Best Friends Forever?

by

BugDevil

Epilogue: At the end of the challenge

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Lastation

"I'll never understand. How could this possibly happen to me… any me out there?" Noire's voice rang from the computer screen. She was talking over live chat.

"Who knows?" Noire replied in a disinterested voice.

"Seriously? Neptune? That ditzy pudding obsessed eternal slacker? It's not like I care about your love live or anything, but it kinda reflects badly on me too, you know?" The Noire on screen was putting one hand against her forehead as if she couldn't even deal with this situation. It was the Ultra dimension version.

They had been keeping contact just like everybody else, but only sporadically. This time the contact was established from the Ultra side of things. Apparently word about Noire's and Neptune's relationship had finally reached the distant old-school Lastation over yonder. And evidently the midriff exposing, even more hardheaded version of Noire, was none too pleased with this development.

It's not like Noire couldn't understand her counterpart's feelings at least a little. A few weeks ago she would probably have shut the door in front of anyone even suggesting such a crazy plot… But that didn't mean she had to take this verbal abuse.

"Is that all of your discontent now? I'm rather busy, I'll have you know." She sighed and moved the mouse towards the disconnect symbol.

Of course that wasn't entirely true. She wasn't really all that busy right now. It was one of those down weeks where not much happened. This amount of work she could do in her sleep. In fact she had been done since this morning already. So it would be a stretch to call her even sort of busy. Somewhere inside the back of her head she seemed to remember a certain part of a certain plan involving her getting more free time. This couldn't actually be a result of that, right?

"Wait a sec!" Ultra Noire was clearly aware that her dismissive attitude was driving her to the end of the call. She looked relatively flustered. Noire stopped her hand reflexively.

"Hm?" She raised a brow.

"This isn't really important or anything, but…" The digitized voice still managed to convey her hesitation. "…who confessed first?" Her eyes turned away.

"…eh?" Noire tilted her head.

"W-well… I mean it was definitely you right? Taking the lead and all?" She was getting hard to understand due to her lowered voice.

"Neptune confessed first." Noire said without hesitation. "Wait that's not entirely correct. K-sha confessed long before that." She added with a shrug.

"…!" Ultra Noire looked completely stunned. Such casual dropping of confession bombs was not something she was used to. And there was something else bothering her. "S-so it was that way, huh?" She mumbled with a hand covering her mouth.

"I answered both their confessions seriously and directly." Now she crossed her arms and looked proud. She wasn't entirely lying about that.

"Naturally. As if I wouldn't be able to do that much!" Ultra Noire replied with more passion than expected, even leaning forward. But was she just trying to reassure herself?

"If you want to confess to somebody you just need to do it." Noire said up from her high horse. It sure was easy to act superior after being in a relationship for some time. The bigger the ego, the longer it takes to crumble.

"W-who said anything about me wanting to c-confess?!" As expected there was the angry and embarrassed reaction.

"Whoever it is, they won't wait around forever. There might be someone else who is faster. I would know." She nodded as if she had just given sagely love advice.

"How long did you two know each other already? Seems like you were waiting pretty long to me." She retorted dryly. Clearly there was still some rebellious spirit left in her.

As they kept bickering over the proverbial wall, Noire's hand accidentally brushed over a piece of paper. Still distracted by the conversation she only glanced at it for a second. The only thing she managed to read on it was the word 'Neptune'.

That caught her attention. She turned silent and read the note that she didn't remember putting there.

[Guess what girl; we've got an anniversary to celebrate!

You better come to the place of our first battle!

Hugs and kisses (I totally know you will blush at this),

Neptune]

"Am not." She said with slightly reddened cheeks.

"What?"

"Sorry, something came up. Good luck with your love live." She waved goodbye and hang up.

"I didn't say anything about love-" And they disconnected.

Now that she was all alone with her thoughts she went deep inside her mind. Anniversary? Of what? If it was something important Noire was sure that she would have remembered it. They hadn't been a couple for even a month yet, so that occasion was out of the question. What else was important enough to celebrate and mattered to both Neptune and herself?

She drew a blank.

"I bet it's something pointless." The sender of the message was Neptune after all. Yet it was also true that she was not doing much, but collecting dust in this stuffy office by herself. It was still hard to admit that she wanted to see Neptune, even to herself.

In the first week after those radically eventful confessions they could barely look each other in the eyes and were just acting like shy school girls. It was embarrassing to even think back on it. Afterwards they had figured that it would be best to act more or less like they always did, with some additional… affections.

Noire slapped her cheek to focus on the current problem again. If her head started drifting towards those confusing, yet endearing days again she might forget what she was doing completely.

She was more or less forced to be a Neptune expert at this point, so she could make an educated guess as to what this 'first battlefield' was about. Her intent was to confuse Noire, but it wouldn't work! Noire knew that Neptune's tendency to exaggerate was one of her most prevalent features. So what was the opposite of a serious battlefield?

"Something that wouldn't really matter to anyone but her." She grinned wryly and mentally patted herself on the back for figuring it out. It was time to move to Planeptune now. Maybe the real origin behind this anniversary would make itself apparent while she was travelling there.

