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Found Family

Chapter Text

Houshou Marine hadn’t been happier in her life, aboard the Lunar Light alongside her family.

Well, aside from the circumstances that brought her to the joyous situation she was now in.

Still, despite everything that had happened, she was alive, as was everyone she cared about. 

Her adopted children, Minato Aqua and Murasaki Shion, were both alive. As was Uruha Rushia, who wasn’t quite an adopted child but was still a close family friend and an older sister figure to the younger pair. Shirogane Noel and Shiranui Flare both made it out just fine, alongside their adopted children. Even Himemori Luna, as much of a pain as the little princess could be, was much beloved and the pirate would feel legitimately terrible if she was hurt; and of course the rest of the Hollow Force minus the dragon was with her.

Dealing with Luna was made much easier by the fact that Oozora Subaru had been brought on as Luna’s main distraction for the duration of the journey, much to the annoyance of said Oozora Subaru.

It was as much as she could’ve ever wanted, really. The Lunar Light was a magnificent ship, and boarding it managed to feel like a throwback to her piracy days while also still being a huge moment for her found family.

The only difference was that, in the past, she would be at the helm of the vessel because she was stealing it, and now she was letting someone else have that responsibility, and she was happy to do so, as it meant she could spend more time with her friends and family, and given the events of the last few days she intended to spend every minute she could with those she loved.

Curiously, while the navy of the Lunar Kingdom technically was part of the Lu-knights, the imagery didn’t match as much; It was pretty clear that the naval division was more or less left to its own devices. The helmsman for the journey was perhaps the most interesting figure; unlike Natsuiro Matsuri, the official leader of the Lu-knights, she was open about who she was, even though her face was half covered in a mask.

Sakamata Chloe was driving the ship. With her was a girl with pink hair and coyote ears, as well as another girl with blonde hair and a katana.

Hakui Koyori and Kazama Iroha were clearly high-ranking members aboard the ship, and Chloe instructed them to take command.

Or, at least, for Iroha to do so; Koyori didn’t seem terribly interested.

Marine smirked.

To be honest, I’m not really sure Koyori’s really doing much. Iroha’s clearly the only person who actually knows to actually be in charge of things.

Marine had a long history of observing others, and while Chloe was nominally acting seriously and making an effort to appear so, the former pirate knew that underneath that mask was someone who wasn’t really in charge at all.

On the other hand, Iroha was taking her duty seriously; it was fairly clear that she knew that they had a princess on the ship and she was going to make sure that nothing went wrong on the journey home.

That was just fine with Marine; she wasn’t intending to do anything that would get herself in trouble with those who ran the place.

I’d rather not see just how skilled she is with that blade; she strikes me as someone who’s very well practiced with it.

Not that she was going anywhere shortly; right now she was currently residing in a bed meant for two, alongside her youngest daughter, with one wrapped around her body while using her other hand to gently ruffle her hair.

Aqua was understandably a little shaken; Marine suspected that was probably due to the fact that in the last few months she had been kidnapped, held hostage by her own essentially mind-controlled sister, imprisoned, kidnapped again, and then electrocuted by another magic user who was also effectively mind-controlled.

Like she tended to, Aqua said nothing, but instead silently positioned herself as to make sure that she was never outside of Marine’s line of sight. Not that it was hard; Marine was also acting similarly; just with a better degree of subtlety.

Never in her life had she been so glad that the princess who ordered this ship built - which apparently was one of Luna’s predecessors - was a hopeless romantic, because it meant being able to have a moment such as this one.

It’s interesting, Marine thought, how when I adopted Aqua she wasn’t able to handle physical touch very well at all, and now she actively relaxes from it.

Marine frowned.

I’m sorry, my little Aqu-tan. I’m sorry that I wasn’t there when you needed me.

She thought about the other bed in their cabin onboard the Lunar Light, which was currently occupied by Shion and Rushia, and thought about her family.

But I’m glad that I’m not the only one looking out for you, too.

Sometimes words didn’t need to be spoken for the sentiment to be understood. Aqua visibly relaxing was a sight that her mother had come to appreciate more than almost anything else in the world.


Shirogane Noel, like she often did, was having a nightly conversation with her wife, Shiranui Flare.

Unusually, however, there was a third person in the conversation: Yuzuki Choco.

The topic of discussion was shared between the three of them: the five children that were being adopted between the three..

Choco drew a sharp breath.

“I’m going to be the first to confess that, in retrospect, my adoption was premature and I have no idea what I’m doing.”

Flare smiled.

“Too late, Marine confessed to that with regards to raising Aqua. And Noel actually already gave that speech to me with regards to raising Lamy.”

Choco smiled amusedly.

“I suppose. Though, between the three of us, by expectation I’m probably the worst at raising kids here. In general, demons aren’t terribly known for maternal instincts. At all.”

Noel spoke with a relatively reassuring voice.

“Neither are warriors, but here I am. To be honest, I think you’ll be fine; you have a much better knowledge of the different demonic species than I do, and you actually have the ability to heal Aloe if she gets hurt again. In addition to that, Botan is, somewhat regrettably, very mature for her age, while also harboring a deep protective instinct.”

Choco paused.

“Regrettably?”

Flare sighed.

“Botan speaks like someone who was forced to grow up too quickly. The way she looks out for the rest of the kids she was with is not necessarily normal; it’s fairly evident - at least to me - that she quickly became the one the rest of them looked up to, along with Lamy to a lesser extent.”

Noel continued.

“Look, I don’t really know how to be a parent, but I do make a point of not enlisting children. In general, the Shirogane Knights have always had a general hardline policy of not involving innocent people in combat situations whenever it is even remotely possible, and in a sense children are the best example of that principle. Botan has the awareness not of an innocent teenager, but something that’s much more soldier-like in comparison.”

Flare paused.

“It’s interesting that you’re the one to make that observation, given your confession about knowing nothing about kids.”

“It’s less knowing kids and more that I’m very aware of the subtle behaviors one exhibits when you’re a warrior.” Noel replied, “Botan might not be enlisted as part of an actual military group, but she very much has the awareness to be. And the will, given that she actually tried to enlist with the Shirogane Knights when we met for the first time.”

Choco frowned.

“I’m not sure this fills me with confidence. The Lunar Kingdom is a peaceful nation, and the Lu-knights aren’t really an army.”

Flare smiled.

“That’s perfect, though. Botan has to learn how to relax for the most part, and the Lunar Kingdom is definitely a better place to learn it than the Shirogane region.”

Noel continued: “Which, for the record, isn’t at war either - we’d leave all of the children here if that was the case - but it’s a little more militarily structured by nature, and I am the leader of the Shirogane Knights, which, well…”

Choco nodded.

“Makes sense. How are your three doing, then?”

Noel replied: “Nene’s an optimistic little ball of energy, Polka’s a surprisingly observant little ball of chaos, and Lamy’s the only relaxed one of the three. Honestly if you didn’t know their past you’d never suspect that Nene and Polka were ever in captivity, though…”

Flare frowned.

“Polka’s putting up a front for Nene. Like, it’s clear Polka adores her little sister - especially since it’s official now - but it means that our fennec girl is doing her best to make sure that Nene doesn’t notice. Which she doesn’t, because Nene isn’t that kind of observant. At all.”

She paused.

“As for Lamy, well, she’s fairly well-adjusted; it’s fairly clear that back in captivity the snow elf was given preferential treatment. And Nene, who I simply don’t understand. I do not get how that girl doesn’t display any residual trauma whatsoever, especially since I know she has some residual traumas to deal with.”

Noel and Choco both froze.

Flare sighed.

“She’s good at hiding them, for what it’s worth. I’m just well-versed at seeing it because of Noel.”

Noel glared at her wife, while Flare simply smiled amusedly.

“Noe-chan, you might think you’ve spent years perfecting that cover-up, but you know I’ve spent just as many years learning to read the tells. I’m surprised you aren’t that good at it, really.”

Noel sighed.

“It’s much easier to see someone else’s tells than to recognize your own. What gave it away?”

Flare thought about it for a moment.

“Nene’s very close with the other four from her group. When we first figured out the rooms for the trip, when we realized that sharing beds was more-or-less required - except the pekoland princess, she ended up being the one left alone - Nene immediately declared she wanted to room with the other four kids.”

Choco blinked.

“That seems fairly normal to me. Yes, we’re adopting them, but I don’t see how this is a sign of anything bad. That, and given the fact we’re splitting up when we get you guys home, it makes sense that they’d want to spend as much time together as they can.”

Noel interrupted.

“I get what Flare’s saying, actually. You see, Lamy’s been fairly open about how she’s been feeling about her time in captivity. In fact, she openly cried to Flare because her release was the first time that she really had to process the fact that both of her birth parents weren’t around anymore. Since the chances of us finding Nene or Polka’s parents are essentially nil, it would make sense if they did the same.”

Choco caught on to what the leader of the Shirogane Knights was implying.

“But they haven’t.”

Noel nodded.

“I suspect it’s because if they did cry their hearts out, it’s to Lamy and Botan, not us. Polka’s front is a lot more obviously directed; it’s the exact kind of front a warrior would put up for people that look up to them, because face it, the knights have never been good at showing vulnerability, and relative to Nene, Polka is a knight, just without the sword and combat training. Again, I’m good at catching that.”

Flare continued.

“To ask the important question then, if Nene’s also putting up the knightly front, who is it she’s doing it for? She’s obviously comfortable with the rest of them - to the point of hyperactivity - but she’s acting like nothing affects her when she has perhaps some of the most supportive friends I could imagine within that group. And, you know, us, but clearly we don’t have that level of trust.”

Choco blinked.

“You could try just asking her; she doesn’t strike me as having any ability to lie.”

Flare paused.

“Fair enough. It just feels mean to, as Noel would probably put it, strip her of her armor all at once like that. Which reminds me, she refuses to change clothes in front of us, which strikes me as weird given how much she doesn’t usually care about how people see her.”

Choco paused, thinking about it.

She came to a conclusion, frowned, and then drew a sharp breath.

“I think I know why, and you’re not going to like the reason. I’d like to, if possible, do a quick physical examination on the five, because I suspect that, despite Aloe claiming to be the only one abused, she wasn’t alone in that.”

Noel responded: “Botan would’ve flipped if they touched Nene, though. She already didn’t take Aloe’s abuse well, and Nene’s younger and more innocent.”

Flare replied: “That only works if they were all kidnapped at the same time. It’s possible Nene was held in captivity before Botan was and it’s Nene, she’s never going to talk about it.”

Noel frowned.

“I suppose I’ll ask when she wakes up.”


The sleeping situation between the five formerly-captive children was as follows: Shishiro Botan and Mano Aloe took one bed, while Yukihana Lamy, Momosuzu Nene, and Omaru Polka took the other, with Nene in the middle, resting between her two newly-adopted sisters.

The arrangement was made only slightly awkward by the fact that, of the five of them, Nene tended to be the one that woke up with the most enthusiasm, and was situated beside two people who were somewhat less so.

In particular, Polka, who made a bunch of grumbling noises but otherwise didn’t get up at all.

Nene, undeterred, sat up in bed between Lamy and Polka, and proceeded to exit the bed by inching off it entirely straight, making sure not to go over top of either Lamy or Polka.

Much to her satisfaction, Botan and Aloe were both still soundly asleep; in fact, it was quite early and nobody else was up.

And as such, she got dressed, only to find the very gentle whispers of a suddenly awake snow elf when she finished.

“Nenechi…”

Nene tensed.

“Lamy…”

Lamy frowned.

Nene, for the most part, was a cheerful child who had very few cares in the world. Even while in captivity, Nene’s sense of unshakable childlike joy, even if somewhat clumsy, was remarkably unshakeable, and Lamy found it rather precious.

But Lamy also knew Nene, and had seen what she had been through. While Aloe was the only one of the five their captives had tried to kill, she hadn’t been the only one abused. And while Lamy knew about it all, she also knew that Nene had always been the kind of child who would rather bear the pain, and then move on and forget as a coping mechanism.

Nene absolutely hated revealing her whiplash scars.

Chapter Text

Reflex made Noel and Flare wake up fairly early. They couldn’t help it; for Noel it was pure warrior’s reflex, and for Flare it was because she was married to Noel and thus had slowly synced her sleep cycle with the one she had married.

Noel wasn’t stupid. She knew that if Nene really was putting in effort to put up a front, or ‘putting on her armor’, as Flare put it, that whatever was behind it probably wasn’t very pleasant.

The kids had seemed fine, but if Choco wanted to see everything, it was somewhat mean to make her be the one to lay Nene’s traumas bare. No, Noel knew that this was something that had to be her responsibility as a parent.

If she can’t be comfortable revealing her past to her own parents, what hope does any other adult have?

She paused.

Do I really want this to be our first real parent-to-child interaction?

She kept thinking about it as she walked up to the door of the kids’ room; Flare was behind her.

Warrior’s way. If all else fails and drawing your blade becomes inevitable, then it is better to draw it immediately rather than delay the inevitable. It’s better to get this out of the way earlier rather than later. If nothing else, even in the worst case scenario and Nene hates me because of what I’m about to do, in that case our relationship can really only get better from there.

She knocked on the door, lightly at first - the kind that was designed to get the attention of those awake but not wake up those who are still asleep.

A pause followed, and then the door slid open relatively slowly, revealing the face of Yukihana Lamy.

“Ah, Noel-mama.”

Noel froze.

Nope, my wife is still definitely better at this than I am.

“Who’s awake? Let anyone still sleeping stay that way.”

“Just me and Nenechi, though Botan’s stirring. Do you need anything from us?”

Noel shook her head.

“I’d like to talk to Nene, actually. Choco, Flare and I were talking about the five of you, and it occurred to me that, for everything we’ve done, we still know remarkably little about both Nene and Polka, which is made that bit worse by the fact that I’ve noticed little things in their behavior that don’t quite line up with what I know about them, and while I might not know kids I do know what it looks like when someone’s trying to put up a front of being strong for the sake of those who look up to them. I see it often in the Shirogane Knights, and as much as they try, I see the warrior-like facade they put up, too.”

Lamy froze.

So, clearly I’m on to something, and as suspected, the two of them look up to her; Lamy knows something I don’t.

The silence that followed was one of the most tense silences Noel had experienced; with no words spoken Noel was well aware of the fact that she was dealing with what was likely a very touchy subject for at least one, if not all of them.

Thankfully, the silence didn’t last too much longer, because Flare, who had been looking for Noel, caught up to the pair currently staring through a only narrowly open doorway.

Flare took a softer approach.

“I know you haven’t had a lot of time to adapt to being with us, but if there’s anything you want to tell us, we’re here to talk to. That goes to you, Lamy-chan, as well as all of your friends; your sisters.”

Lamy paused, and then turned her head, giving a very concerned look to someone that Flare couldn’t see.

For Noel, the immediate flinch on mentioning the warrior-like facade was a worrying tell that not all was right. For Flare, it was just how worried Lamy looked for just that split-second. It returned to a calmer demeanor almost instantly, but that split second was enough to burn the image of Lamy’s worried face into her mother’s mind.

“We’ll come out. Give us a bit.”

She then closed the door. After a brief pause, Lamy and Nene both walked out of their room, meeting Noel and Flare.

Noel spoke first.

“Okay, I’m not one to wait around for things to just happen. Here’s the thing: I was talking with Flare and Choco, and we realized something: while Aloe was the obviously most injured kid out of the five of you, she’s probably not the only one abused at all.”

Nene squirmed, suddenly looking very uncomfortable, while Lamy breathed heavily.

Noel continued.

“Nene, I promise I’m not going to hurt you. You might have a brand of hyperactive energy that in general only your friends seem to know how to handle, but I do find it endearing, if only because I have an appreciation for those who retain their innocence through otherwise traumatic lives. But I’m going to be blunt about this, because I don’t know any other way: if you really do intend to have my wife and I be your parents, we can’t dodge around the topic of your past.”

Flare interrupted, frowning.

“Noe-chan, I love you, but this is probably not the best way to approach this issue. I know that you’re probably applying warrior principles here, but if Nene isn’t ready to handle talking about it right now - she’s a child for crying out loud - then it’s best not to press the issue until later when she is ready to talk about it. Yes, Lamy’s been open about it, but Nene isn’t Lamy!”

“...I know I should…”

Nene frowned.

“...but I’m not sure I’ll ever be ready…”

Lamy breathed softly.

“Nene, if you’re okay with it, do you mind if I talk about it instead?”

Nene thought about it, taking a long pause to think about it.

“...okay…”

Nene went back into her room.

Lamy sighed.

“Nene really doesn’t like revealing her whiplash scars. I don’t see them often; when she gets dressed is the only time they’re ever even slightly visible. She makes no mention of them, either, and she’s probably already not happy with the idea that I’m telling you about them. It’s not your fault; on some level Nene knows she has to show you someday, but she'd rather just put it off. Forever.”

Noel and Flare both felt sick to their stomachs.

Flare tried to keep her anger out of her voice.

They tortured a child.

She failed.

“...why?”

Lamy frowned.

“Nene’s not the kind of child who has the capacity to sit still for very long. It’s not that she doesn’t try, but she’s just naturally hyperactive. They’d punish her, but for her she wasn’t making conscious decisions that she could avoid; it was just that sometimes she’d get hurt for doing nothing as far as she was concerned.”

Noel held her head in her hands.

“What did they do…?”

Lamy continued: “Mostly they weren’t too harsh, but one day Nene’s hyperactivity made one of her captors snap, and he forgot that they weren’t supposed to leave marks on us - well, Aloe aside - and whipped her so hard it left horribly bloody scars. There’s not much point in getting angry now though, given that I killed Uno and the group was all arrested back in the Lunar Kingdom.”

The door to the room opened, and behind it emerged Omaru Polka.

Lamy turned to face the fennec girl.

“Um, how much of that did you hear?”

“Enough to know what you’re talking about. It’s stupid, really - I mean, we’re rescued, the only one of us with life-threatening injuries recovered, and we’ve found families willing to take us in together. That’s a storybook happy ending, right? So why does Nene still have these scars? Why is our happy ending tainted by this? Why does Uno still have any influence on us now after Lamy finally killed him?!”

Noel frowned.

“Eliminating an enemy doesn’t magically remove the damage they’ve caused. Believe me, the world would improve itself so much faster if that was the case.”

“I think I get it now.” Flare replied, “Nene’s not hiding her scars from us, it’s that she’s hiding them from herself.”

Noel continued: ”That’s why the Shirogane Knights believe in the preservation of the innocent before the drawing of blades; an ordinary person forced into battle might leave the battle alive, but it will be much longer before the battle leaves them.”

Polka paused, while Lamy nodded.

The winter elf elaborated: “They never physically punished Nene after the whipping incident; mostly they just locked her up alone in whichever deep cellar our captors could find in the hideout we were located in. Otherwise we weren’t actually treated all that badly, because as badly as they treated us they did intend to eventually have us on their side.”

“They didn’t do a good job.” Polka added.

Lamy continued: “I think the idea was that if they broke us down enough, we’ll just submit and not incur their punishment further. The only problem was that Nene wasn’t aware of what she was doing, which meant she couldn’t correct her behavior. For Nene, the whipping incident was horrifying, but it was also a one-time incident that she could forget, as long as she doesn’t acknowledge the scars. She doesn’t want to remember her past.”

Noel was visibly floored by the revelation.

“...what do you think we should do?”

Polka seemed to think about it.

“Make her show those scars anyway.”

Lamy, Flare, and Noel all blinked.

“What? It’s better to just do it now. She’s as safe as can be as of right now. I act like Nene’s past doesn’t bother me because I know she wants to forget and pretend that it isn’t a problem, but I don’t want to act like it’s all okay when it really isn’t.”

Flare spoke next.

“You think she’ll say yes? This does seem to be a very touchy subject.”

Polka frowned.

“If anyone can convince her…”

And then she went back into the room, closing the door behind her.

Lamy spoke next: “...can you promise me you’ll be there for her? If she says yes…”

Flare blinked.

“What good are we as parents if we aren’t there for her?”

“That’s fair enough, it’s just…” Lamy replied, “...Nenechi would be showing you her most vulnerable side. It’s showing you weakness. It’s showing you something you could use to destroy her. You don't know how hard it is for Nene to acknowledge her scars.”

Flare teared up slightly.

Noel, on the other hand, replied surprisingly straightforwardly: “I think I have an idea, actually. The thing is, that idea comes from military experience, which is to say that what Nene’s been through is enough to break would-be warriors, and she’d been through it as a kid, which…”

Lamy nodded.

The door opened once again, revealing the face of Nene.

“Flare-mama…?”

Flare breathed heavily.

This girl is as much your child as Lamy is. If you want any claim to motherhood, you have to be there for her.

“Yes, Nenechi?”

“...I’m not ready…” she replied, “...but if you want to see them, we’re ready for you to come in.”

Noel and Flare looked at each other, and then nodded silently.

“Okay.”

Nene walked back into the room; Noel and Flare followed.

True to her word, the rest of the children were all awake and dressed; and all of them were watching the trio of Noel, Flare, and Nene very intently.

Nene closed her eyes, and then took off her shirt.

Noel and Flare both felt sick to their stomachs looking at the carpet of scars that covered Nene’s front and back. It was just as they suspected; they were perfectly covered up by Nene’s shirt, and now that it was off, it was visible just how horrifying Nene’s past was for all of them to see.

They weren’t recent; but that was the only consolation. Even though they were all obviously from a long time ago, even though it was clear that none of those hurt as much as the day they were inflicted, it was sickening to look at what had happened to her.

Nene started feeling weak in the legs.

I can’t handle this I can’t handle this I can’t handle this-

Seemingly haunted by her own scars, she stumbled, nearly falling over.

I’m too weak I’m too weak I’m too weak I’m too weak-

And with what little strength she had, practically shambled her way back to her bed, and then collapsed into it face-down.

Too weak too weak too weak-

The scars were so faded, so disconnected from the present, and yet she remembers exactly how much each scar hurt when it was inflicted.

They know they know they know

She remembers the sight of seeing her own blood spilling onto the floor from the whiplashes on her back.

I can’t I can’t I can’t-

She felt her nightmares coming back to haunt her; she already knew she was not going to sleep peacefully tonight.

“...I’m too weak…”

Her vision had since blurred, the world turning to darkness, dragging her to the cold cellars that she had once been locked up in.

This time, however, six different people were all united in dragging her back from her apparent waking nightmare.

The first thing she was aware of was Lamy holding on to her side, and Polka on the other.

It’s okay.

Nene made an attempt to breathe slowly, despite adrenaline absolutely overwhelming her. The smell was pleasant, familiar.

She became aware of voices, which were mixed together, chaotic; all of her friends, and now both of her mothers, were all surrounding her.

The first voice Nene became aware of was Noel’s.

“...you’re one of the strongest kids I’ve ever known…”

Then Flare’s.

“You’ve been through so much, and to hold it together this long…”

Nene shifted, and Lamy let go, allowing Nene to turn around and stare up.

Noel and Flare’s faces filled Nene’s range of vision, with faces that Nene never thought she would see.

Noel was crying.

“I’m sorry, Nene. I’m so sorry.”

And just like that, Nene seemed to calm down.

She wasn’t alone. It wasn’t even just her friends. Noel, one of the most reliable and strongest people Nene had ever known, was crying, and she was crying for her.

Nene looked down once again at her scars, as did everyone else.

And then she looked around the room with idle curiosity.

Six faces looked back at her, and every single one of them was a face of concern. Even Aloe, who had been abused far worse, seemed to have put all of her suffering aside to focus on the friend that was lying in bed.

Lamy interrupted the silence.

“The person responsible is already dead. He will never hurt you again. It’s okay. We’re okay.”

Flare spoke next.

“That’s not how being okay works. I know remembering is painful. But I’m so proud of you for facing your fears and letting us into your past. I know you want to hide this; I know it makes you feel so weak when you remember this.”

Noel continued: “But you aren’t weak. The fact that you’re able to keep on living life so normally after what you’ve been through is a testament to that fact.”

Botan replied to that fact: “Even Lamy and I can’t pull that off. I don’t know how to live without constantly being alert, constantly thinking I have to be ready to lash out and strike someone else. We’re past that. Lamy still cries to Flare in specific about the loss of her parents.”

“The only reason I didn’t snap is that I knew you hadn’t been broken.” Polka added. “I would’ve snapped and probably lost it if I wasn’t so focused on keeping you happy.”

Nene cried.

“That just means I made your life harder because-”

Polka rolled her eyes, and once again clung to her now-adopted sister as she interrupted her emotional breakdown.

“It means that you made staying positive worth it!”

Another brief silence filled the room before Finally, Aloe spoke.

“I’m alive because of Noel, Flare, and Choco-mama. I needed them. But that doesn’t mean you have to suffer that much before asking them for help, right?”

Noel spoke.

“No one should be through what she’s been through, least of all you. And absolutely no one should go through that alone.”

Nene breathed in deeply, closing her eyes.

And then she visibly relaxed.

“...Noel-mama, Flare-mama, will you stay with me…?”

Flare smiled.

“If we can’t manage that much, then what good are we as parents?”

Nene got up, and then fell into the loving embrace of Noel and Flare.

Chapter Text

Houshou Marine woke up, once again with her daughter in her arms.

Surprisingly enough, she wasn’t actually the first one up; Rushia was awake first, and was currently sitting up in a chair beside the bed, though she looked a little tired in that manner that told Marine that it was more inherent sleeplessness than actually being a morning person that was the reason for her wakefulness.

I suppose this is the consequence of being brought into the family. She worries about little Aqu-tan just as much as I do. Perhaps from a different angle…

“I promise Aqu-tan’s okay. You don’t need to check.” Marine whispered.

Rushia nodded, though the advice was lost on the fact that their worry wasn’t based on logical fact; it was based on nightmares and the grief of thinking that Aqua hadn’t made it.

The two of them stared wordlessly at each other, before Marine smiled, and started attempting to slowly remove her arms from their positions around Aqua.

“...Mama…” Aqua murmured, half-asleep. (1)

“I’m right here, Aqu-tan. So is Rushia-chan.”

Aqua rolled over, separating herself from Marine, who smiled.

Oh good, she’s back to being shy about physical touch. She’s definitely feeling better now.

The former pirate got up, and whispered quietly to Rushia.

“Can I entrust you to watch over Aqua? I might go chat with Noe-chan and Fuu-chan, see what they’re up to, especially since unlike me they’re crazy and adopted three kids at once.”

Rushia nodded firmly, in that manner one does while understanding they were being given a responsibility of utmost importance.

Marine smiled, got dressed, and walked out.

While she had made the gentle off-hand statement about the possibility of Noel and Flare needing help with the fact they had just propelled themselves into parenthood much faster than Marine herself had, the fact was that, if anything, she had far more faith in the two of them as parents than she was in herself. Unlike her, they didn’t have vicious enemies seeking revenge, nor a criminal record, nor a history of antics that generally wouldn’t be associated with good parenting. Similarly, Marine herself was observant. She had a sense for how the children acted, and she knew that, in general, they handled themselves pretty well.

Which was why it came as a surprise when the first thing she ran into was Noel carrying Nene on her back while Flare accompanied the other four. The main surprise was that of all of the kids, it was Nene who looked shell-shocked, like she was utterly lost.

Noel noticed Marine’s presence, and addressed the former pirate.

“It turns out Nene’s been through a lot more than we thought she’d been through.”

Marine hadn’t seen anything, but she frowned.

“Is there anything you need help with?”

“Nene doesn’t like talking about her past.” Flare replied.

Marine paused.

“It’s something that she shares with Aqu-tan, though I suspect that Nene’s condition is far more traumatic.”

“It’s okay, it doesn’t hurt…” Nene mumbled.

Marine frowned, addressing Nene.

“I won’t pry further because it’s absolutely not my place to do so. But whatever happened, what I’m going to say is that it isn’t okay. I don’t know what happened, but however you were treated back then isn’t normal and you should remember that, because you should always remember what it feels like to be loved.”

Noel and Flare both blinked in surprise, as did Nene.

Marine continued speaking: “I’ve said this to Aqu-tan, and while I’m not your mother, you are loved and you should never forget that.”

Nene smiled brightly.

“I know that much!”

The entirety of the Shiranui family smiled brightly in response.

Nene really wasn’t one to dwell on the past, after all, and she was in a far better place now.


Murasaki Shion woke up.

To her lack of shock, she was the last one in the family to be up; she was a known heavy sleeper. Surprisingly, she wasn’t alone in their cabin on the Lunar Light, as Aqua and Rushia were both sitting on the side of Aqua’s bed, awake; Marine was the only one missing.

The sight of Aqua being relatively okay was something that Shion would never take for granted again. The feeling of herself being relatively okay was already somewhat unusual for her.

I really hope Mom doesn’t have any other old enemies who are likely to come after us…

…Mom? I don’t even know. It’d be really nice to live a relatively tranquil life.

She then considered who else was aboard the ship as of present.

Okay, so maybe not ‘tranquil’, but at least laid-back.

Aqua finally noticed the now-awake witch.

“Shion-onee-chan?”

Shion swore she was never going to get used to being called that. She understood that she had brought it entirely on herself, but it still threw her for a loop to realize that not only was someone referring to her with a title of endearment, but it was a title that also conferred a sense of being the older and wiser person in a relationship, something that Shion most definitely wasn’t usually when compared to just about anyone else.

She actually looks up to me. What now?

“Uh, is anything wrong?”

Aqua shook her head, while Rushia took notice of Shion.

“Good to see you up.”

“You too. Any particular reason you two are still hanging out here in our cabin?”

Rushia looked at Aqua, then back at Shion.

“It’s Aqua-chan. You know how she is with anyone who isn’t family.”

Shion snickered. It was rude, but at the same time it was a socially acceptable form of rudeness that she knew Aqua wouldn’t actually take offense to. The other reason why it didn’t come off as mean was that Shion was fairly similar in regards to actually interacting with other people.

Actually trying to be a good friend and family member took more work than anything else Shion could remember. There was trying to play it cool for image reasons around Aqua, but then there was actually making herself a better person for her sake.

Still, for Aqua’s sake Shion would certainly try her best.


Out of everyone on board the Lunar Light, one person reigned supreme as the heaviest sleeper of all of them.

That person was demonic healer Yuzuki Choco, who had managed to keep surprisingly late sleeping habits despite the fact that she was routinely called upon to heal people who were far more normal in their sleeping patterns. (2)

Like many mornings, she was being woken up somewhat earlier than she would’ve liked. Much like in the past, the person doing so was none other than Himemori Luna, who apparently was wondering where Choco was.

Well, no, it was actually Subaru waking Choco up, fully aware that Luna was making her do it.

“Hime-sama needs you right now!”

Choco barely moved.

Marine’s right, it’s a coping mechanism to find Luna adorable so we don’t go insane. Either that or being adorable is Luna’s defensive mechanism to prevent us from strangling her.

And then she processed that Subaru sounded not frustrated, but actually somewhat worried.

Wait, that’s the ‘Luna needs medical help’ voice, not the ‘Luna’s being a brat’ voice.

Just like that, her eyes snapped open, and she got up nearly instantly. Being both a medical professional and also one of Luna’s handlers (3) meant she had to quickly discern the difference in voice between Luna being a literally-royal brat and Luna actually needing help. The same was true of Subaru.

The fact that Subaru looked like she was experiencing a large amount of guilt told Choco that there was probably also a story that involved at least one person making somewhat unwise decisions. She also noticed that Subaru looked like she had worked out. That much wasn’t that unusual; this was the same Subaru who regularly took trips all the way up to Shirakami Shrine, which Choco remembered being a few kilometers from the Lunar Castle where they all lived.

And so she walked quickly through the halls of the Lunar Light, following Subaru to the princess’ room.

The sight that met her was rather surprising: Himemori Luna was in her bed, and from her facial expression, in a lot of pain while also breathing rather heavily, while Kazama Iroha was kneeling in front of her. The samurai looked absolutely mortified, looking completely overwhelmed by guilt, or at least overwhelmed by the realization that she had caused the princess harm.

“I’m sorry! I should’ve considered your lack of experience!”

Choco smiled.

“Ah, let me guess: Iroha, do you begin your mornings by working out?”

Iroha turned to face Choco, and nodded shakily.

“Subaru asked to join me, and I said yes, and then Luna asked to join her, and I said yes! You need to understand that I thought the princess would separate when she got tired!”

Choco fought the instinct to facepalm.

“Choco-sensei!” Luna whined, “Can you do that thing you do where you make things not hurt?”

Choco rolled her eyes.

“Only if you promise me not to get yourself hurt this much. Understand that yes, while Subaru and Iroha hit it off with physical activity, that you are nowhere near as fit as either of them; this is the same Subaru who takes regular trips multiple kilometers up a mountain to visit the shrine up there, and Iroha is, at least from first impression, a trained master swordswoman.”

Iroha smiled humbly.

“Oh no, sensei; I still have much to learn. A true master can-”

Choco laughed politely.

“Compared to any of the Lu-knights except maybe the captain, you’re a master. And the captain of the Lu-knights is a natural goddess, so that’s hardly a fair comparison.”

Iroha shrugged.

“Then maybe I’ll join her by ascension.”

Subaru blinked.

“Okay, Fubuki-chan’s explained to me the whole thing with how deities work, but how would you know how deities work?”

Iroha bowed.

“I study to make sure that, if I were even in the presence of the gods, that I would know proper procedure for interacting with them.”

Choco shrugged.

“You’d be amazed by the kinds of things I’ve studied in my free time. I have a surprising amount of it; I suspect part of that is due to my species. While I promise that I’ve never been a directly offensive spellcaster, people have good reason to not trust dark magic, and thus generally I’m only called in when I’m necessary. That I’m one of the few light magic-wielding demons in existence is something that only those who’ve seen me really know.”

Iroha nodded.

“Then I endeavor to treat you with the respect you deserve, regardless of your appearance.”

Luna finally complained.

“Do the thing, Choco-sensei.”

She breathed heavily, trying to finish the sentence.

“...Subaru didn’t warn me it would hurt…”

Choco looked unimpressed.

“Promise me you won’t use Subaru as a standard for your level of fitness in the future. I’m all for you getting some exercise - there’s significant health benefits to doing so - but Subaru is very likely further ahead in personal fitness than you are, and Iroha, being a trained warrior who carries a sword with her, is definitely ahead. Start slowly.”

Luna let out a pained whine.

“...okay…”

Choco smiled, and raised her hands.

“There we go.”

Luna breathed a huge sigh of relief.

“Thank you Choco-sensei.”

Choco nodded.

“You’re welcome. Now, I have other children that need attending to…”


In another room, Kanata, Towa, and Watame sat around a table, playing with a deck of cards.

Towa sighed.

“I understand that we’re supposed to let Luna get out a little, but are you sure that letting her push herself that far doesn’t count as hurting her? Like, in retrospect this might not have been a wise idea.”

Watame frowned.

“I did nothing wrong.”

Kanata smirked.

“I never said you did. Though, to be honest, Luna’s fine, and she’s young enough that it’s not terrible to learn the lesson of not pushing yourself too hard with direct experience. At least, that’s what I feel like Coco would say.”

Watame smiled.

“You really looked up to her, didn't you?”

“Relative to my ‘lifespan’ as an angel - as much as that concept even applies to me - Coco’s not going to be asleep for very long. It’s Luna that we’re - don’t deny it, you are too - worried about. It might only be ‘a couple of years’ but for Luna that’s a long time. Plus, dealing with Luna dating - she’ll reach that age by the time Coco wakes up - is going to be our worry, so I honestly think it’s Coco who’s getting the last laugh. Also, face it, we all looked up to Coco; I don’t think any of us would forgive humanity if our first contact was with them trying to kill us. She did.”

Towa nodded.

“Coco was always crazy like that, though, and thankfully behind the terrifying dragon was a truly kindhearted soul.”


Choco walked out to meet a group of five children, of which two were now officially her’s.

Oh my god, what was I thinking? I don’t know how to be a mother. That me and Aloe are both demons is hardly enough of a basis to adopt the poor girl, let alone adding Botan on top of that.

Still, she wasn’t one to just give up on people. Not patients, and not kids.

“Hello. Aloe, Botan, I suppose the two of you are now officially part of the Yuzuki family, now - though there’s still time to decide you’d rather live with the others if you want to.”

Aloe thought about it, but Botan spoke first, while the young demon child positioned herself behind the lion girl.

“It’s probably for the best for Aloe. I don’t think Noel was wrong about that. And it’s also for the best if she’s not alone, either. And the fact of the matter is that Noel was right.”

Noel blinked.

“What is it that I was correct about?”

Botan smiled.

“I’m too used to my protective instincts. I’m too used to having to process all the ways I could kill someone just as a casual thought, just in case, because it isn’t needed in my life anymore. You always insisted that it was for my own good that I don’t fight, and I finally understand that it really is for my own good that I don’t. The Lunar Kingdom is so peaceful that the Lu-knights spend more time keeping the princess occupied than they do actually protecting the kingdom. That, and Aloe deserves to have an Onee-chan of her own looking out for her.”

Aloe smiled, saying nothing but casually poking out her head from behind her now official older sister.

Choco bent down to meet Aloe’s face.

“Well, I hope I get to know both of you. You’re certainly good kids.”

She then stood back up, and took a deep breath.

“That said, I want to ask permission both from you kids and from Noel and Flare to do a quick demonic medical examination, mostly in regards to your past traumas, for every one of you except Aloe-chan, who’s been through it by virtue of having already been healed by me.”

Nene flinched. Choco noted the reaction.

Okay, there’s something there.

Flare spoke next.

“What do you mean, ‘demonic’ medical examination?”

“It’s a kind of medical examination done with both light and dark magic. There is a reason, I promise.” Choco replied, “One of those things you study while learning healing is how many ‘evil’ spells can be put to good use. For example, the memory tear, one of the most horrific dark magic spells ever invented, and one I know.”

The entire rest of the room looked very nervous.

Choco smirked.

“Don’t worry, I’m not using it offensively. What the memory tear does is essentially dig into deep memories of the victim, looking for traumas that it can then essentially tear out, bringing them back to the surface and essentially re-inflicting the victim’s worst traumas upon them again.”

Flare jaw-dropped, while Noel, Nene, and Polka looked practically sick at the description.

Flare objected.

“How the hell can that spell be used helpfully? That sounds absolutely horrific.”

Choco smiled warmly.

“Because, while that spell can be used to rip out and re-inflict the worst traumas of a victim, they can also be used to extract and clinically examine the worst traumas of a patient and figure out how to best move on from them, whereas traumas reduced to only unclear memories are much harder to examine, especially since trying to bring them up can often in and of themselves be horribly traumatizing. The memory tear, as terrible as it is, allows one to examine a patient’s prior traumas in a clinical setting without having to actually bring it all up again.”

Noel blinked.

“How?”

“Because I can only use the portion of the spell that actually does the trauma extraction, but then not the portion that leaves the patient, you know, horribly traumatized. And that is a very powerful medical spell to have on hand, because it means you can talk about prior traumatic experiences while actually understanding what the patient went through, all without making them remember it. There’s also the mind delve and other psychoanalysis spells I have at my disposal, if more thorough examinations are necessary, though I hope they aren’t.”

Nene raised a hand.

Choco replied: “Yes, Nene?”

“Do you have any spells for forgetting?”

Choco frowned.

“I do have spells that are capable of locking up someone’s memories, but on principle I will not cast them, ever. Tampering directly with someone’s memory is considered a crime even among residents of the underworld.”

Nene paused.

“Why not? It would help me…”

Choco resisted the urge to cry.

“No, it wouldn’t, because your memories aren’t the problem, and I can’t remove your feelings. All you would have would be the horrible sensation of being scared of your past even though you couldn’t remember it, which I’d imagine is much less pleasant.”

Lamy wrapped an arm around Nene, who leaned into the embrace of the snow elf.

Choco kept talking.

“That said, you’re in good hands, and I promise you that no matter how you feel about your own traumas, I will not judge your coping mechanisms.”


A mysterious figure approached the Lunar Light from the air. She was a hawk youkai, and possessed the ability to fly. She was tracking down a notoriously powerful demon, and evidence suggested it was a hidden stowaway on the ship.

Her name was Takane Lui.

Chapter Text

The hawk girl landed on the bow of the Lunar Light, dropping from the sky gracefully and without warning in front of the trio of Iroha, Chloe, and Koyori.

Iroha drew her sword and ran ahead in immediate preparation for battle, though avoided striking out.

“Halt, intruder-wait, Takane-san? What are you doing here? Last I heard you were doing your own thing.”

Chloe responded next.

“Um, yeah, what she said. I wasn’t aware you missed me that much, if only because we agreed to split ways when you went into spying and I went into the navy.”

Lui bowed.

“That is because I am working on my own duties; it’s why Koyori, who’s normally also in my division, was sent with you. It seems that fate has once again brought us together.”

Iroha bowed.

“That is so. Why are you here, though?”

“My current job, as it stands, is tracking down a notorious demon. I used my own hawk magic to track down the scent of the demon, and it led me to the harbor, and eventually to this ship. Said demon is known for being a powerful being with many abilities, so it stands that the ability to hide in the shadows would be one of them.”

Koyori’s eyes widened.

“I hope you have the magic to detect the demon, because this isn’t something I’ve studied all that much.”

Lui nodded.

“This is my duty; the demon won’t escape. If I can ask for your cooperation, that would be much appreciated. It goes by the name ‘Laplus’, and I do not intend to underestimate it.”

Iroha nodded.

“I will inform the passengers on board of the situation. Koyori, I believe you’re the one with the voice amplification magic?”

Koyori nodded.


“This is Kazama Iroha speaking. Everyone on the Lunar Light who is not responsible for running the functions of the ship is hereby requested to immediately go to their rooms. We have reasons to suspect we have a demon stowaway onboard, and we ask for your cooperation until Takane Lui finishes her search of the ship. Please do not panic; everything is under control; that is so.”

Of course, the announcement that there was in fact a demon intruder had caused some commotion, and despite the command to not panic, it was made somewhat in vain.

There was an interesting split in the reactions of the group from the announcement. The first was the group that immediately panicked, which included almost all of the children.

The second group was those who instead engaged deep protective instincts. Noel and Flare didn’t have their weapons with them, but it was clear that anyone who dared touch the children would be in for a world of hurt regardless. Marine quickly turned to go back to her room where her own children were, and Choco and Botan both gave Aloe a look that indicated that both of them were willing to take action to protect her.

Choco spoke with a surprising determination to her usually calm voice.

“I think, given the safety concerns, that it may be for the best if we don’t return the kids to their room by themselves. I’ll take Botan and Aloe to my room, you should take your kids back with you.”

Noel and Flare both nodded, and then everyone went their separate ways.


Meanwhile, in another room, Usada Pekora, who had her room to herself, shrugged, while she looked at her newly mixed potion collection.

Too bad the Hollow Force is no fun and won’t let me keep anything interesting. Oh well, I suppose most of this will do for now. It’s not like I was really planning to go anywhere.


Meanwhile, Luna’s room suddenly got more crowded. Lying in bed was Himemori Luna herself, who currently had both arms around a very embarrassed Oozora Subaru.

“Suba-chan, you’ll protect me, right…?”

Subaru spoke, trying and failing to keep the embarrassment out of her voice.

“I’m not good at that sort of thing compared to the Hollow Force! You know, the group that literally exists to protect you!”

Kanata, Towa, and Watame, who were all present, laughed.

Subaru continued to sit there, in Luna’s bed with the princess’ arms wrapped around her, wondering how things got into this position.

I can’t help but wonder if Luna’s developing her first ideas of romance, and I suppose that’s expected, but why am I her first target?! I’ve done nothing even remotely royal before!


Marine got back to the room her family was staying in; she found the other three members of her family; Rushia and Aqua were currently sitting on the side of Aqua’s bed, with the necromancer wrapping both arms around her little sister.

Marine smiled.

“The nice thing is, due to who’s actually aboard the ship, I suspect we don’t actually have to be worried about much. We should be safe.”


Takane Lui explored the Lunar Light with Iroha and Koyori close behind her; Chloe had been left behind to continue actually steering the ship.

“Can you feel the presence of the demon?”

Iroha frowned.

“Yes, but I can’t find her.”

Lui nodded.

“It’s to be expected. This demon, the legendary Laplus Darknesss, is not so easily caught; it’s a demon that can hide itself entirely in the shadows. I’ve done my research; I’ll need you by my side when the confrontation begins, as I do not possess the time nor the resources to lay a proper trap for the demon.”

She entered the ship’s food storage; it was kept magically cold by some of the ice-affinity mages aboard the ship. Despite this fact, Lui did not shiver, displaying her focus to the task at hand.

And she then stopped, tallying evidence, noticing that the storage area didn’t seem to quite be as organized as it should be.

“Someone’s not putting away the cookies properly. Either that, or…”

She raised her hands, and cast a spell.

The otherwise dark room lit up, the shadows disappearing under a quick flash of light. However, a few specific shadows gathered, seemingly attempting to dodge the light in a manner more akin to a living being, before those shadows dissipated with nowhere to go.

As the shadows disappeared, a figure emerged: A little demon girl with light purple hair and a pair of rather large horns, who also presently had a cookie in her mouth. She quickly ate what was left of her cookie, and then trembled as she realized she was cornered by a hawk girl with a strong hunting instinct and a katana-trained samurai.

Iroha, however, chose not to draw her sword. Even Lui visibly relaxed, seemingly confused.

“Um, don’t take this the wrong way,” Lui stated calmly, “but you aren’t quite as intimidating as the information I’ve gathered on you has made you out to be.”

Iroha seemed to skip even more steps on the ladder of trust: “What brings you here, little child? I know that as a demon you might not trust us but I do not wish to spill blood today, that is so.”

The demon girl finally introduced herself.

“I am Laplus Darknesss, and…um…I’m…”

Laplus, at this point, stumbled on her words as two different reflexes rammed into each other at the same time. The first reflex was to try and play up her demonic nature, in an rather ill-advised attempt at trying to intimidate her two opponents. The problem was that her second reflex was being terrified of death, because despite any claims to having very powerful supernatural abilities she knew that she had no escape plan for Lui, who had just successfully tracked her down and now had given her nowhere to run.

In the end, a combination of self-preservation and fear won out.

“I’m…I’m…”

She mumbled out a sentence.

Iroha bent down to meet the young demon.

“I can’t hear you.”

Laplus looked very shy at this point; whatever demon persona she had going on was completely gone.

“I just wanted to observe how surface demons act…”

Iroha paused.

“So, wait, you weren’t sure how to act as a demon up on the surface, so you used your shadow abilities to stay hidden so you could watch them?”

Laplus nodded.

“I wanted to see what Towa-sama was up to without her getting mad at me; that’s why I used the shadows. Well, that and the fact that I get food doing this. Food is good.”

Lui paused.

“Towa-sama?”

Laplus’ eyes lit up.

“She’s like, the coolest devil ever! She didn’t put up with the rest of her race at all and when she left for the surface I knew I had to follow her, so I did…and then I realized that I had nowhere to stay, so, um…that’s what happened.”

Lui sighed.

God, she’s so young. She’s honestly so innocent for a demon. And she’s so, so foolish. I can’t believe I’m doing this, but…

“How would you like to stay with me?”

Iroha and Laplus both blinked.

Lui shrugged.

“I mean, I did my job. I tracked down the demon, dragged her out of the shadows; while it was always implied, exterminating the demon was not actually required. Hmm, maybe the two of us - myself and our little Yamada here-”

“My name’s not Yamada!”

“Yeah, but that’s easier to remember than ‘Laplus Darknesss’.”

Laplus eyed Lui with contempt, before Iroha interrupted.

“Now, as unfortunate as it is, we do have to punish you, and setting out punishments is unfortunately my duty. Laplus Darknesss, I do not wish to punish you too harshly, but the fact of the matter is that your fate is up to the Hollow Force. I hope you can make a good impression on Towa-sama, because you’re going to meet her face-to-face.”

Laplus looked mortified.

“I’m still only a demon barely-in-training! I don’t have most of my supernatural powers! I only know how to hide! I can’t meet Towa-sama like this! She’ll think I’m such a lame demon now!”

Iroha smiled.

“That is so.”

Lui’s eyes widened.

“And here I thought I was the mean one.”

Laplus gulped as she followed Iroha and Lui back up to the top deck of the ship.

Chapter Text

“This is Kazama Iroha speaking. The demon has been located and subdued; will the following people please come out to the top deck of the ship: Amane Kanata, Tsunomaki Watame, and Tokoyami Towa.”

The three members of the Hollow Force looked at Luna and Subaru.

“Take care of Luna while we’re gone.” Watame spoke calmly.

And then they left.


Noel shrugged, addressing the children who were with her.

“Well, at least the demon isn’t our problem. You’re all safe.”


Laplus looked around at the four high-ranking members of the ship that were effectively her collective warden, dreading the outcome of what was going to come of meeting her hero in the a manner that she absolutely wanted to avoid being seen in - not as an all-powerful demon, but as a petty stowaway.

The three members of the Hollow Force walked out onto the top deck.

Iroha bowed down politely.

“This is the demon Lui was tracking.”

Watame spoke first.

“So, who’s this lost child?”

Laplus trembled.

“I-I’m the great…Laplus-sama…I’m…”

Towa spoke next: “So, wait, this is who we were all afraid of? This kid? She’s tiny and adorable. I mean, I’m one to talk about deceiving looks - most people wouldn’t peg me as a devil on sight - but um, I honestly do not feel any sort of threat from this girl.”

Laplus practically sank into the floor.

It’s over. Years of studying the great Towa-sama, only to-

Lui smirked.

“She’s a big fan of yours, Towa-sama. In fact, she even wanted to learn her ways as a demon with you as her role model.”

Towa blinked.

“You…look up to me?”

Laplus nodded.

Towa smirked.

“Then speak like you mean it! Who are you to position themselves so close to the devil of the Hollow Force? If you can’t even chat normally with a devil you look up to, then how would you expect that devil to ever help you with your plans?”

Laplus’s attitude immediately changed, her voice dropping to an ominous tone of someone who was in charge, despite the opposite being true.

“I am Laplus Darknesss, the omnipresent demon!”

Towa grinned.

“There we go! Now, where exactly were you staying?”

Laplus froze.

“I can sleep anywhere, and my ability to disappear into the shadows means no one finds me.”

Towa frowned.

“Then you need somewhere to sleep properly, because if you wanna be a real demon you shouldn’t just accept whatever fringe place you can stay in.”

Iroha put a hand on Towa’s shoulder.

“Not to interrupt, but bear in mind we are supposed to be punishing her. Laplus isn’t an esteemed guest; she’s a stowaway demon.”

Towa grinned.

“Do you know what training a demon involves?”

Kanata gave Towa a look of disbelief.

“Do you really have the heart to put a child in pain?”

Towa glared at Kanata.

Lui sighed.

“Let’s be honest: yes, this is our demonic intruder, and yes, she’s here illegally on the ship of which Hime-sama is staying on no less, but on the other hand: do any of us actually perceive this little girl as a threat and not as just a cute little lost child?”

Laplus pouted.

“Hey, I’m not cute!”

Everyone present stared at Laplus with disbelief.

Lui smiled.

“Sorry, but it’s probably gonna take a long time for you to outgrow your cute phase.”

The rest of the folks on deck laughed.

Iroha sighed.

“I suppose I should just put the message out there that the danger is over.”


“This is Kazama Iroha speaking. We’re no longer in danger; lockdown is called off, that is so. Takane Lui says that if you wish to meet the demon, we have her held up at the top deck. She’s cute, despite any attempts she’s making to deny it.”

Marine smiled.

“As I expected. Not our problem at all. That said, I’m curious just what demon was caught up there; so do any of you wish to come with me?”

Aqua nodded shyly, while Shion smirked.

Rushia nodded politely.


Noel and Flare followed Nene.

Noel was the one to address Nene, who was running ahead.

“Nene, while I understand you’re excitable and like meeting new people, this is a demon we’re talking about!”

Polka rolled her eyes.

“It’s Nene! She doesn’t actually have a sense of fear!”

Flare and Lamy both gave Polka a look to remind her of the events of the previous day while also giving chase to the hyperactive child.


Choco slowly walked up to the top deck, Aloe and Botan both following her. For Choco, it was a much more mundane reason for investigating the newcomer: she was an underworld native, and Choco was curious just from that fact.

Maybe Aloe could make another demon friend…

Botan, of course, tailed the two out of a sense of protectiveness.


Laplus had never wanted to die as much as in this exact moment.

“Oh my god, she’s adorable!”

That was Choco.

“Seriously? We were afraid of this?”

That was Noel.

“Who’s this kid?”

That was Flare.

Laplus snapped.

“I am Laplus, the presence of darkness itself! Bow down to my presence, and maybe I won’t go after you once I actually learn how to use all of my powers.”

Marine rolled her eyes.

“Yes, my dark.”

The problem was Laplus was just aware enough to realize just how sarcastic that was, and as such, reacted:

“ARGH! Though…I kind of like that phrase. Yes my dark! You’ll learn to fear me soon enough!”

Marine grinned.

“So scary that we can’t afford to have you aboard the Lunar Light with us?”

Laplus froze.

“Um…”

Lui smirked too.

“She’s been alternating between trying to be intimidating and being adorable for a while.”

Marine smiled warmly.

“I don’t know; it’s cute watching her trying to act scary.”

Laplus held both hands to her face as she slowly lowered herself to the ground.

Lui blinked.

“And I thought me and Iroha were embarrassing her fast enough.”

Towa frowned.

“Honestly when I say it’s cute how she looks up to me, I-”

Marine laughed out loud.

“Wait, Laplus is claiming to be a terrifying demon-in-training and her idol is the infamously so-called devil known as Towa?”

Towa turned her head towards the former pirate.

“Hey! I’m still a devil, and a hella powerful one too. Sure, not a ‘normal’ devil by any metric but that doesn’t make me any different. Yamada’s following in my footsteps.”

“My name isn’t Yamada!”

Kanata snickered.

“So, learning to become an angel, then.”

Towa facepalmed.

“Not you too!”

Watame interrupted.

“I know we’re having fun here, but what are we going to do with her?”

Lui shrugged.

“I’ll take her in, probably.”

Iroha, Koyori, and Chloe all jaw-dropped.

Chloe spoke first.

“Um, wasn’t this the demon you were supposed to hunt down? I’m not the smartest person on the ocean but I know that as much as you were technically not asked to exterminate the little girl it was kinda implied from the job description. Maybe I’m looking into things too much but going from that to adopting her is a bit of a leap there!”

Iroha spoke next.

“Even taking out the weird factor, your job often requires being out of the house, so to speak. Just on a practical level it’s not going to be easy for you to raise her.”

Lui frowned.

“Here’s the thing: there are, at this point, three possibilities, and out of those three, I only see one of those as something we’d be willing to do. The first is that we get rid of her entirely. It’d even be relatively easy, and I was planning on doing so until I saw her. But the fact of the matter is that the demon I was called down to locate turned out to really just be an overexcited child, and I don’t have the heart to toss her overboard, and as far as I’m concerned, neither do you.”

Laplus frowned, as did Iroha.

Lui continued speaking: “The second option is to abandon her, instead. Just casually drop her off wherever we land next and forget about her. Laplus is a demon; and despite any advances in inclusiveness within society surface demons are, for the most part, not looked on too highly. Now, aboard the Lunar Light you do technically outrank me, Kazama-san, so I’ll let you make the decision, but are you really going to let this lost child fend for herself, knowing that it’s unlikely she’ll find anyone to take her in?”

Iroha flinched, as did Koyori, Chloe, and Laplus herself.

Lui kept going: “Or, the third option: I, or someone close to me, takes her in. It’s really just a matter of eliminating the other possibilities.”

Iroha sighed.

“Do you honestly think you’re suited to being a single parent to her?”

Lui smiled.

“No. But I can damn well try to make sure someone’s there for her.”

Laplus sniffled.

Choco chipped in.

“Iroha has a point. Sure, I took in Aloe and Botan as a single parent, but both of them are going to be living at the Lunar Castle when they get back there, and living arrangements are such that as much as I’ll be recognized as their mother they don’t necessarily need me that much.”

She quickly turned to the two children she was talking about.

“Of course, I don’t plan to leave or anything; I’m just pointing out that I’m utilizing the fact we live in the castle to make living arrangements much easier for us.”

And then turned back.

“I’m not sure you have the same luxury. Last I heard…actually, I haven’t heard of you, but that does eliminate you being one of the people who lives in the castle. What part of the Lu-knights even handles what you do?”

Lui smiled.

“I’m not. The Lu-knights are the public face of the Lunar Kingdom’s defense, but you understand that the need for a service that wasn’t subject to the erratic whims of Hime-sama was required around the Lunar Kingdom regardless of her wishes. I am part of that service, and I’m the watchful eye in the sky - alongside my cohort aboard this ship, in fact; Koyori and Iroha both work with me. That said, you’re unfortunately right, it’s just…”

She frowned, turning to face Laplus, who looked halfway between bursting into tears and trying to reaffirm herself in a boast of purely conjured self-confidence.

“...exactly what are we going to do, then? I’ve laid out three options, and I don’t see-”

“...You could just leave me. I’m a demon, and one who can hide in the shadows no less. I’m not exactly going hungry with my ability set…”

“Laplus-sama, that’s illegal, and while self-preservation often takes precedence over the law, you shouldn’t have to make that decision.”

Choco frowned.

I can’t take her in, too; I barely know what I’m doing with Aloe, and she has Botan, who’d probably be a better parent than I.

Iroha spoke.

“I believe the best solution is to work out joint custody. I can’t be Yamada’s mother, but I could be one of her caretakers.”

“...I’m not Yamada…” Laplus whined.

Koyori went next.

“Given my history of questionable potion mixing and other interesting substance creation, I’m probably not allowed to have children around my place.”

Chloe shrugged.

“Have you seen my place?”

Iroha glared at Chloe.

“The house we collectively call your ‘cave’ would be a lot more serviceable if you ever cleaned it, Sakamata-san.”

The samurai paused.

“I suppose my place isn’t terrible for her, but…”

Lui sighed.

“You have the same problem I do - we’re both part of the same organization. Sure, bodyguard is a different role from intelligence, but just as much as it would be hard for me to make the time to raise her, it would be equally difficult for you to transition into raising a child. Unless we’re willing to all move in together - yes, Chloe, that means you have to actually clean your living space on occasion - there’s not much we can do.”

Chloe paused.

“Wait, I’m not working for you!”

Lui froze.

“Right, we were only thinking about nabbing you for our own purposes, but you’re not actually technically with my group yet. I suppose I can bring you in on my own time later, but for now we have a more present issue, which is what to do with our little child.”

Laplus objected: “I’m not that young! I’ll survive being the only person in the house.”

Koyori replied rather scathingly: “Will the house survive?”

Laplus paused.

Koyori broke out laughing.

“I only ask because it’s the kind of thing they’d have to ask me!”

Lui facepalmed.

“Maybe I should get Laplus to babysit you instead. How have you not gotten fired for your behavior?”

“Because I’m good at what I do? I’m fairly smart, it just so happens I don’t always use those smarts in the way you want me to.”

Lui and Iroha both sighed in that manner that only came from familiarity of dealing with the coyote girl.

Koyori smiled.

“I mean, I’m totally down to babysit Laplus-sama if you need me to, especially given that I’m the only one who actually has a fair amount of free time due to my job mostly involving a lot of experimenting and not much chasing people down or fighting. I promise that I won't show her anything I’m not supposed to!”

Lui rolled her eyes mostly affectionately.

Koyori is actually somewhat responsible despite her eccentricities.

Iroha looked up to Lui.

“You are right. It’s wrong to abandon her; that is so. If we can find a better home for her, then it’s probably best to move her there, but in the absence of that, your place is probably the best place for her to stay, at least for now.”

Lui nodded.

“Then it’s decided. I know that we’re hardly giving you a choice, Laplus-sama, but-”

“...I’ll take it. For now.”

Lui walked up to Laplus, and then nodded. She then picked up Laplus off the ground with her arms, pulling her into a hug while the demon’s feet dangled above the ground.

“Wait! You can’t do this to Laplus-sama! Put me down!”

Everyone else watching the scene laughed.

Meanwhile, Houshou Marine, who had been silent, smiled nostalgically.

Oh, Shion-tan, if only I recognized how I saw you earlier…

Chapter Text

The next day…

Despite the newcomer and apparent adoptee known as Laplus Darknesss adding herself to the list of people aboard the Lunar Light, not much changed, and as such, the rest of the day passed entirely uneventfully.

Yuzuki Choco was among those who appreciated this; she really wasn’t the adventurous type, and finding out that she could continue living at her relatively relaxed pace despite Laplus’ rather sudden appearance - or, more appropriately, the reveal of her existing presence - was something that Choco appreciated.

Or, at least, something she would’ve appreciated if she were fully awake. As of this moment, she was only partially awake; fast mornings were really not her style, unless there was an emergency. Which was why, Choco supposed, fate continued to spite her by having an emergency appear. This time, it was Botan who was the one to inform Choco that something had gone terribly wrong.

Much like she had learned with Luna and Subaru, Choco had to make snap decisions about whether or not someone was truly in danger when deciding to interrupt one’s sleep cycle over what might not actually be an emergency. Plus, children tended to be a little more flighty than adults and were more likely to consider something an emergency that possibly wasn’t too bad.

“Choco! Nene needs help!”

This was not one of those times.

Botan, as Choco had learned, was generally fairly calm. Deadly calm, even; when Noel had mentioned that the lion girl held herself with warrior-like grace, it really was warrior-like; Choco had seen that kind of composure before, and she had seen it in many of the Lu-knights who weren’t busy dealing with Luna being herself; the kind of absolute composure that was such that Botan could likely remain calm while having a sword inches from impaling her.

So to see that composure broken was such an immediate red flag that Choco snapped awake, skipping right from being half-asleep to being awake and ready to work. And as such, she left her room with her more rudimentary medical instruments with her, headed towards the room the children were in.

Along the way, she met Noel and Flare, who were being led by Polka. Indeed, it was clear something was going very wrong, and both Botan and Polka had run out to get adult assistance because whatever the issue was, it was not one that could be solved by them alone.

Choco walked into the children’s room, face serious.

The scene that she walked into made her, along with Noel and Flare, stop in their tracks.

Nene was lying down in her shared bed with Lamy, while Aloe was on Nene’s other side, the two girls having their arms wrapped around the girl in the center. Aloe was gripping Nene’s body tighter, while Lamy was desperately whispering reassurances to her.

Nene, in the center of it all, didn’t seem to be aware of the world around her. Even with the large number of people who had entered the room, she didn’t react, seemingly lost in her nightmares; the closest anyone was coming to that was that she did seem to subconsciously curl her body towards Lamy’s as the snow elf desperately was trying to calm her down.

Flare walked over to Lamy’s side of the bed, and put a hand on the snow elf’s shoulder. Lamy turned her head, and then let go of Nene, as Aloe did the same. Lamy then got out of bed, while Flare backed up, letting Noel walk in.

Noel then reached down with own arms, letting Nene very slowly grip Noel’s hands with her own. Noel then raised her arms, pulling Nene up out of bed, wrapping both arms around her youngest daughter as she did so, pulling her into a tight hug.

Finally, in all of this, Noel spoke.

“We’re here. We’re all here, my daughter.”

Nene blinked, seemingly re-engaging awareness with the world around her.

Noel continued speaking.

“I’m so sorry that I wasn’t there to stop this from happening the first time. But I promise it won’t happen again. I know you want to forget. I know that it’s been the only thing you could do for the longest time; denial was your only shield. But if you need help, then all you have to do is ask.”

Nene finally broke.

“I…I can’t…Mama…I need you.”

Noel frowned, trying not to tear up herself.

“I’ll fully admit it: I don’t know what you’ve been through. I can imagine, but I don’t truly know that. And it makes it harder, because I don’t know what recovery really looks like, aside from no longer being haunted by these issues any longer.”

Botan paused.

“What I don’t get is why now of all times? Nene’s always been so good at distracting herself that it’s never mattered before. I know about the scars - though she acquired them before my captivity; Aloe was the only one they hurt in my presence - but it never seemed to affect her even close to this badly before. It’s like some sort of delayed trauma, and I don’t understand.”

Noel nodded, still holding Nene in her arms.

“It’s truly unfortunate how many of the things Nene’s going through can be explained by the Shirogane warrior diaries. We’re in a peaceful enough time that I haven’t seen this myself, but in those diaries - written by many of my predecessors - there’s a remarkable number of tales of knights who have…been through a lot, shall we say, who don’t process what it is that’s actually happened to them until far after they’re out of danger. Even after leaving battle, there’s often a sort of rush that keeps you from really thinking about what you’ve been through for a little while, until it suddenly hits you. I think what’s happened to you, Nene, is similar; you’ve always just tried to pretend they don’t exist. But now that you’ve let us know about the scars, it’s now part of you, and that’s what’s scaring you so much: you don’t want the scars to become your identity.”

Nene froze.

“That’s…right.”

Flare smiled.

“I’m sorry for the fact that we are definitely not going to forget those scars, because they’re a reminder of how we failed you, even if we didn’t know you yet. But the fact is that we don’t think of you as being worth any less for having those scars, now that we know about them, and the truth is that there’s nothing wrong with needing help to deal with it.”

Choco smiled.

“I suppose I now see what it is that I’ve been called in for. I’ll admit I’m a little rusty on psychological treatment, but if there’s anything you need help with, then feel free to say it.”

Nene squirmed, and then Noel let her go. She then turned to face Choco.

“...have you seen my scars?”

Choco shook her head.

“I have not. Judging from the reactions, I believe that your parents have seen them, alongside your friends made in captivity. If you don’t feel comfortable showing them to me, that’s okay too.”

Flare frowned.

“What can we do for her, then? This seems like a trauma that’s pretty deeply part of her, and the fact of the matter is that Noel is right; I have no idea how bad this is.”

Choco drew a very sharp breath.

“The simplest, though arguably the hardest solution, is this: we enter her mindspace, and go back to the memory in question, and then repair the trauma at its source - sort of.”

Noel blinked.

“Doesn’t that count as memory tampering? Like, something so bad that demons don’t like it?”

Choco shook her head.

“We’re not erasing the trauma. We can’t do that. What we’re doing is…hmm. This is slightly tricky to phrase in a manner that can be phrased in common speech, but I’ll try. Do you know what a mindspace is?”

Noel and Flare shook their heads.

