Life 56: So Long Calm Shores
"Well this one is new."
Soren's head slanted to the side as he looked around him. At the least, he knew off the bat they were back at the hotel now thanks to the roof and the soft bed. His shoulders still felt heavy like he had a ton of weights stacked onto them. About expected after pulling what he did. Mana overuse always ended in things like this. Soreness, heaviness at the least, flash fevers and total exhaustion for days at complete worst. Good thing he had such a strong constitution.
Now as for what was new. Soren by now was used to sharing the bed with others. Frankly he would probably be less comfortable without someone next to him nowadays, as off as that felt due to his habits. But that was typically restricted to one or three others, two at best. Not six. Granted this case was mostly strew out. It was pretty clear everyone had pretty much just collapsed onto the bed and nodded off. Soren was certainly still in his clothes from before, heck not even his shoes had been removed.
"And to think Luci and I passed out first." Soren murmured, looking over when he felt a tug at his sleeve, seeing Lucina pulling his arm over as she slid over even while still asleep, Soren chuckling as he felt her light breaths brush his fingers as he moved his hand up to move some of her hair aside. "She's come crazy far compared to when we first met. She's definitely not the clueless, meek girl who crashed into me in the most cliché situation ever."
"Well these past few months have been on the encouraging side when it comes to growth… that and the ante going from dealing with some scrub Fallen Angels to a freaking Cadre Class baddie within such a short time will do a lot." Bahamut said, Soren nodding as he pulled his necklace up, rolling the faintly glowing crystal shard in his palm, beginning to ruminate over all that had happened since this all began.
An unexpected fault at the beginning of his new assignment that spiraled into meeting Lucina and starting to teach Issei, the case with the Fallen Angels quickly leading into meeting Astra, learning about Kuroka's real identity along the way. Helping the Gremory peerage prepare to battle Riser and pull out a win from what would've been a defeat… the incident with Kokabiel and the stolen Excaliburs, where his memories finally returned and his real powers came back, even at the cost of making the curse of his old Sacred Gear begin to accelerate. And then the Peace Conference, shattering the old Gear and creating a new one, as well as crossing paths with Vali… a dawn of a new era as dragons crossed paths.
"You'd start thinking those of us with Dragon Gears who have titles like "Emperor" and "Chaos" somehow always find ourselves at the corners of big things like that." Soren mused, letting the crystal hang. "Honestly if the next thing from here is just getting the three new girls relics to help make them stronger, fine by me. I'll take getting back into the groove of Association work over that kind of crazy shit in stride. Gonna be busy as hell with all the Peace Treaty stuff anyway."
"Well I don't think there's gonna be much doubt groups like the Shinto, Nordics, and Greek pantheons'll join up with this alliance. It's others to be worried about. The Hero Faction, and the Khaos Brigade… honestly I don't think Ophis has shit to do with that lot anymore. That one's odd."
"And yet Ophis handed power to that Old Devil faction chick… while also using a snake to help me break the Ruina Draco." Soren murmured, laying down and putting his arms behind his head. "But we can mull on that one later… I think I'll go see if the maids whipped anything up."
Carefully, Soren managed to slide off the bed, kicking off his shoes as he stepped out of the room and trotted down the hall. He could already smell something cooking as he walked into the space… frankly it was actually kind of surprising the hotel room had a kitchen to begin with, but, take what you will from it.
"No no. You left it a few seconds too long."
"Does that mean anything?!"
"Yes. Even a few seconds can make all the difference when cooking."
Soren couldn't help but snicker as he peered in to witness Raynare experiencing the rigorous trial that was lessons from Izayoi. It still wasn't something he'd say was on the level of that place… thankfully Izayoi was no Iron Chef level-strict tiny bird girl, but that was a different story entirely.
"So mind if I ask how long we've been out?" Soren said, and the SECOND Raynare yelped, when it looked like she was about to send the pot in her grip flying, a click sounded, and rather than go flying, Raynare's hands just flew up empty handed. Izayoi shoved her pocket watch back into the folds of her skirt.
"Prince, I suggest not doing such a thing." Izayoi cautioned, Soren shrugging as he leaned against the wall, Raynre grumbling under her breath. "It's morning now. After that kind of night the time you've all been sleeping is rather appropriate. Raynare and I are making a large breakfast to compensate. Now, please shoo. Let us work, and don't interfere like you usually do."
