“Some friends sit down and share stories with each other. That can be a good thing, but also a very bad one.”
Something wet and cold touches my cheek. Annoyed, I press my closed eyelids together and grumble. Why can't I have a good night's sleep? Ever since I was forced to flee the Alliance there is always something that requires my attention.
A furry thing touches my nose, so I try to shoo it away. My hand hits soft pelt, causing an irritated yelp from the offender. With the settling silence, I slowly drift back to sleep until the furry thing returns, softly tickling my lips and nose.
“Lucifer, leave me alone,” I moan. Yes, that's right. It must be Lucifer.
Which garners the question of why Nova's familiar is in my quarters. The thought of the cat’s presence slowly kick-starts my brain, causing me to wake up.
Yesterday, I accompanied Nova to her quarters and she offered me something to drink in order to celebrate Illum's first battle. The booze was highly alcoholic, so Nova and I almost drank ourselves into a stupor. So what happened next?
Before my addled mind can recall more, Lucifer lies down on my face, purring. The vibrations send waves of pain through my brain, reminding me of the consequences which have to be paid for the rigorous consumption of alcohol.
With my free hand, I push the cat away.
Not minding the treatment, Lucifer lies down on my chest and rolls around playfully.
The pain slowly brings everything back. The heated discussion with Nova, though I remember only parts of it, right up to the point when she tore her dress off and attempted seducing me. Please tell me that I didn't do it again. Am I that weak of a man? Maybe being a woman is really my true calling?
No. I think I didn't. I refused her, noting that she was too drunk to make a rational decision.
That's... that's... I think that she broke her office chair... and chased me with one of its broken legs. Then... everything went dark.
Opening my eyes, I wince against the bright sunlight.
Looking around, I find Nova next to me. We are sharing her bed, again. She is softly snoring with her mouth open and completely naked, as am I. Tired and not entirely awake, my eyes are drawn to her generous chest. I make an instinctive decision of reaching out and squeezing it. Ah, that hard nipple feels so satisfying... and this is entirely wrong of me! A man shouldn't take advantage of a defenceless woman!
Moaning, Nova grabs my hand and pulls me in, wrapping her arms around my head and burying my face in the cleavage between her assets. Lucifer isn't too happy about this turn of events and flees the bed. I try to push Nova away, but she is too strong. Remembering that she crushed her enemies with a gesture, I stop fighting her.
“Mh, I knew that you wouldn't be able to resist. At least I am beginning to corrupt you to my wicked ways when it comes to your carnal desires.” She wriggles against me, enticing me to do more. Cursing, I pull her on top of me and give in to my desires.
Afterwards, I return to my duties. That includes the organization of several teams who will clean up the Empire's airships. We also have to search each vessel entirely, making sure that we don't allow something nasty to infiltrate Illum.
My day ends by paying a visit to my family. I find my parents and my little sister in their living quarters. When I enter the room they look at me but don't say a word. The atmosphere between us has been quite awkward since I was declared Nova's official consort.
“Hi,” I greet them and sit down on the sofa, then I try to break the ice. “The battle caused us to be slightly delayed, but the clean-up operations will take just two or three days at the most. We will reach Mirai within the week. Hopefully, things will cool down once we are there. Their fleet has a strong presence on the island. None of the larger nations will dare to do something drastic.”
Mom wrinkles her nose. “I see. Let's hope that you are right. It would be bad if the Mirai also turn into enemies.”
My little sister, who is holding a book, looks up. “How is it going between you and the wench? I noticed that you weren't at your quarters yesterday evening.”
“Nadine!” Oswin reprimands her by calling out sharply, but the damage is done. I don't know why Nadine was so fond of Carmen that she is still poking her finger into my emotional wound.
Feeling my self-control slipping, I try to smile, but my expression is probably just cruel. “Actually, it's going well. Nova is quite the woman. I doubt that Carmen would've been such a good lay. Carmen is too conceited and preoccupied with herself to give others the freedom they need. Besides, I always would've asked myself how she really looks. That woman paid so many healers to turn her into a perfect beauty that her face was nothing but a mere mask.”
It's true. Compared to Nova, that blonde is like the sun and the moon. Carmen shines so radiantly that it's impossible to look at her and see what's beneath the surface. Nova is also beautiful, but it's a natural beauty. She has all those little imperfections which make her human.
When my sister is too dumbfounded to reply, I lash out a second time. It’s a mistake, but my pounding head lowers my ability to cope with criticism. “And it's quite interesting that you asked. I spent the night with Nova and it was one hell of a ride. If we keep this up, you will have to call yourself an aunty by the end of the year.”
Nadine's jaw drops and it's my mother's turn to reprimand me. “That's enough, Zane! Your sister learned her lesson.”
The silence stretches on. Neither of us knows how to proceed. In the end, it's my father who tries to wave the peace-flag. “Look. This isn't easy on any of us and I know that my flamboyant comments aren't helping. We should have annulled the engagement with Carmen as soon as our relationship with the Alliance went to hell. We weren't thinking. It's not like Carmen would have betrayed her family. Her people holding out their necks for us… That was too good to be true.”