“It’s essentially a conjured realm that’s not entirely physical, which is created out of someone’s mind. What I’m thinking of is creating a mindspace out of Nene’s memories, of which we will enter, and then do as we need within. There’s two neat things about mindspaces: the first is that they can actually be disconnected from the patient in question; meaning that we can revisit Nene’s worst traumas directly without actually forcing her to fully relive them. The second is that we can pull the patient directly into their own mindspace.”

Flare smirked.

“Which allows the patient to view their own memories without being in the position of directly suffering from them.”

Choco nodded.

“Exactly; I haven’t done this in a while; it’s called ‘mindspace therapy’, and it’s split into two stages: the viewing stage, and the reviewing stage. This is where I must ask the patient in question: Momosuzu Nene, with the permission of your parents, do you consent to letting us view your worst, most traumatic memory? I can make sure you aren’t aware of it, but you would be letting us into by far your literal worst nightmare.”

Nene sniffled.

“I think you should do it.” Lamy replied.

Choco nodded.

“It’s my recommendation. Remember: we’re not putting you through the memory again; it’s merely a reconstruction for our viewing, at least in the first stage. It’s entirely privacy reasons that we ask your permission to view your mindspace.”

Nene nodded.

“Okay. Please don’t tell anyone.”

Choco smiled.

“It’s on my promise that I never share confidential patient information. I won’t talk about your scars with anyone who doesn’t already know. That said, before we try anything, I do want to ask: who wants to come with me into Nene’s mindspace?”

Noel and Flare both raised their hands, followed by Aloe, Botan, and Polka.

Lamy, who hadn’t raised her hand, spoke.

“I don’t need to go back there again. Besides, if Nene wakes up while we’re all in her mindspace, someone should be there to talk to her.” The snow elf stated.

Aloe lowered her hand.

“...it might not be good for me…”

Botan sighed, and then lowered her hand.

“...I want to. I really want to. But I shouldn’t, because I’m angry. I’ll freak out, but at this point there’s nothing that can be solved by being angry. I’ve seen the scars; I don’t need to see what actually caused them. Polka, you probably shouldn’t see it either, unless you think it will actually help.”

Polka thought about it, and then lowered her hand, visibly trying to not cry.

“Take care of her, please…”

Noel, Flare, and Choco nodded. Choco in particular smiled.

“It’s my job, so I’d hope I can do that. Everyone, come with me to my room; I’ll set things up there.”

Chapter Text

It’s surreal, Flare thought, to realize that this world is nothing more than a conjuration made from Nene’s dreams, and yet the dreamer herself isn’t here.

Indeed; Nene was currently lying in a medical bed in the ‘real’ world right now, probably peacefully cuddling with her sisters.

The hideout that Noel, Flare, and Choco found themselves in wasn’t the hideout they had rescued the kids from; clearly they were moved there. This building was eerily quiet; which Choco explained.

“Mindscapes built on single focal memories tend to be fairly empty, since the focus of the reconstruction was based around a single event, not her entire life. It’s why if you look outside there’s only an empty void where the rest of the world would be.”

Indeed, that much was true.

And so, they explored the house. One step after the other, exploring rooms that only Nene and her friends remembered.

A sound hit the ears of Noel and Flare, one that they had never heard before and never wanted to hear again, despite it coming from a voice that was familiar to them.

It was the sound of Nene screaming.

Noel and Flare ran down to the basement area, and Choco followed behind the two of them. When they got there, they found what they expected to see: Nene, who had been stripped down to her underwear, being whipped by a figure that was now dead in reality: Uno.

Noel noticed the differences, though: this Uno’s physical figure didn’t match Noel’s memory of what he was like when he was alive; no, this Uno was a shadowy, almost demonic being that just so happened to wear a human face.

It makes sense, Noel thought, as the trauma likely makes him seem like a far stronger and more horrifying being than he actually was. Well, stronger anyway.

Even thought it was a memory and that it wasn’t actually the same Nene who was being tortured to the point of completely breaking, Noel felt herself overwhelmed with anger, and punched Uno in the face.

Uno’s figure dissolved, vanishing from the mindspace.

The memory, however, continued; Nene struggled against her binds uselessly, her body rendered a bloody wreck, with a few more scars appearing seemingly from nothing, until finally the bloody whiplashes from the past matched one-to-one with her present-day scars. Finally, Nene lost consciousness, and the memory froze at that moment.

Choco spoke, horrified at what she saw.

“...I wasn’t ready for this.”

“No wonder Nene tried to pretend this never happened.” Noel replied, “How would you even process this at her age? At any age, even? I don’t think most of the Shirogane Knights could, myself included.”

Flare bent down, looking closely at the image of her youngest daughter.

“No wonder they’re so protective of each other. Imagine what Lamy must’ve felt when she saw Nene looking like this. Because I’m imagining how I’d react if this happened in reality, and I don’t think I would leave Nene’s side for the rest of my life.”

Choco frowned.

“I’m so sorry.”

Noel shook her head.

“No, don’t be. It is always better to know the blade that’s being aimed at you than to be taken off-guard. Denial of a bad situation can only make things worse. Yes, in a sense, we were all happier not knowing how bad this was, but we are far better people for trying to understand it. Also, the rest of them are probably going to try and play it off lightly, but as long as this trip lasts I have a feeling all five of them are going to be needing some form of therapy, because…”

Choco nodded.

“I never went through the whole mindspace therapy with Aloe, but I’ve spent enough time with her to have a very good sense of what she’s going through. Yes, she’s hurting, but she’s a lot more self-aware of her traumas. Part of what makes this so messy is that Nene’s reflexive coping mechanism is denial; whereas Aloe’s never made a secret about her issues, and is so much more comfortable talking about them. Part of that is admittedly that Botan’s very good at getting Aloe to talk compared to anyone else - myself rather unfortunately included - but Aloe’s list of issues doesn’t include trying to deny that they exist.”

Flare frowned.

“The problem is, while Nene, to put it somewhat rudely, isn’t exactly terribly aware of the world around her, she’s aware enough to know the magnitude of her trauma by virtue of experiencing it herself. The few times we’ve seen her remember the scars, she just…”

She paused, thinking about the word.

“...collapses?” Noel finished the thought, lowering her head.

Flare nodded sadly.

“She can’t function under the weight of her scars. What can we even do against this? This is years of hardened trauma, and every time she remembers, it only reinforces that trying to deny it was the correct option, at least to her; because why would you want to remember when remembering makes you fall apart? I want, more than anything, to fix this, but Nene’s learned to function by denial, and I don’t see a way to fix that. It might be a terrible coping mechanism, but she really does make it work.”

Noel raised her head once again.

“And, of course, the more she denies it, the more she feels that she can’t ever let it seep back into her life, because every single time she remembers, it destroys her. However, I wouldn’t be so pessimistic. I think Nene’s going to be fine, in the long term.”

Flare blinked.

“How?!”

Choco smiled.

“You’re looking at how.”

Flare and Noel both blinked in surprise.

Choco continued: “Nene’s letting you see this side of her. As the two of you point out, this is a trauma so awful for her that it can destroy her. And she’s letting you see it, and I don’t think you realize just how big that is. I don’t think she realizes this, but letting you see this side of her is her way of saying that she feels comfortable falling to pieces in front of you specifically.”

Noel and Flare looked at each other, and then back to Choco.

“So, the question is,” Noel asked, “do we risk putting Nene through stage two?”

Choco thought about it.

“I think we have to ask her. Normally, viewing your own memory externally is far less harmful than experiencing it, but this is…”

Flare shook her head.

“If we do it together, I think we can help her. If she’s willing to try.”

Choco nodded, and then snapped her fingers.


And then they returned to the real world, Noel and Flare waking up in the bed opposite of where Nene was resting, and Choco sleeping in a chair.

Nene was awake, surrounded by and casually talking with the rest of the group that usually surrounded her.

Choco, Noel, and Flare approached the five.

Flare spoke first, not able to contain her feelings about just what she saw.

“I’m so sorry, Nenechi. There’s really nothing else I can say. But thank you for showing us. And thank you for trusting us, too.”

Nene smiled.

“It’s not as scary with you.”

Flare nodded.

“Yeah, but I’m not the only one who cares about you. That said, I have an idea of what to do next. You said you felt weak showing your scars to me, and while we’ve always tried to say that you aren’t weak for those scars, I have an interesting idea. Choco, is it possible to create a mindspace out of my memories, rather than Nene’s?”

Choco nodded.

“Ah, I see where you’re going with this. You want her to see how we view her.”

Flare nodded.

“Nene, I know it’s hard, because you feel weak both hiding your past and showing it too. But I want to help you, and the best way to do it is to see what we see instead of what you see. Because we don’t see a scared girl who can’t handle her past. We see a strong warrior who constantly handles her past who just needs a little help to keep it down. We see an opportunity to lay the past to rest.”

Nene smiled.

“I’m ready, then. Can we all go?”

Choco smiled.

“I’m probably going to fall over from fatigue after managing this mindspace, but I’ll go through with it for you girls; you all certainly deserve it, both those victimized and those who are trying to help.”

Noel nodded.

“Learning to rest well is certainly a hard one to learn for many. Lord knows that so many of the Shirogane rules about taking breaks exist because I was terrible at it myself.”

Flare gave her spouse a look.

“Was?”

“Hey, I’ve mellowed out a lot since we first met. I believe I first met you in battle, and secondly met you while I was in a medical bed.”

Flare’s glare deepened, while Noel continued speaking.

“For the record, I’m totally disallowing any of our children to learn that lesson the way I did. That, and as much as you tried to stop me, the fact that you kept trying to stop me was what made me realize you were perfect for me. That, and now that I have a family, I’ve come to realize that it’s actually really bad if I put myself into an early grave, so…”

Flare smiled happily.

“Well, that aside, are we all ready?”

Everyone nodded.


It’s surreal, Flare thought, to realize these are your own memories, and yet, you’re not experiencing them, only looking at what you once remembered.

Unlike last time, where the children had been left behind, this time all of them came along to see Nene, even from a different perspective.

The locations were much more varied and less consistent, but were overall much brighter and joyful than the hideout that the children had once been captive. In the center of the disjointed location of memory was the focus of the mindscape: Momosuzu Nene, or at least what Flare remembered of her.

Of course, she wasn’t alone; Polka was distracting her, and both Lamy and Botan were keeping a close eye on the young girl. Once again, wearing a shirt that covered her scars.

All of that was merely a recreation; meanwhile all of the children watched their own happy memories. Even though it was only over a very short timespan that they had finally been let free by Noel and Flare, the flash of memory was expansive, a wonderful series of joyful snapshots that peeked into the lives of the little girls that Noel and Flare now called their children.

“This is me?” Nene replied curiously to the memory.

Noel smiled.

“Yes. I want to ask: do you see this girl as being weak, just because of the scars that you know she has?”

Nene paused.

“No…”

The mindspace seemingly went forward in time, to another memory, this one between Nene and everyone else: the time where Nene first showed her scars to her parents, where she collapsed into her bed during her traumatic flashback, surrounded by her friends and family.

Flare spoke next: “What do you see, Nene?”

Nene looked at her own scars.

“Me.”

Flare smiled.

“You know what I mean when I ask that.”

“...someone who needs help…”

Lamy put a hand on Nene’s shoulder.

“None of us are okay with what’s happened to you. Or what’s happened to Aloe, or even to me, whom they never harmed. It’s not okay, and that’s why it hurts so much.”

Nene breathed in deeply, almost trembling.

Botan spoke next: “Trying to just forget about it and move on is like trying to say it’s okay that it happened, and it’s not. The only reason I haven’t devised a plan to get back at our abusers for what happened is that we already did that.”

Choco spoke with a soft voice, trying to comfort Nene.

“I see something else in this image of you. I see someone who is loved. I see someone who has people willing to help her at every turn.”

Noel nodded.

“Even we, the Shirogane knights, don’t work alone. Remember how I said that my second meeting with my wife was with me in a medical bed? Well, it’s not like I was my own healer. Actually, I believe that Choco was actually working with us back then.”

Choco thought about it, and then nodded.

“That was before I was officially appointed as part of the Lunar Kingdom’s castle staff, though that particular meeting I wasn’t present for. Ah, I’m now remembering the young romance between Noel and Flare; that was sweet, aside from how often Flare was trying to stop you. For your own safety, I should add, though yes, I see you’ve mellowed out with time. And yes, Nene, that’s an important point that Noel made: Noel’s arguably the strongest warrior I know, and even she’s been on the end of reprimanded for not asking for help where it was really warranted.”

Noel sighed.

“There’s a lot of rules about not pushing yourself too hard that are basically written for stopping people exactly like myself.”

Nene sniffled.

“Then…”

Polka walked up beside her.

“It’s okay, ya dummy! You’re crying out for help because you need it, and lord knows we all need it. It’s just more obvious with you, but I reckon even Botan’s not doing super well with this.”

Botan nodded.

“Yeah. It’s easier for me, I think, but I avoided the worst parts of what we went through, and even then, it’s caused issues for me. Remember how I wanted to become part of the Shirogane knights when I first met Noel?”

Noel and Nene both nodded.

Botan continued: “Well, it’s because I wasn’t really afraid of dying. And, thinking about it, that’s not healthy for me; part of what I have to learn is that my life has value, and that it’s worth preserving. Senselessly throwing your life away is just that: senseless.”

Lamy spoke next.

“Nene, I’ve known you for the entire time you were in captivity, and I just want to add: I have my issues, too. Accepting my birth parents are dead isn’t easy, because I’m old enough that I can somewhat remember them; remember how they loved me. Noel-mama and Flare-mama are easy to talk to, because while I still feel down, still feel like I had part of my life ripped from me, they’re trying so hard to put that part of my life back so I can live happily. And they’ll try just as hard for you. We hate seeing you in pain, Nenechi, even if you believe you aren’t suffering.”

Nene stumbled on her feet, seemingly stunned by what everyone was saying.

“...I don’t remember them…”

Lamy frowned.

“And yet, it’s still not easy to suddenly acknowledge that Noel and Flare aren’t parental substitutes, they’re our parents, and are as real as any pair of birth parents would be. My birth parents aren’t around to see me anymore, but if they were, I think they would approve of who adopted us. And if they were alive, I think it wouldn’t have been hard to convince them to take you in, either.”

Noel thought about what Lamy said.

It’s probably rude to ask, but I wonder if Rushia is willing to lend a hand…

Flare spoke again.

“It’s not that you’re all suddenly okay. It’s more that we’re finally getting you back to living the kinds of lives you were ripped from, the kinds of lives that you should’ve already been living. Adjusting your lifestyle is hard, even if it’s for the better. Eventually, we’ll look back and realize that we’ve made more happy memories than horrifying ones. Maybe that’s as much as we can do, but that’s why we’re here: because we refuse to let you suffer like this. And you shouldn’t let yourself suffer like this anymore, either.”

Nene smiled.

Choco snapped her fingers, ending the mindspace, and in the real world, Nene awakened, crying happy tears as she let herself be held by her family.

Chapter Text

Rushia was, much like both of the Houshou family children, an introvert at heart. It was the one thing that the sisters had that Marine did not; while Houshou Marine was arguably the best at all of the things you’d expect a parent to do just as their actual duty as a parent, Shion and Rushia were both naturally better at judging the space Aqua needed.

Similarly, Aqua understood the two of them, and in turn gave them their own space whenever it was warranted. That said, the Lunar Light, as large a vessel as it was, wasn’t infinite in size, and that meant often making due with less personal space than was strictly comfortable for any of them, which Rushia found, if not annoying - try as she might she could not stay mad at Aqua, especially not with what she had recently been through - then at least a little tiring.

This was why she was currently a little irritable while talking to Shirogane Noel. She had been reading, and she had chosen to not even look up while replying.

“Shirogane Noel. Not that I have anything against you, but what brings you to my personal space? You usually are capable of respecting it.”

Noel sighed.

“It’s about Yukihana Lamy, one of the freed captives. As you might know, she lost her parents - we found their corpses in the investigation.”

Rushia closed the book.

“If you’re looking for a resurrection, the answer is no. Not because I wouldn’t be willing to do so, but because true resurrection, the kind that fully heals both one’s physical and spiritual self, is the hardest necromancer art of all, and I do not believe myself capable of it. Nor would you want to see the effects of me trying to bring them back. I could try if you really wanted me to, but most attempts have rather interesting side effects. There’s actually a great example in a land not too far from here, though it’s Southwest of Pekoland, so unless we’ve made a navigational error we’re not going to be meeting her.”

Noel blinked, mostly in curiosity.

“I wasn’t going to ask you for anything like that, but now I’m curious: a ‘great example’?”

Rushia finally faced the other participant in the conversation.

“Her name is Kureiji Ollie, and I honestly don’t know too much about what she got up to since her rather unusual - though not entirely unfortunate - reanimation. Ollie’s considered the closest you can get to a resurrection without actually properly resurrecting, and while I was one of the people involved in that mess - it’s a long story, it all happened years ago - I wasn’t the one who tried to bring her back to life.”

“What went wrong?” Noel asked.

“The physical body only mostly repaired itself, leading her to exist in an undecaying zombified state, which is a very unusual state, as most zombies tend to decay and not last terribly long. It’s the closest thing you can have to actually being alive again without actually drawing breath. The most unusual thing was what happened to her personality, however.”

“Hmm? What happened?”

“The spiritual transfer changed her. Somehow, only part of her spiritual self returned to her body, and the rest of it reformed from, well, honestly we’re not sure what. The difference was markedly clear, however: the girl that walked out from her grave wasn’t the composed, polite, and quiet young girl that was put in there - in fact, her name was Olivia before her reanimation - but was instead a very loud hyperactive zombie girl who now goes by the name Ollie.”

Rushia took a breath, and then continued speaking.

“To this day I still don’t know what her friends and family think of how drastically her personality changed post-reanimation, though admittedly that’s because I didn’t stick around. We brought back someone alright, but who we brought back was, in a sense, only partially the girl they had once loved. This is why, however, I have a policy on not attempting resurrections, and the only time I’ve even considered breaking it was when I thought…”

She trailed off the sentence, preferring not to finish it.

Noel nodded in response.

“Losing family is hard, and I could easily imagine you’d try to bring your sisters back. You’re so good for them, and I suppose I’m also blessed in having one of my own children be that sort of reliable older sister type.”

Rushia smiled.

“Marine stopped me from trying, citing correctly that resurrection attempts don’t normally go well, and she’s right in that I don’t know how I’d feel if Aqua or Shion got brought back in the same way Ollie did, and that was honestly our best case scenario. It ended up not mattering when it turned out they were alive, but even still.”

Noel smiled.

“I suppose that makes sense. Still, I more or less wanted to ask if you could allow Lamy to talk to her parents. I know the lack of closure’s been a little hard for her, and more importantly I know you talk to your long-since dead brother. Or at least you probably do.”

Rushia blinked.

“You are observant if you know I do that, because I don’t recall mentioning that to you.”

Noel laughed.

“I’ve seen many of the family names on the gravestones planted in the Shirogane territory. I know that Uruha is one of them, and I also know you talk to the dead on fairly regular occasions. It’s not a hard inference to make if you know both of those facts.”

Uruha sighed.

“I can try. Spirits can be rather fickle beings, and while my brother is among the spirits who will always be openly available to talk to until the day I die, it’s not a certainty that Lamy’s parents will be around. If someone is willing to spill a little of their blood, I can empower the spell, but that means finding someone-”

“Use mine, if you must.”

“I’ll try without first. In that case, I suppose I should speak directly with the snow elf in question.”

Rushia stood up.

“Besides, do you know how rare it is to see someone talking about my powers that isn’t immediate family that isn’t freaked out by them? Last person who saw me use my powers wasn’t nearly as happy about it. Granted, that was Captain Uno moments before we killed him, which probably has something to do with it. I was a little angry.”

Noel paused.

“A little. I suppose if in the future I ever accidentally bring harm to Aqua it’s you who’s wrath I should be the most worried about.”

“Shion and Marine are no slouch. Besides, it was Lamy who got the final blow, so I’d say that we’re pretty even on people who you should think twice before provoking. That said, I should speak with Lamy.”


Lamy’s jaw dropped in shock, while Noel and Flare looked at each other without much reaction; unlike Lamy they knew of Rushia’s powers. Botan and Aloe were out of the room, while Nene and Polka watched while otherwise being on their best behavior.

“You can do what?!”

Rushia shrugged.

“When I was younger, I spoke with the dead more often than the living. I’m not sure how you’re surprised that I could bring your parents back for a conversation. Bare in mind I’m not actually resurrecting them and I refuse to try for reasons that are a little long-winded and complicated to explain-”

“I just want to speak with them. Just once. It’s just…”

Rushia smiled.

“You don’t need to be that desperate. I’ll be the interpreter between them and you three - well, Noel and Flare, at least; family members tend to be able to see each other even if they aren’t attuned to seeing spiritual selves - and otherwise this should go fairly well. That said, the spell I’m currently using will not force their return; if, for whatever reason, they refuse the call, they won’t respond, and while I feel that chance is small, you have to accept that they might not be there for us to talk to.”

Lamy nodded.

“Okay.”

Rushia stood up, and raised her hands.

“Alright. This should be simple enough; I call upon the-”

And then she blinked in surprise.

“Wait, how are you here already? I literally just started the spell!”

Two ghostly figures materialized at a speed so fast that, like Rushia indicated, they appeared faster than the spell even finished. Both of them were elves, one male and one female, and within no time at all Lamy got up to hug the two of them, only to stumble through the ghostly image of her parents.

“Lamy!” Rushia exclaimed. “They’re ghosts; they don’t have a physical body anymore!”

In spite of this, both of the ghostly snow elves smiled, when the female finally spoke.

“I’m Yukihana Rin.”

The male spoke afterwards.

“I’m Yukihana Yuu.”

They both bowed.

Rushia raised a finger.

“Before you get too excited, I want to let you know that only Lamy and I can see you two. Which is to say, Lamy, you probably look a little strange for trying to hug the air, though I suppose, with both your old and new parents’ blessing, we could choose to find it funny.”

Everyone in the room, Lamy included, laughed at the turn of events.

Rin nodded.

“Well, I suppose given we’ve been waiting for a long time for an opportunity, I can’t be too picky about the requirements of the meeting. It is somewhat a shame we can’t actually touch, though.”

Rushia smiled, while Nene, Polka, Noel, and Flare observed the interaction, unaware of what Lamy’s parents were saying.

“Well, at least you don’t seem to be too angry about things.”

Yuu shook his head.

“Oh, I’m mad. It just so happens that karma actually returned and Lamy’s in a much better place now; after everything that’s happened.”

Rushia spoke next: “Actually, before we go further: how do you know about that? Hadn’t you gone off to your afterlife? And how did you appear so quickly to me? Normally the process of transporting a spiritual self from the afterlife takes a while.”

Rin smiled.

“We never left; as much as we wanted to, our worry became a desire so ingrained that we couldn’t leave the mortal realm until we knew Lamy was doing well. Honestly, given your history with talking with the dead, I’m amazed you never caught us earlier.”

Rushia facepalmed.

“Well there goes any pride I had left as a necromancer. Geez, you were around all this time and I never noticed.”

“To be fair, you’ve been a full-time older sister to two younger sisters; lord knows that’s a busy occupation.” Rin replied.

Rushia smiled.

“Yeah, that’s fair-wait, two? I play Onee-chan to Aqua, but-”

“You see the witch that way too.”

“Shion’s not-”

She froze.

“I’ll talk with Senchou about that later. To get back on topic, however, I believe you wanted to talk with Lamy, who, might I remind you, is your actual daughter and is presumably looking for some form of closure.”

Lamy paused.

“I’m not sure, to be honest. Originally I wanted to just talk and have that much, but I kind of want to introduce my family to you. It’s unusual, I know, but-”

Yuu interrupted: “Lamy, we’ve hung around. We know about them. And we’re happy for you. The fact of the matter is that, as far as parents go, we aren’t able to do much for you anymore. Here’s the thing: Above all else, parents wish for the well-being of their children. Some don’t express it very well, but parental love is generally the most universal, with very few exceptions.”

Rushia drew a sharp breath, but said nothing.

Aqu-tan…

Rin continued explaining: “For the record, Lamy, when I mentioned to Rushia that being an older sister was a busy occupation, that just as much applies to you; I know you’ve been watching out for the two younger ones; given what you went through I’m glad you found parents willing to take you in all at once. For all of that, I’m so proud of you.”

Lamy teared up silently.

“Thank you. I know that ”

Rin, however, wasn’t finished, and spoke further.

“Actually, Rushia or Lamy, could I ask one of you two to thank Noel and Flare for me? I know the two of them can’t see us. Yes, we can hardly object since we’re dead, but in our tragic absence I would like to say that the two of them absolutely have our blessing to adopt you, even if it is rather unusual. Your family is just as real as ours ever was; and while I hope you don’t forget us I do wish that you don’t get too hung up on us no longer being around. We’re so happy for you.”

Lamy nodded, and turned to her adoptive parents.

“Yukihana Rin and Yuu would like to give their thanks for taking me and the others in. And I should thank you, too; I don’t know where I’d be without you two. And even to my sisters, too; the fact of the matter is that, as tragic as it was, it ended about as well as I could hope for.”

Noel nodded, while Flare spoke.

“To be fair, Lamy’s an easy child to raise. Rin, Yuu, I have to admit it: you two raised an amazing daughter, and although I don’t think the two of you planned for her to be an Onee-chan, I’d like to say that you also raised an excellent older sister for Nene and Polka.”

Nene and Polka smiled happily.

“Yeah, Lamy’s amazing like that.” Polka stated.

Rin and Yuu both smiled.

Noel spoke next.

“Also: Rin, Yuu, I know I can’t hear your response, but I would like to extend sincere apologies for failing the Yukihana family as a whole. If I had done my job properly, you would never have been killed; possibly Lamy wouldn’t have been kidnapped at all if we were there.”

Yuu raised a hand.

“Lamy, can you please please tell Noel that we don’t blame her. If we were smart about this, we would’ve gone to her first instead of chasing you down ourselves, which got us killed. If anything, we’re sorry, Lamy, for being foolish in trying to rescue you.”

Rushia interrupted.

“I had to stop Aqua’s mother from getting herself killed, and she’s normally far more rational than I am, so I’m not going to even blame you for trying to track down your child on your own, even though it was ultimately counterproductive. Noe-chan, you are forgiven.”

Noel nodded mournfully.

“Thank you. I’ll admit, I’m mostly learning parenthood as we go along, but your daughter is a wonderful person and any parent would be thankful to have a child like her. You raised her well, and even though I can’t hear you I know you’re probably glad to hear that.”

Rin smiled.

“Of course I am. And let me echo that sentiment, Lamy: you are a wonderful daughter, and despite everything, I’m happy to see that you’re willing to treat your adoptive parents with just as much respect as you treated us with. I’m happy for you. I really am.”

Lamy thought about it, before speaking with a relatively melancholic tone of voice.

“It’s so weird to say this, but…Mama, Papa, I think…I think I don’t need you anymore. I don’t mean like, in a bad way, but…I guess I just needed this bit of closure. I know you never went to the afterlife because you were worried about me, but I don’t think you need to worry about me anymore. Noel-mama and Flare-mama are there for me. Nene and Polka look up to me, now. While I wish you were still alive…I think I’m finally okay with admitting it. You can rest easy, and finally go to the afterlife you so deserve. You loved me - still love me - and it’s because of that that I realize that as much as you want me to rest easy, I want you to finally rest peacefully too.”

Yuu shrugged.

“Not much chance that we’re gonna stop worrying about you ever. Sorry kid, that just comes with being a parent. Sometimes that comes with being an older sibling, too. But you are right. And this last meeting was as much closure for us as it was for you. Because, yes, there’s an afterlife we should get to, though…”

Lamy blinked.

“Yes?”

Yuu continued: “As long as Rushia is willing - and I have to extend a thank you to her as well, because she’s the reason we can talk to you - then chances are we won’t say no if we get pulled from our place in the afterlife to speak with you. We are your birth parents, after all.”

Rushia nodded.

“I mean, speaking with the dead is easy for me, so I won’t say no unless I’m busy with something else. That said, I’m not sure there’ll be much need to; Lamy has taken your death better than I took my brother's. I mean, I still talk to him on occasion, and I accepted his death hundreds of years ago.”

Flare raised a finger.

“To be fair, that’s less grief and more casual sibling conversation.”

“Fair. Anything to add?”

Rin bowed.

“Only that I’m so happy that Lamy - and her sisters - were able to find happiness without us.”

Lamy smiled, tearing up as she did so.

“As am I. Thank you. I think…I think I’ll let you go now.”

Rushia nodded.

“Are you two ready?”

Rin and Yuu nodded, and then their ghostly forms vanished, sent to the afterlife.

And then rather suddenly Lamy hugged Rushia.

“Hey! What’s with you?!”

“Thank you so much.”

The rest of the room laughed.

Rushia was, much like both of the Houshou family children, an introvert at heart.

Chapter Text

“Nooooooooooo!”

Usada Pekora fell to her knees in despair on the top deck of the Lunar Light, cursing reality for the events of her life as she looked at the open ocean around her.

While Houshou Marine was less theatrical in the display of her discontent, she too was rather unimpressed, and, in fact, just about every single adult onboard was at this point fairly displeased with current events.

Marine, Noel, Flare, Kanata, and Towa all stared at the combination of Lui, Koyori, Chloe, and Iroha, the former three who seemed to be trying to blame each other and Iroha who looked like she wanted to jump off the edge of the ship and drown herself instead of having the conversation they were currently having.

Thankfully, the true doom threshold - upsetting Luna - hadn’t been crossed yet. For the most part, she was easily distracted such that she could interact with the other kids with only minimal adult supervision below deck (1) while the adults could talk things out amongst themselves, out on the top deck of the Lunar Light, surrounded by the open ocean.

That last point was the issue. In theory, they were en route to Pekoland to drop off Pekora, and they’d been out for long enough that the shores that Pekora called home should’ve been visible. ‘Should’ve been’, however, was the key phrase in that, and instead the Lunar Light continued on its course into what was seemingly the middle of nowhere.

Houshou Marine sighed.

“If I were slightly younger, perhaps I would’ve spun this as going on another adventure of mine, but I’m also at a point in my life where I’d prefer to have slightly less adventure in said life, mostly because I have the rest of my family to look after now. With that said: now what?”


Earlier…

Houshou Marine had, for the most part, taken the time to enjoy what had become a legitimate vacation with her family. It had gotten to the point where she was actually fairly comfortable letting Aqua out of her sight on occasion, which was a sign that despite everything that had happened to them things were returning back to normal.

Part of that was Rushia, who was, despite her reputation of being the Houshou family’s resident scary person, actually incredibly sweet to Aqua, and actually a fairly reliable figure of wisdom to Shion when the witch wasn’t acting like a brat. (2)

It was this last point that made Marine realize that she had a large opportunity to embarrass Rushia, and given the former pirate’s history of teasing Shion to no end she felt it was only fair to subject Rushia to it as well.

Of course, Rushia had a lot less to embarrass her with, at least not if Marine valued her spiritual self actually still being connected to her physical self, but the realization of how close the family members had gotten with each other was also the realization that she was an acceptable target of embarrassment.

All she needed to do was point it out, and as such, she addressed Rushia when she ran into the necromancer in one of the halls of the ship they were currently aboard.

“Rushia-chan. I wanted to speak with you.”

Rushia blinked.

“Senchou. What about?”

“Your role as a beloved onee-chan.”

Rushia blushed.

“I mean, is there much to even talk about? You’re the reason that Aqua has a bed to sleep in and food to eat, and I’m the reason that any other former enemies of yours will have second thoughts about even thinking of harming her.”

Marine thought about it.

“I think all of my other former enemies have forgiven me at this point, so I think we’re safe. But actually I meant your role as Shion’s onee-chan.”

Rushia froze, her mind going completely blank as she entirely failed to come up with a response to the statement.

Marine broke out laughing.

“You haven’t realized at all that Shion’s started to look up to you?!”

This was immediately followed by a richly deserved bonk to the head.

Ah, Marine reminisced, there’s a good Rushia punch. Shion just doesn’t have the lethal intent behind it.

“...does she?!”

Marine smirked.

“Okay, I won’t fault you for not noticing; it is pretty subtle, and like everything in this family, it is connected to how you both see Aqu-tan. You see, I’ve started to notice something, and that’s the simple fact that Shion-tan sees you as being a responsible person who can be trusted with Aqu-tan’s well-being in a way that she doesn’t for most people, most notably herself included.”

Rushia blinked.

“Shion doesn’t trust herself with Aqu-tan? That seems wrong to me; that pair is inseparable; honestly Shion’s closer to Aqu-tan than I am. Which makes sense, I guess, but that’s pretty objectively the case no matter how you spin it. I just look over the two of them to make sure nobody’s actually in trouble. Also, she saved her life back at the Lunar Kingdom, so…”

Marine frowned.

“That was an act of pure desperation, and notably she didn’t think it would work out. And in fact, it was rather incredible divine luck that got both of them through that. No, the giveaway was actually our sleeping arrangements, ever since we realized we had to share beds.”

Rushia thought about it.

“I mean, yes, I share a bed with Shion-tan, but I thought that was less on us and more on the fact that we assumed that you had default priority in keeping Aqua as close to you as possible, given that she calls you Mom and calls me Onee-chan. The only time that changes is when you get out of bed, and usually I take your position if Aqua’s not in a mood for moving about, which-”

And then she stopped.

“And Shion always lets me get closer to Aqua than herself, and especially when I’m comforting Aqua, which means…”

Marine smiled.

“Bingo. Shion-tan thinks of herself as a friend to Aqu-tan. She thinks of you as a responsible figure who knows how to comfort her if she’s scared or hurt, whereas Shion’s, well…”

Rushia nodded.

“Our lovely little witch isn’t necessarily great with words, or with dealing with emotions in general. Aqua looks up to her, but their sisterly relationship is one based on being equals. Or something close to equals, anyway. Mine…isn’t.”

Marine nodded.

“You’re good at it, to be fair. I really hope you never have to comfort Aqu-tan to the scale I’ve had to do it at, but I think you could if you had to. I think that my daughter’s even gotten used enough to you that she wouldn’t be scared if you got mad because she’d understand that you’d never be angry at her in particular.”

Rushia smiled.

“Of course not. She’s sweet and deserves only the best family after what her early childhood was like.”

The manner of which Rushia spoke left the implied derisive statement about Aqua’s brith family remarkably present, even though she hadn’t spoken it out loud at all.

Marine nodded.

“That’s somewhat why I chose to settle down in the Shirogane region. It’s a good region for all of us, and while I’ll admit I would still probably enjoy my adventures on the high seas if I got into those hijinks today, the fact of the matter is that I don’t think I can be a good mother to the girl while being the legendary pirate Houshou Marine, and between being Senchou and giving little Aqu-tan the love she deserves…it’s not a choice at all.”

Rushia nodded.

“Yeah. I’m looking forward to setting foot in the Shirogane territories again.”

Marine paused, thinking about things.

“You know, that reminds me; we’ve been at sea for a little while now. We were supposed to go to Pekoland, and I’m pretty sure it’s not actually that far from the Lunar Kingdom. As in, I’m pretty sure we should have dropped off Pekora by now. As in, I think our navigator has made a rather spectacular mistake in direction. As in, I think I should talk with the people who are theoretically running the operations of the ship, because given that Hime-sama is onboard I think they’ll have motivation to clean up their act and get back to land as quickly as possible.”

Rushia simply sighed in response.

“That seems appropriate given the kinds of lives we’ve lived. I’ll go find Aqua and keep her company; I suppose that running the ship is much more your thing.”

“I might not be captain, but that doesn’t mean that I’ve lost all of my pirate instincts.”


Houshou Marine walked up to the trio consisting of Koyori, Chloe, and Iroha.

“I wanted to ask you three something.”

Chloe shrugged.

“Um, sure.”

Marine frowned.

“Where exactly are we going?”

Chloe shrugged.

“Last I heard, to Pekoland to drop off the Usada Pekora.”

Marine smirked.

“Do you happen to know how far that is?”

Chloe frowned.

“No, not really. I suppose the fact that you’re asking means that an error was made somewhere. Though, for the record, I’m not the navigator, I just drive the ship where it’s supposed to go. Actually, now that I think about it, Iroha, you’re the one who knows where we are, right?”

Iroha blinked.

Koyori’s face dropped to one of horror.

“Wait, Chloe, did you end up making Iroha our navigator? As in, Kazama Iroha, who can’t figure out how to get from the harbor to the Lunar Kingdom’s castle?”

Iroha looked utterly embarrassed.

Chloe, on the other hand, suddenly froze.

“Um, she said she’d try her best? She didn’t seem that bad at it!”

Koyori brought both hands to her face.

“Get Lui up here. She knows just how bad Iroha’s navigation is.”


“This is Takane Lui speaking. Due to some serious managerial incompetence, we somehow ended up with Kazama Iroha being our navigator. I have since taken over the duty, but as of right now I’m afraid that you may want to brace yourselves for disappointment. To the princess of Pekoland, I wish to extend sincere apologies, as you are not where you want to be, and you aren’t getting there any time soon. The apologies are extended to everyone else onboard, especially Hime-sama. We are officially lost at sea, though I will endeavor to get us back onto land safe and sound. Wait, Iroha, no! No trying to drown yourself because of your mistakes!”


In the present…

And that’s how the situation got to where it currently was.

Takane Lui, who had started by tracking down a demon and instead had adopted said demon and then was effectively forced into taking over navigational duties, sighed.

“I think, at this point, we’re off by enough that Pekoland’s probably not even the closest port we could go to; and I think finding anywhere to land is probably the important thing to do right now; trying to course correct on open seas is hard, while it’s much easier to do so if we have a point of reference. Iroha, I know you’re probably feeling awful about this, but let this be an important lesson in learning your weaknesses and also learning how to say no to people asking you to do things that you cannot.”

Iroha looked down at the floor, and then got down to her knees.

“Please don’t execute me even though I most assuredly deserve it!”

Houshou Marine blinked.

“Is she always like this?”

Lui sighed.

“Iroha, while this is your fault, it’s a fault we can correct for, and the most important thing we can do is actually make sure we’re safe and sound. Remember, as long as the Hime-sama doesn’t actually yell at us we’re all basically good to do whatever we want. And to answer your question, Marine, yes, I’ve worked with her for a while; she’s prone to overreacting to her mistakes, and given that this is somewhat a major problem, I’m not surprised she’s acting this way.”

Noel walked up to Iroha.

“Little lesson I’ve learned the hard way: the most effective path towards self-improvement involves a lot of unfortunate decisions along the way. Looking at what you’re doing wrong is much more effective than looking at what you’re doing right, as long as you live through it. And that’s important: you’ve gotta be able to live with yourself.”

Flare added: “The first time I met Noe-chan was out on the field. The second was with her in a medical bed, and despite Noel having only good intentions I was pretty ticked at her almost senselessly throwing her life away even though it did kinda make perfect sense at the time. You’re not allowed to actually throw your life away, because frankly it’s just terrible to waste an opportunity for self-improvement.”

Iroha nodded nervously.

“You’re…not mad at me?”

Noel shrugged.

“I mean, yeah, I kinda am, but at the end of the day being mad doesn’t get us anywhere, and it’s not like you’re acting with malicious intent; if the general announcement didn’t tell us this then your reaction to the events that followed certainly did. You’re a warrior, Iroha, and while our choice in weapons might be different our values are pretty similar. Lord knows in your position - and age, I’ve got a few years on you - I’d probably be reacting similarly, with my wife needing to talk me away from the edge. That, and given you work for Lui, I kinda figured that any official punishment would be her job.”

Lui smiled.

“That is correct, and let’s just say that the timing of your next paycheck might be somewhat delayed as a result of this incident. I’m not actually her superior but the organization tends to take my recommendations concerning my subordinates. For the record, Koyori, the fact that you didn’t notice this issue means you’re probably also in some amount of trouble. Not much - Iroha is definitely worse off here - but I know you’re fairly smart and thus should’ve seen this coming.”

Iroha and Koyori gulped.

Chloe smiled politely.

“Well, at least-”

Lui interrupted: “Also, if you were the one driving the ship, I feel that at some point you really should’ve either taken control or at least pointed out to Iroha that we were going the wrong direction.”

“It wasn’t my job! Also, I’m, uh, not really that good at figuring out where we are, either.” Chloe replied.

Lui facepalmed.

“Well, at least we can revert our mistakes and get back on track now. It’s an unfortunate delay, but it shouldn’t be anything that jeopardizes the safety of anyone onboard.”

All of a sudden, the very distant sound of thunder was heard by those on the top deck.

Marine sighed.

“Just our luck, isn’t it? Well, I suppose you know what you’re doing now; all I’ll add is that, given we have Rushia, if we drown our spirits will come back to haunt you.”

Chapter Text

Aqua was scared. This wasn’t particularly unusual; she was generally skittish and possessed a flight-or-flight response to danger. As such, hiding in bed was also a pretty usual response.

Rushia was beside her, one arm wrapped around her little sister’s body and another gently ruffling her hair, in what was her best impression of Houshou Marine.

The sound of thunder wasn’t a good sign when you were aboard a ship on the open ocean.

Finally, Marine and Shion walked into the shared room that the Houshou family was staying in. Shion looked very stressed, while Marine was actually looking fairly calm.

The witch spoke first.

“I’ve got bad news, and worse news.”

Marine smiled.

“I have bad news and good news. It so happens that Shion-tan and I are in disagreement about the silver lining to the storm that’s almost upon us.”

Shion sighed.

“Advantages of being trained in magic: you notice things that some people don’t. The bad news, however, is something that both Senchou and I agree with: the storm’s approaching us, and there’s absolutely no way we’re gonna avoid it. The even worse news is that this storm isn’t naturally caused. It’s what magicians of old would call a bad omen; a sign that something huge and very unnatural is about to occur.”

Aqua curled herself closer to Rushia while the necromancer replied: “Senchou, you might be a little strange at times, but what possible good news could come out of this? We’re stuck here on the Lunar Light while being unable to avoid what might be a rather terrifying event.”

Marine nodded.

“The good news is that we’re about to sail straight into a large and very unnatural event.”

Rushia and Shion looked at each other. Even Aqua, who had mostly been huddling with Rushia in bed, was shaking off fear and moving to confusion.

Marine continued: “The thing about bad omens and unnatural events is that they are just that: highly unnatural. But that means someone is causing events to unfold in the way they do. And that means that we aren’t being subject to the random whims of existence, but by much deeper forces of deliberate fate.”

Shion blinked.

“Okay, but that just means we’re not just coincidentally screwed, but that fate really wants us dead. That’s not better!”

Marine raised a finger.

“Or, it means that our survival is assured. The fates, if you haven’t noticed, are relatively kind to us; they brought me to you and Rushia-chan, they brought me to Aqua, and allowed all of us to survive the incident with Uno, so I don’t think they’re out to get us now. That said, for our own safety it might be best to just let things play out; we should stay indoors and not get involved in this mess.”

Aqua nodded, along with Rushia.

“Alright, then we’re all good. One advantage of not being the captain of this vessel: I get to let other people handle the stress while I spend time with my family.”


Kanata, Towa, and Watame walked out onto the top deck of the Lunar Light, while Iroha, Chloe, Koyori, Lui, and Laplus were already present as the sky darkened.

Kanata and Towa were, much like Shion, also fully aware that something was going to happen, though unlike the witch, both of them opted to stand right on the top deck, ready to fight.

In the open seas in front of the Lunar Light, a small figure jumped from the water. Carrying a trident in her hand, she landed on the bow of the ship…

…and then tripped, ruining her entrance. She was young, possessed blue-white hair, as well as a shark tail, letting out a single syllable shout of ‘a’ as she did so.

Iroha stepped forward, her hand on her katana’s hilt but not yet drawn.

“Who are you?”

Lui’s eyes widened.

“You’re Alantean. A mythical species, and more importantly, a lost species. You haven’t been seen or heard for many years, and yet, somehow, fate has brought you to us. Iroha, do not draw your blade just yet - I do not believe this child to possess harmful intentions.”

The shark girl got up with a smile.

“I’m Gawr Gura! You can also call me Same-chan! And that’s right! I’m from Atlantis!” (1)

And then she frowned.

“...not that Atlantis is around anymore…”

Watame nodded.

“I’m sorry. Losing your home is never easy. What brings you here?”

“Amelia told me that I needed to be here because Ina was going to be here! A better question is why are you here?”

Lui raised a finger.

“We’re, uh, lost, and judging by the circumstances, I’m forced to assume that something very large is going to happen. Who are Amelia and Ina?”

“They’re my best friends!” Gura replied, “Amelia says she’s a ‘time traveler', whatever that means.”

Lui facepalmed.

“Oh, I get it. This entire situation really is predestined. I have a feeling that this ‘Amelia’ already knows that we are already going to be here, because she’s probably from the future. Who’s Ina, then?”

Gura shrugged.

“She’s my other best friend. She says she’s a…”

She paused, with her sentence left hanging.

Watame bent down to meet the shark girl, smiling.

“Looking for the word?”

Gura nodded.

“...something to do with gods…”

“Priestess?”

“Yes! That’s it! She said she’s the priestess.”

Watame looked puzzled.

“Uh, being a priestess often means being the priestess for a god, or sometimes multiple. Who’s the god in question?”

“The Ancient Ones! Or Ao-chan, as Ina calls her.”

Everyone in earshot froze while Gura kept talking.

“I don’t like them much, and Amelia said that there’s going to be a-”

Gura was then interrupted by a rumbling sound.

“...I think I might have been played.”

And then several large purple tentacles sprang up from the water, surrounding the Lunar Light.

Gura paused.

“Ao-chan! No! These people are friends! Uh, I don’t know how to do this properly.”

Takane Lui, to her credit, remained calm, as did Koyori, Chloe, and Iroha. Even Laplus made an attempt to crack her knuckles, though it didn’t work and it just looked silly instead.

Kanata raised both of her hands, as did Towa.

The first tentacle came down on the ship, only for the flash of a blade drawn at a lightning-fast speed to slash it cleanly in two.

Iroha had drawn her blade, and was willing to lay her life on the line to protect those onboard the ship.

The second tentacle descended, only to be impaled by Gura’s trident, pushed back, and sent back into the ocean.

“Hey! No hurting these people!”

Lui looked at the crowd on deck.

“Can you all defend the Lunar Light while I try to gather information?”

Kanata and Towa both nodded; in response Lui jumped into the air, switching to her hawk form as she did so.

Another few tentacles descended upon the ship. Kanata jumped, flying to an oncoming tentacle, grabbing it with her hands, and then crushed it with her hands, before throwing the crushed tentacle back into the water. Towa extended her hand and zapped another tentacle with violet lightning, scorching it and causing it to fall back into the water.

Another tentacle, however, made contact, slamming into the Lunar Light. The impact shook the ship, breaking a number of floorboards, and wrapping itself around the vessel, rendering it unable to move forward.

Chloe snarled.

“Hey! Stop that! This is my ship! I walked away from the ocean and I’m sure as hell not going back into it!”

With that, she ran up to the tentacle, grabbed it, and then bit down with her teeth.

The tentacle recoiled, sliding back into the ocean.

Chloe smiled.

“There’s a real predator here, and it ain’t you, you overgrown tako!”

Suddenly, Lui landed back aboard.

“Chloe, we have a problem.”

Chloe shrugged.

“Like what? We can fight the tentacles.”

The ship shook again.

From the lower levels, a few more people emerged out onto the top deck. The first was Nene, followed by Polka.

Polka shouted at Nene.

“Nenechi! This is serious! Get back here before you get hurt!”

A flash of lightning followed, and in the flash, the members on the top deck looked in horror, most of them averting their eyes as the light revealed a huge creature in front of the Lunar Light, blocking the path of the vessel. It was unnatural in its physical form, a horrifying eldritch being that possessed a multitude of eyes and large tentacles that descended into the ocean.

Lui looked back.

“This is the ancient one! Don’t look at them!”

Most people present did as told.

Nene and Polka, however, did not, and instead continued staring at the ancient one, as if possessed by it.

Several more tentacles emerged from the ocean, and descended upon the Lunar Light, with one tearing down one of the sails and several more restraining the body of the ship.

Nene and Polka, still staring at the ancient being in front of them, slowly walked forward despite the chaos on deck.

And then they found themselves pulled back by Noel and Flare, who had realized that they were too thoroughly possessed to turn around and instead resorted to the physical option, taking them back inside.

The fighting intensified on deck, with Kanata crushing another tentacle under her grip, Towa continuing to strike out with her devil magic, and Iroha being a master of her blade. Even Laplus showed off her strength by grabbing one tentacle and blasting it backwards with a burst of dark magic.

Still, with the torn-down sail and the horror in front of them, it still was an uphill battle, when suddenly, a new voice entered the scene.

“Hello - hic- sorry about the mess. I’m Amelia Watson, and I’m here from, uh, I think a little over five hundred years in the future. Before you ask: I’m afraid that this does have to happen this way. Don’t worry, you’ll be fine unless I accidentally split the timeline. This is all in a very delicately managed time loop, and I’ve studied the history quite extensively of what’s supposed to happen at this moment. Gura, jump into the ocean; I need you pick up Ina when I blast Ao-chan, since she’s likely to be a little bit out of it.”

Gura did as told; after that, Amelia Watson reached into her bag, and pulled out a device. The device then transformed into what looked to be some sort of gun that was much, much larger in size. It wasn’t anything that belonged to the era, however; it was made out of metal, looked to have a bunch of computerized parts that were extremely out of place with the sailing vessel known as the Lunar Light, and, perhaps most obviously, when Amelia pulled the trigger, instead of a bullet, glowed with a powerful light.

“Here’s a benefit of time travel: you get to grab technology from the future to do funny things. This thing here is a miniature wave motion gun. If you don’t know what it is, then just watch.”

Out of the large weapon emerged a massive beam of light that collided with the ancient one, exploding with a massive blast that sent the eldritch abomination recoiling and falling back.

“There we go! That should get Ao-chan to calm down for a bit while my friends get here.”

All of a sudden, a black shadow materialized, and out of it stepped a pink-haired grim reaper. At the same time, a fiery orange streak lit up the sky.

Amelia smiled.

“Hey Calli! Good to have you here. Same to Kiara, as she’s about to do the thing. Oh, and uh, everyone, plug your ears, you’ll go insane if you hear it and you aren’t already insane like we are.”

Mori Calliope rolled her eyes.

“She’s serious about that, by the way. Both parts.”

Everyone on deck put their fingers on their ears.

Kiara descended upon the abomination in front of them, and from it emerged a massive explosion of fire and light.

The ancient ones screamed, a horrific sound that was beyond mortal comprehension.

All of a sudden, Gura jumped out of the ocean and back onto the ship, this time carrying another young girl with her, this one with purple hair and tentacles appearing from her back. Gura then let go, letting Ina walk free.

Amelia smiled.

“Ah, here’s our priestess. Ina! I’m here; you’re safe. Everyone! Please, don’t harm her. You’re in control. I know you are, because history recorded this event ending in a very specific way and I did my homework before jumping here.”

Ina didn’t move, seemingly possessed.

Amelia seemed to hesitate, but then took a deep breath, and walked forward towards the young priestess.

Another tentacle descended upon Amelia, slamming the time traveler into the ship and through the top floorboards.

Calliope panicked.

“AME! You are NOT dying today! I mean, literally! You aren’t on my list!”

And then in that moment, Ina seemed to come to lucidity.

And then she snapped, enraged.

“Ao-chan.”

It was a quiet rage, one that wasn’t befitting her age, and yet, it did the trick. The massive tentacle that had slammed into Amelia outright disintegrated. The physical incarnation of the ancient one itself suddenly started dissolving, turning into shadow.

Ina spoke once again.

“Don’t hurt my friends.”

She conjured a book, and threw its pages open. All at once, the essence that the ancient ones had dissolved into was sucked back into the book, which continued until eventually all of the essence was captured. At that moment, the book closed once again.

“I am Ninomae Ina’nis, ancient ones. And you. Do. Not. Harm. My. Friends.”

The storm started clearing unnaturally quickly.

Ina finally calmed down. At that point, she looked at the wreck of the top deck, including to the hole where Amelia had been slammed into the top deck of the Lunar Light. As she did so, she fell to her knees, on the verge of crying.

“I’m sorry, Ame…”

The voice of Amelia replied from behind Ina.

“I’m fine! Well, actually, I'm two weeks from the me who got slammed into the ship; that version of me is currently sleeping off her wounds five hundred years in the future. I promise she’s fine; she has to return back here to have this conversation. I’ll explain everything when we next meet, for now it’s actually kind of important to get everyone together.”

Another figure landed on deck, this time dropping from the sky.

“Hi! I’m Takanashi Kiara, and I’m also a friend of the group that rudely nearly killed everyone, and you know just because I don’t die when I’m killed doesn’t mean everyone else does, so explain yourself, Amelia!”

Amelia suddenly looked guilty, while fiddling with her watch.

“I promise you, there is an explanation.”

And then she suddenly disappeared, as if she was never there.

Calliope facepalmed.

“Goddamnit, Amelia!”

Chapter Text

Calliope sighed, but continued speaking.

“Well, the good news is that you’re actually safe, at least if the clear sky and lack of ancient ones is anything to go by. I guess I should try to explain the thing that only Amelia really knows because I swear to god when I finally catch up to her when she comes back five hundred years from now I’m gonna yell at her so much for this mess.”

Chloe frowned.

“The ship’s kinda wrecked, so you better try to explain it!”

Gura spoke next.

“So, um, what now?”

Kiara smiled.

“I think you and Ina come with me and Calliope. Amelia’s whole journey was a giant scheme to get the five of us all together, and she’s freaking done it! I know we didn’t meet under the best circumstances but we should still celebrate that much after years - thousands in me and Calli’s case - of getting strung along separately by Ame!”

Ina sniffled.

“But Ame isn’t here…”

Calliope sighed.

“If she disappeared, I trust that she had some reason for doing so. Even if it was just to dodge the responsibility of explaining something that really only she can explain. The short version of it is that apparently she really needs to get the five of us together, but she’s not born for many years. She’s a time traveler, and thus decided the best way to fix this issue was to make friends with us in the past.”

A bunch of footsteps were heard coming from the lower levels. It was soon revealed who the footsteps belonged to: virtually everyone who was hiding below deck had come up to see what was going on, now that the chaos on deck had subsided.

The Houshou, Shiranui, and Yuzuki families, along with Pekora, Luna and Subaru, all came out to see the newcomers.

Ina and Gura looked curiously at the newcomers.

Gura sighed, looking at the way that Aqua was held by Marine.

It kinda sucks not having family anymore.

And then her eyes landed on Shion, right as the Shion’s eyes landed on her.

Time seemed to freeze for just the two of them; there was something about one another that the two of them saw in the moment where their eyes locked with one another.

Marine noticed the entirely wordless interaction.

Oh, Shion-tan, I know that look. Can’t blame you, either; she’s adorable, and is roughly your age. Or at least, a relative equivalent of your age.

Meanwhile, Nene and Polka both looked at Ina, and once again seemed possessed, this time not by magic but merely by the captivating way that some children see others.

“Ina my wife!”

Once again, a swift hand from Noel landed on Nene’s shoulder before she stepped forward.

“Nenechi, give her some personal space. Polka, you too. Also, Nenechi, you are not old enough to understand the concept of actually having a wife. Or to understand the concept of being one, I suppose.”

Nene and Polka both rolled their eyes.

The voice of Takane Lui called out to those on the ship.

“Alright, before we get anywhere, I need some quiet; I have an announcement to make!”

Those aboard went silent.

Lui continued speaking: “So, suffice to say, we’re not getting anywhere soon, owing to the damage taken to the ship. We’re going to dock basically at whatever the next port is, because the fact of the matter is that our safety is more important than getting places on time. That’s all for now; and while I apologize at this point, given the intervention of the ancient ones and whatnot, I think it’s safe to say that this was a little beyond the scope of what we could’ve prepared for, so I don’t think we’re actually in trouble.”

“If everyone’s safe and we’re all still together in one piece, then honestly you’ve done a good job with the circumstances handed to us.” Flare replied, “We can make up for lost time, we can’t make up for lost lives, and thankfully we didn’t lose any.” 

Lui smiled.

“That is correct. With that said, I’m putting Chloe in charge of the ship for now; I’m going to quickly fly around and see where our nearest port is.”

The voice of Amelia Watson once again chipped in: “Southwest of here, and you’re currently heading directly to it. You’ll run into the kingdom of the peafowl. I’d say sorry for disappearing, but I’m not. That said, I did need to disappear because I needed to grab some very important things, because this is the last time you’ll see me.”

Calliope and Kiara both looked at Amelia with glares of death (1), while Gura and Ina looked heartbroken.

Gura spoke first.

“...Why?”

Amelia sighed.

“It’s complicated to explain. What I will say is that I remember having an awesome shark girl for an older sister, and there’s also a rule that I’m not allowed to meet another version of myself, ever, unless I feel like destabilizing timelines in the process of doing so. Which is apparently something that actually happens sometimes, but I’m not causing that kind of mess here. If nothing else, it’d disappoint Dad - that’s Calli.”

Calliope blushed.

“I’m not your father! Though, I think I get it; we’re coming up on your…”

She paused.

“...no, you’re not that close to being born. We’ve met a bunch of times, and I’m pretty sure you’re not born for, like, hundreds of years. At least, that’s what I remember; but things aren’t lining up here.”

Amelia smiled.

“So, now’s probably a good time to mention that, due to how I’ve laid out the time jumps, we’re not actually meeting each other in the same order. The first time you met me wasn’t the first time I met you. It’s why I’m frustratingly always a step ahead in our interactions; I know you better than you know me. Yet, somehow, through all of this my first meeting with you hasn’t happened yet, because the first time you meet me isn’t the first time I meet a past Calliope. When I go back to the future, it’ll be to meet the versions of my friends from that time.”

Ina spoke softly.

“...Are we still friends?”

Amelia grinned.

“Not just friends, but I’d even consider you a big sister to me. Wait, I just gave it away.”

Kiara finally spoke.

“Oh, I get it. You need me to adopt you.”

Amelia blushed.

“I’m trying to ease you into the reality of the situation, especially since it’s a little weird to call you Mom when you aren’t yet. Also, it’s not me, but a younger version of me you haven’t met yet; she’s going to have just done her first time jump, and she’s going to be lost and confused. She’s going to need your help to get back home. Basically, what I’m doing here is just repaying you for taking me in and making sure I survived when I was a little kid. I know that ‘oh yeah you have to adopt my past self’ is a tall ask but-”

Kiara walked up to Amelia and hugged her rather suddenly.

“Ame, you’ve done so much for us, even if you drive us nuts in the methods you use to bring us together. You saved Ina from the cult. You’re Gura’s best friend, even if you’re only there for moments here and there. You’ve kept Calliope company while she reaped countless souls for no other reason than to be nice to her. You’ve kept me company, too. The fact that it’s all some sort of destiny thing? If anything, that just means I should be doing it anyway! We’re in this together, Ame, and if nothing else I think Calli will warm up to it too.”

“Hey, I never said I’d take her in!”

Amelia laughed.

“Yes, but I know you too well. Literally, in this case; if I haven’t broken our timeline yet then neither are you. That said, here’s why I disappeared: I needed to grab this.”

She revealed a letter.

“It’s the coordinates - the five dimensional coordinates, no less - to tell you exactly where little me is running about. Otherwise, I’ll just say my goodbyes - though I suppose, a few hundred years from now, you’ll be seeing me again, as in this exact version of me. You probably won’t remember this conversation, but, if you want to say goodbye, then feel free.”

Calliope, unusually, walked up to Amelia and also hugged her, snatching the letter as she did so.

“Goddammit, Ame. First you make me annoyed at your absurd time travel antics and now I’m gonna miss ‘em. That said, I suppose it’ll be nice to see you without you somehow knowing me in advance. I promise I’ll try to be nice?”

Gura, Ina, and Kiara joined the group hug.

After a few seconds, they let go.

Kiara smiled.

“Can I give you one piece of advice?”

Amelia blinked.

“Sure?”

“Drop the ‘other me’ thing. It’s all you, and whether or not it’s an unbearably smug Ame who knows everything or a confused child, we’re still going to care just the same. Okay?”

Amelia nodded, while adjusting her watch.

“Okay. I’ll see you soon. I’m looking forward to my first meeting with you.”

And then she was gone.

Calliope sighed.

“Well. I suppose the next order of business is fairly obvious. Let’s see where Amelia’s gonna show up.”

She opened the letter, and then her eyes widened.

“God dammit Ame, not again!”

Out of nowhere, a brilliant flash of light appeared, and a young blonde-haired child appeared, before quickly falling over, seemingly unconscious. Kiara caught the young girl, stopping her from hitting the floor with impressively fast reflexes.

After catching Amelia, Kiara seemed to freeze, staying incredibly silent. Ina and Gura cautiously approached the unconscious girl that Kiara was carrying.

It was only then that Kiara finally reacted to the little girl in her arms.

“Oh my god, Ame, you didn’t warn us that you’d be this cute!”

Calliope facepalmed.

“And now I’m gonna have to learn how to not swear.”


Meanwhile, in the future…

Amelia Watson appeared in the house that she lived in, directly in her bedroom.

It was strange being raised in her early life in the future by her birth family, only to accidentally jump back into time without knowing how to get back, resulting in being raised in the past by her very strange mythical adoptive family, followed by jumping back to the future to see her birth family again, only to run into her adoptive myth family in the future since they were all immortal.

Then again, time travel had definitely done something to her biology. She didn’t really care; the fact that she was one hundred years old from her perspective while being physiologically twenty was perfect given her friend group’s eternal nature.

She walked out into the kitchen, only to be greeted by Calliope.

“So, Ame, care to explain why you only mentioned that we had to raise you less than a minute before you dropped in front of us as a child?”

Amelia smiled very sheepishly.

“It seemed like a funny idea at the time?”

Calliope shrugged.

“Well, have fun explaining it to Mom.”

Kiara walked in with Ina and Gura.

“Guess who still remembers all of your embarrassing past childhood stories!”

Amelia paled.

Chapter Text

The much younger Amelia Watson who had been stranded in the past woke up, groaning.

“...mmm…”

The last thing she remembered was her watch glowing with a bright light after fiddling with it. The second last thing she remembered was being told by her family that she really shouldn’t touch the watch.

She opened her eyes.

“...who are you?”

The woman who filled her line of sight wasn’t her mother. She had pink hair, and dressed in a fancy but dark outfit, fitting not as a human, but as a shinigami - a grim reaper.

She spoke surprisingly softly.

“It’s your boy, Calliope Mori.”

“You don’t look like a boy.”

Calliope rolled her eyes.

“It’s an expression I use, not a literal one. This is going to be weird, because while you don’t know me, I do know you. You’re Amelia Watson, and you’ve just performed your first jump through time with that fancy watch of yours. Welcome to the past; we need to make sure you don’t die here - that causes a time paradox. Apparently. I don’t know, you’re the one that explains it to me, though probably not for a decade or so.”

Amelia blinked. Calliope, of course, was right about all of that, though Amelia hadn’t figured all of that out.

The watch, she knew, was capable of time manipulation. It was a magical artifact passed down to Amelia that she wasn’t allowed to use until she got a few years older. Or at least, that was what was said about it; Amelia didn’t really believe the rumors of how powerful the thing was.

At least, until now. Calliope claiming to know her, at least, assuming she wasn’t a time traveler herself, only had one explanation: she went back further into the past to meet Calliope for the first time, meaning that time travel was very real and that the watch was exactly as powerful as the legends implied it was.

That would be the deduction Amelia would make if she were both fully awake and a couple years older and wiser instead of being ten years old.

Instead, she reacted with a rather simplistic noise of confusion.

“Uh…”

At the age of ten, however, Amelia was much more inquisitive than most children. She asked questions, and while her dream of being a detective was apparently sidetracked by accidentally being sent to the past, that only meant she had to inquire further.

“...Where am I?”

Calliope shrugged.

“We’re onboard the Lunar Kingdom’s flagship the Lunar Light, currently headed Southwest.”

Amelia blinked.

“The Lunar Kingdom?”

Calliope’s eyes widened.

“Have you studied history? Maybe it’s not known as the Lunar Kingdom anymore.”

Amelia shrugged.

“I dunno. Do you know what time I’m from?”

Calliope sighed.

“I’m afraid not. We have guesses, but you never told me exactly when you’d be born or where you’d be born. Which is to say that you aren’t going to tell me when you grow up. We are headed Southwest from the Lunar Kingdom after an incident where the crew onboard failed to actually navigate in the direction of Pekoland. Then Ina - your big sister - accidentally damaged the ship a bunch, so we’re headed to wherever the nearest port is, which you from the future said was Southwest.”

Amelia held her head in her hands.

“I don’t get it…”

“You’ve got a few years. Until then, you’re stuck with me, Apprentice Shinigami Calliope Mori. That said, you’re probably not home, you’re definitely not where you were in time, and you’re probably more than a little nervous. I mean, I am a grim reaper, after all.”

Amelia looked at the watch again, and tried to fiddle with it.

“I guess I should get back, then.”

Nothing happened.

Calliope sighed again.

“Given that you told us that we had to raise you for a little while, I think it’s likely going to be a long time before you figure out how to get your special watch operational again. You’re stuck here, in the region between the Lunar Kingdom and the Kingdom of the Peafowl, as well as the various island nations between those two places.”

Amelia thought about it for a moment.

“Wait, I think I remember something…”

And then grinned.

“Holonometria! That’s what the country is called today; I remember being taught that in history class. It used to be a large bunch of different small nations; it unified after I dunno what, which…”

And then her grin dropped into an expression of horror.

“Wait, I’m over a hundred years in the past?!”

Calliope nodded.

“Yep.”

“But that means no one I know is alive yet.” Amelia replied in that way that a child does when trying not to cry.

Calliope smiled.

“Yes, but a bunch of people who know you are very much alive. I think that’s why you made friends with them. Speaking of which, I’m one of your adoptive parents until we figure out how to get you back. Ready to meet the rest of your family?”

Amelia nodded nervously.


Mori Calliope walked out of the room into the halls of the Lunar Light, with a young Amelia Watson following behind.

“Yo! Amelia’s up, and is right behind me!”

Three faces immediately turned around to meet the young time traveler.

“Um, hello.”

The first, naturally, was Kiara, who was possibly a little too excited, scooping up Amelia into a hug and lifting her off her feet as she did so.

“Oh my god, you’re just as adorable while you’re awake!”

“Let me go, you crazy lady!”

Calliope facepalmed.

“Kiara, now’s really not the time!”

