wordcount: 2,636 (+3)
Midna: level 9 EXP: //////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// (52/100)
Location: S.O.U. hideout
Warp Charges: 1
Virgin Victory teleport room
Top of the Split mountain
Outside the Convent of Our Lady of the Charred Visage
Top of the Split mountain
Outside the Convent of Our Lady of the Charred Visage
“Double-shot of espresso, stuffed silly with sugar,” Giovanna announced as she sauntered into the meeting room, coffee mug in hand. “In other words, a doppio dolce.” She extended it for Sandalphon to take. “Enjoy.”
“Thank you.” The archangel seemed intent on doing so. She didn’t so much as accept the coffee from Giovanna as she did seize it, using both hands to grab the mug with almost feverish speed in order to press it to her lips and start gulping it down. Her eyes remained open as she drank with uncharacteristic intemperance, continuing to observe her array of screens so as to not waste so much as an instant. Then she set the mug down and, without missing a beat, resumed her work.
The display left Giovanna astonished, both eyebrows raised. “Whoa. Guess you were really fiending for the stuff, huh?”
Sandalphon did not look her way as she replied, her tone imperceptibly more terse than normal. “A comparison to a fiend is something of an aspersion on my character. Have I given offense in some way?”
Her response threw Gio for a loop, a mixture of confusion and incredulity on her face. She knew her tendency to not mince words sometimes led to unintended offense, but this was a stretch even for her. “Uh…no? I just meant to say it kinda looks like you got a coffee addiction or something.”
“I wouldn’t consider myself addicted,” Sandalphon responded impassively as she continued to type.
“I mean, have you tried stopping?”
Nodding, Sandalphon dragged a popup from her left in front and used both hands to upscale it. “I have. Unfortunately, doing so resulted in a migraine of such severity that I became unable to give my duties sufficient focus.”
Giovanna snorted. “That sure sounds like addiction to me. Aren’t you, uh, worried about your health?”
“Not at all. I’ve optimized my work schedule,” Sandalphon replied matter-of-factly. “I have determined the exact point at which my activities would result in long-term self-damage and how to consistently reach that threshold without surpassing it. Given the gravity of my work, and all those who depend on me, doing anything less would be gross self-indulgence.”
For a few seconds, Giovanna stayed quiet. Then she spoke up again, her voice a little harder. “I know you’re not human, and you seem like a smart cookie, but that’s a pretty stupid line of thinking.”
Sandalphon didn’t look her way. “How so?”
Giovanna furrowed her brows, her lips pressed together. “I mean, I know we just met today, so it’s probably not my place to say. But life’s about more than efficiency this, optimize that, you know? Plus, I dunno who you were working for before, but we don’t wanna see you work yourself to the breaking point. You don’t have to be happy if you don’t want, we’d be sure happier and safer knowing our guardian angel’s feeling good and rested.”
“Your constructive criticism has been noted,” Sandalphon told her. “Thank you for your concern.”
“Yeah? Well…you’re welcome.” Shaking her head, Giovanna turned and left, heading down the hallway. On the far end lay a room with a black and red ‘KEEP OUT’ sign, and that seemed to be where she was headed.
”Well I suppose you tried” commented a shadow leaning against one of the corridors’ walls, one that had been apparently listening in with its pointy ears.
The unexpected reveal prompted raised brows from Giovanna, though she only slowed down for a moment until she realized who that voice belonged to. “That’s a neat trick,” she said off-handedly, continuing on her way.
”Not quite as good a disappearing trick as yours, I’ll admit” the princess replied, her tone light despite the accusatory turn of phrase, and then observing ”because I’ve just realized I have no idea what you’ve been up to on your lonesome” before stepping from shadow to shadow to get ahead of Giovanna again and asking ”don’t suppose you have the time to fill me in?”
Imagining the effort it must take to make such a dramatic display of such a mundane topic made Giovanna amused. “What, don’t trust me? I guess we have been on different teams since we arrived. It’s a long story, kinda, but I don’t mind telling ya. C’mon, in here.” She stopped in front of the door at the end of the hallway, then peered around in the dim light. “I can let you in, but before I do you gotta promise me you won’t tell anyone what’s in here. Especially Goldlewis.” She crossed her arms. “Deal?”
