Luna scowled up at the sky as gray clouds rolled over Vista Point. Tapping a finger against the umbrella hanging on the railing, she thought, It had better hold out a little longer…
She set the matter aside for the moment and looked back at the device in her hands. The terminal, dubbed the Hunter-VG, was the newly-released replacement of the Star Carrier, and was being advertised as so upgrade-friendly that there would never need to be another new terminal again. If she was being honest, Luna didn’t think it looked particularly revolutionary: it was little more than a thick disk with a narrow tray sticking out of one side, though the holographic interface it projected had worked very smoothly thus far. As she examined it, her eyes sought out the clock on their own.
“What’s keeping her?” she huffed.
In a flash of bluish-white, Ophiuca appeared on the other side of the railing. “She did say that she was unsure how long the meeting would take exactly. Though, by now, I’m sure she’s on her way if nothing else.”
Luna tensed a little in surprise. “Huh…I’m still getting used to being able to see you.”
Looking down at herself, Ophiuca said, “Yes, this Real Wave body will definitely require some adjustment, but it is exquisitely-made. What gives me more pause is this new classification of EM beings…I’m not truly sure I like the sound of ‘Wizard’.”
“Well they had to pick something easy to remember. You’re going to have to get used to it.”
Ophiuca dramatically raised her arm over her face. “My, how dreadful…but, if I must.” She vanished, only to reappear on the Hunter’s screen. “You know, I have a hunch that Sonia wouldn’t mind terribly if we were to move the rendezvous point.”
Luna puffed out her cheeks. “Really, where is she? She knows I don’t appreciate being kept waiting!”
A flash from behind the deck caught her attention. A familiar voice followed with, “Sorry, sorry, I know I’m late.”
“I’ll say!” Luna replied. She deactivated the Hunter’s screen and pocketed the device, and then walked over to the corner of the deck. “I hope you have a good explanation for…”
She stopped as Sonia stepped into view and began to climb the stairs. She was still Wave Changed, but the form looked slightly different: her golden bracelets were thinner than they used to be, and on each greave were two vertical white stripes like the ones on her dress. Her sleeves were totally different, with white patches on her shoulders that each spawned a single vertical line down the front of her arm and another down the back, dividing the pink on the outer side from the black that colored the inner sleeve and the area around her collarbone. There was also something coming off of the bottom edge of her helmet—a headset mic, by the look of it.
Sonia reached the top stair and paused for a moment. Averting her gaze just a little, she asked, “Um…does it look good?”
Realizing she was staring, Luna blushed and said, “O-Oh, yeah. You look great. But, what…”
Hearing Luna’s answer, Sonia brightened up. “This is what Mr. Boreal wanted to see us about.”
“I thought he was just adding Hunter functions to your guitar?”
“He did, but apparently the Hunter-VG has a function for streamlining Wave Changes to enhance them. They wanted to see how it turned out, which is why he wanted Bud and Geo to come too.”
Lyra materialized beside her, adding, “I must say, I feel more energized than I’ve felt in a long time! The humans have really outdone themselves.”
“So that’s why you look different,” Luna said. “Wait, where is your guitar?”
“Oh, right!” Sonia said, raising her left hand. Luna realized that the bracelet on that wrist was pale blue with a heart decoration on it. A second later, it returned to the familiar gold, and Sonia’s guitar appeared in her hands. The instrument had also gotten a minor change, with the face and microphone at the head being replaced by a large heart with pink light shining in its center, a light which flowed in a single line down the length of the neck before splitting and encircling the main body. There were also a few knobs added at the point where the body was at its widest. Striking a pose, she said, “So, what do you think?”
Luna placed her hands over her heart and smiled wide. “Amazing!”
Sonia blushed, scratching her head. “Heheh…well, I guess that’s enough showing off for now…”
As Sonia undid her Wave Change, Ophiuca asked, “Then this affects every Wave Change? We should expect something different as well?”
“Oh, let’s try it out!” Luna said, reaching for her Hunter. “The Wavehole’s over there, right?”
“Actually, we don’t need Waveholes anymore! You can Wave Change wherever you want.”
With a nod, Luna initiated the transformation, and Sonia stepped forward to take a look at her. The new Queen Ophiuca wore a triangular black breastplate over her torso, and her shoulder armor was much smaller, now looking like the heads of two purple snakes clamping down on her arms.
“Wow, you look great!” Pointing, Sonia added, “Your…’hair’ is different.”
