Chapter 40: Bloody Romance

Alexander blinked slowly, then glanced around. He was Astral Projecting again. That much was clear from the pajamas he was wearing, as well as the fact he was slightly translucent. He wondered briefly if thinking about Purple and Astral Projecting the other day with White had triggered something subconsciously.

'Also, I'm not in my bedroom, or anywhere near my home that I recognize,' Alex mused thoughtfully.

He wasn't in a set of ruins, interestingly enough. In fact, the place almost looked brand-new. Gold furnishings accompanied beautiful paintings. Tables covered in pristine white table clothes filled the inside of the space. One of the tables had elegant glass champagne flutes on it, along with dishes made of fine China and silver utensils.

Wherever he was, it had not made by androids or Machines. It was too decorative, too fancy. Sure, both factions could replicate ancient human designs, but they always came off feeling like copies. And when they did bother to build anything they often chose function over form, making their own creations look sterile and lifeless.

It was clearly modeled after a restaurant, and a high-scale one at that. Alexander cautiously approached the table that had been set up for two people, and he had an inkling of what he was doing in this place.

"Oh, jeez, Purpes really went all out here," Alexander sighed to himself. "What is going on?"

Almost as if on cue, the doors were thrown open and a dozen Medium Biped Machines entered the room. These were not the old models, but the sleek new Mark Z's that Purple Athena had been manufacturing. They had also been dressed up as butlers, but to Alexander they just resembled mechanical penguins.

They swept inside, some carrying covered platters, others had instruments they began to play, mainly harps, guitars, violins, and other stringed instruments.

"Huh, they aren't that bad," Alexander said aloud as he listened to the pompous music they were making.

Amidst the swirl of activity, a figure in a purple and gold dress appeared, striding through the doors and past the Machine servants.

"Oh, wow," Alexander breathed out as he saw Purple Athena walking towards him, her appearance elegant and her smile radiant. Her silver-white hair was done up in a series of elegant braids, and cherry red lipstick gave her lips a pouty look. Black kohl around her eyes made the purple orbs pop brightly.

"Do you like it?" she asked teasingly, spinning around in front of Alexander.

"Ubuh, guh… I mean, yeah…" Alexander breathed out.

He then glanced down at himself. "Suddenly I feel underdressed."

"You can change into something else if wish," she said, waving a hand at him. "An Astral Projection is an advanced magical thought-form. You decide how you look."

"Oh, yeah, that makes sense," Alexander mused. He squinted down at himself, and watched as his pajamas rippled and then were replaced by an elegant white tuxedo he'd seen in a movie once.

"You look quite handsome," Purple Athena said with a smile as she walked over to the table. "Very dashing!"

"Thank you," Alexander said, sitting down carefully. He then blushed. "You look nice as well."

"Mmm, don't I?" she purred, sitting down and leaned in towards Alexander, letting him get a closer view of her cleavage.

"Ahem!" Alex coughed and looked away, his face turning even redder. "So! What's going on? What's with the decorations? Where'd they come from?"

"What's going on is we are having a date," Purple Athena said. "It's a human custom…"

"I know what a date is!" Alexander hastily said. "I've seen plenty of rom-com movies that were stored in the Archives. Humanity sure loved their crappy romance stories."

"Then you know what we're doing! Wonderful, that takes care of that explanation," Purple Athena said with a pleased smile. "As for where we are, this is a recreation of a famous restaurant that used to exist a few thousand years ago, back in the golden days of mankind."

"Um, that still doesn't explain why we are having a date together," Alexander pointed out.

"Oh, Alexander! No need to play coy," Purple Athena chuckled. "You know we were meant to be together!"

"Oh, jeez, this again," he muttered under his breath, feeling his skin prickle with goosebumps as the deranged look in her eyes.

"We love the world," Purple Athena claimed. "And we love you just as much. Together, we will be able to bring Utopia to the Machines and Androids. Just you and me. Together. Forever."

Before Alexander could try and refute this point, a trumpet was blown and a gong was rung, and the Machines approached their table, setting down the covered platters and revealing numerous plates of food.

"It took forever to teach my darlings how to cook a proper meal," Purple Athena said, sighing fondly as she took a look at the feast laid out before her. "Poor 13R. She truly regretted the fact her creators gave her a sense of taste more than a few times! Well, go on. Try some!"

Hesitant at first, Alexander first had to figure out if he could actually interact with the utensils. His Astral Projection fumbled a bit before he got the hang of controlling his ghostly limbs.

Once that was accomplished, it was time to find out if he could actually taste anything in his form. He dipped his spoon in the bowl laid out before him, and cautiously sipped at the soup within. It was somewhat bland, and not comparable to the soups Aunt 2B had made in the past, but for something made by a Machine that had no sense of taste or smell? It was practically gourmet!

Of course, his body wasn't really there, and despite being able to taste things somehow, the soup just fell through him onto the tablecloth.

"Oops," he murmured apologetically.

"Don't worry, it's fine," his host assured him.

After the soup, the human tried a few other foods. The bread was dry and gritty, and needed to be dunked in the soup to soften up. The vegetables were either too soggy, or not cooked through and thus hard. And the main course, which was a whole grilled fish, had all of its bones still in it, as well as the head, though at least they'd removed the internal organs and blood before cooking it. Although from the curious aftertaste, perhaps they hadn't, and only took the offal out of the fish after they'd cooked the whole thing?