With an unexpected spring in her step she overcame the door to her office and walked down the hallway towards the staircase. She felt like walking instead of taking the elevator. As she passed a few rooms she eventually hit the kitchen. In fact it was quite hard to ignore this place, as her foot hit something hard while entering.

"Ouch." She shook her right foot a little after the short sting assailed her. What she had hit was nothing unusual for a kitchen. A big silver pot. There were still remains of some sort of powder inside. Following the trail of the apparently escaped pot she could only crease her brows.

The kitchen… resembled a battlefield more than a place of food preparation. Dozens of appliances were spread over every inch of every surface. It was almost impossible to see the wooden counter or the table below all the stuff towering on top of it. And then there were spots of various ingredients all over the floors and the walls.

Frankly, this was hard to look at. She felt like she would have to go on a cleaning spree right this instant. Not even Neptune had created this much of a mess when she tried to cook 'dinner' last week. The hyperactive girl had gotten arrogant after her triumph over the secrets of pudding creation and thought every other dish would have to obey her as well from now on.

Noire had to clean it all up and prepare something edible afterwards. To her chagrin Neptune had looked too devastated to even get mad at.

"I didn't expect this from Nepgear though." She mumbled as she watched the two culprits snoring away on the floor, back to back. Planeptune's CPU candidate was wearing a white apron over her usual dress, but also an ill-fitting chef hat. Even though nothing could have been further from her usual image, this also made her look charming in a way.

Leaned against her back, and slightly shifted against a drawer was none other than Noire's little sister, Uni. Yes, it was quite a sight to see her in her black and blue apron that she had given her as a present a while ago. Her black silky hair was covered in several blots of white and yellow… substance. It was probably dried dough. At least Noire hoped it was. Whatever the case, it wasn't good for a girl's hair to be gooey and glued together like that. Noire had half a mind to throw her into the shower this instant.

But she refrained from doing anything. It felt wrong to interrupt their peaceful slumber. Especially when they were making such satisfied expressions.

Noire's eyes shifted to the table. It was one big chaotic pile of utensils and ingredients, but in its center… A silver plate was erected on top of all the other mountains of failed experiments. And on top of that lay a few bars of dark chocolate.

"All of this for some chocolate?" This reminded her of that time that she and Uni had made the Lastation themed national sweet, Black Chocolate (name still not final). Only their exploits had been far less messy.

She tenderly took one of the bars and held it in her hand by using some aluminium wrapping. It was very light and had a good consistency. She would have been disappointed if Uni made anything of less quality. There were several bars, so she didn't think it would be a problem if she tested at least a piece of one.

Her white teeth took a small bite out of the dark sweet and her eyes widened as soon as the content met her tongue.

"Pudding?" She exclaimed in surprise. This chocolate was filled with pudding! And it had just the right consistency to not feel awkward mixed with the solid chocolate. The sweetness mixed with the mild bitterness and created an incredible mix of flavors. Noire hummed in approval.

She had left them to their own devices in the kitchen, but now she actually remembered why they had started this cooking session. Something about creating a sweet that combined both of Lastation's and Planeptune's strengths. The renowned Planeptune pudding and the exquisite Lastation dark chocolate. Who would have thought they would mix so well?

Nepgear and Uni did.

Warmth seemed to flow from Noire's mouth to her chest and then spread to the rest of her body. She wasn't sure why, but she felt elated at how far these two had come. To regain her focus she put the cleanly broken chocolate back on the tray. Maybe she would make something for the two of them later today to make up for tasting the fruits of their work without asking.

"Mhhrm… dats too much cream Uni…" Nepgear mumbled in her sleep.

"Give it back… The chocolate is way too soft… it melts all over my clothes…" Even in their dreams they still seemed to be working on their creation. Noire smirked.

Well it wasn't her call to make. If they were comfortable sleeping on the floor, while leaning against each other, then she wouldn't wake them or move them to the bedroom. If she did that, Uni would probably die of embarrassment anyway.

"Sweet dreams." She whispered and left the Basilicom to them alone.


Planeptune

"No, this file goes over there! We need to get some order in here, or else we will be working until morning. Just where did I put that stamp…?"

"Ahhh, Iffy, Mr. Manager called and asked when the deadline is going to end!"

"What? But he just called an hour ago! Couldn't he at least wait until he got all his questions together? I already put the sheets away…"

"I'm terribly sorry for interrupting you while you are busy, but there was a monster sighting around the edge of the eastern village."

"Don't apologize Histoire. You are just as much of a victim as us." IF flailed her hands around to assure the guilty looking Oracle that they weren't overwhelmed at all. It would have been more convincing if that movement hadn't led to several papers and data pads falling down. IF cursed and went to pick them up.

"…" Noire entered through the open door, which nobody had found the time to close apparently. Seeing this chaos around Planeptune Tower was not unexpected, but still…

"Sorry, we can't have a meeting right now, please come back la- Lady Noire?!" Compa was about to tell her that they were too busy to listen to another citizen's troubles, but then realized who had come into the office. Her reaction was mirrored by IF and Histoire as well.

