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A note from BugDevil

I am aware that "Chakalaka" doesn't start with an "S". Sue me.

Lastation

Basilicom.

Ram: "Uni's room is boooring! The living room is way more fun to run around in!"

Nepgear: "W-we aren't supposed to run in here Ram. It will bother Miss Noire."

She tried to stop the pink wearing twin by... running after her.

Rom: "…this book is nice. I want to draw cute animals into it."

Uni: "Aaah stop! That's an important folder with research data!"

Sweat ran down her face as she hurriedly took the folder away from Rom. The blue wearing twin's crestfallen expression made her feel guilty about it too.

Twitch.

Vert: "The twins are so energetic. They liven up any place with their presence."

Blanc: "You wouldn't be showing that annoying grin if they ruined your library."

Vert: "Aha! I am way ahead of you in that regard. My entire novel collection is digitized. There is nothing to be afraid of."

Neptune: "You got all those limited edition concept art books tho."

Vert: "…"

Blanc: "Heh. Didn't think Neptune of all people would get you to shut up."

Neptune: "Haha no sweat!"

Twitch twitch.

Noire's brows and lips twitched a whole lot until she couldn't hold it in anymore.

Noire: "Why is everyone gathering in my home again?! I have work to do!"

She slapped her desk and actually made some of the paperwork fly a few centimeters into the air. The present CPUs and candidates all stopped in their tracks and looked at her.

Blanc: "Now you understand how it feels."

Only Blanc was not frozen by her outcry. She had an aura of smugness around her. After everyone had just stormed her castle last time, it seemed like this was giving her some satisfaction. Of course she was the reason this situation happened in the first place.

Blanc: "This is work too. So get your ass over here."

Noire: "I understand where you are coming from, but I have to check Uni's work progress-"

Uni: "…!"

Uni gulped. She had figured that this was the reason that Noire had been so adamant about going to work right after they returned in the morning. They had spent all night taking care of the perpetrators of the conspiracy and only returned when the sun had risen again. Uni actually woke up because Noire had entered the door a little too noisily.

Blanc: "A CPU meeting takes precedence over that. You've got some stuff to explain to me."

She wasn't wrong. They had left her out of the whole fiasco yesterday and it was only natural that she needed to catch up.

But did she really have to drag them together here? A video chat would have sufficed, right?

Noire took a seat next to the others, albeit begrudgingly.

Neptune: "Three meetings in one week… this truly is the darkest of all timelines."

The purple haired CPU declared and pushed her face against the table. She had only gotten six hours of sleep before she got called over this noon. That was almost no sleep at all in Neptune standards!

???: "That statement is not factual."

A new voice made itself noticeable right next to Neptune on the table. She had quite literally come from empty air, but now she was sitting at the table as if she had been here all along.

Neptune: "MAGES.?!"

Even Neptune was surprised.

MAGES.: "Greetings. I have returned from my journey to another dimension."

The magical science inclined girl was clearing her throat. Her black and white overcoat was dirty in a few places, but her black witch hat looked as pristine as ever. Blue hair was hanging over her shoulders as she leaned on one arm to support her head. There was some exhaustion in her azure eyes, but her demeanor was as calm as usual.

Vert: "You can dimension hop now?"

MAGES.: "Indeed. I will be in your care for a while Assistant."

She nodded towards Noire.

Noire: "Why do you always call me that?!"

Neptune: "I guess with MAGES. everything is possible."

MAGES.: "My throat is noticeably parched. Could you acquire me a cold Doc P, Assistant?"

Noire: "I am not your assistant! And what even is that?"

MAGES.: "…! Did the organization erase all knowledge about Doc P from this timeline while I was gone? Those fiends!"

Blanc: "I somehow doubt it…"

Neptune: "Nevermind that, what did you mean by that extremely foreshadowing comment before?"

MAGES.: "Oh, this is not the darkest of all timelines. But perhaps I erred in my assessment if there is no Doc P here…"

Vert: "Please elaborate."