Kiara frowned, putting Amelia down, only for the time traveler to be met face-to-face with one Ninomae Ina’nis.

“Sorry about that; Mom gets like that sometimes. At least you don’t have to worry about her warming up to you. Or any of us, really; you were like an older sister to me when I was younger, so I suppose it might be a bit weird that I’m acting as an older sister to you. I guess this is one of the weird things that happen when you set up families with time travel; you get all sorts of weird relations where the notions of being younger or older don’t work as well. It doesn’t matter; I’ll try to be as good to you as you were to me. My name is Ninomae Ina’nis, but most people just call me Ina.”

With that, she backed off, and let Gura introduce herself.

“Hi! I’m Gawr Gura. You’re my best friend, and I hope that eventually I’ll have you calling me that too. That’s it for now. Oh right, and the crazy phoenix lady is Kiara. You’ll warm up to her.”

“Fat chance of that happening anytime soon!” Amelia replied.

Gura laughed.

“Sorry Mom, I don’t think you made a good first impression.”

Kiara pretended to look hurt.

“Oh no! Now how am I supposed to keep my promise to you?”

Time loops, as Amelia had come to realize, despite her young age, do weird things to the nature of friendships. She wasn’t an idiot; no, most people would label her as, though not wise, rather terrifyingly perceptive for her age, and the way these strange beings were interacting with each other indicated that, in fact, they were good friends, family even.

The only problem was that she hadn’t met them before now, and yet they’d already met her.

She decided that she liked Ina, because if nothing else, Ina seemed to have a shred of maturity that the others didn’t quite share as much. Holonometria, as Amelia remembered from being taught in geography, had the highest proportion of supernatural and mythical species in its population, to the point where the majority of its population wasn’t human. That appeared to still be the case even in the past; Calliope had introduced herself as a grim reaper, Ina had these weird flaps on her head as well as the weird squishy-looking tentacle hair, and Gura-

“Wait, is that a shark tail?!”

“Yup! Kinda makes sense when you consider I come from Atlantis.”

Amelia’s jaw dropped.

“That’s so cool! But, wait, if Atlantis is still around, doesn’t that mean-”

Gura shook her head.

“You’re not that early; I’m just nine thousand years old. Or around that, anyway; you don’t really count the years properly at five thousand or so. One day you will be - or from my perspective you already did show up that early - but uh, Atlantis isn’t around anymore. Not that you could visit if it was; it’s kinda underwater.”

Amelia frowned.

Wait, I’ve got my watch! I can-

And then she remembered that she still hadn’t figured out how to actually activate it a second time.

“...argh. Why doesn’t my watch work anymore?”

Ina took an inquisitive look at the watch.

“I don’t know. We’ll take care of you, though. I promise that much.”

And with that, she gently wrapped her arms around Amelia, who then in turn relaxed into Ina’s embrace.

“Why does Ina get a pass on hugging you?” Kiara complained.

“Ina isn’t completely crazy unlike you!” Amelia replied.

Kiara let out a relatively innocuous “Hmph!” in faux offense.

Calliope smirked.

“She’s kinda got you there.”

“Not you too, Calli…” Kiara whined.

Amelia spoke to Ina: “So, uh, why did you call Kiara ‘Mom’ earlier?”

“She takes you in, along with Calliope, who we call Dad. Uh, I hope you’re not too distressed about that, and I think me and Gura pick up the habit because we both think of ourselves as sisters to you. I promise you that Kiara does love you, though; she’s just a little energetic.”

Amelia supposed that this was the case. She was observant enough to realize that Kiara liked her. She was also observant enough to realize that the particular manner of affection that Kiara displayed was likely going to cause a clash of personalities for the next little while.

At the same time, though, she didn’t have the luxury of choosing who to get adopted by, at least while she was stranded in the past. Nobody she knew was even born yet, and that meant she effectively had no home to return to and no family to take her in.

Amelia was observant enough to know that food on the table and a roof over her head didn’t appear entirely by magic (1), and she was too young to have much of a hope of being able to fend for herself, which she was also aware of, and starving to death didn’t seem like much fun. The fact that anyone was there to take care of her was miraculous enough; she couldn’t be picky.

The choice was rather obvious, all things considered. Amelia wasn’t necessarily comfortable around this odd group of people, but she did trust them to at least care about her well-being. Combined with the fact that they apparently already knew her future self - a revelation that the young detective was equal parts confused and excited for - she figured that they couldn’t be all too bad.

Amelia sniffled.

“Okay. I guess I don’t have anywhere else to go.”

Kiara frowned.

“I promise that we’ll help you get back to the future. Until then, it’s probably best to get to know people.”

Calliope added: “As fast as this is, we’re actually slow rolling you here. I think me and Kiara are gonna take you in, but, uh, there’s a lot of people aboard this ship, and I don’t think you can avoid meeting all of them. Especially since we have a slight problem, which is that we actually don’t have a permanent home. None of us do, unless Kiara’s found a place.”

Kiara raised a finger with a smirk.

Calliope interrupted: “No, Kiara, we’re not moving into my place, because it’s in the underworld and the underworld’s on fire all the time and Amelia’s notably kind of human. Ina’s been trying to get as far away as possible from her old shrine, so that’s definitely not an option, and Gura’s old place is underwater, so, uh, Kiara, I hope you have some ideas of where we’re moving.”

Kiara took a moment to think.

“I know! How about Pekoland?”

Amelia scratched her head.

That’s one of the smaller provinces that make up Holonometria in my time, but I forgot everything they taught us about it…

Ina blinked.

“Isn’t that the place known for having a population mostly consisting of rabbit people?”

Kiara shrugged.

“I remember liking the place the last time I vacationed there. I suppose we have some time to make that decision, and despite the sea in the way, Calliope has magic that ignores physical distance, Ina and Gura know water breathing magic, and I can fly.”

Amelia pointed out the rather obvious problem with moving her around. “What about me?!”

“I’d just carry you while flying! You’re light. Plus my natural phoenix heat means you don’t have to worry about the cold while flying with Kiara Airlines!” Kiara replied cheerfully.

The blood immediately drained from Amelia’s face.

“How about we don’t, you crazy lady!”

Calliope facepalmed while Ina chuckled and Gura broke out into rather obnoxiously loud laughter.

Ina rolled her eyes while replying: “While yes I can invoke abilities that allow me to traverse the ocean, may I also point out that I don’t like doing so? I think Gura’s the only one of us who really likes the water. I think it’s time we meet some new faces. Try not to be too scared; I promise you that no one wants to hurt you. If only because they forgave me and I’m the one who wrecked the ship.”


“Kikeriki! Sorry for the delay! We’re all out now and can maybe explain what happened!”

An interesting mirror happened as the myth family walked out to the top deck of the Lunar Light once again. Takane Lui and Takanashi Kiara found themselves directly facing one another, and behind them were Laplus and Amelia respectively, two children who hadn’t quite gotten used to their newfound adoptive parental figures enough to use the term ‘mom’.

Beside the each mother-daughter pair was then the group that definitely were considered family but hadn’t quite established firm positions: behind Lui and Laplus was Koyori, Chloe, and Iroha, while behind Kiara and Amelia was Calliope, Ina, and Gura.

Kiara bowed respectfully to Lui, who wasn’t technically in charge of the Lunar Light but had effectively become captain after Iroha and Chloe had made a mess of their navigation.

“I suppose I should offer an apology on behalf of my family. I should make Amelia explain it to you, but she doesn’t know what happened yet.”

Ina raised a finger.

“I was the one who wrecked the ship, so if you need to throw anyone overboard for this, it’s me.”

Lui shook her head.

“That may be true, but the fact of the matter is that ‘the ancient ones’ are pretty firmly in events that are so far beyond what one can reasonably prepare for that it’s not like anyone’s going to be particularly harsh to me about what we’ve done to the ship, because frankly preventing that was an impossible task. The fact that everyone’s still alive is proof enough of my competency, but more importantly it’s proof of how much you were trying to get things under control. Now, that said, you’ve left me in an awkward bind, but I’m letting it slide for now.”

Ina paused.

“Oh?”

Lui sighed.

“Lunar Kingdom Secret Society guidelines are that I’m supposed to confiscate dangerous magical artifacts for further study and safety procedures, but I have a feeling that the book you carry is significantly more dangerous if we pull it out of your hands than if we leave it there.”

Chloe spoke from the back.

“Then again, didn’t you go rogue the moment you decided you were taking Laplus in? Really, this doesn’t seem that far out there.”

Koyori spoke next: “Also, miss tako, throwing you overboard would probably only be slightly more effective than throwing Chloe overboard, which is to say: you’re partially aquatic beings who can just, you know, decide to not drown.”

Lui and Chloe both sighed.

The hawk girl spoke.

“Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves, then. I’m making an executive decision concerning the ship that some may disagree with, but I think it’s safe to say you’re forgiven. Koyori, Iroha, prepare the announcement spell.”


“This is Takane Lui speaking. In the wake of the events of the past few days, we’re making two large decisions. The first is that the mythical beings that appeared on our ship that helped us deal with the ancient ones are all considered allies, including the priestess, and they will be allowed to stay with us, at least until we reach our next destination.”

“This is Kazama Iroha speaking. We’re making a detour due to the damage to the Lunar Light, that is so. We’ll be stopping at the nearest port, located in the kingdom of the peafowl to get the ship repaired there. We’ll then turn around and head to Pekoland from there. Given the whole incident with the ancient ones, we hope you forgive the delay.”


Usada Pekora shrugged.

“Annoying, but expected. Actually, this might be a chance for me to peko-up (2) a few materials I can’t get in my homeland…”


Towa smirked.

“Well, Watame, your diplomacy skills might come in handy today.”

Kanata nodded.

“But we’re actually glad to have you with us in a foreign nation.”


Luna seemed happy.

“Isn’t this exciting, Suba-chan?! I’ve never been here before! Or anywhere outside of home! It’s like an adventure! Or a date!”

Subaru facepalmed.

“No it’s not, and even if it was, we’re not dating! You’re too young to understand that!”


Noel put a hand on Nene and Polka’s shoulders.

“Before you sprint off: ‘allies’ does not mean you can go and just overwhelm the poor priestess. She’s probably feeling pretty bad about everything right now.”

Nene pouted.

“But I want Ina to be my wife!”

Polka added: “OUR wife!”

Noel rolled her eyes.

“Lamy, are they always like this?”

Lamy nodded.


Choco looked at her two adopted children.

“The good news is, the Lunar Kingdom, at least for the last couple hundred years, has historically been a peaceful nation, so we shouldn’t have too many enemies this time.”


In their room, Houshou Marine turned curiously towards Uruha Rushia.

“Rushia-chan, isn’t the kingdom of the peafowl where you participated in a cooperative attempt to fully resurrect a dead girl?”

Rushia paled.

Chapter Text

The sight of land was a bittersweet experience for those aboard the Lunar Light. On one end, it meant that their spectacularly unlucky voyage was, while not finished, at least on pause. On the other hand, there was the issue of the fact that they weren’t supposed to be here at all.

Sakamata Chloe was steering the ship into the port; Takane Lui had flown ahead of the group, making sure that they had permission to dock.

The plan was that, if they didn’t actually have permission, they’d dock there anyway and then make them say no to Watame. While Chloe had never seen the sheep’s almost supernatural ability to get people to agree with her, those who knew her - namely Kanata, Towa, and even famed heart-thief Houshou Marine - all admitted that Watame was the best face of innocence they could put forward.

It didn’t end up being necessary, however, as Lui got back to the ship informing them that they had full permission to dock the Lunar Light, meaning that elaborate emotional manipulation via innocent sheep thankfully wasn’t actually necessary.

And so, the ship had arrived at port, with everyone still alive. Once the planks were extended to let people get to the shoreline, it wasn’t long before everyone started moving off; if nothing else it was just nice to have more space to move around in, especially for the more hyperactive kids.

Which is to say the first people off the ship were Nene and Polka, quickly followed by Lamy, Flare, and Noel, who were trying to reign in Nene’s naturally active nature and failing badly at that. Behind them was the five person group consisting of Botan, Aloe, Choco, Subaru, and Luna, and directly behind that group was the Hollow Force.

Once the crowd had cleared, the more introverted families exited the vessel; the Houshou family, followed by the Myth family. Finally, when no one was looking out for her, Usada Pekora snuck off the vessel, ready to explore the town.

The Takane family, at least for now, decided to stay behind to talk things out concerning Laplus’ situation, and also because they were still in charge of the ship, and thus would be the last to leave it, if they did so; after all, at some point the plan was that everyone would eventually get back to their respective homelands.

The city of the peafowl was large, dense, and somewhat confusingly laid out. As the groups landed out on the harbor, it didn’t take long for everyone to disperse and start heading out to explore the area. The harbor itself was, from the looks of things, in a bit of a panic from the appearance of the Lunar Light, as that was a known vessel of royalty - and it being damaged was bad news.

Each of the families went their own way; which do you wish to follow?

Shiranui Family

Houshou Family

Myth Family

Usada Pekora

Takane Family

I’m ready to continue

Chapter Text

“Nene! Polka!” Flare shouted, “Get back here!”

It was fairly clear that Nene had felt pretty restrained being cooped up on the Lunar Light, and while the journey had overall helped Nene with her past, now that she had the opportunity to run around a larger area she was going to seize it immediately.

It was also pretty clear that Polka felt similarly. This left Noel and Flare in the unfortunate position of trying to make sure they didn’t run off too far, as a city of this size made it easy to get lost.

Botan and Aloe had been following Noel and Flare closely; at some point the Hollow Force, and Luna with it, had split off, along with Subaru and Choco.

That left Noel and Flare to deal with the children, and they were beginning to look a little worried, as losing Nene was the absolute last thing they wanted to do.

Botan gently tapped Noel’s shoulder.

“Don’t worry too much about Nene. If nothing else, Lamy has a pretty good sense for where Nene’s likely to run around.”

She smiled.

“Because if Nene can still smile after what she’s been through, then so should you. And before you ask: Choco’s following Hime-sama, because as important as we are to her, Hime-sama is still Hime-sama.”

Noel and Flare both rolled their eyes.

“Thank you so much for saving me.” Aloe said, “I’ll miss being together.”

Botan then bent down to stand level with Aloe, and then threw an arm around her shoulder.

“You won’t miss me!”

Aloe sniffled.

“Yeah, but it means you’ll miss the rest of them, too.”

Botan sighed.

“It’s probably for the best that I don’t grow up around military people. I need to learn how not to think about attacking others.”

Noel nodded.

“It’s good to have that insight. It’s funny, because I think if I took you in that we’d get along just fine, but I’m probably the worst possible person to take you in because I’d probably do the exact opposite of teaching you to live peacefully and carefree. Fuu-tan can probably tell you how bad I am at doing that myself.”

Flare drew a sharp breath in response.

“I can, but I’d rather not. Point is, Botan, while it’s probably hard being separated from your friends, at the same time I’m proud of you - we’re proud of you, even - for recognizing what’s best for yourself. And remember: we’ll never say no whenever you want to visit, and I’m pretty sure the Lunar Kingdom won’t say no to Nene, Polka, and Lamy.”

“I know.” Botan replied, “And I wanted to say I’m thankful, too. One day I hope that I can repay the favor.”

Noel smiled.

“Simply live a long, happy life. That’s all I’ll ask for.”


Shiranui Family

Houshou Family

Myth Family

Usada Pekora

Takane Family

I’m ready to continue

Chapter Text

The Houshou family moved slowly and deliberately, moving as a single unit.

Part of that was natural anxiety; while all of them had calmed down and gotten used to the idea that they were relatively safe together, it was an ordinary day on relatively serene city streets that the most terrifying event in their lives had taken place, and while Marine was fairly sure she didn’t have any enemies left who were willing to go after family, she still didn’t like risking it.

“Halt!”

One of the city guards had called out the group. He wasn’t a knight or even a proper soldier; while the stance might have had some military background, he wasn’t in  armor and his stance was a little shaky. The uniform he was wearing had imagery of birds, making his faction fairly obvious.

Marine sighed.

“Despite my history in piracy, I don’t recall getting in legal issues with the lady of the peafowl - the only time I entered the palace was with permission - so what in the world could you be arresting me for? I mean, this happens to me a lot, but I’m starting to get a little tired of it.”

The guard shook his head.

“Not you. The necromancer is the one I want to speak to.”

Rushia blinked.

“What?”

“After an event we call the undecaying reanimation, you escaped before we could speak to you on what had happened. Or more appropriately, before the reanimated herself could speak to you on your actions.”

Shion took a defensive stance.

“Look, I understand you might be annoyed, but this girl’s our older sister, and I’m not letting you take her away. If that means getting in trouble with you guys, so be it!”

The guard raised a hand.

“Oh, I’m not arresting you! I’m merely warning you, because news spreads fast in this city. The Lunar Light is a fairly hard ship to miss in the harbor. More importantly, Ollie moves very quickly, so you might want to prepare yourself for what you’ve done. Aside from that, I’ll be on my way.”

The guard bowed, and then walked away.

Rushia drew a deep breath.

“Okay, Rushia, don’t be scared. It’s just a zombie, you’ve seen a lot of them…”

And then the sound of high-pitched screaming hit the Houshou family’s ears.

Suddenly, the streets started clearing out, as people started getting out of the way. The sound was providing the reason for why: one extremely fast red-haired human-shaped projectile was heading towards Rushia.

…who then tripped, falling over as she approached. As she fell, she dropped into a roll, kept rolling forward, then somehow jumped up from her roll, landed on her own two feet, and skidded towards the Houshou family, stopping right in front of them.

“I TOTALLY PLANNED THAT! ALSO, HI! I’M KUREIJI OLLIE!”

Rushia facepalmed.

“Well then. Hello, Ollie; I suppose we have a lot to talk about.”


Shiranui Family

Houshou Family

Myth Family

Usada Pekora

Takane Family

I’m ready to continue

Chapter Text

Amelia and Gura had wasted no time sneaking through the city.

It was Gura’s idea; she was bored, knew little about human culture, knew more about playing games with Amelia, and so had decided that was a much more fun use of time.

Amelia was carrying her watch with her. Sure, one may argue that live-experimenting with the watch right this second was not a great use of time, but on the other hand all of the events that happened in the past already happened, meaning she was alive for those, which meant she couldn’t screw it up that badly.

That, and if she was pretty sure she could unlock a bunch of cool powers to fit in with her new myth family if she figured the watch out.

This plan, however, was foiled by a reaper that had, in fact, been following them all along.

“So, what are the two of you up to?”

Calliope looked unamused, while Kiara tried not to laugh.

Amelia and Gura both looked at each other.

“What makes you think we’re up to anything?” Gura asked, annoyed.

“The two of you only grin like that when you’re doing something stupid together.” Calliope answered, “And before you ask, it was you, Amelia, who taught - will teach, I dunno how time travel works - me this. It really is exactly the same gremlin expression, and it worries me that you taught it to Gura this quickly.”

Gura grinned.

“Well that’s why I need to teach it to Ame!”

Calliope facepalmed, while Kiara failed to not laugh and started giggling. Ina, who was also there, rolled her eyes.

“Dad, you don’t have to be that worried. It’s just our little sharky and the time traveler-in-training, and neither of them are likely to cause that much damage.”

“Hey!” Amelia responded, “I’ll get you back for that!”

Ina sighed.

“You already did. That’s why I have to tease you now that I’m the older one, because you humiliated me first.”

Amelia facepalmed.

“Why do I learn such a sucky ability anyway?! All of this is because apparently I’ve already done it back in the past but from the future?!”

Gura shrugged.

“Because you didn’t mean to learn it! It just kinda happened.”

Amelia paused.

“You’re right…”

Kiara smiled.

“Besides, as difficult as this is for you, a lot of good came from it. You’ve done so much for us, but I guess you did all of that for us because we’re paying it forward now, which-argh, I don’t know! I’m not the one who actually needs to know this! Point is, Ame, we’ve cared about you for a long time and you being a child doesn’t change that! Besides, you’re adorable like this. I’m gonna miss you for the hundreds of years after we get you back to your time.”

Amelia paused.

“Yeah. It’s weird, but I guess you’re kinda my mom now.”

“That’s what you said to me earlier - later for you - so I hope you get used to it!”

Amelia smiled.

“Yeah. You’re all great like that.”


Shiranui Family

Houshou Family

Myth Family

Usada Pekora

Takane Family

I’m ready to continue

Chapter Text

Usada Pekora looked back at the Lunar Light, smirking.

“Well, that takes care of that. Of course, sneaking back onto the ship will probably be the hard part. Ah, well.”

Blending into a crowded city was a remarkably easy task. While Pekora generally considered herself an introvert, she was actually a remarkably socially functional introvert, unlike some others. She also had a keen eye for observation, as well as a penchant for collecting various wares used for crafting magical items, most of which were only kinda legal, depending on jurisdiction and laws surrounding dangerous materials.

As such, she had gone shopping. Pekora was, regrettably for those who dealt with her, a fairly good girl with money, and while most people didn’t tend to know where exactly she made her money from, most people she did business with understood that her finances weren’t a joke.

And so, she checked off various potions and crafting materials, in specific hunting for materials that she didn’t have access to normally in her own home country, which was annoyingly enough quite a few things.

Pekora was also observant and aware of her surroundings; it was one of those things that she had picked up due to the lifestyle she chose to live - you didn’t survive long as a practical chaos incarnate without the skill - and it meant that she tended to find things she needed when she needed them. Her eyes weren’t bad, and her keen rabbit ears were good at picking up noises that might be threatening far before they happened.

This observational skill made her turn around and face a girl with violet hair, who introduced herself to her just slightly before she actually started speaking.

“Pekora-hime? Is that you?”

Pekora considered her options. She could make a run for it and disappear into the crowd.

But she didn’t need to, because this was a face she knew from the few times she had traveled outside of her home country.

“Moona?!”

Moona Hoshinova smiled.

“Funny how fate works like that. Yes, it’s the one and only Moona Hoshinova. I’m real. I think.”

Pekora shrugged.

“I’m kinda busy, unfortunately. I’m not sure if you’ve heard about the commotion, but the Lunar Light got attacked while I was still on it. We escaped, but we needed to dock here for repairs; we don’t plan on staying any longer than necessary.”

Moona frowned.

“Ah, that’s a bit of a shame. I was kind of hoping we could, I dunno, talk a little? You’re not out that often.”

Pekora nodded.

“Yeah. Still, while I know you’ve become a bit of a name around here, I’m trying to be discreet. Unless you have shares in a number of rare magical crafting materials I’m not likely to stick around. Take, for example…”

She thought about it for a moment.

“...Lapis Lazuli?”

Moona smirked.

“Funny you ask that. I have something neat to show you.”


Shiranui Family

Houshou Family

Myth Family

Usada Pekora

Takane Family

I’m ready to continue

Chapter Text

Five people were seated on the Lunar Light, rather than joining the rest of the crowd seated in a circle all facing each other.

Takane Lui spoke.

“Let’s just sort this out of the way right now: what are we doing with Laplus?”

“Hey! Don’t talk about me like I’m not here!”

Laplus paused.

“But if you’re willing to take me in…”

Lui smiled.

“I’m already doing that. The problem is that I have a rather busy work schedule, and while normally I would insist that you could learn much from roaming around free, I don’t want to let you do that for a number of reasons.”

Koyori stared at Lui.

“She’s not that irresponsible!”

Lui sighed.

“It's not that I’m not worried about her; it's that I’m worried for her. She’s a demon, Koyori, and you know surface demons aren’t usually treated well; especially if they’re horned. The only two demons I can think of who enjoy positive reputations are Choco, who’s one of the best healers in existence across multiple species, and Towa, who’s part of the Hollow Force. Both of them have exceptional circumstances, to say the least, and while I don’t mind being seen in public with Laplus, I’m not sure I’m comfortable with the idea of her wandering the streets alone.”

Chloe shrugged.

“Eh, people get used to it. I mean, didn’t the Lunar Kingdom forgive the dragon?”

Lui shook her head.

“Other way around, Chloe - it was the dragon of the Hollow Force who forgave the Lunar Kingdom, and you may want to remember that she was forgiving them for trying to kill her, which is precisely the sort of interaction I want to avoid happening with Laplus.”

Laplus frowned.

“I mean, I’m used to it. You’ve seen my ability to hide in the shadows, after all! If it weren’t for you I’d still be a feared demon that no one can track!”

Lui rolled her eyes.

“First, you weren’t feared, you were merely an unknown, and second: trust me, if the Hollow Force knew about you, you’d be instantly done for; aside from Luna all of them have rather sharply-tuned supernatural senses. That said, to get back on track: we have an idea.”

“Oh?” Laplus asked.

“Me and Chloe officially adopt you together. Iroha and Koyori will occasionally be called in to look after you.” Lui replied.

Laplus blinked.

“Isn’t that already the plan?”

Lui nodded.

“Yes; however, that’s not all. You see, I’ve talked with her, and it turns out Tokoyami Towa’s willing to train you in the ways of being a demon - which is something we cannot do. However, she demands that you actually treat yourself with dignity. None of this ‘living on the fringe’ business; if you want to learn under her you must live as a member of society. Is this okay?”

Laplus froze.

“...I’ll do it…”

And then grinned.

“I’ll do it! I’ll show Towa who’s boss!”


Shiranui Family

Houshou Family

Myth Family

Usada Pekora

Takane Family

I’m ready to continue

Chapter Text

A few years ago, Pavolia Reine, Lady of the Peafowl, experienced what she would likely call the strangest event in her life.

It started with the death of Kureiji Olivia. She was in that awkward class of friends for which Reine knew but wasn’t particularly close to, and when she heard that she died, Reine felt terrible and a little awkward - she was the graceful Lady of the Peafowl, after all, so it made sense that if she knew her, then she should try to say something, especially as a test of making herself look sympathetic as far as heir apparent to the kingdom went.

But she really didn’t have anything to say, and while she managed to give some relatively generic words on how Olivia was an upstanding person and it was a shame that fate had taken her early, the sentiments were a little hollow. It was good enough to make her look good to most people, though the Kureiji family in general wasn’t terribly pleased.

Reine made no attempt to pretend that she was close friends with the girl to her family. Yes, she was as upset as most of the community was, but Olivia didn’t represent a terribly close death; she was merely a girl the Reine said hello to on occasion and sometimes dropped into the same study group at school.

It meant that when Illo, Olivia’s older brother, told Reine that Olivia had been using Reine as a role model and that her younger sister had been looking up to her the whole time, it hurt.

I never knew she idolized me…

Such things happened when one was a form of royalty. Even if Reine had made a point of trying to be somewhat more approachable by studying at magic academy with the rest of the student body, it was unavoidable.

It was one of those days where Reine found herself alone in the castle gardens, mostly taking a moment to think for herself. The past remained immutable, and Reine knew that, as much as she wanted to say something to Olivia, it was far too late to do so now.

This made it a little surreal when Olivia somehow came back to say something to Reine.

Reine, of course, being the dignified Lady of the Peafowl, reacted calmly to the unusual sight of Ollie having been reanimated and now walking towards her.

“AAAAAHHHH!”

Or not so calmly.

“You can’t have my brain! It’s mine!”

Without any other options, she raised her hands in a magic casting stance, well aware that it would likely not save her - despite her graceful figure, Reine remembered Olivia being quite athletic; she just rarely showed it. If her zombified form still had the same muscles, then she was one leap away from eating Reine.

This is not allowed to be how I die!

Reine panicked.

“I’m sorry! I didn’t realize you looked up to me and I thought you were attractive but not that attractive and I’m sorry for-”

“YOU HAVE NOTHING TO APOLOGIZE FOR!”

“...”

Reine blinked, having absolutely no idea what was going on.

“I mean, I just wanted to say hi!”

“...Olivia?”

“I go by ‘Ollie’ now! It’s so weird what happened to me! And the worst part is, I still haven’t found all of the necromancers who were part of this yet! I’m still trying to track down Uruha Rushia!”

Reine’s jaw practically unhooked from her head.

“What happened?!”

“I dunno! I remember dying and then I remember waking up again somehow! It’s AMAZING! I’m also a Zombie now! Sort of? Basically I’m a non-decaying undead, I still don’t have a beating heart but THAT doesn’t matter now! Oh, and apparently all of the necromancers kept saying sorry because something weird happened to me or something like that-I DON’T KNOW NOBODY TELLS ME THESE THINGS!”

Reine facepalmed.

And so, Reine had to make an adjustment to her life: Ollie, Olivia’s reincarnation, had placed herself back into Reine’s circle of acquaintances. What was interesting was how much more hyperactive Ollie was in comparison; whereas Olivia was a polite girl who never dared step out of line, Ollie was loud, hyperactive, and downright flirtatious on a relatively frequent basis.

The reincarnation of Kureiji Ollie would forever be the weirdest thing that Reine had ever experienced. An honorable mention was Anya Melfissa’s unusual reincarnation, but Reine wasn’t there for that, so while it was weird that Anya casually brought it up one day, it wasn’t part of Reine’s life.


The events surrounding Ollie’s reincarnation were what eventually led to what Reine would consider the second weirdest event in her life.

That, however, was still a little while off; Currently going on was a peaceful day that Reine had no idea was going to become all that weird. She was hanging out at the palace grounds located near the center of the city; for the most part just taking some time to be alone.

At least, until said peaceful day was interrupted by something fairly unusual: an angel, who was descending and from the looks of it was looking to talk to her.

Uh…

“Um, hello? You’re not from around here. I think.”

Kanata nodded.

“I am the Angel of the Hollow Force, Amane Kanata. You might know of me.”

Reine’s eyes widened.

“What in the world happened to make the Hollow Force pay a visit to me? Aren’t you guys from the Lunar Kingdom? I know geography’s hardly my strong suit, but…”

“You are correct.” Kanata replied, “The Hollow Force is essentially the personal guard of the Lunar Royalty; the four of us - temporarily three - are tasked with protecting the last member, Her Royal Highness Himemori Luna.”

Reine tilted her head in confusion.

“But if you’re the personal guard of the princess, why are you here, unless-OH.”

Kanata smiled.

“The Lunar Kingdom’s paying us a royal visit,” Reine continued speaking. “and you’re here warning me that I have foreign royalty inbound. I don’t know Princess Luna myself, but I can’t imagine you’d show up under normal circumstances.”

“You’re correct.” Kanata replied while nodding again, “However, the reason we’re here is that due to circumstances that are frankly far outside of our control - as in, ‘the ancient ones were awakened right underneath our ship’ out of our control - the ship was damaged. This was the closest port we could find, and we docked here under emergency circumstances. We ask for your hospitality under the-”

“Oh no, go ahead!” Reine responded. “From what I’ve heard the Lunar Kingdom would do the same to anyone stranded from its nearby island nations, and I, as Lady of the Peafowl, believe in repaying kindness with kindness.”

Kanata shrugged.

“The Lunar Kingdom’s streak of kindness is a recent development, and I’d say there’s still some leftover species tensions from our more unfortunate days, but yes, for the most part, we’re trying to be a better nation nowadays. Given the fact that the other members of the Hollow Force include a devil, a sleeping dragon, and a sheep girl, we’re doing pretty well.”

Reine nodded.

Kanata continued: “I’m really just here because I’m able to get here the fastest; logistically we have a lot of people who are probably going to be staying here for a couple of days while we repair the Lunar Light and prepare to set sail once again. In particular, children; we have, what, four families? Luna and her best friend, the Hollow Force, and Usada Pekora.”

Reine sighed.

“Well, we’ll try to be accommodating, except - wait, Usada Pekora? The infamous prankster rabbit?”

Kanata drew a long breath.

“Yes, unfortunately. We don’t know where she is, and technically she’s foreign royalty - princess of Pekoland, in fact - which means that we’re in a lot of trouble if we don’t get her back home. As well as Luna herself, for obvious reasons.”

Pulling out a slip of paper, she added: “Here’s the full guest list. If you have any questions concerning anyone on it, wait for Watame to show up, who should get here any second now.”

Reine took the guest list, and quickly skimmed it.

She froze, looking at it.

“Wait, Uruha Rushia? As in, the necromancer?”

“Oh, you know her?” Kanata replied.

“No, but a friend of mine does, and that would explain why she ran off so quickly. Her name’s Ollie, and she’s been looking for Rushia for a long time now-”

“REINE! I BROUGHT FRIENDS!”

Reine sighed.

“Kanata, why don’t you go find the rest of your cohort while I deal with this?”

Kanata nodded, spread her wings, and flew off.

Ollie stormed in with a smile on her face. Behind her was Aqua, Shion, Rushia, and Marine.

“Reine! You won’t believe who I found-wait, was that an ANGEL?!”

Reine facepalmed.

“Yes, and before you ask: that’s why there’s a huge ship in port right now. We’re extending the hand of hospitality towards the Lunar Kingdom. I take it you found Rushia.”

“Yes!” Ollie exclaimed, “And I know YOU want to know just as much about what happened to me as I do, so I even had the patience to wait for explanations until we were all here! Which is to say that these four ladies were on that ship and this seems like as good a place to stay as any!”

Reine smiled.

“Ah, that explains the commotion. For the four of you that aren’t Ollie: how did your first meeting go? I know Ollie can be a bit overwhelming.”

Aqua shivered, Shion grunted, Rushia rolled her eyes, and Marine shrugged, not sure what to think.

Rushia started speaking: “It was interesting.”


Earlier…

Ollie, who had rather quickly and rather ungracefully ran in front of the Houshou family right out on the street with no regards to things like how strange she looked doing so, shouted at Rushia.

“I have been looking EVERYWHERE for you, Rushia! You have NO IDEA what my life’s been like since my reanimation! And instead of staying to see what happened, you just LEFT me here instead! Why would you DO this?!”

Rushia was nervously backing away.

Shion interrupted.

“Because she was afraid of exactly this confrontation? The way you’re acting, it’s not surprising that she wanted to avoid you!”

Marine just sighed watching this play out.

“Shion, I know you want to help her, but let this play out. It’s not your issue to interrupt. Rushia, as much as I hate to admit it, you did try to run from an issue, and I think all of us have learned that running from issues rarely goes well. That said, Ollie, if you dare think about hurting Rushia, rest assured you will have both an angry former pirate and a powerful witch after you, so think wisely about any actions you’re taking while angry about what Rushia-chan did to you.”

Ollie froze.

“Who said I was angry about what the necromancers have done to me? I’m just angry that Rushia ran away!”

Rushia paused.

“...You’re not? Last I heard, you’ve been through a lot of changes all at once, entirely without your consent.”

“THAT’S THE THING!” Ollie shouted, “I have NO IDEA what’s happened to me, aside from the fact that so many things about me are different now!”

Rushia frowned.

“I guess I should explain what happened, then. Maybe in a better location? A lot of what I’m going to explain is stuff necromancers don’t generally share openly.”

Ollie paused.

“Actually, where are you staying?”

Marine blinked.

I probably should’ve figured that out earlier, given that I’m their mother.

“We’d probably figure something out relatively last minute. If nothing else, despite being under repair we could technically sleep back in the Lunar Light overnight, but-”

“I’ve got a BETTER idea! Come with me to the palace! I promise you aren’t in trouble!”


Rushia continued speaking.

“...and that’s how we got here. Is it true, Reine, that you wish to hear about what happened to your friend?”

Reine nodded.

“Yeah. It’s more idle curiosity for me, but also Ollie would tell me everything anyway - don’t deny it, you would - and so you might as well explain it for now-wait a second, I just spotted another friend of mine, and she’s not alone.”

Reine’s eyes focused on the face of Moona, who immediately realized that she had been spotted.

And then Reine, along with everyone else, spotted Pekora tagging along beside the violet-haired girl.

Marine raised a finger.

“That’s. The princess of Pekoland. And she’s willingly interacting with someone else. What did this girl do to her?!”

Reine raised her own finger in response.

“That’s. Moona. Moona Hoshinova, and she’s also willingly interacting with someone outside her usual circle of people, which includes me and a few others, but I wasn’t aware the princess of Pekoland was in that circle.”

Marine paused.

“So either we’re witnessing a very potentially sweet but secret friendship, or a plot to destroy the world.”

Reine nodded.

“Or both. I suppose I’ll-”

“Naaaaa~!”

Marine and Reine turned around to see the Hollow Force: Kanata, Towa, Watame, and Luna. Behind the trio was a quartet consisting of Choco, Subaru, Botan, and Aloe.

Kanata waved.

“This is everyone, I think. Actually, we’re still missing the Shiranui family, as far as official ship guests go; last I checked Takane-san’s group didn’t leave the ship. Should I go find our elves, or should I stay here?”

“Go.” Watame replied, “Towa and I should be able to handle things for now.”

And with that, Kanata took flight once again.

Reine turned to face the Houshou family.

“Give me a sec, this is kinda official duty as Lady of the Peafowl, and I need to not cause a diplomatic crisis.”

She turned to face Watame, Towa, and Luna, trying to sound formal.

“Uh, greetings, Hime-sama. What brings you - and the Hollow Force - to our shores?”

She wasn’t very good at it.

Watame bowed respectively.

“We’re merely asking for your hospitality as we try to repair the Lunar Light, the vessel of Lunar Kingdom royalty. It was damaged after an encounter with the ancient ones, which we survived by some miracle. After the incident was said and done, this was the nearest port, and while we’ll try to be quick, we don’t have anywhere to stay - it’s too far to sail back to the Lunar Kingdom from here. Is that okay?”

Towa smirked looking at Reine and Watame’s innocuous stare-down.

And people think Luna’s influence is our secret weapon.

While Luna was notorious for how difficult it was to say no to her, the fact of the matter was that Watame was arguably even harder to say no to. Luna, while cute, was also known for having some natural brattiness to her that meant that her attempts to come off as cute often came off a little obnoxiously. (1)

Watame was slightly less naturally adorable, but unlike Luna she was also impeccably polite and came off entirely innocuously. It was impossible to imagine her arguing in the wrong, and she asked something, not only did her position in the Hollow Force mean that it was probably wise to say yes to her anyway, but most people would feel like a terrible person for even trying to say no to her. (2)

Reine, of course, not only was of the somewhat naturally agreeable type, but was now directly in front of Watame making a request of her with virtually no time to her to come up with a more rational response. While Reine would’ve probably said yes anyway she felt terrible even considering the option of them staying anywhere else.

“Yes; that’s perfectly fine, gimme a moment I’m dealing with a bunch of guests at once right now and there’s lots to talk about but yes everyone can stay here please don’t worry I’m not forcing anyone to spend the night on the streets nope I didn’t even consider it for a second.”

Reine took a deep breath, while Watame’s smile shifted from pure innocence to one of amusement.

“Uh, sorry about that. I’m not very good at this whole royalty thing.”

Watame bowed respectfully.

“Thank you for your hospitality.”

Reine breathed a sigh of relief.

“Okay, that’s taken care of, now I’ve got to talk to Moona because I don't know what Pekora’s like.”

Marine drew a sharp breath, as did Towa, Shion, and Rushia.

“Okay,” Reine replied, “So she’s a troublemaker.”

Reine raised her arm and waved to Moona.

Moona caught it, and walked forward to meet Reine and the others.

“Reine! This is the rabbit girl I was talking about. Usada Pekora, the princess of Pekoland and a little-”

At that point, she realized that Pekora was once again missing.

“Well. I suppose when you have her track record of troublemaking you learn how to disappear quickly. Anyways, I guess I’ll host her; I have a spare bed, and she’s being herself, so I’ll help deal with her because I actually happen to know her. We’re uh, business partners is definitely a stronger word than we actually are but she’s fairly impressed with some of the magical crafting materials I work with, and-Reine, you’re giving me that look again that tells me I’m misusing said magical crafting materials. I promise you I’m not misusing them.”

Reine facepalmed.

Moona, you’re a great friend, but…

“You know what, I’m delegating responsibility of the rabbit girl to you. If Pekora gets in trouble, it’s your head on the line, not mine. Alright, that takes care of that, and finally that means I can get back to Ollie and the girls with her. Uh, where were we on that?”

Ollie replied: “Rushia-chan has to explain what actually happened to me!”

Reine nodded.

“To be fair, I’m somewhat curious as well, given that Ollie is a good friend of mine, and I knew her back when she was known as Olivia.”

Marine, Shion, and Aqua all gave Rushia a look of curiosity.

Rushia breathed deeply.

“Okay. I’ll explain everything.”

Chapter Text

“Let’s not get too ahead of ourselves, though.” Rushia explained, “Because to explain what happened to you, Ollie, you need to know quite a few things about necromancy. How familiar are you with the branch of magic related to the dead?”

“NOT AT ALL!” Ollie replied, “Which is kinda funny given that I’m literally undead now.”

Rushia shrugged.

“You wouldn’t be the first. Let’s start with the basics, then, because you’ll need to know them for me to explain why you fly in the face of everything we know about conventional necromancy.”

She took a deep breath.

“We start with the dual-self. All living beings are actually two distinct things: a physical self, and a spiritual self. Within the mortal realm, the physical self is the dominant self, which is to say that it’s the important one. If your physical self is destroyed, no matter how much your spiritual self wants to hold on, you’re dead; but on the other hand it’s rather difficult to hurt one’s spiritual self badly enough to kill their physical selves.”

Ollie’s eyes widened.

“Except that death only kills the physical self! You needed my spiritual self to reanimate me, right?”

Rushia blinked.

“That’s a startlingly fast conclusion, and yes, you’re entirely right.”

Reine interrupted: “One of those things you learn about Ollie rather quickly is that she’s actually frighteningly smart. You should see her talk about math someday.”

Ollie nodded, and then Rushia continued, seemingly ignoring the interruption.

“Death is weird because it’s an entirely physical event that has consequences for both physical and spiritual selves. Your physical self dies, and your spiritual self is released from mortality.”

Rushia smiled.

“Necromancers are those who can speak with the spirits of the formerly living. You see, while eventually most souls will find an eternal rest in some afterlife, a surprising number take a long time to do so. In the case of my brother, over a thousand years, though he’s promised he’s not moving on properly until I kick it, and I don’t age. He promised we’ll go to our eternal destination together, whether that be in the clouds above or in the fires below.”

Marine, Shion, and Aqua all smiled warmly.

“Aw, that’s cute.” Reine replied.

Rushia kept going: “And that brings us to the arts of reanimation and resurrection, which are really both the same, just with different degrees of success. Resurrection, as you could probably guess from the concept of the dual self, is actually two different effects that are put together into a single spell: physically repairing a body back to it’s living state, and binding one’s spiritual self into the new body. I know you probably have a lot of questions so far, but I ask that you save them until I’m done with the explanation.”

Reine and Ollie both nodded.

Rushia paused, thinking about her next words.

“Alright. Let’s start with the physical half of the resurrection ritual. Repairing one’s body is really hard, at least to do it fully. It turns out that living beings are incredibly complex things that are really easy to accidentally screw up. The catch is that necromancy can enchant a body such that anything that’s required to live can be more-or-less substituted for with more magic. This is what we call ‘the undead’ - beings who have only partially physically resurrected.

“As such, Ollie, you’re officially only half alive - someone who’s physical resurrection failed to achieve perfection, though in your case I’d say you’re closer to three-quarters alive. What’s interesting about physical resurrection is that there’s actually a sliding scale of how successful a physical resurrection is; the scale goes anywhere from ‘total failure, still just a corpse’ to ‘can walk around while decaying mid-stride’ to actually surprisingly stable undead who are mostly but not quite living, to, of course, full physical restoration. Can you guess where we’re going?”

Ollie smiled.

“I’m in the second last category!”

Rushia laughed.

“Yes, and usually that’s a decent sign, as the closer to fixed the body is the more likely it is that the spiritual self will accept possessing it. That brings us to the other half of the resurrection ritual: the spiritual half, where one binds the spiritual self into their physical body to once again reinhabit it.

“The big difference is that, until very recently, the conventional wisdom was that spiritual binding is purely a hit-or-miss operation. Either the spiritual self possesses the body, or it doesn’t, in which case you become a pure undead - a soulless being animated with necromancer magic that possesses no spiritual self whatsoever. The opposite is when it succeeds, in which case the original spiritual self possesses the reanimated body, which should, in most cases, be the same person as their pre-mortem self. And now finally, we get to Ollie.”

Rushia looked uncertain about what to say, as if scared. Reine picked up what Rushia was going to say, and started speaking.

“You changed, Ollie. I’m not one to argue for the better or for the worse, because to be honest it’s been a lot of fun seeing you out of your shell, but you freak Rushia out because there’s no explanation for how you could be so different from what you were like before you died. And worse yet, and I can’t say for certain, but maybe that’s irrevocably changed yourself on a spiritual level, in which case the botched resurrection didn’t just desecrate your physical body but also desecrated your spiritual self, which is even worse.”

Rushia trembled, and finally started crying.

“I’m so sorry. Yes, I wasn’t the only necromancer participating in your resurrection, but I did spearhead the effort. You need to understand that while we were aware that there was a fair chance for things to go wrong, the idea of somehow permanently harming your spiritual self wasn’t even a possibility we had considered. I don’t know how life’s been for you, but I ran away when I realized what had happened. The only theory is that somehow we performed a partial spiritual resurrection, something thought impossible. I’m sorry, Ollie, because the consequences of this will likely follow you for all eternity - even into the afterlife.”

Marine put a hand on Rushia’s shoulder. Even if it had been Rushia’s fault, the necromancer was showing a clear remorse for her actions that she’d been trying to hide from, and now that it was out in the open it was clearly crushing to see what had happened.

Despite the revelation, Ollie smiled.

“You’ve got nothing to apologize for! Even if you were right, I still think I’ve been much happier since my reanimation, and isn’t that what matters?”

Rushia froze.

How can this girl find out that we irreversibly harmed her on a spiritual level and then just be okay with it?!

Ollie grinned even further.

“But you aren’t even right about it! The reality was way simpler!”

Reine and Rushia both looked puzzled.

Ollie continued: “Dying just made me realize that all of the effort I put into repressing my hyperactive urges was pointless!”

Reine completely froze.

“...You mean your entire record of perfect behavior as ‘Olivia’ was just an act?”

“Yup! I spent so long behaving as the perfect girl because I always felt like I was supposed to act like that, and you know, dying made me realize how stupid it all was. Life is quite literally too short for me to waste it on anything less than living life - or unlife - to the fullest! It’s a way simpler explanation than all of the weird spirituality stuff I don’t get!”

Reine’s mind continued to be stuck trying to process the fact that ‘Ollie’ had in fact been the ‘real’ personality behind Olivia all along. She had come to get used to how Ollie acted, but for the most part she’d done so by effectively separating the two personas. To learn that Olivia’s true personality was much more like Ollie’s still effectively broke Reine’s brain.

Rushia breathed a sigh that was somewhere between bewilderment and relief.

“I suppose it’s somewhat silly that we overlooked the most rational explanation for your change in behavior. At the same time, I’m surprised you never told any of the other necromancers involved in your reanimation that this was the case.”

Ollie smiled.

“I only realized it when you explained the dual self thing!”

“Wait, really?” Rushia asked.

“Yeah! Because the thing is that I’d been letting loose ever since getting up again and I knew something had changed about me but the fact of the matter was this ‘Ollie’ thing was inside of me all along, but the thing was that our spiritual selves are too shaped by our physical selves!”

Rushia blinked.

“I thought I’m the necromancer around here, and yet somehow you’re surprising me.”

Ollie kept talking excitedly: “The idea that it’s only my spiritual self being fully resurrected made me put one of my biggest post-mortem memories into perspective!”

“Which was?” Reine asked.

“I remember looking into the mirror and seeing my zombie self, and then everything broke at that moment. It’s simple: I looked in the mirror and I no longer saw the perfect young lady Olivia, but instead the one and only KUREIJI OLLIE!”

Reine blinked.

“Wait, does that mean that a perfect resurrection - a full restore of both physical and spiritual self - would’ve likely meant you would’ve returned to being Olivia?”

“Probably! Look, there’s no way I was going to have any semblance of normal life while visibly being an undead, so really why even bother with trying any of that? Why would I ever put MORE effort into trying to hold myself back when it’s not going to give me ANY benefit?! If this-” Ollie shouted, pointing to her own body, “-weirds people out just from looking at it, why not just embrace the weirdness and follow my own dreams at this point?!”

Reine grinned.

“Hey, I never objected to your change in behavior. I just found it weird.”

Ollie grinned.

“That’s the point! And you know what? I think I’m happier living like this!”

The Houshou family smiled. Ollie’s sheer energy was a little overwhelming, but it was very positive and was virtually impossible to interpret any other way. Houshou Marine walked up in front of her children, and raised a question.

“I’m very glad to hear you’re doing so well. Actually, I do have a question, and it’s one that’s been somewhat nagging at me, mostly as the mother of the Houshou family: how did your family react to this rather drastic shift in behavior?”

Ollie shrugged.

“Let’s see, both of my parents were completely accepting of everything. Then I have the three siblings, which, um, I’m slightly angry about their reaction!”

Marine frowned.

“They weren’t ready to see the older sister they looked up to change so drastically?”

“No! You see, even back as Olivia I was always pretty open to my family about my feelings. They’re all really good like that, you know? Illo - my older brother - always made a point of supporting me whenever I was feeling pressured, and while Ellie and Ollo drove me nuts sometimes but they knew that behind the whole Olivia thing I was somewhat weird. I love ‘em all, but no, that’s not the problem!”

Marine smirked. She didn’t know where this was going, but she had a feeling that the punchline was going to be funny, as did Rushia.

Ollie snapped.

“My siblings ran BETS on whether or not I would snap and just give in to the internal weirdness of my spiritual self all along! They were literally looking at all of the effort I was putting into trying to be a more ‘normal’ person and betting on how long that would last! And the worst part is how I found out about it: Illo bragged to Ellie and Ollo that he won not knowing that I HEARD HIM SAY IT OUT LOUD, which, SERIOUSLY! THIS guy’s my brother?!”

Rushia and Shion laughed a little harder than would be considered polite, while Reine and Marine laughed a lot harder than would be considered polite. Even Aqua was smirking pretty hard at the ridiculousness of the Kureiji siblings.

Ollie rolled her eyes.

“Seriously, I finally release all of my repressed urges and all my siblings do is basically say ‘about time’ and then reveal that Illo won a bet! What did I do to deserve that?!”

“You don’t make your siblings feel awful about teasing you.” Shion replied, while Aqua ducked behind the witch.

Rushia smiled.

“Hey, appreciate your siblings while you still have them. There’s no certainty that I’ll manage to reanimate them anywhere nearly as cleanly as I did with you. It’s a difficult process, after all.”

Ollie frowned.

“I won’t ask you to do that. I can’t, really. Besides, barring any really horrifying events happening around here it’s not a worry, at least for now!”

Shion finally smiled.

“That’s the spirit! Lord knows the two of us would do anything to keep Aqua - that’s the little girl currently hiding behind me - safe from harm. Actually, I demonstrated that fact a little while ago - it’s a long story - and y’know, teasing you comes from a place of love. I promise you if they actually hated what you’ve become they wouldn’t act that way.”

Ollie smiled surprisingly warmly.

“Yeah, that’s fair. Though I’m kind of curious: why’d you decide to bring me back? I hardly think I was terribly special.”

Rushia cried a little.

“I was around at the time when I heard about your passing. For the most part, I was content just to speak with you - I’ve spoken with a lot of dead people - but I ran into your little sister, Ellie, and look she’s innocent and probably doesn’t know my powers that well, but I promised her I’d at least try to bring you back. If nothing else, it’s selfish not to try after the sheer number of times I reanimated my own onii-chan, so I knew the pain. The rest is history, I suppose.”

“Well, I endeavor to not waste my second opportunity at life! Or half-life, or 75% life, or however alive I actually count as, I dunno, I haven’t studied the undead!”

Rushia smiled.

“Then I thank you for giving me the knowledge that I was correct to bring you back from the dead.”

Chapter Text

Five distinct groups all sat around a large table. In the first group were three people who were native to the Kingdom of the Peafowl: Moona, Ollie and Reine. The second group was the Hollow Force: Kanata, Watame, and Towa. The third was a pair consisting of a reaper and phoenix: Calliope and Kiara. Next were the representatives from the Shirogane region: Noel and Flare. Finally, there was a last group consisting of one single person: Usada Pekora, from Pekoland.

The children all had gone to bed; at their young age keeping a reliable bedtime was important - relatively speaking, at least - leaving the adults to have a discussion. Chloe and Koyori had remained aboard the Lunar Light while it was being repaired, while Iroha and Lui stood watch outside the hall that the meeting was being held in, both to protect a meeting that involved multiple heads of states and to protect the children who were closeby to said meeting.

Reine broke the silence.

“Okay, I suppose we’re actually talking about serious stuff. Let’s get everything out of the way right now: while I do carry the titles of Lady of the Peafowl, heir apparent and a bunch of others I don’t really care about, and while I do wield a lot of influence around here - I mean, you’re all staying at the palace - but there are limitations. First and foremost is that I don’t have full treasury access; the Peafowl treasury is known as the ‘Pochi-bank’ and all regulations concerning that need signing off from my mother, Lady Pochi. Are we all good with that?”

The rest of the table nodded.

“Alright, good. Let’s just go around the table, then. Hollow Force, I suppose you should speak first, since you are the representatives of the kingdom who has a princess stranded here.”

“There’s really not much to add,” Watame spoke, “because for the most part you’ve provided what we already need. I suppose, if we want to, we can use this as an opportunity to connect the kingdoms together in a diplomatic manner. It’s a wonderful place, at least from what I’ve seen, and I think it would benefit both nations to keep ourselves on friendly terms in an official capacity.”

“Fair enough, really.” Reine replied, “I believe a few merchants hang around here from your kingdom, but as far as I can tell it’s all somewhat under the hood and it’s not a true nation to nation relationship. I dunno, as much as I’m the Lady of the Peafowl I’m not really organized enough to know what’s going on around here unless it’s a really big problem. Are we good, then?”

Towa nodded.

“Due to the circumstances, we can’t sign anything officially today; in fact, the Hollow Force isn’t actually allowed to sign off on official state matters on our own - this is more just throwing ideas around to see if the opportunity for mutual economic benefit actually exists.”

Reine blinked.

“Wait, why not? I thought the Hollow Force was at, like, the top of the Lunar Kingdom.”

“It’s slightly complicated,” Kanata explained, “but it comes down to the reason that the Hollow Force was conceived first and foremost a military organization, and while we’re since strayed far from the purpose, the fact of the matter is that we’re not supposed to handle matters of the state for the same reason you don’t trust matters of the state to your warrior class. It’s a bit of a pain nowadays, and it was arguably an outdated model for us by the time Watame joined the group, but it’s never actually been fixed.”

Reine shrugged.

“Well, okay then. I’ll see if I can get someone to represent the Kingdom of the Peafowl up in the Lunar Kingdom. Dunno who just yet, but it’ll be on the table. Now, to the literal grim reaper and phoenix duo who are probably, as a pair, the most terrifying people in this room right now.”

Calliope replied with annoyance in her voice: “Okay, I can understand fearing me given that I’m literally a Shinigami and have a bunch of crazy powers that allow me to significantly reduce the length of one’s life, but Kiara? Really? She’s harmless once you get past her behaviors; she’d never use her fire magic to actually hurt ya, I promise.”

Kiara replied equally annoyed back to Calliope: “Calli, are you forgetting the time I blew up a mountain top?”

Calliope rolled her eyes.

“Technically, that one was partially Amelia’s fault. Partially will be Amelia’s fault, depending on frame of reference due to the time travel involved.”

Reine breathed sharply.

“Look, admittedly you’re not supposed to be here, but I know really powerful people when I see them - I mean, there’s a literal incarnation of death and an immortal who basically doesn’t die when she’s killed - and I don’t think I’d be graced with an audience if it’s actually nothing.”

Kiara and Calliope looked at each other.

“You’re right,” Kiara replied, “and it gets more complicated than that. I’m the adoptive mother for the priestess of the ancient ones, an atlantean, and a time traveler who accidentally got stuck with us from over a hundred years in the future.”

Reine’s eyes widened.

“Uh, that first one…”

Calliope added: “Ina’s actually the most harmless one. Gura’s apex predator instincts are mostly suppressed. It’s mostly the time traveler - Amelia - that’s the biggest issue.”

Reine sighed.

“So I take it we’re trying to get her back to her time as fast as possible.”

Calliope smirked.

“Not actually a wise idea. You see, the reason we’re here to take care of Amelia is that Amelia time travels to visit us all in the past.”

Reine held her head in her hands.

Ollie interrupted: “Oh, I get it! Amelia time travels to the past because you helped raise her, and you helped raise her because she went to the past to meet you guys!”

Calliope nodded.

“This is problematic because it means we’re stuck in a stable time loop, and that means that Amelia can’t be allowed to accidentally time jump again before she’s supposed to or else the time loop collapses and the timeline fragments, at least according to future Amelia’s notes that she handily left with me along with, you know, the past version of Amelia that we have to raise. According to those notes, we really want to avoid that or else we might get the literal incarnation of time itself angry at us - Ouro Kronii - and that’s really bad for pretty much everyone.”

Reine lowered her head to the table.

“So what you’re saying is that the Kingdom of the Peafowl has become the containment zone for five of the most powerful beings in existence, and that one of those said beings might accidentally bring about the wrath of a goddess, and not in the deity sense, but in the ‘world shaper’ sense.”

Calliope and Kiara nodded.

Reine breathed slowly.

“Okay…”

Noel and Flare looked at each other.

“Can we speak our part?”

Reine raised her head.

“It’ll probably help me stop thinking about the chances of not triggering an apocalypse, so go ahead. Please.”

Calliope raised a finger.

“Don’t worry too much about it. Amelia and by extension Kronii are pretty firmly our problem. Anyways, Noel, Flare, if you two wanna add anything go ahead.”

Flare nodded.

“We’re in the same position as the Lunar Kingdom: it’s probably economically advisable to open diplomatic relations between our two regions. More importantly, however, we’re basically the only point of contact the elves really have with the outside world; they’re otherwise a relatively isolated species.”

Reine paused.

“I’m starting to think the wiser option might just be to come along with you. If we’re making things official, then I probably should visit myself and take my personal circle with me - that includes Ollie and Moona here, as well as Risu, Iofi, and Anya.”

Moona raised a hand.

“Yes?” Reine responded.

“I have a proposal in regards to our last member here, Usada Pekora. If we’re linking nations together, then it’s for the best that we have representatives, even to small countries such as Pekoland. I’d like to become the Peafowl’s representative.”

Reine narrowed her eyes.

“Is that because you’re taking an unusually large responsibility in international relations, or because you’re friends with Pekora and just coincidentally feel like hanging out in the same region as her?”

Moona smiled amusedly while Pekora facepalmed with both hands, very deliberately avoiding eye-contact with anyone.

Reine sighed.

“Look, I’ll allow it, but please don’t do anything that makes us look bad, okay?”

Moona nodded.

Reine let out a breath.

“Okay, then I think that concludes our meeting here, unless Pekora has anything to add. Is that the case?”

Pekora shook her head.

“Great! I’ll get the order out tomorrow to start preparing the thing.”

“The thing?” Noel asked.

“I actually forget what the Peafowl’s royal vessel is called, which probably tells you how often it’s actually deployed.”

Watame giggled.

“Probably about as often as the Lunar Light, which is rarely moved from the Lunar Kingdom unless royalty are aboard, and well, we have Luna-hime with us. Thankfully we also have one of her caretakers and her best friend, so she’s probably not too distressed at how this journey’s been going. That said, I think we’re good for now.”

She yawned.

“Lord knows we could all use the rest. We’ll talk with Sakamata tomorrow.”

Reine nodded.

“Alright, that sounds great; we’ll talk tomorrow about who’s going where. Are we good?”

The rest of the room nodded in response.

Chapter Text

It was the morning when the gang was getting ready to set out to sea once again that Houshou Marine found out one of the downsides of becoming a law-abiding citizen.

To the surprise of the people who weren’t in on the diplomatic meetings between the Hollow Force and Peafowl Royalty, Reine had brought her personal circle consisting of herself and five other people with her to the harbor. In addition to that, many of Reine’s assistants - apparently known as the ‘Royal Tea’ - had joined her, and were thus preparing a ship for launch; one that was, while not as directly large as the Lunar Light, was still a fairly impressive and evidently well-made Pinisi (1) Ship that was also meant for the express purpose of keeping those aboard as safe as possible.

The vessel was christened the Azure Sky (2), and it was the royal vessel of Pavolia Reine, despite the fact that she’d never actually used it until today.

The announcement that she was setting sail to meet the Lunar Kingdom and neighboring island nations certainly caused quite a stir, but for the most part, the commotion had since calmed down, and at this point, everyone had since boarded their respective vessels.

Everyone who had arrived on the Lunar Light, of course, had boarded the ship they had arrived on. Reine’s entourage, which included both Moona and Ollie, as well as a couple of faces that the crew of the Lunar Light hadn’t acquainted themselves with, joined behind those three, and they boarded the Azure Sky instead.

It was here where Houshou Marine realized that there was, in fact, a downside to giving up her ways of criminal piracy, even if she was getting a free ride on what had so far been her favorite sea-faring vessel.

Namely, having to wait.

The Azure Sky was moving out first, and rather than getting into a heated discussion about who had priority, Lui had shrugged and was letting the Azure Sky move out first, with the plan being that the Lunar Light would follow it on its journey to Pekoland, which was, at least for now, a shared destination.

Back in her piracy days Houshou Marine would’ve set sail as the captain of a vessel she didn’t actually own, but those days were behind her. That left her waiting on the top deck of the Lunar Light, taking in the view of the open sea from the harbor, watching as the Azure Sky slowly moved out of port in front of them.

It’s tempting to have a bit of fun, Marine thought, but I guess I’ve really put that behind me now.

She looked back to Aqua and Rushia, who were currently both behind her, choosing to stay a bit farther away from the edge of the ship.

Wait, where’s Shion-tan? I guess she’s below deck, but usually I can spot her keeping an eye out for Aqu-tan…

Not to say that the Houshou family were the only ones about; currently Ina was casually talking with the Shiranui children; if their faces were anything to go by clearly Ina had entranced them.

“Nenechi, while I understand your curiosity, everyone - myself included - is in a lot of trouble if I open this book. And you’ll get in trouble with your parents; do you really want that?”

Nene frowned, while Polka laughed.

“You see, Nene, I actually listen to things people say, and that’s why Ina’s going to be my wife instead!”

Lamy rolled her eyes, simply staring in disbelief. Noel and Flare were a good distance back, and were clearly looking to see whether or not Ina looked uncomfortable dealing with their children. So far, the priestess didn’t, which meant that no parental interventions seemed necessary.


Below the top deck of the Lunar Light, Shion conversed with Gura.

“...um, hi.”

Or, at least, tried to. Both Gura and Shion were natural introverts, and while Shion would often mask her introverted nature with brattiness, for some reason Gura hit her differently. Something about the shark girl just made Shion unable to act bratty, which meant that the full scope of the witch’s social ineptitude was on full display.

Gura’s reply wasn’t exactly much better.

“...so, uh, do we like each other or…?”

Shion blushed.

“...I don’t know. I’m barely used to having a family, let alone friends outside of that.”

Gura smiled.

“Same here. So many encounters with the people I call family, leading to me suddenly being a big sister outta nowhere.”

Shion smirked.

“Hey, I know the feeling. Aqua’s the absolute best.”

“You haven’t met small Ame yet.”


Back on the top deck, Lui, Koyori, Chloe, and Iroha walked out, preparing once again to take to the seas, alongside a number of relatively minor sailors from the Lunar Kingdom who helped run the ship.

Chloe, who was in charge of actually running the ship, made the announcement.

“Alright everyone! The Azure Sky’s far enough ahead that we’re clear to start sailing! We’re following that ship, since we’re going to the same destination. And that means, while I don’t mind you guys hanging out up here - especially with clear skies - no obstructing anyone who’s helping run the ship. And that means the children should probably hang out below deck if you’re going to just play around. Again, I don’t mind you guys up here, but please be mindful of everything going on. Yes, that includes you, Hime-sama.”

Luna frowned, but strangely enough didn’t resist. Subaru was standing by her side, managing to look surprisingly dignified (3) despite how embarrassed she normally was being the effectively hired babysitter for the princess.

Part of it was that, as childish as the princess was, she was actually something of a delight to be around; her generally happy nature had a tendency to brighten up the day of anyone nearby as long as they weren’t the direct victim of her being a royal brat (4) at times.

And so, the Lunar Light took sail, tailing the Azure Sky as it left port; as it did so many of the children dispersed back to the lower decks.


Choco, Aloe, and Botan all sat around rather casually in Choco’s bedroom.

“I suppose it’s somewhat awkward…” Choco started, “...that for all of my saying I’m adopting you two, that so far I really haven’t done anything for the two of you.”

Aloe spoke almost nervously.

“...does healing me not count?”

Choco shook her head.

“In the moment you were in front of me, I would be healing you even if you were theoretically an enemy of mine. Yes, you’re now my daughter, but the point is that helping people is something I do professionally. It’s not a family thing, and it’s not the basis of your adoption. That said, it was your time with me that was why I made the decision to take you two in. Or at least, you, Aloe; Botan followed on her own volition.”

Botan smiled happily.

“Yeah. It’s worth it, though, and I have no doubt that I’ll still be allowed to see my friends on occasion.”

“Or vice versa.” Choco added. “And that somewhat brings me to the point: if I want to help you two the best I can, I want to know as much as I can about the two of you. And, in a sense, I’ve gotten a sense for you two, but unfortunately I only know you by your traumas, and while it’s certainly useful for me to know your conditions to the extent that I do, as a parent I can’t let that be the only thing I know. I’ve seen you two suffer enough; I want to see what it’s like when you two are happy.”

Aloe, on the other hand, just frowned.

Botan and Choco both picked up on the quickly darkening mood.

“Aloe, what’s wrong?” Choco asked.

“I don’t know what I’m like when I’m happy…” Aloe answered, “...the demon world didn’t want me. My kidnappers just wanted me dead. Nobody’s ever wanted me before…”

Botan, however, pulled her newly-adopted younger sister into a hug.

“Well, maybe we’ll find out together what makes you happy.”

Choco nodded.

“If it’s any consolation, I was kicked out of the demon world too. It turns out demonkind doesn’t look too kindly upon demons who learn light magic. And, I suppose quite demonstrably, both Botan and I want you to stick around with us.”

The edges of Aloe’s lips curled upwards in a smiling motion.


Lui returned from the top deck to find an interesting sight: Laplus and Towa casually chatting with each other, both of them wearing surprisingly cocky grins.

