this league of yours," she lead the man to the center of the sand and dirt arena. The place had not been used since Claudette's return to sanity and was a little run down. Dust in the stands, rain and snow damage from the open sky light letting the elements in, but by the whole wouldn't require a lot of repairs. Stepping on the trap door leading to the animal pens, "What about the more 'special' fights against animals though?"
"Can't we skip though's? I always felt bad for the poor beasts, they are just abiding their nature. Be a real affront to force them to fight for our amusement," Alleyne commented. Using her staff to pry open the pit door, they all looked in. A testament to the places old nature they found a few bones of large predators, likely died of starvation having been left behind. Dropping the trapdoor with disgust, Alleyne shivered a little, "As for the actual idea, I agree with my old student. This intrigues me, a fighting tournament set into different skill levels. It would take time, but it could put an end to most of those illegal fighting pits and the scammers that operate them."
Flanked by two of his wives, with Leina gazing up at the skylight in deep thought, Shinji was glad he asked. He had this notion of bringing some form of 'specktical' to Gainos. Something along the lines of mixed martial arts circuits, only with more weapons and magic. "If you're all in agreement, I'll ask Rei-chan if she could broadcast it on the globes when possible. It would spread the word out faster and get more of the fighters to come and join, and away from whoever is using them," Shinji still didn't know who would be best to officiate it though.
Everybody was working on something or had other important things to do. He didn't want to force anybody into the position that had other things going on. Working with the Fang, aiding the sheriff, running the city...all those he cared about had SOMETHING going on. Well aside him, all he did was try to think of ideas and sign papers. Misato was right, paperwork was the thing of the devil, he had written his name on so many forms over the last eleven months.
"Where is that angel of yours? She wasn't called to the heavens again? Word on Nanael or something?" Leina was just a little bit down. Shinji knew why, well partially why. Seeing Luna-Luna's belly swell and knowing it wasn't to much longer until the first child was due was a big part. But Shinji overheard Claudette and her talking before Claudette left for their new home away from the capital. They missed Elina, the scary and insane bitch that she was she was still their sister. And while Elina was only officially about one forth finished with her punishment, they were suffering for it.
It was one of his stupider actions he knew, but Shinji could watch those he loved suffer if he could prevent it. "I sent Rei-chan to get get Elina. I know you miss her, so I've thought of a different punishment for her. If you'd accept it," Shinji didn't know what to expect. He SHOULD have asked them about bringing the volatile girl back early, a week away was hardly a fitting penalty for what she perpetrated.
While Alleyne dropped her staff and Annelotte gasped loudly, Leina literally scooped Shinji off the ground and tossed him into the air and re-caught him. Years of training and weekly infusions of Holy Milk (often many doses) left Leina's muscles far more capable than normal. Peppering his face with kisses, "You stupid husband! Thank you so much. I know she's...caused a lot of problems. But it's been so long since we've seen her." Nuzzling his face, her arms wrapped around him tightly, "So what was this new thing you've been thinking."
"She'll be part of Lilianna's crew for a year. We'll know where she is, you can visit her when she's in port. Acceptable?" he gently freed himself from Leina's grip. It had been agreed by the star-fish wearing pirate queen already, at a hefty price from Shinji. Now THAT woman was insatiable, it had taken nearly a full day of pampering and pleading to get on the right side of the Pirates Aesthetics.
Rolling her eyes, Alleyne bopped Shinji on the head with his staff. "Foolish husband, that is twenty-five points! Doing something that could have resulted with your conscription no doubt for Leina, but a fitting place for that woman," Alleyne fixed her hat and shook her head. Walking about the stadium, Alleyne turned to the other two women. "I think a fitting punishment for such a tender hearted husband is to have to oversee this little en-devour yourself. Letting you run about unchecked gets you into more trouble, and after you hand over your crown what will you have to do to get yourself into trouble?"
"Agreed, I think it would be best if my squire takes the mantle of head master of this Colosseum idea of his. Who else would know the structure that he has in mind, and if we hired somebody they might abuse the position. Having so many women nearby, some would likely try to corrupt any other man put in charge. But with it being you..." Annelotte giggled a little. Yeah, she had a point and she made it with the unveiling of her latest painting. It was of Shinji surrounded by all the women in his life, the three with him in the prominent front position.