"Old habits die hard!" Soren said, but scramming from the kitchen anyway. Small as it was, at least the place also had a living room with one of those conversation pits in it. "These are really uncommon nowadays… they should definitely come back into style if you ask me."
It didn't take long for him to flop down onto the sizable couch and whip out his phone. Checking the news and his texts seemed like a good choice of an idea again.
"Hmm… not much with news. What about our pals eh? I think Luci mentioned they're training in the Underworld." Soren hummed as he flicked to his inbox. Nothing from Issei, surprisingly… rather, the few messages he did have were coming from Souna, of all people. "Prez? I gave her my address since I'm still doing rep work from the Kokabiel nonsense… she doesn't text me for anything but. The hell could this be for?"
Opening it up, the first thing that came around as Soren scanned it was a mention of a Rating Game, which earned a hum from the demi-dragon, but nonetheless made him resume his skimming of Souna's messages.
"Rating game with the Gremorys… interesting enough really. I'll check in on that later since apparently it ain't for a while. Just some stuff she wants to talk about for when summer is over… shit we still have all that homework too… why Japanese schools assign summer homework is beyond fucking me, even if "summer break" just means a long month or so break in between terms… also some stuff about the current situation. At least tensions ain't going nuts in the Underworld. I can imagine there might be some though, eh who knows. Maybe it'll just be the other younger gen folks making noise."
"Is talking out loud necessary?" Bahamut asked, Soren just sticking his tongue out as he closed that series of messages. "Oh, ones from Lacia too. She's still on tour right?"
"Will be for a while longer. She's not free till that's all over and done. I do wonder how that's going. Astra'd certainly like to hear about it." Soren opened the new series of texts, his eyes rolling over them as he started humming a random beat. "Hmm… mostly updates on where she's going next… A few more places in Japan, and even a show or two in America. Neat. Gonna be a while before she's done if that's what's happening all over."
"Must be tiresome. But hey she's dedicated so let's hand the princess that." Bahamut noted, Soren nodding as he chuckled.
"Now what else… nothing from Artoria. Bet she's busy back at HQ. Chloe… asking for food souvenirs from here, because of course she is. Also wants me to train with her so she can show off her fancy new sword. Alright… what about the others hmm? Eesh, I totally haven't met back up with Xander and Lune since we ran into them the other day, now that I think about it. I'll reply to everything else and then text 'em, see if they want to stop by so we can catch up."
Aside from the sounds in the kitchen, the air only had the sound of the small digital clicks from Soren's phone as his fingers went over the keyboard at a quick pace, replying to each message that came around to mind. It was around the time he was finishing his texts to Xander and Lune he heard shuffling. Peering up from where he was laying, Soren saw Lucina trudging into the room, and she was quick to crash onto the couch too. Without even a word, she slid over to where Soren was laying and flopped down onto his chest, her arms wrapping around him like slow snakes.
"So sooorrrreeee…" Lucina grumbled, Soren patting her on the head as she groaned. "Is this seriously what you felt like after using your Balance Breaker? Both times?"
"First time, yes. Second time, I was just tired out, not sore." Soren said, rolling onto his side, Lucina still firmly plastered to his front, still checking his phone with his other hand while the other kept stroking her hair, which had Lucina giving gentle little breaths in response. He couldn't help but think of how were it Kuroka, he'd straight up feel purring about now. But, it seemed to relax Lucina plenty. "You'll get used to it. And don't worry, I'll help you with mastering it plenty. I need to improve my own after all."
"The fact you're as strong as you are right now and still need to improve says a lot about the world we live in." Lucina said, Soren chuckling, setting his phone to the side, snickering as Lucina angled her chin up so that their eyes met. "You're a dork. I bet you're snickering cause now you're thinking of all the strong people out there too fight."
"Well you're not entirely wrong." Soren said, sitting up, Lucina stubbornly refusing to move, though now they were in a position to where she could put her forehead to Soren's. "But I'm still wowed at what you pulled off. I'll keep saying it, seeing you get your Breaker was just sweet! You've grown a lot so fast."
"Hmhmhm, thanks. Though we all have." Lucina said, nuzzling her nose against Soren's, the young man chuckling and pulling her a bit closer, Lucina then tugging Soren down, subjecting him to pillowing his face into her ample chest. "Now things feel way different than when we all first met. For one I mean, going from a typical Japanese house to some swank downtown penthouse all cause of Astra's old man. That was a big one… though I think my family's mansion is still bigger."