"Hi." She greeted them curtly. By the look of things she could already guess what had happened. "Did Neptune abandon her work again?"

"It's my fault. She managed to jump out the bathroom window on the 16th floor before I could seal it shut." IF grimaced in shame. Was that really something anyone would have to feel guilty for? Just how far did they have to go to make Neptune work?!

"That moron…" Noire sighed. "So that means she isn't home today." She cupped her chin.

"Not anymore. To be honest we thought…." IF cleared her throat. The others looked at Noire as well. She tilted her head, but then realized what they were implying.

"She wasn't with me." She hastily corrected their misunderstanding. It wouldn't be a stretch to assume that Neptune slipped out to hang out with her girlfriend after all. "I wouldn't let her skip work anyway." She added with an iron mien.

"Yes, we know." Histoire assured her. "If you happen to see her, please send her back to us." She requested.

"Of course." She nodded, which made her twintails shake a little.

"Did you come to visit Nep-Nep?" Compa asked curiously.

"Something like that. She left me a cryptic note. But it seems I was off." If Neptune hadn't been here then she couldn't have meant the consoles in the living room as Noire had deduced. It was such a Neptune plot to make her go around thinking about real battlefields while she actually just meant video-games. Had she completely misunderstood her intentions?

"Another call? Let me handle him Compa, you are too nice for your own good." IF grabbed the ringing phone on the desk and sorted out the stuff she had let fall to the floor at the same time.

Noire looked at the pitiful scene in front of her and sighed again. She walked over to the main desk and took a pile of papers and adjusted them neatly. Then she activated the monitor in front of her and started going through the new e-mails.

"Noire, you don't have to do this." Histoire looked extremely sorry.

"Don't worry about it. My workload has been lacking lately. You could say I feel some withdrawal. This is probably also my fault… well no, it's all Neptune's fault, but she will use me as an excuse." Her eyes dulled out as she rigorously began to decimate Planeptune's official matters. It wasn't even her first time. Back when Neptune and Nepgear had gotten lost in the Ultra Dimension, Noire had basically overseen both countries at the same time.

"Thank you." Histoire decided to show her a grateful expression instead of just reveling in her guilt.

"I'll need your opinion on some of these matters. There are things I wasn't aware Planeptune was meddling in." Also this was basically the easiest form of tactical espionage ever.

"Nep, I swear I'll look for you, I'll find you and I will…" IF grumbled in the background as they all increased their work quota to 150%.

This little ordeal delayed Noire for a few hours.


Lowee

"I don't know where she is and I don't care." Blanc replied without even turning to face Noire. She was going through a few books in her shelves, purposely trying to ignore her guest.

"I didn't say anything yet!" Noire squinted her eyes. She had come all the way here in hopes that Blanc might have some idea. She was the one who kept the oldest records of Gamindustri around, next to Histoire (Which Noire wouldn't want to bother with such a triviality. It would probably take 3 days anyway). If anybody knew where their first battle took place, then it would probably be Blanc.

"Like it isn't obvious. You're stuck together all the time since back then." Blanc said in her usual quiet voice and pulled out a certain book.

"What's with you?" She didn't like her subtly accusing tone. It wasn't unusual for the small CPU to be unsociable, but this was just rude.

"…" Blanc stayed quiet for a bit and then she turned around ever so slowly. She hid a frown behind the book and poked her eyes over the edges. Noire had trouble telling what she was thinking.

"W-what?" Her hand went through one of her pigtails to cope with the pressure.

"You two are annoying." It came out of nowhere. Perhaps Blanc had bottled this up for a while now, seeing how she seemed relieved to finally speak her mind.

"Excuse me?" Now Noire was also on a confrontational course. She crossed her arms.

"You think people can't see you or something?" Blanc's voice pushed forward. "At least have some public decency and shame."

"Just what are you talking about?" She felt an itch around the back of her head as if something wanted to remind her…

"It ain't my business where you two flirt around, but just know that I can see you on that bench near the ice-cream stalls." Finally Blanc got to the core of the matter. Her eyes had briefly shifted to the big open window near the east side of the castle.

"…!" Noire's voice got caught in her throat. The iron mask that was her face was starting to melt with the heat of a heavy-duty metal furnace. She remembered that day. Very vividly.

They… had been seen?

"And even though it's none of my business." Blanc added and her glare completely vanished behind her book for some reason. "There is some height difference… so you shouldn't let Neptune take the lead. It looks weird."

POUND POUND POUND!

The jackhammers of blood circulation tried to smash Noire's chest. They definitely had been seen! And Blanc was even hiding her face, because she was too embarrassed! She wanted to cry out and roll over the floor.

But with the cold and painfully tight grip of an iron maiden, Noire managed to curb her embarrassment into submission.

"S-so is this how you get material for your novels these days? Spying on people? You got some strange hobbies!" Not like Noire could talk.