Staggered by the notion, Shinji quickly shook his hands, "But somebody else would be better...better...suited." The looks they were giving him, nope their would be no refusal of this little idea. It was his idea, he'd have to deal with it now. "I-I guess I could. Be nice to contribute something, I can't keep letting you all pay for everything. I wouldn't want to be a dead-beat d-dad," Shinji swallowed hard. His head dropped down, the memories and pain still hurt. His first born was taken by the dead slime, his mother's soul moved on…
Three hands reached out and touched his back or shoulders. Not alone, he wasn't alone in this pain, and never would be. Leina gently propped his head up, "You will be a wonderful father to our children. And if I do not win the right to be queen again, maybe it's time I join Tomoe in taking a break. Right?" Leina turned from Alleyne to Annelotte. They nodded in agreement. These three, the ones he traveled most with, bonded so close with, they'd always be with him, through thick and thin they'd stay by him and he them.
"Ayanami slow down! This...don't drop me please! I hate this!" a shrill yell in the air above broke the tense atmosphere. Flying down from the skylight was the winged angel that owned a large share of Shinji's heart, but she had not one person with her but two. Grasping tenaciously to Rei's left hand was a woman Shinji hadn't expected to see again, "Shinji-kun! If she drops me...you can heal here right? Catch me!" Ritsuko was not dealing with flying well.
Shaking herself free of Rei's other hand once they landed, a very different looking Elina aimed right for her sister. "Leina! I've missed you so much! Those monsters...you see what they did to me!?" Elina pointed at her short cropped haircut. Wrapping her arms around Leina, sobbing into the metal chest plate, Elina had a few fresh bruises along her face.
"Elina-kun had been arrested for starting a fight with some boys. She nearly killed them, I found her in a holding cell. Katsuragi demanded I bring Akagi with me as well when I saw her," Rei addressed the only man she'd love. Prying Ritsuko off of her, Rei approached them with a newfound regal air, "It seems you finally asked them about this sport idea of yours. We can announce it once the tournament begins." She smiled at him with all the emotion she could muster.
Gazing about the stadium and at the women, Ritsuko was gob-smacked, "This is going to be hard to deal with, but I had to see it for myself. A world with actual magic, just what can I do with that!" Didn't take long for the woman to start using that genius quality brain of hers. Shinji was going to have to get Ritsuko and Yuit together, see what insane things they could come up with. And he had to give Misato a lot of credit too...quite the ingenious idea! Send people from Tokyo-3 here to keep tabs on him, and visit herself whenever she could. He'd not have time to miss anybody if he kept getting new visitors!
"Let's go Shinji. The opening ceremonies will be in a week, and we've a lot of inspections to do. We can inform my sister of the changes as we walk," Leina couldn't pry Elina off if she tried.
Joining the others, Shinji grinned as he rushed over to them. What a strange world he found himself in, full of wonder and danger. He started off penniless and wandering the woods with Leina and now found himself the king on the end of his tenure...quite the road to travel. Good and bad happened in waves, and would likely continue to do so. Soon to be a father to several women he loved, a couple others already hinting that they wanted to try motherhood out. A new phase in life was starting for him, no longer a pilot, no longer a wandering support to the greatest fighters this world had to offer, but a father and quasi-politician. But he'd gladly walk down that road with them, and when they went off for some adventure...he'd sneak off with him. Never would he be alone again, never feel unloved or a burden, but an equal. He couldn't wait to see this next adventure, come what may he'd keep his head up high and see it through to the end.
Yup end on a high note on this one. Tried to keep this chapter focused on the major elements that occurred through the whole of the story. Leina/Shinji/Annelotte since it was their arcs that propelled the majority of this long ditty. Now I don't know WHEN I'll do it, but I have a few ideas I want to write for this, side stories, that didn't fit in with the flow. I always wanted to do a Shinji in New-Amara with Menace but that didn't fit, and a whole Melpha and the church bit...but for now going to take a break from Wandering Pilot. It's a huge mess of chapters and oddities, but thank you so much for reading it and bearing with my long delays in chapters thanks to life being a prick.
I've been promoted several times since this story started, my father died, my friend moved to the other side of the country, I got a cat, and so many other things since I started this as a larf...wanting to write more fantasy than contemporary...well I got that in.
What's next for me? Don't know but I've ideas and always open for more...thanks again.