Midna tilted her head to the side in curiosity, before nodding and accepting the bargain ”Well I can’t say no to that now can I? Deal”
“Aaalright, you’d better not come crying to me then.” Pulling an ID card from her pocket, Giovanna swiped it on the magnetic lock beside the doorknob. It clicked, she pressed down on the handle, and opened the door to dart inside.
Within lay what looked like an apartment bedroom in a state of shocking disarray. An unmade bed piled with pillows and blankets caked with long green dog hair, like the carpet. Laundry haphazardly piled throughout, like drifts of snow, and absolutely none of it folded. A desk that hadn’t been dusted since the stone age with a beanbag in front of it instead of a chair, the trash can next to it (which lacked a trash bag) overflowing onto the floor with crumpled receipts, bottles, and tissues, and at least a dozen empty plastic water bottles beside a monitor stacked right next to the PC tower. There were also crumpled beer cans. “Ah,” Giovanna sighed as she stepped into the pigsty. Rei manifested beside her and trotted over to the bed. “Home sweet home.” Once Rei jumped up, taking half the bed herself easily, she rolled over to have her belly scratched. Giovanna obliged, then turned away to grab a brochure with coffee stains from the bedside table. Rei, who wanted more petting, wiggled on the bed pleadingly as Gio pulled out her phone.
”So was it your need for a live-in maid what I was going to be crying about or..?” Midna teased as she joined Giovanna, before deciding to add to the mess via introducing a second wolf into the room, namely her still unmodified wolfos. As the beast padded over to introduce itself, tail wagging as it went, Midna found another shadow to half lean into, in a poor replacement for the floating lazily in the air she really wanted to do at this moment. There was no way this carpet was clean either after all, and she thanked the goddesses a fusion had given her sandals at some point.
The teasing was much less than Giovanna expected. After dialing and tucking her phone in between her chin and her shoulder, she gave Midna a questioning expression. “I’m getting takeout before I starve to death, you want anything?” She offered the brochure, which turned out to be a menu full of low-resolution images of various less-than-authentic Chinese dishes from orange chicken to pork lo mein to beef with broccoli, all very affordable. Various line items had been circled with different-colored pens in the past, and the stain that looked like coffee from a distance smelled faintly of soy sauce.
The princess’ stomach rumbled at the mere suggestion, and so she accepted the stained brochure with little complaint. That said, she wasn’t exactly familiar with most of the dishes, and so after examining it for a few moments just decided to request simply that ”I’ll have what you're having?”
“‘Kay, uhh…” After another moment, someone picked up, and Giovanna gave her order. “Two garlic shredded porks. Two tubs of wonton soup, two cartons of rice, aaand two tubs of spare ribs. Yeah, okay. My address should be on file, just buzz the sixth floor office when you get here. ‘Kay, great. Good night.” She hung up and tossed the phone down, watching Rei cautiously sniff Midna’s wolfos. While not aggressive, the wolf spirit didn’t seem playful either. Once convinced there would be no issues, she turned to Midna again. “You mind if I get changed real quick?”
The princess, whose visible eye was a little wide at the amount of stuff that had just been ordered, refocused upon being asked that question. ”I mean you can already see all of me, so I don’t mind” the technically but not actually naked princess replied teasingly, before offering ”Buuuut I can also turn around and look away if you insist” even as she did so without actually needing to be asked. Her wolfos meanwhile seemed a little disappointed there would be no play, but didn’t badger the other beast for it either. Instead it padded on back to Midna, who promptly used it as a seat while she waited for the other woman to change.
The princess’s little factoid resulted in a mildly surprised look. “Huh.” Once given the go-ahead, Gio changed with very little ceremony, and by the time Midna turned back around she was out of her rather unorthodox work attire and clad in a pair of green athletic shorts plus a black tank top that didn’t quite cover her midriff. She draped her work clothes over the back of her chair, then went over and climbed into bed to lay on top of Rei like she was a big, fluffy green pillow. “So, what did you wanna know again?”
”What you’ve been up too while we’ve been making a whole lot of noise” Midna reminded her, before herself being reminded of something, namely ”Also I’m probably not going to be able to help bring in the food, as I’m pretty sure I’m now a wanted criminal due to foolishly not killing someone”
Gio looked quizzical. “I don’t think the delivery guy’s gonna care.” Stroking Rei with one hand, she used the other to gesture and help her explain as she began to spill the beans.
