Finale: Daily Life of a Celebrity
There's seven of them in total, one Wrothian female, one Cavern Clan male, one Human female and four Human males. All of them have looks of complete concentration mixed with slight anxiety as they begin to spread out, obviously hoping to encircle me so that they can simply swamp me with numbers.
Pfft, good luck with that amigos.
Pushing off the ground with my right leg I spring towards the Prone faster than he was obviously expecting me to go, since his arms are out of position and I have a clear shot at his body. Not bothering with anything fancy I just lash out with a straight cross-punch (I promise I did not name it that) that sinks my fist into his gut and he makes a weird borf noise as all the air and bits of spittle leave his mouth.
Throwing myself into a blindingly fast wheel kick I catch one of the Human guys off guard as he gawks at how quickly I put the Prone out of commission, the heel of my boot catching right across his ear and flattening him as if he just got hit by a truck.
His body bounces across the ground into the path of the charging Wrothian and she gives a short hop in order to clear the sudden obstruction.
Just a hair too slow.
I'm already moving past her by the time she's in the air and I use my stiffened left arm to crash into her ankles as I sprint past, turning her graceful jump into an uncontrolled tumble that ends up with her smacking her forehead into the floor with a dull bonk.
The four remaining Humans have time to blanch as I dive right into their midst and get to work.
Quickly spinning toward the guy at my five o' clock position I launch into a Bolo series of punches that he actually manages to block two of, before my third hammer strike catches him on the chin and he goes down with a grunt.
Obviously trying to take advantage of what he assumed was my distraction the guy directly behind me tries to tackle me from behind…just to catch my donkey-kick straight in the nads.
With a sort of darkly amusing squeak he drops to the ground like a brick, cradling his junk.
I almost feel sorry for him.
The remaining guy and girl wisely decide to come at me from parallel directions and launch a kick and punch respectively…which I smoothly flow around and latch my hands around their faces. I have the briefest glimpse of their eyes widening as they realize what I'm about to do before I exert myself and slam their heads together with probably more force than was necessary.
They drop with nary a sound and I turn around only to hear…
"OH FOR THE LOVE OF…DAMMIT PEOPLE! You were facing off against one guy. You could have at least made him work for it a little bit! But no, you couldn't even last nine seconds!"
I sheepishly grin at Irina's tirade as the rest of the BLADE trainees are practically cowering at this point.
"I think they're all unconscious D.I., maybe you should wake them up first-"
She turns her actinic glare on me and my self-preservation instinct immediately advises me to back away slowly and don't make eye contact. To my intense relief Irina just gives a heavy sigh and says, "Alright fair point. Capree, Johan! Wake those seven up."
The two younger BLADEs immediately hop to, obviously trained to follow Irina's orders as fast as humanely possible in order to avoid grievous bodily and emotional harm. I walk up next to her and cheerfully ask, "So how'd I do Ma'm? A good first-impression right?"
She gives me a look out of the corner of her eye that holds no humor in it…before relenting and giving a brief snort of mirth.
"Take a look at their faces, you'd think they just saw their favorite rock star."
I glance at the almost thirty BLADE trainees lined up behind Irina and notice almost all of them are looking at me with various levels of awe. Well it's nice to be appreciated.
It's been five months since I first returned to active duty BLADE work. In the past to months I've slowly done less and less field work, mostly taking on an instructional role in BLADE, teaching recruits and veterans alike about tactics, strategy and my more practical skill of how to punch things in many different ways.
It's pretty fun.
The news about the Lifehold and consciousness banks didn't go over to well though, as I expected. Once Chausson and the rest dropped that particular bombshell half the city was in a panicked frenzy, people practically demanding answers point-blank from people who didn't really have any to give.
Two days of rioting and fear before BLADE managed to restore order and fill people in on what the actual deal was. Regardless, there was still eleven casualties (thankfully no Xenos) once all was said and done…a lower total than I had been pessimistically expecting actually.
Anyway people are marginally calmer now that they know we have a plan and a 'working' theory that I came up with on the spot. And put bluntly our plan is pretty much what we were doing before, essentially exploring every square-meter of this rock.
But hey, whatever keeps the masses from losing their minds.
"Holy Hell Celica you sure you shouldn't actually see a professional about this?"
She lazily murmurs in reply, "You'll do. Lower please…"
"As you wish milady."
Currently I'm engaged in an activity quite a few of the male population of the city would no doubt want to crucify me for, a full on massage of Celica's bare back.
Sorry guys, but no touchy.
That said, normally I would be hard pressed to actually focus on the massage itself, being rather enraptured by the feeling of her skin beneath my hands, but today things are a bit different…
"Sweet Mother Teresa woman, did someone slip a metal plate in your back?!"
"It's been a busy few days…and not all of us have the convenience of a bio-mechanical…Mmm…"
Whatever she was going to say is quickly overtaken by a moan of both pain and relief as my hands undo a particularly stubborn knot of tension. I shake my head as she sighs in relief and move on to her shoulder blades.
"You ever considered taking a few days off? In between the modeling and BLADE stuff you're probably busy 24/7, and that's not counting overtime."
"I chose to take on these tasks and I will not shirk them due to something as trivial as physical exhaustion."
"Your trapezius feels like it would beg to differ about the 'trivial' part."
"Well I'm lucky you're skilled with your hands then, aren't I?"
"Aw you're making me blush."
