Sometimes, for reasons obscure to him, Pit would wake in the middle of the night. No nightmares, no discomfort, nothing immediately obvious. Just awake, just staring at darkness, a little bit alert but not enough that he couldn't go back to sleep if he wanted to.
At times like that, he wished he had better night vision, so that the vague shapes in the room would be more intelligible to him. He didn't expect to get anything done in the dark - he needed sleep eventually! - but at least he wouldn't have to squint at things when he wanted to pass time studying them.
Despite the night and the dark, he could clearly make out Palutena lying next to him. So much so that on this night, he could see her eyes were open and that she seemed calm.
"Did you just wake up?"
"Mm," was all she said for a while. "Been awake."
He inched closer so that she could touch him. "Having trouble falling asleep?"
She curled around him closer than usual, surrounding him with warmth. Her hair curtained off what little light he could see, and he closed his eyes.
"Maybe a nightmare?" he offered.
"No," she said, filling the space after she said it with a long sigh. "I'm too tired to sleep."
"Thinking about work."
"You've been doing that a lot lately."
"Been getting a lot lately."
Pit wondered in silence for a while.
"I've been wondering about stuff."
He waited for permission to ask about the things he had been thinking about. Palutena yawned, her chin digging into his hair. Then, she murmured, "Go on."
"Is your work hard?"
"How do you keep track of everything? How can you take care of the world and still spend time with me? Or with Tip? Do you have to choose between the humans and us?"
He knew he wasn't giving her room to answer, so he paused and hoped that she would speak up. He waited, feeling tired fingers scratch the back of his head.
"Don't have to choose," Palutena said. "Just have to borrow the time to take care of everything."
He was familiar with the phrase "making time," but this was new, and it didn't seem to be a mistake in phrasing brought about by exhaustion. "Borrowing time?"
She let out a long sigh.
"Sorry, I should let you sleep."
"I'm not sleeping. I'm just trying to find a way to explain it without breaking rules," she said. "I borrow it under conditions, and some of them are really complicated..."
"Take your time. Ahaha - I didn't even mean that joke," he snuggled into her chest.
Her chuckle shook his body in a pleasant way.
"There is a timekeeper," she began. "With his help, we can do more in a day. An hour can become three, or five. Living in stretched time isn't pleasant, but sometimes it's necessary."
That helped explain Palutena's ability to account for and coordinate all the moving parts of Skyworld and her divinity, though he wanted to believe most of it was due to her own power. Pit hoped that he was a worthy use of such time, though he tried not to dwell on the thought too much. "Does the timekeeper pick how much time he lets you have?"
"His ledger is extensive," she said instead. "Though we gods bank on the fact he seems to forget to check it."
"Seems to, huh..."
She nodded against his head.
"Do all gods borrow time?"
"I imagine they have to," she said, her voice getting quieter. "...Though they might relegate their duties to servants or lesser divinities. No need to borrow time for some things then."
Pit thought of how empty Skyworld was and frowned.
"Might be something you'll understand soon," she murmured.
Palutena didn't answer or say anything else. Figuring she had finally decided to go to sleep, he pulled the covers closer to them and settled his thoughts.
Tip! I need you up here, Viridi's voice cut through the quiet of the beach. Finish what you're doing and take the lift.
A barely-visible trail of dust and leaves appeared before Dark Pit's eyes. He glanced at the bramble he was raiding for berries, figured he'd eaten enough, and didn't want to come up with an excuse not to answer the call. He tugged at the dust trail and divine light carried him up.
Viridi was sitting against her staff, looking down at a scrying pool. "Hey," she said. "Have a seat."
"I feel as if I should be worried," he said casually.
"Relax. You're not even going to be working hard today. Here," she said, adjusting the pool's image to show a glistening full moon. "The New Lunar Sanctum has an area for my officers to convene and I'm sending you up there for a meeting."
Sometimes he didn't even bother to remember she had officers other than him, and the mention of them took him aback. "A meeting?"
"Yyyyyep. You're gonna see them and you'll talk to each other. Share what you know about the whole hole business. I'm telling you, this doesn't have to be hard."
"Why do I have to talk to them? Why can't I just report to you?"
"Oh no! Don't tell me I have to be social if I want to be an employed divinity!" Viridi said in a deliberately bad imitation of his voice.