MAGES.: "Forgive me. I just returned from a dimension much worse than our own."

Neptune: "Seriously? What's going on there? Did they ban video games?"

MAGES.: "It is not my place to talk about this subject. You will be informed soon enough."

If there was one constant in this world that would never change it was that MAGES. talked in riddles and incomprehensible phrases. Prying logic out of her statements would require more than a crowbar. Maybe if they had this magical drink of the gods that she called 'Doc P', but that was just a rumor.

Blanc: "I don't really care. Can we get to the point? All of you did some stuff behind my back. Tell me what you are hiding."

It became clear that Blanc felt left out. While Neptune, Vert and Noire were having adventures and busted criminals she had not even been called once. If Noire didn't know better she would have thought that Lowee's CPU was actually pouting.

Vert: "My apologies. You must have felt lonely."

She folded her hands and apologized politely. Blanc wasn't happy about that.

Blanc: "I am not lonely. You gotta have me confused for her."

She pointed at Noire.

Noire: "Hey!"

Neptune: "I got it! We should get her a toy to play with next time we bust a criminal syndicate, so she doesn't feel the flutters of lonesomeness~"

Now both Noire and Blanc glared at Neptune simultaneously. Blanc's reaction was understandable, but Noire was trying to shut her up for a different reason. Hadn't they agreed never to mention Blanc (cat) to Blanc (CPU) just yesterday?! Neptune was getting way too much enjoyment out of that knowledge.

Blanc: "What didja say babyface!?"

Her left eye turned a glowing red. To her it must have seemed like Neptune was calling her a kid.

Neptune: "J-just kidding! Don't be a grumpy cat Blanny~"

Nep bursted into laughter while Blanc and Noire got upset.

Ram: "I want a toy too Blanc!"

Rom: "A new… game?"

Now Neptune had given the twins hope for a new plaything too. Chaos ensued and predictably the "meeting" dissolved into hijinks all too fast.


Neptune: "Boy, hard work makes me hungry. We need some grub."

Noire: "What hard work could you possibly be referring to…?"

Vert: "You wouldn't let your valued guests go hungry, right Noire?"

Noire: "I don't remember inviting any of you over!"

Neptune: "You heard her, let's blow this joint! Blanc's got a house made of sweets. Nep Jr. showed me a picture."

Ram: "Naaah, we built that from our allowance!"

Uni: "You actually built something like that…?"

Rom: "We… used sugar solution for glue…"

The quieter CPU candidate explained with an adorable smile.

MAGES.: "That sounds teeth-rottingly sweet. The construction value must be impressive."

She was interested?

Neptune: "I always wanted to eat someone's home at least once."

The mood shifted and everyone seemed to get ready to leave. Blanc was objecting to their invasion of her Basilicom, but not too much.

Noire got uneasy and intervened.

Noire: "W-wait. Now that you are here I don't have any choice, have I? There is nothing prepared yet, but I can cook something up quickly. Y-you better be grateful!"

Neptune: "Can't be honest with yourself if your life depended on it, eh?"

It became clear that Noire had fallen right into Neptune's trap. By trying to leave, Noire inevitably would want them to stay! Reverse psychology at its finest! But that castle of sweets really was tempting.

Nepgear: "That's a lot of work, maybe I can help?"

Noire: "Thanks Nepgear. I would appreciate-"

Uni: "Big sis, let me help too!"

Her little sister raised her hand and rushed to Nepgear's side. Her eagerness to help Noire was heartwarming.

Noire: "S-sure, but-"

Neptune's eyes sparkled. She looked at the kitchen and then back at the twintails duo and her little sister.

Neptune: "I got a better idea."

Noire: "Oh no."

Neptune: "K-chakalaka?"

K-sha: "Ready Miss Neptune!"

The schoolgirl seemingly phased into existence next to her rival. She realized her mistake too late, as she had just reflexively appeared at Neptune's call.