Suddenly flipping onto her stomach she stares upward at me showing off her body without a care in the world, a hungry smile on her face as she cutely asks, "Oh, so the blood is rushing to your head is it?"
That cute smile quickly turns into a lustful one.
"So which head is it, hmm?"
Ok, five months into this relationship and it still catches me off guard how quickly she can turn on the innuendo. I mean, I'm sure as Hell not complaining or anything, but it never ceases to shock me regardless.
Letting a lazy grin come to my face I reply, "That's for you to find out…"
I flip her back onto her stomach, ignoring her exclamation of surprise.
"…After I finish making sure your back doesn't resemble a busted concrete road. Now relax and let me work."
She mumbles into the bed, "You're no fun…"
"That's not what I remember you shouting last week…"
She remains silent and I chock up this verbal sparring match as my win.
A few more quiet minutes pass as I continue my ministrations before she speaks up with, "So how are the plans for the wedding coming along?"
Unable to stop the massive smirk that suddenly adorns my face I gleefully reply, "They're coming along quite nicely, seeing as how I'm in charge of them."
"You would feel that way. I'm simply shocked the venue hasn't burnt down under your supervision yet."
I playfully bop her on the back of the head and cheerfully retort, "None of that now. I organized a city wide party event, I think it's well within my capabilities to make a nice little event for everyone where nothing blows up. Which is why Yelv wasn't invited coincidentally enough."
"A wise decision. How's Vi holding up?"
"The poor boy is a nervous wreck. All done by the way."
Sitting up she stretches in a glorious manner and then falls backwards into my waiting arms as I lean the two of us back against the bed's headboard. It's a fairly overcast day out right now, temperatures around fifteen degrees celsius with a decent breeze. With the windows and door to the deck opened it's rather chilly, making our close contact even more enjoyable as we share body heat.
Just one more reason why cold weather rocks and hot weather sucks.
As she snuggles deeper into my arms (still without upper body clothing, to my extreme delight) she continues our conversation with, "Has he decided on what the betrothal gift will be?"
"If he has he hasn't told me about it. Then again I think Wrothian custom states that only the soon-to-be husband is supposed to know what it is. We'll be finding out what it is right alongside Gu Ladha."
Sounding rather drowsy Celica replies, "Well I do love surprises…"
Hey no falling asleep now. I have work in half-an-hour and you can stay awake that long.
"Do Qlurians have similar practices to Humans and Wrothians? In terms of marriages and everything at least."
She gives a small laugh and says, "I think many of your more prudish people would be shocked at our custom. We didn't have…monogamous practices? Is that the word? Regardless, we had group marriages."
"Group marriages? How does that work?"
"Exactly like it sounds silly. Any people of age could become part of a family as long as all members consented. The average number of Qlurians in these arrangements was about four people although some of the larger families reached upwards of twelve people."
I give a low whistle.
"I bet relationship advisors made a killing on Qlu…seriously though, that worked?"
"I don't remember too much to be honest, but it self-evidently did. My own family had six such parents and while arguments were common it never reached levels of actual anger and hurt. In fact you and Mia argue and bicker more than they all did."
I smile at the thought and quietly say, "They sound like a real riot to be around. I wish I could have met them…"
Sounding wistful herself she replies, "I think they would have liked you, despite your less than desirable personality."
I snort and we spend the next few seconds in silence.
I still want to have the last word though. Call me immature if you must.
Grinning lecherously I ask, "Erio and Lyvia are pretty into me, so if I wanted to include them in the marriage…"
She growls and says in no uncertain terms, "All consenting members Cross."
Grinning at one of her rare displays of jealousy I continue with, "Just imagine though! All of the guys are already super jealous of me, just imagine the looks if I started my own harem of incredibly sexy alien babes-"
Her hand digs into my side and gives a painful twist and she threatens, "Not another word pervert."
Unable to hold in my laugh I gather her up in my arms and squeeze tightly, slightly mollifying her a bit.
I'd say victory goes to me this round.
"Don't you have something to do in an hour? Such as be a jerk somewhere else?"
Still grinning like the cat that ate the canary I answer with, "Maybe, but I have you all to myself for the next fifteen minutes…"
"Sometimes you manage to be a perfect fiend."
We're both silent for a second before breaking into simultaneous laughs. Suddenly shifting in my arms she presses her chest against mine and locks eyes with me.
I like where this is going.
We both lean in closer…before Celica suddenly yawns in an adorable manner, looking mortified after she finishes.
I simply start laughing. I suppose I should be offended that my partner finds the prospect of sex with me yawn-worthy…but I'm really not. She's had a busy week.
Still smiling I pick her up and set her down astride a few of the pillows, pulling up some of the covers and commandingly say, "I think you need rest more than you need arousal."
A slightly grumpy look crosses her face and she mumbles, "Says you…" even as she sinks deeper into the mattress.
"You don't have anything planned for the day after tomorrow right?"
"Well I'll be done in half a day, so we'll meet up then. See if Rock is free and the three of us will do something."
"Hmm…no complaints here."
Smiling I stroke her hair and quietly say, "Sleep tight, I'll call you as soon as I'm done."
Her eyes are already closing as she murmurs, "I'll hold you to that…have a nice day."
Putting on the rest of my clothes I lock up the house and head out to the Outfitter's Hangar. Lin said today is gonna be a special day, and I don't wanna be late.
"No I'm not, I'm exactly on time."
"Which means you're late!"