“Laplus-sama.”

Laplus turned around.

“Heed my call!”

Lui rolled her eyes.

“Yes my dark. Anyways, Sakamata-san no longer requires me on the upper deck, so I suppose I can tend to the issue of the two beings from the underworld with violet hair. Towa-sama, how’s Laplus been?”

Towa smiled.

“She’s great. I’m still learning her powerset; mine in comparison is fairly mundane - mostly fire, lightning, and a few kinds of dark magic - while she’s capable of all sorts of weird tricks, mostly her ability to seemingly disappear into the darkness. She’s also capable of using her powers to ‘see’ things that she’s not physically in front of, some sort of supernatural awareness ability that I haven’t seen before.”

Meanwhile, Laplus started blushing at how openly Towa, her idol, was praising her.


Across the water, Reine settled down with her personal circle as the day wound down.

Around a relatively large table sat six people, all from Reine's homeland.

“Alright, so how are we doing this? Because last I heard Moona’s the only person who actually has any diplomatic plans and I need the rest of you to be doing something so people don’t accuse me of being blatantly nepotistic and just bringing my friends even though that’s kinda exactly what I’m doing. Moona is our representative for Pekoland, and I’m the Lady of the Peafowl, but that leaves the four of you.”

Anya Melfissa shrugged.

“I mean, I’m your personal guard. I’m the blade of the Peafowl, both figuratively and also very literally. And Ollie, back when she was Olivia, actually studied international relations so it kinda makes sense for her to be with us. Well, I don’t know now given-”

“Let’s just say it makes sense.” Reine interrupted.

Anya shrugged.

“Okay, that gets us down to just the two who we more or less just picked up at random.”

The two new faces, Ayunda Risu and Airani Iofifteen, looked at each other.

“You may have forgotten,” Iofi replied, “but I’m actually the Azure Sky’s navigator! You’d never find land again without me! Well, no, the rest of the crew for the ship probably could do it too but that is officially what I’m brought on for!”

Risu shrugged.

“And I’m…”

She paused.

“...honestly, completely unqualified to do anything. I have no idea why you brought me along aside from the fact that I’m relatively friendly. Maybe you’re doing that kinda thing where you bring along one somewhat ordinary person to try and act like you care about your people?”

Reine smiled.

“Hey, don’t act that way. We all like you; if we didn’t you wouldn’t be here. Besides, Lady Pochi taught me that coming up with made-up minor titles for your friends is an important part of being royalty. We’ll figure something out.”

Everyone present laughed.


The day, for the most part, passed relatively uneventfully. The skies were blessedly clear, and the journey had quite literally been smooth sailing as both the Azure Sky and the Lunar Light sailed across an uncharacteristically calm nearly mirror-flat sea. Morning turned to afternoon, which gave way to evening and then the night.

The night had fallen, and for the most part, the children had gone to bed, observing relatively sane bedtimes, alongside their parents. Not everyone fell asleep that quickly, however…

Houshou Family

Myth Family

I’m ready to continue

Chapter Text

Houshou Marine frowned. It wasn’t a frown of anger or even of disappointment. It was a frown of sympathy as she lay down in bed, awake but unmoving, listening in on the conversation that was probably meant to be private - and, to a certain extent, still was, just not as private as the speakers likely intended - going on in the room.

Shion was, like she always was, entirely asleep. She had retired early for the night, leaving the other three to follow her into unconsciousness. Marine had attempted to go to sleep with the witch, but had found herself unable to do so.

Possibly because both Aqua and Rushia were talking to each other.

Marine was always so proud of everyone in her family, and proud entirely for different reasons. For Aqua, it was how she learned to live life. For Shion, how she learned to be free.

For Rushia, it was simply how responsible the necromancer was. Marine knew that Rushia was emotionally never usually feeling the best, and when the former pirate adopted Aqua there was a very tiny fear that it would cause a small rift if the two of them didn’t get along; Marine knew better than most that Rushia could be a fair bit temperamental.

It wasn’t a problem though. Rushia took up the mantle of being a responsible family member, to the point that Marine could trust her to take care of Aqua during temporary absences, and even to the point where Marine understood that there were things that Aqua might be willing to share with Rushia instead of herself.

The relationships that Aqua had with Shion, Rushia, and Marine were entirely different from each other.

It was one of those things that Marine was immensely thankful for; the lesson that different people had different ways of expressing affection was a nearly impossible lesson to teach by oneself, but the sisters that were Shion and Rushia helped Aqua feel wanted in a way that Marine knew she could never manage alone.

And that brought them to the current night, with Marine waiting to fall asleep while listening in on a conversation between Aqua and Rushia.

“Rushia-onee-chan?”

“Yes?”

“...is this what it was like before me?”

“Similar in some ways, but it’s different in others. We didn’t have you, of course. Shion didn’t see Senchou as our mother back then. And we generally were on a much smaller ship, too. I’ve told you how you’ve reshaped my entire life, and no doubt Shion has, but I think Senchou has been so focused on you that she hasn’t stopped to think about what you did to her life, either.”

Marine froze, stopping herself from crying.

Aqu-tan became the light of my life so quickly…

“Um, Onee-chan, what changes would that be?

“Mostly, it was that she grew a heart around you.” Rushia continued, “Well, no, that’s not true, she was always the heart of the Houshou Pirates, but, hmm…”

“...she cares about me…?”

Rushia shrugged.

“I mean, she does, but that’s obvious. I’ll put it this way: those who live out on the seas tend to die there, and tend to die young at that. Senchou was in that group of people who definitely lived by that notion, and both Shion and I joined her knowing the risks of associating with her. There’s quite a few times she put one or more of us in danger - and we gave her an earful for that - but we always followed her willingly. That all changed when you showed up. She was unwilling to put you in jeopardy. Senchou never told you this, but she actually changed routes to avoid certain aspects of her past life that she wanted to keep you safe from, back for the brief period you were with us as pirates.”

“What made me different?”

“You were dependent on her just to survive. I mean, in a sense, so were Shion and I, but we never really saw her that way until you showed up. Ironically enough Mama’s way more careful with us nowadays because of it.”

“...she changed so much for me. Is this the kind of life she wanted to live without me…?”

At this point, Houshou Marine couldn’t stay silent anymore, and got up, eyes wet but not actively crying.

Aqua and Rushia turned towards their mother.

“Mama…?” Aqua asked curiously.

Marine smiled warmly.

“Yes, it’s me. And, yes, in your absence I would most likely return to the seas once again. But at the same time, I’d never feel good about my adventures if they made you feel scared, or even worse, if you actually got hurt. I don’t want to live without you, either. You’re not the adventurous type, sure, but you’re loved much more than that. And that’s why I’m sorry.”

“Sorry?” Aqua asked.

“I know you’re tired. I know you just want to go home and relax.”

Aqua shook her head.

“It’s okay, Mama. I’m safe here with you, right?”

“True,” Marine replied, “but I don’t like seeing you in pain, or seeing you scared, or both. As much as I appreciate it when you curl up in my arms because you feel safe in them, I still feel awful watching you cry out for me.”

Aqua frowned.

“I’m sorry. I’m not brave like you are.”

Rushia shook her head.

“As much as you’d think pirates are a fearless bunch, the fact of the matter is that you want to be a little afraid of the dangers of piracy. The truly fearless don’t tend to live very long.”

Marine continued: “And even if you did take to adventuring like we did, nobody deserves to go through what you’ve been through with Uno. You were hurt because of my past, not yours. And Uno’s not the only enemy I’ve made, though he’s definitely by far the most despicable, which would be why Rushia and Lamy killed him.”

Rushia raised a finger.

“I probably wouldn’t have gone as far as I did if I knew Aqua was still alive.”

Marine nodded.

“Fair enough, but I don’t feel like trying to explain the grief of losing a child. Not at your age, my little Aqu-tan. And, you know, I have to thank you.”

“Why…?” Aqua asked.

“Because you gave me a perspective that I’d been sorely lacking.” Marine replied. “I had to look at so many of my life decisions that I would’ve just made you go along with and see what it looked like from your position instead of mine. Of course you’re more afraid of the dangers of piracy than I am, and that means I can’t use my feelings as a substitute for yours. Your thoughts and feelings about our adventure are just as important as mine.”

She paused.

“Not to forget Rushia-chan either; although I might be responsible for keeping a roof over our head and making sure we all eat, I trust you enough that if you’re ever worried about Aqu-tan I promise I won’t brush your opinion off; by now you know her just as well as I do.”

With that, Marine walked up to Aqua and Rushia, opened her arms, and then pulled them both into a hug.

“You know, Rushia-chan, if you ever want to call me Mama directly, that’s okay. I know it’s weird given our ages, but I promise I’m fine with it.”

Rushia blushed.

“...I’ll think about it.”

Marine smiled warmly.

“Not that you have to, of course. I just wanted you two to know that you’re both loved, as is Shion-tan, who’s still asleep. That said, it’s for the best if you both get some rest. You never know what tomorrow might bring.”

And with that, she let go of them.

Aqua walked over to the nearest empty bed, and fell over, landing right in the center of the large bed that was clearly made for couples.

Marine smirked.

“I guess you were feeling a little tired, even if sleepless.”

Rushia shrugged.

“It happens. It happens to me rather often, unfortunately. Aqua’s insomnia comes and goes; sometimes she’s just fine and sometimes it’s like this. I try to keep her company whenever it’s like this; it’s the least I can do.”

Marine shook her head.

“You could’ve done so much less for her and still called yourself big sister. Never underestimate yourself; my daughter’s just as safe in your arms as in mine, even if she’s more comfortable in mine. That said…”

With that, she slowly lowered herself to the bed, beside her daughter.

Rushia thought about where to sleep.

“Eh, Shion probably appreciates getting the full bed to herself.”

And with that, she took Aqua’s opposite side, lying down.

Marine closed her eyes.

Home is wherever you wish to stay, Aqu-tan.

Rushia followed.

Home is wherever you feel safe, Aqua.

Between the two of them, Aqua slowly nodded off, feeling both safe and loved.

Home is wherever my family is…


Houshou Family

Myth Family

I’m ready to continue

Chapter Text

The myth family was, at this point, settling down for the night.

Despite any misgivings that Amelia had about Kiara, she did look up to the phoenix. Kiara wore her heart on her sleeve, and while Amelia and Kiara represented a clash of personalities - Kiara was naturally both extroverted and extremely trusting in nature, while Amelia was closer to the introvert side and generally wanted to investigate everything before being willing to place her trust in others.

The personality mismatch was definitely a hurdle the two of them needed to clear, but the intentions were obvious: Kiara was overwhelmingly caring, with emphasis on the ‘overwhelming’ part of the phrase, and Amelia was observant enough to realize this, but she found Kiara more frustrating than anything else.

It was why Amelia often tried to separate from the phoenix, as she was doing now. She considered it the best form of defiance: Kiara always put the spotlight on Amelia, and in response the young detective would simply slip away and deprive Kiara of her target.

I don’t need an adult with me, you crazy lady.

And so, she was perfectly happy to wander around the ship on her own. The majority of those aboard the Lunar Light were at this point asleep, and thus Amelia was content to sneak around without too much worry of disturbing the peace.

The ship is cool, though, even if it’s old. Heh, it’s probably in a museum somewhere in my time. I should check that when I get back…

Amelia, of course, was from the future, and while she wasn’t impressed with the technology of the era she was fairly impressed at the craftsmanship that went into the vessel. It was a rather impressively large vessel powered merely from a combination of wind and wind magic, and while the ships of Amelia’s time were larger, they had the advantage of technological advancement on their side.

That said, while she was wandering a relatively thin and empty hallway, Amelia’s thoughts were interrupted by the sudden appearance of someone she didn’t know. She stood tall, with dark blue hair, and wielded a pair of swords shaped like clock hands. Freakier still, she really did simply suddenly appear; one moment the space in front of Amelia was empty, and the next instant this mysterious woman appeared.

“Found you, time traveler.”

The voice indicated that the newcomer wasn’t friendly.

Amelia froze in response. Amelia had kept a note of the guests aboard the Lunar Light just for the sake of knowing how many people were with her.

“...I don’t know you. Are you supposed to be here? Who are you?”

This woman was not one of them.

“Ah, this is our first time meeting. I’m Ouro Kronii, the Warden of Time. And you are the source of the temporal anomaly I’ve been chasing and now you’re gonna get it.”

Kronii smiled almost sadistically.

“Because when you bend timelines, there’s only one direction they’ll bend towards, and that direction is towards me, and unlike you, who jumps timelines despite being inherently constrained by the laws of cause and effect, I am free. From now on, things are going to go very badly for you.”

Amelia backed off, terrified, when suddenly a pair of arms wrapped themselves around her.

“I’ve got you, Ame.”

Amelia relaxed into the embrace of Kiara.

“Mama, please, don’t let her hurt me…”

Kiara glared at Kronii. If looks could kill, and if Kronii weren’t a conceptual being for whom the concept of death was somewhat a lost cause, the warden would’ve dropped dead on the spot.

Kronii shrugged.

“You might as well be honest, phoenix. You might be immortal, but there’s little you can do for her; your words are empty, even if not intentionally so. I’ve met mortals before; they’re all dead now. I’ve even met time travelers. Let’s just say there’s a reason the timeline remains as stable as it does, and it’s somewhat related to the fact that they’re all dead now. In the end, you will be no better, in life or in death.”

“Who are you to call my words empty?” Kiara snapped, “I’d do anything I can for the little girl that, as far as she’s concerned, has done nothing to hurt you.”

“Oh, I believe you’d do anything you can; you’ve always worn your heart on your sleeve. It’s just that I don’t think you can do anything for her. And of course Amelia hasn’t done anything to me personally; but as the Warden of Time I embody the concept, and our lovely little detective has been under my watch for quite a while now, and I don’t appreciate what she’s doing with the timeline. I’ll fix this little anomaly, and we can go back to doing whatever it is we were doing.”

Amelia tried to curl her body up to Kiara, backing away further from the warden.

Kiara snarled.

“What I was doing was trying to learn how to care for Ame. Because I care about her happiness, and even though it hasn’t been easy for either of us I refuse to let you take her away.”

And with that, she let go of Amelia, followed by conjuring and drawing her sword and shield.

Kronii, in response, smirked in a horribly smug manner.

“I mean you could go back to doing whatever it is you were doing before you met the little girl.”

A new voice interrupted.

“Two quick questions: number one, what the fuck am I looking at; number two, could you stop? Can we not do this?”

Kronii drew a sharp breath.

“What brings you here, reaper?”

Calliope glared in an absolutely contemptuous manner.

“I dunno, why would I be interested in intervening in an intense staredown between someone who clearly is becoming our enemy and two of the people I care the most about of anyone in the mortal realm? Gee, I wonder why. Look, let’s just get it out of the way right now: if you so much as think about touching Amelia, you are catching the anger of a shinigami.”

“Oh no,” Kronii replied amusedly, “I thought about it already.”

Calliope’s glare intensified.

“And I’m already angry at you. Get out. If you want to try anything with Amelia, you’ll have to go through us first.”

Kronii blinked.

“Do you understand the consequences of messing with time? There are far worse fates than death. What you’re doing is a huge risk to the stability of the timeline. There might be a very carefully orchestrated time loop keeping it all together, but you’d be amazed at how easy it is to break it. I’ll just say this: the worst case scenario is that the timeline is rewritten such that you never even meet the time traveler. At least if I take Amelia away from you here you get to keep your memories. Keep this up and you might not even get that much.”

Calliope drew her scythe.

“I’ll admit it: that’s a pretty convincing argument.”

Kiara continued: “So what does it say that Amelia is still way more scared of you than anything else?”

Kronii shrugged.

“She’s only human. It’s just that she’s facing the consequences of of messing with something that no human should ever-”

A new voice interrupted Kronii as a flash of light appeared behind the Warden of Time.

“Kronii, stop.”

Kronii turned around, while Calliope and Kiara looked on at the newcomer: a half-devil, half-angel being with violet hair and crystalline wings.

Kronii shrugged.

“Oh, IRyS. Hello.”

“Warden, you are overstepping your boundaries.”

“Amelia’s time traveling. That comes up in my domain. What about this is outside my boundaries? If anything, you’re the one overstepping your boundaries, given you’re the concept of hope.”

IRyS frowned.

“And have you considered the despair your words inflict? Until the moment that Amelia’s actions actually destabilize the timeline, I will stop you; as it stands Amelia has kept the timeline stable in a perfectly valid time loop. And your abilities mean nothing to me; we’re both concept beings who can’t actually kill each other.”

Kronii stared at IRyS, while the nephilim continued to stare back.

Finally, after a tense silence, Kronii sighed, and addressed Amelia.

“Fine. I’ll give you the chance. But understand that the next time you trip up the timeline - and there will be a next time - I’ll be back. That said, if IRyS has hope that you won’t screw this up, then I’ll believe her. IRyS knows all about hope. Goodbye for now.”

And then she was gone, as if she was never there.

IRyS sighed.

“Sorry about that; Kronii does that sometimes. The rest of the council aren’t as aggressive.”

Calliope smirked.

“Hey, don’t beat yourself over it. Besides, Amelia warned me about her first, so I kinda knew that this was going to happen.”

IRyS smiled.

“Well, I’m still holding up hope for you and your family.”

And then she teleported out.


Houshou Family

Myth Family

I’m ready to continue

Chapter Text

“So, let me get this straight: we’re landing on the wrong island nation. Again.”

That was Takane Lui, who was, at this point, rather unimpressed.

“For what it’s worth, technically it was you who ordered us to follow the Azure Sky, which means that actually you can’t entirely blame us for this one.”

That was Chloe.

“I’m not.” Lui replied, “I’m just unimpressed that somehow nobody knows how to navigate that competently. To be fair, it’s fairly obvious we’re in the wrong place; at our speed it was simply impossible for us to reach Pekoland in the time we did, and while we did go in the wrong direction, it’s not necessarily a bad decision to stop here on the way. If you’re an inexperienced navigator, it might even be advisable to stop here just to make sure you have a solid landmark to navigate from. I’m just sorry for the fact that we have to once again inform Usada Pekora that we somehow still aren’t at her homeland when we were supposed to be there several days ago, and we don’t have the ancient ones to blame this time.”

“Actually, I don’t mind.”

Lui and Chloe turned around to see none other than the very princess they were speaking about: Usada Pekora.

“I mean, it’s the closest island nation to Pekoland.” Pekora explained. “Unless you count the mainland of the Lunar Kingdom as an island - which, technically it is, just a really large island if you really think about it - and it’s also the home of a childhood friend of mine that I haven’t seen in a while; so if we’re staying here at all, I’m actually not complaining. That said, it’s us who might be in a little trouble. This is Mizuho, and, uh, I’ve been here once or twice, and I’m gonna warn everyone in advance that while I’m on good terms with them, they aren’t necessarily on the best of terms with outsiders; in particular we should probably keep the demons onboard.”

Lui sighed.

“Fair enough. I’ll fly ahead with Kanata and see if we have permission to land.”

And with that, she took to the skies, alongside Kanata, spreading their wings to fly ahead.

Chloe sighed.

“At least it isn’t a catastrophic navigational error this time. I wonder what’s happening on the Azure Sky at the moment…”


Reine spoke almost contemptuously, or at least as close as she could manage, which admittedly wasn’t that much. 

“Iofi.”

“Look, we found land! I didn’t lie about that!”

“IOFI.”

“It’ll be relatively easy to get from here to Pekoland!”

“IOFI.”

“Okay, fine, I’m sorry!”

Moona, watching the exchange, smirked.

“So, we’re only like, 50% lost instead of totally lost.”

Iofi glared at Moona.

“Look, do you know how hard it is to navigate on the ocean? There aren’t exactly any landmarks around here!”

Moona shrugged.

“I mean, you’re not wrong. That, and at least we have a reputation for being friendly. I think.”

“Oh YES we do!” Ollie replied, “Mizuho’s actually one of our trading neighbors unofficially, though I guess we’re about to see if diplomacy becomes actually possible now!”

Reine facepalmed.

“How do you continue to be so knowledgeable about everything while acting the way you do? Honestly, I can’t tell if Lady Pochi’s going to be mad at me, be disappointed in me, or be incredibly happy with me for how ridiculously out-of-line our journey’s becoming at the rate we keep going at. That said: Ollie, you’re staying aboard, because your appearance might freak people out a little, and this isn’t an official diplomatic mission. Anya, Moona, you’re with me.”


Kanata landed back on the top deck of the Lunar Light.

“They’ll let us land, but they don’t actually trust us entirely just yet. We’ll let Watame do most official speaking on our behalf since she’ll never offend anybody, but we’ll need to not cause too much trouble around here, and anyone who’s visibly a demon should probably stay onboard - which is to say, Choco and Aloe both. Are we all good with that?”

Most of the heads of those aboard nodded.

“Okay, good. Welcome to Mizuho; please don’t do anything that makes our hosts kick us out. This is, strictly speaking, a quick resupply and quiet night, and then we’ll be outta here.”

And so, two large ships docked at what was clearly a relatively small and quiet harbor. Despite the intimidating size, it was an affair with little commotion other than strange stares from the local population, which was almost entirely human, in comparison to previous locations.

A human girl with brown hair who looked to be in her early twenties walked up to the harbor in that particular kind of confident manner that seemed to make others respect her personal space even though she wasn’t actually in charge.

And as such, despite having a pair of town guards behind her, she walked out and became the first person to interact with the newcomers.

At the front of the pack was none other than Tsunomaki Watame, the arguably most polite and friendly member of nearly everyone from the Lunar Kingdom and considered by many to be the ideal representative for her home country.

Watame bowed to meet the girl from Mizuho.

“Kon-ban-dododo! I’m Tsunomaki Watame, representing the Lunar Kingdom and member of Princess Luna’s personal guard, the Hollow Force. I wish to thank the people of Mizuho for allowing us to stay here; we gave you no obligation to do so.”

The girl from Mizuho smiled, and also bowed politely in response.

“How are you doing, then? I’m Tokino Sora, representative of Mizuho, though I guess that means very little given our relatively limited outside contact with the outside world. We’ve heard of the Lunar Kingdom, though I believe so far we’ve avoided officially making contact.”

Watame nodded.

“As far as I know. That might change today. I suppose I’ll let the other representative speak as well.” She said, stepping to the side to make way for Reine.

“I’m the Lady of the Peafowl, Pavolia Reine, and heir apparent to the kingdom of said peafowl. Also, there’s somehow three different royals and a leader who might as well be aboard our two ships, so, uh…”

Reine stepped back to let both Usada Pekora and the couple of Noel and Flare introduce themselves.

Pekora went first: “You guys know me; princess of Pekoland and Miko-chan’s childhood friend. Actually, now that I think about it, it’s been a couple of years since I’ve seen her; I wonder what she’s up to nowadays…”

“Still living at the shrine, and due to unfortunate circumstances surrounding her inheriting it, it’s unlikely she’ll ever leave it.”

Pekora’s eyes widened.

“Wait, that’s why she hasn’t gone anywhere? I knew she was going to become the barrier maiden when she grew up, but I wasn’t aware that it meant she had to live on the shrine all of the time.”

Sora frowned.

“It wasn’t under the best circumstances. You’ll be able to talk to her later. Would the knight and the elf like to introduce themselves?”

Noel bowed with a formal military stance.

“I go by Shirogane Noel, often called Danchou while out on journeys. I’m the leader of the Order of Shirogane, which is the human territory that’s carved out of the Elven region of the mainland shared with the Lunar Kingdom.”

Flare continued: “And I’m Shiranui Flare, Noe-chan’s wife and a member of elven nobility.”

The two town guards behind Sora looked at each other, and then resumed their neutral stance.

Sora drew a remarkably sharp breath.

“So there’s four different foreign royals with us today?”

“Yes, if you count Noel and Flare.” Watame replied, “Though, while we do have Luna-hime with us, though she’s a little too young to be doing any of the negotiating herself; she’s mostly here on her own whims, and because it’s probably not the best idea to shelter her too much. She’ll be safe as long as the Hollow Force is in close proximity.”

Reine raised a finger.

“And similarly I have my own personal guard with me.”

Noel shrugged.

“And Fuu-tan and I qualify as our own.”

Sora smiled.

“Well, then I wish you all a warm welcome to Mizuho!”

Pekora frowned.

I’ve gotta figure out what happened to Miko…


The division was set. Laplus, Lui, Koyori, Chloe, and Iroha would, as a group, remain onboard the Lunar Light, to which they agreed to without any complaints, as did Choco and Aloe.

The two latter two frowned, but said nothing; Choco had the presence of mind to realize some weren’t as comfortable with her being a demon, and she was okay with that. In turn, Aloe was too naturally shy to defy the directions of the crew.

Botan, on the other hand, was a little more vocal about her objections, leading to the current exchange between Botan and her adoptive mother. Aloe simply watched the exchange, while Nene, Polka, and Lamy listened in from one room over; the walls were not soundproof.

“Botan, you don’t have to stay here. You don’t have demon horns, and I’m certain you and your friends would be able to have fun on your own.”

“Mom, that’s not the point! Aloe’s harmless and you know it! It’s unfair to treat her as if she’s dangerous just because of her species!”

Choco frowned.

“You may want to consider my own position, given that I’m literally a healer.”

Botan snarled.

“Then why aren’t you objecting?!”

“Because,” Choco answered, “we’re not staying for long enough to make causing a major incident worthwhile. I mean, the original plan before we accidentally landed here was that we’d still be on this ship anyway. If at some point the opportunity arrives to raise the objection in a stronger manner, then possibly it will be worth doing so; but right now it’s just going to get everyone in trouble. Remember that we aren’t that wanted here.”

Lamy decided she had enough of the argument and walked into the room, putting a hand on Botan’s shoulder.

“She’s trying to keep her safe, you know. Choco makes a good point; any excursion into Mizuho is a risk that probably isn’t worthwhile for Aloe. If it’s going to be this big of an issue, I don’t think any of us will mind staying here.”

Botan sighed.

“You’re right. It’s just…”

“It’s unfair…?” Aloe replied.

Botan nodded.

“Life is like that sometimes.” Choco added, “It’s why I choose to live in the Lunar Kingdom, you know? Nobody looks at me strangely for being a demon, and there are few places where I’ll actually come off as an ordinary citizen. On the whole, surface demons aren’t looked upon kindly. That's why I chose to take in Aloe.”

Botan calmed down.

“Yeah, that’s fair.”

Choco shook her head.

“No, it isn’t fair, and that’s why you’re upset. But it’s probably the best outcome we can manage. That said, your friends don’t seem too hurt from this; I doubt that this would cause a rift. And that probably means that Noel and Flare are staying aboard, so at least we have a few responsible adults around here.”


First impressions of the foreigners were so far positive among the citizens of Mizuho. Himemori Luna had graced the town with her presence, and so far she hadn’t repelled people by acting like a brat.

In fact, she was doing the opposite; other children around her age seemed to be enraptured by the idea of meeting an actual princess, while Luna mostly took in the attention with a beaming smile that captured the hearts of most parents of said children. Kanata and Towa watched from a short distance away, keeping a watchful eye out for any potential threats to the princess.

In the middle of all of this was Oozora Subaru, who was mostly thankful that Luna was being her usual adorable self instead of her play-romance self, mostly because Oozora Subaru really didn’t want Luna play-dating her in public.

From a safe distance, the Houshou family watched the children playing, though the children of said Houshou family chose to not get involved. Slightly closer to the group but still mostly playing a supervisor role were Pekora and Moona.

Watame and Sora continued casually chatting to each other, watching the scene unfold from a larger distance.

“Ah, it’s times like this,” Watame said, “where I remember why I promised to take care of Luna. She’s a royal brat at times, but she’s also a beacon of joy when she’s in a good mood.”

Sora smiled.

“Yeah. I remember when Miko-chan was that age. When I was that age, even. Given that Pekora was her best friend overseas, I probably need to explain what happened at some point. Though, I suppose if everyone’s here, we can just visit Miko-chan at the Sakura shrine, and I’m certain that would make her happy.”

“We should probably tell Pekora herself, then.” Watame replied.

Sora nodded.

“Definitely.”

And with that, the two of them walked around the children playing to meet the rabbit girl.

Sora bowed to the foreign princess.

“Pekora-hime, do you-”

“Just call me Peko-chan! Pekora-hime’s way too formal for me. Actually, I wanted to ask: what’s your relation with Miko-chan?”

“She was a major fan of my singing voice. I perform at the Sakura shrine on special occasions because I’ve always felt bad about the fact she’s not allowed to leave. From what I’ve heard from her, you’re her best friend from overseas.”

“Well, it’s good to know she still cares about me, though I’m curious: why is she not allowed to leave the shrine?” Pekora asked, “It kinda sucks she hasn’t been able to visit me since the day she started working there.”

“It’s a long story.” Sora answered, “And it has to do with the mythology of Mizuho.”

A new voice joined the conversation, this one male, belonging to a figure with long black hair and a surprisingly calm resting face.

“It’s probably best if I explain it. My name is Ordan, and this is my town. Understand that people are understandably a little nervous about everyone showing up, especially since I get the feeling a bunch of you are rather powerful, and people will rightfully and wrongfully be suspicious of you guys. That said, your princess is certainly delightful, and the pair of angels watching over her tell me that there’s nothing to be afraid of from you.”

Watame giggled, deciding not to point out that Towa was actually a devil.

Ordan continued: “And, while Pekora is a little rascal from what I know, so far she hasn’t done anything too offensive around here, which brings me to Miko, because from what I understand you two are good friends and only one of you knows why the shrine maiden is essentially imprisoned in her own shrine.”

Pekora's hands naturally balled into fists, but she said nothing.

Ordan explained: “So, here’s how the story goes…”

Chapter Text

Ordan paused.

“Let me think about how I want to start this tale. I suppose that, if we’re going to the Sakura shrine to visit the lovely shrine maiden who can’t leave, we can just walk there while I explain; it’s not a long walk.”

Watame looked over at Luna, then back to Ordan.

“I think I’ll separate, then. I’m not particularly affiliated with either Pekora or with her circle of friends, so I’ll stay and watch the kids.”

Moona shrugged.

“I’ll come with Pekora; I’m somewhat interested in what kind of person she’d have for a childhood friend.”

And with that, they started walking.

From a short distance, Houshou Marine looked at the group that was slowly departing, and decided to follow, along with her children.

“I’m actually curious about this ‘Miko’ girl, since I’ve never met her, so I think I’ll follow. You three can follow me, so you can also stay behind.”

Rushia shrugged.

“I’ll follow.”

Aqua and Shion looked at each other wordlessly, shrugged, and then decided to join Ordan, Sora, Pekora, and Moona.

Meanwhile, Ordan began his story.

“It starts about five hundred years ago or something like that; and it starts with, unfortunately, everyone collectively being terrible people, like many stories of this nature do.”

Sora frowned.

“Not everyone, but, well…”

Ordan nodded.

“I’m generalizing a little more than I should; this story has its heroes. It starts with the girl who fell from the sky, or so the mythology goes. What isn’t mythology but is actual history is the girl herself, the so-called fallen star.”

Sora continued: “She was a singer. Legends say her voice was beautiful, with a distinctive appearance, which is to say blue hair isn’t terribly common around Mizuho.”

“She was also abandoned as a teenager, and left with nowhere to stay.” Ordan answered, “at the end of the day, while many applauded her for her voice, she never had a place to stay, and, well, we do have winter around here. She did her best to find places to stay, but one year she couldn’t, and, well…”

“She died, freezing to death on the streets.” Sora said, tearing up as she did so, “It always hurts me to recount the tale of the comet, because I’m no different from her. The only difference is that I was loved for what I did, and the ghost was forgotten. Ah, I gave away what happened next, didn’t I?”

A new voice joined the conversation: that of Uruha Rushia.

“The fallen star came back as a ghost. That happens sometimes; beings with enough spiritual power can sometimes re-manifest themselves back into the physical realm. Normally latent spirits who are stuck in the mortal realm can’t be seen by normal people, but particularly powerful spirits don’t take death the same way.”

Sora and Ordan both widened their eyes in response.

Rushia shrugged.

“Oh, right, I should explain: I can see the dead, and I’ve studied the ways of the dead for a long time. I’m going to take it that the fallen star didn’t remain fallen.”

“Yeah.” Ordan replied, “In life, she was a girl that the people of Mizuho collectively abandoned and left to freeze. In death, she became a powerful supernaturally-empowered vengeful spirit. The winter after her unfortunate passing, people started reporting that people could hear her beautiful singing voice. Only this time, they had a habit of going missing after that. Let’s just skip the fancy storytelling: the girl, now known as the comet, came back with an angry vengeance. We never bothered listening to her voice in life, but people listened to her voice in death. This started becoming a yearly tradition where every winter the comet would come back, an angry spirit unleashing death and destruction over her rage.”

Pekora blinked.

“I fail to see how this connects to Miko, though.”

Ordan raised a finger.

“Let me get there, because we need to get to how the people of Mizuho stopped the comet’s rampage. What followed was the emergence of one of the greatest heroes of Mizuho: Sakura Miko, the priestess of the Sakura Shrine - not the one you know, but the first shrine maiden of that name.”

Pekora’s eyes widened.

“You mean there’s more than one?”

Sora rolled her eyes.

“You’d be amazed at how lazy the Sakura bloodline is with their naming schemes. Half of the Sakura bloodline priests were just named Miko, including the one we both know.”

Ordan chuckled.

“Indeed. What Sakura-sama had that we lacked was her own spiritual powers. She forced the comet to confront her at the Sakura shrine itself.”

He paused, thinking about his next words.

“We know not precisely what happened in that confrontation; but we do know how it ended: the comet’s spirit was sealed away into the sakura gardens, locked up on the shrine grounds. You can even see the exact spot where it happened: the Sakura shrine is known for its beautiful cherry trees, but there’s one you’ll notice is surrounded by blue roses. Those didn’t grow naturally, to say the least.

“Now, seals don’t last forever. Eventually, the seal would weaken over time, and thus the role of the Sakura priests ever since this has been to renew the seal to prevent the comet from ever escaping, because, to be honest, if the comet were to escape, I’d imagine she’d probably be enraged for having been imprisoned for the last few hundred years ago. The worst part is that this was so long ago that it’s not like any of us were alive to stop her; it’s a duty we’ve inherited from our ancestors.”

Aqua, Shion, and Marine all shot a quick look at Rushia, who was around that long ago. The necromancer chose to remain silent.

“This brings us to our Miko.” Sora said, continuing the story. “You see, her powers are weaker than the previous shrine maidens with that name. And that means that her seal is much weaker than that of her predecessors.”

“Let me try to explain this in a simplified manner.” Ordan clarified, “You can think of the seal we placed on the comet like a door to a prison cell. Unfortunately, we don’t have a lock, so we’ve settled for placing heavy objects in front of the door to prevent her from opening it. The more powerful priestesses were able to conjure some very sturdy objects, and the current priestess can’t, meaning that she more-or-less is just holding the door shut by standing in front of it.”

Pekora frowned.

“And because she’s holding it shut, if she leaves, then the ghost escapes.”

“Precisely.” Sora replied. “That’s why she’s never allowed to leave. Now, I can’t confirm this myself; everything I’m saying is merely what Miko herself told me, but basically, if she leaves the shrine, that will unleash the ghost of the comet.”

Ordan continued: “What she’s done is a heroic sacrifice, but it is a sacrifice.”

Sora nodded with a frown on her face.

“It’s why I continue to sing at the shrine on occasion.”

“In general, the people of Mizuho treat her well.” Ordan added. “Well, sort of. Miko gathered some scorn for the fact that she was too weak to fully renew the seal, but the fact of the matter is that our shrine maiden has done much for us.”

“That makes sense, actually.” Marine interjected, “After all, if you think about it, Miko has an ultimatum that she can threaten everyone with. She doesn’t sound like the kind of person to actually unleash it, but if you abandoned her it would be your own undoing, assuming this ghost really is as terrifying as she’s made out to be.”

“She’s not that kind of person,” Ordan replied, “but you are correct.”

Rushia paused.

“Something wrong?” Ordan asked.

“Something feels off about that answer.” Rushia answered, “But I don’t doubt your words. I’m merely thinking about the spiritual magic involved since I work with spirits practically more often than with living people. It’s more an idle curiosity of mine than anything else.”

Ordan shrugged.

“Admittedly, I don’t have experience with spirits. If you really do speak with the dead, it wouldn’t surprise me if you had questions that I’m unable to answer. Anyways, we’re here.”

True to his word, the group had all arrived at the grounds of the Sakura Shrine. The cherry trees weren’t blooming, and true to his word, the path to the shrine had one cherry tree that was surrounded by a clearly unnatural growth of blue roses.

The Houshou family looked on at the flowers with bewilderment.

Ordan chuckled.

“You think I was lying about the blue roses?”

Marine shrugged.

“No, but seeing it in person is a rather different experience.”

Sora and Pekora walked up to the shrine itself..

“Miko-chan!” Sora called out, “Someone wants to see you!”

“Ah! Give me a moment!”

After a few seconds and the sound of quick scurrying about the interior of the shrine, the priestess of the shrine, Sakura Miko, walked out, and bowed to the visitors.

“Sora-chan! I wasn’t expecting you today! And…”

She froze, eyeing Pekora.

“PEKO-CHAN?!”

Pekora grinned.

“Miko-chan! It’s been years since I’ve seen you, and apparently since we’re not allowed to take you out of the shrine, well, this is the next best thing. I’m still tempted to take you out of the shrine for a bit, even if it’s against the rules.”

Miko giggled.

“Only if you put up with the ghost, because the fact that I’m stuck here is the only reason the ghost is also stuck here. I haven’t seen you in so long, though! How’s life been?”

Pekora shrugged.

“Honestly, not much has changed, aside from running into one of my, uh, I guess you could call Moona a business partner now? Oh, and I got kidnapped, that happened too. That’s actually it’s own wild adventure, and to be fair, I didn’t really do that much during it; ask the pirate lady - Houshou Marine, of the former Houshou pirates - if you want to know.”

Miko shrugged.

“Sounds like you’ve had a more adventurous life than I have, at any rate.”

Pekora frowned.

“Yeah. How’s life been, given…”

Miko sighed.

“It’s the reality of my own failure, really. I’ve said it to everyone who asks, but I’ll say it again: I’m not strong enough to fully renew the seal. That's why I’m stuck here, Peko-chan. If anything, I’m happy you’ve found another partner in my absence, since I can’t go home with you, and from the looks of it, you’ll be settling down with this Moona girl soon enough.”

Moona smirked, while Pekora blushed.

“We’re not like that!” Pekora exclaimed, “I never said we loved each other or anything!”

Miko simply looked at Moona who was looking far too amused at the situation.

“I mean, I’m not against it…” Moona added.

Pekora facepalmed with both hands.

“Oh my god, I hate you both so much right now. How are we friends again?”

Miko and Moona both laughed out loud at that.

“That said,” Miko explained, “Life at the shrine is relaxed. Really relaxed. Nothing ever happens here, and to be fair, it’s for the best that nothing happens here. The best thing that happens is that Sora-chan sings whenever we throw a festival here. She’s lovely; I’ve been a huge fan of hers ever since we met, though…”

“Though?” Sora asked, entirely out of curiosity.

Miko smiled melancholically.

“I mean, it’s not quite as magical anymore. I’m still a huge fan, don’t get me wrong, but, well…”

Sora frowned.

“It’s been years, and your life at the shrine hasn’t changed. I could understand longing for something different.”

Miko nodded.

“Yeah.”

Meanwhile, Moona, who was watching their surroundings, noticed something a bit odd.

“Rushia, you seem focused on something.”

Rushia drew a sharp breath, as if she wasn’t sure she wanted to ask the question.

“Does no one else see the blue-haired ghost girl floating behind Miko right now?”

Chapter Text

Everyone froze.

Ordan, Sora, Pekora, Moona, Aqua, Shion, and Marine all took a very nervous step back from Miko, while Rushia stood her ground.

Miko laughed nervously.

“...What are you talking about?”

Rushia blinked.

“I can see the dead, and either that ghost is entirely unrelated to the story we’ve been told, or we might wanna consider running away. Though, she does seem rather docile, given she’s just floating there menacingly.”

Miko slowly turned around, and then turned back to the crowd that was now staring at her in bewilderment, and then back around.

“This has…” Miko replied, “...become a difficult situation. Sui-chan, can you please go back into the shrine? Can you let me have this moment?”

An awkward moment of silence followed, to which no one really knew how to react. Miko wasn’t talking like someone deathly afraid of dying, but was talking like the ghost was an old friend.

Ordan was the first to point this out.

“...Sui-chan? That sounds like a nickname for…”

Miko nodded nervously.

“Her name is Hoshimachi Suisei, and she’s the comet. She’s here.”

Miko extended one arm, and in her hand, conjured her gohei (1), before posing against the ghost that only she and Rushia could see, as if she was ready to fight.

Suisei smirked, speaking in a voice that only Miko and Rushia could hear.

“You can’t do it. If you could do it, you would’ve sealed me for good years ago. But you can’t, and now you’re in quite a bind yourself. Almost as much of a bind as your predecessors put me in.”

Several tense, utterly silent seconds spanned between the group.

Suisei sighed, tired of waiting for the conversation to continue.

“Let’s make things interesting.”

She floated over to the patch of blue roses.

She snapped her ghostly fingers, and with it, a massive beam of light emerged from the sky, crashing down into the ground around her. When the light cleared, Suisei’s ghostly form had shifted almost imperceptibly to the two who could see her; her ghostly form almost seemingly now glowing.

The bigger change was for everyone else; Suisei had made herself visible.

Rushia’s eyes widened. The show of power was rather indirect, but she had lived long enough to see many, many kinds of spirits, and she knew that the ghost in front of them was one of the most powerful beings that Rushia had ever seen. She stood her ground. Rushia was scared, but at the same time, as long as her family was still in the vicinity she wasn’t going to budge an inch, not even to the dreaded spirit known as the comet.

Aqua stepped back, and then ran behind Shion, who had both arms raised, though she had no actual plan for fighting the ghost.

Suisei smiled.

“I’m back.”

Silence reigned over the shrine grounds yet again.

Miko was the first to break the silence, as she began crying.

“Sui-chan, please…”

Suisei laughed.

“So, you wanna tell everyone what happened or should I? Because, Mikochi, I don’t think you can avoid the truth you’ve hidden from them for the past few years.”

Ordan and Sora both looked at each other.

“The truth?” Sora asked.

Ordan, on the other hand, just frowned.

“You never sealed Suisei away at all. You used the fact that none of us could see her, combined with the fact that the sealing ceremony is private, to lie to all of us.”

Suisei smirked.

“I said it to Mikochi, but I suppose I should say it now where everyone can hear it: Miko isn’t strong enough to seal me away. If she was, she would’ve done so years ago. But she’s wrapped around my little finger nowadays-Ow!”

Miko whacked Suisei with her gohei, looking unimpressed. Despite being a ghost, the attack connected.

“Stop that. I mean, you’re right, I never sealed you away in the first place, but you don’t have to humiliate me in the process!”

“What I don’t get,” Ordan replied, “is how you managed to hide this fact. How on Earth did you keep Suisei peaceful? I figured that she’d be in the process of getting her revenge the moment she escaped.”

Now it was Miko’s time to smirk. She snapped her fingers, and appearing from her was what looked like a glowing ethereal string that connected both Miko and Suisei.

“I wasn’t powerful enough to seal her, but I was powerful enough to restrict her.”

Rushia raised a finger.

“Ah, a spirit tether. It’s been a while since I’ve seen one of those - I don’t deal with spirit magic directly all that much nowadays - but that will prevent Suisei from floating too far away from you, and it’s especially notable for being one of the few spells for which the death of the caster doesn’t disrupt the spell.”

Ordan’s eyes widened.

“Wait, does that mean the real reason you’ve never left the shrine was simply to prevent Suisei from paying us an untimely visit?”

Miko nodded.

“Yes. She was very angry when I released her. But as long as I’m kept here on the grounds of the Sakura shrine, she can’t escape.”

Suisei nodded in confirmation.

“And because the tether isn’t severed by death, if I kill her, then she’ll go off to the afterlife and take me with her!”

Marine paused, thought about it, and decided to take a shot in the psychological dark.

“Oh, so the terrifyingly powerful spirit known as ‘the comet’ is scared of moving on and moving to the afterlife? I figured you’d fit right in with the underworlders.”

Suisei blinked.

“First off, I can’t believe you’re willingly taunting me, and second off: Mikochi hasn’t figured out how to undo the tether, which means you’d be throwing her down there with me, and lord knows that while I’m definitely going to the fires below, I’m not dragging her down with me.”

Marine smirked.

“Ah, so you feel bad for poor Mikochi. Wait, Mikochi? You call her by an affectionate nickname? Ah, to be young and in-”

Suisei facepalmed, as did Shion and Rushia.

“Can I just blast her already?” Suisei asked in annoyance.

“Please don’t.” Miko replied, “I’m trying to hide the fact I never sealed you away.”

Suisei shrugged.

“Not much chance of that happening now.”

“Did Suisei, the dreaded comet,” Ordan asked, bewildered, “just ask your permission to start attacking others? I…”

Sora continued the thought: “...you don’t get it?”

Suisei smiled, this smile not infused with the usual background malice.

“I think many of you are close, actually. Even the pirate, as much as I hate to admit it.”

Sora smiled equally warmly.

“You actually care about Miko. For all of the grief we’ve given her, our Sakura Miko did something that none of her namesake ancestors could pull off.”

Ordan breathed heavily.

“You’ve changed. The tales I’ve heard all talk about both your melancholy in life, and your subsequent anger in death. Are you really the same spirit that once terrorized us?”

Suisei shrugged.

“Yeah. Despite the fact that the beginning of my tale was hundreds of years in the making, the ending is far longer, despite it being merely a few. I’ll skip the details, because I don’t feel you deserve to hear them, but here’s the part that’s relevant to you in particular: I’m done with the anger. Yeah, I’m still bitter, and if you go out of your way to annoy me you’ll regret it, but Miko did something that none of you guys even came close to doing: she made me realize that I can’t be angry forever. It’s destructive, and you know, it’s not fulfilling, to be honest. It’s ultimately a hollow satisfaction, and I want something more than that.”

She paused.

“Wanna know why I kept Mikochi around? The real reason I chose to let her live at the shrine instead of tormenting her until she essentially became my unwilling host? The reason why I’d go so far as to actually care about what she wants?”

She smiled.

“It’s because, unlike everyone before her, including every priestess with her name, she actually wanted what was best for me as well. She treated me with respect, not with fear.”

Miko continued: “I risked everyone’s lives just to talk with Sui-chan the first time. The real truth is that, when I said I wasn’t strong enough to seal her, that was because I don’t have the strength to seal away a spirit that isn’t evil. Suisei might be scary, but I promise you that she isn’t going to hurt you. I’m sorry for lying to you, but I knew the people of Mizuho would never accept what I had done.”

Sora stared at Miko, and frowned.

“You’re probably correct. But it doesn’t mean your self-imposed imprisonment has to continue.”

Suisei shrugged.

“It’s a safety precaution, though to be honest, I’m really outta practice with my powers, so I might actually not be as deadly as you might think I am right this instant, even if I wanted to be.”

Sora nodded.

“But that doesn’t necessarily mean you were right to lie to everyone, or to keep it up as long as you have.”

A new voice interrupted, this belonging to a relatively young woman with dark blue hair.

“It was morally wrong but the fact is that Miko’s in a lot of trouble right now anyway, so I think she wasn’t wrong to try and hide it.”

Sora turned her head.

A-chan. Nice to see you here.”

“I’m afraid I can’t say the same.” A-chan replied, “The word got out about what you did, and let's just say it’s a controversial subject. Some are hailing you as a hero. Unfortunately, some are also calling for your execution.”

Ordan sighed.

“Ikaki.”

A-chan nodded.

“Ikaki. Unfortunately, she has enough influence that, while I doubt that her call to kill Miko will actually go through with the people, the fact of the matter is that the ensuing controversy will likely put Miko at risk anyway, especially if she stays here.”

“Damn that village elder.” Ordan replied. “For those who aren’t from here: she’s a little harsh in her views, and she’s going to be our biggest issue.”

Suisei snarled, but before she could speak, Miko interrupted.

“Sui-chan, please don’t. I know you’re probably getting close to being angry again, but please, just don’t. I know that Mizuho failed you once before, but everyone you’re angry at is long since dead. You have to give them a chance, just as I did.”

Sora and A-chan both stared at Miko in disbelief.

Miko smiled.

“There’s no point in trying to hide it. If word is out, then I should just be honest about it.”

Pekora, who had up until now stayed out of the conversation, interjected: “Miko-chan, please, stay safe. I don’t want our first meeting in years to end with you dying.”

Ordan frowned.

“I know you’re friends, but before you get involved: while it was a foreigner who revealed this issue, this is, strictly speaking, an internal politics issue. As a princess of another country, if you get involved in this, that’s an incident that might get really ugly for other people.”

Miko smiled.

“Don’t worry, Peko-chan. As for you, Sui-chan, you might want to go back to being invisible; I’ll give the signal of when I need you again. I’m not scared.”


Back in the town of Mizuho proper, the streets were cleared, people being politely shuffled to the sides to make way for those who were arriving.

Kanata quickly snatched Luna and moved her away from the crowd.

First duty of the Hollow Force: keep Hime-sama out of danger.

“I’m taking you back to the Lunar Light. I know you were having fun, but-”

“I get it.” Luna interrupted. “But isn’t everyone still-”

“We’ll worry about them later. First duty of the Hollow Force is to protect you in specific.” Kanata replied.


Back on the Lunar Light, the guests still aboard were starting to notice the commotion in the coastal town.

Takane Lui looked around, noticing Kanata carrying Luna in her arms, followed by Noel and Flare quickly running back to board the ship as well.

“I take it we want to leave as soon as possible, given Kanata just brought the princess back aboard without the usual due process and long goodbyes, and you two are back already.”

“Not yet.” Kanata replied, “There’s a controversy going around town, and I just wanted to make sure Hime-sama wasn’t caught in the crossfire. We’re pretty sure this is strictly an internal country matter that we just picked the worst time to arrive at. Besides, we still need to get all of our guests back onto the Lunar Light. First duty might be to the princess but I’ll be damned if we leave anyone stranded in a foreign nation.”

Noel and Flare nodded.

“We’re getting outta there as fast as possible,” Noel replied, “which means the only people left are Pekora, Moona, Watame, Towa, and the Houshou family. Should we run back?”

Lui shook her head.

“I don’t think this is going to turn deadly.”

Iroha nodded.

“I’ll keep on standby, just in case. How do you think it’s going to play out?”

Kanata shrugged.

“I dunno, trying to predict the outcomes of messy politics is more everyone else’s thing.”

Meanwhile, Gura, Ina, and Amelia all walked towards the edge of the ship, leaning over the railing and looking over at the commotion.


“Silence!”

Ordan, true to his introductory word, was clearly in charge, and his word was clearly respected. With a single command, every observer to the group consisting of himself, Sora, A-chan, and of course, Sakura Miko, dropped their conversations and simply watched as the four of them walked towards the harbor.

Hidden in the crowd was Pekora, and Moona, who were shadowing the four. Also hidden in the crowd but further ahead were Watame, Towa, Anya, and Reine, the latter two of who were making their way back to the Azure Sky. The Houshou family was also present, and was making a beeline for the Lunar Light.

Watame and Towa, on the other hand, had chosen to stay just a bit longer. Kanata has gotten the princess out of danger, and between Towa, who was a naturally very powerful devil, and Watame, who could simply regenerate from anything short of the wrath of the gods, the two of them didn’t feel in too much danger, especially since the commotion didn’t seem to be over something they did.

The group consisting of Ordan, Sora, A-chan, and Miko walked forward. As Miko had requested, Suisei had remained entirely incorporeal.

They found their path blocked by another person; this one an older woman, though not so old that her hair had started naturally graying out; it was still mostly black, and she wore a scowl on her face.

“Traitor priest Sakura Miko. I suppose you wish to explain yourself.”

Ordan intervened.

“Ikaki, no matter your opinion on our priestess, calling her a traitor is a bit much, given-.”

“She had one and only one duty as the priestess of the Sakura shrine: seal the comet away. And she not only failed to do so, but she outright took the ghost’s side instead of ours. She sided with the ghost, Ordan, and for that-”

“You should respect her.” Sora interrupted, “Because Hoshimachi Suisei - that’s the ghost’s name - isn’t going to unleash her rage, despite her release. If Miko-chan says that Suisei has changed, then I’m willing to believe her.”

Ikaki frowned, an act made more impressive by the fact that she was already frowning, meaning her already-present frown deepened.

“Do you think I trust the words of a traitor? The ghost has historical records of being a horrific monster that killed many. We have only the words of a little girl that she’s changed.”

“Then why hasn’t Sui-chan attacked us right here and now?” Miko replied, “She could, in theory. Hell, why hasn’t Sui-chan ever attacked me? Because she’s never once tried to kill me, despite being spiritually tethered to me.”

Ordan blinked.

“I thought that’s because the tether persists post-mortem, so it’d be counterproductive.”

Ikaki shrugged.

“She was only particularly aggressive during winter months. That said, let’s assume our traitor priest isn’t lying for now, because apparently both Sora and Ordan have seen the ghost, and it’d be a folly to call them both liars given their history with Mizuho. Let me just ask a better question: why do you trust the ghost? Why would you trust one of history’s deadliest beings?”

Miko frowned.

“Because one normal conversation accomplished what five hundred years of sealing her away didn’t. She only attacked Mizuho because she was angry. And she isn’t angry anymore. But it’s not like I just gave her free reign. That’s why I imprisoned myself at the shrine: to make sure everyone was safe from Sui-chan. But if you aren’t going to trust her even when she’s with me, then I might as well give up on keeping her at the shrine. That’s why I’m here, talking to you.”

Ikaki paused.

“I suppose when you put it that way, it makes sense. Still, you lied to everyone, including your friends and to Mizuho’s elders, such as myself and Ordan. And you know, consider what the spiritual tether means, if it works as you say it does.”

Miko and Ikaki stared at each other for several tense seconds, until suddenly, Miko started crying nearly silently.

“I understand.”

And with that, she simply kept walking, her destination set to the harborfront.

Ikaki followed Miko.

“Where do you think you’re going?”

Miko shrugged.

“Away from here. I’ll take Sui-chan with me. If nobody wants to give her a second chance…”

Sora put a hand on Miko’s shoulder.

“Miko-chan, please. Ikaki’s wrong about you, about Sui-chan.”

“Sora.” Ordan replied. “I know you don’t want to admit it, but this might be the best outcome for all of us. For the record: I do not consider Miko a liar.”

Sora turned away from Ordan in a silent display of tranquil rage, and kept following Miko.

A-chan sighed.

“I’ll make sure Sora’s okay.”

And then she followed Sora.

Ikaki followed, as well as Ordan. The crowd watching followed behind, but kept a much larger distance.

As they reached the dock, Miko stopped, and then turned around to see two things: The first was that all four of the people she had just tried to symbolically walk away from had followed her.

The second was that her next step would be falling off of the dock and landing in the water.

“Okay, so this running away thing might be difficult given, well…”

“Actually, you’ve made a good point in all of this.” Ikaki replied. “After all, if you die and are sent to the afterlife, presumably the ghost would be sent with you.”

And with that, she drew a sword. It wasn’t a full-sized Katana; it was much closer to a long dagger. Still, it was a deadly weapon in the right hands, and lethal intent was a pretty obvious inference to make with her drawing it.

Sora took a defensive stance, despite being entirely unarmed and untrained in hand-to-hand combat.

“You can’t be serious.” Ordan replied in a serious voice. “I understand your hatred of the ghost - though she has never directly harmed you - but to kill an innocent girl for it? Is your hatred that all-consuming?”

“This is for the good of Mizuho! We’ve waited a thousand years to put this threat to rest permanently and we have an easy way to do it now. Are you really going to stop me?”

Ordan frowned.

“I didn’t think I’d need to bring a blade with me today. That said, if you try, then understand that you will feel the consequences for it, both legally but also very spiritually.”

Miko, with nowhere to go, got down to her knees, putting her hands together and closing her eyes.

Sora and A-chan’s eyes widened, before they looked at each other briefly.

Is she praying?

“I’m so sorry, Ikaki, but I don’t want to die.” Miko cried. “Sui-chan, please save me…!”

And in that moment, a brilliant beam of light shot up into the sky, right between the five of them. A silhouette emerged; this one visible to everybody. As the light cleared, the silhouette cleared up into what looked to be a girl only slightly older than Miko with blue hair.

Ordan and Ikaki looked on in total horror.

The figure that had been conjured into existence was unmistakably that of Hoshimachi Suisei. This time, however, she wasn’t here for polite conversation. She extended an arm, and in it a glowing single-bladed battle axe appeared.

She then looked around. If looks could kill, half of the spectators would’ve dropped dead.

Suisei turned to address Miko, suddenly smiling far too innocuously for her appearance.

“All you had to do was ask, Mikochi.”

Chapter Text

Suisei turned around, facing Sora, A-chan, Ordan, and Ikaki.

Sora spoke first, without an ounce of fear in her voice, staring down the axe-wielding figure in front of her.

“Sui-chan.”

“Are you implying you’re close to me?” Suisei replied.

Sora thought about it.

“Not really. But I’m treating you as a friend, anyway.”

Suisei took a single step forward towards the four.

“Sui-chan,” Miko pleaded, “please don’t get angry. Please.”

Suisei smiled again, this time without any innocence to it.

“Too late.”

Ordan sighed, and walked forward.

“Please, Suisei. I don’t wish to see my people die.”

Suisei frowned.

“Neither do I, to be honest, but you’re making it look enticing. Mikochi asked me to save her, and I’ll do it, even if it means going through all of you. Now move aside; you know who I want to talk to.”

Ordan frowned, and took a solid step to the side.

Suisei grinned.

“Ah, Ikaki. Anything you wish to say before things go very badly for you? Because you really shouldn’t have pushed Mikochi like that.”

“I was right.” Ikaki replied contemptuously. “You are still the same horror we sealed all those years ago. Miko was a traitor for assuming better, though, in retrospect, was also young and foolish. I still stand by what I said.”

Suisei glared at Ikaki, and took another step forward.

“Are you sure that you want to be speaking ill of the only person who can spare your life? Because trying to kill Mikochi is the reason you’re in this mess. You’re not giving me any reasons to stop, after all. Aren’t you scared? Aren’t you going to beg for mercy?”

Ikaki breathed heavily.

“Begging for mercy makes me angry.”

Suisei looked curiously at the woman in front of her.

“Same here, to be honest. The people of Mizuho treated me like the most dangerous being in existence, thinking they had to seal me to prevent my rampage. But they had seen what I’d done to them; they had good reason to try. You were handed an opportunity to fix the mistakes of your predecessors, but instead you wanted to execute the one girl who honestly wanted to try to make things better for everyone.”

She raised her axe.

“This is simply the just fate of the foolish.”

And with that, she ran forward, preparing to bring her weapon down on Ikaki.

Only to instead run into a magical light barrier that had formed between the two of them.

Amane Kanata had entered the fray, and had suddenly dropped in from above.

Suisei eyed her new opponent.

“What are you doing?”

“Stopping you from doing something foolish.” Kanata replied, “Seriously, these people are defenseless against you. It’s meaningless slaughter, and while I don’t have an obligation to these people, I’m still not going to just let you do that.”

Suisei snarled.

“So, what, are you actually going to fight me? Do you know how that generally ends for most people?”

Kanata smirked.

“Try me.”

And with that, Suisei swung her axe again, only for it to once again get blocked by another barrier of light.

“My turn now.”

Kanata swung out her fist, and in a single strike, sent Suisei into the ground, disarming her in the process. Suisei’s weapon faded out of existence, being a mere conjuration of her rage.

“You’ve made a terrible mistake, ghost. You might be the terror of Mizuho, but the fact of the matter is that you’ve never had an opponent who was stronger than you.”

Kanata then struck Suisei with such force as to send her flying into the air. Not being done with that, she then flew faster than she had thrown Suisei, catching up to her and grabbing her.

“The sad part is that I believe that you’re a better person underneath it all. You’re just upset. Though, really, I’m not afraid of you, and not just because I believe in you being a better person. I’m not afraid of you because I’m stronger than you.”

Suisei grinned.

“Oh, so you’re one of the few opponents I have that force me to use my true powers. You made a pretty foolish decision in trying to physically restrain a ghost, after all!”

And with that, her body faded to her translucent ghost form, going incorporeal.

And then nothing happened.

“As someone from the afterlife,” Kanata explained, “I can entirely extend my powers to restrain spirits from the afterlife. And I’m very strong, so enjoy struggling while you can.”

And with that, she flew downwards, Suisei still in her arms.

Suisei struggled uselessly.

Kanata continued smirking remarkably insufferably.

“The people of the Lunar Kingdom tend to remember that my best friend is a dragon. What history has left out is that I did fight her when we first met. And she wasn’t the winner of that confrontation. Despite the size difference, I took her out with remarkably similar strategies to what I used on you.”

“Okay, so maybe I have to really try.” Suisei replied.

Kanata sighed.

“Well, maybe you’ll be stronger than the last person I gave this treatment to.”

She tightened her grip on Suisei.

The ghost screamed in pain.

Kanata shrugged, and reaffirmed her grip. About a minute consisting of Suisei crying out in pain later, Kanata finally let the ghost go.

“Oh, now’s a good time to mention that I kinda forgot to hold back. Usually I warm up a little before going that far, but I felt that speed was somewhat of the essence.”

“Honestly,” Suisei said while breathing heavily, “I kinda figured that. Just who are you?”

“Amane Kanata, angel of the Hollow Force, first defender of Princess Himemori Luna. If it’s worth anything, the real reason you got destroyed so badly was that you made the mistake of assuming I was harmless; and I simply used the opening to end the fight as soon as possible. You probably could’ve gone evenly with me if you fought more cautiously.”

“Fair enough.” Suisei replied. “This feeling is strange, though. I’m ready for round 2, though, and I’m not up for making the same mistakes twice. Are you ready?”

Kanara shook her head.

“I don’t feel like it. The bad news for you is that I’m not the only member of the Hollow Force, and I’m the angel.”

Towa stepped out from the crowd, and underneath her feet a spell circle formed.

“I’m Tokoyami Towa, devil of the Hollow Force.”

And with that, she extended her hand, and immediately zapped Suisei with a bolt of red lightning, knocking her down in the first round of combat.

“And to think you guys all thought I was an angel. Bad news: you have a devil saving your asses right now, so maybe you should all think about your feelings and stereotypes about how devils operate.”

The crowd watching, while somewhat dispersed now, was visibly shocked at the revelation.

Towa conjured her pitchfork.

“You’re not the only one who can do the fancy spirit weapon thing. Here’s mine.”

And she charged, ready to impale Suisei.

All of a sudden, a new voice joined the fight: that of Sakura Miko.

“Stop! Please!”

Suisei blinked, as did both Kanata and Towa.

“I don’t want to die...” Miko continued, “...but I don’t want to lose you, either.”

Miko walked up to Suisei, and then bent down to help Suisei stand up again. As soon as the two of them were standing, they quickly hugged each other.

“I don’t know how to describe how I feel…” Suisei explained. “...I thought I hated people. But then I met you, and I can’t explain it, but I just feel so attached to you, and I don’t mean by our spirit tether. It’s a strange feeling of what I guess I’d call attraction to you.”

Miko cried.

“I understand. Sui-chan, please, it’s not worth it. Let’s just go. If you love me, then let’s just go.”

The two of them released each other from their arms, and walked back to the pier to once again view the wider ocean.

Ordan followed.

“I’m sorry, Suisei.”

“No, don’t be.” Suisei replied. “You care about your people, and I am a threat, no matter how you spin it. That you had both an angel and devil randomly here at the right time and place is the only reason no blood was spilled. That said, if you want my honest advice, get rid of Ikaki. That level of attitude is almost as bad as mine when I’m angry.”

Ikaki walked up to the pair.

And then, in a surprising motion, dropped her dagger in front of her feet.

“What do you want?”

Suisei smiled.

“I want what’s best for Mikochi. If that means killing, then I’ll do it. If that means letting go of my anger and making something better of my spirithood, then that too. Mostly? I just feel like insulting you, because seriously, most of this incident is kind of your fault. Though, if you need to punch me, I don’t mind.”

“Really?”

Suisei snapped her fingers, and her body faded to a translucent, incorporeal form.

“I mean, your fist will go right through me, so you’ll look stupid for trying.”

Ikaki eyes’ narrowed, staring at her target.

“I’ve got a better idea.”

Ordan, Sora, and A-chan all ran towards Ikaki to try and stop her.

Ikaki ran right through Suisei’s ghostly body, and then shoved Miko right off the pier.

For a brief moment, time seemed to stop for Sakura Miko. The force of gravity had overtaken her, and try as she might, Sakura Miko couldn’t defy it. Instead, all she could do was taken in the horrified faces of those in her sight. There was Suisei, who looked like she was ready to kill, followed by Ikaki, who looked contemptuously proud of what she had done, to Ordan, Sora, and A-chan, who all looked horrified, to Pekora and Moona in the background, who were desperately running after the shrine maiden.

All of that lasted a fraction of a second before Miko’s view turned to the sky.

And the fall wasn’t much longer, before Miko hit the water with a splash.

The first thing she was aware of was the sheer cold of the water; it hit with a powerful shock that practically froze Miko’s ability to respond.

The second thing was that she didn’t know how to swim. She had no reason to ever learn, given her occupation.

And so, she reached out to the surface as she descended further into the water.

Sui-chan, I’m so sorry…

On the surface, Suisei also had her own moment of suspended time, watching Miko descend into the water, watching the splash as she went under.

She had never wanted to kill anyone in her existence as much as Ikaki did. But she also understood there was no time, and thus, the following actions were carried out nearly instantly.

The first was quickly running to the edge of the pier. The second was taking a brief moment to fire a blue beam of magic at Ikaki. By Suisei’s standards, it was incredibly weak, which meant it knocked out Ikaki on the spot but most likely wouldn’t leave lasting damage. The third was turning back into her physical form; she needed to grab Miko. The fourth was jumping off the pier, following Miko into the water with a splash.

Sora ran up to the edge, only to be pulled back by A-chan.

“Sora! You are not jumping after her!”

Meanwhile, in the water, Miko felt a pair of arms grab her. She relaxed in the arms of Suisei.

