The Proposal — Part 2

It had been about a month since the wedding — and since Neptune and Noire had properly confessed to each other — and things had been progressing extremely well. Shares had been on the rise in both countries, though Planeptune's were still rather abysmal overall. Nepgear still had yet to wake up from her coma, or whatever her condition could be called, though her whatever it was had improved drastically, and it even seemed like she occasionally would respond to people that talked to her. What's more, every so often, she appeared to be having dreams, which was much more than could be said about her condition from before the marriage.

Neptune and Noire were both still on Cloud Nine and were rarely seen without the other during their free time — though how much free time they actually had varied from day to day, as the union of two nations required a lot of work on both ends. Whether they were going out on a quest together, working at one Basilicom or the other, playing video games, cuddling up on the couch and watching TV, or even arguing back and forth, the two couldn't remember when they had been happier. If not for the Nepgear situation, Noire imagined Neptune would have been all the way back to her old self in no time. Maybe once Nepgear woke up, they could even go on a proper honeymoon!

And yet... There was one thing that still hadn't been cleared up...

"I'm telling you, Neptune, sis is going to stay in our Basilicom tonight...!"

"Then I'm just going to go with her!"

"B-But... But I wanted to... I mean, I haven't gotten to spend time with her since you two..."

"What? I can't hear what you're-"

"Oh, forget it! I... I hate you!"

"W-Whoa! Where are you running off to...?! ... Sheesh! What happened to that cute sister-in-law that used to be so formal with me, huh?"

... was the matter of the living arrangements of the newlyweds, who were still enjoying the blissful "honeymoon phase" of their marriage (despite still having yet to engage in certain "honeymoon-esque" activities) — and for goddesses that lived as long as they did, that was a phase that could last a long time indeed. Rather than sticking in one place, since they possessed the wonderful ability of high speed flight, they tended to just crash wherever they were felt like or were closest to when it came time for them to sleep... Though Noire still found it incredibly embarrassing to stay in Lastation, where Uni and Kei could catch them, so more often than not, they wound up in Planeptune anyway.

Crossing her arms behind her head as she watched the flustered CPU Candidate go, Neptune sighed. She was meeting IF for lunch while Noire was in Lastation for a press conference. Neptune had wanted to go, but she knew that they couldn't be attached at the hip all the time, and if she had gone, she'd just spend the whole time trying to make Noire blush... which proooobably wouldn't have gone over that well with anybody.

Grinning to herself, Neptune began her way to the entrance of the Basilicom. She had something important to talk to IF about anyway.

"You want to do what with her!?"

"Awwww, Iffy, you were supposed be drinking when I said that so you could spit it out!"

"Hasn't this story already done that gag...?"

"Hey, no fair! You weren't even there for that scene!"

IF rubbed her temples as she watched Neptune pout across from her. They had been relaxing, enjoying their lunch, and all of a sudden Neptune had gotten serious and dropped that bomb on her. Of all the things to do during such a nice lunch, really! Leaning back in her seat, IF gave Neptune a scrutinizing look. Was she really ready for something like that? Would Noire be? They'd only been married for a few weeks, after all... Had Neptune thought this through?

"Isn't this a little soon?" Getting straight to the point, IF crossed her arms and raised an eyebrow, resuming the serious conversation that had been taking place before her outburst. "It'll be one thing for Planeptune, but I can't see why Lastation would need something like that, no matter how much Noire cares about you."

Neptune frowned. Leave it to Iffy to have a good point.

"Yeah, but... If not now, then when, you know?" Stretching her arms out behind her, Neptune reached for her drink and took a sip of it lazily. She had given this a lot of thought before she'd brought it up to anyone, and IF was the first person she'd come to about it, unless talking to the sleeping Nepgear counted. Compa would have probably let it slip by mistake, and Histoire would have probably shut down for a week. "Besides, with how things are in Lastation, it's not like there'd be any reason to refuse either, right?"

"Well... I suppose that's true..." IF pursed her lips. This was dangerous territory Neptune was treading on now — thin ice, so to speak — and she didn't want to see Neptune get hurt over it. Of course, knowing Noire, the other CPU would probably be ecstatic, but... What would the people think? "This isn't like when you got married — this is big, and a lot of work will have to go into it. There's a lot more risks involved here. If you mess up, you might not only end up back where you were before, you'll drag Noire right down with you. Are you sure you're up for something like that?"