I sigh and ignore Lin's annoyed look as I glance around at the obstacle course that seems to have sprung up in this corner of the Hangar. There's two other groups besides ours using the massive building right now that creates quite the echoing clamor. It doesn't help that said groups are also testing Skell transformations, creating a constant symphony of shifting metal composites and whining servos.
"Look, Lin…I know it can be hard not being able to find a boyfriend in this city, but that's no reason to take your frustration out on-"
"Utter one more syllable and I'll beat you to death with this comm. And that's a slow death."
I simply settle for a smug grin while she shakes her head and mutters under her breath, "Guy get's a girlfriend and all of the sudden he's a regular jerk bag…"
Deciding to offer her a lifeline I ask, "So what's the job for today? Field experiments for a new weapon? Stress testing armor? Finding out how many times I can bench press a Ma-non?"
Acting a bit more enthusiastic she perks up and happily says, "Even better…today we have the first two combined into one."
She leads me to a corner of the room where Veven, Tan'Celeg and Louis R. Damon himself, the C.E.O of Meredith and Co., have set up shop around a set of combat armor I've never seen before.
It honestly looks more ornamental than functional, with a golden color scheme, streaming filaments coming out of the back and an oversized helmet that looks like it'd be more useful as a sledgehammer than it would as a protective plate.
At least, that's my opinion until I walk around the back and see what looks suspiciously similar to the reactor housed on both the Vita and the Ares…
Damon catches my expression and grins ear to ear at my obvious confusion.
"Doesn't look like anything you've seen before eh?"
I shake my head in amazement and reply, "Nope. I'm still having trouble believing this isn't some elaborate costume piece I'm supposed to wear around the city. Does it have a name?"
"Not really, we're still in the testing phase so for now we're calling it the Plastron Mark-I. Imaginative, I know."
"So what's it capable of? If I'm going to be testing this I'd like to have an idea of what I'm getting into. Preferably before I do something that catches it on fire."
Veven excitedly joins the conversation with, "More like what can't it do! This suit is super cool y'know?! Way stronger than any other, better weapons, better protection, and way faster! It's, it's…just so awesome!"
I glance at Damon and he sheepishly grins.
"We had a large budget."
I nod to the reactor housing and dryly reply, "No kidding. I've only seen a power source like that on the Ares and Vita Skells. Did you find a mini version lying around somewhere or is that one all your guy's doing?"
A proud smile adorns his face and he replies, "This is an NLA original, something we're very proud of. We found a Ganglion blueprint attempting to replicate the Vita's reactor but to be quite honest building something of that scale is way too massive of an endeavor for us right now. So instead we thought smaller."
"And by all rights it seems you succeeded…it's not gonna blow up is it?"
Veven scratches the back of his head and hesitantly says, "Er…it shouldn't? Hopefully?"
"A ringing endorsement right there if I've ever heard one."
Tan'Celeg, ever the voice of reason, steps in with, "You needn't worry, there is a failsafe attached so that should the reactor ever proceed into overload territory it will automatically shut down."
"Leaving me stuck in an unpowered suit of armor, but at least in one piece."
He nods and readily agrees, "That would be the ideal scenario, yes."
Oh joy. I glance over at Lin who's obviously enjoying watching me hear about all the ways this could go wrong. As a matter of fact Damon seems to be having fun with this as well.
Mad scientists much?
Abandoning that train of thought I ask Tan'Celeg, "So just about how strong is this suit? Veven was certainly hyping it up so now I'm curious."
"You are familiar with our newest Hunter Autosentry design? The Mark-III?"
"Yup, there was a big unveiling last week and I gotta say it's a really nasty piece of work."
Which is actually kind of an understatement truth be told. The newest Hunter units are almost a quarter larger than the older designs and have way more limb strength than the previous models. A Mark-III Hunter unit could rip apart my current Reginal Armor given a bit of time to work on it.
Scary stuff indeed.
The Orphean gives an acknowledging nod and merely replies, "This new suit can rend apart one of the Mark-III's with ease."
I give a low whistle and stare at the immobile armor with newfound respect.
"So what's on the agenda for the stress tests today? You've got me all psyched up to go wild with this thing."
The four of them share a glance that's equal parts malicious and gleeful, bringing my enthusiasm to a wary halt.
Damon grins sadistically and joyfully explains, "Well we've done all the necessary laboratory and safety tests, I think we can move on to field testing right away! How does a trip to Sylvalum sound?"
"Don't stop moving Tree fool! We didn't run all this way only to be eaten now!"
I angrily turn to Divana Yegur and gasp out, "Hmph! I could run…twice this distance…without trouble…you keep up…with me!"
The look she shoots me is both frustrated and amused, despite the danger we are in. That expression is quickly wiped off her face at the sound of an echoing howl that sounds throughout the canyon we are currently running through. She skids to a halt and holds out a hand in front of me before raising her rifle at the approaching horde of Caecuses. Almost fifteen of the loathsome beasts are stalking down the path, cutting off our escape route and leaving a bitter taste in my mouth. Whirling around I see that the two beasts that had been pursuing us earlier caught up, trapping us with no way out.
Heaving a defeated sigh I turn to Divana and say, "As it seems likely we won't make it out of this forsaken land alive…thank you for your aid regardless. I would never have expected such treatment from one of the Cavern Clan. You have my thanks."
She testily replies, "Save your thanks Mobar Tylan…but they are appreciated anyway. All I suppose we have left is to take as many of the beasts with us as we can."