"But I don't work with them, I work with you!"
"What, as if that can't change at any time?"
Dark Pit scowled at the back of her head.
"Alright, here you are," she said, bringing forth a door-like portal through the pool. She turned towards him with a serious expression. "I'm not asking you to be friends, but could you try to be a good co-worker? I'm kinda counting on you being able to work together."
He shrugged, prompting a groan.
Dark Pit had barely gotten to know the Lunar Sanctum when he was first invited to it, but the hall he alighted into seemed like it was from a totally different place. The lights were bright and white, illuminating the curious material that made up the walls and floor. He could hear voices from the other side of the hall, and he trended towards the nearest wall as he went towards the noise. The wall seemed...stone-like, unlike the more metallic plating he remembered. Despite the polish on the stones, he could tell there were faint pock marks all over it, though he wasn't sure what to make of them.
Once he could make out words, he slowed down, psyching himself up for...whatever this was supposed to be. The first sentence he could put together was spoken by Phosphora. "Why do we have to have meetings, though? Can't I just tell you stuff like I used to?"
"We've been asked to work with a new agent. Until we know how best to work with him, having some sort of structure and formality will help us stay on track," Arlon said.
"I bet he'd be able to keep up with how I do things."
"Perhaps, but this was Mistress Viridi's idea."
Dark Pit paused just before the portal, wondering if the others were going through an imitation of the conversation he had just had with Viridi. After hearing how Phosphora went on groaning, he realized that she actually felt strongly about it herself. It was an amusing sort of validation.
She sighed dramatically. "But I've met the guy and he's not even boring in a way that's interesting at all!"
"Are you calling me boring?" Dark Pit said before he could stop himself. Not wanting to spend too much time mulling over what sort of impression he was giving off, he crossed into the meeting chamber. The other two were floating near a large, circular table.
"Greetings, Master Dark Pit," Arlon said before she could defend herself.
Phosphora shrugged, and after making sure she had room to speak, said, "If it makes you feel better, Arlon is boring too."
"At least I'm in good company."
"Shall we get straight to business?" Arlon said, sweeping an arm over the table. The image settled into a brightly-lit representation of the Overworld's surface. "Over the past several months, there has been an uptick in hole-related phenomena. Mistress Viridi is entrusting us with their investigation. We've been given clearance to use any Powers we see fit, while keeping to traditional mortal non-interference laws. We've also been told to use officer communication channels to keep in touch with each other...and to prioritize them over informing Mistress Viridi of any developments."
Dark Pit and Phosphora both blinked. Her scarf arced in half-loops, or, loose question marks.
"Why would Lady Viridi tell us not to keep her up with what's going on?" Phosphora said.
"I'm surprised that there is a way for her to not know what's going on," Dark Pit said. "And that it's as simple as 'just use private chat.'"
"I do not know why she wishes this, and I am not about to lecture Lady Viridi on the proper use of discretion," Arlon said, sweeping his hand again. "As far as I am aware, this is a simple yielding of duty from a higher plane of divinity to the appropriate lower channels."
"So is Viridi working on another big project?" Dark Pit mused, looking at the table. The amount of dark, hole-shaped spots made his feathers lift.
"Not as far as I know. Which is kind of unusual," Phosphora pouted and rested her chin on a fist.
"You two would also do well in putting faith in Mistress Viridi's handle of discretion."
Phosphora slumped a bit more, her head sliding on her fist.
"Master Dark Pit. You are our closest eyes on the ground. Would you please confirm or deny any holes seen here? Use this marker," Arlon said, a sharp-feathered quill rising out of the table where Dark Pit sat. "If you need to look at the surroundings to locate yourself, feel free to tap a zone with your free hand and explore it."
The map was accurate enough that Dark Pit could figure out where most things were in relation to several landmarks, but he tapped an area anyway, just to see what Arlon meant. As soon as he did, the room melted away, leaving him floating in the sky above an illusory representation of that place. The illusion was so thorough - down to the wind blowing through his feathers - that he bristled in an anticipation of free fall, but he remained where he was.
"Lady Phosphora, while he does that, you should draw any unnatural weather patterns," Arlon's voice flew through the air. Dark Pit shook his head, reminding himself that he was still seated, and what he was seeing and feeling was just a reference. Once he had figured out where what he was seeing was, he thought, enough, and was once again in the room with the two commanders.