"See, now that, I'll have to see one of these days." Soren remarked, wiggling free and pulling Lucina back down, earning a playful pout from her. "Unlike our favorite perverted ojou-san, you're not that type. I honestly forget you come from one of the Association's biggest benefactor families."
"You've just rubbed off on me is all." Lucina remarked, a hint of pride to her voice even as Soren looked away in a faux wince. "Now come ooonnn! Stop playing dumb! Nff… I don't know why but I feel so riled up right now I think I'm understanding Astra a bit better now."
"Well that's an unexpected aftereffect." Soren hummed, Lucina pouting at him as she shoved her lap onto his. "I kinda wanna eat breakfast first before anything."
"And seems you agree." Soren smirked as Lucina's face went red after the loud growl from her stomach sounded. "Y'sure you're just hungry instead of horny?"
"We're almost finished in here." Izayoi said, peering out from the kitchen. "I would also recommend, Lady Lucina, refraining from those kinds of activities so soon in the day. Proper care comes first and foremost."
"Sure sure." Lucina said, Soren shaking his head as she pouted again.
"It's cute when you're eager, but I fully agree with Izayoi. Let's eat first… and figure out what to do since we're leaving tomorrow." Soren said, Lucina nodding as he moved to stand up. "Well… unless everyone is just exhausted after everything from yesterday. Big fights are just a bother."
"It's like we can't escape them no matter what we do… also, carry me, moving is a bother." Lucina said, Soren rolling his eyes, Lucina putting her arms out.
"The table is literally twenty feet away from here."
"Don't care." Lucina said, propping her arms out again. "I'm spending the entire day with you and that's final."
"Is she being clingy right now cause her dragon instincts are starting to kick in or something? Not that I mind much…" Soren thought, hanging his head as he sighed. "Whatever. She'll be back to her typical self once her head's cleared. I'll comply just to make things easy."
"Alright alright. Hop on."
There wasn't any talking going on at the table at all, just the sounds of hungry people wolfing down the table full of an outright feast for breakfast. Izayoi definitely knew the audience at hand was a bunch of people with very healthy appetites… if the fact Soren and Lucina had without a doubt the most food before them. It definitely made sense, considering the whole dragon factoid and all.
"… alright, food is good and all, but!" Astra spun the knife in her hand around, jabbing it into the egg-yolk of the number of eggs stacked on her plate. "Since we're almost gonna be gone, we should talk about what we're doing next, right?"
"Has there been any news? Lady Asheworth did mention she would be searching for Relics for the three of us." Jeanne said, looking to Xenovia and Anwen, the latter of the girls with enough food before her that she was almost hidden behind it thanks to her small size.
"I checked any texts and messages earlier. Nothing from Artoria, for now." Soren said. "Hmm… I'll need to go grab some different foods for Chloe before we leave, since she did ask about that and all." He paused as he was about to jab a triangle of French toast. "I did get a message from Souna though. She mentioned the Rating Game between her and the Gremorys. Isn't Azazel helping that lot train?"
"Yeup." Astra said, nodding. Then her look sank as her mood did as well. "Well, kind of. He introduced them to Tannin, this Dragon who's a Queen for one of the Satans, and is busy with other things. Ugh… man I think the moment we get back old man is gonna swamp my sorry butt with paperwork. Shit!"
"Well I don't think much else can be expected… I'm not gonna be much luckier anyway." Soren grumbled, awkward chuckles going around as the two despaired over the idea of being stuck with more paperwork yet again. "Anyway! Rather than mulling on potential future disappointments because of stupid bureaucratic stuff, we should at least have some more fun these next couple of days before we have to leave and all… doing what, well… I'm not sure… and the whole fight with Izunia feels like it just made everything peak."
Soren got nods of agreement around him as he mentioned that, and he tapped Lucina on the leg when she bat at him with a hand under the table, getting a pout thrown his way again. He mouthed "Later" to her. Astra peered over with a look on her face, a wry little smirk rising up as she tented her hands. Sharp hearing picked up on the ding of the elevator, and Soren immediately recognized the auras that hit his senses… because not a second later, Lune came sliding into view with bags in hand.