A fitting epitaph. I heft the captured sword in my hands and prepare to charge until I notice the creatures halt their advance. Confused I lower the weapon slightly…only to watch the pack split apart to make way for one of their own that is almost twice the size of it's pack mates. Divana scowls and mumbles under her breath, "Truly cursed we are."
I find myself agreeing with her. That creature is called Andrea the Famished Hunter by the Humans, a fitting name considering it's oddly thin appearance. Not that it makes the beast any less imposing or dangerous however.
It seems we won't even be able to have the satisfaction of taking down the smaller creatures…
My rumination is interrupted by the sudden howl of Skell engines and the Caecuses all stop their advance to look up at the sky. Both Divana and I follow their lead and see a far off shape quickly diving towards our position. Before I'm even able to make out its details several bright muzzle flashes appear and the two Indigens that had been stalking us suddenly spurt blood as munitions tear through their bodies.
A split second afterwards several loud thunderclaps sound throughout the canyon as the noise catches up to us and the machine stops it's advance to hover almost a hundred meters above us. Looking closer I notice it's one of the Human's 'Lailah' class mechs with a striking black, red and green color scheme.
"Friend of your clansmen?"
I glance at Divana and warily reply, "Perhaps. I have not contacted them yet so they do not know of our escape…"
We had been broadcasting a distress signal on any and all frequencies we could reach but we hadn't actually expected anyone to reply. The Humans still had a small presence in Sylvalum and likely wouldn't put too much priority on answering a Ganglion distress call, especially one that was so far away from their main outpost in the South Ciel Sandsea. Luck seems to finally have favored us today…provided the Human decides not to finish us off regardless.
My thoughts are abruptly brought to a halt when the machine's cockpit suddenly opens and a figure leaps from the seat. My eyes narrow at the odd armor the figure seems to be wearing, a golden suit that has odd filament-like wings spreading from it's back and pointed spikes on it's helm and chest. It also has two strange sword shapes fanning across it's back with a long tube like gun centered between the swords.
The figure lands on all fours with a subdued crunch of displaced dirt and easily stands up, apparently not inconvenienced by the long fall. What is this Human planning?
The Famished Hunter evidently isn't amused in the slightest by the challenge and gives a warbling roar before charging headfirst at the figure. The armored Human doesn't move for almost a full second before lazily unlimbering the weapon on it's back and taking aim.
The charging Caecuses's cries are suddenly silenced as a mirror bright flash catches it in the throat and it's flesh disintegrates in a burst of smoke and ashes. A noise that is somehow managing to be both deafening and painfully sharp at the same time sounds from the Human's weapon as it rips apart the creature with terrifying ease.
After no more than a few seconds of firing the beast is badly recognizable and the Human smoothly re-holsters the weapon before staring idly at the remaining fifteen Indigens.
Divana and I are barely breathing, apprehension and hope mixing equally. If this Human is here to help us…
The remaining predators suddenly howl as one and charge the Human with frothing mouths, obviously convinced that they can overwhelm the figure with numbers.
Giving a disinterested shrug the Human suddenly draws the odd fan-shaped swords from it's back and with a flick of it's wrists the blades suddenly begin to thrum and glow with barely contained energy.
"It doesn't intend to fight them all like that, does it?"
I merely shake my head and reply, "I do not know. But what can we do but watch?"
Clearly not pleased by my words she raises her rifle and sights down one of the charging creatures anyway. She is a warrior. Standing idly on the sidelines doesn't suit her.
I turn attention back to the Human who has begun to calmly walk towards the oncoming horde without a bit of tension in it's gait. Is it that confident in it's skill or merely suicidal?
I needn't have asked.
The first Caecuses lunges forwards, jaws ready to snap the approaching Human in half…
…only for the smaller humanoid to seemingly blur as the sword in it's right hand flashes across the Indigen's face, exiting the side of it's neck in a shower of molten sparks and burning skin. Not breaking stride the armored being then practically blinks over to the second Caecuses and swipes it's leftmost blade across it's bowls, cleanly cutting it in half.
And that's just the opener. Diving into the mass of confused Indigens the Human proceeds to tear them apart in a display of elegant ferocity that leaves Divana and I speechless.
That armor…the weapons that cut apart the creatures with nothing but heat…the unshakeable confidence…
"A Skinwalker…" I breathe out, awed that I'm witnessing something I never thought I would experience in my life.
I think I'm in love.
This suit is fantastic. The speed, the strength, the weapons…NLA's mad scientists really outdid themselves with this particular piece of work. If I'd tried to pull this maneuver off with my old set of armor there's no way I could have just waltzed into a pack of angry critters and just started cutting them apart like this.
Before I even notice I've cut through thirteen of the beasties leaving two extremely wary Indigens circling me, obviously considering if I'm worth the trouble.
Making a snap decision I sheath the Candid and Credible Cutom Twins made by Veven and stand motionless with my arms at my side. Lets see how the suit does in hand-to-hand against an Indigen almost two or three times my size.
Growling the two Caecuses charge forward once I put away my weapons. Smiling I wait until the lead Indigen is within two meters of me…before I leap up and throw my leg into a blindingly fast side kick that slams into the things head and with a tremendous crack sends it careening off to the side where it skids to a stop in a small cloud of dirt.
Pretty sure I just snapped it's cervical vertebrae right down the middle with that hit.
The last standing Indigen opens it's maw and dives forward in a move reminiscent of what Andrea tried to pull at the start of this. Not dodging I instead raise my arms and simply catch the approaching pair of jaws with barely any effort.