“Well, Jessie got a call from Bridges. That, uh, probably doesn’t ring a bell for you, but Bridges is a shipping company the SOU is pretty friendly with, and they’re also working with a group called the Centennials to connect and protect different communities around the world. A couple days ago their ship got stuck in the desert way down southeast, but they finally got it fixed and flew back to base, some place called Alcamoth.” She paused, stone-faced, for a lingering moment. “Uh, after that, they hopped around the Land of Adventure a little bit, then headed up here to link up with us. That didn’t go so well though, ‘cause halfway here they got attacked. Some crazy guy in a flying chariot or something, throwing lightning. They got away, but something got fried in the process and they landed out by Port Meridian, west of here. They needed a hand, so Vernon had Duke fly me and the twins out to give ‘em one. Things got pretty crazy actually, but it ended fine, so after you’re all done here they’ll be ready to fly you…wherever, I guess.”
Midna nodded along with this explanation, before pausing and going ”Wait a moment” before asking ”Was the ship called the, what was it again, the Virgin Victory?”
“Uhhh, yeah, that sounds right,” Gio shrugged. “Sorry, I don’t really sweat the details.”
”Huh” Midna replied, before giving a single laugh at the irony of the situation, and then filling the other woman in on it ”Well if you had I could have let you skip the flying over part. Those people are with us, and I have a portal leading to the ship. Good to know they’re doing well mind, and thanks for helping them out when we had no idea they were in trouble.”
Giovanna pursed her lips. “Oh. Well…you’re welcome.“ She flopped back down into Rei’s fur, sighing. “That all you wanted? If so, you’d probably better stake your claim on one of the better rooms. Only room for two in here.” She patted Rei on the head.
”I mean I also want to eat now that you’ve ordered, but I can get out of your fur till it shows up if you’ve got things to do” she offered, thinking of maybe checking in with the VV’s crew just to touch bases, before asking ”how much do I owe you anyway?” lightly gesturing at the brochure to clarify what she meant.
Giovanna rolled her eyes back as she thought. “‘Bout twenty zenny. It’ll probably be about half an hour, let me know where you’ll be and I’ll get you when it shows up.”
Midna’s visible eye did the same when she got the answer, though not because she was thinking, but because she was looking somewhere else. A moment later a small portal opened on the ground next to her, and spat out a sequence of zenny that the princess deftly caught before handing it over. By the time she’d done that she had her answer, which was simply ”Back in the meeting room I suppose”
“‘Kay, see ya then.” With no particular interest in Midna nor inclination for idle talk, Giovanna relaxed, happy to take it easy until her late dinner arrived.
The princess got the message, and proceeded to go find a way to kill 30 minutes. First she tried to get in touch with the crew of the Virgin Victory, but while her portal to the ship worked just fine, there turned out to be no one aboard. While mildly concerning, the fact that the ship seemed to be neatly docked next to a perfectly normal (and not, say, in the midst of burning to the ground) port town surrounded by massive amounts of farm land didn’t indicate anything was amiss. If she were to guess, it would be that the crew had found lodgings within the town, which would make finding them a pain. So instead she simply left a note letting them know she’d been here, and then headed back to base.
She arrived back at the meeting room with ten minutes to spare, according to her watch, and found the Sandalphon still within, now slumped over the meeting table in her chair, asleep. The archangel‘s eyes were still open, displaying softly blinking Zs, and her mouth hung open as well.
Midna couldn’t tell if this was funny or disconcerting.
Either way, she hung around for a few more minutes, then sighed and went and found a blanket to softly drape over the overworked archangel, lest she get cold overnight. That successfully burned the last few minutes, at which point the food had arrived, nice and punctually.
There was, as she had predicted, far too much for someone her size. Fortunately she had a pair of beasts to help her with her plentiful scraps.
She used the brief resulting burst of energy to perform repairs on her Darknut minion, doing so in the Seiran Clinic to avoid waking anyone with the hammering she had to do to get its psychically warped plate-mail back into any kind of working order. As for the thirty foot tall mecha wolf bear, she had absolutely no idea where she was going to start with repairing that, and thinking about the enormity of the task was enough to take the legs out from under her, and for the exhaustion of the day to fully catch up.
Having failed to take Giovanna’s advice about securing a room, the princess once again found herself on a couch, but with the warm and fluffy companionship of her wolfos, this wasn’t half as bad a way to spend the night as it could have been.
It certainly couldn’t be worse than last night’s nightmare, or at least so she prayed.