"Hey! Don't make it look like it's my damn fault! You were the ones smooching in public like a couple of octopuses!" She let go of her book and called out with an angry voice.

They both glared at each other.

Then they both looked at their feet and bore the silence for a while.

"Pfff…." All the buildup stress in Noire needed release and she found herself snorting. Then as if the dams had been broken she started to giggle and eventually even to laugh.

"S-stop it, this isn't funny- pff." Against her will Blanc was drawn into it as well and they both laughed for a while until they had tears in their eyes.

After it was done their facial muscles hurt and both of them felt strangely relieved.

"I'm not apologizing." Blanc murmured after wiping her eyes.

"What a coincidence, neither am I!" Noire replied more confidently than before.

"Didn't see that coming." The brown-haired CPU shrugged sarcastically.

"Now that we got that out of the way, I actually have a question for you."

"Okay."

"Do you remember the first time all of us fought each other at the start of the Console War?"

"Huh?" The bewilderment was showing on Blanc's soft features before she hastily turned neutral again. "Why do you want to know that?"

"Sightseeing." Noire grinned.

"Tch." Banc clicked her tongue at that obvious evasion. "I don't remember stuff like that, because it's pointless, but I got a record somewhere around here." She didn't wait for Noire to reply and moved into another room with more archived books and scrolls. A short peek showed Noire that there were ancient data devices inside. Even those most mysterious objects called 'floppy disks'. Truly ancient!

One might wonder why the CPUs didn't remember something as impactful as their first battle. But the truth was that it wasn't important. They had been fighting each other each day, always at a new location. Those painful days had long since become one big blur in their collective minds.

"Ack..!" Blanc's shocked silent cry alerted Noire. Had she found something problematic? Without a word she rushed into the archive.

"Blanc?" She looked at the shaking white-clad girl.

"It can't be…" She was shaking with silent anger. "TWERPS!" She yelled loud enough to shake the entire Basilicom. Her right eye turned red as the fires of hell.

"Heehee! Blanc found our drawings!" Ram peeked around the door and chuckled happily.

"Does she like them? I used… Miss Nepgear's finger-paint." Rom was right behind her sister and smiled as well.

Noire looked at the scene with a deadpan expression and watched as Blanc turned into a white blur and hunted down her mischievous sisters. Their playful shrieks were accompanied by the crashing sounds of broken furniture.

"Blanny what's up? It sounds like you are on a hunt in your own castle-WOAH!" From outside Noire could hear C-sha's surprised yelp as she apparently got dragged into the mess as well.

"Run! She's mad!" Ram yelled happily.

"…Thank heavens Uni is a good girl." Was Noire's only comment on the situation. She ignored the growing chaos outside the door and picked up the records that Blanc had so carelessly dropped. They were indeed covered in drawings at some places. Still, they were readable enough.

"Where did you two get the keys for the archive?!" Blanc yelled.

"Wait, those were important? I just found them on your desk, so I thought I'd try them out." C-sha replied completely without any self-preservation instinct.

"You can't be serious!"

"Kyaaa~!"

Noire flipped through the dates and locations and summaries. It was all pretty boring stuff. Now that she read this, she wondered who the chronicler was that had so painstakingly stalked them and memorized their every action. Neptune would say that he had read the memory card or something.

Next to a drawing of something that resembled a Horsebird, she finally found what she was looking for.

"Leanbox, huh?" That was strange. They had first battled on the off-shoot island of all places? Her memory was too vague to either confirm or deny it.

There was only one way to find out whether Neptune would even remember something like that. By going there.

She silently gave her regards to the spiraling madness inside Lowee's Basilicom and left.


Leanbox

"Now, has anyone come up with a sound explanation to our current conundrum?" Vert asked into the group. They were all sitting at a round living room table inside her room. Tea and biscuits were spread out next to some fine porcelain sets.

"From what I can tell it's connected to the collapse of the Heart Dimension."

"Yeah some of the leftover energy got blown away or somethin'." Uzume agreed.

"Are you suggesting…?" Vert stopped the cup she had just brought to her lips in the air. The others were also getting tense.

"Looks like Kurome's dark power got tangled up in other dimensions. That's how that new Argore got a Dark CPU as her underling." The redhead explained while stuffing her face with crumpets.

"It did strike me as curious." MAGES. cupped her chin in concern.

"We cannot rule out the possibility at least." Umio said while sitting on the table. He was drinking tea as well, which looked particularly strange.

"Fragments of that thingamajig? Sounds nasty." The older Neptune said with a wry smile.

"Does that mean there are more of those big monsters roaming around in other dimensions?" Marvy looked surprised.

"We got no confirmation of that from the Ultra Dimension, but that's regrettably our only reference point." Vert put a hand on her cheek and sighed.

"Well, we can always use Crosty to investigate." Uzume didn't seem too bothered by the situation.

"True enough." Vert smirked. "In that case let us forget about the banalities and head straight to the important topics of our meeting." She clapped her hands and suddenly the light dimmed. Only a single lamp was shining in the middle of the table. It gave the gathering the atmosphere of some evil council.