Blanc: "Where did she come from?!"

Nepgear: "D-does the floor have holes? But a human can't fit through the cracks…!"

Only Noire wasn't surprised. She crossed her arms and gave K-sha a mindful look.

Noire: "I thought you had to hand in an essay at school today?"

K-sha: "I gave it to Miss Platinum. She handed it in for me. I wanted… I wanted to apologize to you Noire…. But there were so many people here… The mood didn't seem right… and you had so much fun…"

She tapped her index fingers against each other in a depressed way. Noire shook her hair and patted K-sha's head in an unexpected gesture. Nobody saw it coming!

Noire: "You don't have to apologize. Nobody is angry with you."

She nodded towards the other CPUs who were sitting at the table in the living room and holding a funny conversation. They stopped for a moment, to respond to her. Vert winked back and Blanc nodded forgivingly. Neither seemed to be bothered by K-sha's actions themselves.

Blanc was just angry that she was left out of the whole investigation part. It would have made great material for her high school investigator novel series.

K-sha: "M-miss Blanc… Miss Vert…!"

Tears gathered in the corners of her eyes. Noire's warm hand on her head was comforting as well.

Noire: "Just don't do it again. I don't want to get an unfair advantage in the Share battle. I will win either way! I only do everything, right?"

She smiled confidently.

K-sha wiped her tears and nodded mesmerized by Noire's gallant figure.

Blanc: "Not if I got a say in it."

Vert: "Leanbox is catching up with each passing day."

CPUs were prideful animals. An establishment of dominance had to be responded to in kind.

Well except for Neptune.

Neptune: "Yeah that's really heartwarming and all, but let's get cooking!"

Noire: "I think I already know where this is going but let me ask anyway: Where is this going?"

Neptune: "Just lean back and relax, 'cause today we are going to make you a feast, Gourmet Heart! And those other hungry hungry hippos can get some too I guess."

The hippos in question had a remarkable loss of interest in the free dinner all of a sudden.

Nepgear: "Sis? You can't mean…!"

Neptune: "Sorry Nep Jr., but you'll have to postpone your cooking sesh with Noire Jr. for a while. It's a cooking contest extravaganza today!"

Blanc: "Can I leave now?"

Neptune: "Ouch! Your gums are flapping a big game today, Blanc."

MAGES.: "It does not matter to me as long as I can have a sip of Doc P with it."

Many a comment was made and someone even suggested they should call Compa instead.

Noire: "Neptune… you can't cook."

Noire finally reminded her.

Neptune: "I'll make up for it with the power of friendship."

The line was accompanied by sparkling stars.

Uni: "What kind of ingredient is that supposed to be?"

Neptune: "And what's the status on your recipe book?"

Ignoring the naysayers, she turned her attention to K-sha.

K-sha: "I have been practicing my cooking every day. I-it's a hobby of mine."

Blanc: "It's a basic survival skill when faced with cafeteria food on campus."

K-sha: "I made lunch boxes for Noire before. She couldn't get enough of them."

Noire: "D-don't say it that way!"

Neptune: "Gahoo?! You were already that high level?! Did you feed her with spoon trains too?"

K-sha blushed.

Neptune: "Seriously?"

Her eyes turned into lines.

Noire: "No! Nothing of the sort ever happened."

She denied it vehemently with crossed arms.

Noire: "Stop it Neptune. I already said I haven't made up my mind yet, but that doesn't mean you two need to keep competing. Just let me cook."

Neptune: "That's boring. We all know Noire's cooking is good. Instead let us play with your kitchen!"

Vert: "And there are her true colors."

Blanc: "I'd be much happier if we weren't also supposed to eat it."

Uni: "Is it too late to order a pizza?"

Their dismissive tone only triggered a more stubborn reaction from the purple haired newbie chef. She rolled up the sleeves of her hoodie dress and pointed at the living room.