"I've seen most of these holes myself," he said, checking off what he was sure of. "The others I don't know anything about."
"That is alright. This is promising, however. It means that the New Lunar Sanctum's imaging capabilities are reliable enough for me to give potential investigation suggestions."
Dark Pit crossed his arms, looking at the map as a whole. He hadn't managed to discredit any holes, but there were still quite a few he hadn't known about. On Phosphora's end, the weather patterns she had drawn seemed to be gravitating towards zones with clusters of holes. Her expression hovered between bored and dour.
"Which brings me to a request I have. If I were to find a new hole before Mistress Viridi does, may I count on either of you two to look into it?" Arlon asked. "I am not sure if this...process we are going through, means that she is abandoning the work herself. But, I suspect that she expects us to take the initiative. Do you agree?"
Phosphora made a noncommittal noise, to which Arlon nodded. Dark Pit stared at the map.
"If I didn't know that these holes are dangerous, I wouldn't say yes to this, but...any one of these could have been an actual Underworld attack. Has anyone even taken credit for them?"
"No. Any potential suspects are quiet," Phosphora said, her scarf making silent crackles. "No gods with earth-shaking. Ares doesn't want to claim he's stirring up another war, which is weird. And any of them with big lasers aren't saying anything, either. If these are lasers, that is."
"Lasers? No," Dark Pit said. "Humans are digging most of them."
"They start them," Phosphora said, her eyes not moving off the map. "But then something happens when we're not looking that vaporizes anything we have stationed there and then the hole gets huge and there's the wind's scorched for hours. I hate it."
"The New Lunar Sanctum may be able to capture what that 'something' is, were there to be a new hole site," Arlon offered. "Though I would prefer not to hope for that."
Dark Pit considered the massive attack that he and Pit had fought off, wondering what he would have learned if he hadn't been so exhausted and stayed afterwards. If he was stronger, perhaps...he shook his head, putting away those thoughts.
"Would more bicorns help? Viridi has me busing them around a lot. Maybe they could hold off whatever happens long enough for us to get an idea?"
"If you think that'll help, you'll need to talk to Lady Viridi and you'll need to be the one suggesting it," Phosphora said.
"I was thinking about it. Do you think it's a bad idea though?"
The scarf flickered.
"Lady Phosphora isn't allowed to deploy bicorns," Arlon said gently. "They sometimes react to her lightning as a false positive."
Dark Pit almost laughed, but swallowed it in time to save her some embarrassment and himself some face. But... "How come they don't react to me then? I came from the Underworld."
Phosphora gave him a sideways glance.
Arlon tipped his head. "Are you of the Underworld?"
"I'd say so, yes."
Phosphora frowned lightly.
"I'm not really sure what there is to be skeptical about."
"Either way, I'm not from the Underworld. And my powers don't come from the Underworld," Phosphora said, shrugging and laying back in the air.
"Despite their power, perhaps we should not rely overmuch on their effectiveness," Arlon said. "We may need to lean more on the tools we have access to. I will allow the two of you to use the New Lunar Sanctum as a place of rest and research. Please update the map with any developments you can vouch for at your leisure. I will be continuing to work on building this as an observation post as well as a base of operations, within our capacity as officers."
"Understood," Phosphora said.
Dark Pit considered the map in silence, noting how many of the holes were near human settlements. The ones he knew about weren't so close he was concerned, but the new ones were starting to trend closer and closer...
"That being said, there is no current suspicious activity. I have reviewed everything I've wanted to mention, so I will release the two of you from this formality," Arlon said, waving over the table and dimming the display. "A good meeting, I would say. I hope we can continue to work like this."
Dark Pit nodded.
"You'll have to use Mistress Viridi's leylines to return, as the current door capabilities of the New Lunar Sanctum are not quite up to standard. Please pass her my greetings."
Dark Pit got up, considered his chair for a moment before tucking it in. He wasn't sure if he should...say something? These were technically his superiors, but...
Phosphora caught his gaze and made a point to wave before zipping off as a ball of lightning. The resulting dry air made him want to cough, which he did as quietly as he could.
"I hope to rely on your strength, Master Dark Pit. Have a good day."