"Huh? What's going on?" Only Uzume seemed to be left in the dark of what was about to happen.

"Let the 23rd meeting of our secret society begin!"

"Secret- eh?" She stared at the rest as they grinned forebodingly.

"How did your errant go Marvy?"

"I hid IF's house keys at a place where she won't find it too soon." The orange haired ninja saluted and recited her mission.

"Perfect. That will certainly force her to stay at Compa's place yet again." Vert seemed pleased.

"Why?" Uzume was completely confused.

"They only need a few more pushes. What of my cute little Nepgear and Uni?" Vert inquired.

"It seems they had a date today." MAGES. explained while drearily sipping on her tea. It was apparently not the type of drink she preferred.

"Ooh la la ~" Ultra Neptune whistled.

"Gearsy and Unisy did?!" Uzume cried out.

"Now, now, don't tease us. We can't be happy with just this much. They are good friends, so having a great time together won't necessarily move their relationship forward." Vert argued.

"Relationship?!" Uzume just kept on spinning her head to follow the conversation.

"It's totally weird." Big Neptune wobbled on her chair. "I definitely thought that they would get together first."

"Yes, quite a surprise. To think Neptune and Noire would outpace their sisters. Perhaps that is part of being older as well." Vert sipped on her tea with a contemplative expression.

"Uni is more honest than her sister, but she also has a knack for getting into fights easier. And Nepgear is somewhat dense." Marvy added.

"…" Uzume clearly seemed uncomfortable with the current topic. It was very… girly. And not very 'cool'.

"You are looking a little displeased. Whatever could be the matter… chairman Uzume?" Vert asked with a mischievous smile.

"The heck?! Chairman? Me?" She rose from her chair and slammed her hands on the table in sheer surprise.

"Lady Vert, you do recall that chairman Uzume loses her memory of our meetings every time, yes?" MAGES. shook her head, unamused by Vert's teasing.

"But of course." Vert finished her cup of tea unshaken.

"Chairman? Chairman of what? Seriously guys, tell me already!" For some reason she seemed a little excited, besides the confusion. 'Chairman' had a nice ring to it.

"Why of our secret society of course! The 'Legal Organization of Verifying Emotional and Mental Adjustments to the Xtreme', also known as L.O.V.E.M.A.X." For a split second Vert's blue eyes were showing a predatory glint. Something… primal, yet dignified. The true power of a voyeur.

"The what now?" Uzume retorted dryly.

"You know ladies, putting so much focus on 'legal' in the title actually makes it seem more, aha, fishy if I may say so." Umio didn't look nearly as rejecting as Uzume, but he did show concern.

"Don't sweat the details you two. We're just giving a few potential couples the push they need." Older Neptune waved it off as if it was completely normal to have a secret society.

"Nepsy has already completely become part of their dark ideals." Uzume gulped.

"How cruel chairman. It was your idea for us to found this organization in the first place." Vert pretended to be hurt. "No matter. It seems that Nepgear and Uni have still not passed the threshold quite yet."

"Adding a new rival returned good results with their sisters." MAGES. threw in like she was analyzing a machine.

"Are you suggesting we should provide a third party to force some advancement?" Marvy tilted her head. That was apparently not their usual modus operandi.

"Ohohoh! I shall volunteer for this task." Vert raised her gloved hand elegantly. She was very eager. "Nepgear is already my bosom sister. If I let my charms go freely I may accidentally seduce her completely. Such is the sinful relationship we share." She was waxing poetically.

"No way. Nepgear is a good girl. She would never get brainwashed by you." Ultra Neptune chuckled.

"I wouldn't underestimate Lady Vert's influence on Nepgear. She has proven to be persistent enough to weasel her way into her heart. Like a leech on a weakened animal."

"Ahem… a rather… colorful comparison…" Vert's mood shifted to the blue spectrum.

"Y-you guys… you are trying to- to make our friends fall in love with each other?!" Uzume seemed extremely awkward.

"You only realized that now Uzume?" Umio sighed.

"Oh far from it madam chairman. We simply nurture what is already there. Although our biggest achievement was not even part of our plans." They were referring to Neptune and Noire it seemed.

"Love…" Uzume's cheeks were turning as red as her hair. "Like, Nepsy and Noirsy? Getting all close and comfy with each other. And k-kissing?" Her eyes were slowly closing and she was folding her fingers together. "And then they were all cutesy and blushy! And then, they were like totally a couple! And they will be together forever and ever and then they will marry and have a hundred kids!" Uzume's voice had turned much higher and more girly as she finally reached her delusional mode. Perhaps this was her true personality, as seen when she became Orange Heart. Her badass image melted away fast.

"It looks like the chairman has finally returned to us." Marvy smiled.

"So this has been happening when Uzume disappeared for a few hours every now and then?" Umio mumbled.

"Gearsy and Unisy are absolutely adorable! They are baking together and then they are putting all their feelings into each bite and it will be totally sweet~! It's, like, fate or something?"

"Indeed. The chairman is correct."