Neptune: "No more comments from the peanut gallery! Why is there so much distrust in the world? Aren't we all connected through our will for a better tomorrow?"

Blanc: "My tomorrow would be much better without a stomach cramp."


In the end Neptune couldn't be convinced otherwise, so Noire was put on a chair in the background of the kitchen to watch the cooking competition. The kitchen had a big open door as well as an opening to reach food into the living room, so the audience (and future test subjects) had a good view on the procedures. Conversely Neptune could watch any daring subject that tried to escape.

Seeing Neptune in an apron was like putting a top hat on a moose. The contrast was delightfully dumb.

K-sha on the other hand was wearing the apron over her uniform, which gave her a fetish multiplier bonus of x2. The jury would definitely give her straight 10s for appearances alone.

But outfits alone didn't make five star cooks. Cooking did.

K-sha was getting ingredients from the fridge and the fruit basket close to the end of the counter. She organized it all neatly and started cutting the vegetables with a machine like precision. Water was soon filled into a pot and warmed up. While doing all these things simultaneously she started humming in tune with her hands. She was the picture of a young housewife.

Neptune was also doing something. It was not cooking, but maybe just as intense. First she contemplated what to make. She cupped her chin with her hand and closed her eyes in concentration. To her there was only really one dish that could never fail. Something that brought happiness to everyone. Warm or cold, soft or solid. Sweet and fulfilling.

She flicked her fingers.

Noire: (Did she decide on something?)

The small CPU grabbed the wooden board in front of her… and put it away. Then she pulled out a silver bowl. Okay, so a dish that had to be stirred instead of cut.

Then she moved over to the fridge.

She opened the fridge.

She took something out of the fridge.

She moved back to the bowl.

Neptune: "Hmhmhm~"

She hummed while opening the packaging. Then she poured it all into the bowl.

Neptune: "DONE!"

She hit a bell and stopped the timer.

Everyone: "AS IF!"

Noire jumped up from her chair and walked over to Neptune. She had thrown six packs of pudding into the bowl. And that was it.

Noire: "That's not a meal! It's not even cooking! At least make the pudding yourself!"

Neptune: "But isn't that how pudding is made? Nep Jr. and Compa always bring it home like that."

Noire facepalmed. This needed fixing. It insulted not just Neptune's intelligence, but as a fellow goddess it was embarrassing to know someone who was so inept at even the most basic housework.

In pure exasperation Noire put a lid on the pudding mountain and put it back into the fridge. Then she got some pudding powder, milk and eggs. Afterwards she tied back her bangs and pigtails behind her head. Without question she grabbed another apron and put it on. It fit her perfectly of course.

Noire: "Now watch and learn. You have to crack the eggs by slightly hitting them on the side of the bowl. Don't do it too hard or the egg yolk will flow over the edges."

Neptune nodded in fascination and opted to watch her do it. Afterwards she followed the instructions. The egg broke in her hand before she even hit the edge. Noire let her head sink while Neptune laughed.

Noire: "Wash your hands."

She pulled her by the arms and held her hands below the kitchen sink faucet.

Uni: "Uhm… is this still a competition? The jury is preparing the food, you know?"

Nepgear: "Shh don't raise your voice Uni. They look happy, so we shouldn't say anything."

Uni: "I guess."

Uni shrugged with a wry smile.

From the corner of her eyes K-sha was watching those events unfold. She was still diligently preparing her meal, but there was a twinge in her heart. Maybe if she was not as skillful… Noire would have helped her instead…?

She hit her chest with her fist to suppress the hot surging that began to spread through her heart. This was… jealousy, wasn't it? Jealous of Miss Neptune for getting all the attention? She had no right to feel this way! Not after all she had done for her.

As she refocused her efforts she kept listening to them.

Noire: "In the first place, pudding isn't a real meal Neptune. It's a dessert."

Neptune: "I've been living on three servings of pudding for months at a time before. It's a Neptune confirmed diet~"

Noire: "Just how much do you love pudding?!"