I didn't even get pushed back. Holy heck just how strong is this thing?!
Putting the matter aside for the moment I instead decide to test my limits and physically lift the struggling Indigen over my head…before throwing it as hard as I can against the canyon wall where it connects with a wet crunch before bonelessly dropping to the ground.
…Like I said, I think I'm in love.
I'm SO buying one of these if they ever make it to the market.
Doing a quick scan of the area I nod in satisfaction as all the Indigens seem to have either been wiped out or run off. I start heading in the direction of the Prone who are warily watching me as I approach.
Well, the Cavern Clan girl is at least. The Tree Clan guy is staring at me with something akin to awe, clearly not in any hurry to start shooting. Talk about a mismatched duo.
I send a signal to my Lailah and with a crash it lands on the ground and takes up a sentry position near the head of the canyon while I go to talk to the Prone.
Stopping about three meters away the Prone woman doesn't quite have the barrel of her rifle pointed in my direction, but I'd still like to get through this without anymore fighting.
A few terse moments of silence follow before I decide to break the ice with, "So you're the ones who sent the distress signal right?"
She tersely nods and replies, "We were. Are you here to help or hinder?"
"Preferably help. Although you'll forgive me for being curious why a Cavern Clan and Tree Clan Prone duo are wandering the wilds of Sylvalum broadcasting a distress call on all channels."
She shakes her head and tiredly says, "Our outpost was overrun by a Vigent that must have decided we weren't a threat to it. Ever since our defeat months ago our mechanized forces have been almost nonexistent. Large Indigen attacks are now the norm rather than exception. This was just another case."
The male seems to shake himself out of it and quietly says, "She is not an enemy, Skinwalker, she was a fair captor and good leader, even to us slaves."
Well that's good to hear, it should make immigration back to NLA that much-
"Did you just call me a Skinwalker?"
He gravely nods and says, "I did."
Unable to think of anything intelligent to say I just sigh and move on with, "Since you two don't seem to have anywhere to go how do you feel about moving to NLA? We've got room."
The female looks at me skeptically and says, "And your leaders will just accept us like that?"
"Well you'll probably be asked a bunch of questions and all that, but our path to citizenship is pretty relaxed, to say the least."
The two of them share a glance and I smile inside my helmet.
Looks like we've got two more people joining our chaotic mess of a city.
"Well I'd say this field test was quite the home-run, now wasn't it?"
Lin doesn't quite manage to tear her eyes away from my combat footage and greedily replies, "Oh man I can't wait to try one of these babies on for myself…"
"Hello? Mira-to-Lin? You in there?"
I poke her head a few times before she swats my hand away and happily replies, "I hear you, I hear you. And you bet your butt this mission was a success! Aw man compiling this and showing it to Vandham and the rest is gonna be so dang fun!"
Rolling my eyes in amusement I go ahead and finish writing up my after-action-report. Saving Divana and Mobar in addition to the field test had added to the complexity of my post-mission writeup but at least it had a happy ending for them. Last I heard they were well on their way to being accepted as citizens of NLA with only a few more debriefings to go.
Typing out the last few lines I lean back in satisfaction and let loose an enormous yawn before turning to Lin.
"Hey Lin, you ever been to a wedding before?"
She doesn't even look my way as she responds with, "Yup. Once when I was 11. One of my parent's coworkers got together with another colleague of his who was working on FrontierNav and they sent out a big invitation to the staff of both projects. I think that's the most dressed up I've ever been."
"And I'm sure you were breaking all the young boy's hearts even then."
She gives me an acid glare that only lasts for a moment before she starts laughing and replies, "Ok I'll admit it was pretty fun to watch all the guys just hitting puberty try to work up the courage to talk to me. Anyway what brought up that question? Worried about the upcoming shindig with Vi?"
"Pfft. As if. With me in charge of planning and coordinating nothing can go wrong."
"That's not what Celica told me about your trip to Noctilum and the Simius…"
"THAT was not a fault of my plan. That was sheer planetary buggery and there wasn't anything I could do about that horny thing!"
She smirks and replies, "Well just try to keep it in your pants at the reception will yah?"
I lean back in my chair and heave a defeated sigh.
"I'm slowly but surely learning that arguing with a Woman is a dangerous game to play, with victory often being more expensive than defeat."
She playfully tweaks my nose and says, "See? You're adaptable. Seriously though Cross, you'll be fine. Just have fun and don't worry so much about the thing!"
I snort and amusedly reply, "Sounds like something Frye would say."
"Hey, even the Killer Ostrich has good advice sometimes."
I never knew shopping for a tuxedo could be quite so challenging, my poor preparation in all things fashion once again rearing it's ugly head. Thank God for Celica actually knowing what she's doing, otherwise I'd be going in my BLADE uniform.
"What do you think about this one Cross? Too bright or just right?"
Bringing my attention back to the here and now I'm treated to the utterly amazing image of Celica twirling around in a long crimson dress that makes her look like some olden war goddess, both beautiful and deadly.
I'm totally not drooling right now. I promise.
Finding my tongue I smile and say, "In my own humble and slightly uninformed opinion…I think you look stunning. The red really brings out your eyes as well."
She smiles at me and saunters over in a walk that makes it very hard not to grin like a pervert. Getting right in my face she locks eyes and gently lays a kiss on my lips before critically eyeing my reaction. She suddenly grins widely and says, "I think I'll take this one then."