"It pains me to hear this, but it seems my seduction isn't needed." Vert seemed to be actually bummed out that she couldn't attempt to woo Nepgear.

"Fufufu, you will get your turn eventually. With chairman Uzume around there is nobody who can escape getting shipped." Big Neptune encouraged Vert with a wink.

This most evil and horrific of villainous societies had just begun their journey towards total world domination and corruption, but they were not going to stop anytime soon…

And then a knock on Vert's room's door made them all tense up.

"Hello? Vert, are you there?"

"Hm? That is Noire's voice." Vert blinked a few times. With a hand gesture she told everyone to hide. The others were all hastily retreating (except for MAGES. who was already not in the room anymore. Like she had vanished into thin air).

The door was opened carefully and Noire was standing in the light of the doorframe. The room was after all very dark except for the table light.

"Am I interrupting your gaming session?" She asked cautiously. The last time she had visited Vert she had inadvertently been dragged into a gaming marathon without even getting a word in edgewise.

"Nothing of the sort, my dear Noire. Come in, sit down. Do you care for some tea?" Vert was the picture of hospitality. What Noire was not aware of were the people that had gathered right below the table and were currently pushing against each other and below Vert's dress.

"I see. No thanks, I am just here to ask if you have heard any news about Neptune coming by Leanbox." She fidgeted around.

"Oh? I fear not. Were you meeting up for a date? There is a very nice game shop I would recommend. They have the best pre-order bonuses."

"N-no, don't worry about that."

Noire really was shy sometimes. Vert nodded understandingly.

"Do you happen to remember some important battlefield around here?" Noire tried to ask casually.

"There is the Halo forest for one. It's the place where the knights of Leanbox have slain the hunchbacked lizard lord." She gave some well known Leanbox trivia, like a travel guide.

"Seriously? That doesn't even sound impressive- I mean not that!" She shook her head. "An important location for the Console War."

"I'd rather not remember that era." Vert raised her newly refilled cup of tea. "I did not take you to be one for nostalgia."

"It's not like that." Noire sighed. "Sorry for bothering you. I guess this was a cold trail as well." From the looks of it Noire had already investigated all locations in Leanbox that would fit her standards. Otherwise she would never have relied on Vert of all people to help her.

"If it is battlefields you desire, you may join me in my next raid on the dark lands in 4GO2. I still got your dancer character saved on my account."

"No thanks. Really." She insisted more than necessary with a shadow over her eyes. Her pupils were reflecting countless hours of forced power grinding.

"Such a shame. In that case give my regards to Neptune." The blonde CPU smiled at the expected embarrassed reaction from her raven haired friend.

After Noire left she breathed a sigh of relief. And the group of stowaways finally burst out of the SS Lady Green Heart. They were all sweating buckets.

"I wonder what that was about?" The other Neptune asked.

"What indeed?" Vert giggled.


Ultimately Noire didn't find Neptune anywhere in Leanbox. She had met several familiar people like 5pb. and Cave on the way, but nobody had seen Neptune all day.

If it wasn't about video games and not about their first fight all that long ago… then what else was left? She felt slightly annoyed at this point. Why did the purple haired goofball give her such a vague riddle?

Her steps took her to a random park.

She sat down to relax for a moment when she heard some loud conversations not too far away.

"They have bendable limbs and are completely waterproof. You will find no flaws with our products!" It was a familiar deep voice.

"Hey, Mr. robot can you show us that special move again? Pretty please!" A bunch of boys further away were talking to another familiar person.

"P-please, I already showed it seven times. If I don't c-complete the task given to me the boss will get mad at me." Steamax' pitiful voice echoed across the grass.

"C'mon! Just one more time." The kids knew exactly how to push the blue ninja around.

"F-fine… Step back." He readied his giant shuriken and then threw it in a big arc. It spun in circles at ludicrous speeds until it created a small whirlwind that sucked up all the fallen leaves and garbage that was lying around the park. Afterwards he jumped into the air, holding two silver canisters in each arm. With a gravity defying spin he turned into a silver streak and then swooshed through the air, creating afterimages that formed the kanji character for 'wind'.

Then he landed on the ground with two completely filled trashcans.

"Awesome!"

"This is just like in my favorite sentai show!"

The kids were cheering for the awkward ninja. Steamax seemed to be happy even if he tried to hide it behind a poker face (or was that just his standard face? Robots didn't have many facial expressions).

Noire needed a few moments to comprehend what he was doing here. It came back to her relatively fast though. After the events on the ship they had sentenced Affimojas and Steamax to 'voluntary' community service. Cleaning public parks and the like were just some of their many new assignments. None of them paid of course.

This was an especially harsh punishment for Steamax who was not used to standing out. One could almost feel bad for him.

That would mean the deep voice she had heard before was…

"I appreciate making business with you." At a stand not too far away the giant golden robot had just bowed after a customer. Some high-schooler who hurriedly left with a brown paper bag. Now that was suspicious.

Noire walked over and looked at the stand. It was a lemonade stand, if the sign was to be taken at face value.

"You are doing quite well for yourself." She said with one arm on her waist.