I’ll go to the underworld with you, Sui-chan…

It was at this point that Suisei realized she didn’t know how to swim either.

Please, Mikochi, not like this…

She felt a pair of tentacles wrap around both her and Miko.

Ina, who had jumped into the water to meet them, smiled. She raised her hands, and then cast a teleport spell.

Chapter Text

The first thing Miko did upon regaining consciousness was shiver. It was an involuntary reflex, and it was because she felt cold.

The second thing she did was notice the bed and blankets she was sleeping in. These weren’t her own at the Sakura shrine; those had a very specific feel and even a smell to them, one that Miko wouldn’t have noticed on its own but was now somewhat missing. In part with those surroundings, she also noticed that the robe she was wearing wasn’t her own; she knew the feel of her own shrine maiden outfit and this wasn’t it.

The scent of seawater was the next thing she noticed. The air was that tiny bit salty that reminded Miko of the few times she had gone overseas to visit Pekora when she was a young child.

The voice of someone she didn’t recognize hit her ears.

“...hmm?”

Finally, Miko opened her eyes, taking in the sight of a room she hadn't seen before. Her shrine maiden outfit was hanging up on a wall, and currently present in the room were two people, one of whom she had met and another of whom she had not.

The first was the ghostly form of Suisei, who replied in a relieved tone of voice.

“Oh thank goodness you’re alright.”

Miko missed Suisei’s smile. Not the murderous smile she made right before deciding to destroy someone, but the innocent smile of someone who was just happy to be in the company of one another.

However, before she smiled, Miko noticed that Suisei had also given Miko a different expression: one of genuine worry. It was a face that Miko had never seen Suisei make before, and while Suisei was trying to hide it, clearly whatever happened in the last however long it had been wasn’t good.

Wait a second…

The second person was a demon. She had black horns, black wings, but blonde hair and a healer’s outfit.

“To answer the questions you probably already have before you ask: my name is Yuzuki Choco, and I’m your healer for now. You’re onboard the Lunar Light, the royal vessel of the Lunar Kingdom, and we’re heading towards Pekoland. You’ve been out for several hours, though part of that was magically-induced sleep on my end as waking up in the middle of a medical procedure is never pleasant. Sorry about not getting your consent to do that, but we didn’t want to risk it with how cold you were.”

Miko curled up in bed.

“I remember being underwater. Oh god, everyone I know probably thinks I’m dead now.”

Choco nodded.

“Okay, good, we can cross out memory loss as a potential problem. As for the second issue, don’t worry about it. This ship is how Pekora got to you, and she’s still aboard. And, of course, due to being tethered, Suisei is right here with you. You’re probably wondering what the Hell - funny given where I’m from - happened while you were out, and I promise we’ll get to that, but for now, just focus on resting. Do you want to see your friends right now?”

Miko nodded slowly.

Choco smiled.

“Oh, good, because you have quite the following. I’ll see you shortly; you and your lover should take this moment to quickly catch up.”

And with that, she walked out of the room, closing the door to their room.

Suisei blinked.

“...lover?”

“I don’t know. But I want to spend the rest of my life with you.”

“...are you sure that’s not just because you don’t have a choice? Are you sure you wouldn’t just run away from me the instant you are free?”

Miko shook her head.

“I wouldn’t. I like you. I want you to be part of my life.”

“I’m not a good person, Mikochi. Falling in love is one thing, but falling for me is…” Suisei said nervously, “...maybe not a good idea. I almost killed someone yesterday.”

“You did it to protect me, though.”

Suisei sighed.

“I don’t know. I don’t know how to deal with the idea of being attracted to someone. To find out there exists a human that not only I don’t want to kill, but would do anything to make happy. At the same time, our shared spirit tether I suppose makes our relationship inevitable, but…”

“You think I love you because I had no other choice.”

“Yeah. I mean, you kinda don’t. Hell, maybe you would’ve hooked up with that rabbit girl if it wasn’t for me.”

Miko laughed.

“We’re childhood friends, and I did have a crush at one point, but Peko-chan doesn’t see me that way. You, on the other hand…”

She smiled slyly.

Suisei paused.

“Gimme just a sec.”

And with that, she turned incorporeal, and floated straight through the door to their room. What followed, from Miko’s perspective, was a rather amusing exchange.

“So,” Suisei said amusedly, “eavesdropping on a private conversation, are we?”

“Wah!”

“Sorry, watching you two reminded me of my old pirate days. It’s precious, honestly.”

“I told you guys peko-ing on them was a bad idea!” (1)

“Watame wa warukunai yo ne!” (2)

The door opened once again, this time with two familiar faces behind it: Usada Pekora and Yuzuki Choco, alongside three others that Miko didn’t recognize.

The purple haired priestess bowed.

“I go by Ina. I’m the priestess of the ancient ones. I dived into the water and brought you two up to the Lunar Light. It’s a lot of fun using my powers to save lives rather than end them.”

Suisei bowed.

“Thank you so much for saving Mikochi.”

Ina shrugged.

“It was a team effort. Choco saved Miko from hypothermia.”

Choco nodded.

“Or, to use common words rather than the fancy term, being dangerously cold. That’s why you’ve been wrapped up in blankets.”

“Thank you.” Miko replied. “Who’s the pirate lady?”

“Ahoy! I’m Houshou Marine. Former pirate, technically; I work for the order of Shirogane now; as much as I enjoyed the pirate life I’ll feel terrible putting my children through that. If you’ve heard of the Houshou Pirates - back when they were a thing - then, yes, I was the captain. And, yes, I was eavesdropping on you two because young love is precious like that. Do you know how cute it was to watch Suisei fussing over you?”

Suisei glared at Marine.

“I wasn’t fussing. I was merely worried.”

“You were totally fussing over Miko while she was sleeping. That said, I don’t really have much of a stake in this conversation, so I’ll leave you to it.”

And with that, she turned around and left.

Ina paused.

“I don’t think I’m strictly necessary either, to be honest.”

And then she vacated the room.

Finally, the girl with the sheep horns introduced herself.

“I’m Tsunomaki Watame, sheep of the Hollow Force, and generally the speaker for the group as a whole. I’m afraid to admit it, but you’ve been exiled from your home; Mizuho doesn’t want you back. Or, more appropriately, Mizuho really doesn’t want Suisei back. She’s terrifying.”

“That’s funny.” Suisei replied, “I recall losing extremely badly against both the angel and the devil from your group, so I hardly think you guys have any right to call me that.”

“That says very little, though. Kanata’s best friend is a dragon of whom she’s successfully fought, and Towa literally grew up in the lowest regions of the underworld. In the grand scheme of things, you’re still incredibly scary; it’s just that it’s a pretty big world outside of your little home of Mizuho, and there are beings that even you should be wary of picking a fight with.”

Suisei smiled.

“Thanks for the compliment.”

“Um, not to interrupt,” said Miko, “but what actually happened while I was drowning?”

Suisei paused.

“Surprisingly enough, I only sort of know. Here’s my part of the story…”


Earlier...

Ina teleported to one of the hallways of the Lunar Light with Miko and Suisei with her, all three of them soaking wet from having been underwater.

“Is anyone here?”

“Miko’s currently unconscious!” Suisei shouted out loud.

A couple footsteps later, Yuzuki Choco rounded the corner.

Despite the weird sight of Ina and two girls she didn’t know suddenly being aboard the Lunar Light, Choco had a sense of duty, and she was going to rescue the two girls that were currently soaking wet that weren’t a priestess for the ancient ones who had magic to ward off the effects of being underwater.

Then, the strangest thing happened: the blue-haired girl dematerialized. She seemingly faded out, going from being a physical being to a translucent spirit.

“Hi. I’m Suisei, I’m a ghost with a bunch of crazy powers, and I can ignore physical ailments by dematerializing my physical body. This girl is Miko, and while I know I don’t have the authority to order you around-”

“I’ll see to her condition.” Choco replied, “Healing others is one of the few times where I get to make my own authority on the matter, and I’m invoking that privilege right now.”

She kneeled down, and put a hand on Miko’s forehead.

“She’s cold, but she’s still breathing, meaning that despite her being underwater she didn’t actually drown. Let’s get her to a bed and covered in blankets. Are you comfortable changing Miko’s clothes? I’ll get a spare robe from the closet, but it’s for the best if she’s not dressed in an obviously soaking wet and thus cold outfit.”

Suisei visibly blushed, and then nodded.


“The rest is history. We got you into bed. I was mad, but at this point, it doesn’t matter. I mean, I also knocked Ikaki unconscious before I left, but I’m sure no one minds. You’re safe, and that’s what matters. I’ve spent the entire night beside you.”

Watame smirked.

“Marine was right. You really were fussing over Miko.”

Suisei glared at Watame.

Interrupting both of them was a knock on the door.

The unmistakable voice of Tokino Sora was heard from the other side.

“I heard Miko-chan was awake.”

“I am!”

“Can I come in?”

“Yes!”

The door opened.

Miko smiled brightly.

“Sora-chan! I thought I’d-”

And then the realization of what Sora-chan being in the room meant hit her.

“Wait, Sora-chan, what are you doing here? I’m in exile, while…”

“I’m in exile too, though mine is self-imposed. So is A-chan.”

Miko blinked in shock.

“What happened?”


Earlier…

A shocked moment of silence happened. From Miko’s plunge into the water, to Suisei knocking out Ikaki before shortly jumping into the water after Miko.

Ordan looked upon Ikaki’s unconscious body.

“I’m stripping her of rank and privilege, though I suppose doing so now is pointless, given she isn’t awake for the proceedings. That said, everyone should go back to their homes; this-”

“You killed her.”

A-chan and Ordan both looked at Sora, who had spoken with a calm fury.

She turned around, addressing the people of Mizuho.

“She did more for us than anything else, and you all killed her for it. She talked Hoshimachi Suisei into rejecting her anger. She was so kind, a soul who was willing to be brave and talk to someone new, and you killed her for it. She was a good friend. And you killed her.”

Ordan frowned.

“I suppose, if you wish to leave Mizuho, I will not, by force, prevent you from leaving. We’ll miss you, though. You were a lovely singer and perhaps the kindest soul I’ve ever met. Perhaps, if you were in my position things could’ve been different.”

“I guess it’s too late now.” A-chan spoke contemptuously, “At the same time, however, on a practical level-”

“Nah, Miko’s still alive.”

Sora, A-chan, Ordan, and Pekora, who was winding up to say something but hadn’t gotten a chance to, all stared at Suisei, who had made the claim, and was currently floating beside them.

Suisei continued: “Ina teleported her up to the Lunar Light, and she’s currently sleeping there. I can’t wander very far from the ship, but it’s a short enough distance from the ship that’s currently anchored here to this pier that I can chat. That said, I’m done. I don’t want anything to do with Mizuho, and I’m taking Mikochi with me. She deserves better than this.”

Pekora froze.

“Um, while I’m willing to take Miko-chan with me, I’m not in charge of the Lunar Light, so I can’t make that call.”

“Takane Lui said it’s fine,” Suisei replied, “and she’s in charge of the operation of the Lunar Light, so I’m assuming it’s all fine. It’s final. We’re leaving. I’m assuming Mizuho doesn’t want me back, so I won’t bother you guys anymore. You win; I don’t want Mikochi involved with you guys anymore. She deserves better than this. Goodbye.”

And with that, she floated back to the Lunar Light, and simply phased into the ship.

Moona, Kanata, Towa, and Watame walked up to the pier. Behind them was the Houshou family.

The boarding planks were lowered from the Lunar Light, and those from abroad started to board their ship, ready to go home. First Moona, then the Houshou family, and then Watame, who waited for the previous members to board first.

Towa turned around to address the crowd once more.

“A little tip to you guys: learn to accept that this world is weirder than you think. It’s not impossible for ordinary people to learn spiritual magic. Hell, I’m a devil and I have human friends. Learn to live a little; it might save your life.”

And then she turned around and boarded. Kanata skipped boarding conventionally and just flew up to the top deck of the ship.

Finally, it was Pekora’s turn, and she had her own words.

“Miko-chan was my best friend. I think she’ll be much happier in Pekoland than here. I don’t want to see you guys again.”

A brief moment of silence followed, while Sora watched Pekora board.

And she spoke, asking a question that shocked everyone present: “To those aboard the Lunar Light: do you have room for one more person?”

After a quick pause, Kanata flew back from the ship, giving a thumbs up.

Ordan’s eyes widened.

“Are you serious?”

Sora turned around.

“Yes.”

A-chan took a deep breath.

“I’ll follow her; I’ll just hope they have room for two.”

Ordan nodded.

“Of course you would. That said, Sora, I know my words will likely have no effect on your final decision, but I want to ask you a quick question: do you understand what you’re giving up? You’re exiling yourself. The stability that Mizuho’s provided won’t be there. You’ll be on your own. Are you sure?”

“Yes.” Sora replied, “Besides, I’m not alone. I’m following Miko and Sui-chan, and clearly they have friends. But the truth is, I think they need me more than Mizuho does. And while I’m giving up the stability of my life, I’m gaining precious friends that I don’t want to lose.”

Ordan nodded.

“Okay. I won’t stop you from leaving; at heart you weren’t meant to be held down in a place such as this. Maybe one day we’ll be a place you’ll want to come back to; I understand that right now you wish to no longer associate with us. I promise that Ikaki will get her comeuppance, if being knocked unconscious isn’t enough. The last thing I want to say before you leave is that you are a truly kind soul, and I hope you never lose that. Goodbye.”

Sora nodded politely.

“As much as I’m leaving you people, I think you’re just as kind. It’s not enough to make me stay, but you should also keep your own sense of kindness with you. Goodbye.”

And then she turned to board the Lunar Light, with A-chan following her close behind.


Miko’s jaw dropped.

“You did that for me?”

Sora smiled.

“Of course I did. That, and I wasn’t really kidding. I think you’re much happier knowing that your best friends from Mizuho are getting exiled with you, even if me and A-chan consented to it.”

Miko cried.

“You’re so kind, Sora-chan…”

Sora smiled.

“So are you, given Sui-chan. And, well, she’s kind in her own way too, even if a little harsh at times.”

Suisei smirked.

“That would be the first time aside from Miko herself that anybody’s described me as kind, but hey, I’ll take it. You’re known for being pretty honest, so I assume you mean it. Now, everything said, I’m kinda curious: what are our life plans? Because I’m a ghost who can live anywhere, but Mikochi kinda needs to find a new home, and Sora has decided to foolishly follow her before figuring that step out, which seems a little risky but what do I know? I haven’t been alive for hundreds of years now. A place to sleep is just one of those things I recall being kind of necessary to survival.”

Miko and Sora looked at each other awkwardly.

Pekora, on the other hand, smiled smugly.

“Well, for now, you’re with us, and you’ll be staying with me, just like old times!”

Miko smirked.

“Minus the part where you’ll be introducing your mother to your new girlfriend while I get a separate room for mine?”

Both Pekora and Suisei both blushed at the statement Miko made.

“Don’t say it out loud!” Suisei complained.

“We’re not like that!” Pekora exclaimed, “Just because Moona boarded the Lunar Light with me doesn’t mean we have anything going on! It’s just business talk, I swear!” 

Miko laughed.

“At least I know we’re in good hands for now. I guess I’m sleeping here; where are you guys?”

“I have a room with A-chan right beside this one.”

“I’m a little further down; Moona just moved into my cabin.”

“I guess that makes sense.” Miko replied, “It’s weird. I’m in exile, and probably can’t go back to Mizuho ever again…”

She smiled warmly.

“Yet, I feel like I’m finally going home.”

Chapter Text

Takane Lui landed on the top deck of the Lunar Light, having flown ahead of the ship.

“Pekoland has, as expected, given us the right to dock. Telling them that we’re bringing their long-missing princess home was a surefire way to make a bit of a commotion, but it means we definitely are getting the permissions. While I was at it I also got permission for the Azure Sky, and really I get the feeling that the Pekoland nobility are going to be effectively serving us for the duration of our stay.”

Usada Pekora looked over the bow of the ship, looking ahead at the island nation that was her home, saying nothing but silently smiling. Standing beside her equally silently was Hoshinova Moona, who was, at this point, excited to land somewhere that was likely entirely friendly.

Behind those two was the duo of Miko and Suisei, though as of present Suisei was in her non-physical ghost form. Behind those two, Sora and A-chan.

Below deck were the rest of the guests; in particular, the Houshou family, the Shiranui family, the Yuzuki family, the Hollow Force, and finally Luna and Subaru, who were patiently waiting for the ship to pull into Pekoland’s port.

The decision was unanimous: Pekora was going to be the first person to leave the Lunar Light, and unlike previous adventures, this time she was not getting back on it. Moona would follow, as would Miko, who by necessity would be taking Suisei with her. From that point onwards, it would pretty much be a free-for-all.

For Pekora, the proceedings all seemed to happen in a blur. What had been a distant longing to finally return home turned into incredible anticipation, watching the harbor of her home nation getting closer and closer until finally it was time to set foot on her home soil for the first time in months for the rabbit girl.

The harbor was, like Pekora remembered, manned mostly by rabbit people, though there were a few other human-like species mixed in. They were all scurrying about; clearly many were just as excited for Pekora’s return as Pekora herself was.

It truly was home.

Pekora had already gathered what few personal belongings she had with her, watching the boarding planks being lowered slowly to the ground. Once the clear was given, she wasted precisely zero seconds, walking out onto the pier.

Moona watched the reaction before following. Pekora was clearly well-known around here, which made sense, being the princess and all, but it was fun watching a large number of relatively young rabbit people practically surrounding Pekora.

The said, the crowd dispersed easily; Pekora clearly wielded a large amount of respect such that the crowd followed her implied orders to let her pass through and keep walking down the pier. Once the space was clear, Moona, and Miko followed, along with Suisei, who was currently in her invisible ghost form. Sora and A-chan followed, while Lui and her crew went below deck to inform everyone that they had arrived.

They didn’t get very far, however, as Moona stopped walking forward, which caused everyone behind her to stop. It was fairly easy to see why, however.

The crowd had dispersed almost entirely off the pier, but one rabbit woman remained standing directly in Pekora’s path. She was clearly a generation older than Pekora, holding herself with an air of elegance that could only come with age. Though her once sky-blue hair had seemingly faded quite a bit with age, it was clear that her own hair had once perfectly mirrored Pekora’s.

Pekora stared at her mother, as her mother stared back at her. A seemingly eternal silence was held just between the two of them.

“You’re finally home…”

“Mama…!”

The two of them walked up to each other. Pekora’s mother didn’t wait; the instant she was in range she wrapped both arms around her daughter, and simply took in the moment.

Time seemed to freeze at that moment. All was entirely silent; nobody even thought about interrupting the reunion, both because it was clearly a heartfelt moment that needed to happen and also because both of the members of said moment were authority figures who could easily punish anyone for doing so.

At the same time, no words were spoken; all feelings were carried through merely by action, and so far Pekora’s mother hadn’t moved.

Moona, Miko, Sora, and A-chan all smiled brightly at the scene. Even Suisei, though she wasn’t visible, was grinning at the moment.

The duo of mother and daughter simply held there for so long that almost everyone else from the Lunar Light deboarded the ship, all taking a moment to appreciate the scene in front of them.

Pekora broke the silence.

“I’m glad to be home.”

Pekora’s mother was simply relieved at once again seeing her daughter safe and sound.

“I’m glad you’re okay, Peko-chan. Lord knows you’re probably excited to sleep in your own bed again.”

“Definitely. I’ve been a little homesick, to say the least. That said, I kinda need to ask you something. Or, more accurately, some friends of mine do.”

Pekora’s mother finally let go, and addressed the now-gathered crowd from the Lunar Light who had been watching the two of them.

“Ah, right, I should actually talk with the rest of you. I hope you don’t mind me taking my time to appreciate my daughter’s return, which is to say that I’m very much in your debt for rescuing her. I can’t thank you enough; if you’re planning on staying here please feel free to come with me to Pekoland Palace itself. Also, you might end up staying for longer than intended; when the bird lady who I’m assuming is running things for you told us you were returning Pekora to us, well, there might be an impromptu small celebration thrown tomorrow. It obviously won’t be anything that large - we’d need more time to plan that - but you are all considered heroes, and if there’s anything you want from us - within reason, at least - then please ask away.”

Miko walked out in front of Pekora, while Suisei invisibly hung around her.

“Um, I’m not part of the group that rescued Peko-chan - in fact, I also got rescued by them, though it’s not related to Peko-chan - but I’m-”

Pekora’s mother smiled brightly.

“Miko-chan! I haven’t seen you for years; lord knows that I practically considered you family.”

Miko smiled.

“Yeah. Well, um, we have a small problem. You see, as of a couple days ago, I’m homeless, as are my closest friends. Let me explain-”

Pekora’s mother wrapped her arms around Miko.

“I’m probably coming off as a little too affectionate but you poor thing. You can stay with us for as long as you need to.”

She let go.

“Though, please explain, as I believe you wanted to do so before I interrupted.”

Miko took a breath.

“The short story is that I was in self-imposed imprisonment at the Sakura Shrine back in my home in Mizuho. The reason was that I believed I’d get exiled if they found out about a little friend of mine who I might have brought with me. They found out, and, uh, I got exiled. And then my best friend from Mizuho joined me in exile, and her best friend joined us in exile. Before you make any claims about taking me in, I do want to introduce the friend that got me exiled, as I actually can’t go anywhere without her tagging along. Sui-chan, can you show yourself?”

Suisei’s ghost faded into its usual translucent form.

“It’s Miko’s shining diamond in the rough, Hoshimachi Suisei, and what Mikochi is leaving out of her story is that I’m a really powerful vengeful spirit who killed a lot of people in the distant past because I was enraged at the fact that I was abandoned and had frozen to death in the winter because nobody took me in. I’m a little less mad now, but I’m still a powerful vengeful spirit. And I’m spiritually tethered to Miko, so if you take her in you can’t avoid me. That said, I don’t need much in the way of sustenance given that, well, I’m kind of a ghost.”

“It’s your choice.” Miko replied, “Sui-chan’s calmed down a lot since then, but she’s also somewhat protective of me. I know that some people wouldn’t want a killer ghost living with them. I mean, I got exiled for it.”

Suisei frowned.

“Hey, I haven’t killed anyone since becoming friends with you. Granted, I was stopped by literal divine intervention, but come on, you could’ve let me kill Ikaki and nobody would be surprised.”

Pekora’s mother smiled almost melancholically.

“I’m sorry that it’s too late to save you now. That said, your appearance would complicate things, as Pekoland’s population can be a little superstitious at times. It doesn’t help that the region is full of actual magic that then justifies said superstitions, but having a formerly vengeful spirit permanently inhabiting the palace would likely cause issues.”

“It’s not your fault.” Miko replied, “If nothing else, I don’t recall Pekoland having an active force of magic users who can deal with spirits, and even if you believe Sui-chan’s harmless - and she’s a good friend to me - having an untouchable and incredibly powerful spirit roaming around is likely a little scary for most people. We can keep looking for somewhere else to take us in. We’ll even stay onboard the Lunar Light if letting us stay in the-”

“You can stay at the palace for now. That goes, by the way, for everyone from your ship; you’re all heroes and if you need a place to rest then we’ll provide it. It’s the least we can do, given that you brought back my daughter and thus our actual princess. If any of the staff have issues with that, they can take them up with me.”

She smiled amusedly.

“Or with my daughter.”

Pekora smiled deviously.

Moona, who was simply watching the interaction, smirked.

Oh, so Pekora’s deviousness is hereditary. Good to know.

“May I introduce myself, then?”

Pekora’s mother turned to face Moona.

“Go right ahead.”

Moona bowed.

“I’m Moona Hoshinova, Pekora’s relatively new business partner.”

Pekora breathed a sigh of relief at Moona deciding to not refer to her as girlfriend.

“...or at least, that’s what Pekora insists on calling me.”

Pekora facepalmed.

“Ah, I’m afraid that Peko-chan isn't the most receptive to romantic advances.” Pekora’s mother replied, “She’s always been like that; I don’t think she even noticed Miko-chan’s crush on her in her early childhood.”

Both Miko and Pekora blushed at the accusations, while Miko joined Pekora in facepalming.

“I never said anything!” Miko exclaimed, “How did you know?!”

Pekora’s mother smirked, to which both Pekora and Miko looked at each other in horror.

Oh no.

“Miko-chan, my dear, you’re many things, but you weren’t subtle. Not that it would’ve helped; I have an eye for these kinds of things, which is why I know that you’ve since moved on from my daughter to making the ghost girl the next target of your affection.”

Miko blushed.

“Well, um…”

“To be fair, I think it’s that said ghost girl who has a harder time dealing with feelings of love, given what she’s told us of her past.”

Suisei glared at Pekora’s mother.

“I said nothing.”

Suisei, instead of blushing, instead faded out into her invisible form.

“Dear, disappearing just makes it more obvious how you feel about Miko-chan. Now, that said, there appears to be a lot of you waiting for us to wrap up, and I shouldn’t hold up the line too much longer. Out of curiosity, if not Miko-chan, who actually rescued my daughter, and how?”

Marine, Shion, Rushia, Noel and Flare all raised their hands.

It’s a long story.” Noel explained, “And while the five of us were involved in your daughter’s rescue, the full situation goes much further than that.”

Chapter Text

The group had arrived at Pekoland palace while Flare finished the story.

“And that’s how we killed him. From there, the crisis was declared over, and, well, we then ran into the problem where we didn’t actually have a ship to return home on. Thankfully for us, the Lunar Kingdom provided that.”

Watame continued: “Himemori Luna was enamored enough by the outsiders that came to visit - even if not coming to visit her in particular - that she decided she wanted to explore the region that the Lunar Kingdom sits in. We used this as an opportunity to pull out the Lunar Light, the royal vessel, of which we’d make a quick trip to Pekoland, then to the Shirogane region, and then back home.”

Iroha bowed apologetically.

“I’m sorry for being an incompetent navigator. We went the wrong way. Twice. It is I who was responsible for your daughter being late on her return to Pekoland.”

Iofi raised a finger.

“Technically, it was my fault the second time. Though I suppose, with that in mind, now would be a good time for everyone to introduce the four different kingdoms who have royalty gathered here.”

Pekora’s mother nodded.

“Then, let’s introduce ourselves formally; as host I’ll go first. Me and my daughter are, as you may know, the relatively popular royalty of Pekoland, even if little Peko-chan gets into a lot of shenanigans. To be fair, the citizens love said shenanigans, so it’s all generally all’s well with that. Anyways, I hope we’re good hosts; my name is also Usada Pekora - the second, to be precise, while my daughter is the third - though, for clarity’s sake, I also go by Yuki, which should prevent confusion. I suppose you can also just call me Peko-mama if you want to. Welcome to the pe-kingdom, I hope you enjoy your stay.”

Pekora cringed at hearing her own mother picking up her peko-puns.

Moona smirked.

“We’re going to see a lot of Peko-chan cringing, aren’t we?”

“I’ll admit,” Yuki stated, “I’m not the best at fitting in with the kids.”

Flare laughed, looking at her own adopted children who were all quietly chatting with each other.

“I sympathize, really. Lord knows I’ve given up on figuring out how Nene or Polka think. I guess me and Noe-chan will introduce ourselves next. I’m Shiranui Flare, and I’m Noe-chan’s partner, wife, elven leader, whatever other titles I officially have; I’ve been with Noe-chan for a while.”

Noel nodded.

“I’m Shirogane Noel, leader of the Shirogane knights, the human military faction that’s allied with the elven territory located east of the Lunar Kingdom. And, yes, elven leader Shiranui Flare is my wife, and as a result the area is technically united under our joint rulership, though to be honest we don’t really intervene with whatever the elves are doing, much like how the elves agreed to let the people from my territory stay in what’s effectively the center of their territory. And then we adopted Yukihana Lamy, which technically means as soon as she comes of age we’ll have both the summer and winter elves united under our banner.”

Yuki nodded.

“Impressive! I’ve only heard tales of the Shirogane knights; it’s a wonder to meet their leader in person. Plus, from what you told us, it was your people who freed my daughter from her kidnappers, so for that I’m most likely going to be eternally grateful.”

Noel’s face remained serious as she replied.

“To be honest, I was just doing my job. And to be honest, if I had done it well, she would’ve been rescued far earlier. I’m just glad that Pekora still had a family to return to; there’s a reason we adopted Lamy. And Polka. And Nene.”

Yuki smiled warmly.

“Sounds like you’ve been quite busy.”

“Don’t get me started. Nene’s quite a handful, though she’s a beacon of joy when she’s happy.”

Yuki nodded.

“Speaking of children…”

She turned around to make eye contact with Himemori Luna, and then bowed down.

“I’m honored to have the princess of the Lunar Kingdom herself grace my presence.”

Luna’s eyes practically lit up at the display of respect.

Towa then immediately ruined the mood: “Wait, aren’t you the Queen? You know, Usada Pekora II and all that. Your daughter is the other princess here, which means technically it’s you gracing Luna with your appearance, if you think about the rank difference.”

Pekora II, less formally known as Yuki, rolled her eyes.

“Let the child have her moment, will you? It’s my palace, and thus my rules.”

Kanata sighed.

“I’m Amane Kanata, angel of the Hollow Force and part of the first defenders of Hime-sama. The person who ruined the mood is Tokoyami Towa, devil of the Hollow Force. We’re mostly lamenting that Luna’s princess-hypnosis works on pekolanders.”

Both women named Pekora laughed.

“Nope,” The younger one replied, “it’s just more pe-convenient to go along with it than to argue with her, especially since we’re not actually her parents. I’m not kidding when I say I’m good with kids; you learn how to read this sort of thing.”

Watame snickered.

“You’ve studied the princess well, then. I’m Tsunomaki Watame, sheep of the Hollow Force. And yes, Hime-sama can be like that sometimes.”

“Hey!” Luna replied, “Don’t talk about me like I’m not here!” (1)

“Of course, Hime-sama. But you do cause trouble for the castle when you’re in a bad mood. It’s one of the things we’re trying to work on. Anyways, you should introduce yourself, too.”

Luna turned back to Yuki, and bowed.

“Naaaaa~! I’m Himemori Luna nanora~!”

Yuki smiled in delight.

“It’s hard to believe that my little Peko-chan was that cute at that age given what she’s like now.”

Pekora buried her face into her hands.

“Why me…?”

“Sorry,” Yuki replied, “but I haven’t had the opportunity to do this for a little while. You made me worry about you, and it’s never a good thing to make your mother worry. That said, I suppose I have to grill your wife-to-be next; I wasn’t expecting you to have anyone with you when you returned, so I’m a little behind schedule here.”

Moona sighed.

“I’m Moona, as you might know, but introducing myself in a formal capacity, I’m, as of a few days ago, an official representative of the Kingdom of the Peafowl. Not that it matters, as I should let our actual leader introduce herself.”

She moved aside, revealing five people behind her: Risu, Iofi, Ollie, Anya, and Reine.

Ollie stepped forward, seemingly uncaring of how a number of rabbit people staffing the palace nervously backed away from her zombified form.

“Hi! I’m KUREIJI OLLIE, the official-wait, Reine. I forgot, did I actually manage to get qualified as officially working for you before I died? I never updated it since getting up from being dead.”

Reine facepalmed.

“I’m Pavolia Reine. And no, you didn’t, but I updated your title posthumously, a decision that I’m starting to regret. You need to understand that I thought that someone who would willingly study international relations would be a little more restrained. Which you were, back when you were alive, but your reanimation was beyond what any of us could’ve seen coming. Oh, and I’m the Lady of the Peafowl, the actual heir to the Peafowl throne, succeeding Lady Pochi. I, uh, hope you aren’t too freaked out by my second in command being an actual zombie. She can be a little overwhelming but I promise that she means well.”

Yuki bowed respectfully.

“Well, then I’ll take your compliment at face value. Advantages of making the rules around here is that the rabbits have to deal with what I say, and if I say you’re guests, they have to treat you as such, even if they’re a little nervous. They’ll warm up, I’m sure; my only request is that you don’t openly flirt with them; some of them are rather shy.”

Ollie froze, while the rest of the people from her kingdom simply stared at her.

Yuki sighed.

“Well, try your best not to make anyone feel too uncomfortable. Is that everybody?”

Takane Lui, from the back, raised her hand.

“No, but it covers all of the foreign royalty; the rest of us aren’t nearly as important in terms of diplomatic relations between our nations. Discounting everyone already here, There’s seven of us who work for the Lunar Kingdom, four citizens from the Shirogane region, and five who are involved in a time-traveling incident that’s related to how we got so far off course, and yes, I said time travel, and no, I don’t get it either. In total there are, including all of the children, thirty-eight of us who are, at some point, planning to depart the vessel, including your child.”

Yuki paused.

“Ah, that’s quite the guest list. The problematic part is we don’t have that many guest bedrooms available, which is a real shame because it would be nice to have everyone in one place for the impromptu celebration we’ll be throwing at basically however long it takes to organize, which might well be tomorrow - Pekolanders can throw together a celebration stunningly quickly for sudden occasions, and this definitely qualifies. Plus, I suppose that there’s a fair chance that some people are going to be staying here permanently, and while I do make the statement of ‘my palace, my rules’ it is going to probably cause some issues if I let people permanently stay at the castle simply because they’re friends of the princess.”

Luna paused.

“...you can’t?”

Watame raised a finger.

“I know we’re infamous for this, but no, we’re not supposed to. And, to be fair, almost everyone who lives at the Lunar Castle does typically have some official title; even if Subaru-chan’s official title is Hime-sama’s officially appointed best friend.”

Luna smiled perhaps a little too smugly.

She then paused, realizing the target of her affection was missing.

“Wait, where’s Suba-chan? And Choco-sensei?”

“She’s at the back, trying to avoid being noticed.” Towa answered, “Along with Choco-sensei.”

“Well get Suba-chan over here nanora~!”

Subaru hung her head in defeat, and walked over to the front of the crowd, alongside the seemingly amused Choco.

Subaru bowed surprisingly gracefully.

“I’m Hime-sama’s officially appointed best friend, Oozora Subaru.”

Luna decided to humiliate Subaru further.

“She’s my future prince!”

Subaru blushed.

“Not yet I’m not!”

Choco smiled brightly, and then bowed next.

“I’m Yuzuki Choco, friendly neighborhood demon and considered by many to be the best healer in the entire Lunar Kingdom. I’m not sure I’m that good, but I am one of the very few healers that can work entirely cross-species; I’ve healed humans, elves, various kemonomimi, and other demons.”

Takane Lui also bowed.

“Right, I’ve yet to introduce myself. I’m Takane Lui, also known as the Lunar Kingdom’s eye in the sky, and my squad - Koyori the coyote, Iroha the samurai, and in the near future Chloe the orca - all work for the Lunar Kingdom. I’m also the soon-to-be-legal guardian for Laplus Darknesss, who’s the demon girl you can probably only see the horns of.”

“I’m not that short!” came the reply from a demon girl in the back that, in fact, had only her horns visible from the front of the crowd.

“She’s like that, but I promise that I’ll try to keep her on best behavior. That’s all of us from the Lunar Kingdom. Is that all?”

Sora raised her hand.

“I’m Miko-chan’s friend from Mizuho, and I’m also exiled, alongside A-chan, also a good friend of mine. And, uh, I didn’t think this through, but I guess I’m also actually homeless now, alongside her. We’ll figure something out.”

All of a sudden, a pair of rabbit girls who were armed with crossbows walked into the room.

“Dread Pirate Houshou Marine and Mage of Violet Murasaki Shion! You’re both under arrest!”

Shion and Rushia facepalmed.

“Ah, there we go.” Marine replied calmly, “I was beginning to think that you guys forgot about us.”

Chapter Text

The rabbit guard that made the arrest call, who had violet hair, paused.

“You seem rather calm about this.”

Marine shrugged.

“This isn’t the first time I’ve had this exact interaction. Now, before we go further, I’m actually curious, what do you have Shion-tan pinned for? I mean, there’s my situation but I thought the policy was always to hold me accountable for the rest of the Houshou pirates, mostly at my own encouragement.”

The other guard, this one black haired, replied: “It’s actually an entirely separate incident, and weirdly enough it’s actually the more serious allegation. There was a little incident a while ago concerning dangerous enchantments that ended with a rather horrifying explosion; this was a few years ago but we figured out who did it. It was frankly a miracle that no one was killed by it; as such your crimes are merely for arson and destruction of Pekoland property.”

Shion’s eyes widened.

“Oh no, I know what she’s referring to; this was before you got me free of my collar. I remember doing this; Uno had an operation that he needed me to erase the evidence for. Which I did. With fire. A lot of fire.”

Marine froze.

“Damn it all. How is it that Uno’s legacy manages to haunt us after we’ve killed him?”

It was subtle, but Polka and Lamy both tensed as Marine spoke the sentence.

Marine continued: “Okay, I’m hardly the most trustworthy source given my past, but I do want to defend Shion-tan’s actions: she was mind-controlled at the time and was not in control of her own body. And, before you ask who was in control, it was the same person who orchestrated Pekora-hime’s kidnapping. We also killed him - well, to be precise, Rushia-chan and Lamy-chan killed him - but otherwise as hard as it is it’s best to consider it a blameless crime. It happened years ago, and it should be easier to forgive given that miraculously nobody got killed from it.”

The black-haired bunny girl put her crossbow down.

Marine breathed a sigh of relief.

“Okay, that’s good. Now, for my crimes, I want to ask a quick question of her majesty first: If I point out that your daughter approved of everything I did, does that get me in more trouble or less? Because I just want to say that Pekora was almost a legitimate business partner. Heck, I went through a lot of trouble to acquire materials that aren’t legally available for sale within Pekoland, which I suppose is what I’m in trouble for.”

Pekora froze in horror, while turning to her mother, who had a deathly polite smile on her face.

“I’ll talk to her about that later.”

The violet-haired rabbit guard nodded.

“You’re being arrested for that and for breaking a poor maiden’s heart.”

Marine paused, and then smiled mischievously.

“Oh, you’re the palace guard I flirted with into not alerting anyone about me all those years ago. Now, before you get too mad, I would like to point out that technically speaking there wasn’t a rule about no flirting with the palace staff when I snuck in. Yes, I’m the reason that rule exists, but I believe Pekoland’s policy is that adding a law does not make it retroactively apply to would-be wrongdoers. Yes, I can get in trouble if I do it now, but it was totally fine back then.”

The guard sighed.

“You’re awful. But you are correct. Of course, you did sell a lot of very questionable magical materials to our princess, which is-”

She froze, realizing what she was about to imply.

“Wait, can I even arrest hime-sama? Like, what do I do now? Oh god, what if I have the mad princess mad at me for ruining the reunion and-”

The two guards turned around and ran away.

“Oh noooooooooo…”

Marine frowned.

“I didn’t even get to the part where I’d point out that I offered both of them a chance to join me on the high seas and that I never actually betrayed them romantically speaking; I believe we parted ways as amicably as possible. Now, for-”

She turned around and met eye-to-eye with a very unimpressed Usada ‘Yuki’ Pekora II.

“Understand that you are walking a thin line here. Normally involving my daughter in illegal matters would normally amplify the severity of the crime quite a bit. But at the same time, even if it was technically illicit and not allowed, you did send my daughter the best birthday gifts.”

Yuki smiled.

“You made her happy, and for that I suppose I can’t be too mad at you. That, and I see the way you look at the witch and the child with the purple hair. I find you infuriating but, in all honesty, I can’t see you as a terrible person. I won’t defend you, but I won’t hang you either.”

Marine smiled.

“I suppose that’s as good as I can get. So, the only thing I now have to ask is if the one remaining family has any trouble they’ve gotten themselves into.”

Calliope sighed.

“Well, we have Ouro Kronii, the actual conceptual goddess of time, rather angry at Amelia - that’s the blonde kid we have here, and she’s from the future - so there’s the existential worry from that, but otherwise I think we’re all safe.”

She turned to the younger Amelia.

“I’ll admit I can’t guarantee your safety with Kronii in the picture, but I promise I’ll do anything I can to try and protect you. At least we have the conceptual goddess of hope helping us.”

And then she turned back to face Yuki.

“Don’t worry about us; our situation deals with timelines and concepts way beyond anything mortals can deal with. It’s pretty firmly our problem to deal with.”

Yuki sighed.

“I suppose I should just focus on the well-being of my family. In terms of rooming, since you aren’t part of the official foreign royalty, are you okay with finding somewhere for your family to rest? You can ask around for recommendations, but-”

Kiara suddenly raised a hand.

“Oh! I know a place! I’ve been to Pekoland several times before; there’s a few inns that I’m considered a frequent visitor for nowadays.”

Calliope, Ina, Gura, and Amelia blinked.

“Well okay then.” Calliope replied.

“What?” Kiara replied annoyedly, “Pekoland’s probably my favorite nation in the region to travel through! If only because I don’t have any bad memories of the place, which is really impressive given that I’ve been visiting it for the last few hundred years or so. Oh, and I’m immortal, if the whole ‘last thousand years’ thing didn’t give it away.”

Yuki smiled.

“Well, that means you’ve been around longer than I have, but at least our legacy of tranquility is so far preserved. If only because for the most part our brief issue with the old Lunar Kingdom was mostly cut off by the fact that said the Lunar Kingdom is located overseas, and they weren’t logistically interested enough or skilled enough at assembling a naval attack to launch a serious overseas invasion, meaning that they really just left us alone to do our thing. Do show up at the palace gates tomorrow if you can, you won’t want to miss the celebration of Peko-chan’s return.”

Kiara smiled.

“Oh, I believe that! I’ll see you tomorrow, then!”

And with that, the myth family turned around, and split from the group.

It was then that Takane Lui bowed.

“I think it’s probably for the best that my group keeps to the Lunar Light itself, which should continue to cut down the guest list further. We’ll try to be back in time for any festivities.”

Yuki nodded.

“I’m not afraid of your demon child, if that’s the nervous issue.”

Lui smiled.

“Thank you. I promise she’s harmless.”

Lui turned around, taking her closest subordinates with her.

Finally, Houshou Marine looked at both Aqua and Shion.

“Given that I don’t seem to be liked around here, should my family stay at the palace?”

Yuki paused.

“Probably not, though as long as you come back with the other guests from your ship we should be able to avoid getting you in more legal trouble.”

Marine nodded.

“Thank you, then; that’s probably as much as I can ask for. We’ll return with Lui and her group.”

And with that, the four members of the Houshou family turned around and left.

Yuki let out a breath.

“Well, I suppose that means we can get people to their respective bedrooms. Peko-chan, you know the palace layout; I’ll let you direct everyone.”

The rest of the room dispersed.

“Everyone except Moona, that is.” Yuki continued.

The rest of Moona’s cohort simply gave her stares that roughly seemed to imply ‘good luck’ before moving to their rooms.

“Don’t be too harsh towards her.” replied Reine as she left.

Moona suddenly looked surprisingly nervous.

“Before you ask, I promise that all of my business transactions within Pekoland borders have been entirely legitimate and that I haven’t violated local laws. To let you in on a little secret: Reine, Lady of the Peafowl, wants me to be the official representative of her kingdom in Pekoland.”

Yuki looked unimpressed.

“Don’t play dumb with me, Moona. You weren’t assigned that role; you absolutely wanted it for yourself. And I know you have plans for my daughter.”

Moona froze.

“...okay, so the thing is…” She trailed off.

Yuki smirked.

“Keep going, I’m interested.”

Moona stared at the floor very intensely.

“Okay, that’s entirely true. I appointed myself to be Reine’s representative in Pekoland, and then convinced her to let me do it, as long as I could convince Pekora to let me do it. Look, it’s pretty clear you don’t trust me, and-”

“If you make my daughter happy, I’m not going to break you two up. The fact of the matter is that, yes, I don’t trust you, but that’s because I don’t know you and then you show up attempting to be my daughter’s new closest person. Understand that my daughter doesn’t often get close to people, it’s not the kind of person she is. But the fact of the matter is that I trust my daughter. I’m not going to try to break you two up because I’m placing my faith in my daughter’s judgment. No, I’m here to warn you, dear.”

Moona sighed.

“Ah, the ‘if I break your daughter’s heart, you’re going to kill me’ warning. Nice to know that I’m close enough to Pekora that I need to worry about that now.”

Yuki smirked again.

“Oh no, I’m not your worry. If the relationship between you and Peko-chan sours, it’s her wrath you have to deal with, because I also trust my daughter’s judgments on how to get back at those who break her trust. Her reputation is explosive, to say the least.”

“Ah.” Moona replied, “That’s fair, to be honest. Though, I’m not really too sure how serious both of us are about anything, for the most part. Honestly, I’m willing to settle for staying friends simply because Pekora’s interest in romance is…”

Yuki laughed.

“Peko-chan’s like that. I’m slightly worried that we’re going to have a minor succession crisis due to the fact that I simply can’t see Peko-chan settling down and having kids, which would mean she has to appoint a successor. That said, if you’re going to romance her, or attempt whatever it is that qualifies as romance by her standards, you’re so far checking off all of my good boxes.”

“Really? How?”

“You aren’t pressuring her. I joke about it a lot, but I worry, you know? Peko-chan isn't much of a romantic, and thus I was worried that her first relationship would be an inevitable disaster, but you’re willing to take things slowly, trying to see things the way she does.”

Yuki then smiled mischievously.

“Oh, and one more thing: we have magic, and thus I’d like grandchildren.”

Moona facepalmed.

Chapter Text

Amelia, Ina, and Gura, following Calliope and Kiara, wandered throughout Pekoland’s capital, on their way to a local inn that apparently Kiara had been visiting regularly for the last hundred years or so; she was one of their first customers for as long as the inn had been in business.

The check-in was uneventful, and so far nothing had gone wrong. As a result, the evening had gone without much fanfare, and the myth family had settled into their room without any difficulties.

Well, aside from one courtesy of the innkeeper, who was also a rabbit girl, one with orange hair.

“I have to admit, I wasn’t expecting a wife and kids when you next showed up.”

Kiara laughed.

“What can I say? Calli’s literally to die for.”

Calliope facepalmed.

“It’s a long story, and we frankly do not have the time to discuss how we got into it. Also, for whatever reason, everyone calls me the ‘Dad’ of the group, so I guess I can’t avoid it now!”

“Wow,” Kiara commented, “you’ve actually lightened up compared to how we started.”

Calliope shrugged.

“I’m definitely in a lot of trouble with death-sensei when this all blows over but goddamnit I can’t abandon Ame like this. Even knowing she has you, I still can’t leave her alone. That, and our entire timeline’s existence might be dependent on her, so now I actually feel kinda responsible.”

Kiara reacted with a beaming smile.

“You’re so good to her.”

“You really are.” Gura added, “Also this talk is embarrassing Ame, so maybe not in front of her?”

“Sorry, Ame,” Kiara replied amusedly, “but it’s my duty to embarrass you in public. Among other things, of course!”

Amelia facepalmed.

“Can we just get to our rooms already?”

“Sure.” Calliope replied. “I think you’re a little like me in that regard; I’ve been dealing with Kusotori for a long time now.”

Amelia laughed.

“Fair enough. It’s so weird to think that I’m-”

And then Amelia blinked out of existence.

Calliope conjured her scythe, suddenly extremely angry. Ina pulled out the book that was the Ancient Ones, while Gura suddenly had her trident in hand.

“Forgive me if I look unhinged for doing this in a public space,” Calliope stated, “but Kronii, you better show yourself, because you’re my scythe’s next target. Where are you?”

All of a sudden, the main door to the inn opened, and a green-haired girl with antler-like tree branches in her hair walked in.

More importantly, though, she was carrying a self-evidently terrified Amelia Watson in her hands.

“Don’t cry, your parents are right here, we’re not letting Kronii get you, Mumei’s talking with her, and…”

Calliope’s scythe disappeared, while Kiara relaxed the tiniest bit.

“Gimme my daughter back.” Kiara replied, “And then you better tell us what’s going on out there, because clearly, as much as I want Ame out of it, that doesn’t appear to be an option anymore!”

The green-haired kirin put Amelia back on her two feet; the young time traveler then ran into Kiara’s embrace.

“I’m Ceres Fauna, and I’m the Keeper of Nature. I believe you’re all staying here, so let’s go to your room; I’ll explain everything I can.”


Six faces gathered in a bedroom, anxiously awaiting the words of the goddess that had appeared before them.

“My abilities, as you might suspect, have to do with that of life itself. My title is the Keeper of Nature, and strictly by my aspect I’m the goddess of life, and thus one of the few people that Kronii has limited control over, since we’re all conceptual beings who really can’t kill each other. Even if we could, I can bring people back to life, and as much as I hate disrupting the natural cycles of life and death, Kronii is also doing that, which means, well…”

She sighed.

“I should explain where I’m from. I’m part of what we just call the council. It’s officially seven members, of which there are five members proper, plus IRyS, the heavenly messenger, and the manipulator who we don’t really talk about because they’re weird. In effect, we’re responsible for the creation of your world, and we embody the fundamental aspects of said world. However, due to a small incident, the council is, aside from IRyS herself, governed by a number of rules.”

“What Kronii is doing can’t possibly be allowed by your rules.” Calliope spoke contemptuously.

“Unfortunately, it is allowed, and she has an ego. You see, the rule is that council members aren’t allowed to intervene in the natural progression of your world - which is to say, we can watch, but we can’t act upon your world. However, that’s only under normal circumstances. There’s a specific rule that we’re allowed to intervene in situations where the sanctity of our aspects is threatened.”

Fauna frowned.

“...and unfortunately, time travelers are considered a threat to the sanctity of time. I promise you, there’s a reason, and if there’s one thing to know about everything, it’s that Kronii feels awful about what she’s doing. You see, there’s a second rule that allows us to act freely upon the world, and that is that we are allowed to act in response to the actions of another council member, and that’s the reason Kronii hasn’t destroyed you all yet.”

“I don’t get it, though. This only explains why you’d come to our defense, and not why Kronii would feel awful about it.” Kiara asked.

“If anything, she seemed to revel in Ame’s suffering.” Calliope spoke venomously.

Fauna nodded.

“She prefers not to reveal her own personal weakness. She’s time, after all, and the march of time stops for no one but herself. And thus, she attempted to kidnap Amelia by stopping time, but she can’t keep all of the council stopped, and if we can all be united, we can probably stop her for good.”

Calliope blinked.

“Really? She seems pretty set in her ways.”

Fauna nodded.

“What you’ve done is put her in a terrible bind. You see, this isn’t our first world. This is the world we created after we destroyed our first. Well, sort of - there’s a brother group to us called the Ministry that created the last world, and after that world got essentially deleted, the council - us - would become the new aspects for this one, learning from the mistakes of our predecessors. Do you know what it looks like when the fundamental aspects of your universe stop working?”

Everyone in the room drew a sharp breath.

Fauna held in a tear.

“It’s bad. I was too young to know about it at the time, but Faun, the previous bearer for my own aspect, watched as all of the life he had created perished. It shattered him. It wasn’t even just that, though; the entire incident was started by a time traveler who messed up our timeline in several ways. I’m pretty sure they weren’t malicious, but we’ll never know now.”

Calliope sighed.

“Kronii’s the aspect of time, so for her all of this hits way harder, doesn’t it.”

Fauna nodded.

“It was technically Krono who convicted the time traveler responsible for the war of the aspects, but the thing is, due to the nature of a bunch of weird time loops that I’ll admit are beyond me, Kronii’s gone through it all as well. She’s met the harbinger of the previous world’s destruction herself. For Kronii, Amelia is a walking sense of deja vu, and it gets even worse for her.

“You see, Kronii’s trying, to use an interesting turn of phrase for me in particular, to nip this incident in the bud. She’s trying to correct Amelia’s actions because she’s terrified that she’s too late to prevent the timeline from destabilizing, which, reminder, might annihilate everything. But the thing is, Kronii’s actually very insecure about her position as the aspect of time, and she doesn’t want to fight all of us.

“What Kronii is doing is wrong, of course; it goes against me as the goddess of life. It goes against Mumei, who’s official title is the Guardian of Civilization. It goes against IRyS, who’s the incarnation of Hope. And that’s why I think Kronii’s gonna let you guys go free: I got Mumei to talk to her, and Kronii doesn’t have the ability to go against her wishes.”

A new voice suddenly entered: “You know, Fauna, if you’re gonna tell the Ministry story, why would you leave out the best part?”

A sudden flash of light was the only warning sign before a red-haired rat girl teleported in, who, in a blatant display of not obeying the rules of physics, was casually sitting upside down on the ceiling of the room.

“I mean, yeah, it sucked that we lost the previous timeline, but you’ve gotta admit, San’s literal planet-smashing ragequit was kinda hilarious, and it’s not like anyone was alive by the time that happened. Oh, and I’m Hakos Baelz, and I’m the universe’s universal loophole. The rules don’t really apply to me.”

Fauna glared at Baelz as the rat girl turned right side up and landed on the floor.

Baelz continued: “I mean the physical laws of the universe! The council rules are still super important and I’d never violate them! I don’t actually want to reset our entire timeline again!”

“It’s Kronii who has to reset our timeline if we mess things up. And I know she’s acting poorly right now, but forcing her to rewind the entire timeline because of our shenanigans is only going to worsen her mental state.” Fauna spoke suddenly harshly. “We might not be strictly alive or strictly natural so to speak, but I care about her.”

Baelz frowned.

“Sorry; you know how I deal with worry, and since the Ministry is banished to the shadow realm until we really screw up the universe we’ve created, it really is just us running things along for now. I’m the kind of person who needs to blow off some steam or the idea of having the fate of the world on my hands makes me a little crazy. Y’know? Deliberately inciting little chaos incidents so that you don’t have a huge incident where it all spills out at once.”

Fauna sighed.

“I suppose. That said, how’s Kronii?”

Baelz smiled.

“Mumei’s talked her outta trying anything with Amelia, by which I mean she’s convinced Kronii that the universe isn’t going to end early by letting her go free.”

“Oh, thank goodness.” Fauna replied.

“Why don’t I feel very reassured by that?” Kiara asked.

“Because,” Baelz answered, “it means that the fate of the entire universe rests on Amelia, and thus, also on you as her mother. Well, no, that’s a lie, if you destabilize the timeline then we’ll just let Kronii do her thing to fix it; trust me when I say you really don’t want to live in a timeline after it’s been dimensionally destabilized. Yes, I laugh at how our last world ended, but understand it’s very black humor.

“Oh yeah, the funny story Fauna didn’t tell you: Omega-alpha - he’s, uh, kinda our boss, I guess - was enraged at the Ministry for failing to protect the timeline, and while usually making our boss mad is a bad idea, San - previous Speaker of Space - was so done with everything going wrong that he might have literally thrown a planet at them. Or an entire solar system. The funniest part was that the ministry unanimously approved of the action, which is probably why they’re all banished to the shadow realm and why we’ve replaced them. Anyways, that’s about it for now; I’ll chat with you guys if it becomes necessary.”

And with that, she snapped her fingers and teleported out.

Fauna sighed.

“I suppose that concludes my part as well.”

And then she left.

Five faces looked at each other nervously.

“So, are we bringing this up to everyone or nah?” Gura asked.

Calliope took a deep breath.

“Fuck if I know!”

Chapter Text

Morning was somehow both uneventful and yet extremely busy. The return of Usada Pekora, as it turned out, really was a big deal, and the number of people scurrying about the streets, many of which possessed rabbit ears, was large enough to indicate that there had been a plan for their princess’ safe return despite the relative lack of notice.

This was made somewhat ironic by how much of an introvert the princess herself was, which was to say that Usada Pekora III, princess of Pekoland, was not in a festive mood, and was instead sticking it out in her room, seemingly with no intention of leaving said room, while her mother stood on the other side.

“Mama, do I really need to get up and celebrate with others? I figured I’d just hang out with Moona and talk about stuff. I didn’t ask you guys to celebrate my return.”

Usada ‘Yuki’ Pekora II, listening to her daughter’s rather predictable display of introverted behavior, sighed.

“I know, but on the other hand, can you honestly say you didn’t expect it?”

“Okay, fair.” Pekora replied. “You’d think the kingdom knows what I’m like nowadays. Can’t I get a quiet day around here?”

Yuki smiled.

“Your journey, unfortunately, has one last trial before you’re allowed to truly rest. Now get dressed; the castle staff actually all care about you, and it’s good etiquette to return the favor.”

Another voice interrupted: that of Moona Hoshinova.

“Besides, I already had to endure the ‘if I ever hurt you’ talk, so at this point I think it’s my duty to make you suffer a little.”

“To be fair,” Yuki replied, “I explicitly stated that any heartbreak-related acts of revenge would be solely at my daughter’s discretion. It’s just that you have a lot more to fear from her than from me; she inherited all of the Usada prankster legacy, I’m afraid.”

Pekora sighed.

“Alright, fine. I’ll come out.”

A few seconds later, the door opened, with one relatively grumpy Usada Pekora behind it.

And then suddenly, she smirked.

“Actually, if people really want to know I’m fine, maybe showing them that I’m ready to go back into prankster mode is a good start!”

Yuki sighed again, while Moona smiled amusedly.

“If we’re going on a pranking streak,” Moona added, “Then I’ve got an idea of where to start. Ollie, Anya, and Reine are still asleep.”


Aqua spent virtually the entire walk from the harbor back to the Pekoland Palace attached to her mother.

As for said mother, she didn’t say anything. The fact that Aqua was willing to participate in the festivities given her introverted history was already something to be celebrated by itself, and as such Marine didn’t want to push her to socialize any more than was actually necessary.

Shion and Rushia, like usual, remained fairly close; despite the fact that Shion and Marine’s longtime nemesis was dead there was still just a slight feeling of uncertainty in regards to the safety of their combined younger sister, and while neither of them were actually casting spells, both of them remained on a subconsciously heightened state of alert.

The two magicians, one of witchcraft and the other of necromancy, looked at each other and then back at Aqua. They both understood the anxiety, regardless of how rational it was.

The four members of the Houshou family were tailing the newly incorporated Takane family. So far, Laplus had gotten by far the highest number of people staring at her, while Takane Lui kept watch with her trained hawk eyes. If you didn’t know better, you’d think she was watching to make sure that Laplus didn’t hurt anyone, rather than the reverse.

Laplus, on the other hand, was managing to remain well-behaved while also keeping an unbearably smug grin on her face.

That, Lui thought, is a face that is going to get you in trouble one day. I don’t think it’ll be today, though.

Koyori was in a relatively chipper mood, as was Chloe. Iroha, on the other hand, while she did smile for the occasion, was still on high alert, as part of her samurai training. For her, a state of high alert was virtually the only kind of state she could exist in; she was just good at masking it sometimes.

The nine members made their way to the Pekoland Palace, having been designated as guests.


In a room at a local inn, Amelia woke up.

She wasn’t the first up; while there had been previous lives where Kiara had taken life slowly and with a relaxed pace, after doing that a couple of times the phoenix had decided that slow mornings were simply not her style. Similarly, Calliope was already up, though that was mostly from the fact that as a Shinigami she could avoid the biological need to sleep like humans did.

In fact, Amelia was the last person to wake up. Both of her newfound siblings were already awake for one reason or another; Ina was casually reading from the ancient ones’ book form, and Gura was lying beside Amelia in bed and was casually observing Amelia.

“Could ya…” Amelia said, while yawning, “...give me some space? Gez…”

Gura got up.

“Yeah, yeah. We didn’t want to wake you up any earlier than necessary, and as it stands we’ve still got time for the festivities, so we haven’t missed anything.”

Ina closed her book.

“That said, you don’t have much in the way of personal belongings, so there’s not much to pack up for you; we’re all ready to leave. Are you feeling up to it?”

Amelia practically leapt out of bed with a childlike enthusiasm.

“Wherever you go, I’m ready to follow!”

Kiara smiled brightly.

“That’s the spirit! Calliope said she’d join us as soon as we get outside.”


Inside the palace, Noel and Flare were both up early. For Noel, it was a combination of instinct and training that made her wake up instinctively, while for Flare, it was being married to Noel.

“Well,” Flare started, “It’s certainly a roundabout route we’re taking to get back home, but you can’t deny that we’ve made some good memories from it.”

“Yeah.” Noel replied, “Admittedly I kinda just want to get back home, but I think overall it has been a net benefit, especially considering what we managed to get done on the side. Hell, we - as in the crew aboard the Lunar Light, not us specifically - managed to permanently solve a problem that was plaguing a village for hundreds of years.”

Flare frowned.

“I’m not sure I’d put it that way. It’s more like, ‘we saved an innocent girl who shouldn’t have been locked up and took an innocent ghost with her’ than anything heroic.”

Noel blinked.

“I’m not sure about ‘innocent’, given the stories surrounding her past.”

“She’s unlikely to try anything against us.” Flare replied, “And to be honest, from what I’ve heard of her story, honestly any of us could’ve been in her shoes. Are you saying you wouldn’t be a little bitter about being left to freeze to death in the snow?”

Noel frowned.

“Fair enough. Especially at her age. All of that aside, how are the children doing? I know the trip’s been interesting for them.”

Flare simply stared at Noel.

“Okay,” Noel replied, “I guess they’re my children too. I don’t know; I’ve only really seen their trauma, and while I certainly want to be there to help them, I’m starting to get a little worried that too much of my interaction is going to be around uncomfortable topics.”

“Give it some time. They’re not even just new to having us as parents; they’re new to the idea of being adopted at all, with the exception of Lamy. I’m sure we’ll manage to have, if not a ‘normal’ relationship with them - whatever ‘normal’ even means for a parental relationship - then at least a happy one. Eventually the good memories will outweigh the bad.”

Noel nodded.

“I’ll try.”


Nene leapt out of bed. Like a few others, she wasn’t one for slow mornings.

Polka, by necessity, woke up with her, as did Lamy.

Well, Lamy thought, at least it’s good to know you’re not feeling too down right now.

Wasting no time, the trio that were to be adopted by both Noel and Flare, mostly led by Nene, charged forward, though not before picking up both Botan and Aloe, who had woken up earlier, along the way.

Nene was about to shout out loud when Botan raised a finger in a quiet motion.

“Nenechi,” Botan whispered, “not everyone is awake yet.”

Nene practically deflated, though she didn’t outright frown.

Botan, however, smiled mischievously.

“Let it not be said that I don’t have a prankster streak.”


Subaru woke up, and then awkwardly stood still and even more awkwardly silent.

Cuddled up to her was a still peacefully sleeping Luna, and either trying to move or trying to shout would definitely wake her up, as Subaru was many things but quiet was not among them.

Subaru silently looked at Luna’s sleeping face. It slowly occurred to her that she was probably the only person aside from direct family and maybe Choco who had seen it, and yet Luna had no hesitation in not just rooming with but sharing a bed with Subaru.

I guess you don’t really have experience with romance, but really? ‘Future prince’ Subaru? You’re not old enough to know what love actually feels like!

Finally, Luna seemed to stir, but was doing so very slowly.

And really, if you’re going to playdate anyone, Subaru thought, why me?! Why not Matsuri or someone responsible?

She then remembered what Matsuri was actually like with her helmet removed, and how dramatically she loosened up when she wasn’t on guard duty.

Nevermind. Maybe I really am the best choice.

She sighed, and then looked at Luna’s sleepy face as she slowly woke up.

It’s probably a phase. You might as well enjoy capturing the affection of Hime-sama while it lasts, given she’ll probably grow up to find a better partner later in life…

She frowned.

Why does it bother me to know she’ll find someone more suitable to marry a princess some day? It’s not like I’m qualified…


Sakura Miko woke up.

“Morning, Mikochi.”

“Ah, Sui-chan…”

She opened her eyes. Sora and A-chan were gone, leaving Suisei to watch over the former shrine maiden. Suisei was in her ghost form, which, while perfectly visible to Miko, wasn’t as easy to spot if you weren’t either trained or naturally talented in seeing spirits.

“Did anything happen while I was asleep?” Miko asked.

Sui-chan shook her head.

“Nope. My eyes were on you only, and Sora and A-chan both left quietly. They’re lovely people but they aren’t necessarily too relevant to my situation. You, on the other hand, are both lovely and also relevant to my situation. You see, I’d like to ask you something.”

“Oh?”

“I’ve been thinking about you more and more, and while we were both trapped at the shrine for years, now that we’re both free I kind of want to try something a little bit more…”

She paused.

“...wild, I guess. You can say no, of course; it’s something that you might find a little too personal.”

“Go ahead and ask.” Miko answered, “I don’t know if what we have is love, but you already said you felt attracted to me, and…”

She drew a shaky breath.

“...it’s only fair that I say that I feel attracted to you, too. And I’ve known for a long time, too; even back at the shrine, I knew that you’d be the kind of girl I’d love if you ever stopped being bitter about your past.”

Suisei smiled melancholically.

“I’m no longer enraged, but I’m still bitter. Maybe one day I’ll be a good partner for you.”

Miko smiled.

“You already are. You’re doing better than when we first met.”

“Not a high bar, but thank you.”

Chapter Text

Miko and Suisei stared at each other, in a moment of surprisingly calm contemplation. Suisei looked nervous, as if she wasn’t sure if she wanted to ask the question she had brought up.

“Mikochi…”

Miko smiled warmly.

“Ask away, Sui-chan.”

Suisei closed her eyes, taking a deep breath.

“Before I ask, I need to explain something to you. How much do you know about the spirit tether that keeps us bound together?”

“I know what it is,” Miko answered, “but not all that much about what you can do with it. The spirit tether is really just a fancy spirit string that keeps our spiritual selves connected.”

Suisei nodded.

“That’s the thing. It’s a purely spiritual technique, which means that it’s always between two spiritual selves. However, there’s nothing accounting for how many physical selves are in that equation. This is to say that we’re an entwined union of two spiritual selves and one physical self. My question, and you can say no, is this: Mikochi, can I possess you for today? I know it’s probably a little scary, but I’ve been a ghost for so long, and even my ‘physical’ form is so limited in comparison to a real body. I want to have a physical body again.”

Miko was stunned. It made sense, but at the same time that meant that she’d be kicked out of her own body, at least temporarily. Miko had never experimented with the spiritual tether, but in theory it was like thinking of both herself and Suisei as being the ends of a string, of which Miko’s physical body just happened to be at one end. By passing the spiritual string through the body, eventually Suisei would be the one inhabiting it.

Miko was nervous, but at the same time, she understood why Suisei wanted this. She didn’t know what being a spirit was like, but it was clear Suisei missed actually being alive.

She shrugged, and raised her hand, conjuring the glowing string that connected the two of them. It was a spiritual conjuration and didn’t physically exist, but it was real enough for both of them.

“Let’s try it out. Suisei, you may want to come close to me.”