"Not that I'm complaining or anything but what pushed that one over the others?"
She winks back at me and happily replies, "Your reaction."
Oh. Guess I was a little obvious in my 'critique' of her figure when wearing the dress. Oops.
After we finish paying for our outfits I swing by Deliverance Park where some Prone and Humans alongside Rock are just beginning to set up the awning and other furniture for the ceremony tomorrow. Deciding it couldn't hurt to take a quick look and make sure everything is going according to plan I go to chat with the coordinator while Celica goes over to talk to Rock. Thankfully everything seems to be going just fine so I amble on over to where Celica and Rock are animatedly conversing.
"Rock, you're more than welcome to come! Vi even specifically set aside room for you should you wish to attend!"
"Sorry Celica but we're just finishing up a new section of the Residential District and if I'm not there it's gonna be delayed for even longer. Don't worry, if we finish early I'll head right on over!"
I hold Celica's hand as she gives a defeated sigh and look up amusedly at Rock.
"There's such a thing as days off you know."
He toothily grins and replies, "Yah but I have a lot of fun working with Mr. Dalton and the rest. He always likes to say, 'if you enjoy what you do you'll never work a day in your life'."
"Alright but make sure you do head on over if you're done early, otherwise Celica is gonna take out her frustration out on me."
She shoots me an annoyed look out of the corner of her eye while I just playfully smile and squeeze her hand. She merely rolls her eyes but relaxes a bit, so mission accomplished.
"Alright Rock we have a busy day ahead of us tomorrow, we should probably get an early nights rest. Hopefully see you at the wedding!"
"Take care of yourself Rock, and be extra careful!"
He waves as we head off and says, "Don't worry about it, I'm always careful!"
Celica winces and turns to me with fire in her eyes.
"What's with that look?"
"He's starting to adopt some of your sense of humor. And that's worrying."
"Aw you're just jealous because he's looking up to me as a role model."
I'm not quite fast enough to dodge the slap that connects with the back of my head.
"Vi, you need to calm down. Seriously. With all that nervous energy we could probably power half of the city."
Zo Ozuchi snorts in amusement and relaxedly adds, "Listen to your friend Vi Leand. Your bride will likely not enjoy a groom who can't stop shaking long enough to properly display his gift."
Ozuchi and I are currently watching Vi frantically pace back and forth with a level of stress that would make a Ma-non think he's unstable. There's about another half-hour to go before the ceremony starts and I'm starting to wonder if his heart isn't going to implode before we reach the fifteen minute mark.
Looking to the two of us with naked panic in his eyes he frantically says, "Easy for you two to say, you're not the ones who feel unworthy of the mates you have! Am I really ready to do something as momentous as this?! Perhaps if I talk to her-"
"Vi! Take a deep breath man. Now if you'll permit me the opportunity to throw your own words back in your face…You have the opportunity to fall in love with a beautiful woman who loves you back, during a war that one day might claim one of your lives, and you don't want to proceed because you're 'scared'…you'll forgive me saying that that makes no sense whatsoever Vi Leand."
I raise an eyebrow at him and ask, "Sound familiar?"
He growls and mutters something under his breath before taking a shaky breath and saying, "Very well, I suppose it would be rather hypocritical of me to do exactly what I advised you not to."
"That's the spirit buddy! Now just remember, if you make a single mistake during this ceremony it'll ruin the whole thing and haunt you for the rest of your days."
He glares at me with open murder in his eyes while Ozuchi and I just snicker.
Wrothian wedding ceremonies are what I've come to expect of their culture. Functional, traditional and strangely emotional. The whole thing starts with the two lovebirds walking towards each other from opposite ends of the pavilion and seating themselves two meters apart facing each other. Then the designated representative for each Wrothian will do the whole exchange of vows deal before the officiator, that's me, will physically exchange the gifts and then the actual festivities occur. During that time neither of the betrothed are allowed to physically touch or speak to each other.
Once the party is over though? I assume they immediately retire to their bedchambers and start throwing babymaker haymakers at each other.
There's a surprisingly large crowd of almost a hundred people gathered for the ceremony and I internally pray that I don't screw up my part otherwise Vi will never let me live it down.
Everyone from our squad is present with Julun, Mia and Celica seated in the front alongside Ga Jiarg and Ga Buidhe. I catch a glimpse of Elma, Doug, Irina and Gwin alongside some Wrothians and Prone I don't immediately recognize before I have to turn my attention back to the ceremony itself.
Vi and Gu Ladha both begin their walk down the aisles and I take stock of their appearance since this an outfit I haven't really seen any Wrothian wear before.
It vaguely reminds me if someone carved up a bunch of different colored bedsheets into a tasteful and elegant robe. Vi's is colored in shades of black, gold and red while Gu Ladha's is a dark grey tone with highlights of blue and gold. Whoever made those had a clue or three of what they were doing.
They seat themselves in front of me and I subtly signal with my left hand for the next phase to start. Zo Ozuchi and Bozé both begin to stride towards their designated positions besides their charges. I guess Gu Ladha didn't have any particularly close friends or relatives if Bozé's appearance is any indicator…or maybe she just really connected to him in the few months he's been her unofficial sensei.
Unlike everybody else Ozuchi and Bozé are dressed in their battle attire with Bozé wearing a crisp BLADE uniform decorated with his combat medals while Ozuchi is wearing his polished and resplendent battle armor. As the representative of each person I guess they're supposed to look the part.