She sighed.

Noire: "You are really lucky that we aren't human. Otherwise you'd have died from malnourishment by now."

Thump!

Like a thousand needles a pain assailed K-sha's heart once again. She leaned over her pot and bit her lips. Not now… She couldn't give in now. Using the focus from some unknown part of her psyche she erased her doubts.

Neptune: "So you are saying it's my special skill~?"

She made a sideways v-shaped finger pose in front of her left eye while closing the right one.

Noire: "I am saying you will get fat."

Neptune: "Boo! You always pull the weight card. At least I don't need a dumbbell diet."

Noire: "If you mention that again I will tell Histoire to only feed you vegetables for a month."

Neptune: "Y-you can't do that! She is Planeptune's Oracle!"

Was there doubt in her voice? Noire grinned with one eye closed.

Noire: "Histoire and I have a lot of similar thoughts on some things. And Nepgear wouldn't go against her either, right?"

Neptune: "Nep Jr. is loyal to me-"

She remembered the escapade with the tools from a few days ago.

Neptune: "…I am powerless in front of you divine overlord. Please spare my pudding reservoir."

She made a pose as if she was getting handcuffed.

Noire: "W-well I don't really care if you gorge yourself on pudding or anything! It has nothing to do with me."

Neptune: "So you are my pudding companion?!"

Noire: "I d-don't dislike it… pudding I mean. But I am not going to join any weird cult."

Vert: "Cough cough."

She said the word 'cough' out loud instead of actually coughing. That made the cooking duo realize that they were not alone and definitely not in their own little world.

They hastily returned to preparing their dessert.

By the end of their work K-sha had provided an excellent vegetable soup with some fresh bread and a few other side-dishes, while Neptune presented her self-made pudding (with help from Noire).

This would have been an acceptable dinner, but there was an unexpected additional food source. It came in through the front door!

Compa: "Hello Miss Noire! We are coming in."

IF: "Wait Compa, don't lose your balance! L-let me help already."

Compa: "You carried it all the way to Lastation, so I want to at least bring it to the table."

IF: "You already cooked for everyone, there is really no need-"

Compa slipped and fell backwards against IF. She caught her just in time, but the huge pot she had been carrying was sent flying. Towards Noire.

Neptune: "Hah!"

K-sha: "Hoh!"

They both jumped in an arc and grabbed the pot from both side in the air and caught it right before it could hit Noire.

Vert: "A splendid performance."

She gave them enthused applause.

IF: "Are you alright Compa?"

Compa: "Yes… Thanks for being there Iffy."

IF: "Honestly, I told you I'd carry it."

Compa: "I feel like you always carry my burdens…"

Vert: "Cough cough."

IF: "...! Err… Hi. We got a call that Neptune was going to destroy dinner or something, so we came to bring some of Compa's stew."

Neptune: "I shall overlook your rude rudeness in light of your stew offerings!"

She and K-sha put the pot down on the table. It was still relatively hot. There was enough stew for several people inside.

Blanc: "We are saved."

Vert and her had called them over in secret. Compa was the best cook in their party usually, so there was some reliability in that choice.

Compa: "I was just making some food for Iffy and me, but this was a lot of fun. I didn't cook for many people in a while."

Compa's smile could probably cure sicknesses. And any stubborn illness that remained would make final contact with her giant syringe.

Neptune: "Iffy, you've been hanging around Compa's apartment after work a lot recently. Did you get to have her cooking every day?"

Nep extended her fingers like antenna. Now they were reading Iffy's brain waves (definitely not).

IF: "W-why do you care?"

Neptune: "Fufufu."

IF: "Stop it with that smug grin. It's normal for me to visit Compa!"

She shook off her flustered feelings and put a hand on her waist.

Compa: "We are childhood friends after all. Stop teasing Iffy, Nep-Nep."

Neptune walked over to her old guild friend and patted her one the back.