"Yoooo! I came running over soon as I got your text bro! Grabbed some things too! I think it's time to party since it's finally gone and cooled off!" Lune raised the bags high, and some confetti popped out of them, also causing holes to rip through the plastic bags. "That wasn't planned I swear. They were supposed to be used later!"
"I told you to be more careful with those Lune." Xander said, shaking his head as he walked in, Lune chuckling as she lowered the bags.
"Start without us. Something else needs to be covered first." Lucina said, grabbing Soren by his shirt, and he just sighed as she started dragging him off… quite easily at that.
"Just start without the two of us. It won't be long, that much I promise. I'll just calm her down. Got it Luci?" Soren remarked, Lucina just shrugging as they vanished past into the hallway that led to the bedrooms.
"Izayoi throw up a soundproofing spell around Soren's room. We don't need to hear two dragons going to war over the party. Cause Luci's loud." Astra remarked, Izayoi giving a shallow bow before following the vanished demi-dragons, Astra simply sipping from her tea in a long drag. "Let's hope they don't break anything. The furniture here ain't as sturdy as back home."
"What, not going to join them, nya? You're always so eager." Kuroka said, Astra shrugging as she set the tea cup down.
"Considering the air around Lucina, I just have a… feeling. A feeling I better not interfere." Astra said, her tone calm… but Kuroka only had to glance down to see the small twitches in Astra's hips. "I'll be fine. Perfectly fine. I have much more control over my Vice now, so that also goes for my impulses."
"Suuuuure." Kuroka hummed. "So, if we're gonna party, what are we going to do for said party huh?"
"Well… first off we also got a couple more guests as well." Lune said, the elevator dinging again. "C'mon Haku, Neri! The foxes here too or they still hiding somewhere huh?"
"She invited quite the number of people didn't she?" Xenovia asked, Neria immediately careening in on Cleo, Hakunon in tow. "Though I believe the phrase "the more the merrier" would well apply."
"Well said! One simply cannot hold a party without a suitable amount of guests to accompany it! A grand time must be a large time as well!" Neria declared, Hakunon sighing while Cleo clapped. Very loudly due to her metal hands.
"That doesn't make any sense at all Neria." Hakunon said, clapping her hands together. "But speaking wise, you're not incorrect about the point."
"Aight then, enough of the yammering, let's get going!" Astra said, Lune yelling as Astra threw up a fist.
"You're speaking my language sister! Lets party so hard Soren and Lucina have to come back out early!" Lune said, Astra cheering along with her to that remark.
And around an hour later, as the place was now strewn with things, some of Neria's other robots there as well now, the party was in full swing as some of the lot had delved off into a self-done tournament on the gaming console in the room, Kuroka smirking as she had Lune and Anwen growling in attempts to beat her. Off on the other end, Xander was overlooking Durandal as Xenovia had handed it to him, the young man humming as he looked the blue blade over.
"… well it certainly makes sense you'd want to find a relic to help you control it's power." Xander handed the sword back to Xenovia as he said so, the girl dismissing the weapon with a flex of her palm. "Personally I find it impressive you found the thing. It may really just be the case you're descended from Roland."
"Honestly I'm not sure of the veracity of that idea, for now." Xenovia said, folding her arms. "I grew up with many other orphaned children in the Church, so I'm not entirely clear on my family history in any form."
"Well it happens. I'm sure something'll get figured out soon enough." Xander replied, Xenovia nodding and heading off into the kitchen when Jeanne called her over. And not a moment later, Soren and Lucina came walking out into the living room, Xander chuckling as he saw the two had clearly just finished cleaning up from a shower with the way both had still notably damp hair. "And the two runaways show up at last! Enjoy yourselves?"
"Yep." Soren said, Xander snickering at the flat reply, Lucina nodding as she stretched her arms.
"I certainly feel better. Seriously Astra how do you deal with your head getting like that at times huh?" Lucina said, Astra popping up from having been on the floor of the couch area.
"Puh-lease Luci, I've had it way worse! And if it keeps up, well, you'll get used to it. Now get over here, Kuroka's been going straight with the wins since we started here and she needs to be toppled from this tower!" Astra said, Lucina rolling her eyes and stepping over, grabbing the controller Astra handed her.
"Ehehehe, they are certainly a lively bunch, aren't they?" Xander said, Soren nodding as he leaned back against the wall. "I'm sure there's plenty of guys who would just utterly kill to be you, huh?"