He sighs heavily. Oswin seems much older in that moment. “They just made those promises to get Carmen onto Illum. They aren't our friends anymore. The political games of the families are going on without us. Maybe that's even a good thing. For better or worse, our future lies with Illum. Nadine, I know that you liked Carmen. She taught you a lot during her visits. You should learn from that experience. Nobody can be trusted completely.”
My sister says nothing and decides to glare at the wall.
I exchange a few more shallow comments with my parents, but it feels like we are standing on opposite sides of a large barricade. I've never told them about the whole reincarnation business and my new memories. At first, I was afraid. Then I was too busy. Somehow, I missed the chance to do it without ill feelings. Telling them after such a long time could have undesirable effects. They could end up distrusting me even more than they do now.
After informing them of our upcoming schedule, I leave their quarters in a hurry. While feeling bad about the slowly growing rift between me and them, I return to Nova's office. I find her at her office table. Janice is also there.
The Sovereign turns around upon noticing me. “Zane, you look as if you bit into a sour lemon. Come and sit down.” She pats the chair next to her. “Nova and I were sharing experiences to get to know each other better. As reincarnated people, we have a lot of stories to share. Better to use the time until we reach my island. Once we are there, we will have to play everything according to protocol.”
Being reminded that I am now part of a very special group of people, I start feeling a little better. After a moment of hesitation, I join them. At least it takes my mind off my problems with my family.
Janice returns her attention to Nova. “Right, we were sharing stories and it's my turn to choose the topic. Let's talk about the absolute worst thing which happened throughout our reincarnations.” She hesitates, thinking for a moment. Then, she adds a condition, “this life doesn't count. I will start.”
The Sovereign tilts her head, considering. “There was that one time when I started my career in necromancy and soul-magic. I was researching the effects of soul resonances on necromantic effects when I found out that spells with the correct attunement can transfer from one body to the next. Before I knew it, I had started a zombie apocalypse which ended up turning most of the world's population into zombies. Tehe~”
Don't tell us so nonchalantly that you wiped out an entire world! What's wrong with you!
She turns and looks at me. “Your turn.”
I gulp and try to sift through my memories. Many of them are blurry, but I can at least think of a few distinct lifetimes. “Once, I was an evil and manipulative person. Everyone was a means to achieve my own goals and desires.” Actually, that's pretty much the same thing I am doing right now. The difference is that, back then, I had the power to force others to do my bidding. “I was a horrible person and in the end, I lost everything I held dear.” Damn, this gives me a whole new perspective on my actions.
The silence stretches out. After a while, Janice clears her throat. “Boring! Nova! It's your turn.”
Nova massages her chin as if she has a beard. “Current lifetimes have to be excluded? That isn't easy. I guess that I would choose that one time when I was a demon in a hellish dimension and overthrew the ruling overlord.”
I tilt my head. “I fail to see the problem.”
She clears her throat and elaborates. “Well, the problem was their culture. They had this thing going on that killing someone in single combat automatically turns over all of the loser's possessions to the victor. It included the loser's direct family members. That sucked.” Nova glares at her desk in a brooding manner.
Janice clears her throat. “Details, girl. We need details to understand what the issue was.”
Nova nods. “You see. The overlord and I had an argument at one of his feasts. The discussion grew a little violent and one thing led to another, fuelled by alcohol and the hormones of youth. In my drunken state, I killed him and took his position, together with his harem of eight wives and twenty-one daughters. All of them succubi.”
I try to let that sink in. Being suddenly responsible for so many people after having killed their provider. They would also hate the person who killed their patriarch. “That sucks! Did he have sons who decided to take revenge? They would surely want their father's position.”
Nova snorts and waves her hand, denying the issue. “Nah, that wasn't the problem. The guy was a bastard who had a habit of sacrificing his male offspring. Too much competition. But you don't even know the worst of it! I was drunk and, at the time, a hot blooded demon male! So I thought that I should enjoy what's mine. After properly defiling my enemy’s corpse, which was custom, I had a go at the overlord's harem, taking his wives and his daughters one after the other.” She sighs. “Oh, how they screamed. I am sure that the whole town heard their screams of lust. That was the best night of my life!”
With her expression turning clouded, she twirls her fingers, pressing her lips together. “I myself only wondered after the deed about my boundless stamina. Turns out... it was succubus-breeding-season. They release a certain pheromone that turns males almost mad, so I ended up with twenty-nine pregnant wives.”
I stay silent, trying to imagine myself in a similar situation.
Janice sucks in a sharp breath and starts laughing. “I don't even want to know about the resulting family-dynamics. Though, I doubt that you ever again had to spend a lonely night until the end of that particular life. Did they fight for a place in your bed?”
“Actually, each one got her own day of the month. They played tombola for the ‘special occasions’.” Nova pauses. “Once the little ones came along, I vowed that one partner is enough.”