Neptune: "I feel kinda sorry for you. She doesn't mean anything bad by it. It's just black hole syndrome."

IF: "You are literally the last person on the planet I want to hear that from."

Ram: "Let's dig in!"

Everybody happily agreed and took their first stab at the provided food. With all the newly added guests it was a huge event. It was a good thing that they had so much food.

Noire raised her spoon to take a first sip of K-sha's impeccable soup. She brought it to her mouth and tasted it. Immediately she nodded approvingly.

Noire: "Not bad. You really have improved. No doubt because of my advice."

She said proudly.

Noire: "This soup is almost to die for-"

Fwoop.

This quiet sound accompanied the opening of a portal. Not just any portal though. A portal that was situated right above Noire's head. It was wide enough for two people. Two people above Noire's head.

???: "This ain't good!"

???: "Out of the way!"

As anyone could have expected they crashed straight into Noire. Her face hit the plate of soup with full force and then the chair broke and she was buried by the two figures.

???: "That's it Crosty, you will get the knitting needles next."

Croire: "C'mon you stupid broa- Miss. I've even got ya back to your friends an' all."

???: "Oi, it's Nepsy! She's not lying, big Nepsy."

Big Nep: "Okey dokey, but I'm watching your little butterfly wings. You haven't seen the worst of the Nep-Note yet."

Croire: "Y-you're bluffing, you crazy bitch."

Big Nep: "You want to test me?"

Neptune: "My older version is so cool."

???: "I'm cool too, right?"

Neptune: "For realsies Uzume."

Uzume: "Hahaha!"

Noire: "Gargle?"

Uni: "Big siiiiiisss!?"

Uni cried out as Noire seemed to drown in her soup and also got crushed by the people sitting on top of her. This soup really was almost something to die in.

Uzume: "Woah, did we fall on somethin'?"

Umio: "Uzume, you have to get up."

K-sha: "Ho? Did I miss that fish when I made the soup?"

She grabbed the huge flying fish called Umio and tried to bring him to the chopping board.

Uzume: "Wait just a sec'! Umio is my emergency ration! No stealin'."

Nepgear: "Is that really the issue here?"


Uzume: "Sorry 'bout that. Can you find it in ya to forgive me Noirsy?"

The redhead CPU rubbed the back of her head and apologized.

Noire: "Rhrm…" (How many more people are going to intrude here...?)

She was holding her red nose and glared at Uzume and the older looking Neptune.

Big Nep: "We might have gotten a little off course. Crosty has been a major pain in the nep recently."

Uzume: "Tell me about it! We just wanted to chill out in the Zero Dimension for a bit and then we end up in some crazy world where Ar-something-or-another took over."

Big Nep: "She was so totally trying to get rid of us."

Croire: "Was not."

She totally was though.

Neptune: "'Ar-something'? You can't mean!"

She raised her finger.

Neptune: "Arbore!?"

Uzume: "Yeah that one!"

Blanc: "Arfoire."

Uzume: "Yeah that one!"

Big Nep: "She was rambling on about the end times and destruction and all that fuzz again."

Uzume: "Anyways, we kinda sorta started a rebellion, but just by accident, I swear."

The others looked at them more or less dumbfounded. Rom and Ram were still eating, but the rest were listening intently to their story.

Apparently they had landed right on top of Arfoire (kind of like they just did with Noire) while she was giving a video broadcast speech to her subjects around Gamarket. That was the name of the dimension they ended up in. The people realized that Arfoire wasn't a goddess after all. It was quite embarrassing for everyone.

Somehow that led to them becoming the figureheads of the rebellion against Arfoire and her forces of ASIC. Honestly it sounded like a lot of crazy stuff had happened in rapid succession since they left.

Big Nep: "But we got Crosty under control with some knitting needles, so it shouldn't be too hard to go back whenever we want."

Crosty: "You are one psycho bitch."

Big Nep: "Hm?"