"Not like my situation is that uncommon in the supernatural world and all." Soren remarked, popping his knuckles. "But, it's definitely made things interesting for me as of late. Of course things will only get more interesting now that we're going to be dealing with all these things coming up with the Peace Treaty and trying to appeal to other factions."
"If you get pulled into helping out with that, I don't think it would be a surprise." Hakunon said, suddenly showing up near Xander and Soren, causing both to jump in surprise. "Even if one could say your negotiation skills aren't quite up to par, Soren."
"Yeah. I mean, letting the Devils snag the Red Dragon before they were our allies, tsk tsk." Xander playfully said, Soren growling.
"Don't keep reminding me! That was a complete accident and frankly a better option at the time! Doesn't matter now, it's all said and done, forget it. Besides my orders at the time said nothing about that, just to observe and make sure he didn't become an actual threat! Issei didn't, so all in all I think I did pretty well!" Soren sighed as he folded his arms, tapping a foot. "People need to stop bringing it up, it's getting old."
"Not like it's that often!" Astra called out, Soren rolling his eyes.
"Well by now it's no longer a concern." Xander commented, Soren nodding vigorously. "Though I hope you don't start getting complacent."
"We just got our asses handed to us by a Planeswalker in a sparring match, I don't plan on letting that happen." Soren looked at a hand as he closed his fingers, a smirk showing. "Cause I get the feeling we're going to meet plenty of strong people from here-on… that or run into people from before. I'm expecting Loki to stir up trouble again somewhere down the line."
"Ahaha! Well good for you then that Odin took a liking to you." Xander pat Soren on the head, the younger young man brushing his elder brother's hand aside. "Also next time, don't nearly lose an arm."
"That was not my fault and you know it!" Soren snapped, Xander chuckling.
"I can likely make you something in such a case!" Neria called out, Soren scoffing. "Oh come on! Wait… I just noticed something… when did you change your hair color?!"
A sudden dooon was felt through the entire room as Neria finally pointed that out. Those who'd been in the kitchen peered their heads out, and the game match ground to a complete halt, while Soren stared at Neria with a cocked brow.
"It took you this long to notice?!" Soren said, then pointing to his eyes. "Did you not notice this either or something?! I've had this look for a good while now!"
"Uh… n-no, I didn't notice." Neria said, sheepishly shrinking back down behind the couch, prompting laughs to break out from the others. "Ahhhh! Don't make fun of me for it! I haven't been all there for a while! Umu, it wasn't all my doing! I just hadn't noticed at all. It's not that big of a change anyway."
"Well, she's not wrong." Soren snickered, going to the couch and flopping over to sit with the lot there. "Alright, now let me join in too. Xander, you want a shot at it? Trust me, this new Smash Bros is killer!"
"Well why not. I haven't played some games in a while, so sounds like plenty of fun." Xander said, Soren snickering. "You sound confident."
"Course I am! I don't have a reason not to be!"
Off somewhere else, in England deep within the offices of the Assocation, Artoria sighed as she leaned back in her chair, the stack of papers at her desk still sizable, earning a sigh from the woman as she took a long draw of air and let it out for just as long.
"Oh how I hate things like this. Always way too much paperwork after big things. Ugh, though I suppose that's my burden as a division leader. Than there's also the fact of trying to find some relics for those three new girls with Soren." Artoria sighed again as she pulled her phone over to check it, grumbling under her breath as she flicked through some of the emails. "Useless, spam… not super needed right now… hm? Ohhhh. Speaking of those relics, seems like something finally came up."
The woman grinned as she opened the message, a flick of her hand causing the image embedded into it to project to a larger screen made of mana, a map of Europe being the most prominent thing, said map showing three points: One in England, two in France. The nodes were marked by a single thing, a stylized R.
"Well well. Color me impressed again. Can always rely on the Scholars to get information you need quickly and efficiently. Looks like I've already got that lots next little venture ready to go." Artoria folded her arms as she started to snicker, a gleam in her eyes. "Let's see how that lot like some real Association work that's more than just Stray hunting."
End of Volume 5: Pointless War of the Island Resort
And FINALLY we are done here! Eesh. Took longer than I thought it would but I think this turned out well. I can get back to more of what I excel at with the next one coming up here. Which'll be fun since it'll delve into some other things, as hinted, of course. Though of course, planning! I'm also putting this back on hiatus while I do, also so I can shift my focus to a few other things for a while as well. But, see you all next time then!