Suisei’s ghostly form floated closer to Miko, and then…

Suddenly, the string got seemingly sucked into Miko’s body, dragging Suisei’s ghostly form with it until it collided with the body. She screamed as she got pulled in, not expecting it to be so violent, crashing with a flash of light.


Suisei opened her eyes, staring up at the ceiling from Miko’s bedroom.

Wait, what? Did I fall asleep? Wait, I don’t even need sleep anymore.

And then looked at her hands.

Her real, physical hands.

Holy hell, it worked. I’m alive! Well, sort of.

She looked around, only to see a ghostly, floating form of Sakura Miko floating in front of her, with a pink glow that complemented Suisei’s blue.

Suisei smiled.

“Thank you, Mi-”

She froze, and then covered up her mouth.

That’s not my voice.

Suisei had gotten used to vocalizing herself entirely with magic. The thing was, now that she was in a physical body, she was now vocalizing with actual physical vocal chords.

And these were not the same vocal chords as she had once lived with. They were notably higher pitched, and even an attempt to speak casually was throwing Suisei off. It was a sudden and rather brutal reminder that her physical self was borrowed entirely from Miko.

Miko was clearly worried, staring at Suisei with concern.

Suisei breathed out.

That’s not my breathing either. It’s all wrong…!

“Sui-chan, what’s wrong?”

“This isn’t my voice, these aren’t my lungs, I’m just freaking out a little. It’s been hundreds of years but I still remember what my body feels like, and this isn't it. I’ll adjust, just give me a moment while I…”

Suisei once again went quiet.

“...it’s okay. You’ve got this, Sui-chan.”

Suisei looked up at Miko’s ghostly form.

“Wow.” Suisei said, “It’s really weird to see you being the ghost girl now. Are you really okay with letting me just take your place like this?”

Miko smirked.

“Honestly, it might be funny to see how well you can pretend to be me. The neat thing is actually I think the spirit tether means I get some of your ghost powers, so I can be invisible if needed, or show myself when necessary. Though, weirdly enough I still feel most of my powers being active.”

Suisei nodded.

“That’s because they’re tied to your spirit, not your body. Similarly…”

She opened one of her hands, presenting it to Miko. In the open palm, a bunch of blue sparkles appeared and quickly fizzled out.

“Great!” Suisei exclaimed, “I’ve still got most of my powers. That’s really useful for me, to be honest.”

Suisei looked down at her body.

“It’s still weird to think that this is how you feel. God, I miss having actual physical feelings, as I’m sure you’re learning.”

Miko shrugged.

“It’s weird for me too, but it’s like…”

She paused.

“It’s like being in a neverending dream. It’s not unpleasant, just kind of…”

“Floaty?”

“Yeah.”

Suisei nodded.

“And I just woke up from my eternal dream, thanks to you. I promise we’ll swap again; I just missed being alive so much. The only sad part is that my voice is just so wildly off for me that I think I need to use magic to re-tune my voice if I tried to sing like I used to. I know it’s because, you know, it’s not actually the same body I died with, but…”

Miko giggled.

“I’d probably fare no better in your body.”

Suisei shrugged.

“I think you’d adjust pretty quickly.”

And with that, she got up from the bed she had been lying on, and then immediately tripped and fell onto the floor.

Miko laughed.

“Now you know how I feel.”

“I am,” Suisei grumbled, “never insulting your clumsiness again. It’s like, I think I know where my body is, but that’s not where it actually is. How do you live with this uncoordinated mess of a body?”

“You’ll get used to it. Just wait until you remember what my physical stamina is like.”

“Oh my god. I swear to whoever is out there that I’m going to find a way to improve your fitness while I’m possessing you, because I’m going to go insane if I have to re-learn how to not crash into things while walking among other things.”

“Good luck. If you pull it off I’ll certainly thank you, since any benefits in physical stamina you pull off are likely to transfer back to me. I’ve gotten used to it, and since there’s only one body between the two of us, you’re gonna have to get used to it too.”

Suisei groaned, not in exhaustion but in despair.

“It’s not all bad,” Miko replied, “You’ll probably be able to have some fun pretending to be me. Honestly, as long as you don’t get hurt and don’t do anything that makes people think badly of me, I don’t mind just letting you spend the day as me.”

Miko smiled innocuously.

“I wouldn’t have given you my body otherwise, but I completely trust you. I love you, Sui-chan.”

Suisei found herself involuntarily clutching her chest, feeling out her own heartbeat. While Suisei had been trying to sort out her own emotions concerning her apparent attraction to the shrine maiden she’d been tied up with, having a physical body that was physiologically responding to Miko’s confession made it so much more visceral for her. She was certain that she was blushing beyond belief to Miko. There wasn’t even any time to adjust; it hit her all at once.

And the worst part was Miko wasn’t even teasing her for it. She was just letting Suisei deal with all of the physical feelings of being in love with absolutely no practice, keeping an amazingly innocent smile on her face that only made Suisei feel even more vulnerable as she fell back into bed. Miko followed suit, floating in front of Suisei’s face.

“Sui-chan, you seem awfully flustered.”

“Mikochi,” Suisei replied, “is this how you feel about me? It’s so overwhelming to feel it all once like this; I can barely control myself.”

“Yes, but you get used to it. Oh, right, one more rule: no doing anything naughty while possessing me. That’ll make things really awkward when we swap back.”


A few minutes later, after calming down, getting up again and then wandering around in the room Miko was staying in to get a feel for operating a body not her own, Suisei walked out the door, even though she looked an awful lot like Miko. Remaining close to Suisei was Miko, floating about with a ghostly form that only Suisei could see.

The Pekoland Palace had a rather large dining hall, and apparently the festivities were to begin there. So far, setup wasn’t finished yet, though the main table was already setup, covered by a relatively fancy tablecloth.

Around the table were a number of the palace staff, many possessing rabbit ears but also a few that did not.

At the center of it all was Usada ‘Yuki’ Pekora II, who was busy directing things. Instead, Suisei decided to strike a casual conversation with two people who were human and knew Miko: Sora and A-chan.

After all, Miko gave her permission to have a little bit of fun.

“Sora-chan!”

Sora turned around.

“Ah, Miko-chan. How are you feeling?”

Suisei paused.

Okay, she’s not aware.

“Act casual.” Miko stated, “I’m good friends with them; Sora-chan and A-chan are how I call them.”

Suisei said nothing, not wanting to blow her cover by acknowledging Miko.

“Fine, I guess? Getting used to the freedom.”

A-chan, who turned out to be listening, suddenly turned around and gave a quick stare at Miko’s body, which Suisei was inhabiting. Even Sora seemed a bit weirded out, which told Suisei she had screwed something up.

“Is something wrong…?” Sora asked.

“What? No, I’m just fine. As I said, just kinda adjusting slowly to things. Dealing with both the fact that I’m no longer stuck at the shrine combined with slowly dealing with the fact that I’m in love.” Suisei answered.

A-chan suddenly interrupted: “Oh, you’re possessing Miko’s body. Hello, Suisei.”

“Damn it.” Suisei replied, “What gave it away?”

A-chan smirked.

“I’m a good friend. I’ve seen what Miko’s like when she falls in love, and I’ll just say that it’s not a slow process. Hell, once the secret with you was out, she immediately dropped any pretense of not being in love with you.”

Suisei facepalmed.

“And my cover’s blown in less than a minute; so much for this prank. And yeah, I’m borrowing Mikochi’s body, with her permission; if you’re wondering, Miko’s floating behind me as a ghost, like I usually am with her. I miss having a physical body, even if Mikochi’s body is painfully uncoordinated at times; you wouldn’t believe how clumsy this thing is.”

A-chan smirked harder.

“Oh, I actually have a pretty good idea.”

“Hey! Don’t just insult my elite shrine maiden physique like that!” Miko complained invisibly.

Sora smiled.

“You two are really close, aren’t you?”

Suisei blushed, her cheeks practically matching Miko’s hair.

“Don’t remind me. I’ve been getting used to slowly realizing I’m attracted to Mikochi, but while in her body it’s so much more visceral. I don’t understand how she possibly kept the secret.”

Sora smiled.

“Miko’s a lot stronger than people give her credit for. I’d say you are the best example of it. That said, you’ll probably be able to fool those who don’t know you well, especially as the festivities really get going.”

Suisei smirked, her smile matching Miko’s perfectly.

“Then I might have some fun.”


Mizuho Quartet

Subaru and Luna

Houshou and Takane Families

Myth Family

Shirogane and Yuzuki Families

Pekora and Moona

I’m ready to continue

Chapter Text

Luna came to consciousness. Slowly driving her native tiredness, she got up with a yawn.

“Naaaaaaaaaaaaaaa~”

“Good morning, Hime-sama.”

Luna looked to the source of the voice. Not that she needed to; Subaru’s voice was very distinct to the princess.

She was, of course, the princess’ personally appointed best friend, and it was a voice that Luna was never unhappy to hear.

Well, aside from one thing…

“Suba-chan, please call me Luna-chan.”

Subaru sighed, but managed to reply with a surprisingly dignified response.

“As you wish, Luna-chan.”

Luna frowned.

“You’re not supposed to act like that.”

At that point, Subaru’s sense of general dignity disintegrated.

“Then how am I supposed to act?! I’m trying to treat you like a princess here!”

Luna pouted.

“I just wanna be your best friend. And your future princess!”

Subaru rolled her eyes.

Oh no, not this again.

“You aren’t old enough to actually know who you’re gonna date yet!”

“...well, shouldn’t I practice with you…?”

Subaru sighed.

“...fine. I guess I’ll accompany you. As your friend. Though really, I’m not a good practice round for practicing romance - I know nothing about it myself!”

Luna practically leapt out of bed, smiling excitedly.

“Then we’ll learn together!”


A few minutes later, both Luna and Subaru walked out of the room they were staying in. Already awake and waiting for their princess was Kanata, Watame, and Towa, who were all smiling relatively amusedly at the duo who was wandering the halls with their arms linked together, with Luna looking positively excited while Subaru looked utterly defeated.

“Can you three help me? Luna wants to learn how romance works, and I’ve become her practice round.”

Kanata smiled politely.

“If you hurt her, you have us to deal with. Just remember that.”

Subaru’s face dropped in despair.

Luna laughed, as did Watame and Towa. While this happened, another figure approached the group: Choco, who was currently being dragged along by Nene, Polka, Lamy, and Botan, while Aloe kept one step behind the older demon girl.

Choco raised a finger to the children. Botan and Aloe stopped, while the other three ran ahead.

And with that, she turned around.

“Oh my god, Suba-chan, Luna-chan, you two are adorable. My advice, though: you two are both very young. In particular, Luna-chan, while you are only a few years younger than Subaru, that’s actually very awkward for her. If you’re going to try and playdate her, you’ll want to see her as a sort of older sister figure instead; if you two kiss it will look very bad for poor Subaru - you’re supposed to be innocent. Now, I have children to accompany; I’m sure your day will go fine.”

Luna tilted her head in confusion.

“...but my love is innocent…?”

Subaru, on the other hand, was a bit louder.

“CHOCO-SENSEI, YOU AREN’T HELPING!”

Botan laughed at the reaction, and then followed Choco, who was quickly walking to follow the children who had run ahead, with her adopted daughter Aloe.

Watame bowed.

“Luna-hime, it’s somewhat hard to explain, but you are too young to marry, to generally actually know what being in love feels like. Yes, you’re affectionate with Subaru, but it’s not really the same. It’s adorable, but you shouldn’t date someone just because you have an idea of what love is supposed to look like. Subaru might only be a few years older, but you’re both children, relatively speaking, which makes small age differences more significant, and no matter how you spin it, if you and Subaru get into any trouble, it’s Subaru who’s getting into all of the trouble, and I think you know this. You shouldn’t be trying to get your best friend in trouble.”

Luna frowned.

“...you’re right.”

Subaru let out a breath in relief.

“Oh thank goodness, I thought-”

Watame interrupted: “That said, as you come of age, I definitely consider Subaru a good first partner. Just don’t rush into things.”

Luna practically leapt into the air.

“You got it! I’ll make sure that me and Suba-chan fall in love properly!”

“WHY ME?!”

Watame smiled.

“Because you treat her well. As a friend, even.”

Subaru facepalmed with her one free hand, her other arm being linked through Luna’s.

Someone get me outta this mess…

All of a sudden, another voice entered the conversation, this one not belonging to anyone Subaru knew. It was a castle staffer, relatively young and sporting the distinctive rabbit ears that were so common among Pekolanders. She had violet hair.

“Luna-Hime, I’ve been assigned to serve you while you’re here. Usada Yuki Pekora II insisted that you should be properly treated as a princess. Is there anything you need?”

Luna’s eyes lit up, while Subaru braced herself for whatever Luna was about to request, because she knew that once Luna got into this mood being reasonable was not her strong suit.


And that was how, a few minutes later, Luna and Subaru ended up seated around a small table, with Luna looking excited and Subaru looking slightly less so. Part of that was the inherent nervousness of knowing that the Hollow Force was, although not beside them, definitely in Luna’s earshot.

A rabbit girl, this one with blue hair, walked by, with a pair of teacups.

“Your tea, Luna-hime, Subaru.”

Luna nodded politely, invoking her princess instinct, while Subaru nodded a lot more shakily, before realizing the server wasn’t the usual one, and in fact, looked familiar somehow.

Is that Pekora?

She decided not to question it.

Luna, however, responded differently.

“Peko-chan?”

“I’m undercover;” Pekora whispered, “don’t worry about it. I’ve got my reasons; I promise you that I’m not pranking you in specific.”

She placed the two teacups on the table, one by Luna and one by Subaru.

Subaru picked up her teacup, and drank from it, as did Luna.

And then Subaru realized just who it was serving her the tea.

“Wait, is this part of a prank? Did you mix some sort of potion in here?”

Pekora shrugged.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. Okay, I’ll say this: The two of you don’t have the same tea recipe. I promise that I haven’t put a love potion or anything like that in Luna’s tea. Now, I’ve gotta go, have fun with the rest of your day!”

And then Pekora left.

Subaru gulped.

Oh no.

Luna, on the other hand, frowned.

“Does Peko-chan think I need a love potion to make you fall for me? Suba-chan, stop drinking right this second!”

Subaru had, of course, already stopped, but she had ingested enough that she was already dreading the course of the upcoming day.

Luna, on the other hand, shuffled her cup over to Subaru’s side, and smiled.

“Drink mine instead.”

Subaru considered the implications of not just participating in a tea party with the princess, but drinking from the same teacup as the princess herself. She then picked up the cup and took a sip.

Pekora hadn’t lied; Luna’s tea tasted notably sweeter.

Huh, Pekora actually knows Luna’s tastes.

Luna smiled at Subaru.

“Well, let’s keep going!”

And with that, she got up; Subaru followed.


The festival had gone into full swing, and Luna was determined to enjoy every bit of it.

Subaru felt a little weird. She was clearly mad at Pekora’s intervention, but at the same time, she didn’t feel like she wasn’t in control of herself. For the most part, Luna was acting as a royal sweetheart rather than a royal brat, and thus Subaru, despite usually being able to hold out against Luna’s will, just found herself going along for the ride.

For the most part, Luna had somewhat heeded Choco’s advice; most of the looks that Subaru was getting were very incidental; for the most part most people weren’t too weirded out by the duo of Princess and former commoner - though at this point Subaru had hung out with the princess enough such that the commoner title no longer applied.

Most of the looks the duo were getting were mostly focused on Luna, the actual princess. Incidentally, Subaru ended up eating a lot of sweet things; small tarts, pies, and cakes were seemingly being served to her endlessly. This was mostly because Luna had a very large sweet tooth that the Pekolanders were apparently happy to oblige for the occasion.

On some level Subaru felt embarrassed, but now that the two of them were out in the open, she couldn’t find it in herself to complain.

Let’s just let Luna-hime have her special day.

At the end of the day, Subaru decided that it was just practical not to fight Luna publicly. At least, until she randomly caught Houshou Marine giving her a very amused stare at a distance.

At that point, Subaru silently accepted that play-dating the Lunar Kingdom’s princess would now forever be her legacy.

Well, I hope you’re happy, Luna.


Mizuho Quartet

Subaru and Luna

Houshou and Takane Families

Myth Family

Shirogane and Yuzuki Families

Pekora and Moona

I’m ready to continue

Chapter Text

Houshou Marine was having a good day.

That was something that she applied to most of her days now. It was amazing how content she had gotten with her unusual family, and the fact of the matter was that she had gotten used to feeling generally relaxed about the well-being of her family, with the exception of dealing with Uno.

Aqua was following Rushia and Shion through the festival that wasn’t quite at full festivities but was clearly already part of the way there. The introverted trio, from the looks of things, didn’t intend to stay any longer than intended; there were too many people for both Aqua and Shion to stay comfortable for very long, and Rushia was leading the charge for making sure the two of them had their space.

Marine smiled.

I really will never get tired of seeing the three of them get along.

That said, while being able to act relaxed was pretty natural for the former pirate, actually being relaxed was another, and it was a skill that had taken months to learn, starting from Aqua’s adoption. The detail that Aqua was actually dependent on her suddenly made so much of her life that much more stressful, and only experience had calmed her nerves.

And that was why she was currently overlooking both Takane Lui and Sakamata Chloe, who were doing the same thing as her: watching Iroha, Koyori, and Laplus getting along with one another. The difference was that, unlike Marine, who was doing so contendly and in a relaxed manner, the two of them were pretty evidently actually pretty worried about Laplus.

Well, Chloe, at least. Lui was remaining stoic as ever, and it was only Marine’s own experience with both her own past that she could guess how Lui was feeling.

And it was with that experience that Houshou Marine decided to take a shot in the psychological dark.

“Laplus is doing fairly well, isn’t she?”

Lui blinked.

“Oh, Marine. You seem talkative today.”

“No more than I usually am.” Marine replied, “I’m mostly just picking up on the fact that the two of you are clearly worried about your little girl.”

Chloe nodded nervously.

“I know that it’s Lui’s decision, but I like our little demon girl. Iroha’s willing to watch over her, too, but…”

Marine finished the thought.

“There’s a lot of reason to worry about her life. It certainly won’t be easy; I’m lucky in that I’m recognized as a friend - or even an ally - of the Shirogane knights, meaning that, while they often have been a great help to me, I’m not actually officially working for them, meaning that I can spend time with my children, since Noel doesn’t actually need my help often. And the few times she does, it's usually her getting involved with my past. You’ll have a much harder time coordinating this, from what I’ve heard.”

Lui sighed.

“You’re right. Taking in Laplus is very much an impulse decision, and there’s a reason why I’m considering letting Iroha be her official guardian, and not just because of the obvious joke of Iroha being an actual bodyguard. We all have jobs that can require us to be out of the house for days at a time, which likely means that any attempt to raise Laplus will likely require all of us.”

Marine smirked.

“There’s an obvious solution. You’re part of the Lunar Kingdom’s ‘not-dealing-with-the-princess’ service, if I recall.”

“Yes, but that makes things harder for me. I don’t exactly have a consistent schedule.” Lui replied.

“Here’s the solution:” Marine stated, “you just hire Laplus. Last I heard, her ability to disperse herself into the shadows at will is quite useful for the kinds of work you do.”

Lui froze.

“There are so many things wrong with that.”

Chloe shrugged.

“I dunno, it might actually work. Just take her under your wing and claim she’s an agent or training or something. Just make sure you aren’t taking her on anything actually dangerous; maybe you can leave her with me in that case. Or with Koyori. Or with Iroha. Hell, even Towa will probably babysit if you ask nicely; last I heard she and Laplus got along really well.”

Lui sighed.

“Honestly, if she weren’t a demon I wouldn’t fret about it, but I do feel slightly nervous about her place in a society that might not-”

Marine gave Lui a very unimpressed stare.

“You’re worried about a demon girl’s place in society in a kingdom that has a demon as its best healer, her daughter, and Towa who might as well be an angel at this point. Laplus will fit in just fine.”

Lui raised a finger.

“Have you considered there’s a reason why Choco-sensei isn’t requested more often? Most ordinary citizens have some reservations about calling a demon to be their healer. And Towa can pass for being human until she uses her powers; She doesn’t have visible horns. Laplus, as you may have noticed, can’t really hide her demonic heritage.”

“That’s true.” Marine replied, “And fighting first impressions is going to be something you’ll have to do that wasn’t too much of an issue with Aqu-tan. I have to do it a little with Shion-tan since she’s a witch, but she’s capable of looking out for herself. Even still, I think people will warm up to Laplus with time. She’s actually fairly kindhearted behind her facade of being a little demon; in that manner she really does take after her idol. As scary as it all is for you, since you’re new to it, I honestly think it’ll all work out in the end. Or, to put it directly, I don’t think you have to be worried about her, because of two different reasons.”

“Oh?”

“The first is that you aren’t being lazy about things. You really are making sure everything’s in order to properly assume guardianship over the little demon, and the fact of the matter is that, as long as she knows that she’s loved, you’ll do just fine with her, because fundamentally you’re doing your best for her, and from what I’ve heard you’re known for your general competency in most tasks you handle.”

Lui smiled.

“I suppose that’s true. What’s the other reason, then?”

“Laplus isn’t that emotionally fragile. Sure, you might be dreading trying to figure out how to rearrange your job around taking care of her, but the fact of the matter is that, in addition to everything you’ll do to make things work, Laplus isn’t a little wallflower in need of guidance in the same way Aqu-tan was for me. Aqua was emotionally very dependent on me for a little while; I imagine Laplus isn’t like that.”

Lui chuckled.

“Yeah, that’s not an issue with her. If anything, insane overconfidence is my biggest worry about taking her into field missions, and I feel that Towa’s really not going to help in that department.”

“The good news is that she might pick up Towa’s good manners.” Marine added.

Lui and Chloe broke out laughing.

Marine continued: “I suppose that’s one of the truths of parenthood: we all face our own difficulties with our own children. The challenges are unique, different for each parent and for each child. That said, if you have any questions, I’m available for it now.”

Lui shrugged.

“I think we’ll be fine.”

“Ah, okay.” Marine said, “I’ll probably see what-wait a second, is that Luna-hime?”

In the distance, she caught Luna, who had one arm linked around Subaru’s. The princess looked utterly content with how her day was going, which was expected.

The unusual part was that Subaru didn’t seem to be resisting the princess’ advances. In fact, from the looks of things, one could make the claim that they were on a date, even if it was a difficult claim due to the age of the couple.

Marine smiled amusedly.

Well, I never thought I’d see the day where Subaru’s defenses are finally broken. Young love’s always adorable like that. Sorry Subaru, but I’m remembering this moment forever.

Subaru, on the other hand, reacted with defeated acceptance.

Marine smiled. Truly, today was a day of good memories.

I wonder what Pekora’s up to…

As if fate was listening to her, she then suddenly spotted the rabbit princess beside her, who was dressed casually and sneaking through the crowd, folding her ears down somewhat to help go incognito.

“Pekora-chan? What are you doing here?”

Pekora turned around to face the pirate.

“Reworking plans because Miko-chan betrayed me!”

Marine rolled her eyes.

Oh no, there’s something going on.

“All I’ll say is that involving my children in whatever scheme you have is not a good idea when you remember that one of them is a witch and another is a necromancer. I hear you’re liked around here, it’d be a real shame if you were sent to the spirit world early.”

“I know. That’s why Miko left me; apparently she said it was important that Sui-chan wasn’t spotted by Rushia, since she can see spirits, which made me realize that Miko’s plotting her own prank war against me!”

Marine raised a finger.

“Before you get too mad, were you planning on pranking Miko yourself?”

“I mean, of course, but Miko left me ahead of schedule before I could get to the part where I would betray her, so now I have to figure out how to get back at her with a new plan! And to make things even worse, you’ve just blown my cover, so now I need to hide again; thanks a lot for that!”

And then she took out a small box, which she threw to the ground. It then went off in a spectacularly large puff of smoke; which, while it drew the attention of the crowd, somehow Pekora had disappeared by the time it cleared.

Marine blinked.

“What just happened?”

“Peko-hime just does that sometimes. We’re used to it.” A random passerby answered casually.

Marine sighed, and then continued forward to meet up with her own children.


Mizuho Quartet

Subaru and Luna

Houshou and Takane Families

Myth Family

Shirogane and Yuzuki Families

Pekora and Moona

I’m ready to continue

Chapter Text

Amelia, Gura, and Ina had taken to the festivities quickly and relatively hyperactively. It was just how things ended up playing out; in particular, Amelia had been feeling rather confined from spending most of her time in the past aboard a ship, and as soon as Calliope and Kiara said that they were free to roam around as long as they didn’t get in trouble, the three of them were immediately off.

Of course, part of the reason that the Takamori couple was willing to to let them go off on their own was that they were naturally also very good at observing them: Kiara could, if necessary, jump into the sky, and Calliope, as a shinigami, could ignore long distances with ease.

Which is to say that the two of them were hovering over the trio, Kiara very literally and Calliope much more figuratively.

It was why, when Amelia suddenly froze on the street, looking terrified, all four of her adoptive family members were there within seconds while she panicked.

Gura was the first to talk, already being there in advance.

“Ame, what’s wrong? You look like you’ve seen a ghost. Or worse.”

“Don’t worry,” Ina said, while hiding her own worry, “we’re all here. You can talk with us.”

Kiara landed after that, and finally, Calliope materialized in the street, ready to conjure her scythe but not wanting to do so while in public.

“What’s got you so scared?” Calliope asked, “Because nobody’s going to harm you while we’re around.”

Amelia slowly raised her hand, pointing in a direction down the street.

“It’s her.”

Calliope and Kiara looked in the direction that Amelia was looking, only to see someone that they were really hoping not to run into: Ouro Kronii.

Calliope twitched.

“Goddamnit, I thought we were through with this. Though, it’s weird…”

Oddly enough, Kronii wasn’t in her usual outfit. She was instead in a kimono, with a small snake-like creature casually perched on her shoulder. Also hovering around her was a young girl with owl-like features, who seemed to be distracting the Warden of Time.

She looked remarkably normal, all things considered, like she was just hanging out with a friend.

Kronii turned her head, and gave a smirk in Amelia’s direction.

The young time traveler hid behind Calliope, silently praying that Kronii wasn’t willing to cause a huge incident in public.

Kronii turned her head, and said something to the owl girl that neither Kiara or Calliope could hear. She then turned her head, and one instant later, she was suddenly in front of them, facing the myth family.

“I can’t help but notice you’re staring at me. I understand that perfection has its way of catching the eye, but I’d rather you not for today.”

Calliope stared unimpressed at Kronii, when suddenly Gura interrupted the conversation.

“How about you apologize to Ame? I don’t care that you’re some sort of crazy powerful time goddess, you scared Ame and that’s not cool!”

Kronii rolled her eyes.

“Okay, I’m off-duty today and I was planning to let you guys go free, but really? Apologize to an anomaly who has been making my life hell? Nah. I’m just having fun enjoying the festivities; I promise you that I’m not actually messing with you guys anymore. Mumei made me promise that.”

The voice of the owl girl, Nanashi Mumei, suddenly joined the conversation.

“Apologize, Kronii. Amelia’s done nothing wrong. Yes, it’s made your life difficult, but what’s life without a little challenge? We managed to create a universe together, and this really isn’t any harder. What happened to that ‘enough rewinds solve everything’ spirit you once had?”

“I realized how much of a responsibility maintaining a good timeline actually is. That said, I suppose if Mumei says I should apologize to you, then I should do that - understanding people is Mumei’s aspect, not mine.”

Amelia showed her head from behind Calliope, looking nervously at the two council members.

“Come on out.” Mumei told Amelia, “I promise you Kronii won’t bite. I’ll hold myself responsible if Kronii does anything wrong.”

Amelia slowly took a step out in front of the two council members.

Kronii bent down.

“I’d like to apologize for my behavior. I guess, for the sake of explanation, I should tell you why I’ve-”

“Fauna did that already.” entered a new voice.

Kronii turned around, only to see Hakos Baelz, who was somehow already there.

“Bae? What are you doing here?”

Amelia blinked.

“How did she get here?”

Bae shrugged.

“It’s pretty easy when you can ignore physics. Just casually ignore the laws of distance. And, yeah, Kronii’s off-duty today unless we receive a sign of the end times. If we do, uh, sorry, your world’s kinda doomed, but it should be fine for now. And, yeah, Fauna told the little myth family about our past and your duty, and I filled in the ministry story since, hey, if you’re resetting the universe anyway, you might as well go out with a bang.”

“You understand that I don’t intend to get myself sealed away in the shadow realm, right?” Kronii asked, “And given that last I heard what your relationship with Hayko was like, I thought you’d want to avoid that scenario too.”

“I mean, you’re not wrong.” Bae answered, “I actually like this world, so it’d be nice to keep it around as long as we can. I’m just pointing out that they know about why you’re so high-strung.”

Kronii blinked.

“Oh, I suppose that makes things easier for us. Okay, what are you doing, then?”

“Enjoying a hopeful day with a friend. Or wife.”

Kronii stared at Bae with a suspicious look.

“I thought we weren’t allowed to fall in love for fear of endangering the delicate process of creating the universe. I don’t recall that rule being changed.”

“I mean, technically yes,” Bae answered casually, “but in case you haven’t noticed, the world is kinda already here, so I figure unless there’s an emergency it’s all good; we’ve already created the dang thing. Also, tell me you don’t see Mumei that way.”

Kronii blushed, as did Mumei.

“What?” Kronii exclaimed, “No! I don’t!”

Mumei added: “Yeah, totally! We’re just friends.”

Bae rolled her eyes.

“Right. Alright, see you soon, don’t cause any trouble while I’m on my date.”

And then she vanished with a quick flash of light.

Kronii sighed, and turned back to Amelia.

“This is what I deal with on a regular basis. Honestly, I have no idea how we managed to not screw up the universe, because you’d think we’d be better than this. To get back to where I am: I’m not really the council’s people person.”

Amelia, on the other hand, had stopped being scared, and was instead focused on the little creature perched on Kronii’s shoulder.

“What’s that snake there?”

Kronii smiled amusedly.

“Ah, that’s Boros, my time snake. Be careful, despite his looks he’s actually quite powerful. He doesn’t bite, but-”

All of a sudden, Boros jumped and landed on Amelia’s shoulder.

“Boros!” Kronii spoke, “That’s not okay!”

Amelia cupped out her hands, watching as Boros slid down her arm and then turned around after landing on her hand, staring at Amelia with a smile.

“Aw, he’s cute.”

Mumei, on the other hand, widened her eyes.

“I thought Boros doesn’t like people, much like Kronii herself. Also, isn’t Boros sensitive to timeline disruption? I thought he’d be repelled.”

Kronii nodded.

“It means that you were right. Amelia’s not destabilizing our timeline. The end times are not, in fact, upon us yet. To be fair, if she was, this would be a very different conversation we’re having and we’d be potentially talking about the end of the world, but honestly I’m content to just spend the day with you instead of all of that.”

“Yeah.” Mumei replied, “It’d be nice to get back to doing that.”

Ina, who had been silent the whole conversation, finally spoke.

“I’ve only had Ame for a few days now, but if you tried anything with her the end of the world would be brought about by me instead.”

Kronii froze, surprised at how dark Ina’s tone was.

“That would probably be either Fauna or Mumei who would stop you. Maybe Sana, if you really went too far. Anyways, I think I’ll head off now. Thanks for chatting.”

And then she turned around, following Mumei.

Calliope looked at Kiara.

“Yo, Kusotori, you seem awfully quiet about all of this.”

Kiara smiled.

“It’s nice knowing that the universe doesn’t hate Amelia that much.”

“Of course it doesn’t!” Amelia replied with a smile.

She paused, thinking of her next words.

“...after all, I found you four.”

All four members of the myth family smiled brightly in response.

Gura broke the silence: “Now how about we get back to running around before we were interrupted with the time stuff, because that topic’s way too serious for me, and if the crazy time lady is getting accompanied her bird friend around the city, then our crazy time little girl is getting accompanied by the four of us.”

Amelia laughed.

“In fact, we even have our own bird with us.” Ina replied.

“Yeah! Kiara!” Calliope exclaimed.

And then she turned around.

“Uh, Kiara…? Goddammit, where’d Kusotori go?”

Ina pointed upwards.


Kiara looked around from the sky. She wasn’t planning to wander far, since she considered Amelia to still be her responsibility. It was simply that she was looking for someone she saw in the crowd: Usada Pekora, specifically the princess of Pekoland.

She had spotted the rabbit princess going past her during the myth family’s conversation with Kronii, Mumei, and Baelz, but had since lost her. She, like many of Pekoland’s actual citizenry, was quite enamored with the princess, finding her antics to brighten up life in the kingdom. The fact that she had been around since Pekora’s birth had only made her appreciation for what the prankster princess did even deeper.

Unfortunately, the aerial view told her very little; while normally the rabbit ears were a dead giveaway, they didn’t matter as much in a town where the majority of the population spotted them. Even separating for blue hair, it wasn’t actually that uncommon a hair color inside of Pekoland’s borders.

That said, she did spot something that she suspected to be caused by the princess: a pillar of smoke emerging from a few blocks away.

What’s Pekora-hime up to now? That’s one of her patented smoke escapes…

And with that, Kiara descended back to the street to meet back up with her family.

Well, it’s not my problem. I have my own family now.


Mizuho Quartet

Subaru and Luna

Houshou and Takane Families

Myth Family

Shirogane and Yuzuki Families

Pekora and Moona

I’m ready to continue

Chapter Text

Yuzuki Choco woke up.

It was somewhat hard not to wake up given that she currently had a young girl who had just landed on top of her while Botan and Polka laughed in the background.

Despite Nene being literally on top of her, Choco sighed, and rolled over in bed, taking Nene with her to the side of her bed, deciding that sleeping more seemed like a good idea despite the coordinated effort of five children to not let her do this exact thing.

“Ah! Lamy, Polka, save me!” 

She felt a light tugging on her shoulder, one that she recognized as Aloe.

She mumbled incoherently, not quite fully awake enough to get up, but enough so to let Nene go, letting the youngest member of what was to be the Shiranui family move.

Well, I guess I’ve gotta wake up now.

Choco slowly got up, and, slowly blinking tiredness out her eyes, asked the question that most argued was coming.

“...who’s idea was this…?”

At least I really did get the easy children; it’s not me dealing with the hyperactive little ball of energy that is Nene.

Lamy, Nene, Aloe, and Polka all pointed at Botan, who was smiling amusedly.

Choco sighed.

Nevermind, Botan’s just as devious.

And with that, she got up.

“Well, I was going to start with asking how people are feeling, but I guess I don’t need to do that since you’re all doing well enough to do this to me. I suppose that’s a good sign, all things considered. I’m not really a morning person, so give me a few minutes, and we’ll be out.”

Botan nodded, turning to direct the other kids.


A few minutes later, Nene led the charge down the halls of Pekoland Palace, with Polka, Lamy, and Botan following closely behind. Only slightly behind was Choco, with Aloe hanging back behind her.

“Could the four of you slow down a little? Or, if you’re going that fast anyway, could you get Noel and Flare?”

Botan shrugged while still walking.

“Where do you think we’re going?”

Choco rolled her eyes.

“Fair enough.”

While following the children, however, something caught Choco’s eye: Luna and Subaru, who were both currently seated around a small decorated table, apparently having what looked to be a tea party.

Choco raised a finger, signaling to the kids to stop. Nene, Polka, and Lamy kept going, while Botan and Aloe stayed where they were.

Well, I guess they’re off to find their parents.

She turned her attention to Subaru and Luna, and then smiled in delight.

“Oh my god, Suba-chan, Luna-chan, you two are adorable.”

She then considered the consequences of what it would look like if Subaru was trying to date Luna, given Luna’s rather young age.

“My advice, though: you two are both very young. In particular, Luna-chan, while you are only a few years younger than Subaru, that’s actually very awkward for her. If you’re going to try and playdate her, you’ll want to see her as a sort of older sister figure instead; if you two kiss it will look very bad for poor Subaru - you’re supposed to be innocent. Now, I have children to accompany; I’m sure your day will go fine.”

Luna tilted her head in confusion.

“...but my love is innocent…?”

Choco mentally laughed, but refrained from doing so out loud, as not to make a mockery out of her princess.

Subaru, on the other hand, was a bit louder: “CHOCO-SENSEI, YOU AREN’T HELPING!”

Choco smiled deviously, while Botan broke out laughing.

She then turned around to continue following the children that were, at least in absence of other adults, now in her care.


Thankfully she didn’t have to go very far; she ran into Noel and Flare shortly enough.

Or, more appropriately, Nene, Polka, and Lamy ran into them, and the two of them had come over to where Choco was, once again reuniting the five rather happy children together.

Who, like always, went off on their own, with the trio of parents following. At least, for a short while, before a very annoyed shout of ‘Moona!’ was heard coming from down the hall, which made everyone freeze in their tracks.

About fifteen seconds later, one very annoyed Pavolia Reine came walking down the hall, her hair covered with a layer of rather ridiculous looking sparkling purple dust - or at least, ridiculous looking on her; it was fairly obvious who it belonged to.

That said, she was remaining rather silent, as another voice was doing the talking: Kureiji Ollie, who was talking at her usual shouting volume, and who’s hair was also covered by purple sparkling dust.

“MOONA! WE HAVE A LOT TO TALK ABOUT WHAT YOU JUST DID!”

Reine turned to face Noel, Flare, and Choco.

“You haven’t happened to see Moona running around, have you?”

Noel and Flare shook their heads.

“If I were Moona,” Choco answered, “I’d probably be A: with Pekora right now, and B: not anywhere near you. Probably outside, since I hope you aren’t going outside looking like that.”

Reine sighed.

“Great, it’s gonna take forever to get this stuff out of my hair. I guess that’s a warning to watch out for pranksters today.”

Noel facepalmed.

“And we don’t know where Pekora is. And I’d imagine she’s dragged Miko and Moona into her prank war, which makes things even trickier to figure out.”

Reine sighed, and turned around.

“Well then.”

And with that, she went back to her room, along with Ollie.

Noel and Flare looked at each other, while the group of children did the same.

“So, are we gonna end up dealing with the rabbit or not?” Botan asked casually.

Noel sighed.

“We’re in her home territory. That’s gonna make her difficult to catch.”

A new voice appeared in the conversation: that of Yuki, Pekora’s mother.

“The good news is that my daughter doesn’t prank kids unprovoked. Not seriously, at least. And, for the most part, she’s actually fairly conscientious about people’s personal space, so you’re probably safe unless you’ve done something to annoy her recently. Her revenge pranks are pretty out there.”

Noel froze.

“So, what you’re saying is, given that back in the Lunar Kingdom dealing with her was largely my job, that I might want to watch out for a bad case of getting purple sparkly dust stuck in my hair for the next forever.”

“That was Moona, though.” Yuki replied, “Pekora would definitely come up with something original for you, if she’s planning anything. And, before you ask, I don’t necessarily approve of my daughter’s prankster streak, but this is my way of getting revenge.”

“...revenge?” Choco asked.

“Something you should know about the Usada family and about our citizens: Pekolanders are, on the whole, a highly social group that likes throwing parties. The Usada family isn’t, to say the least. In particular, my daughter is very much an introvert, and to say the least, she actually didn’t want her return to be a celebrated event, because she’d much rather hole herself up in her room and sleep.”

Flare laughed.

“Oh, I get it now. Not only are you letting your daughter actually have some fun after being lost for a while, but you’re letting Pekora’s prank war teach the Pekolanders the lesson of what happens when you don’t respect your daughter’s personal space.”

“That’s correct.” Yuki replied, “My daughter’s actually quite professional when she needs to be, but the thing is actually being social is serious work for her, and if Pekoland’s populace is going to forget that fact, then it’s time for a little lesson.”

As if on cue, another rabbit girl walked in front of the group, her clothes and hair completely soaked and her rabbit ears flopping downwards. She spoke with a voice filled with defeat.

“Your majesty, please get your daughter under control.”

Yuki smirked.

“Far too late for that, dear. I believe I warned you that this celebration of my daughter’s return was a poor idea, and you decided to not heed my warning.”

The staffer in question sighed, and simply turned around.

“So, uh, what is the plan for dealing with her? This seems like it’s only going to escalate.” Choco asked.

“I can help with that.” replied a new voice: the voice of Sakura Miko. “Because while Peko-chan has been playing everyone, she probably hasn’t realized that I’m playing her, and I’ve got a rather fun lesson about what happens when you escalate a prank war too far. Who’s with me?”

Nene, Polka, and Botan all raised their hands.

Choco looked at Noel and Flare, who both shrugged.

“Ah, what the heck,” Noel answered, “Why not have a little fun? I’ll allow you to join in on the chaos. My only warning: if any children get hurt, you’re a dead girl.”

“Of course.” Miko’s voice replied.


Mizuho Quartet

Subaru and Luna

Houshou and Takane Families

Myth Family

Shirogane and Yuzuki Families

Pekora and Moona

I’m ready to continue

Chapter Text

To the surprise of most, Kureiji Ollie wasn’t actually a morning person. Despite her insanely hyper energy, she wasn’t commonly awake and about at normal person waking hours. Much of that was because her natural sleep cycle was busted as all hell and she often found herself awake until extremely late hours, which resulted in her not usually being awake in the early morning hours as a result.

Anya was just naturally a heavy sleeper. While Reine was naturally good at getting up in the morning, she was also among those that didn’t really do so if she didn’t feel the need to, and she didn’t feel the need to.

The consequence of all of this was that the three of them, arguably three of the highest-ranking people from the Kingdom of the Peafowl - Reine being the actual Lady of the Peafowl, Anya her personal guard, and Ollie her general second-in-command - were all relatively heavy sleepers if left to their own devices.

Moona and Pekora stood behind the door to their room, smirks on both of their faces.

Pekora took out a small pouch, and handed it to Moona.

The two of them looked at each other. Moona nodded, opened the door as quietly as possible, and then walked in. One brief but tense moment of silence later, Moona walked back out, grinning.

Pekora avoided laughing; she knew that would give it away.

The two of them proceeded to walk away from the door, pretending that they were never there.


While on the way back, Pekora turned to Moona.

“Alright, now I’ve gotta get my prank set for Miko-chan. It’s been years since I’ve had the opportunity to do anything with her, and I think I have the perfect plan.”

As if on cue, Miko herself showed up wandering the halls of the palace.

“Miko-chan!”

“Peko-chan! How’s it been?”

Pekora gave a grin.

“Having some fun. I’m trying to lighten up the festivities around here; it’s all way too formal for my tastes. I’m not sure if you’re up to it, but if you can keep a secret, can you help me with a prank I’m setting up for some others?”

Miko smiled.

“Of course! It’s been a while since we’ve been able to work together. I’ve got some ideas, too. I’ll keep any secrets you need me to; I promise that much. I’ll even promise that Sui-chan will keep any secrets!”

“Ah, right,” Moona replied, “you have the ghost girl with you.”

Pekora grinned.

“Then let’s move out. But before we do so, I need to set up a quick water trap for one staffer that knows I don’t like parties but set this one up. She’s got it coming, to say the least. Here’s the plan: meet me in front of the palace gates; I’ll be in disguise, so make sure you’re visible, since you might not spot me immediately.”

And with that, Moona and Miko shrugged, and headed towards the palace gates.

Along the way, Pekora ran into a strange sight: Subaru and Luna having a tiny little tea party out on a side table in the main hall.

Someone is clearly spoiling the little princess here. Ah, whatever, let her have her day; she looks happy. Hmm…

She decided to have a bit of fun, and looked at the staffing patterns, before finding the rabbit girl that was supposed to actually serve the duo.

“Hey, can I deliver their tea? I need to quickly speak to the two of them.”

The rabbit staffer seemed surprised, but shrugged, and let Pekora take over her duties.


And that was how, very shortly later, Pekora ended up being the server for Luna and Subaru.

“Your tea, Luna-hime, Subaru.”

Luna nodded politely, invoking her princess instinct, while Subaru nodded a lot more shakily, before realizing the server wasn’t the usual one, and in fact, looked familiar somehow.

Is that Pekora?

She decided not to question it.

Luna, however, responded differently.

“Peko-chan?”

“I’m undercover;” Pekora whispered, “don’t worry about it. I’ve got my reasons; I promise you that I’m not pranking you in specific.”

She placed the two teacups on the table, one by Luna and one by Subaru.

Subaru picked up her teacup, and drank from it, as did Luna.

And then Subaru realized just who it was serving her the tea.

“Wait, is this part of a prank? Did you mix some sort of potion in here?”

Pekora shrugged.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. Okay, I’ll say this: The two of you don’t have the same tea recipe. I promise that I haven’t put a love potion or anything like that in Luna’s tea. Now, I’ve gotta go, have fun with the rest of your day!”

And then Pekora left.

Pekora snickered as she did so; the truth was she didn’t have enough time to configure a prank, so she just strongly implied that she had drugged Subaru, but the truth was she had not altered the drinks in any manner, and was just letting Subaru freak out by herself instead.

I mean, I never said I put a love potion in Subaru’s tea either. Hell, I actually don’t know how to make a love potion, but Subaru doesn’t know that. I wonder how long it’ll take for her to realize that I didn’t do anything to her…

A voice suddenly rang throughout the halls.

“MOONA! WE HAVE A LOT TO TALK ABOUT WHAT YOU JUST DID!”


Moona and Miko were waiting outside of the castle gate when suddenly a rabbit girl tapped them both on the shoulder.

Naturally, it was Pekora.

“We’re back. Alright, for the next plan, we’re gonna run throughout town; I’ve got a few targets. Maybe the pirate lady, just for old times’ sake.”

Miko raised a finger.

“I have to split, then. I can’t risk being seen by the necromancer, because she can see ghosts.”

And with that, she split, running in the opposite direction of Pekora and Moona.

Pekora sighed. It made an unfortunate amount of sense.

Hmm, given that Suisei was attached to Miko, any prank that Miko came up with is going to have the ghost girl tagging along.

“Well, then that plan’s a bust. Better plan for now: snack time; I’m gonna get a quick bite to eat while I come up with a new plan. Meet me at the palace in, say, two hours from now?”

Moona raised a finger.

“I’ll try, but if Reine catches me I won’t be able to rejoin you. Otherwise, I’m all good. Also, a warning: given your reputation, do you really think Miko isn’t planning on her own scheme?”

Pekora sighed.

“Yeah, you’re definitely right. I’ll figure something out.”


About an hour later…

Pekora had managed to succeed in her plan of grabbing a bite to eat without getting caught. The disguise wasn’t very good, but it was good enough to be in that category of not getting spotted by the majority of citizens, and the few that did see her knew better than to point her out in public - that marked you as a future target in Pekora’s ongoing prank war, which wasn’t a good idea for most people.

Unfortunately, Houshou Marine hadn’t been informed of the etiquette surrounding this dance of not mentioning it.

“Pekora-chan? What are you doing here?”

Pekora turned around to face the pirate.

Goddammit! Don’t expose me like that!

“Reworking plans because Miko-chan betrayed me!”

Marine rolled her eyes, though the gesture was surprisingly threatening.

“All I’ll say is that involving my children in whatever scheme you have is not a good idea when you remember that one of them is a witch and another is a necromancer. I hear you’re liked around here, it’d be a real shame if you were sent to the spirit world early.”

“I know.” Pekora replied, “That’s why Miko left me; apparently she said it was important that Sui-chan wasn’t spotted by Rushia, since she can see spirits, which made me realize that Miko’s plotting her own prank war against me!”

Marine raised a finger.

“Before you get too mad, were you planning on pranking Miko yourself?”

“I mean, of course, but Miko left me ahead of schedule before I could get to the part where I would betray her, so now I have to figure out how to get back at her with a new plan! And to make things even worse, you’ve just blown my cover, so now I need to hide again; thanks a lot for that!”

And then she took out a small box, which she threw to the ground. It then went off in a spectacularly large puff of smoke; which, while it drew the attention of the crowd, somehow Pekora had already escaped by the time it cleared.

Dammit, that was close. I need to figure out how to handle Miko-chan…


Mizuho Quartet

Subaru and Luna

Houshou and Takane Families

Myth Family

Shirogane and Yuzuki Families

Pekora and Moona

I’m ready to continue

Chapter Text

Pekora and Moona had, for a lack of better terms, messed up.

Well, at the moment, Moona had. Pekora was hiding somewhere else in the palace; as her home turf she knew where she could hide such that other people didn’t find her. This was knowledge that Moona lacked, much to her horror.

Moona, at that point, learned two different lessons very quickly.

The first lesson was that Pekora was actually quite charming and had a remarkable ability to get people to cooperate with her schemes, to a point that even Moona herself went along with her prank war, despite the fact that normally Moona was a little more sane than that.

The second lesson was that the first lesson did not fly as an excuse to her superior, Pavolia Reine, who was currently looking very unimpressed with Moona’s actions from the morning. Anya was at her side, looking very amused, while Ollie was behind her, looking remarkably sympathetic.

“So, Hoshinova, we have a lot to talk about.”

Moona gulped.

Oh, that’s bad. Reine doesn’t call me Hoshinova unless she’s being serious.

“I can explain.”

Reine blinked.

“Go on.”

Moona raised a finger.

“It was Pekora’s idea, and, you know, while I’m here, the princess has the authority to-”

“Moona.”

“Look, I had to at least try that excuse. And, in my defense, I’m not entirely lying. Perhaps you’ve seen her lovely trail of prankster fury.”

Reine sighed.

“Yes, but the thing is, Pekora’s pretty definitely not my responsibility. You, however, are my responsibility, and, well, here’s the thing: if you’re actually being my foreign representative in Pekoland, then recall that anything you do that makes you look bad will by extension make me look bad. You can probably see where I’m going with this.”

Moona rolled her eyes.

“Fine.”

Ollie, on the other hand, tapped Reine on the shoulder.

“Uh, can I add something?”

“Sure.” answered Reine.

“WELL GOOD, BECAUSE I NEED TO SPEAK TO YOU, MOONA!”

“Is it any different from what Reine just told me?” Moona asked.

Ollie took a deep breath.

“Can you teach me how to make my hair sparkly like you do with yours? Yeah, getting the magic sparkle dust out of my hair took forever but I’d love to be able to have stars appear in my hair like you do if know how to-”

Reine put a hand on Ollie’s head.

“You are not helping!”

“It’s a legitimate question!” Ollie replied.

Moona laughed.

“I’ll show you someday. Not now, though, as I suppose I need to be punished for literally obeying the princess’ word.”

Reine rolled her eyes.

“Honestly, the fact that your prank only targeted us makes it look better. It’s more that I’m asking to keep things in moderation than anything else.”

“Fair enough.” Moona responded, “Also, I can’t help but notice that Anya wasn’t complaining, and I’m pretty sure I sparkled her hair too.”

Anya shrugged, and then transformed into a floating dagger, before then transforming back into her human form.

“Handy trick. Got everything out of my hair immediately.”

“I’ll admit I’m kinda jealous that she can clean her hair with that.” Ollie added.

“Nice.” Moona added, “Anyways, since apparently my part in the pranking streak is over, wanna figure out what Pekora’s up to?”

“Nah,” Reine replied, “it’s not our issue.”

“Well, do I have permission to see what she’s up to?” Moona asked.

“You know what? Sure.” Reine answered. “Since I suppose we’re all supposed to meet in the main dining hall for the inner celebration, and I’m pretty sure the princess of Pekoland isn’t going to miss her own party.”


Pekora was back in her room, with her mother trying to draw the rabbit girl who was trying to miss her own party out.

“Mama, do I really have to show up for the cake?”

Yuki sighed, and decided to skip to harsher negotiation tactics.

“Miko-chan will be there, and she misses you. Also, between my attitude as well as your own, this gathering will be, although not private, not entirely public, which is to say it’s mostly limited to those who are staying in the castle, which includes a large guest list, but you should thank them for getting you back home. It’s honestly the least you could do for them.”

A few seconds later, Pekora walked out.

“Fine peko. But I’m allowed to act however I want, and that might mean acting a little bit childish.”

Yuki rolled her eyes.

“If I objected to you unwinding a bit, I would’ve stopped your prank war in its tracks. As it stands, I think you’re making a possibly slightly unfortunate impression on people, even if ultimately a rather accurate one. Judging by how you’ve been acting most of the day, I have a feeling you and Miko-chan are about to reenact one of your childhood games.”

Pekora grinned, and ran out to the main dining hall.


The hall was as Pekora remembered it, and was, in fact, fairly busy, if only from the number of people that were there. Sure, the party was limited to those at the castle, but that was actually quite a large number, as it turned out.

Still, the party was the only way Pekora would ever want it: somewhat casual. She found her target: Sakura Miko, who was casually wandering the floor, looking rather pensively at the frankly overkill amount of cake that happened to be present.

Yuki arrived, and with it, she gave an announcement, which was also rather casual.

“You know, I believe I said that it’s okay to start without me or my daughter. That said, we can start right now.”

And thus, the party started, at a relatively slow and steady pace, aside from the fact that it was neither slow nor steady, as multiple groups of children wanted in on cake.

Lamy managed to snag a couple of pieces of what looked to be a fairly simple cake, which she immediately then handed off to Polka and Nene who were staring very intently at it, while Botan did the same for Aloe, who didn’t quite have the same childlike look of desire but nonetheless appreciated the gesture.

From another part of the room, Kiara shouted at her children.

“Okay, I can understand Ame trying to sneak a quick slice in given her age, and I kinda get when Gura does it, but Ina, really? I actually expect better from you!”

“Hey,” Ina responded, “you should know better than to assume the quiet ones are always innocent.”

Rushia and Shion, after taking a few slices for themselves, positioned themselves away from the crowd, while Houshou Marine served her daughter, mostly without words, and quickly got her away from the crowds after doing so. Laplus, with her own slice, looked incredibly smug for some reason, despite the fact that she wasn’t actually doing anything that warranted it. (1)

In other words, the party was slightly chaotic, but so far with no major surprises, until Miko took her first bite of the fancy-looking carrot cake that was a celebratory staple among the Pekoland elite.

She froze, as if bewildered by the taste.

Yuki, who had helped in preparing the cake, looked worried for a second.

Did I mess something up? It’s been years since she’s had it, but I still know how to make this, right…?

Tears started slowly streaming down Miko’s face.

“Oh my god, I miss this. I miss this so much.”

Sora and A-chan, observing the situation, looked at each other, and then back to Miko, and said nothing. In the distance, Rushia’s eyes widened, but again, she said nothing.

Miko, on the other hand, seemed to break out of her own trance.

“Sorry, it’s been years for me. I really do miss this.”

Both Yuki and Pekora moved up to take a closer look at Miko.

“Miko-chan,” Pekora started, “did they not feed you properly while you were at the shrine?”

“Oh no, I was taken care of! It’s more than that, hmm…”

She took a deep, almost contemplative breath.

“...I’ve been in one place for so long that I still haven’t gotten it in my head that I’m free. And this cake is something that I couldn’t have while I was at the Sakura shrine. It’s so random but actually tasting this reminded me of the fact that I’m free and that I’m never going back to the shrine again. I’ll stop crying; it’s not-”

A pair of hands wrapped around Miko from behind: that of Usada Yuki.

“I’m so sorry. Eat as much cake as you want; we have frankly too much of it and lord knows you deserve it. Both of you do, in all honesty.”

Yuki removed her hands, while Miko stood there awkwardly.

Pekora wandered around to Miko, trying to see what was up. Miko blinked, seemingly getting her thoughts back in order, and then smiled.

“That said, thank you for your hospitality, Yuki.”

Yuki smiled.

“To be fair, this is nothing more than returning the thanks for being my daughter’s best friend back in the day. You really did make her happy, and for that I’m rather thankful. That you’ve had rather unfortunate luck since then doesn’t change that. That said, you and Peko-chan should also exchange her thanks, and-”

She looked around, only to find that Pekora was in fact missing somehow.

“Oh dear. You may want to prepare yourself; understand that while it’s been years since you’ve seen Peko-chan, it’s also been years since she’s had the opportunity to have fun at your expense, and she definitely misses doing that, as you may soon learn.”

Miko smiled.

“Oh, I’m well aware. Can you keep a secret for today?”

“Unusual request,” Yuki responded, “but sure.”

“Has Pekoland Palace been renovated in the last few years?” Miko asked.

“No. It’s exactly as it was the last time you were here.” Yuki answered.

“That’s good,” Miko replied, “because it means that my part in this can still succeed. You see, Mikochi and I already have a plan.”

Yuki blinked.

“Wait, Mikochi and I? Does that mean that-”

‘Miko’ grinned, and then turned around.


Pekora snuck around the castle, away from other people. At this point, her prank list had been exhausted; the only thing she had to do was mess with Miko and her day would be a complete and total success.

And she knew the perfect way to prank Miko, though it relied on Miko still being exactly like she was from years ago. It was an ambitious plan, and it required Miko to be the one to meet the rabbit girl in private.

Pekora had a pair of wooden training swords. They had been in her room for a long time, and it was only now that Pekora took them out. Or at least, one of them was; a holdover from back when Miko and Pekora practiced sparring with each other. The other was something she had prepared for the occasion.

The rabbit girl wandered a bit more, and, as it turned out, she had predicted the behavior of her childhood friend perfectly: Miko appeared at the other end of the hall.

Pekora took out one of the wooden training blades, still left in its sheath, and offered it to Miko.

“Like old times?”

Miko stared pensively at the wooden blade, while Pekora held her own in its sheath.

“You can say no, Miko-chan. I’m just remembering our old days together, even if it’s a little immature.”

Miko smiled just a touch more deviously than usual.

“Oh, I accept your offer. I’m not losing to you!”

Pekora grinned, and pulled her training blade out of its sheath.

“Neither am I.”

Miko attempted to do the same. She watched as, instead of a full-length sword, a pathetically short dagger was drawn from the full-sized sheath.

Pekora finally broke out laughing while Miko stared at the blade, confused.

“HA↑HA↓HA↑HA↓HA↑HA↓HA↑HA↓HA↑HA↓HA!”

Miko, on the other hand, shrugged.

“This seems a little unfair.”

Pekora shrugged, looking smug.

“You pe-could put down your blade and surrender now.”

“Nah, it’s not that unfair.” Miko replied, while smirking.

Now it was Pekora’s turn to be confused.

“Wait, seriously?”

“I didn’t say who it was unfair for.” ‘Miko’ answered.

Pekora raised her training blade, while Miko raised her dagger, and the sparring match was on.

It was remarkably nowhere near as one-sided as Pekora was expecting it to be. Somehow, Miko had gained several levels in combat awareness, and despite the difference in blades and thus in range Pekora and Miko found themselves evenly matched for each other, with each one of Pekora’s strikes quickly parried by Miko.

The reason, of course, was that ‘Miko’ was actually Suisei possessing Miko’s body, and the ghost was, in fact, far better in combat than Miko was. Her style of combat wasn’t formally trained but was simply Suisei’s killer instinct at play, which was enough to even the odds.

At least until she remembered that she was, in fact, in Miko’s body, and was fighting Miko’s natural sense of clumsiness and lack of spatial awareness, resulting in messing up, making a bad block with her dagger, and then said dagger getting sent flying out of Miko’s hands.

Pekora breathed heavily, as if she wasn’t quite sure she had won.

“...I think I have you, but, Miko-chan, what was that?! What did you learn while you were stuck at your shrine?! It shouldn’t have been that hard to win; I always won our childhood spars!”

‘Miko’ shrugged.

“A thing or two. That said, you haven’t actually won just yet.”

And with that, Suisei, in Miko’s body, extended one arm out to the side, and in her open hand, a glowing axe appeared.

Pekora twitched nervously.

“Wait, isn’t that Suisei’s thing…?”

‘Miko’ smiled in an entirely evil manner.

“Just figured it out now, have you?”

Pekora turned, and ran away screaming.

Suisei shrugged, and the axe disappeared after that.

“Mikochi, that was brilliant. If you ever need me for pranks like this again, feel free to ask.”

Miko, in her ghost form, laughed.


Pekora sprinted back down the halls, attempting to make it back to the relative safety of the main hall.

So I guess pranking Miko-chan’s off the table now! Would’ve been nice to get a warning sign about that!

She caught sight of both Botan and Lamy running about in the hall in front of her.

Pekora panicked.

“You two! Get out of the way! I have an angry Miko-chan chasing me and I can’t afford to stop; you really don’t want to be here right now!"

Botan smirked.

“Oh, I think I’m right where I’m supposed to be.”

From around the corner emerged Sora and A-chan, who were both smiling entirely innocently.

“You don’t understand! Miko-chan’s possessed! I don’t deserve any of this!”

Botan smirked even harder.

“So you’re saying that you didn’t plan on pranking Noel and Flare later in the day?”

Pekora froze.

“...how do you know about that? I only told Miko-chan, and-”

She turned around, seeing the ominously approaching Sakura Miko.

“You traitor! You told them about my plans!”

‘Miko’ laughed.

“Oh, I didn’t. It so happens that the four people in front of you happen to know about who I really am. Hello, Peko-chan. I’m Hoshimachi Suisei. Yes, you made both me and ‘Sui-chan’ promise to not tell anyone about your plans, but it so happens that those two people are one and the same. I let Mikochi tell everyone about your plans, and then, well, this. It’s all over for you.”

Pekora got down to her knees.

“Please don’t hurt me! I confess to everything! It’s all my fault! Please!”

Suisei laughed, her hands lighting up with magic, before dismissing the spell and de-lighting said magic.

“Did Mikochi get ya? It was her idea, though I was the one who executed it. To be honest, I was somewhat sad that I wasn’t able to beat you in combat with the dagger, but as it turns out, Mikochi’s clumsiness is physical enough that it screws me up too, sometimes. I don’t understand how she lives with it, but apparently you get used to it.”

She paused.

“Ah, I suppose, if we all know now, I should make that public. Let’s get back to the main hall.”


Pekora walked back into the main hall, where her mother was smiling deviously, while everyone else was more or less just hanging around.

“Wait, did you know about the entire trap that Miko-chan had laid out for me?”

Yuki nodded.

“I felt it appropriate to let the two of you - three of you, actually - resolve your issues on your own.”

Suisei, still in Miko’s body, nodded.

“Indeed. And now that we’ve played it all out, I’d like to cast a bit of, well, to be frankly honest, vanity magic. Mikochi, are you okay with this?”

“Go ahead!” was the reply that only Suisei heard.

“Alright, then.” came the reply, and with that, Suisei snapped her fingers. With a transformation, her hair transformed from Miko’s pink to Suisei’s blue, her green eyes fading to blue with a twinkle, and a sudden shift in aura that let everyone know that this was not Sakura Miko but was now the spirit possessing her body. Even Miko’s shrine maiden’s outfit changed color scheme to match the blue-haired girl.

Finally, a spiritual string emerged from her body, revealing another figure: the ethereal spirit of Sakura Miko, who was acting the part of the ghost.

“You better change my outfit back to its normal colors after you’re done being me, as amazing as my outfit looks in your colors.”

Suisei sighed.

“Not quite my original physical body, but as that’s probably been decaying for hundreds of years now and it’d be stuck in Mizuho even if it wasn’t, I’m getting my body back approximately never. Still, Mikochi was kind enough to let me do this. And, for those who don’t know, I’ve been Miko the entire day.”

Miko nodded, while the rest of the room jaw-dropped at the deception, aside from those who already knew about it.

“I’m amazed that no one figured it out when she ate the cake.” Miko mused, “Also, you guys better have cake left over for me when we swap back!”

Yuki laughed.

“I don’t know if you’ve forgotten your time with us, but trust me, that’s not an issue. That said, that does explain Sui-chan’s reaction. It’s been a few years for you since the last time you’ve enjoyed any Pekoland delicacies, but for your lovely ghost girl it’s been much longer.”

“About a thousand or so.” Suisei replied casually, “Though it’s not like I can even be hungry while in ghost form. I just didn’t realize how much I missed the taste of food. I didn’t realize how much I’ve missed a lot of things, to be honest, until I got into Miko’s body. I then got annoyed because Miko’s body is rather uncoordinated and I’m not as physically fit as I remember myself being. I could push myself so much harder back when I was alive.”

“Hey!” Miko responded in an annoyed voice, “Don’t say it out loud like that!”

Pekora and Yuki laughed, while Sora and A-chan smiled amusedly. The rest of the crowd continued to look curiously at the interaction.

“So, how have you been enjoying it?” Sora asked.

Suisei smiled brightly and innocently.

“It’s hard to describe how wonderful it is. I even understand how Miko feels about me much better than I used to.”

Houshou Marine, who had up until now watched the interaction silently, smirked.

“Oh, is Miko’s body sensitive in regards to-”

“Shut up!” came the voices of both Miko and Suisei at the same time, with only the latter blushing owing to having a physical body capable of doing so.

Shion elbowed her adoptive mother.

“Seriously, not in public. Give those two some space.”

Suisei continued speaking: “That said, it’s a temporary arrangement, and it’s reversible.”

Suisei and Miko looked at each other, nodded, and then snapped their fingers. Miko’s spirit rushed into her body, and in a quick flash of light Miko took back control over her own body, with her hair, eyes, and even her clothes returning to their original colors, while Suisei went back into ghost form.

“That said,” Suisei added, “In the future we need to pick up some clothes that aren’t your outfit. I’d like to wear something more casual next time.”

“I don’t know," Miko replied, "I think you looked wonderful.”

Suisei was suddenly glad she was a ghost and thus couldn’t blush.

Miko turned back to the crowd.

“That said, it’s been fun, but I suppose I need to figure out where I actually live now.”

Yuki raised a finger.

“Yes, but that’s a discussion that can wait until tomorrow. Tonight you’ll stay here.”

Miko bowed.

“Thank you for your hospitality.”

Chapter Text

Miko woke up.

It was nostalgic, really, to wake up in Pekoland’s palace. She had been here multiple times in her childhood, and while her crush on Pekora was ultimately entirely unrequited, it ended up not mattering in the long run.

That, and with Suisei by her side, life was pretty enjoyable. Sure, she was homeless and staying in Pekoland palace purely on the good graces of royalty, but she couldn’t say that she had any regrets about her decisions in life, despite being exiled from her home.

Well, no, she had one regret, which was getting Sora, a good friend, and A-chan, Sora’s best friend, exiled. On some level she knew their exile was voluntary and it was irrational, but Sora had much more to live for than Miko did prior to the incident that led to their collective exile, and there was absolutely no certainty whatsoever that they’d be able to get their life back together.

