Sitting around a semi-circular table with only a single lamp overhead for illumination (because that's how all clandestine meetings between high ranking officials take place), a trio of admirals grimaced at each other. They all knew why they were here.
"Honestly, I still don't see the point." The First Admiral finally said. "It was finished almost a year ago, and since then Satire Swift hasn't bothered adding to the fleet. What's the point of doing this now?"
"Because In Flight is ending." The Second Admiral replied. "What is likely to be the last forum for omakes has been created. It would be remiss if Satire Swift did not contribute to this one. Besides, the Shipping Admiral himself as taken to the Sea again."
"That still doesn't answer my question." The First said. "He hasn't done this sort of thing in a long time. Hell, considering the fact that he's working on several of his own fics at the moment, now is a terrible time to go back to this. Besides, it's not like the Sea itself is being closed to him when In Flight ends."
"Perhaps, but now is still the best time." The Third Admiral said. "Not many will come to the forums after the fic ends, and he feels that this one of his in particular has the strong ties with the original work. It's the same reason he worked to finish the Tropes Project."
The First sighed while rubbing his eyes. "Fine, but who are we going to get to captain the thing?"
"What about the First Mate?" The Third suggested. "He seemed to have a good head on his shoulders. Maybe we could promote him?"
The second however, merely shook his head. "No luck. He can't grow a decent beard."
All three sighed and nodded in agreement. You couldn't be captain if you didn't pass the grizzled threshold. That was just the way things were.
"You do of course realize that this means we need… him." The First said with a grimace. "How is it we only have one Captain anyway?"
"Tragic bar fight down by the marina." The Second explained. "He's the only one left alive."
The Third nodded. "I'll make the calls."
The phone ringed only once before a calloused hand reached out to grip it. The Captain brought the phone to his ear and said. "I knew this day would come."
There was a moment's pause before the person on the other end said something, to which the Captain replied. "Well, actually I've just been responding to all my phone calls like that."
Another pause followed by chatter. "Well, that seems like a stupid question now, don't it?"
The First Mate craned his neck from side to side, looking at his face in the mirror. He could see a bit of stubble finally growing on his jawline. If you used the right lighting. And squinted a bit.
The phone then rang, so he turned from his daily beard inspection to answer it. "Hello?" he asked, and listened to the man on the other end. "R-Really?! Does that mean I'll finally get my own command?!" Some more words followed, and the First Mate's shoulders slumped. "Oh. No, no, I understand. You know, I'm actually seeing some real progress on that front… Well, I'm almost have a 5'oclock shadow, so… Oh. Alright. Well, who is going to command?"
A few words later the phone dropped out of his hands. "NOOOOOO!"
The Third hung up the phone. "It is done."
The First gave another sigh. "Well, if Satire Swift must, then we will oblige." He reached down below the table to grab a folder. "I just hope he knows what he's doing." He plopped the folder down on the table, and any who were close enough could see that it had a diagram of a ship on the front, and the title at the top read S.S. Uzume. The Admiral then grabbed a stamp, gave it some ink, and slammed it on the folder with a loud thud.
"Are you sure you want to do this?" Shirou asked the woman next to him.
"For the last time, yes." Uzume said as she rolled her eyes. "Come on, I would have thought that you'd be more eager."
He frowned at her and said "It's not like I don't want to, I just… if you're not comfortable with this…"
She gave a small snort and cocked her hips. "Please, I'm a big girl, and I know what I'm getting into. Besides I have some debts I need to pay back and you know it."
He gave a sigh and shifted his body. "Alright, but you know that I won't be holding back. With you, I'm going full tilt."
A small grin formed on Uzume's lips as she mirrored him. "I wouldn't have it any other way, bro. Now, show me your good stuff."
There was a tense moment between the two of them before they threw themselves at each other. The two moved with grace and precision beyond that of normal humans. Any who might have been watching would have been transfixed by the sight, not that such a thing would be seen in polite company. Mostly due to all the swords.