"L-lady Noire?!" He jerked back. "W-welcome! Yes, we are just making some money on the side. Due to the, uhum, events that transpired a few weeks ago, our ship has been chartered by the authorities. The return fee is quite hefty…" He somehow managed to not sound resentful.

"You are lucky that you got off so lightly."

"You are absolutely right! That's why we are working off our community hours just as you requested. I believe it is a good exercise for Steamax. He even managed to talk to a few girls yesterday. Admittedly they were all grade-schoolers, but they did try to draw on him, so it was very amusing to watch."

Well well. Wasn't he just the spitting image of calm?

Noire was already behind the stand.

"This isn't lemonade." She stated.

"….that is correct."

For a while they just stood there silently.

"I will pretend that I didn't see these figurines if you tell me everything you know about Neptune's whereabouts."

"Pardon?" Affimojas golden head was showing dark spots, like rust. This sounded much like a trick question. If he agreed, wouldn't that be like admitting that they were still gathering info on the CPUs, which was completely illegal and much worse than selling figurines? But if he refused, Noire was probably going to burn down this stand right here and now.

"I just figured you two would know something. Say, wasn't there a line of Nepgear figures as well?"

"Yes! There was only one prototype though. We still didn't manage to perfect them, due to some unforeseen complications with the facial expressions. For some reason she always makes that weird square shaped-" He stopped himself. Noire had already heard what she needed.

"In other her words she was here today." She said confidently. Neptune had called dibs on the first Nepgear model after all.

"…yes. I was not attempting to hide it from you. Lady Neptune insisted that we shouldn't tell anybody, but your continued support matters to us." What he was really trying to say was that they were much more afraid of Noire right now.

"I'm listening."

"Lady Neptune said that it's fine if you want to cheat too. As such I am not required to keep any secrets." Affimojas assured her.

That made Noire's ears perk up. Neptune had anticipated Noire's move?!

Suddenly her shoulder twisted and she turned her head away.

"I don't need any help!"

"Uhm…?"

"This pathetic riddle is nothing to me." She boasted and walked away.

"…" Affimojas watched her leave the park. "Hm. We will have to adjust the poses on the Lady Black Heart figurines. They just don't do her justice."

Even now his business sense was much stronger than his common sense.


Back to the main land the raven haired CPU was walking through Lastation. All her roads led here eventually.

Noire was completely lost (not in sense of the city's layout mind you, but on where to search). Despite her big talk from before she was not actually confident in finding Neptune at this point. How could she? Those hints were almost useless! What she needed was a sign or something.

But the world was never that convenient.

A glimpse of red grazed her vision. She spun around to see what it was, but there was nothing in sight.

Impossible. Now even her eyes were working against her?

Noire looked at the ground and noticed something very sign like.

A ribbon that was lying on the ground. It looked like something she had seen before. Maybe on a uniform?

This particular ribbon was opened at one side, while being closed on the other. This shape was very reminiscent of an arrow that pointed towards the outskirts of the city, more in the direction of the rural areas in the distance. Of course that must have been a complete coincidence.

And yet...

Noire picked it up and looked in the direction it had pointed at. If this was a sign, then she would accept it.

Her steps became more energetic again.

When she had marched far enough away, someone came out from behind the corner of a building.

"Sorry Miss Neptune, but you never said that I couldn't cheat a little for her." Her high pitched voice was not the least bit apologetic as she watched after Noire with a smile.


The sun sank at the horizon. Birds were retreating to their nests and the cities in the distance were beginning to sparkle in a thousand lights. But out here on the fields and hills it all seemed far away.

Noire put one foot in front of the other while looking at the ground. She was moving lethargically as she got slowly caught by the darkness of evening. It turned significantly colder, but not so freezing to feel uncomfortable yet. The grass below her boots rustled with each taken step. The cicadas and frogs from the nearby river were beginning their night operetta. A symphony of nature. It was lulling her into a state of trance.

She had been scouring all of Gamindustri for Neptune. Only the results didn't want to be caught. She rubbed her tired eyes with her left hand while listening to the animals around.

How did she even end up out here? At this point it wasn't much of a conscious choice anymore. Her legs took her wherever they wanted. They were stubborn and didn't give up, unlike her hazy mind. With a big dent in her pride she had admitted to herself that she failed to solve Neptune's riddle.

"Unbelievable." She sighed and sat down on the hill. The small river was flowing across on the other side. As she moved her arm from her eyes she looked at the uncountable stars above. During this clear night she could see the faraway galaxies. It was a breathtaking view that was hard to obtain in the big cities.

Right now she felt like just spreading out and relaxing. So she loosened her muscles and fell backwards on the grass, arms spread out widely.

Her left hand touched something soft.

"Romantic." Neptune joked next to her. They were both lying on this hill and looking at the ever distant firmament.

"You made me chase you way too much." Noire pouted.

"That's nothing compared to my chase after you."

"Very funny." She still didn't forgive her.

"I've got sacrifices, o' blackest of deities." Neptune grinned and pulled up a plastic bag. Inside were some packs of surprisingly cooled pudding. Spoons included.