Crosty: "Just tell me when it's goin' down. Maybe it'll be a little entertaining to see you fail at least."

Uzume: "It'd feel wrong to ignore the people of Gamarket now that we helped them this far. So we'll go back there soon. Just wanted to test if Crosty was working again."

Umio: "We are sorry for interrupting your meal."

Nepgear: "Goodness, no need to apologize. You look really hungry."

The redhead tomboy grabbed one of the platters and filled it with stew in response. She looked positively famished.

Uzume: "Boy, this looks real' good! There ain't any shiitake mushrooms in it tho, right?"

Compa: "None at all."

She assured the ancient CPU.

Uzume: "So what've you guys been up to Gearsy?"

After that bombshell of a story they were reminded all the more how much they've been fooling around recently. Everyone suddenly seemed really interested in their food.

Nepgear: "Errm…"

Noire: "Well…"

Uni: "That's…"

Neptune: "Nothing much~"

Their savior was none other than the idiot who started the whole mess. Neptune's ability to not feel any embarrassment at her actions was a saving grace right now.

Neptune: "We busted some conspiracy and got a few criminals into community service."

Uzume: "Wow, that's awesome! Wish I could've been there."

She grinned while stuffing her face. Then she noticed a big black hat in the back. One person had been silent the entire time and eaten her meal in a straight posture.

Uzume: "Yo MAGES.! You've been here the entire time?"

MAGES.: "I've taken the liberty of arriving first. Your tiny creature seems to have start up problems. My dimension-traveling-microwave-time-machine is much more reliable."

Uzume: "You hear that Crosty? She said you're a piece of junk."

Croire: "Like I care! If I'm so useless why don't ya let me go?"

Vert: "So the dimension MAGES. talked about…"

MAGES.: "Correct. I have offered my services in supporting the resistance forces. I owe Neptune a favor after all."

Neptune & Big Nep: "You do?"

Uni: "Somehow both of them were surprised to hear that?! Which one is it then?"

Uzume: "Man, I've missed the good food from this dimension! Whoever made this has some mad skills."

Neptune: "It was meee! I made food!"

She raised her hand and smiled like the protagonist should after conquering a castle.

Uzume: "Amazing Nepsy! You musta been super busy doin' all that by yourself. No wonder the pudding turned out so mushy. No time to work on that too."

Neptune: orz

Neptune fell to her hands and knees. Someone as direct as Uzume and with so much praise too, had said that with so little malice… it somehow hit harder than if she had sneered at her.

The tomboy's red-orange eyes blinked and she gulped down a mouthful of the pudding.

Uzume: "Did I say somethin' wrong?"


The clear winner of the contest was Compa's stew. But K-sha was praised for her food as well. For some reason she didn't seem quite happy, even though she gave them grateful smiles. Neptune obviously hit dead last, but she was content with having made something edible.

Noire (who was wearing a band aid on her nose now) said that she liked all the food, but she was probably the proudest of Neptune for making something edible too. Not that she would ever say that last part out loud.

Now that most things had been discussed, they all headed home one after another.

Vert: "I have to return to 4GO2. My guild has been despairing without my presence recently. Visit me soon, okay Nepgear?"

She waved gracefully and then transformed to fly off.

Blanc: "Thanks for the food."

Ram: "Next time we'll show you our candy house too Uni."

Uni: "T-thanks?"

Rom: "…it was yummy!"

The trio left towards Lowee now.

Neptune: "You wanna come with us?"

She asked towards the dimension traveling quartet.

Uzume: "I would love to say hi to Histy, but we gotta leave soon. Thanks for lendin' me the N-Gear by the way."

Nepgear: "No problem! Sorry that it can't contact us from over there. We need Histoire to give an out-going call instead. Now that we know about your situation we will tell her."

Big Nep: "That would be super useful. You guys are the best."

Umio: "Uzume has gotten caught up in another perilious situation, but thanks to you she isn't as reckless anymore. We will watch over her too."