The pair danced across the clearing in Osaka Park, cloth and blade flying as the two battled. Shirou got in close and took a swipe with one of those large Chinese sabers of his, but Uzume was able to spring back with a backflip before it could connect. Landing deftly, she swept her arm out low and a large swath of cloth came with it, sweeping along the ground in an attempt to trip up his legs. Shirou jumped up to avoid, but realized too late that it was a feint as the cloth sudden changed direction and launched upwards, catching the man in the air. She moved in to take advantage of this, but even as he tumbled through the air the man managed to tossed one of the blades at her, forcing Uzume to dodge as he landed.
It had been about a week since Shirou had managed to fix Chiho of her condition, and things had never been better. Chiho was healthy at last, and Uzume could spend as much time as she wanted with the girl in the safety of the inn. However, her feeling of guilt had not left her entirely. While she was no longer under Higa's control, that did not change the things she had done at his command. She couldn't take those things back, but she did feel that she could at least prevent that sort of thing from happening again. She decided that the Veiled Sekirei would join the Kensei Sekirei to protect the other wings.
Which was why she was currently honing her skills with Shirou. While he had admitted that she was one of the more competent Sekirei he had faced thus far, it was still clear that there was much she could improve. It wasn't really fair to compare herself to Shirou in this respect; the man had a great deal more combat experience under his belt, which was to say nothing of that whole magic thing. So, she was going to learn everything she could from him. To be honest though, it wasn't just because of the Sekirei Plan that she was pushing herself so hard. Uzume had not forgotten what Shirou had told her of the other magic users in the world. How they could be even more dangerous than her own kind, and how they would take her apart to see how she worked. Worse, they would do the same thing to Chiho.
She would never let that happen. She would do whatever it took to be strong enough to keep her Chiho safe.
Unfortunately, she still had a ways to go, as 2 hours and several fights later she once again found herself pined to the ground by a number of swords through her cloth. The final blade had been driven home by his own hands, and as such Shirou was almost on top of her. The two still save for their heavy breathes, their eyes locked as a familiar tension filled the air between them. Still, Uzume couldn't help but raise an eyebrow suggestively and say "Really bro, you do seem fond of getting me in this position. Think you might have something pent up?"
Shirou blinked as if realizing the position they were in and sat up quickly. She could only see his eyes as he was wearing the mask of his usual battle outfit, but she could tell that a blush had formed on his face. "I, uh, that's enough for today." He said and in an instant the blades disappeared, allowing the woman to get to her feet.
Uzume gave a small sigh of guilt as she pulled herself up. She would have hoped that after all they had been through their relationship would have been more clear. Make no mistake, the two had certainly become closer since her declaration of love to Shriou, but it was clear that he didn't know how to respond. It was frustrating as she wanted to help the man, but she had no idea how to go about it.
The cloth around Uzume's body shifted and moments later she was in her street cloths again. When she caught Shirou starting at her, she asked "What is it?"
He titled his head slightly. "It's just… where does all that cloth come from? And where does it go?"
Uzume blinked at the question. "I… have got no idea. I've never really thought about it before."
Shirou grunted. "It's just something I've been thinking about. I have a few ideas about that cloth of yours… but that can wait for another time. Come on, let's head back."
"Yeah, and let's get you back where you belong, in the kitchen!" Uzume said with a grin. "Seriously bro, I may have to chain you to an oven one of these days and make you me and Chiho's maid."
Shirou rolled his eyes, but gave her a good natured smile as they headed back to the inn.
Uzume lay back on the futon, a small smile on her face as Chiho excitedly danced around the room as he talked about her day. "And after we finished shopping, we went to Koyto Park and played Frisbee! And then we all got ice cream! And then Musubi fell into the fountain! And I got to play with a bunch of adorable puppies!"