Everyone quiets down and Ozuchi begins with, "Today I am here to represent Vi Leand, who wishes to take Gu Ladha as his mate and has brought a gift worthy of her to show his devotion and understanding."
Stepping back Bozé moves forward a step and clearly announces, "Today I am here to represent Gu Ladha, who has accepted Vi Leand's proposal to be his mate and has brought a gift worthy of her love and acceptance."
Short and to the point. I think I like it. Internally bracing myself I move to Zo Ozuchi and loudly say, "Representative of Vi Leand Zo Ozuchi. What gift has Vi Leand brought his future mate to demonstrate his love of her?"
Gravely offering me a Skell key he replies, "He offers the key to Ladha Calador, which he has personally seen to the repair and improvement of, and wishes it to be known that his mate is his equal, that they will stand shoulder to shoulder against the enemies of Wroth."
Gu Ladha's eyes light up at this and a radiant smile appears on her face while the Wrothian audience members murmur in approval.
While this probably wouldn't have gone over real well with a Human audience the way Ozuchi explained it to me this is a huge honor for Gu Ladha. Caladors are considered to be partners by their Wrothian pilots and to present one to another Wrothian is the highest form of compliment that can be paid. It helps that Gu Ladha just recently recovered full use of her arm and was about to return to active duty, having an upgraded Skell waiting for her must be a nice surprise gift.
Then there was the bit about her being his equal and how they would stand against any and all obstacles to their home planet. Put in Human terms that's basically an unbreakable vow that no matter what threat they find themselves under, they'll meet it together.
Again, in Human terms that may not sound so romantic…but to a warrior culture it's downright beautiful.
Hadning the key to Bozé I ask him, "Representative of Gu Ladha Bozé Lowes. What gift has Gu Ladha brought her future mate to demonstrate her love of him?"
Reverently pulling a wrapped box that was hanging off his shoulder and handing it to me he replies, "She offers an Ether crafted Longsword made by the finest smiths under her guidance, and wishes all to know that her mate is worthy of such a blade."
Slowly unwrapping the meter long tube I lift the lid off and barely manage to contain my gasp at the sight of the blade. I instead hand it to Vi and he slowly lifts the sword for all to see, his face enraptured by it's beauty.
Similar to a Japanese Katana it's roughly eighty cm of bright purple steel that glows with an ethereal quality to it. Fiendishly difficult to make these swords are known for being able to cut through damn near anything that doesn't have a significant ether coating of it's own. I sneak a glance towards Ga Jiarg and see him lightly smirking.
I shoulda guessed he had something to do with this. Those swords are expensive as Hell to make. Vi gently puts the sword back in it's casing and casts a grateful smile towards Gu Ladha. While maybe not as wordy as Vi's declaration it's still just as meaningful, for reasons quite similar to his.
With the exchanging of vows completed I turn towards the crowd and add a bit that Vi was happy to allow.
"Does anyone present have any reason to be against this union? Now is the time to speak or forever hold your peace."
Predictably nobody says anything. I mean c'mon.
Who could say no to these two?
"Well congratulations on surviving the single most terrifying moment of your life Vi. Feel better now?"
"Yes, although I'm sorely tempted to use my new sword on you for all the times you were deliberately terrifying me."
"Easy there tiger, consider it payback for all the times you were badgering me when Celica and I were dancing around each other."
The two of us are walking towards the party below as everyone is eagerly awaiting the two newly weds with plenty of smiles and congratulations in order while Gu Ladha is walking parallel to us.
Speaking of my Girlfriend she interwinds her arm with mine and gives Vi a friendly kiss on the cheek while trying and failing miserably not to gush out sheer joy.
"Congratulations Vi. Gu Ladha seemed to beside herself with happiness the entire time."
Julun snorts and archly replies, "She should enjoy her happiness while it lasts. Being mated to this Wrothian seems like a trial in patience. Almost as bad as being in relationship with Cross."
Mia and Celica both laugh while Vi and I act affronted.
Baring his teeth in a fake threat display Vi fires back, "I'll be sure to tell your future mate about all your womanly qualities…provided one can ever put up with you."
I deadpan and reply, "Careful Vi, you're one short jump of an assumption away from implying that the two of us are the only guys that can handle Julun."
Julun laughs and says, "You two are far too timid to be any mate of mine. I see Cross fold to Celica all the time."
Mia gives me a gloating look and says, "That's because he can't resist when she gives him puppy eyes."
Desperate to steer the conversation in any other direction but this one I throw out, "So I saw Doug and Elma in the back, are they finally at some level of sociability yet or are they still shy beyond all belief?"
"And just what do you mean by that Cross?"
I wince at the sound of Elma's voice coming from right behind me and scowl at everyone else's looks of glee at my ensuring embarrassment.
Plastering a smile on my face I turn around and greet both Elma and Doug as if I hand't just been bad-mouthing them.
"Long time no see you two, how are you doing these days?"
Elma fixes me in place with a glare before smiling evilly and pulling Doug into a kiss. A very deep, very tonguey kiss.
Wow. Guess I've been away for a while then.
Breaking away for air Doug raises an eyebrow at me and asks, "That answer your question?"
"It most certainly does. So what about the bedroom gymnastic-"
My question is cut off as Celica digs her nails into my side and twists, a dreadfully cheery smile plastered on her face as she says, "The two of us are very happy for you, aren't we Cross?"