Neptune: "We Planeptune folk need to help each other out. Just come to get us if you need help with your lil' civil war!"

Uzume: "Will do. But I can handle that much myself!"

She raised her fist and posed like a badass.

Big Nep: "I'm also helping out as little as I can."

She winked.

MAGES.: "Save travels to you."

Uzume: "Why are you looking at us?"

MAGES.: "I shall not put my fate on the line by relying on that creature."

She bowed and then walked down the stairs. When she thought that she was out of sight she pulled something from her pocket and whispered 'El psy congroo'. Then she vanished in thin air.

Uzume: "She is super cool, right?"

Nepgear: "Y-yes…"

Nepgear furrowed her brows and smiled wryly.

Big Nep: "Time for another jump Crosty."

Croire: "Like hell I'm gonna lose to some microwave…"

The small tome girl, currently represented just by blue wings in the Nep-Note, was apparently feeling somehow insulted by MAGES.' actions and grumbled.

Big Nep: "Hello? Still with us?"

The older Neptune tapped her little specimen book. Her black hoodie dress and long hair shook a little in the wind of the night.

Croire: "One-way to Gamarket, right? No problem at all!"

She yelled and then they were sucked into a portal. They barely had time to wave goodbye.

Neptune: "There they go. May their souls rest in peace."

She saluted.

Nepgear: "Sis, don't say things like that."

Noire: "See you Neptune."

She had her arms crossed and turned around as fast as she could.

Being alone with Neptune would just make her conscious of her responsibility right now.

Neptune: "Your shoulder is colder than the breeze out here Nowa."

She frowned a little.

Uni: "S-see you Nepgear!"

Like her older sister she tried to make a cool exit, but Nepgear held her arm.

Nepgear: "We can cook together soon, right?"

Uni: "W-what? You actually cared about that?"

She pretended to be clueless.

Nepgear: "I heard you made chocolate with Miss Noire before. I thought we could make some new sweets maybe?"

That was just like Nepgear… Uni gave up and nodded with a small smile.

Uni: "You better not mess up. It would make me look bad too."

Nepgear: "I'll do my best!"

Now they left less awkwardly. Neptune just kept grinning vaguely. Nepgear didn't seem to notice though.

They walked along the shadowy street in front of the Basilicom which was only illuminated by a few lampposts in the background. The streets were almost empty at this time of night. There was nothing to feel afraid of for two CPUs, but Nepgear still felt watched.

In theory they could have just transformed and flown off, but for some reason Neptune wanted to walk a distance. Eventually they ended up at the outskirts of town. There was a huge hill with an old tree on top of it. Nepgear and Uni had trained there together once while Neptune and Noire had watched them from the shadow of the tree.

And now someone was standing there, waiting.

Neptune: "You can go home first Nep Jr. I think that's my call to take."

Her soft face turned a little softer yet and she put her hands behind her head.

Nepgear: "…okay."

She didn't make a fuss about it and she didn't selfishly ask to come with her. Nepgear had grown a lot since she had been a clingy little sister to Neptune. And sometimes there were things that people had to do alone.

Neptune: "Tell Histy about Uzume and big me when you come home, 'kay?"

Nepgear: "Understood. See you later!"

As the last hurdle left, the two met below the tree, barely illuminated by the shining moon.

Neptune: "You got something to say, K-shadow?"

The high school girl stepped out from the shadow of the tree and looked at Neptune with a cold expression. Her hands were forming fists. Her breathing was low. And her turquoise eyes were reflecting Neptune's image.

K-sha: "I have figured it out…"

Neptune: "Figured what out?"

K-sha: "The truth about you. About me. And about Noire."

Neptune: "That's a whole lot of truth."

K-sha: "This contest is over. You have lost already."

Neptune: "…"

They both looked at each other in silence.

Then she added one more line.

K-sha: "…and I have lost everything."

(To be continued)

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About the author

BugDevil

Bio: I write stories sometimes.

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