Uzume couldn't help but feel happiness at how her Ashikabi was able to do all the things that had been denied to her in the past due to her illness. Chiho had spent the day with Minato's gaggle of girls, and it seemed that she got a lot out of it. Uzume had wanted to come along, but in addition to needing to train with Shirou, she had been spending basically every moment possible with the her Ashikabi during the last week. She didn't want to smother her, so when she heard that the other Sekirei of the inn where having a day out, she encouraged Chiho to go out with them, as she needed some friends outside of herself and Shirou.
Eventually, Chiho's energy wound down and all the events of the day caught up with her. Her shoulders sagged a little while a weary smile crossed her face. "Fuu… I think I'm ready for bed now." She then walked to the futon and unceremoniously flopped down on top of Uzume, much to the other woman's surprise. Chiho nestled her head against Uzume's chest and muttered "Can I do this again someday?"
Words could not describe the joy in Uzume's heart at how she was about to hold her love close and say "Of course. You can do it as often as you want."
Chiho gave a small hum and was silent for a few moments before she said softly "How was your day with Shirou?"
The other woman blinked in surprise at the question. "It was… good. We got some stuff done." Uzume had yet to tell Chiho that she was planning on joining Shriou in his self-appointed task of protecting the Sekirei. She knew she shouldn't, but she just didn't want her to worry. "He's been actin' a little weird lately, but it's probably nothing."
There was another moment of silence before Chiho said in a whisper. "He's afraid."
"Huh?" Uzume asked in confusion, looking down at the woman laying on her.
Chiho appeared to be drifting off, but even so she still spoke in a quiet voice. "He's afraid of getting close to you. He wants to love you, but he fears that he'll betray the other two he loves. The knight doesn't know how to fight the battle in his heart…"
Uzume stared at Chiho in surprise, but it seemed that was all she had to say, as moments later she was sleeping peacefully. Uzume knew that Chiho was absurdly perceptive, but she had never seen her read anyone other than herself like that.
The Sekirei was not given long to mull over Chiho's comment though, as soon there was a soft knock at the door. It slid open to reveal none other than the man in question. He paused when he noticed the position the two women were in. "Is this a bad time?" He asked in a low tone.
"Just speak softly." Uzume replied. "What'ca need?"
"I've been keeping an eye on things. It looks like Higa put a bounty on our heads."
A scowl crossed Uzume's face at the name. She had been going out of her way to avoid anything to do with that man, but she was reasonably sure that he had not been made happy by how she slipped away from him. "Does he know where we are?"
"No. As far as I can tell, he has no idea that we're staying in the north." Shiruo said. "Still, he's willing to pay a few million yen to anyone who can take us down for him. I can't tell if he's being prudent and assuming we'll attack him later or just wants some petty revenge."
"Knowing him, probably both."
Shirou gave her a concerned look. "Uzume, if you-"
She cut him off. "I know what you're gonna say, but I'm still doing it. It doesn't matter who's coming after us. I need to do this. I gotta do something to make up for what I did." Her expression softened. "Besides, I'm not letting you go it alone anymore. Someone has to take care of you, even if you won't, you noble idiot."
Shirou was taken off guard by this, but in the end he just gave a sigh. "Alright, I just want to be sure." He's gaze drifted down look at bot her and Chiho, and a number of emotions crossed his face in that moment, resulting in something bittersweet. It passed quickly though, and soon he said "Well, good night."
Uzume got an impulse right then which she decided to follow. With her right arm still wrapped around Chiho, her left shot out and a bolt of cloth extended from it, reaching across to room to wrap around the man's waist. "And where do ya think you're going?" She said coyly.
"Uh, to bed?" He said in confusion looking back at her.
She shook her head. "Nuh uh. My two favorite people aren't going anywhere tonight." With a pull of her arm and a small yelp from him, the man tumbled into the room and ended up partway on top her as well. It was fortunate that the woman had a lot of chest to spare. Uzume couldn't help but grin as Shirou's face went red.
Although, it was worth noting that he didn't leave the room that night.