Luna touched her helmet. “Really?”
“Yeah, it doesn’t come out as much, and it’s more flat. Actually, it sort of makes you look like a cobra. It’s neat!”
Satisfied, Luna returned to normal, and then took a look at her Hunter. The screen came up and displayed some sort of notification, a window that looked like a gray card with the Satella Police emblem on it. “What’s this…Transcode 007: Queen Ophiuca?”
“Ah, I forgot!” Sonia said. “NAZA is…er, no, WAZA, is going to be keeping a registry of everyone who can Wave Change. Mr. Boreal said it’s part collecting data and part public safety. I’m 004, Geo’s 003, Bud’s 005…” After a moment, she muttered, “Wait, who’s 006, then?”
Turning to her, Luna asked, “You don’t know?”
Sonia shrugged. “I’ll have to ask next time I see Mr. Boreal, I guess.”
“Wait, what about 001 and 002?”
She thought she saw a slight shift in Sonia’s expression, but she didn’t quite know what to call it. “001 is registered to a new Satella Officer testing a Battle Wizard made with Wave Change capabilities. I’ve met him a few times—I keep meaning to introduce you, we just haven’t gotten the chance yet. 002…they said I’d meet him soon, and kind of pushed me on to the next topic. I’m not sure what that was about.”
Luna waited a moment before saying, “A Battle Wizard made to Wave Change, huh? I didn’t know WAZA had that technology.”
“He’s still experimental,” Sonia said. “They decided to base him on data they collected from Mega, since his lock-on works so well with Battle Cards and the Satella Police are already so used to using those. The two of them look like brothers, almost.”
“You can imagine how thrilled he was to learn that,” Lyra said.
“Oh, I’m sure,” Ophiuca laughed. “Now I want to meet him all the more!”
Luna was about to say something when she felt a drop fall on her. Holding out her hand, she began to feel more, and realized the rain had finally started. “Oh shoot…”
She went back for her umbrella and quickly opened it, and then turned back around to see Sonia frantically pulling her hood up while hunching over her guitar.
“…You don’t have an umbrella, do you?”
Flashing an embarrassed grin, Sonia said, “You know I can never remember.”
Luna sighed. As she walked over, she said, “If you’d gotten here sooner, we could’ve been gone before this started.”
Sonia stepped underneath Luna’s umbrella, defending herself with, “Hey, we had a lot to cover! I did say the timing was more of an estimate.”
“You still should’ve tried harder to make the time you decided on!”
They walked side by side, staying close as they could so neither would get wet, and slowly made their way back into Echo Ridge. At one particularly long wait for a crossing signal, Luna glanced tentatively at Sonia—she was leaned up against her with a look of pure contentment.
“…It’s been a while since we shared an umbrella, hasn’t it?” Luna mumbled as she tried not to blush.
Sonia giggled softly. “A little while, yeah.”
Luna could feel her heart pounding. C-Calm down! There’s no reason to make a big deal out of this. It’s only natural we’d share an umbrella, since we’re…w-we’re…
“Hey,” Sonia said, “would you…be mad at me if I said I took a little longer getting back because…I was hoping we could do this?”
The blush became too strong for Luna to hold off. “I…well, I guess that’s okay…”
“Wait a minute, is that why you never remember your own umbrella in the first place?”
“No, that’s just honest forgetfulness.” She paused, and then: “Darn, I should’ve thought of that.”
The light finally changed, so they continued on.
“So, have you started preparing for the election yet?” Sonia asked. “Well, I guess I should ask if you’ve started on your victory speech yet, huh?”
When she didn’t get a quick response, Sonia lifted her head off Luna’s shoulder and looked at her. Luna stared ahead with a solemn expression, and soon mumbled, “I’m…actually wondering if I should…”
“It’s just…I’ve been Class President every year, and each time fewer and fewer people run against me.”
Not sure what she was getting at, Sonia grasped for something to say. “People probably just figure you’re going to win again, so…”
“Exactly. I’m pretty much unstoppable at this point.”
“…Um, is that bad…?”
Luna’s footsteps slowed, so Sonia slowed down to match her.
“Shouldn’t I let someone else have a chance?” Luna asked, turning slightly. “If I just keep taking charge, then no one else has much opportunity to do what they can to help the student body. I’m…” She paused to wring her hands around the umbrella handle. “I guess I’m worried I’m pushing everyone else out of the way to do what I want.”