"Of course, Iffy! Who do you think you're talking to?" Neptune gave her friend a cheerful, dynamic pose and then put her hands on her hips. "What, do you have reason to doubt me? I'm pretty great, you know."

"That's exactly why I doubt..." IF groaned. On the one hand, she was thrilled that Neptune was perking up lately, but on the other hand... Well, a perky Neptune only meant trouble. At least, IF supposed, if Neptune was acting this confident about it after everything she'd been through, then she probably wasn't really taking it as lightly as she seemed. At least, IF hoped so. "I guess you want to know how to go about bringing it up to her, right?"

"Yes, yes, that's exactly right!" Neptune let out a sigh of relief. She knew she could always count on IF for these kinds of things. That was her not-daughter! ... Well technically the IF from the other wasn't really her daughter at all, so she'd be the not-daughter... So this IF would be the not-not-daughter? Whatever! Giving IF a cheerful nod, the CPU looked to her friend expectantly. "So? How about it? Got any words of wisdom for me, Iffy? And don't hold back a single one just because we're newlyweds!"

"Honestly...?" IF now couldn't help but smile awkwardly. Unfortunately for Neptune, well... "This is kind of more of a CPU thing. Not my area of expertise, you know? The best I can tell you is do something nice for her, maybe take her out or treat her to somewhere really special, and tell her your intentions then. Like if you were going to propose or something."

"Like if I was going to propose..." Neptune repeated. IF blinked. Neptune seemed to be taking this a lot more seriously than she had first thought she was. In fact, if IF had to bet, she'd guess that Neptune was going over just how she could pull it off and get Noire to agree to it right this very moment. Maybe this crazy idea of Neptune's would work out after all. ... Maybe.

"So?" IF leaned back in her seat, taking a bite out of her sandwich before she continued. "Was this the only reason you wanted to talk to me, or was there anything else? I don't know if my heart can take another shock like that one, so you know."

"Well..." To IF's surprise (and worry), Neptune actually sobered up at her question. IF could only wonder what was going on in the purple haired CPU's head. She had a growing blush on her cheeks, which probably meant it was just something innocent related to her relationship with Noire... After all, it had been IF that had helped push Neptune to the other CPU, so it would make sense that Neptune might come to IF for advice, right? IF grinned inwardly. Who would have thought, her, a love guru? Compa would be proud.

"Well...?" IF raised an eyebrow. Neptune was acting flat out... odd now. She was blushing, scratching one of her cheeks, and had gotten all quiet all of a sudden. In a way, it was almost creepier than those the few times IF had seen Neptune being depressed. Almost. "What is this about? It can't be as crazy as what you've already told me, so just go for it."

"Ohhhh, I can't! It's too embarrassiiiiing!" IF choked as Neptune suddenly responded with a girlish squeal, clutching her sides as she did so. Just what was up with this CPU today!? First she'd told IF she wanted to do that with Noire, and now this!?

"N-Neppy! We're in public!" IF tried to remind Neptune that they had images to uphold (mostly Neptune, really), but Neptune had chosen an unpopular restaurant and a time of day that wasn't busy for a reason. Mainly so that she could be as honest with herself as she wanted... And so that when IF cried out at her, as she had been, no one would pay it any mind.

"Oh, don't mind that," Neptune waved her hand dismissively, her cheeks stained bright red and a smile a mile wide on her face. To appease IF, she looked around, but there was no one seated near them and their server was nowhere in sight. "See? No one's listening! You're almost as much of a worrywart as Noire."

"Almost as much of a..." Now it was IF's turn to blush, as she couldn't help but wonder how the idea of worrying about being in public made her a worrywart like Noire, and what that meant the two CPUs were doing in their free time where everyone could see... Her blush darkening, IF tried to regain her composure by taking some more of her drink before continuing. "A-Anyway, just come out with it already! Like I said, it can't be as surprising as the other thing, can it?"