Then again, Miko thought, I guess my future is just as uncertain. I thought I was going to just spend my life stuck at the shrine with Sui-chan, but what now? I don’t know where my life can go from here…

Miko drew a deep breath, and then decided she didn’t want to put her insecurities on display.

It’s not worth the trouble.

And so, she smiled.

“Okay,” Suisei commented, “spit it out already. You might fool others with that smile, but not me. To be honest I don’t think you’d be fooling Sora-chan - she calls me Sui-chan, I call her Sora-chan - with that attempt at looking happy.”

Miko sighed, and frowned.

“I don’t know what I want to do with my life. Our life. Your afterlife, I guess. I mean, I’m staying here as a guest of Pekoland, but eventually I’ll stop being a guest, and, well, it occasionally snows in Pekoland, too.”

Suisei frowned.

“Yeah, and they really don’t want to throw you out into the cold, because, well…”

Miko cringed.

“Please don’t. If it comes to that, we’ll cross that bridge together - to the afterlife if necessary.”

“I’ll try,” Suisei replied, “though there’s no guarantee that I’ll stay sane. I’ve been around for a thousand years and I’m still bitter about dying in that manner which I did. I don’t know what I’d do if I had to watch you die the same way.”

“Hopefully we don’t find out.” Miko responded.

Suisei nodded.

“I’m hoping for that outcome, too. It’ll be a real pain to teach you the ropes of being a terrifying vengeful spirit, given your general level of harmlessness.”

Miko laughed at that statement.

“Yeah, that’s true. Let’s get to the main hall; I can’t delay the unfun conversation forever. Conjure yourself; it’s as much a conversation for you as it is for me. Whatever happens, we’re doing it together. And not just because your existence is literally tethered to mine.”

Suisei nodded, and then conjured herself into visible form.


Morning was all-in-all a relatively uneventful affair. Pekora had, much to her mother’s surprise, gotten up early, as did a number of guests.

That said, not everybody was present for the early morning hours; of note was that Choco, Botan, and Aloe were all absent, as was the entire Houshou family.

The entire Hollow Force was present with its princess, as was her officially appointed best friend. Pekora was up, as was Sora and A-chan. Chloe was also present, though she had chosen to equip her mask, which was her personal way of saying that she was on business and wasn’t going to be available for casual chit-chat.

That said, Miko wasn’t one to hesitate, and she knew she had to bite the bullet and ask a question that wasn’t going to have a fun answer, which was why she arrived at the main hall with a notable frown on her face, as did Suisei.

A-chan was the first to notice, but before she could speak, Sora noticed and spoke quicker.

“Miko-chan, Sui-chan, are you two okay?”

“Yeah.” Miko answered, trying not to sound too anxious. “I’m doing okay, for now.”

Suisei, on the other hand, decided to cut to the chase: “Mikochi might be a little nervous about her future, given that she can’t exactly go back home now. I’d add more, but anything I say regarding the situation is probably going to make everyone less likely to want to keep the scary ghost girl around, and unfortunately for everyone involved we’re kinda a package deal now.” 

Miko frowned.

“...Sui-chan’s right. I don’t know what I'm doing anymore. I mostly thought that I’d just stay at the Sakura shrine until such time as we got another Sakura priestess. I didn’t have any plans on what to do if the whole thing got revealed, and now I have nowhere to live and the only reason I’m not totally alone is that Sora-chan and A-chan decided to exile themselves. But the two of them could go home, if they needed to. I can’t, and last I heard it does snow in Pekoland.”

Yuki smiled warmly.

“You can stay at the Pekoland Palace for as long as you need, Miko-chan; I’m not going to let my daughter’s best friend freeze to death. That said, I get the sense that the four of you - yes, the ghost counts as a plus one here - are a package deal, not just you and the ghost girl.”

Sora nodded, along with A-chan.

“Miko-chan,” Sora nodded, “I might be welcomed back in Mizuho if I ever were to return, but I exiled myself - along with A-chan - because we objected to Ikaki trying to kill you, and the fact is that hasn’t changed: we’re not leaving you to die. We’re the closest thing you have to a family, and we will find a way to make it together. If nothing else, we’re not letting you die alone, because nobody deserves that. Nobody.”

Miko fought the instinct to cry, and then failed. In the back, the members of the Hollow Force started talking with one another.

Meanwhile, Suisei objected: “Uh, do I not count? Because 100% guarantee at the moment: I’m gonna be with her when she dies. Kinda inevitable given our situation, unless someone knows how to sever the spirit tether that Mikochi and I have going. And to be honest, I don’t even think I want it severed anymore.”

A-chan smirked.

“Doesn’t count; you’re a love interest; in comparison Miko only sees Sora as a godlike role model. To be fair, Miko only tried to enshrine Sora as a goddess to the Sakura shrine once, and that was as a child, before Suisei complicated things.”

Sora suddenly looked very awkward all of a sudden.

“I don’t think I’m that special. I’m just a girl, not some superhuman being.”

Miko, on the other hand, shrugged while smiling.

“Yeah, but you’re a really good human. If most humans were like you I’d still be allowed to live in Mizuho. You had a home and a stable life and you gave it up for some girl you didn’t need to. And I guess that’s why I’m so surprised: at that moment, nobody would have objected if you agreed to let me die. You didn’t even need to lift a finger. You could've just stood there and watched.”

Sora shook her head.

“I could never live with myself if I did. I feel bad enough for letting it get to the point that it did, and the fact of the matter that I was avenging two sins at once. First for what happened to you, but also for Sui-chan.”

“Wait, for me?” Sui-chan asked, “Do you know what I was like in the past? Like, yeah, I’m bitter about how I died by being abandoned and left to freeze to death, but the fact of the matter is that the people of Mizuho sealed me away because they had a freaking good reason to do it. I’m not someone who you should feel sorry for.”

“It could’ve been me.” Sora replied, “We were a lot alike in life, you know. We were both relatively optimistic people with a large interest in singing. The only difference was that I was loved, while you were forgotten. Well, there’s what happened after you died, but you never know; maybe I’m also blessed with powerful post-mortem spirit magic.”

“Not that I or anyone else intends on finding out.” A-chan added.

Suisei, on the other hand, seemed to be absolutely shocked at Sora’s lack of fear.

“Sora-chan, you are talking to an actual killer! There are myths written about my dreams in life and my subsequent rage in death. The first Sakura Miko saved her people’s lives from me. While I might appreciate Mikochi’s actions now - she’s the first priestess who’s ever actually listened to what I had to say to her - the fact of the matter is that it was an entirely irrational decision for her to do so.”

She posed intimidatingly, as if trying to evoke her past. Sora, on the other hand, refused to be intimidated.

“Are you saying that you don’t deserve forgiveness for the actions from a thousand years past? Are you saying that the last bit of your humanity, the last bit that still holds an appreciation for both your life and your own dreams, isn’t there any more?”

Suisei froze, while Sora kept speaking.

“Mikochi believes in you, even letting you borrow her physical self to allow you to get a second chance very few do. Are you really saying that you don’t want to make something better out of your second chance in the mortal realm?”

Suisei flinched, and went silent.

“Yeah, you’re right. I’m sorry to say that I’m still a little bitter about my past. I’m trying to be less angry than I used to be. I really am. For the sake of Mikochi, but just as much for other people, too. That said, given that I’m literally a ghost and thus don’t need the ‘living’ part of the living situation, my input on living situations probably wouldn’t be very much appreciated - I can stay literally anywhere.”

Yuki raised an eyebrow.

“Oh, go ahead. I feel like I’m due for a threat or two anyway.”

Suisei shrugged.

“I mean, if you want me to threaten you, sure, I can warn you that if you leave Miko out in the snow to freeze to death that I will unleash an absolutely unholy vengeance upon your people, but I get the feeling that’s not really something I have to worry about from you.”

Yuki snickered, as if the idea wasn’t even an option.

“True, admittedly. That said, while I am willing to let you stay as guests of Pekoland Palace, the fact of the matter is that we do need to find something for the four of you to do, and of that, I’m less certain about. I suppose that Sora was a known singer in her homeland, and if A-chan’s been with her for that long she’s likely doing something behind the scenes, but it won’t be easy to find a purpose for a foreign shrine maiden, and even less for a literal ghost. It doesn’t help that you aren’t children - which is to say that it looks bad if you end up being dependent on us.”

The mood deflated a bit, until a new voice interrupted the conversation.

“In that case, I have a proposal. I’m Amane Kanata, angel of the Hollow Force and a bunch of other titles that I don’t care to recite; both Miko and Suisei know who I am, since we did get into a fight as our first meeting. That happens to me surprisingly often, I guess.”

Sora, A-chan, Miko, and Suisei all turned to face Kanata, who was accompanied by Watame. 

Miko blinked.

“Are you actually interested in taking me along with you?”

“Funnily enough,” Kanata began, “it’s actually the ghost we’re more interested in, though, yes, we would be also taking you by necessity.”

“Oh?” Suisei responded. “What exactly would you want me for? Usually it’s the other way around - people want Miko without dragging me along.”

Watame nodded.

“Understandable, considering your reputation. Before we begin: I’m Tsunomaki Watame, sheep of the Hollow Force, and despite the fact I’m technically not actually officially allowed to sign off on things - it’s a weirdly long story, I won’t elaborate here - I’m considered to be the Lunar Kingdom’s master negotiator. As for what we want you for, allow me to answer your question with another: what do you know of the Hollow Force?”

“Well, I’m Hoshimachi Suisei, which you already know.” Suisei answered. “As for the Hollow Force, the only thing I know is that you guys have an angel and a devil that kicked my ass when we fought, mostly because I didn’t have any reflex for actually trying seriously, and I got rightfully punished for it.” 

Kanata nodded.

“To be fair to your very quick defeat, you were also fighting at a disadvantage taking on Towa and I at the same time. Basically all of Towa’s magic can hit spiritual foes, and, well, you saw what I did to you. If we were human, we’d have to take that fight very cautiously to beat you, and there would definitely be a positive casualty count. Plus, you were admittedly out of practice with your combat powers. That said, out of the four - formerly five - members of the Hollow Force, only one of us is human, and you haven’t met her yet.”

Watame continued: “The Hollow Force is classified as a military organization of the Lunar Kingdom that exists to act as the personal defenders of Lunar Kingdom royalty - in specific, Luna-hime, the current princess. While our actual status is a bit more complicated, it’s a good start. There’s four of us: Amane Kanata, the angel, myself, the sheep, Tokoyami Towa, the other angel - well, no, technically she’s a devil, but she’s also nicer than most devils - and finally Himemori Luna, princess of the Lunar Kingdom.

“Luna is technically counted as being part of the Hollow Force despite being the very person the Hollow Force was formed to protect; she’s not really part of it. And, as Kanata mentioned, there used to be a fifth member: Kiryu Coco, the dragon of the Hollow Force. The legend of the Hollow Force.”

“She was my best friend, too.” Kanata added, “She just so happens to also hibernate, being a dragon. And dragon sleep cycles are a lot longer than human sleep cycles; given everything we’ve studied, Coco’s rather sadly gonna be gone for another couple of years.”

“I fail to see how this is relevant to me.” Suisei replied, “Or rather, I’m beginning to see, and it seems kind of utterly unbelievable.”

Kanata smirked.

“Brace yourself; you may want to start believing right now. As you may have guessed by mentioning Coco’s hibernation, we have an opening in the Hollow Force.”

Chapter Text

Kanata continued speaking.

“With Coco gone - temporarily, at least, though it’s a long wait for the dragon to get back - we’d like someone to fill the position. Not necessarily the role, since, well, Coco has big shoes to fill, but the position. You’re easily powerful enough, and I’ve gotten into a fight with you and won, which is apparently a recruiting process. It got both Coco and Towa incorporated into the Hollow Force, after all.”

Watame interrupted: “To be clear: we’re willing to hire both you and Miko as a collective member of the Hollow Force. In return, you’ll live at the Lunar Kingdom’s castle - with Sora and A-chan if they so please - and, after a short adjustment period, will be considered among the most valiant defenders of the kingdom and generally not just a citizen of the kingdom but a respected member. You’re not a replacement for Coco, of course.”

Suisei took a deep breath, mostly as theatrics since she didn’t need to breathe.

“Alright, question: it’s pretty obvious that you want me for my crazy ghost powers, and it’s pretty obvious that Mikochi needs somewhere to stay, but…”

Watame smiled, finishing the question: “You’re wondering if we just want you for your powers, and thus don’t care nearly as much about Miko.”

“Yeah.” Suisei answered, “I mean, we’re a package deal, and no doubt there’s a lot of people who would love Miko but not me, but it goes the other way around. Ultimately, this is Mikochi’s call to make, not just mine.”

Miko nodded.

“I have my own question: what’s in it for Sui-chan? I know that having somewhere to live is my main concern, but I don’t want her to be used. She’s not a simple tool, and I don’t want to be used just to get access to her, though ultimately that’s kinda your problem if you make her mad.”

“Actually,” Sui-chan replied, “I’ll lash out far more harshly if you upset Mikochi rather than myself. I’m not the one who’s at risk of dying, after all.”

Kanata and Watame smiled, as did Sora and A-chan who were staying in the background of the conversation.

“It’s good to ask that.” Kanata commented, “Admittedly we’re being very opportunistic and taking you two in because we’re in a situation where it’s hard for you to say no, and to make matters even more suspicious, you have only our word that we’d like to know you two better.”

Watame continued: “But we’re not just after your powers. Mikochi, you literally spent years stuck at your own shrine to keep Sui-chan contained, and even after it all went wrong, you literally talked a vengeful spirit into being, well, not vengeful anymore. The strength of your character speaks for itself; you’d fit right with us. Understand that Kanata talked Coco out of causing trouble for the Lunar Kingdom, much like Coco convinced me to join - though I wasn’t much of a troublemaker  - and much like how I convinced Towa. Then Luna-hime insisted she count herself as part of the Hollow Force despite it being the force designed to defend her, which is why technically she counts; she’s the one and only ordinary human in the group.”

Miko and Suisei looked at each other.

“Uh, what?” Miko asked.

Watame snickered.

“The princess can be a bit of a handful. Thankfully, while our job is protecting her, it’s actually fairly uncommon for us to be babysitting her directly, and if it’s required, it’s almost always me doing it. Otherwise, we’re called to defend the kingdom. It’s a big responsibility, but we believe in the strength of both of your characters. Yes, even you, Suisei. The Hollow Force has recruited both a formerly rampaging dragon and a literal devil from the underworld. You’ll fit right in.”

Suisei and Miko looked at each other pensively, and then back to Sora and A-chan, and then even back to Yuki and Pekora, who happened to start listening in on the conversation, but hadn’t interrupted.

They looked back at Kanata.

Miko drew a sharp breath.

“This is as good an opportunity as we’ll get. I’m willing to join you, but only if Sui-chan agrees.”

Suisei weighed her options.

“I mean, I think you’re crazy to look at my deadly history and instead think of me as someone who would protect people from danger rather than being the danger myself, but I’m absolutely willing to accept the offer as long as Miko’s willing to go along. That said, I’ve wanted to better myself, and if you’re going to just hand the road to self-improvement directly at my feet, I’d be a fool not to accept it.”

Miko nodded.

“Then it’s settled?”

Suisei nodded.

“Yeah.”

Sora and A-chan looked at each other again, and then smiled.

“Thank you.” A-chan replied, “We’ll follow along, though I guess we’ll be doing so as refugees rather than heroes.”

“We’ll figure something out for you two.” Kanata stated, “Now we just need to coordinate things behind the scenes with Towa and Luna. Now, that said, you will not be recognized as part of the Hollow Force until we get back to the Lunar Kingdom for official reasons; we’ll discuss that mess when we get back there. Since you’re not likely coming back here anytime soon, this would be a good time to say your goodbyes.”

Miko turned back to Pekora and Yuki, who were smiling relatively happily.

“I mean…”

Yuki walked up and gave Miko a hug.

“I know this might be a little embarrassing given you’re not my child, but I am proud of everything you’ve done for my little Peko-chan. If you ever get a vacation, please feel free to visit; Pekora certainly won’t object.”

She let go, and then Miko turned to Pekora.

“Thank you, Miko-chan.”

Chloe, who was silent until now, finally joined the conversation.

“Okay, that’s a lovely farewell, but we’re not leaving immediately or anything. There’s still plenty of things to organize before we set sail. Namely, that half of our rather large guest list still isn’t present!”

Everyone present laughed.

“Well then,” Yuki replied, “I suppose that’s our next task.”


Slightly later…

“So, in other words, we’re splitting up.” Lui stated.

The rest of the guests from the Lunar Light had arrived and had eaten, packed, and were generally getting ready to go. They hadn’t headed off for their ship yet, but everyone was gathering in the main hall of the Pekoland palace one last time, just to make a quick last minute check that everyone was ready to go.

“That’s correct.” was the reply from Reine.

Those from the Azure Sky had opted to stay in Pekoland a bit longer, and all six of them were present, alongside Pekora and Yuki.

Reine continued: “We need to stay a little longer, because the Lunar Kingdom folks are mostly here on A: delivering Pekora-hime back, which they’ve done, and B: sightseeing with the princess, which means there’s not much reason to stay in one play for very long. I have a bigger reason for being here, namely that I’m about to sign off on dropping Moona off here, and her presence might actually be permanent, which means I probably need to go through the paperwork and whatnot because plainly throwing Moona at you guys with no further explanation is probably bad organization as my kingdom’s heiress. That said, I hear she gets along with Moona well. A bit too well, as I can attest, but I suppose given the circumstances I’ll forgive that little mess.”

Moona and Pekora both shrugged.

Yuki smirked.

“Oh, I’m well aware. I’ve already given Moona the ‘warning about hurting my daughter’ talk, and to be honest, while I do find it hard to imagine Pekora actually settling down at just about any point in the future, Moona’s the closest I’ve come to anyone actually getting anywhere in that department, so I’m willing to cheer for it.”

Pekora and Moona both blushed.

“Mama, can you not talk about my love life like that peko?!”

“I believe I’ve said this already,” Yuki answered, “But I have to make up for all of the parental teasing I wasn’t able to do while I was worrying about your safe return. If anything, I’ve been slow-rolling you with it.”

“Pain peko…” Pekora whined.

“That said, as long as you’re in my kingdom, you six can stay right here, and I definitely won’t object to Moona becoming a permanent fixture around here. That said, I think another family wishes to speak.”

She pointed to behind Reine, where Calliope and Kiara were standing.

“Actually,” Calliope stated, “I’d like to talk to you, Reine. I pulled a few strings, figured out a breadcrumb trail that might have been left by future Ame but honestly I can’t tell anymore which gives us a path on how we want to proceed with getting little Ame back to the future. We need to travel to a few different destinations, and unfortunately, some of them are in exactly the opposite direction of the Shirogane territory. Coincidentally, while things are a little tricky for us right now, I’d actually like to ask for a favor: Reine, can we join you six on the Azure Sky? You’re heading in a slightly more convenient direction for the five of us, at least until we split up again.”

Kiara looked down.

Calliope replied preemptively to the statement Kiara was about to make: “Kiara, you’ve been great - better parent than I am, at any rate - but you knew this wasn’t going to be a permanent thing. You know that Ame has a future to get back to, a family that she’s probably missing no matter how much we try to make her feel at home with us.”

Kiara nodded.

“Yeah, I know. And I suppose, when we meet her again in the future, it’ll be way less awkward for all of us, but, you know, as weird as it is to admit it, I enjoy what I’m doing. But, yes, regardless of that, Reine, the question still stands.”

Reine shrugged.

“We’re not exactly taking the most direct route back home, and we’re certainly not moving with any haste here, but if you don’t mind the wait, it’s not a big deal.”

Kiara nodded.

“Fine by us! It’s not like we’re going anywhere particularly quickly without you, so we can’t complain.”

Lui, who had been intently listening, nodded.

“Then I believe that makes the guest list as follows: All folks native to the Shirogane region, the Hollow Force, the princess, her best friend, her healer, said healer’s two children, and the four folks from Mizuho. You’ll take the time traveler and her family and leave Moona behind here.”

Reine nodded.

“Great!” Lui replied. “Then I believe it’s time to say our goodbyes, though I hope this isn’t the last you hear from us.”

Yuki nodded.

“I certainly hope so. Actual final goodbyes now?”

“Actual final goodbyes now, for those boarding the Lunar Light, since it might be a little while.”


Miko and Pekora hugged. It was an awkward, somewhat stilted affair, as Pekora wasn’t one for physical touchiness, but it was another lengthy goodbye, though one ended on a promise of a far better future for both Miko and Suisei.

“I’ll try to see if I can meet with you again someday.” Miko spoke casually, “Even if this ‘Hollow Force’ business doesn’t seem like something I’ll be able to take many breaks from.”

Pekora shrugged.

“If you’re in a place where you’re happy that’s enough for me. Besides, you’re gonna have to give me a lot of time to outdo you and your ghost girlfriend’s stunt with the switch.”

Miko and Suisei both laughed.

“Good luck with that.” Sui-chan stated casually.


A little while later…

Miko fell into her assigned cabin bed on the Lunar Light.

“From a feared spirit to a defender of the Lunar Kingdom. How does it feel, Sui-chan?”

“Technically, that title will also apply to you - we’re a package deal, remember?”

Miko snickered. It was hard to forget, given the situation with the two of them.

“True. ”

The door to their cabin opened, and from behind it emerged Sora and A-chan.

“Sora-chan, A-chan. The three of us are sharing a room, I take it?” Miko asked.

Sora nodded.

“Well, unless you have any strict objections, but I don't think we’ll have any issues rooming together. A-chan and I will share the other bed, anyway, so it’s not much of an issue, if for whatever reason you’re bothered by the prospect.”

Miko laughed.

“I mean, I’m not, but I can get cuddly. Let’s just say that Pekora would’ve been embarrassed by our childhood sleepovers if she wasn’t a heavy sleeper. That said, what now? I know that I have a future home, and even Sui-chan has found renewed purpose, but…”

“Ah, right. Us.” Sora answered, “I know you’re probably worried about the two of us, but we’ll figure something out. Besides, I’m very happy for you two, and you know, you should probably take the time to be appreciative of that fact.”

Suisei shrugged.

“I mean, I said I wanted to improve myself, but I have to admit, it’s pretty insane getting the pathway to self-improvement laid at my feet like that. I’m just glad Mikochi said yes. And, you know, as weird as it is to say, thank you, too.”

“Oh? Me?” Sora asked.

“Look, Mikochi's going to think positively of me no matter what I do. She’s spiritually tethered to me, and while our relationship isn’t entirely based on that it’s still a rather large foundational piece. That, and due to the predicament she got herself into with me, if our relationship sours, her life becomes absolute hell. No worries, Mikochi.”

“My life’s been better for having you in it.”

“And I'll certainly take that as a sign of success.” Suisei replied, “But, you, Sora-chan, have no reason to think positively of me. Hell, you were taught from an early age to fear me, and yet you were able to toss that away so quickly that I honestly don’t get it.”

Sora smiled.

“I’ve never been scared of very much. Even still, it doesn’t take long conversing with you to learn that you aren’t the anger-fueled ghost of the past. Maybe one day you’ll even find it in yourself to learn forgiveness, though I suspect that will be a much, much longer lesson to learn.”

Suisei nodded.

“Yeah. I mean, we did undo a thousand years of Mizuho’s mythology in a day, and it’s thanks to you three. Miko for laying her life on the line to free me, while simultaneously being good enough to not lay down anyone else’s lives, but after that, you helped me because you two treated me with respect where others treated me with fear.”

“I didn’t do much.” A-chan replied, “I just trust Sora-chan’s judgment, and while I was a little nervous of you, so far our interactions have only gone well.”

Miko smiled.

“It all counts. I guess in a weird way, I kinda feel like I found a family of sorts. Like sisters…?”

Sora nodded.

“Maybe not sisters, but certainly something along those lines. We’ll stay together for now, anyway.”


Choco examined Subaru, while Luna watched.

“The test is in: the love potion was a lie. Pekora just fooled you into believing you had been drugged, but the truth was, you did all of that on your own. I’m proud of you for your progress with dating the-”

“You weren’t supposed to say that!” Subaru interrupted, “What do I do now?!”

“Enjoy a sleepover with me, naaaaaaaaaa~!”

Subaru took a deep breath, and then sighed.

I guess this is my life now.

She paused, thinking about her current situation.

I guess I could get used to this. She’s been well-behaved so far. One step at a time, testing the waters, making sure you don’t hurt Hime-sama…

…I mean, she’s young and innocent. You should be a good role model for her.


Five children piled onto a bed, taking a moment to simply enjoy the physical embrace of one another. It was disorganized but impressively compact.

Noel and Flare looked at the children, of which three were their adoptees and two were Choco’s.

“So,” Flare spoke, “I take it the five of you are rooming together.”

Botan smiled surprisingly melancholically.

“I mean, we’re gonna be saying goodbye in not that long from now, so it kinda makes sense to spend the time we have together.”

Noel nodded.

“I have no objections. If you five need us for anything, remember that we’re here for you.”

“We know.” Lamy replied.


The four members of the Houshou family looked at the island of Pekoland that was getting farther and farther away as the Lunar Light once again went forward.

Marine casually put her arms around Aqua, while Shion and Rushia stood at her sides.

“It’s funny,” Rushia mused, “how a one-off observation essentially re-wrote the history of a village and got a pair of souls exiled.”

Shion shrugged.

“Hey, it all worked out for the better. We got them out of there, reunited friends and family - though we were planning on doing that anyway - and now we’re finally going home.”

Marine smiled.

“That’s true. It’s been a safe journey, even if it’s been unpredictable and even if we got lost. Twice. I’ll be glad to get home, to say the least.”

Shion shrugged.

“Honestly, for as lost as we got, we’ve actually been relatively safe the entire time we’ve been on the Lunar Light. Honestly, it’s just a short journey to the Shirogane region, and then we’ll finally be sleeping in our own beds.”

The sound of distant thunder suddenly hit their ears.

Marine frowned as Aqua attempted to lean her own body into her mother’s.

“You really had to say that out loud. I guess we have one more adventure before we get home now.”

Shion and Rushia both facepalmed.

Chapter Text

The sound of distant thunder was a very unfortunate sound for the Houshou family to hear, given the circumstances and the past.

Shion, on the other hand, simply shrugged.

“It doesn’t feel supernatural to me this time. We’ll probably just sleep through it; this ship is probably the most stable vessel we’ve ever stepped foot on.”

Marine took a deep breath.

“I hope for that outcome, but I wouldn’t get too comfortable. Or maybe we should try, because things might get very uncomfortable for us.”

Shion shrugged.

“Eh, how bad could it be? Hell, couldn’t be worse than any of the times me and Rushia had to yell at you for unsafe sailing conditions. You got better at that with time.”


A little while later…

The Houshou family entered their room, deciding not to stay out on deck as the wind started picking up.

Aqua stumbled a little, as unlike the last three outings out on the sea, the water wasn’t as peaceful, and the waves caused the ship to move around a bit. For three out of four members of the Houshou family, this wasn’t a problem, as they were experienced with worse.

For Aqua, however, she hadn’t had as much experience, and thus the shakiness of the ship was harder for her to ignore. As a result, she stumbled walking around their room, and after failing to stabilize, she fell into bed, saying nothing.

Marine, with a practiced ease, would soon follow her daughter into bed surprisingly gracefully, pulling up a blanket over the two of them, and then putting one arm around Aqua, before pulling her close.

Aqua whined a little, clearly feeling unsettled from the feeling of the bed not being perfectly still, but slowly calming down as Marine let her simply rest in her arms.

Shion and Rushia fell into bed.

“I hope it doesn’t get too much worse.” Rushia whispered.

“The Lunar Light’s a first-rate ship; we’ll be fine.” Shion mused.

And with that, the two of them also fell asleep, assured that the ride would likely be smooth.


The ride was not smooth in the slightest.

At first, it wasn’t too bad, in fact, the Houshou family had fallen asleep and managed to remain asleep all the way until the morning, as did most people onboard the Lunar Light.

The caveat was that meant that only those awake noticed the storm intensifying during the night, meaning that for most of the guests, rather than a slow descent into rough weather, they were suddenly thrust into the ship rolling violently to one side and then the other as soon as they were conscious.

The ship wasn’t all that soundproof, either, meaning that the background ambience of both the howling wind and booming thunder was audible for all to hear, adding to the seemingly doomed atmosphere of the situation that everyone found themselves in.

Aqua was woken up by the sensation of her body getting rocked back and forth, as well as the sensation of her mother’s arms being wrapped around her as the entire world tilted, the ship rolling onto its side.

And then back again. The Lunar Light was designed to be both the most impressive but also one of hardest vessels to sink; despite the conditions and the terror of the waves that were slamming into it, the ship had kept afloat and righted itself.

For Rushia, Shion, and Marine, it was a rather unpleasant experience, holding on the bedposts, the sheets, and one another as the ship was pushed around by the storm, but they were all experienced from their time with the Houshou pirates, and thus could keep their own sense of terror relegated to the background.

For Aqua, who hadn’t had any exposure to harsh weather, it felt like the end of the world. She held onto her mother, trying to calm herself down by relaxing into her mother’s body.

The ship’s movement had made relaxation impossible. The bed the two of them were lying in - getting back to sleep was entirely futile, but trying to walk around was even more so - wasn’t even close to remaining still, and the sheer motion was making Aqua both feel sick and scared for her life as she felt her own body get violently swung around with the motion of the ship. No matter how hard she tried not to be, she was terrified.

Marine, of course, wasn’t one to lay idle while her daughter needed her, which brought the family to the current situation.

“I’ve got you, Aqu-tan.” Marine spoke softly, “You can hold on to me. The situation might seem bad, but it isn’t that bad. This happens sometimes when you’re out on the water.”

“Senchou,” Shion interrupted, “that platitude isn’t going to help. Me and Rushia have been with you long enough to deal with occasional rough waters, but you were always so much more careful with Aqua. She’s never been out on seas this rough, and to be honest, neither have we; we’re just on a larger ship than we normally are.”

“It’s times like this where I’m grateful to be on the Lunar Light and not any of my much smaller commandeered vessels.” Marine replied, “Because that would likely go very badly for all of us if we were. The Lunar Light is one of the few vessels that can take on freak storm waves and still stay upright.”

As if nature wanted to demonstrate her point, the ship was suddenly pitched violently by a freak wave. From inside, the wave slamming into the ship made a terrifying crashing sound as the bow ascended through the crest of the wave.

Aqua cuddled herself to her mother’s side, crying out as she suddenly found the bed rising upwards.

“Mama…!”

Marine, in turn, tightly wrapped her arms around her daughter.

“Just hold on, Aqu-tan. We’re gonna-”

At that point, the Lunar Light finished ascending the crest of the freak wave that had hit them, and now that it had made it that far, suddenly descended as the space between one wave and the next formed a valley of sorts.

Aqua’s stomach dropped as she suddenly felt like she was falling, and then screamed.

“I can’t take it! Mama, I can’t, I can’t, I can’t-”

Her screaming was muffled as Marine pulled Aqua into the tightest hug she could as the two of them got rocked around in their bed.

Aqua cried, both terrified and feeling physically ill.

“I’m not…brave…like you…”

Her mother fought the instinct to cry. It was hard enough watching her daughter being scared, but it was heartbreaking to watch her daughter cry out in terror when already in the comfort of her arms, hitting a breaking point such that calming down was outright impossible, reduced to crying in her mother’s arms seeking a comfort that Marine couldn’t provide.

Aqua felt another pair of arms wrap themselves around her from behind.

“It’s okay to be scared.” Rushia said in an effort to comfort her younger sister. “And yeah, at this point I think we’re all feeling a little queasy from the ride.”

Shion went next, cramming herself onto the bed beside Rushia as part of the Houshou family protective cocoon around the youngest member.

“I’ll tell you a little secret: I’m scared too. You never really stop being a little scared of the ocean. But we’re all here. We’re gonna be fine. But it’s okay to be scared, too.”

Aqua whimpered, but relaxed a tiny bit. With her mother on one side and her sisters on the other, the ship’s rolling could throw her to either side but still run into a family member, who were both operating as a relatively warm and comforting barrier to being thrown directly out of bed.

A magical voice announcement hit all of the Houshou family’s ears at once.

“Takane Lui speaking. As you may have noticed, the weather has deteriorated rather badly, and the storm’s been continuously intensifying since it started. We’re sorry for the rough ride; we advise everyone to stay in their rooms and hold on tight. We’ve reviewed the ship’s construction and defensive enchantments; in all likelihood we’re gonna make it through this, but it’s going to get ugly, and for that we do apologize.”

“Yeah, I think we noticed!” Shion mused rather sarcastically, “Though I’m just thankful we have Senchou with us; to be honest if it were just me, Rushia, and Aqua we’d probably be freaking out to Hell and back.”

Marine frowned, while holding on to her crying daughter as the ship swayed one from one side to another.

“I just remembered that we have other guests with us who probably aren’t as experienced as we are with this. In particular, the other children.”


In another room, five children held on for dear life.

Lamy, Nene, Aloe, and Botan were piled onto a single bed, with Aloe and Nene sandwiched in between Botan and Lamy. While it appeared at first that Polka was absent, looking under the blankets would reveal a fennec fox that was laying across Aloe and Nene; Polka had switched to animal form for the sake of maximizing physical contact with her friends and family. The five children had settled into the position in bed for the night before the storm had intensified, and they didn’t particularly care to split up, despite the fact it was a rather sensible option.

In the center, Nene wrapped her arms around Aloe, while Polka attempted to escape in her fennec fox form and failed, effectively getting squished between the two young girls.

Botan and Lamy then put their arms around Aloe and Nene respectively, which completed the rather secure formation keeping them from being swept out of bed by the rolling and pitching of the ship and their bed with it.

Botan and Aloe remained dead silent. Botan because she was simply hard to shake, and Aloe because her natural fear reaction was silence. Lamy and Nene, on the other hand, supplied most of the screaming, with Nene’s screaming being mostly incoherent and Lamy trying to supply reassurances to her younger sister and failing utterly at that.

“I’ve got you, Nenechi. We’re going to-AAAAAHH!” Lamy attempted to reassure Nene, screaming when the ship suddenly rolled.

The four girls who were still in human form tightened their grip, while Polka, in her fox form, got compressed further by the two relatively terrified children.

I feel like I’m a toy for Nenechi right now, Polka thought. Hmm, I wonder…

She squirmed, and with a bit of fox reflex coming in handy she managed to somehow slip out from between Nene and Aloe and escape the blankets entirely.

“Hey!” Nene shouted, “What are you doing?!”

Polka turned around, and then transformed back into human form, before she suddenly smirked.

“Revenge for you two squishing me!”

And then she piled herself on top of Aloe and Nene, hugging the two from above.

Nene then laughed, despite the circumstances, and Aloe put a timid smile on her face.

Botan and Lamy smiled.

Polka’s certainly been good at putting smiles on everyone’s faces, Lamy thought, and to think Nene has her as a sister. As do I.

Rather suddenly, the ship pitched violently, and with it the return to a large amount of screaming as their attempt to hold together backfired when they all crashed into each other, with a brief moment of being nearly in the air being cut off by Nene and Aloe crashing into the bed and then the two of them being practically buried underneath the other three.

Botan was the first to respond, while Polka once again jumped out of bed, followed by transforming back into her fennec fox form and scampering off.

“Aloe, Nenechi, are you both feeling alright?” Botan asked.

Aloe nodded briefly while Nene shook her head.

“I’m scared.” Nene replied, before suddenly smiling and turning around the mood: “But I’m fine as long as we stick together. Nothing bad happens while we’re together…”

There was something about Nene’s sheer optimism that made the rest of them unable to voice a dissenting opinion. They were going to stick together, regardless of whether they were all going to drown or not.

Whether or not they would survive was out of their control at this point.

For Lamy, however, it was more personal: a night of hearing Nene scream as she was tortured while Lamy could do nothing for her still hadn’t left the snow elf’s memory. Lamy recalled using her ice magic to try and dull Nene’s pain back when the wounds were fresh, but it still pained her to know that she wasn’t there, even if it wasn’t by choice, for the time that Nene needed her the most, leaving wounds that still haunted the young girl to this day. 

I could’ve killed them all right then and there…but would that have helped given where we are now?

She tightened her hold on Nene as the ship rolled.

I’ll never let you suffer alone again.

“I won’t let go. We’ll stick together through this.”

Nene seemed to be content with that answer.

“I always feel safe with you…”

All of a sudden, the door to their room opened, with Noel and Flare both behind it. In front of the two of them was Polka, still in fox form.

“Polka’s the one that got us; apparently we took too long to come over here. That said: kids, are you all doing alright?” Noel asked, “I know it’s been a rather rough ride, and lord knows even I’m not feeling too good right now. I’ve talked with a few others; we should be able to ride this out, just really uncomfortably.”

“That just means more time for us to stick together!” Nene replied with a bright smile on her face, “It’s not scary when we’re holding on together!”

The face Lamy gave to that statement immediately let Noel and Flare know that, no, the storm was plenty scary; Nene was just too optimistic. It was a good sign, as it meant that Nene was accustomed to feeling safe with her family.

Nene squirmed a little; in response Lamy actually got up. Nene followed, and then rather suddenly Nene stumbled towards Noel with the motion of the ship and then practically rammed into her, while Lamy fell back into bed.

“...Can you hold on to me?” Nene asked.

Noel smiled, and  wrapped her arms around her daughter.

“Of course.”

Flare raised a finger.

“Given that all of you appear to have squished yourself into one bed, can I assume the other bed here isn’t occupied? Lord knows standing consistently is a bit tricky right now.”

“Yep.” Botan replied, “If you feel like staying here, go right ahead.”

“Thank you.” Noel replied.

And with that, Noel and Flare quickly occupied the other bed in the room, with Nene comfortably holding on to her two adoptive parents as the ship was rocked by the raging ocean. Polka, transforming back to her human form, managed to somehow fit herself in between Aloe and Lamy, taking Nene’s former position in the bed.

“Actually, I have a question.” Botan mused, “Where’s Choco? She’s in theory adopting me and Aloe.”

Noel rolled her eyes.

“Still asleep, somehow. Suffice to say, if you want her to be awake at the same time you are, you’re likely going to have a long road ahead of having to wake her up yourself.”

Botan laughed.

“Well, I think for now we’re fine.”

Flare frowned.

“You know, I can’t help but feel bad for a few guests here. Namely those who don’t have their parents with them.”


For all of her bratty antics, Luna also had a fair independent streak, which was to say that it was mostly by her hand that she was traveling without parental supervision, even if the trip was supervised by people who would ensure her safety.

This was a decision that Luna was now regretting. She was a combination of observant and yet stubborn enough to not call out for her parents, because she was well aware they couldn’t come to her where she was right now. Luna was, for a lack of better term, absolutely terrified beyond belief, and she was taking out that fear entirely on Subaru, with aggressive physical and mental comfort tactics.

Which was to say she was attempting to crush Subaru in as tight a hug as she could manage while crying from fear while the two of them lay down in a bed designated for royalty, both of them essentially bedridden from having their sense of balance annihilated given the current conditions.

“Suba-chaaaaaaaaaan! Hold on to me!”

It was one of the few times that Subaru felt legitimately awful for the princess. Sure, she found Luna insufferable at times, but she was a child, and the fact of the matter was that it was rather awful watching Luna nearly be on the verge of having a total breakdown.

It was why she obliged Luna’s request without complaining, whereas normally Subaru tended to hesitate a little. It was times like this where she remembered that, for all of the Hollow Force’s existence, their primary objective was to defend the princess, not to comfort her. While Luna being friends with them was a fairly natural consequence of their position, the order that Luna chose to seek comfort in when scared started with the people she was closest to, and that started with best friends and family; people who were close to Luna, and not just in a professional manner.

From that view, only Subaru was truly available at the moment.

It kinda feels weird, Subaru thought, how we’re both in a comfy bed, wrapped in soft blankets, and yet we’re the most uncomfortable we’ve been in our lives.

There was a rhythm to Luna’s grip on the girl she looked up to as a role model and as a pre-romantic interest. Every time the ship rolled or pitched, her grip would tighten, as she tried to cuddle a little closer just because she wanted the safe feeling of being physically comforted, and likewise during brief moments of peace where the ship didn’t feel like it was going to sink, she loosened up, letting herself to breathe properly.

“That’s the spirit, Luna-chan. Breathe slowly. We’re gonna be fine, but it’s gonna be scary for a little while.”

Luna whimpered, and once again pressed herself into Subaru’s embrace as the Lunar Light was slammed by another large wave.

“Suba-chan, I don’t wanna be on the water anymore…!”

“Neither do I, and I don’t think anyone else here does! But we’re here together now, and there’s not much we can do except hang on until the storm passes over. It’s gotta pass sometime!”

Luna sniffled, continuing to hold on to Subaru.

“Suba-chan, can you be my prince…?”

Subaru rolled her eyes.

“This again?”

“You do everything I want a prince to do… you’d defend me. Protect me. Even share a bed with me…”

“Luna-chan…”

There was a part of Subaru who wanted to finish that sentence with you’re just a child, you have more important things in your future to worry about, but in Subaru’s case, she was still in her teenage years and thus was only a few years older. More importantly, another part of Subaru just couldn’t find it in herself to finish the sentence while staring at Luna’s pleading eyes.

She’s young. She’ll grow out of it. You can humor her with no harm done.

“Alright, I’ll be your ‘prince’ for now. You can hold on to me.”

Luna smiled, seemingly growing content with the situation, holding on to her officially appointed best friend and, at least, in a childish manner that did not imply any actual relationship, her ‘prince’. She held on with a tight grip for her own comfort in the face of the motion of the ship.

Subaru sighed, and returned the embrace with one arm while slowly patting Luna’s head with the other.

It’s gonna be a long night ahead of us. I wonder how the others are doing…


Meanwhile, in another room, Suisei was decidedly not having a good time, lying down in a bed as the ship was rocked by the waves.

“Why is motion sickness so physical?! Mikochi, your body sucks!”

Miko, who was currently floating above Suisei in her ghost form, cringed.

“If it’s too much for you, we can swap back. I’m more used to it than you are.”

“Yeah, but that means putting you through this misery.”

From the other side of the room, sitting on the other bed was A-chan, who smirked, and added her own statement:

“It’s really funny how much you care about her.”

“I figure I’ll be tired enough to swap with Mikochi again later. I’m honestly surprised to find out that Sora-chan’s also particularly susceptible to seasickness; she always struck me as fairly resilient in most aspects. Well, by human standards anyway, but point stands; she doesn’t really seem to be doing any better than I am. I think she’s actually doing worse.”

“It’s not that bad…” whined Sora from the other bed, lying down. “...I’m just fine…”

A-chan gave Sora a ‘seriously?’ look.

Suisei smirked.

“You’re right, it’s not really that bad. It’s unpleasant, but I can live with this. But that’s my crazy spirit powers for you; I believe everyone else here is human.”

At that point, Suisei got up. Or at least, she tried to, stumbling as she tried to get up with the motion of the ship, and then fell down to the floor trying to deal with the double-whammy of the ship’s motion with Miko’s natural clumsiness.

“Sui-chan, are you alright?” Sora asked.

“Yeah, I’m just annoyed at Mikochi’s stupidly clumsy body, which makes a difficult task nearly impossible. Let me just get up, and…”

And so, Suisei got back to her feet, and it was only then that Sora realized what Suisei was doing as she watched the blue-haired girl suddenly crawl into Sora’s bed from the side opposite A-chan.

“Hey,” A-chan objected fairly casually, “what’s this all about? I don’t recall bed sharing with you being part of our sleeping arrangements.”

“There’s room for all three of us, since the ghost girl, whether it be me or Mikochi, doesn’t exactly need much in the way of physical space. Besides, didn’t Sora-chan say we were family? I thought that implies a certain level of acceptable closeness. That, and Mikochi is kind of busy being a ghost right now. I love her company, but-”

A-chan smirked.

“Oh, I get it. You’re scared of being alone.”

The ship swayed as she finished the sentence: “Not that I entirely blame you, given the circumstances. It’s just funny given your reputation.”

Suisei smirked right back.

“Ah, it’s not me. Remember who I share my physical self with.”

She snapped her fingers, and with it her body returned to being Miko’s, with her hair color swapping from blue to pink. Miko finally sighed, and spoke out loud, physically speaking to the other three people there.

“I kind of want someone there with me. It’s silly, but I’m scared, and-”

“It’s okay. I don’t mind.” Sora replied. “...lord knows we’re not going to be doing much walking around, given our general level of seasickness. And yeah, I’d be nervous too right now.”

Miko snuggled closer to Sora as the ship rolled with the waves. Both of them whined a little, both being essentially forcibly bedridden.

Suisei, back in ghost form, let out a long sigh.

“I really hate only having one physical self between the two of us, sometimes. It’s not jealousy - well, no, it is jealousy. Not in the ‘direct rival’ sense, but I hate how my touch is artificial. Sure, I can ‘touch’ Miko via manifesting a stronger ghost form, but it’s all quite literal phantom touches.”

A-chan smirked.

“True, though given current conditions I think you’re probably better off being a ghost right at the moment. Weren’t you complaining about-”

It was in the middle of the sentence that the Lunar Light’s motion caught A-chan off guard, causing her to fall into bed on Sora’s other side.

“Okay, I deserve that. I shouldn’t be making fun of you for multiple reasons.”

She soon maneuvered her way underneath the blankets, and joined Miko in holding onto Sora.

“That said, Sora-chan: how are you not at least a little scared? I’ve mostly been hanging on to your sanity to avoid screaming right now.”

Sora shrugged.

“I’m just quiet about being scared. I promise I’m a little terrified too. I don’t mind you two holding on to me if it makes you feel better.”

“Well, I’m not really feeling any less sick,” Miko whined as the bed tilted, “but it feels nice to have someone with me who’s going through the same thing, since Sui-chan’s…”

Suisei sighed.

“Yeah, I know, I lack a heartbeat, breath, and body warmth. Not exactly a good cuddle target for those reasons. I’m a little jealous, though I think part of that is me just wanting to be a petty teenager since I didn’t get to do a lot of that while I was alive. I think I’m done being irrationally angry at this point, though.”

“It wasn’t irrational at all.” Miko replied, “Even if by neglect, the people of Mizuho killed you.”

“I’m sorry.” Sora added, “It’s a little tragic to think you were left to die at an age younger than I am right now. It could’ve just as easily been me in your position. You’ve talked about your ‘dreams in life and subsequent rage in death’, but really we’ve only known the latter half of that, and that’s…really sad. I’d love to hear you sing someday…”

“Well, given that I’m the only person who probably can do so while you three are busy not getting out of bed. Plus, while in ghost form, I don’t have to worry about vocalizing through Miko’s vocal chords; my voice is pure spiritual magic right now.”

Suisei smiled, opened her mouth, and then A-chan and Miko both screamed as the ship suddenly pitched violently in the raging ocean, while Sora smiled amusedly at both of her friends freaking out and holding on to her while also she closed her eyes, feeling seasick.

“Or,” Suisei mused, “maybe I can save it for a better day.”

Sora sighed.

“Yeah, that might be for the best.”


Iroha and Koyori looked at the sleeping form of Laplus Darknesss.

Koyori frowned.

“I have never been so jealous of someone's ability to sleep in my life.”

Iroha nodded.

“To be fair, it means we don’t have to worry too much about how she’s feeling. It also means that Lui and Chloe can focus entirely on keeping the ship steady.”


While focused on keeping the Lunar Light steady, Chloe sighed.

I’m in so much trouble when Hime-sama next speaks to me.

Chapter Text

Lasting the night had been an uncomfortable affair for virtually everybody aboard the Lunar Light as it made it through the storm.

As she woke up, Houshou Marine relaxed a bit; though, like her daughter Aqua, she hadn't slept all that much. Unlike her daughter, on the other hand, it wasn’t because she wasn’t able to relax; despite the motion of the ship, Marine almost found it relaxing in a nostalgic manner, even if the common definition of relaxing was not the one being used.

Aqua was doing most of the being uncomfortable at the moment, and Marine couldn’t find it in herself to fall asleep while her daughter was still anxious. That said, Aqua had calmed down somewhat. If one was unobservant, one could even imagine that she had calmed down and was at this point feeling relaxed, at least at a distance.

However, Marine was both observant and was currently holding her daughter in her arms, and both of those factors meant that she was pretty aware of the fact that Aqua was feeling unwell. Despite that, they both remained silent; both them and Rushia were all fairly quiet and mostly just holding on to one another.

This left Shion doing most of the getting frustrated; like Aqua, she wasn’t feeling terribly well, but unlike Aqua, she was fairly vocal about it.

“Well, so much for good morning. This sucks.”

Aqua whined wordlessly.

Marine ruffled her daughter’s hair.

“The ocean’s given us a reminder of how small we really are, but ultimately we’ve been spared.”

At that point, the Houshou family all heard the voice of Takane Lui through a magically amplified voice announcement.

“Takane Lui speaking. Good morning; I know that many of you probably haven’t gotten too much sleep, but regardless, we hope you’ve managed to hold on tight for now. We have good news and bad news. The good news is we’re making landfall. Given how our journey has gone thus far, you can probably guess the bad news at this point, but to be clear: we’re not landing in the Shirogane region. Our recommendation is that we try to get away from the storm as soon as possible; if anyone wishes to object, please talk to me or Chloe.”

Shion snickered.

“Somehow, I don’t think people are going to object to that recommendation.”


In another room, Noel and Flare both looked at their youngest daughter who was currently squeezed in between her adoptive parents, having just taken in Lui’s announcement.

“You know,” Flare stated, “normally I’d make a statement about how I’m sorry about how long it’s taking to get back home and that we’re somehow lost again, but honestly at this point, I want to find it funny how ridiculous our journey back home has gotten.”

“How are you feeling, Nenechi?” Noel asked.

Nene smiled.

“I’m fine if we’re together!”

Flare smiled; Nene’s optimism was infectious.

Noel smiled, but on the other hand, she took a moment to think about her times of reading the Shirogane warrior diaries.

If I have one wish for the future, it’s for that smile to remain innocent.


Choco smiled amusedly at Subaru and Luna hugging each other for comfort under the covers of the princess’ bed onboard the ship. It would’ve been even more amusing to her if it wasn’t because Luna was terrified.

Oh, how I wish I had a way to capture this moment forever.

“So,” Choco began, “are you going to object to the announcement?”

“I don’t wanna be in this storm anymore!” Luna whined back.

“Well, we’re not gonna be here for too much longer!” Subaru replied.

Luna whined with the motion of the ship, and continued trying to relax into Subaru’s arms.

Choco smirked.

“I guess that means we’re not going to disagree with Lui’s strategy to get out of the storm as quickly as possible?”

Luna nodded, and then curled her body into Subaru’s, who mostly looked like she had long since abandoned any sense of personal dignity.

Choco smiled.

“Sit tight. We’re gonna be fine.”


Sora and Miko remained in the bed that they were sharing for the duration of the storm.

“I suppose,” Sora began, “that given we’re technically still homeless, being lost isn’t necessarily that bad a problem? We’re still with everyone.”

“Yeah,” Miko mentioned casually, “at this point what’s one more adventure? After years of being stuck at the shrine the unpredictability is almost, hmm…”

“...nice?” Suisei asked.

“Maybe.”

“Well,” the ghost girl replied, “you might want to imagine how long it’s been for me in particular.”

A-chan paused.

“You know, I’m actually curious. Isolation is often psychologically really damaging, yet you appear to have gotten more sane through your imprisonment, not less.”

Suisei shrugged.

“Being a ghost isn’t like being a mortal in most of those manners. Especially when sealed away; you aren’t really, hmm, aware of things? It’s less a thousand-year prison sentence and more a thousand-year deep sleep. I’m aware that I’m sleeping and that it’s been a while, but the actual perception of how long I was sealed away for is rather limited. In a sense, each time I awakened from my slumber was a new opportunity, though in most cases I was just immediately resealed.”

Miko smiled.

“I’m glad I chose not to seal you away.”

Sora also smiled.

“I’m proud of you for doing that, Miko-chan. You did something that even your predecessors weren’t willing to try. You deserved so much better than how we treated both of you; and I suppose figuring out where to go is our next order of business.”

“Speaking of which, where are we going?” A-chan asked.

Suisei shrugged.

“Not much way to find out while we’re stuck here. That said, the storm seems to be dying out. Or, more appropriately, we’re not moving through it any longer. I guess we’ll find out together.”


Later…

The Lunar Light, beaten from the storm but still in one piece, sailed into the port of an unknown town. Some basic observation and geographical knowledge would also give the hint that they hadn’t left the mainland that was the region for both the Lunar Kingdom and the Shirogane territory.

As the storm had quieted down somewhat and thus everyone aboard was willing to walk up to the top deck without fear of being swept into the ocean, it was Shiranui Flare who made the connection between the town they had sailed into and the location they were now effectively stuck in while the storm seemingly blocked the path of the Lunar Light from sailing directly to their destination.

“Good news: we’re no longer lost. Or at least, I’m not.”

Takane Lui turned around.

“Do you know this place, Flare?”

Flare nodded.

“I was born here, so I hope I know this place. Welcome to the elven territories; I recommend you let me handle the diplomatic proceedings since the elves can be a little territorial. Well, me and Noel-chan both; as much as the elves don’t like us being in their territory they ultimately won’t say no to us. Let us do the negotiating for now; they should let us stay here.”

And with that, Flare turned to the shore.

“Let me represent the group for now; I’ll head down there and will return with their representative. It should all be fairly good. Ready to lower the boarding planks?”

Takane Lui nodded.


A few minutes later, Flare returned, this time with a companion, who looked remarkably out of place, with blond hair and a pair of pigtails that were left floating by some mechanism that made little natural sense.

The girl bowed.

“Alona! I’m Aki Rosenthal, and I’m tasked with keeping things running relatively smoothly here. I trust that you’ll all be good girls? At the very least, Flare has spoken positively of all of you; I’ll be representing the elven territories during your stay.”

Lamy immediately raised a finger.

“Um, are you really an elf?”

Aki paused.

“Biologically, I’m not quite an elf, but as I was found in the elven woods and was taken in by one - Azumi Akitake is the name if you’re curious - I’m considered an honorary member of the tribe. Now, I still remember my original family name, though; and as a reminder that I’m not quite a member of the tribe, I still use it. You can just call me Akirose, however.”

Lamy frowned.

“Have they treated you poorly? I know the elves can be a bit distrusting at times.”

Aki shook her head.

“Not at all. I’m treated as an outsider sometimes , but they haven’t been unkind to me. At least, not explicitly; some elves still give me strange looks, but I haven’t been directly discriminated against, if that’s what you’re worried about.”

Flare breathed a sigh of relief.

“Okay, good; the elves are many things but laid-back typically isn’t one of them; I was worried that I’d have to remind people who’s in charge around here, and I don’t particularly like having to invoke Shiranui privilege. It’s not that I think ill of my people, but-”

Aki smiled.

“I’m not that young, Shiranui-san.”

Flare froze.

“First, please call me Flare, or even Flare-chan if you must; I’m not really that far above you. Second of all, I’d like to apologize; I’ve recently adopted and I think maternal worrying instincts are unfortunately being ingrained into me. I don’t mean to treat you like you’re helpless.”

“It’s no problem,” Aki replied, “I understand that it all comes from good intent. Especially since you do have children. That said, welcome back to your old home; what’s the plan?”

“Simple enough,” Flare answered, “we’re trying to get back to the Shirogane region, but we’ve been blocked by a storm that has made sailing around the mainland a rather hazardous endeavor, which is to say that we’d rather not find ourselves at the bottom of the sea.”

She paused.

“That said, I suppose we’re literally one major city over from where we’re trying to go; honestly it might just be more practical to march through the elven forest unless anything drastic has changed while I wasn’t looking. It’s not exactly a short walk, but at this point we’re slightly tired of the sheer number of ways fate has delayed our journey home. And, yes, this is one of the places I call home, but it’s not my end destination.”

Aki looked pensively for a moment.

“Well, your old home is still available, if you wish to take people there - though, you appear to have quite the crew with you, so maybe not everyone, though really, you outrank me by any metric, so I suppose my commands are limited to advice.”

“Yes,” Flare responded, “but it’s sound advice. I’ll take my family with me, which includes Noel and my children, as well as Luna and those closest to her. I think I can manage, what, twelve people at my old place, assuming people are willing to be a little bit cuddly with one another.”

Takane Lui raised her hand.

“We’ll stay on the Lunar Light, and by ‘we’ I mean anyone who’s still actually in charge of running operations around here; eventually we’ll have to leave. If it turns out that the plan changes to marching through the elven forest, then we’ll wait the storm out at this port and rejoin you in the Shirogane region by sailing around, however long that takes. Otherwise, it’s really just like any of our other unplanned visits to other countries.”

“Still,” Noel finally replied, “that does mean we need to figure out who’s coming with us and who’s more or less on their own. I’m with my wife, obviously, and any children being directly adopted by the two of us are coming with us. That’s five so far, and I think Aloe and Botan push it to seven without much debate.”

Choco raised her hand.

“I’ll join you, then, if only because I don’t particularly feel like giving in to stereotypes about my species’ parental abilities - which is to say, we’re not known for being very good at it.”

Botan, in the back, frowned, but said nothing.

Finally, one more person stepped forward in all of the proceedings: Luna, with Subaru rather reluctantly following behind her. More worrying, the princess did not look like she was in a particularly good mood.

“I don’t wanna be on this ship anymore…” Luna whined.

Subaru looked somewhere between sympathetic and embarrassed, mostly owing to knowing she was being dragged along.

Kanata and Watame raised their hands.

“As the angel of the Hollow Force,” Kanata explained, “My duty is to Hime-sama. Watame will follow for a similar reason.”

Towa nodded.

“I’ll remain on the Lunar Light, alongside Takane Lui and her subordinates. I think by default the rest of us will rest onboard the ship, though I imagine we’ll wander around a bit during the day. Now, as someone not familiar with the elven territories, I do want to ask a question owing to how we’re a multispecies bunch; how are the elves in regards to…”

She paused, trying.

“I’m really trying to find a way to phrase this that isn’t offensive.”

Aki smiled politely.

“You have a pair of horned demons with you, so the tolerance question is, while a very cynical thing to ask, not actually entirely unwise. In general, if Noel and Flare are willing to vouch for you all, then it’s all good. I mean, we let the humans settle in what’s now the Shirogane region that’s essentially in the middle of elven territory, and they’ve done nothing but honor the agreements that were made when the region was settled.”

Towa smiled.

“Ah, now’s probably a good time to mention that I’m literally a devil; it’s for this reason that I’m not trusted with negotiations in general.”

“Even when the distrust is entirely unfounded.” Kanata replied while frowning. “Though for safety reasons we’re not allowed to officially conduct diplomatic relations as the Hollow Force. Our job is simply to make sure the princess remains safe.”

Towa nodded.

“That, and regardless of anything else I need to speak to the one member who hasn’t shown themselves up here. Hoshimachi Suisei, if you would?”

Sakura Miko closed her green eyes, and then snapped her fingers, and switched places with Suisei; pink hair turning blue and shrine maiden’s outfit switching colors to a much deeper blue.

Suisei opened her blue eyes.

“Hi. I’m Hoshimachi Suisei; I’m a ghost and an extremely powerful vengeful spirit. I’m Mikochi’s partner, and between the two of us we have one physical self. I possess her from time to time.”

Miko conjured her ghost form.

“Also she can exist as a visible ghost too like I am right now, but I really wanted to let her have some physical fun sometimes. Uh, I hope the elves don’t freak out too much about the two of us?”

Aki cringed while Suisei sighed.

“If Mikochi were to wander around with me back as an invisible ghost, would it be a problem?”

This time Flare cringed.

“The elves are, on the whole, more spiritually sensitive than humans. And if you get caught while trying to hide, it will likely not be a huge problem but it will get very awkward for virtually everyone involved. Not unless you’re good at lying and denying your history, and if you don’t have that skill I don’t recommend learning it.”

Suisei frowned.

“We’ll stay onboard. Ah well, Towa wanted to speak with me anyway.”

Behind the pair of Suisei and Miko, Sora and A-chan both frowned, but said nothing.

Finally, Houshou Marine spoke, representing the one group that hadn’t been directly addressed thus far.

“I’m okay with staying onboard the Lunar Light; though, really, while the elves might be rather justifiably suspicious of me - let’s just say that Fuu-tan and I got up to our hijinks together and while Noe-chan may have forgiven me-”

“I have?” Noel interrupted.

Marine shrugged.

“Enough to not arrest me, anyway. Back to where I was: the elves have longer and probably more distrusting memories of me, so I’ll probably cause fewer issues if I stay here, despite the fact I’ve historically caused more problems while on a ship rather than off of one.”

Shion and Rushia glared at Marine.

“What?” Marine asked, “You two have been around me long enough to know my reputation.”

Shion facepalmed.

“This isn’t the kind of thing you want to say out loud to them!”

Aki shrugged.

“I’ll just avoid bringing up the topic to the elves.”

Marine nodded.

“Okay, that’s dealt with then. Aqu-tan will stay with me, naturally; the last few months have been a lot for her.”

Aki smiled.

“I think we can go our separate ways, then.”

The gang then split up.

Chapter Text

Towa watched most of the gang leave before turning around to face Suisei.

Floating behind Suisei was Miko’s ghost form, and standing beside Miko were Sora and A-chan.

“Um, is this something we’re allowed to hear?” Sora asked casually.

“Eh, I’m not divulging state secrets,” Towa answered, “as long as you agree to not bring this up I’ll just take you at your word. The only person who has anything to worry about in regards to what I’m about to say is myself. Let’s start with that; I’m Tokoyami Towa, devil of the Hollow Force and the fourth member to be officially recruited. Kanata already gave you the whole speech about how we’d like to use you to fill the position that Coco left behind, and I’m not going to say much more than that because that’s not why I want to speak with you.”

Suisei smirked.

“Let me guess: you don’t trust me as much as Kanata and Watame do. Makes sense, really; Kanata’s the angel and is probably a big believer in redemption, and Watame’s just super nice in general; I can’t imagine her thinking ill of anyone, really.”

Towa shook her head.

“Nah, Watame’s actually pretty observant. She’s also impossibly polite and agreeable, but if she thinks you can’t be trusted, we wouldn’t have made the offer to join us. And actually, that brings me to what I wanted to talk about, because out of everyone here and in the Hollow Force there’s precisely one person who doesn’t actually trust themselves with the responsibility of being a member of it.”

Suisei looked down, thinking.

“Well, it can’t be Kanata, since she made the offer, it can’t be Watame for a similar reason, you just implied you trust me, and I imagine Luna’s easy to get the approval of. Mikochi and both of my friends from Mizuho trust me to an honestly irrational degree.”

Towa smirked.

“Yup. Who’s left?”

“...me.”

Towa’s smirk changed to an earnest polite smile.

“I wanted to talk to you about my past, talk to you about how I got recruited into the Hollow Force, because I think I can help you get some perspective on why we’d make the offer.”

Suisei smiled.

“You really are way too good to me. But go on; I’m honestly fascinated.”

Towa took a deep breath.

“The story begins with me, Tokoyami Towa, but not as a part of the Hollow Force. Back in those days, I was known to my old devil friends as the ‘material devil’, which is to say that I didn’t really have an interest in committing to acts of devilishness for the sake of doing so, but instead because it was how I collected things I wanted. Back then, I was a ‘contract devil’, a devil who operated by signing off on deals with mortals, and one of the few that was allowed to do so.

“And, very shortly after entering the mortal realm, I immediately went rogue, because I honestly didn’t have any motivation for committing acts of devilishness other than to get things I wanted. Instead, I contracted people out of their material possessions by a variety of methods, most psychological. The value would only flow one way, and soon enough with some creative deals I was living a higher life than I had any right to, because I could convince people to give me things. I didn’t even need to use my own devil magic except for the rare cases where people thought I was getting a little too lucky and thus needed additional persuasion; but again, as long as everything was done through backroom deals, it was hard to get in trouble for it.”

“How in the world did you go from that to being part of the Hollow Force?” Miko asked.

Towa took a deep breath.

“One day, this sheep girl gets involved with my schemes. That was one of my more dangerous ones, actually, and I ended up making a tidy profit. I was intending to swindle her after a long discussion that I’d manipulated her into agreeing to have with me, but long story short, after taking the bait, she just talked with me, and she just casually mentioned how disappointing it would be if everything ended up turning out for nothing. I split my earnings with her, and while I still did swindle her, it was more skimming off the top than actually outright playing her.”

Suisei smirked.

“She did nothing wrong, I take it?”

“Oh god, she’s gotten to you already. Yeah, she did nothing wrong. And it was only after the fact did I realize that I had been played. Anyways, one mistake, whatever, the next day I’m back out at my trades again, signing contracts with mortals and convincing them to make objectively bad deals with me. Bad for them, that is. It’s going well until this new girl shows up.

“She claims to be part of a powerful clan of dragons. Now, this is unusual, because I had been trying to lay low since I really didn’t want to be dragged into a confrontation. We play some casual card games; no bets made yet, no deals to worry about, because I’m a little cautious at this point. She then says that she knows I’m a devil. She then also says that she’s tracked down every single asset I’ve swindled out of people, which is impressive because I did my best to make sure some of those were out of my hands by the time this happened.

“Of course, I knew she was bluffing, so I called her out on it. She couldn’t prove anything. Which was why she then took me to my own safehouse and one by one went through my most recent contract history, including the sheep girl from before. It is now that she reveals herself to actually be Kiryu Coco, the feared dragon of the Hollow Force, and that the sheep girl I had scammed was Tsunomaki Watame, sheep of the Hollow Force. You need to understand that while I lived in the Lunar Kingdom, I had deliberately laid low and had never actually met Coco, so I didn’t realize who I was dealing with until now.”

“So, in desperation, I make a deal with them: a direct confrontation, and if I win, they drop the case against me. Coco rejects the deal, and instead says that she’ll sign if and only if she’s allowed to substitute with a friend of hers, and I sign that deal instead. Now, given your history, Suisei, you can probably surmise who this friend was.”

Suisei grinned.

“Amane Kanata, angel of the Hollow Force.”

Towa nods.

“I mean, I didn’t intend to play fair. I prepared a bunch of devil magic spells in advance, and I knew I was going up against an angel, who would be too virtuous to rig the game against me. One on one versus the angel, I knew I could win. You can probably guess how it went.”

Suisei broke out laughing, while Miko looked confused.

“Um, is Kanata beating people up just how the Hollow Force hires people?” Miko asked.