"Don't make it sound like I'm an evil god." She took one of the puddings and raised her back to sit up.

"Ye wrath inspires fear in thy subjects, my lord." Neptune did the same and unhooked the pudding wrapping.

"I'm not that mad."

"So you are actually mad?"

"Not really." Noire finally gave up and also opened her pudding.

"Hehehe, I like it when you are honest. But it's also nice when you stumble all over yourself." She snickered.

"Great. I am happy that my troubles bring you so much joy." She took a spoonful of bliss and moved it to her mouth.

"Speaking of trouble, I got some double trouble right around my fingers. If you know what I mean." She made a very lewd motion with her hands.

Noire missed her mouth completely and hit the spoon against her cheek, covering it in pudding.

"N-N-N-Neptune!"

"Hahaha! Look at your face! This is hilarious." The purple haired girl turned into a ball of glee and rolled over the grass while laughing.

Noire was shaking with skin as red as her eyes. Neptune's teasing had only become more destructive over time. And now she had to wipe that pudding off her face too. She petted her dress pockets to search for a handkerchief.

Lick.

Noire froze completely as she felt a small soft tongue lick across her cheek.

Neptune had taken care of the pudding in her own way.

"Yum ~ You taste better than ever." Another teasing smile plastered her cheeky face as she watched Noire's mental breakdown.

After releasing enough steam to power an entire city for days, Noire finally regained her composure and glared at Neptune.

"Oops, don't give me the heated gaze; I just wanted to leave it at talking today." Even now she wasn't taking this seriously.

"Hmph!" Noire turned her head towards the sky again and ate her pudding in silence.

"Congrats on finding me anyway. I didn't really think you would know what I meant."

"I didn't." Noire was not sugarcoating it.

"Ehehe. That's fine too." Her smile didn't break.

Now both of them were sitting there silently under the beautiful night sky. It wasn't an uncomfortable silence at all. Just enjoying each other's presence was enough sometimes.

After a good while Noire picked up the conversation again.

"What did you mean by our 'first battle'?" Curiosity trumped her pride after all.

"I just made that part up."

"HUH?!"

"It wasn't really a battle. Way too one-sided. Maybe you could call it a slaughter." Neptune finished her pudding and put the empty packaging into the bag. Her gaze was somewhat nostalgic.

Noire didn't follow. Her girlfriend's words had a tendency to be meaningless, but this was such a powerful moment, she couldn't help but feel Neptune was trying to convey something to her.

"Then what about the anniversary?" She asked a little more softly.

"Same difference really. It's never been celebrated before. And I am not even sure if it was on this day." Neptune sighed warmly and then rolled through the grass until their shoulders touched.

"You're being cryptic again…"

"What do you want to do in the future? What's your big goal?" Neptune asked randomly.

"…bringing Lastation prosperity and peace." Noire replied automatically. Not because it was a line she was repeating so very often, but because she felt like this was the correct answer to that particular question.

"I guess all of us want that. If peace is such a big deal, why is there so much fighting? Or is that exactly why it's so important?" Neptune was acting very un-Neptune like again.

But this triggered a memory. A very old one.

"I… don't think fighting for peace is necessary." She said slowly. "If the people are happy then peace will come to them. So to obtain that happiness I am willing to do anything." She was made to look into an old mirror.

"Even stop fighting?"

"Yes."

"That's the girl I fell in love with." Neptune said quietly and without any of her usual teasing.

"Eh?" Noire's heartbeat increased.

"This conversation we had back then under the night sky was…" Neptune didn't seem to find the words.

Noire remembered. They had talked to each other after a long exhausting battle. Lying next to each other without any will to fight left. And Neptune had asked her similar questions back then.

Not much later Neptune had convinced them to sign a peace treaty. It was a pivotal moment in Gamindustri's history.

But that one conversation they had wasn't really connected to…

"Oh." She looked at the moon in the distance.

"You inspired me." Neptune whispered. "But I was also afraid. So I buried that feeling deeply."

This mood was weird. Neptune just spilled her feelings. Maybe that's why she asked Noire to come here in the first place. There were no barriers left between them. That's what this was supposed to mean, right?

"That's silly." Noire felt liberated somehow. "Even though I did the same thing."

This wasn't just an anniversary for Neptune. Those feelings were going all the way back to that day, didn't they?

"Well, we are kind of silly sometimes." Neptune countered.

"Yeah." She chuckled. "You are more often than not."

"Hehe."

They leaned their heads against each other.

"Noire?"

"Mhm?"

"I love you."

No reply was necessary as they cozily spent the night in each other's company.

The End

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A note from BugDevil

And that's a wrap. I really wanted to polish and work out some of the kinks in this story, which is why I used the opportunity to re-release it on this site.

If you actually still want more after reading this, I did write two sequels following the relationship that has just started blooming here. It's all on Fanfiction.net.

Or if this was plenty for you, thank you for reading to the very end!

-Cheers, BuD


About the author

BugDevil

Bio: I write stories sometimes.

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