"Iffy, you have no idea," Neptune replied knowingly, nodding to herself. After a few moments of silence shared between the two, Neptune sighed and sunk into her seat. The truth was that even before IF had suggested it (even if it was for something else), she had wanted to do something really special for Noire, and maybe... do that with her if the something special played out well. At least, it was an idea. The problem was that whenever Neptune started thinking about doing that with Noire, Neptune started feeling...

Neptune shook her head. This wasn't the time for that! The point was that she needed advice — and who better to ask than one of her bestest friends in the whole wide world?

IF tilted her head as she watched Neptune, both curious and amused. This relationship was doing wonders for the CPU. Before, she never would have thought about things like this, but now, it looked like she was really torn about... well, whatever she was torn about. If IF could be of any help to her friend, she'd be glad to do it, but she supposed she'd need to wait for Neptune to be ready to ask her — with delicate things like this, pushing the subject might not be the best way to go about things.

"A-Anyway!" After a fierce internal battle that ended with a wailing Neptune inwardly declaring to herself that she still wasn't sure if she was ready to take things to that level, Neptune put on a smile and gave IF a thumbs up. "Let's talk about other things!"

"- Huh?" Okay, so IF had just decided that pushing the subject might be a bad idea, but she hadn't expected Neptune to up and drop it on her. She was curious now, darn it! Staring at Neptune dimly for a few moments, the guild member sighed and shook her head. That was Neptune alright... "Uh... Sure. What did you have in mind?"

Neptune looked at IF for a few moments. Truthfully, she didn't actually have anything else in mind — she'd come here with the specific purpose of asking her friend's advice on two specific subjects, and now she found herself unable to even ask the other girl about one of them due to her own issues. Talk about getting cold feet! And if she couldn't talk to IF about it, then who could she talk to?!

Come to think of it, though... Speaking of that second subject... Neptune had been going to bring something else up when she'd asked about it, but since she wasn't asking about that, she could still ask about that other thing... Right?

"Actually, there's been something I've been meaning to ask you for a while..." IF raised an eyebrow as Neptune slowly began leading up into her question, whatever it was. Deeming it safe to take another swig of her drink, IF lifted her glass and took a nice long drink of the cool refreshing liquid- "How long have you and Compa been a thing?"

- and promptly sprayed her drink everywhere. If she didn't know better, she might have sworn that she had seen a rainbow in the liquid that had cascaded from her mouth.

"W-W-W-What are you talking about!?"

"Oh, you know," Neptune replied teasingly, fluttering her eyelashes and hugging herself before making a suggestive glance towards IF. "And more importantly, I know."

"I-I don't know what you're talking about..." Unfortunately for IF, she didn't sound even remotely confident in herself. It wasn't like she and Compa had been keeping things a secret or anything, it had just kind of ended up like that... And now Neptune had figured them out!? When the hell had this girl gotten so perceptive...!?

As Neptune began to laugh like a little devil! that's it, she was the devil! IF groaned and dropped her head onto the table.

"Compa, save me...!"

It was a peaceful day in Lowee. There wasn't too much snow falling, but just enough to make the ground nice and crunchy under the feet of those that were outside. The sun was shining, there were no monsters in sight, and the people of the snowy land were enjoying the newly released Pocketed Monstrosities game to the fullest. The twin CPU Candidates in particular had done a lot to promote the game, and were enjoying the rewards of their efforts in the form of extra dessert for a month.

All in all, life was pretty good.

Inside the Basilicom, Blanc was busy typing away on her computer when she received a call. She frowned, hesitating as she saw who was calling.

Eventually deciding to ignore it, she let the phone finish ringing before she continued her work. She wanted to get this done before dinner so that she could have the rest of the evening to work on her stories. She'd been helping her sisters a lot lately, so she hadn't had as much free time to work on them, but-

Blanc's eye twitched as the phone began ringing again. A quick glance told her it was the same caller. She just didn't know when to give up, did she?

Not one to back down, Blanc ignored the phone and waited for the ringing to cease. As soon as it did, she cracked her knuckles and started to type with renewed gusto, but before she could even finish a single paragraph-

There was that phone again. So frustrated that she actually found herself transforming into her HDD form, Blanc tapped the button that activated her phone's two-way communication screen and glared into it — or rather, at the person on the other end.

"Damn it Vert, what the hell is it!?"