I grit my teeth and tightly answer, "You bet we are."
Almost four hours later the sun is just beginning it's final descent through the sky and most of the party guests have left to be on their way. All in all I'd say it had been a heck of a party. Vi and Gu Ladha had left almost an hour ago, no doubt cleaning the cobwebs with the womb broom by now.
Celica yawns and wraps her arms around my neck in an even tighter hold than she had before and murmurs, "Are we home yet?"
"Sheesh some party animal you are. Let me guess, you didn't give yourself enough time to properly rest before heading to this thing and wore yourself out? And maybe had a drink or five?"
I roll my eyes and half-heartedly reply, "And you accuse me of having self-destructive tendencies."
I walk on over to where Rock is helping disassemble some of the pavilion and ask, "You wouldn't mind helping out your drunk older sister would you Rock?"
"I'm not drunk! Just slightly tipsy…"
Rock chuckles and says "Well it was bound to happen sooner or later. Do you want a ride back too Cross?"
I briefly consider it but make a snap decision and reply, "Nah, I'll be along shortly. Just make sure Celica doesn't get lost or anything. I'll see you later pal, glad you could make it tonight!"
I give Celica a brief goodbye kiss and slyly murmur in her ear, "I'll be sure to tease you ruthlessly about this. Hope you're ready for it…"
She mutters something that sounds suspiciously like 'jerk' before Rock picks her up and sets her on his back.
"I'll see you around Cross, take care!"
He waves before thumping off into the twilight and I take a glance towards the sky before letting my feet carry me to my destination.
If I stop to think about, a year and a half seems like an abnormally short amount of time to have experienced as much as I have. Learning about Earth's fate, slowly becoming my own person, meeting all of the people I call friends in this city, bringing down an interstellar crime syndicate that's been hounding Humanity through the stars, Learning about my past in all of it's lousy glory, finally beginning a relationship with Celica and learning just how comforting it can be to have someone you trust and love beyond any form of description…and finally watching one of my closest friends get married.
I guess the enormity of everything that's happened to me caught up and I ended some time to myself tonight.
Which would explain why I'm sitting here on top of the Ma-non ship, staring up at the clear night sky with all of it's shimmering stars and just thinking.
I don't really like having these moments of melancholy and nostalgia. Apart from the fact that it feels weird for someone who's only like a year and a half old to experience nostalgia of all things…I feel like I'm overthinking things, simply unable to truly appreciate what life has given me and constantly wondering about what might have been.
Or maybe everyone has these moments. I don't frickin know.
Well at times like this I simply fall back on a saying coined by a guy a lot smarter than me.
"Yesterday's the past, tomorrow's the future, but today is a gift. That's why it's called the present."
Thanks Bil. It helps.
Heaving a sigh and shaking off my mood I smile and walk back towards the teleporter.
If I'm only going to get one life I might as well make the most of it, and I'll start by going home and making sure my slightly wasted Girlfriend hasn't passed out on the couch or something like that.
Heck, what more could you want from life?
There was a new shift in priorities for this world's Overseer that had to be addressed. For 56,764,839 seconds and counting it had been watching the sudden arrivals on this Bulwark World and attempting to reach a conclusion about what action should be taken.
Results had been…inconclusive.
While the myriad biological lifeforms had all passed the necessary criteria to be allowed safe passage to this world they were hardly unified in purpose. Instead they constantly fought and killed both each other and the other lifeforms already present on this world for no immediately apparent reason.
The Overseer had been sorely tempted to breach protocol and directly examine the gathered consciousnesses of these beings but it's programming was extremely strict in that regard.
The ensconced minds are not to be touched under any circumstances. Thus, more direct examinations would have to take place. Unfortunately this might potentially lead to the very result the Overseer wished to avoid, an armed conflict with the new arrivals on this world. Past experience showed that biologicals rarely reacted peacefully to the overall goals of the Bulwark Worlds and would resist with all their might.
Thus it was with equal parts indifference and trepidation that the Overseer began to activate the hidden Enforcers located all across the Bulwark World in the event that negotiations between it's envoys and the biologicals broke down.
It's overriding goal would be accomplished, whether the Overseer had to interpret it's directives liberally or not.
And with that we come to the 'true' ending of Xenoblade X Interim.
While I'm currently working on another story and have realized that simultaneously working on two at once is NOT my style, I have every intention of making a sequel after I complete that project that will definitively wrap up Interim.
I was originally having trouble deciding where I wanted the sequel to end up but one day I had a stroke of creative brilliance (or maybe it was just a stroke, I dunno) and spent about 30 minutes creating a brief but overarching plot that would have left me satisfied if I was reading this story as if it wasn't my own. Hopefully everyone else will share that same opinion :D
Two quick asides: The noise Cross's gun I tried and miserably failed to describe is similar to the chemrail from the film Elysium. If you're curious about what it actually is supposed to sound like there's probably a clip of it out there somewhere.
The last aside is something that I wanted to add but kept forgetting everytime I updated this story the past few weeks. One of my inspirations during the writing of this story was a video on Youtube that did a phenomenal job of going in depth about the varied wildlands of Mira...and it only has 3,500 views last I checked as opposed to my story's current 5,000.
THAT IS A CRIME. Here's a link,
now go watch that video and give the poor man the views he deserves.
Well that about sums it up. Big thanks to everyone who sat down and read through this thing and big thanks to those who reviewed, I never expected people to enjoy this story as much as they did.
Classic Mecraphone, out