Towa shrugged.

“Watame’s the only recruit that hasn’t gotten into a fight with our angel, so at this point I just kind of assume this is the case. Anyways, the Hollow Force went public with the case, stripped me of most of my possessions, and reduced me to begging on the street. Or at least, they would’ve reduced me that far if it weren’t for something remarkable happening. You see, Watame shows up, and she gives me back the portion of the money I split with her all those ways back. It drives me insane because I can’t understand it.

“Out of options and with only one person willing to trust a known contract devil, I came clean to her and explained how I’d been tricking others into accepting bad deals for years, and she, in turn, hired me to be part of the Hollow Force. Despite our fight, Kanata held no hard feelings whatsoever, nor did Coco. In fact, it was my fight with Kanata that convinced her to hire me; and while, yes, you certainly have a known record, Watame literally convinced a habitual liar into being honest.”

“What does this have to do with me?” Suisei suddenly asked.

Towa blinked.

“Is it not obvious? We’re both people with pasts that we’ve since put behind us.”

Suisei frowned.

“There’s a difference in magnitude. Sure, you swindled others out of their possessions, but, well, I have a rather large actual body count.”

“Yes,” Towa replied, “but you’ve also had hundreds of years to reflect on your actions as well as the fact that Miko has you effectively restrained. Despite anything else, we’re fully aware that you don’t have it in you to kill her. In fact, we’re pretty sure you’d do anything to protect her.”

Suisei smiled, looking at Miko, who also smiled back.

“Yeah, that’s true. Maybe it’s just because I’ve gotten sentimental with time, but I’m not likely to forget the first person to ever show me respect. Well, no, the second; but that’s a long story.”

Towa shrugged, while Miko, Sora, and A-chan all stared in shock.

“We have all day.” Towa replied, “That, and I have a feeling it’s related to your past. What exactly happened, anyway? I don’t know all that much.”

Suisei sighed.

“Yeah, I suppose I should talk about that; you might as well know who it is that you’re about to hire. Originally, I was a girl from Mizuho, though I don’t remember too much of my mortal life anymore. Skipping ahead a bit, I was a singer in life; I remember that much. I was also, hmm, considered a bit of an outsider. I never really cared about what other people thought of me, at least until I was left out on the streets to freeze to death during one particularly bad winter. People didn’t really care about me; I was forgotten, and to be honest, no one mourned.”

Miko, Sora, and A-chan all frowned.

Suisei continued: “I remember it clearly, to be honest. I remember the feeling of melancholy towards the end of my life. I died doing what I loved, but I also died doing it, and I think the realization that I was actually going to die doing it triggered something inside of me. Again, I was forgotten; I became the ghost, both figuratively and very literally. Nobody cared about me, and that was how it was.”

She took a deep breath.

“Until the day I struck back. All of my regrets, all of my pervasive sadness that had become my existence was converted into anger. Every person who had dismissed me learned the hard way that apparently my existence was spiritually empowered. I was an outsider in more ways than one; and frustratingly despite the fact that I’m definitely not an ordinary human I know virtually nothing about my actual past or how I ended up in Mizuho.

“But I’m getting sidetracked, because this is my shameful past: I couldn’t stop being angry. I lashed out violently, with a wide range of spiritual powers that tormented Mizuho. They could do nothing to stop me. Or at least, for a little while, they could do nothing to stop me. One day, the priestess of the Sakura Shrine, Sakura Miko - the first of that name - decided that I needed to be stopped. And, it’s only in retrospect I realized it, but she respected me. She actually cared, and my biggest regret was that I was too damn angry at the time to give her any respect back.”

Everyone present gasped.

Towa walked up and put a hand on Suisei’s shoulder.

“It’s not my issue, but the fact you’re willing to own up to your past is a good sign.”

Suisei closed her eyes.

“My second biggest regret is that, as bad as it was, that anger felt good. I enjoyed watching those who had dismissed me in life suffer in death. I enjoyed watching them be terrified of me. And so, we reach the actions of Sakura Miko. Unlike everyone else who mostly just ran away scared, she actually confronted me. She told me to meet her at the shrine, having the sheer will to order me around. Her justification was that, if anyone was going to die that day, she wanted it to be her and not anyone else.”

“She wasn’t afraid.” Miko responded.

Suisei nodded.

“She wasn’t afraid of me at all. I later met with her at the shrine, like we agreed to. She was very similar to you, though there was a mature sense of confidence she had that you didn’t possess with me. I, of course, was determined to end her life, because that was what we agreed upon. That wasn’t how it went down, as you might have imagined.”

Towa frowned.

“She sealed you away for the next thousand years.”

Suisei nodded.

“Yes, but there’s an important fact that history has conveniently forgotten: the first Sakura Miko tried to reason with me. She truly believed that she could pacify me. She believed she could save me. It’s a shame, really; if I wasn’t so intoxicated with anger I might have listened, and this entire course of events could’ve been averted. In the end, it was all in vain, and ultimately the priestess had no choice but to confront me directly.

“It’s the oddest thing, really. She was so relaxed about everything that was going on. Even when I was threatening to end her life, and back then I really meant it, she didn’t flinch. She seemed to treat me less like a horrible vengeful spirit and an old friend that was simply having a bad day. The reason I remember being sealed away is because of how Miko-san looked when she did it.

“She looked tired. Not triumphant. Not afraid. Not even angry. Just tired.”

Suisei closed her eyes.

“I wish I could fix things with her, but that was a thousand years ago. Miko-san didn’t want to seal me away, but that’s how awful my worst tendencies are: there was no other choice. And yes, while I’m a lot more stable now, that is the risk you’re taking by hiring me.”

Suisei felt a hand on her shoulder.

“There’s no risk anymore.” Sora spoke softly, “I know that, if you were to go back in time to your confrontation with the first priestess, it would end differently now. You’ve matured. And I’m not sure I could’ve done it in your shoes.”

Suisei blinked.

“How? You forgave me for my actions easily enough. If anything, in my shoes you probably wouldn’t have gone on the bloody rampage in the first place. And from what I’ve seen you’re actually sane and don’t secretly harbor horribly bloodthirsty instincts.”

Sora shook her head, crying silently.

“Maybe it would’ve been less directly bloody, but it would’ve broken me if I gave it my all doing what I loved only to be abandoned, dying alone with nobody to care about me. I would’ve gone insane, I’m sure of it.”

Suisei shrugged.

“I mean, you can’t be angry forever. I mean, you can, and I’m still bitter, but you can’t remain in a state of rage for that long. Eventually I realized that I wanted to become something greater, and being stuck in that state of rage just wasn’t doing it for me. I managed to almost unseal myself and then get sealed away a few more times after that, and then something really weird happened, which most of you are probably aware of.”

“When I saw Sui-chan’s spirit emerging from the tree for the first time,” Miko continued, “something about her left me speechless. The idea that we’d been sealing this girl away repeatedly didn’t feel right to me. I’d trained in the art of spirit sealing for years waiting for the day, but the reality was that after seeing Sui-chan I couldn’t bring myself to do it. It was a risk, but I’m glad I took it, you know?”

“Yeah, so am I.” Suisei answered, “It’s funny, really; I got sealed away because I wouldn’t listen to the first priestess, but I kept getting resealed away because the rest of the Sakura bloodline wouldn’t listen to me. It was ultimately the fate I deserved, but at the same time, I’m really happy that the endless cycle of refusing to talk to one another finally came to an end. Mikochi did what none of her predecessors were able to do: have five minutes of normal human conversation with me.”

She smiled.

“And you know the rest from there.”

Towa nodded.

“Indeed, and it proves that we’ve made the right call in taking you two in. Technically, as most people consider employment as their physical self, we’re taking both you and Miko as a singular entity, but I think we made the right call.”

Suisei looked back at Miko, who grinned, and then back at Towa.

“Well, be aware that if anything happens to Mikochi I might not have it in me to care about collateral damage.”

“Noted.” Towa replied, “Though realistically in almost any combat scenario I imagine it’s gonna be you in Miko’s body and not her.”

Suisei smirked.

“Okay, fair enough. Seeing how we’re both relatively safe right now, however…”

She closed her eyes, and snapped her fingers. A quick transformation later, and her hair was back to pink, and Sakura Miko opened her eyes, having repossessed her body.

A-chan finally spoke, having remained silent the entire time.

“If I can interrupt, there’s just one doubt I have about the two of you.”

“Oh?” Miko asked.

“Sui-chan said you had five minutes of normal human conversation with her. I refuse to believe any discussion between the two of you qualifies as ‘normal’, given your history.”

Miko blushed, while Suisei facepalmed.

Chapter Text

A group of thirteen people entered Flare’s old home. The house was fairly large, though it was a slightly smaller estate than one would imagine for a future elven clan leader. Flare prioritized making sure she felt comfortable in her own home first and foremost. (1)

Leading the group was the trio of Aki, Noel, and Flare; behind them were a group of five children of whom were being adopted by the adults present, and at the back was the trio of Subaru, Choco, and Luna, who were accompanied by Kanata and Watame.

“Alright,” Flare stated, “I believe I warned people this was the case, but this place was not really designed to house thirteen of us.”

“Oh, don’t worry about me.” Aki explained, “I need to report back to Akitake, and as far as elves go you are probably the most trusted elf in the region. I’ll be back in the morning if you’re all still here; but otherwise you only have to house twelve people here, which I’m sure won’t be an issue.”

Flare rolled her eyes.

“Point is I hope you guys don’t mind getting close to one another. I’m taking my own room and my own bed with it, of course, as is Noe-chan. The room across the hall from mine will be for our children.” Flare stated, emphasizing the inclusive plural, “Which means that all of the native Lunar Kingdom members will sleep downstairs. Are we all good?”

Luna looked like she wanted to say something, but Watame put a hand on her shoulder with another polite smile that seemed to stop Luna from saying anything further.

Botan, on the other hand, wasn’t stopped from asking her own: “Should me and Aloe-chan stay upstairs or downstairs?”

“Your choice.” Flare answered.

Botan paused, thinking about her answer. At that moment, Aloe gently tugged at Botan’s arm, and without words Botan let out her breath.

Finally, she answered.

“We’ll sleep downstairs. Besides, given we’re going to be adopted by Choco soon enough, I guess it’s not a bad idea to get to know her a bit better.”

Choco smiled.

“True, but you’re both past the age - or at least, you are, Botan - where there’s any expectation to need my comfort to sleep at night. That said, I certainly don’t mind.”

Nene frowned very briefly, but was quickly shaken of any worries by Polka linking one arm with her’s.

“With that in mind,” Flare spoke, “I think we have our arrangements for tonight.”

And with that, the gang dispersed.


The sun set on the elven lands, and with it, most of those who had joined Flare had since fallen asleep.

Choco hadn’t. She was naturally a late sleeper as well as late riser, but something was bugging her. She wasn’t alone; Kanata and Watame were both still up and from the looks of things both fairly tense.

“Kanata, Watame,” Choco started, “you both seem a little tense.”

Watame nodded.

“Something feels off to me. It’s just some sort of natural youkai instinct. It’s not dangerous - I’d wake Hime-sama up in that case - but it’s bothering us.”

“Similar deal for me.” Kanata replied, “I have enhanced angel senses, and now that most of us are asleep it’s more obvious to me that something’s off. I don’t want to raise the alarm because much like Watame I don’t feel like we’re in danger, it’s just bothering me.”

Choco nodded.

“Demon senses aren’t exactly the same, but it’s a similar deal. In particular, I feel like we’re being listened to. Not watched directly because of your angel senses, but I think someone’s listening in on us.”

At that claim, Kanata paused, taking a moment to think, and then turned her head. She then raised her hand.

“Well, we’re not in a bedroom, so it’s safe to cast this.”

Her four-pointed halo suddenly glowed with angelic light, illuminating the room.

“You might as well come out; if we start searching we’re certain to find you, and it’ll be with children watching.”

Watame added: “We’re pretty sure you don’t mean harm, and if you talk now, we can be assured that nobody gets hurt. Isn’t that good?”

All of a sudden, a bat flew out from around the corner.

Choco froze.

“Wait, I know you. What are you doing here?”

The bat transformed into a human form: a blond girl with small fangs that stood a little short in comparison to Choco.

Yozora Mel sighed.

“I got kicked out of the previous house I was in, and as it turned out this house was vacant. The elves aren’t actually that good at spotting me when I’m in my bat form, and I only move out at night anyway.”

Choco smirked.

“Unfortunately, angel detection is hard to shake, as are Watame’s youkai instincts.”

“Yeah,” Mel replied, “but I promise that I’m not causing trouble. For the most part I just hibernate during the day, since I can’t go out into direct sunlight without powerful protection magic that, unfortunately, I’m too weak to cast on my own. Um, it’s nice to see you again?”

Watame blinked.

“Do you two know each other?”

Choco smiled.

“I had a brief fling with Mel back when we were both younger. It didn’t end up working out; but yes, I can vouch for her character unless she’s changed dramatically; she’s the most nonlethal vampire I can think of. She’s a very light drinker; she formulated some sort of trick to allow her to survive off of very small amounts of blood - enough that she can drink entirely in bat form, making it easy for her to stay inconspicuous.”

Mel nodded.

“I’ve actually gone a bit further; I’ve found out about a method that might allow me to go entirely blood free; a means of entirely suppressing my vampire instincts. I should be able to live life normally if I can pull it off; the problem is that I can’t cast the necessary magic on myself; in particular because the main spell would affect my heart, and from what I’ve read, I’ll lose consciousness during the process.”

Choco froze, and then smiled warmly.

“Oh my god, you’re just as precious as the day we split up. But back to what you said: yeah, that would be an issue, wouldn’t it. Okay, since clearly you’re able to hide from the elves, I’ve got a better idea: can you reach the Lunar Kingdom from here?”

Mel frowned.

“The mountainous region between here and the Lunar Kingdom is slightly too large to risk it; if the sun comes up while I’m flying though there, that won’t end well for me. Even if I could, I’m not sure I’d want to risk it given the legend of the Hollow Force; I might be able to shake the elves from being suspicious of me but they’re much more alert, from what I’ve heard.”

Kanata snickered.

“Ah,” Watame replied, “now’s a good time to introduce ourselves. I’m Tsunomaki Watame, sheep of the Hollow Force, and my friend here is Amane Kanata, angel of the Hollow Force.”

“Well,” Mel responded, “you two did blow my cover immediately, so I guess I wasn’t wrong about being wary of your abilities.”

Kanata nodded.

“There’s a reason the Lunar Kingdom’s considered the most well-defended place on the mainland, and it isn’t because of the Lu-knights. If you’re wondering why the princess’ personal guard is out here, well, you can probably guess why. Particularly if you go downstairs, though right now we would rather you not: Hime-sama is with us.”

Mel nodded gracefully.

“I see. Well, I promise I mean no harm. Actually, if Choco-sensei’s here, then that’s actually beneficial for me; I can have a bite; demon blood’s not as tasty but I can make do with it.”

She smiled deviously.

“Especially if it’s yours.”

Amazingly enough, Choco didn’t react to the advance, and instead answered in a mundane manner.

“Unfortunately, I don’t have any human blood with me at the moment, and while within our crowd there’s at least one person who would offer their blood-”

Watame raised her hand.

“Wait, Really?” Choco asked.

“Do you know what my most powerful magic is?”

Kanata froze.

“Oh right, you have absurd regenerative abilities. I suppose losing like half of your blood and then regenerating it all is one solution, if you’re willing, but that’s still a fairly invasive procedure, I’d imagine. Are you really alright with-”

She laughed.

“Who am I kidding, you’ve always been that unshakably kind and self-sacrificing. It’s why we hired you.”

Mel’s eyes widened.

“How? Generally speaking, people die if they lose too much blood.”

Watame shrugged.

“There’s not much explanation for my powers; they’re just like that sometimes. Also, while I’m offering, could you please be gentle? I’d like to avoid making a mess here, especially since we don’t want Hime-sama to stumble into anything that she shouldn’t see at her age.”

Mel bared her fangs.

“I’ll try to make this as clean as possible.”

Chapter Text

“Ah…!”

Watame gasped. True to her word, Mel was being amazingly gentle; despite her fangs piercing the skin on Watame’s arm it was surprisingly not painful in the slightest. Now that Mel had drawn blood, all that was left was drink what came out.

It was the sensation of Mel licking the wound she had just caused that had made Watame feel a little awkward about letting the vampire feed on her. It felt personal in a way that Watame wasn’t quite comfortable with. At the same time, Watame couldn’t find it in herself to say no to the vampire, not when Mel had been so utterly polite about everything.

Choco watched Watame’s reaction amusedly while Kanata smiled but held a steady pose that made it clear that Mel would be in for a world of pain if Watame was actually hurt by what Mel was doing to the sheep girl.

“Well,” Choco mused, “at least we can be glad that we’re doing this at night, where we don’t have to worry about peeping children.”

Kanata paused.

“About that.”

Choco sighed.

“Man, angel senses just ruin everything, don’t they? Alright, who’s actually listening in on what we’re up to at an hour where no children should be up anyway?”

Two children emerged: Botan and Luna.

Luna stared at Mel and Watame.

“Um, Watame, is this new girl l somebody special to you…? Why haven’t I met her?”

“No, I just met her.” Watame answered while smiling politely. “She’s drinking my blood because she’s a vampire. If she-ah! Mel…!”

Her attempt to remain entirely composed was slightly derailed by twitching as Mel continued licking the wound she had started.

Mel froze.

“Oh, should I stop? I can get several more days before my next feeding if I finish my meal, but if you don’t want to, it’s okay.”

Watame shook her head.

“I’m probably the safest blood donor for you, since I can regenerate anything you take away from me. That’s why I offered in the first place.”

Botan paused.

“Wait, she’s actually a vampire? Like, the kind of undead that’s both actually smart and drinks the blood of others?”

Mel frowned, but nodded.

“I’m really trying not to hurt others. I’ve learned how to drink very lightly and nonlethally; and I promise that I’m not going to hurt anyone. Watame offered, which is why I’m drinking from her.”

Watame nodded.

“The rest of you can get some sleep; this isn’t really anything you need to up for, and-”

She paused, staring at Luna.

“Luna, I know that face, and before you get any ideas, no, this isn’t a permanent thing. In fact, Mel’s probably not coming with us, given that she can’t go out into the sunlight without protective magic and as such is strictly nocturnal.”

Mel continued: “Besides, if I’m actually getting involved with anyone here, it’s Choco-sensei; the two of us go way back. Then again, maybe it’s just me being sentimental as you were my first kiss. It’s just a shame it didn’t work out.”

Luna’s eyes practically lit up, while Botan paused, smiling amusedly.

“Wait a second,” Botan responded, “does this mean that your light drinker status is because you’re just trying to fit in with the rest of us?”

Mel nodded.

“It’s hard to fit into society when you need blood to survive, and it’s even harder when you can’t go out into daylight without burning almost immediately. I have to figure out plans to avoid exposing myself to the sun too much because of how it hurts me, which makes it hard to get anything going with other people who aren’t nocturnal like I am.”

“It’s why our brief fling together was just that: brief.” Choco added. “The reality was that my role as a demon healer required moving around a lot, and for Mel that just didn’t work for her, since she has to limit her exposure to the outside world as much as possible, at least during daylight hours. She’s remarkably good at it.”

“Well,” Mel replied, “vampires who aren’t good at it don’t last very long. But, yes, if I’m coming with you, it has to be exclusively during night hours. And good little children like you two should be asleep.”

Luna frowned.

“I’m a big girl-”

She yawned, while Choco smiled.

“I think I should help get you two to bed. Yes, that includes you, Botan, despite your being a teenager instead of a little girl. And I suppose I should set a good example by actually going to bed at a reasonable hour.”

Botan simply gave a ‘yeah, right’ stare back to Choco.

“Okay,” Choco replied, “that’s fair. Especially since I do have a lot to catch up on with Mel, given we haven’t seen each other for a little while. That said, you and Hime-sama are still going to bed and I will not hear objections to that. At least, not from you; I suppose I don’t actually have the authority to say no to Luna, so who knows?”

“I’ll handle that.” Watame answered, and quietly took Luna by the hand to another room, leaving Botan, Choco, Kanata, and Mel.

Botan sighed.

“Yeah, it’s probably for the best. If Mel ends up being a permanent fixture, maybe consider introducing her? Then again, she’s not really awake for most of the hours we are, so I don’t really know.”

Mel frowned.

“It’s one of the downsides of being a vampire. I promise you that I mean no harm though.”

“Hey, I’m not too suspicious of you.” Botan replied, “After all, you’re on friendly terms with people that would destroy you if you actually held bad intentions towards any of us; in particular, the angel.”

Kanata rolled her eyes.

“Am I that notorious around here?”

Choco smiled amusedly, causing Kanata to facepalm.

“Don’t answer that. I suppose the fact that I’ve recruited three different members to the Hollow Force by beating them up is enough of an answer.”

Botan smirked.

“Well, I’m not exactly looking for a fight, but if you ever feel like it…”

“Now, now,” Choco responded, “that’s mean. If nothing else, the Hollow Force doesn't accept random applicants; they select members when they feel the need to. At least, that’s what I’ve heard; to be honest sometimes given my healing abilities I wonder if I’m on track.”

Kanata shook her head.

“We’d tell you if that’s the case.”

Botan shrugged.

“Well, then I’ll go back to bed. If nothing else, I should make sure I’m there beside Aloe-chan when she wakes up.”

And with that, she left.

“I’m idly curious.” Kanata mused, “Do you know how angel blood tastes?”

Mel cringed.

“Angels are more spiritual than physical in nature, so probably pretty awful, from what I’ve heard. I don’t feel like testing that.”

Kanata shrugged.

“That’s fair; angelic nature is weird sometimes, and devils are similar. There’s a reason I was called in to handle Towa-sama. That said, I think I’ll get some rest; Watame has fast wake-up reflexes if she feels that something’s wrong.”

With that, Kanata left.

Choco turned towards Mel, blushing lightly.

“I suppose it’s been a while…”

Mel smiled, and bared a fang.

Chapter Text

Aqua wandered around the Lunar Light, finding herself in a seemingly sleepless daze.

She wasn’t sure why; insomnia was weird like that. Even more weird was the fact that the ship was seemingly deserted; she was alone.

She decided to go up to the top deck. If she couldn’t find her family down below, maybe a better point of view would help.

If she was in a state to more objectively analyze her surroundings, she would’ve realized why everything felt distinctly unreal.


Miko wandered around her former home village of Mizuho.

It was distinctly off to her. She recognized the landscape and some of the old buildings, but others were not what she remembered them being.

The first sign that something was off was a dead body that was in front of her; the man in front was obviously dead, struck directly through the heart. With that, Miko started to get a sense for who the murderer was.

It wasn’t particularly difficult to make the deduction.

“Sui-chan!”


Aqua emerged at the top deck of the Lunar Light, looking around.

Again, it was deserted; she was left entirely alone up here. Worse still, she didn’t have a better view of the area at all; the ship had been engulfed in a thick fog, which was so thick that from the stern of the Lunar Light she couldn’t see the bow. Thankfully, it wasn’t moving, which meant that she was still presumably right where she was.

Mama? Shion-onee-chan? Rushia-onee-chan? Where are you…?

In the distance, two shadows appeared; silhouettes that cut Aqua’s breath short as she saw them emerge from the fog.

A silhouette with cat ears, and another with dog ears.

Aqua took one step towards the approaching shadows.

“Okayu-chan? Korone-chan?”

“The one and only.” Okayu replied flatly.

“Yubi yubi.” Korone replied in a tone of voice just slightly too monotone to be entirely innocent.

For Aqua, who had heard the two of them speak in that manner, it struck fear into her heart.


Miko looked around, and found who she was looking for: Hoshimachi Suisei, her ghostly clothes stained with blood, presumably from the dead man that was mere feet away from the pair.

Miko decided to introduce herself in an uncharacteristically friendly manner, despite how terrifying Suisei looked in this form.

“Nya-hello!”

Suisei cracked a harsh grin, but her voice was dripping with anger and contempt.

“Do you think of me as a friend?”

Miko paused.

“I guess not. But I don’t want anyone else to get hurt. I know you’re angry-”

“God damn it I’m angry. It’s funny, really, how none of them listened to me, how no one cared, and yet somehow they’re all begging for their lives now.”

Miko frowned.

“I care about you.”

“Yeah, because I’m already dead! You weren’t there for me when it mattered, and you’re just trying to placate me because you’re scared. The Sakura priestess is a ceremonial role and you know it just as well as everyone else.”

Miko took a deep breath.

“Sui-chan…”

“Why are you calling me that?”

“Because I think there’s a better future out there for both of us, together. Tell you what: meet me at the Sakura shrine. If you need someone to hurt, then hurt me instead.”

She drew her gohei, her purification rod.

“Please don’t make me use this.”

Suisei laughed in an almost maniacal manner.

“You know what? I’m down. I don’t feel like killing everyone; and if you’re offering your own life…”

Her mouth curled into a smirk.

“...you’re different from the rest of them. I’ll take you up on your offer. At least you’re willing to put your life on the line instead of everyone else’s.”

Suisei then floated away.


Aqua felt her knees get weak. She knew on an intellectual level that Okayu and Korone meant no harm to her, but instinctively she was preparing for her life to be cut short.

Korone struck first, leaping at Aqua at a speed that she had no hope of dodging and pinning her to the ground.

Aqua closed her eyes as Korone’s body collided with her’s, and continued not opening them as she struggled against Korone’s hold. She struggled as much as she could, but ultimately Korone was pinning Aqua to the floor with her body, and between Korone’s strength and Aqua’s relative lack of fitness it was entirely useless, and thus she did the only she really could:

She cried.

“Korone-chan, please! You’re better than this! You were free! I don’t, I don’t, I don’t want this…!”

Slowly, Aqua opened her eyes, and then found herself wishing she didn’t open them.

Korone was crying. It was silent, a muted expression of shame and sorrow both as her strong arms kept Aqua right in place, pinned to the floorboards of the Lunar Light with no hope of escape.

“I don’t want this either…” Korone whimpered, “I don’t want you to hurt anymore…”

Korone seemed to struggle against herself until, somehow, she got up, finding it in herself to resist.

Aqua finally breathed, no longer finding herself constricted by Korone, only to realize that her fate had been sealed by another as Okayu’s hands crackled with a spell that Aqua knew quite well.

Okayu cried.

“I’m sorry.”

Aqua slowly broke into complete hysteria as her memories of just how badly this spell hurt her started to resurface.

“Please, Okayu-chan! You can resist it! Don’t do this!”

Okayu let a tear drip down her face.

“Aqua-chan, I already did it. I already broke my promise not to hurt you.”

And with that, Okayu fired the spell that she had been preparing.

Aqua crumpled to the ground as the memories of just how horribly the spell had hurt her overwhelmed her almost immediately.

She couldn’t take it anymore; the dream broke, causing her to wake up.


Miko walked out onto what was a very familiar setting to her: the grounds of the Sakura shrine. She wasn’t entirely sure how she got there, but she had her purification rod in hand, and on the other side of the shrine grounds stood her lover, and yet for now, her greatest enemy.

“Hello, Sui-chan.” Miko greeted calmly.

Suisei conjured her axe, and then swung it into the ground in a display of anger.

“I don’t want to listen to you. I want you to know the pain I was in, the pain that I’m releasing from my past.”

She dissolved the axe, and then raised one hand in Miko’s direction, quickly firing a thin blue beam of magic.

Miko blinked; somehow, despite the fact that normally her physical reflexes were far too slow to dodge this sort of attack, she found herself instinctively avoiding the beam that would’ve surely led to her demise if she had stood still.

The shrine maiden took a deep breath, and then walked forward.

“Sui-chan, calm down. You’re just angry.”

Suisei immediately snapped, her voice almost strained as deeper emotions seemed to surface behind her facade of pure rage.

“Damn right I am! And I want you to know just how I feel; you wouldn’t know; you’ve always been treated as the precious priestess despite the fact you’ve done nothing with your life until this moment!”

Suisei conjured her axe once again, and then leapt at Miko, swinging the axe with the intent to cleave Miko’s body in two.

Miko stepped back and watched Suisei’s axe catch nothing but air.

“I’m sorry, Sui-chan. I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you when you needed me. I promise that I’ll be there for you in the future.”

She then dodged to the side as Suisei unleashed some sort of lightning spell, turning and then dodging her way towards one specific sakura tree that Miko had known all too well. A tree that, as of right now, wasn’t quite in season to bloom and was, at this moment in time, not surrounded by blue roses.

Suisei practically snarled.

“I don’t want your promises. If you really care, then stop running away and suffer!”

Miko frowned.

“I’m already suffering just watching you like this. Just not in the same way. I’m tired, Sui-chan. I really am. I know you don’t want this.”

“You don’t get to say what I want!”

Miko raised her gohei, her purification rod, preparing a spell as she once again sidestepped Suisei’s axe, watching as the ghost directly struck a very specific tree with the axe with such force as to leave the axe embedded in the tree.

Miko fought the instinct to cry as the sealing ritual completed, watching as ethereal petals surrounded Suisei.

Suisei’s jaw dropped.

“You…!”

“I’m sorry, Sui-chan. It might be a thousand years, but I know you can be a better person. Please, give everyone a chance to be happy, even if you weren’t given it yourself…”

The ritual finished in a flash of light, and then the dream shattered.


“It’s alright! You’re okay, you’re okay, you’re okay…”

As Aqua’s vision cleared, a face became very immediately visible to her alongside a panicked voice: Murasaki Shion, who was clearly also scared out of her mind at what she had just watched.

Behind her was Uruha Rushia and Houshou Marine, who had clearly been woken up at some point, both with very worried expressions on their faces.

Aqua frowned.

“I’m sorry…”

Shion’s reaction was immediate:

“You’ve got nothing to apologize for! It’s not like you orchestrated your own kidnapping or what Uno did to you through Okayu. And he’s dead, anyway.”

“I know.” Aqua whimpered. “It’s just a dream…”

Shion got up while shaking her head.

“If you knew what my dreams were like…”

Aqua frowned.

“I’m not as strong as you…”

Shion’s eyes widened.

“No, not like that! I just mean that I understand what you’re going through. The only reason I’m better at this is that I’ve got years of experience handling the guilt of being enslaved by a man that, reminder, is very dead right now. Lord knows that when Senchou first took me in I was a total wreck of a person. Hell, it’s one of the reasons I was hesitant about being your sister; I was used as a tool for destruction for a long time.”

Aqua curled her knees up to her chest, trying not to remember her dream.

“I wanna go home…”

Marine took the next step of walking in front of both Shion and Rushia, smiling sympathetically to her daughter.

“I think a familiar setting would do us all good at this point, but there’s a few different definitions of home, too.”

Aqua understood the intent, and straightened out her body, accepting the embrace of her mother who joined her in bed.

“Stay with me, Mama…”

Marine gently ruffled her daughter’s hair.

“You hardly need to ask. There are lessons in bravery and adventure that are useful to learn, but it’s okay to admit that you’re not a soul meant for the heat of battle. And even if you were, at your age no one should bear witness to what you’ve been through, and no one at all should actually go through it all. I know we all seem fine, but Uno was my lifelong enemy who dragged an innocent child into our mess; normally I don’t actually want to kill people. I’m sorry for failing to protect you; and the reality is, no matter how much I wish for it, I can’t promise you that I can protect you from getting hurt. But I can promise that you’ll always have a home with me.”

Aqua relaxed, still breathing heavily, but said absolutely nothing. She didn’t feel the need to say anything more.


Miko woke up, only to find that she wasn’t alive, much to her surprise.

She looked down at Suisei, who was awake and was also possessing her body.

Suisei looked at Miko, looking shell-shocked.

Miko understood immediately what it meant.

“Same dream?”

“If it was in the past, where I tried to kill you, then yes.”

Miko frowned.

“No, you didn’t. The past you from a thousand years past tried to kill my distant ancestor. You’d never want to hurt me.”

“Then why am I possessing you without your permission?” Suisei asked, “You're right in that some part of me cares about you too damn much to hurt you, but another part of me is still so bitter about everything that it’s willing to outright steal your body without your consent. I hadn’t realized it still existed, and I hate that it does. I hate that part of me that’s still unsatisfied with everything we’ve done together so far. A quiet part of me that says I would just discard you as unnecessary if I actually could do that. It’s these kinds of things that make me wonder…”

Miko shrugged.

“You’re still a good person. Part of you might still be angry, but there’s another part of you that isn’t, and that part of you is stronger. Maybe not all of the time, but underneath everything, if push came to shove, you still wouldn’t toss me away. After all, you had the opportunity to do so, and you were probably angrier back then.”

“Oh?”

“Remember when your seal finally weakened enough to escape?”

Suisei nodded.

“Of course. It was the day that changed your life and my afterlife. You had the opportunity to seal me away while I was still weakened, and yet you didn’t. Instead you decided to treat me with respect, something that literally only one of your predecessors has ever done.”

Miko shrugged.

“I mean, you also had the opportunity to easily kill me right then and there, too. But instead you let me cast the spirit tether while we talked. And that’s why I’m convinced; I gave you the one and only chance to kill me to free yourself, and yet you couldn’t do it there - and that’s why I couldn’t seal you, either!”

Miko grinned.

“Besides, if you were really as bad as you say, you wouldn’t be constantly trying to make yourself a better person. That’s why Sora-chan is convinced. And the reality is of course being a better person is hard. It was hard for me, too, you know?”

“Hmm?”

“I was taught during all of my shrine maiden training to prepare to seal you away. Every piece of scripture told me of the horror known as the comet, and how it was my duty to seal you away, lest you escape. To talk to you and even let you free was to fight every instruction I’ve ever had about handling you. I’m not that much of an idiot; I knew that if the people of Mizuho found out about what I was doing I would likely be exiled or worse.”

“Unfortunately, you were right about that.” Suisei added. “And, given what you’ve been through, I’m glad to have someone as strong as you by my side, even if I curse your lack of physical strength while possessing you.”

“HEY!”

Chapter Text

It wasn’t the first time in their lives that Noel and Flare were glad that military experience had made them early risers, but it was one of the rare times in their lives that they felt truly happy to be awake early rather than duty-bound, mostly because of a presence that had just knocked on Flare’s bedroom door and was followed by the voice of their to-be youngest daughter.

“Noel-mama! Flare-mama!”

Nene, as Noel and Flare had both discovered, didn’t have much of a sense of personal space; and while she was arguably the slowest in the uptake as far as understanding her adoption was concerned, the youngest of the to-be Shiranui children had since flipped her perspective and now including both of her parents within her own boundaries.

A second voice joined Nene’s, this one belonging to the middle sister: Polka.

“Nenechi, don’t yell like that! We need them to like us!”

Noel and Flare both stared at each other for a brief moment, frowning. They weren’t that ignorant, and while Nene and Polka were both naturally hyperactive children with seemingly boundless energy, there was a distinct difference in the manner of trust that the two of them had for their newfound parents.

Nene trusted them wholeheartedly, and had no reservation about simply being herself around them. As far as she was concerned, their love was unconditional.

Polka, on the other hand, didn’t. There was a sort of playfulness that she had around her friends in captivity that seemingly disappeared when around Noel and Flare; in general she seemed to attempt avoiding interaction with the two of them, a behavior likely learned from more abusive authority figures.

And, as such, Noel and Flare took a brief moment to think about the interaction that had just occurred in the last few seconds.

“Fuu-tan,” Noel whispered, “We need to talk to her sometime. Maybe not right now, though.”

Flare nodded, and then finally responded to Nene, speaking aloud.

“Don’t worry; we’re both awake. Come in if you want to.”

The door opened to the enthusiastic glee of Nene and the remarkably contrasting silence of Polka, with Lamy behind the two looking very tired.

“You three slept well?” Flare asked.

The three of them looked at each other, seemingly a little unsure of how to answer, then looked back to their adoptive mother and nodded.

Noel and Flare, on the other hand, didn’t buy it for a second.

“Okay, for the record, if you’re going to try and do the thing my wife does where she tries to pretend she’s more well-rested than she actually is - and yes, I’m aware I do it too - I’m just going to let you know that we both have years of experience in seeing it in each other and in trying to hide it. You do not, and thus it’s not going to work on us.”

Lamy frowned, Polka looked awkwardly off to the side, and Nene just blinked, seemingly bewildered.

“Look,” Flare explained, “the last few months have been probably more eventful than anyone wants them to be. And I understand that, for all of the playful energy you three give off, two out of the three of you have learned to be far more observant as a matter of survival. But you can talk to us, and not just when it’s about your past.”

Polka and Lamy both froze at the accusation.

“I get it.” Noel continued, “You’ve probably spent the last who-knows-how-long in a trustless environment where authority figures weren’t exactly the kind of people you’d want to talk to. But I’ve noticed how, in particular, you, Polka, don’t seem to be comfortable around me. You’re a good older sister to Nene and lord knows she’s definitely happier for having you around, but you-”

“It’s stupid.” Polka interrupted. “I know it’s stupid. But I’m waiting for you to snap. I know you aren’t going to just throw me away, but I keep wondering if there’s a line that I need to avoid crossing. I keep quiet because it’s the only way to be sure that I don’t cross a line that would make you no longer want us around.”

She paused, thinking about her words.

“I know you aren’t going to throw me away, but I keep thinking that you could do it. I’m not Lamy; I’m just some tagalong kid. I don’t know what I’m looking for or even what you could do right now that would make me feel safe. I can’t just trust anyone, even you, even though you’ve been nothing but, but-”

She teared up slightly, but brought herself together and attempted to avoid crying.

Flare, on the other hand, simply walked up to her middle daughter and wrapped her arms around her.

“Take all the time you need; I can’t imagine what you’ve been through, and I can only imagine how hard it is to trust us. Though, I do have one question: if you’re not willing to trust us immediately, why did you trust us with Nene’s nightmares so quickly?”

Polka cried.

“Because I care more about her being happy than about my trust issues.”

At that point, Polka suddenly felt Nene hug her from behind.

“Then you should be happy too!”

“I know!” Polka replied, “I don’t know why I’m like this! You and Lamy didn’t have any issues with it!”

“I think I can guess,” Flare replied while letting go, “They have their reasons for being much quicker to trust us.”

Lamy looked down at the floor, frowning.

“I still remember my parents. I’m the eldest sister, after all, and I’m an elf, which means I’m naturally blessed with a long lifespan. Despite being kidnapped first, I’m the oldest among us, and that means I still remember what it’s like to have parents. I still know what it means to call someone my mother. You two might have some memories but you don’t have the idea of having parents ingrained into you like I do. Flare-mama, Noel-mama, they’re both our parents.”

Both Polka, Noel and Flare noticed the way she emphasized the inclusive pronoun like it was the most wonderful word in the world.

Nene let go of Polka, and then wandered into Noel, who promptly wrapped her arms around her youngest daughter.

Polka took a long look at Nene, remembering the scars.

“And Nene always jumped ahead like that without thinking. It’s why she was punished so often. She just wasn’t the kind of person who picked up the skills to avoid it.”

Noel frowned.

“What you’ve been through is horrible. I know it’s simplistic to say it out loud like that, but there’s nothing else we can say. In your position I’d probably be no more trusting of anyone acting nice because of the underlying thought that it could go horribly wrong. Hell, it probably comes off as weird that we haven’t done anything even remotely abusive. And, yeah, we’re making an active effort not to provoke any bad memories you probably have.”

Polka nodded.

“Thank you so much. I know I should like you two. And I do, you two are perfect, but…”

Flare shook her head.

“We’ll make our share of mistakes too. If anything, it’s not a great sign that it took until now to notice that this was an issue; and it means that including you into our family, which we want to do, requires we be slightly proactive on occasion. That does raise a question, though, and I wanted to ask: given that you’re not naturally a trusting person, what made you put your trust in your friends in captivity?”

Polka paused, thinking about her answer for a little while, while Flare and Lamy examined her face. The fennec girl noticed, and sighed, while Nene seemed to suddenly tune into the conversation again.

“Ugh, it’s embarrassing, but Nene’s just too innocent to assume badly of her. Whenever I see her, the only thing I can think of is how, uh…”

“...You feel the need to protect her smile?” Lamy asked.

“Don’t say it out loud like that!”

Nene laughed, smiling brightly.

“You make me happy, Omarun!”

Lamy smiled.

“I think that’s been a universal constant for everyone who’s met her, myself included. You missed this because you didn’t see it, but while Botan might have calmed down about Nene’s scars, her initial reaction to seeing them was…”

Polka looked down at the ground.

“I can imagine. That’s why I trusted Botan, really; she got angry for something worth being angry about. She’s always been like that for as long as I’ve known her; she was willing to spend a lot of time locked up in a cellar for her defiance.”

Lamy nodded.

“I can vouch for her being like that from day one. She’s always had a strong protective instinct, most notably towards Aloe, but it was present with the rest of us, too.”

Nene nodded.

Noel’s eyes suddenly widened.

“I get it now. I understand exactly what it is, and why you’re finding it so hard to trust us.”

Everyone present stared at Noel, who continued speaking.

“We’ve never made any sacrifices for being your parents. We’ve never been in a situation where we’ve had to choose your well-being over our own. We’ve enjoyed an easy life, and, I suppose partially because you’re so cooperative, at no point have we ever made a decision where giving up on you was the easy option. Botan was willing to be punished because of a protective instinct when saying nothing would’ve been easier. Nene, bless her heart, drags you around everywhere because it’s her way of caring about you, even if it can be hard to keep up with her sometimes. And, while she’s never said it, I’m pretty sure that taking care of you was a large part of why Lamy refused to become Uno’s weapon, even when giving up and just following orders would’ve been easy.”

Lamy froze, and then nodded slowly, smiling nervously as she did so.

“Botan would’ve never forgiven me if I gave up. And it would’ve broken the younger captives if I harmed them directly.”

Noel nodded.

“Empathy’s powerful like that. And that’s the thing; in comparison, we’ve never had to make a real choice about the three of you.”

Flare smiled.

“We can say that you three are worth the trouble, but we’ve never had any trouble to compare your worth with. And that’s where your trust issues are, Polka: you aren’t sure of your value to us, aren’t sure how far we would go to keep our family together when things aren’t going well.”

Noel continued: “There’s good news and bad news. The good news is that you are worth a lot of trouble, and that goes for all three of you; I’d be willing to risk my own life for the safety of you three. The bad news is that what I’m saying is just a bunch of empty words until I prove it, and to be honest, I don’t plan to. You see, I really hope I’m never in a situation where I have to prove it, because after how awful your lives have been you deserve a peaceful life.”

Flare frowned.

“I hope we don’t end up proving that either. I’d like to think we deserve a peaceful life together, too, and I want you by my side for as long as possible.”

Nene, Polka, and Lamy all looked at each other.

Lamy smiled, tearing up slightly.

“I hope that we can enjoy a happy life together. But if our happiness is denied, then I’ll believe in you. I believe that you’ll care for us, even if it’s hard.”

Polka followed, her lips slowly curling into a faint smile.

“It’s hard, but I’ll try to believe in you, too.”

Nene grinned.

“I also believe in you! We’ll stay together forever!”

Flare found it impossible to not grin at Nene’s sheer unshakable optimism.

“I hope we can stay together too.”

Chapter Text

The arrival back home was ultimately quiet.

Part of that was that it was fairly late and there had been a lot of walking involved; Flare was carrying a sleeping Nene over her shoulder, Noel was doing similar for Polka, and Choco was, in a surprising display of strength, was princess carrying Aloe, who had also tired out and fallen asleep.

Lamy and Botan smiled contentedly, but remained quiet, choosing to let their younger siblings sleep peacefully.

Kanata princess carried Luna, though unlike the other children, that was less because she felt sleepy and more because Luna got exhausted much more quickly; it was a known fact among those close to her that she wasn’t the most in-shape. Given Kanata’s angelic strength, it wasn’t particularly hard for her to do so, and from Luna’s comfort with the manner of which Kanata carried her around, it was clear that this wasn’t the first time the angel had done so.

Watame, Towa and Kanata herself were all still on the lookout, as they always were, and Subaru remained by the princess’ side at all times, mostly at the request of the princess herself.

It was this eclectic group of individuals that finally reached the Shirogane territory on foot, having traveled from the adjacent elven village.

Leading the group was Aki Rosenthal, who turned around.

“Well, I suppose it’s been fun meeting you all, but I can’t stray too far from Akitake. At least, not without her permission; but it’s been nice to meet you. Especially you, Flare, as you’ve been absent since you married Noel, and we never had the chance to meet earlier.”

“Well,” Flare replied, “it’s been a pleasure to meet you. I’m glad that the elves grew to consider an outsider one of our own. That said, yes, if you’re reporting to the rest of the elves, you can inform them that we’re out of the kingdom now.”

Aki nodded, and then turned around.

Flare similarly turned back, looking towards the place she had learned to call home, along with Noel.

“Hey.” Noel whispered, smiling, “I’m not sure if any of you kids are awake, but we’re home.”

Lamy and Botan looked at each other, smiling.

“I guess this is goodbye.” Botan spoke softly.

Noel paused, carefully making sure not to disturb the fennec girl she was carrying with her.

“Not yet. I mean, your mother is still with us; but yes, you’ll be going home with the folks from the Lunar Kingdom when the time comes.”

Choco continued, whispering: “and we won’t be leaving that quickly, in all likelihood: I’ll make sure that you have time to say goodbye to your friends before we part ways. But, for now, I think a good rest is in order, if the number of us who are currently asleep is anything to go by.”

Botan took a moment to look at the sleeping form of Aloe, before nodding.

“Yeah, that’s for the best. I’m assuming we’re all staying at Shirogane Keep?”

Noel nodded.

“Yes, and thankfully not for witness protection this time.”


Lamy woke up to a quiet morning.

This was rather unusual, as mornings for Lamy usually consisted of waking up to an excitable Nene leaping out of bed. This time, she was instead addressed by a softer voice that belonged to her adoptive mother: Shiranui Flare.

“I see you slept well; it’s rather late. Before you worry about your sisters; Nene and Polka are both outside. Noel convinced them to let you sleep in; I know you don’t get to do that often.”

“You didn’t have to do that for me…”

Lamy smiled; she had taken the responsibility willingly and was willing to readjust her schedule to Nene and Polka rather than the other way around. At the same time, it was true that the responsibility of taking care of the two younger children had caused the winter elf to wake up earlier than she preferred.

“...but thank you. Where’s everyone else?”

“Luna’s group is still asleep or watching over her. I’m not sure where the Yuzuki family’s up to, and Noe-chan is making sure that the rest of the elite class understands the importance that you have as officially adopted Shiranui children to us, a fact that is utterly non-negotiable.”

“Are we really that important to the kingdom?”

Flare paused, thinking about her response.

“You do not officially wield responsibility with the Shirogane Knights. But, as we are adopting you, you are one of us now, which is to say that anyone who tries to act like we’re not family just because we’re not blood related has to answer to me, and I don’t think any of the elves are foolish enough to have that argument. And Noe-chan would most likely take it even less well than I would. We care about you, and that’s not changing.”

Lamy blinked.

“Noel wouldn’t take it well? Have you seen her say anything on that matter?”

Flare cringed.


Earlier…

Noel stood in front of several other people in her knight’s outfit with her mace drawn. The opposition was mostly made up of both human and elven higher class individuals; the kind of people who generally dressed formally and had just enough influence within society to be a pain, but not enough to be a potentially destabilizing influence.

Noel held a serious expression on her face, and silently thanked the fact that her children were asleep.

“I suppose that most of you haven’t gotten the memo about the change in family status, so let’s just get things out of the way: The little girl that my wife was carrying into the castle? That’s Momosuzu Nene. The fennec girl I was carrying? That’s Omaru Polka. The winter elf is Yukihana Lamy, and Fuu-tan and I are adopting the three children. As of right now, Lamy is the official Shiranui heir. And before anyone says anything: Lamy in specific was adopted with her parents’ blessing - we had our neighborhood necromancer help with that - and our adoption of all three of them is non-negotiable, despite any claims you might have to the contrary. I’ll explain this in full later, but for now, that is as much as you need to know.”

One of them, a human, stepped forward.

“What makes you think we’ve said anything?”

Noel looked unimpressed.

“I have ears.”

One of the elves stepped forward next. She was relatively tall, blond-haired, and possessed the signature elven pointed ears.

“Listen: elven politics aren’t always pretty. You and your wife got away with, shall we say, an unusual arrangement, but that mostly worked because Flare is respected enough and because you’re terrifying enough that no one wanted to be the person to raise an objection, especially after it was proven that the two of you were basically perfect for each other. The thing is, there was a side effect to that, and it has put a number of the elves on edge, and in particular adopting the trio, especially Lamy, makes things a little bit messier.”

Noel sighed.

“It’s the implication that we’re handing off the Shiranui clan to a winter elf, isn’t it.”

“Yes.”

Noel facepalmed.

“Okay, I suppose I can’t actually entirely fault the elves for being a little iffy about that. On the other hand, given that we’re raising Lamy as our daughter, I simply see it as an opportunity to unify the otherwise relatively isolated summer and winter elves that barely talk to one another. Really, why can’t it be that easy?”

Another elf stepped forward.

“The union of human and elf from both of your kingdoms makes things interesting when you consider that your heir has the potential to inherit not one but two very powerful organizations, and with Lamy’s position as the only living member of the Yukihana family meaning she already has a seat of power within the winter elves, in the event of your untimely passing she potentially becomes the most powerful person on the continent. And to make things even more, shall we say, interesting, you’re a human; your lifespan is significantly shorter than her’s.”

“Great,” Noel replied, “so I just almost entirely blame the elves for being a little iffy about that. Let’s get the biggest one out of the way: Lamy’s not inheriting my position as leader of the Shirogane Knights, because it’s not an inherited position. I should probably be on the lookout for who will be the next to hold the title, but the reality is that Lamy’s not leading the knights because she isn’t a knight, no matter how you look at it.

“Oh, and to the human objectors here: don’t even think of trying to make Nene or Polka follow in my footsteps. I don’t enlist children, and that policy is not being changed, and if you try to get my children enlisted, rest assured that will not end well for virtually anyone involved. Otherwise, I suppose that if the elves have any objections with the arrangement, they can take those issues and frankly just forget about them. More seriously, they can ask Flare, which is the same as just forgetting about them because she might not have my sense of militant discipline but I assure you she won’t budge on this issue any more than I will. That said, any questions?”

Everyone in front of Noel dispersed without saying a word.


Flare continued speaking to Lamy.

“It might have been my idea to take you in, but I promise you that between the two of us it is Noe-chan with the protective instinct. That said, elven politics being what it is, I am going to have to address the issue of you being my heir given our different heritages - I’m a summer elf and you are a winter elf - but it’s not something you need to worry about, at least not for now. Now, am I correct in assuming that you want to join the rest of us who are presently awake?”

Lamy nodded wordlessly, and then got out of bed.


“Lamy!”

The winter elf instinctively smiled from the particularly childish manner that Nene addressed her older sister with that resulted in the ‘L’ sounding closer to ‘W’, before bracing herself for the just about inevitable tackle-hug that Nene was fond of.

“Yes,” Lamy replied, “It’s me. I’m not going anywhere, so…”

Polka, in comparison, wasn’t as physically affectionate, but nonetheless hovered around her sisters.

It was their first day having a home. Yes, they had taken up residence with Noel and Flare when they were under victim and witness protection, but the permanence of it made it different.

They were free. This was their life now, not the horrors of their past.

Botan and Aloe were also awake, and judging from the angle that Nene had launched herself from, Lamy deduced that Nene had been talking to the two of them before turning around and practically ramming the winter elf.

I really hope Nene grows out of that when she grows up, Lamy thought.

Botan smiled amusedly at the interaction, bringing Aloe with her.

“Good to see you’re up. Choco-mama’s still asleep, somehow.”

Lamy also smiled amusedly, while Nene let go and wandered off with Polka.

“I take it that Choco’s a late sleeper, unlike Noel-mama and Flare-mama. Actually, thinking of my parents, where is Noel right now?”

Flare answered, overhearing the conversation.

“I’ll answer that: She’s probably busy explaining our family situation with the rest of the Order of Shirogane. Me and Noe-chan aren’t exactly the biggest followers of tradition from either of our native tribes. While we aren’t the first human-elf pair to fall in love, our union is notable in that me and Noe-chan are respected high-class individuals from our respective groups; I’m the future inheritor of the Shiranui elf clan after Lack-sensei retires, and Noel-chan is already the leader of the Order of Shirogane, which means that, in theory, our future children have a rather high seat of power by virtue of inheritance.”

Lamy blinked.

“Oh, and I’m a winter elf, who’s somehow in line to be the leader of the summer elves, because you and Noe-chan can’t produce an heir in a normal manner, and there’s the whole issue of the fact that traditionally the elves and humans who share the territory mostly stay out of each other’s way, especially since I’m the only living member of my…”

She trailed off the sentence, not wishing to finish it.

“...I don’t know if I’m ready for that kind of responsibility.”

Flare shook her head.

“Not your problem to worry about, at least for now. Leading the Order of Shirogane is a responsibility passed down by merit, not by inheritance, and I can probably convince the summer elves that I’m not actually essentially making you leader of the entire territory, if only because you don’t appear to have any desire to want that kind of influence.”

“You’re right.” Lamy replied, “I’ve really only wanted a peaceful life with my own family, but I guess this sort of thing is the price I have to pay for being part of your family. I’ll get used to it. Or, at least, I’ll try my best to get used to it.”

“As I said,” Flare responded, “don’t worry about it for now; I think that, at least for now, a peaceful life with your family is exactly what you deserve. In fact, let’s go see Noe-chan.”


Noel, as predicted by Flare, was making the announcement official to the rest of the Shirogane Knights and to a number of elven officials standing with them.

“...and that concerns that. The next Shirogane leader is still selected by merit and thus adopting children with Flare does not change that fact, and as a result all of you can stop complaining about whether or not my children are suitable for leading the knights, because they’re children and I’d like you to leave them out of it. Let them live peacefully, and with that…”

She turned around, seeing her wife and eldest daughter.

“I suppose that I should introduce my lovely family; most of you already know Shiranui Flare, and the winter elf here is Yukihana Lamy. Following the two would be Momosuzu Nene and Omaru Polka, and they are the adopted children of both Flare and I. In terms of your personal lives, this should change virtually nothing, despite the fact that I’m making many changes to my own life to accommodate my family. Changes in my own private life, to be specific.”

She smiled, turning back to the audience.

“That’s all; you’re dismissed.”

And then turned back to her family, quickly returning a speedy tackle hug from Nene, while observing a grin from Polka behind her, and a delicate smile from Lamy while the crowd scattered about. Nene in turn relaxed into her mother’s arms and decided to just stay there.

“Good timing; I just finished explaining our family situation to the rest of the knights - and a number of the elves - and for the most part I think we’re all good.”

Flare smiled.

“Well, good to know your half of that discussion went more smoothly than my half inevitably will. I mean, the summer and winter elves are both elves but, you know, historical tensions. Really, as much of a pain as it’ll be, I think I might have to convince the elves that my position shouldn’t be inherited, if only for the obvious reason that my elemental affinity is fire and Lamy’s affinity is for ice, which means that it’d be a mess for her to try and be me anyways.”

Lamy nodded.

“And I wouldn’t want to have a position of power anyway if people don’t want me there. Trying to act like a leader to an elven tribe that doesn’t want me to be sounds horrible. I don’t think I could handle the responsibility.”

Noel smirked.

“The fact that you’re willing to admit that and step down means that you’re more responsible than many historically bad leaders. It’s true for a lot of positions; even my position as the leader of the Order of Shirogane is ultimately temporary; eventually I’ll decline and a better leader will take my place. Thankfully the precedent is for power to be transferred peacefully.”

“Is it true?” Lamy asked, “Are you really willing to make changes to your own life for our sake? You’ve already done so much for us.”

Noel nodded, and then, as if to prove a point, started gently stroking Nene’s hair.

“Me and Fuu-tan both.”

“Besides,” Flare added, “your parents placed their faith in me to raise you and your sisters, and as a member of the Shiranui clan - and just for the sake of being a halfway decent person, to be honest - I promise you that we’ll take good care of you.”

She suddenly paused.

“Hang on a second.”

She suddenly raised her voice, calling out to the crowd.

“Hey, you four in the back! Turn around!”

Suddenly, two humans and two elves froze, turned around, and nervously approached Flare. One of the humans was female, while the rest of the quartet was male.

“Maybe you’ve forgotten,” Flare stated amusedly, “but I’ve trained my elven hearing, and, yes, I heard you say something that I’m not sure was the wisest thing you could’ve said.”

Noel smirked.

“Care to repeat that? I didn’t hear, and there’s no reason for one of my knights to have to speak behind my back. You can be honest.”

One member of the quartet, a female human, stepped forward, looking very embarrassed.

“I said that I couldn’t believe how much you had softened up. I mean, look at you! You’re the strongest knight of us all and yet here you are, gently patting a little girl’s head.”

Noel stopped patting Nene’s head, and let go.

“Oh, so you four think I’ve ‘gone soft’?”

The four members looked nervously at one another.

Flare smiled.

“Meet us at the Shirogane training grounds.”

The group paled.

Chapter Text

Shirogane Noel stood atop four warriors who were currently all lying on the ground, seemingly without putting that much effort in.

“Good effort, you four. If you weren’t up against somebody who had already read up on your combat profiles and exactly what tactics you were going to attempt, that probably could’ve been your pass. However, this also is a good demonstration of the importance of both knowing your enemy before engaging them and knowing how to use teamwork to come up with strategies that you couldn’t execute alone, and thus, despite your best efforts, I would say you failed this examination.”

One of the knights on the ground, the male one, groaned.

“We didn’t exactly plan on sparring with you…”

“Let this also be a lesson in what happens if you make unfounded claims about my abilities.”

“Noe-chan,” Flare replied while looking at Noel’s opponents, “that was a bit harsh, don’t you think? I know it’s a family honor thing, but…”

“What are you talking about?” Noel asked sarcastically, “Clearly I’ve gone soft.”

Meanwhile, five children, three of which were officially adoptees of Noel and Flare, stared at the training ground with their jaws wide open at how easily Noel had downed her four opponents. Around the arena were a myriad of spectators; one could easily tell who had seen Noel fight and who hadn’t by how shocked their facial expressions were.

“Um, Flare-mama?” Lamy asked, “Is Noel-mama always like this?”

“In combat prowess, yes.” Flare answered, “Though in terms of this mess, no, she’s normally a little more restrained; though, if any of you were actually hurt she would’ve gone much further. While I think she might have gone a little far today, this was an excellent demonstration of both why you shouldn’t make fun of Noe-chan and why nobody should touch our children.”

“That was so COOL!” Polka shouted. “How can I learn to do that?!”

Noel sighed.

“Polka, please don’t encourage this sort of behavior. Contrary to popular belief, I think it reflects poorly on myself that I ended up going as far as I did, given that, as Flare pointed out, all I was doing was proving a point. And, much more importantly, I got where I did because of very poor life decisions that I will not allow you to replicate, because I don’t want you to glorify the Order of Shirogane, despite the fact I lead it.”

Polka’s ears practically wilted, while Botan put a hand on her shoulder.

“Don’t worry; It took me a while to get it too. Ultimately the reason Noel doesn’t want you using a sword is that she doesn’t want you to be on the bladed end of it.”

Noel continued: “It’s not just that, though that’s certainly a large part of it. It’s that, in a sense, resorting to the blade is a sign that any more civilized way of trying to get what one wants has broken down. It should only be used once all other options have been exhausted, and the fact that I resorted to fighting as a simple way of proving a point was, in a sense, me losing a temper that I should try harder to keep in check.”

Flare shrugged.

“I mean, they did have it coming, but yes, possibly this was a bit overkill. It’s a good point to prove, though; and you didn’t actually harm anyone in the process.”

“That’s fair.” Noel replied. “It’s more that I don’t really want to give people the image that I solve all of my problems by fighting. Speaking of images given off…”

She turned around to see Luna, who was awake, with Kanata and Watame by her side, and was unsurprisingly radiating her usual princess aura and with it garnering the attention of the local populace. Subaru followed closely behind, as did Choco, who had apparently woken up.

Noel smirked.

“I suppose the Shirogane Knights are about to receive a true test of discipline, since they in specific should not be fawning over foreign royalty while on duty.”

Flare frowned.

“You are awfully harsh.”


The day passed peacefully and otherwise uneventfully, with Noel reprimanding a number of her own knights for failing to keep discipline around Luna’s practically weaponized cuteness.

At this point, however, the children - Luna, Subaru, and all five adopted children - were hanging out with one another instead, while the five adults present - Kanata, Watame, Noel, Flare and Choco - watched, content with how their day was going as afternoon turned into evening.

It was in this seeming moment of peace that Takane Lui dropped out of the sky, landing in front of the adults present.

Choco, being the only one without experience in acting disciplined, stepped back, while the other four remained entirely still.

“Takane Lui. I take it that the Lunar Light has arrived.”

Lui nodded.


Sakura Miko’s feet hit solid ground, and it was the shrine maiden who was currently possessing the body shared between her and the ghost known as ‘the comet’. Sora and A-chan followed closely behind, followed by Towa, and then behind them was Laplus, Koyori, Chloe, and Iroha. Finally in the back were the four members of the Houshou family.

“We’re here!” Miko stated excitedly, “And hopefully we don’t have to board another ship; seasickness is a real pain!”

Suisei, floating behind Miko in her ghostly form, blinked.

“Um, we do need to get back to the Lunar Kingdom. You know, since we’re in line to officially join the Hollow Force and all.”

Miko turned around, her facial expression shifting to one of annoyance.

“Just because you’re correct doesn’t mean you’re right to say that!”

“That said,” Suisei continued, “I suppose if we’re in this continent’s military capital, I could do some physical training in your body since it’s such a mess to work with as it is right now. Fitness improvements should carry over between the two of us, right?”

Miko glared at Suisei in annoyance.

“Why did I ever let you possess me?!”

“Technically,” Suisei answered, “you tethered my spirit to you first. And possessing you is something that I do with your consent.”

Towa sighed, watching the two of them interact.

Wrangling you two into an effective Hollow Force member is going to be such a pain.

“Alright!” Towa suddenly shouted, “As the devil of the Hollow Force, I outrank basically everyone from the Lunar Kingdom present, and for the sake of simplicity I’m including both of the future Hollow Force members - you don’t get that rank until we officially sign off on it. As a result, for the sake of order, I’m going to ask that everyone follows me. Are we good?”

Miko and Suisei looked at each other, and then nodded.

“Wait a second,” A-chan noticed, “didn’t we have the Houshou family with us?”

Towa shrugged.

“Given what they’ve been through, I think they frankly have earned some peace and quiet.”


Meanwhile, all four members of the Houshou family paused when they set foot upon the Shirogane territory.

They were home. It had been such a long time, and now that they were back, it was almost overwhelming how relieved the four of them were.

For Aqua, it was the only place that she had known stability in a life that was otherwise defined by other people. For Shion, it was the only place where Aqua had any luck in finding happiness. For Rushia, it was where she had first met Houshou Marine.

For the captain herself, it was an unusual feeling, being home. Back during her pirate days, she had never considered the idea of having a single place she called home; she traveled the world constantly and had long internalized the notion that she wouldn’t settle down anywhere.

All of that had changed when she found Aqua.

From watching her behavior, it had become quickly apparent that Aqua had never known home. She had been born to a noble family at one point, but her former place of residence was a place only for staying alive, not for living. On the opposite end, while Aqua had slowly become more lively with Marine, the former pirate couldn’t help but see the desire for stability in the younger girl’s eyes.

The former pirate’s life decisions were suddenly recontextualized; no matter how much she was comfortable in high-stakes scenarios she couldn’t bring herself to drag Aqua into that kind of environment.

For Marine, brief flirts with death were memories she looked back at with amusement. For Aqua, those same memories would bring forth nightmares and traumatic flashbacks. The fact that Aqua had been dragged along into Marine’s past forcefully and almost killed would likely haunt the former pirate for the rest of life.

All of that was finally over, though. Sure, Houshou Marine had made other enemies during her piracy career, but they had dealt with by far the most vicious one. Even if she wasn’t 100% safe from her past, she was pretty sure her children were, and that was enough for her.

It didn’t surprise Marine to see that Aqua had no desire to converse with anyone else on the way back to their house. In general, the walk back was quiet and uneventful, and all four members of the Houshou family preferred it stay that way.

The overall atmosphere of peace and quiet continued as they came into the cozy little place that the four of them called home, and then was reinforced when Aqua quickly walked over to the nearest bed and promptly fell over face-first, leaving behind the rest of her family in doing so.

Marine smiled amusedly at the fact that it was her bed that Aqua fell into.

“Aqu-tan, I know you’re tired, but I do plan to sleep at some point.”

Aqua shuffled over to the side of the bed wordlessly, saying nothing.

“Uh,” Shion stuttered from behind her mother, “is she alright?”

Marine turned around, and nodded.

“She’s fine. Well, I’d say she’s a little tired of everything. If anything…”

Marine took a seat on her bed, opposite her daughter.

“...I understand how you’re feeling. It feels nice to be back home after such a long and harrowing adventure, a feeling I realize that I only understand now.”

Shion nodded.

“It’s weird calling this place home, but yeah, you’re right. I’d never call it home if it were just me, but now that we’re all here…”

Rushia spoke from behind Shion: “...this place is home. And finally resting at a place you call home is a nice feeling. I think though, for today, it might be best to sleep. It’s been a long day for all of us.”

Shion nodded, and with that, both of Aqua’s sister-figures left to their own beds, leaving the mother and daughter pair alone.

Marine smiled, and gently laid her body next to her daughter’s, brushing Aqua’s hair slowly and gently. When Aqua finally turned to face her mother, they remained staring at one another in total silence, waiting for the other to say something.

Aqua looked into her mothers eyes, as Marine did the same with her daughter, both seeing a very different image of one another. For Aqua, staring into her mother’s eyes was a moment of peace, a refuge in which she felt not just safe but actively relaxed as she witnessed the eyes of someone who would always comfort her. For Marine, staring into her daughter’s eyes was a moment of sorrow, making her regret her past for how it had hurt others as she witnessed the eyes of a little girl who had been through far too much for her age.

Marine, having more extroverted tendencies than her daughter, was the first to break the silence.

“Welcome home, Aqu-tan. I’m sorry about all the ways my past hurts you. You can rest.”

“...even if it hurts, I’m happy that I found you…” Aqua murmured while closing her eyes.

Marine nodded, closing her eyes.

“I’m happy to have found my family, too.”