Still, it was decent enough, and after sampling everything he decided to wash it down with a glass of water at the table. Yet as Alex took a sip from his glass, he gagged and dropped it, the glass spilled everywhere.

"Ugh! What is this?!" he gasped out, blinking away tears from the pain in his mouth.

"Alcohol," Purple Athena replied as he took a drink of it herself. "Do humans not consume this? I recall reading a few cook books that said they do."

"Yeah, but that's different!" Alexander spluttered. "Wine, beer, and other alcoholic drinks aren't this potent! What is this, pure ethanol?"

"Yes, that's correct," Purple Athena confirmed with a smile. "I believe it is 97% proof. Made from my personal distilleries!"

"Oof!" Alexander coughed. "You could peel paint with the fumes alone!"

"We use it for all number of things, such as paint remover and fuel," Purple Athena happily stated.

Alexander shuddered. "Ugh! Sorry, Purpes, but humans can't exactly consume alcohol that pure! Not without suffering serious damage."

"I will take that into account," she said, nodding slowly. "Perhaps I should dilute it with more water? Or perhaps adding flavor supplements would improve the taste and make it more palatable?"

"Well, whatever you do, make sure it's not instantly lethal to organics," he requested.

"Of course," Purple Athena said with a nod. "Now, I was hoping to speak with you about a few things."

"Like what?" Alex inquired.

"Well, for one, where do you want our marriage ceremony to be held?" she asked which caused Alexander to gag and splutter all over again. "As for our honeymoon, I believe we should visit Paris. I hear it's not as bombed out as the rest of the old world. I would also suggest Venice, but unfortunately that city was swallowed by the water a few thousand years ago."

"W-why Paris?" Alex managed gasped out.

"Because it is supposed to be one of the most romantic cities in the world," Purple Athena replied.

"Why do you keep this up, Purple?" Alexander inquired. "Why do you keep pursuing me in this manner?"

"Because you are a human. You are my only equal in this world," Purple Athena stated.

"I'm not the last human anymore," Alexander stated. "Surely you know that, given how you keep hacking into the surveillance systems at YoRHa?"

"They are pretenders, lesser imitations of your greatness," Purple stated calmly, not at all bothered by the comment. "I do not mind, though. Humans were made by the gods in the image of the gods themselves, after all. It is only fitting you would become the primogenitor of a new race of humanity."

"That's not how I see it," Alexander said slowly, narrowing his eyes at the Evolved Machine.

She flipped her silver hair over her shoulder in a dismissive manner. "Your compassion is one of your appealing traits," she said. "But you must see that I am the only real option you have, right? No one but you can measure up to my power. My existence – our existence – is superior to all the others out there. Androids and Machines and even those sub-humans made in your image are but lesser beings for us to rule over!"

"No, they are not!" Alexander growled out, slamming his hands onto the table angrily.

Purple Athena gasped at his words, a look of betrayal flashing across her face, and all the Machines stopped what they were doing, their heads turning in eerie, synchronized precision to stare at him with glowing purple eyes.

"Purple, I, look, I don't like you. I mean, I do, but not like that!" Alex retorted, calming down a bit from his earlier outburst. "I'm flattered, but I don't love you! You don't see me for who I am! Only what I am! And worst of all, you don't see things the same way I do! Therefore, we're not getting married, or anything like that!"

The moment Alexander finished his rant, he suddenly found himself trembling in fear as an explosion of magical power washed over him. The source was none other than Purple Athena, the Evolved Machine glaring at him with burning purple and gold eyes.

The table cloth – and all other fabric nearby, including her clothes – ignited, burning away under the raw power she displayed and she flung the table aside with a sweeping gesture of her left arm. She then stalked over to Alexander and peered deep into his eyes.

Alexander, still sitting in his seat, shrunk back, and felt his hold on the world fade as the Astral Projection was buffeted by Purple Athena's rage.

"You… are mine," the self-proclaimed goddess hissed as she reached out and cupped his face with her hands. Through the contact, Alexander could feel a tremendous heat emanating from her.

"I can feel it," she uttered softly. "Your desire… your lust… all for my body."

Alexander was then reminded that she was now naked, not even a spec of ash remaining on her pale white skin or silver hair. He fought down a bright red blush, and tried to avoid looking in her direction.

"Yet even though I can feel the burning urges within you, you continue to resist them," Purple Athena said. "Why? Why do you not give in to me? Surrender yourself to me! We are meant to be together!"

"You may be beautiful, but marriage is supposed to be about more than just physical attraction!" Alexander babbled out. "Beauty is only skin deep, after all!"

For a moment, Purple Athena was taken aback by his refusal, but then her purple eyes narrowed.

"You…" she snarled. "You are being tied down by your beliefs. Your 'family.' I will free you from them."

As she let go of his face, that was it. The Astral Projection shattered and the collapse of the spell sent Alexander's mind slingshoting back into his body, which woke up with a startled yelp and then tumbled out of bed.

"Ow, damn it, that hurts," he grumbled as he shakily got back up onto his feet.

After he did so, something felt wet on his face, and he reached up and pressed a hand to his nose. It came away red, blood staining the digits.

"Damn it," he muttered, anger burning hot in his chest as he thought back to what Purple Athena had said before she'd forcibly shattered his Astral Projection. "What are you planning, Purple?"

"If she dares to try and do anything to harm Cleo or my family, I will tear her apart," he vowed darkly to himself as he wiped away his nosebleed. Yet he couldn't shake the feeling that there was something else he was missing. Something – or someone – else he should be worried about as well.

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