“Oh,” Sonia said. She thought a moment, and then smiled and wrapped her arms around Luna. “Come on, don’t overthink it so much.”
Luna stumbled a bit. “Wha…?”
“Quick: why do you like being president?”
“Well, I get to help improve conditions for the students and get their voices heard, so—“
“There you go.”
“What do you mean ‘what’? You want to be president because you want to help your classmates out. So, it’s not that you’re being pushy, you just want what’s best for the students and think you can provide that. Right?”
Luna looked up as she considered this. “…Well, yes. But I don’t necessarily need to be in charge to do those sorts of things.”
“I think the reason everyone keeps voting for you is because they think you’re very good at being in charge. No one knows how to motivate and organize people like you do, and you’ll never back down from something once you’ve made up your mind. They love having someone like that fighting for them.” She returned her head to Luna’s shoulder as she finished, “I know I love having you on my side.”
For a while, Luna watched the raindrops fall without saying anything. Then, she smiled, and she said, “Hmph. Well, if I’m worried I’m blocking good ideas, then I should be looking for better ways to take in the class’s opinion rather than just stepping aside. I’ll have to pay attention to what pieces of my opponents’ platforms get the most support—after the election I can approach them to negotiate implementing their plans.” She glanced at Sonia. “…Thanks.”
“Don’t mention it!”
They both looked up as they approached the building Luna lived in. Sonia started to reach for her guitar screen, saying, “Guess I should get going. I’d love to call you later—what time would be good?”
Luna stared at the building for a few seconds. “U-Um…you know, we really didn’t get to spend much time together…”
“Yeah, I know, I was late.”
“What I mean is…for you to go so soon…”
Sonia tilted her head.
“…Well…why don’t you come inside for a while? I-I mean, if you want to…”
It took Sonia a minute to absorb this. When she did, her eyes went wide in surprise, and she blushed slightly. “Oh…really? Yeah, I’d love to! It’s no problem?”
“Of course not!” They both stood there nervously for a moment before Luna cleared her throat. “Come on, then. I’ll make us some tea.”
The apartment Luna lived in was near the top floor of the building, and each room was stocked with expensive furniture and lavish decorations. Luna immediately went to the kitchen to prepare the tea, Ophiuca following to assist her, meanwhile Sonia and Lyra wandered down the hall marveling at the place.
Luna craned her neck, barely hearing the distant remark. “What is it?”
“All these trophies…”
“Oh,” Luna muttered, remembering the case at the end of the hall. “Y-You don’t have to pay attention to those, they’re just—“
Sonia poked her head around the corner, a bewildered look in her eyes. Luna stopped what she was doing and waited.
“…You play the piano?” Sonia finally asked.
“That’s what…” Luna sighed and returned to making tea. “I’ve told you that before, haven’t I?”
“Hm, have you?” Ophiuca mumbled as she set a cup down next to Luna. She playfully ignored the glance Luna gave her.
“You definitely haven’t!” Sonia said, walking into the room. “How has that not come up in all this time?!”
Luna grunted as she grabbed the cup. “Well, come on, what sort of person brags about putting on piano recitals when talking to an actual award-winning idol? It’s nothing.”
Sonia leaned to one side in disbelief, and then turned around. “Lyra, how many of those trophies are for piano competitions? “
Lyra could be heard muttering, “Let’s see, everything on this shelf, that one too…quite a lot of them, actually.”
Leaning back towards Luna, Sonia said, “It hardly sounds like nothing! Let’s play something together!”
Luna nearly lost her grip. “Huh?!”
“Come on, it’s perfect! Getting to play music with you, it’d just…” She trailed off. Latching onto Luna’s arm, she bat her eyes and quietly asked, “Please?”
Luna thought about it for a moment, but then closed her eyes and pushed a cup towards Sonia. “For now, let’s just drink tea. I need to warm up after being out in the rain.”
Sonia slumped against Luna, moaning, “Aww…”
But, she took the cup she was offered, and sulked after Luna as she headed out into the living room. Lyra soon reappeared, and she and Ophiuca came to rest just inside the room as Luna and Sonia sat down on the massive sofa.
“Anyway,” Luna said, “how’s your drama going? You said you were starting to film the season finale, right?”
Sonia took a sip and nodded. “Mm-hm. We’ve got most of it done. Next week is the final scene and wrap party—I was actually going to see if you and everyone else wanted to come.”
“Really? I’d love to!”
“Great! I’ll talk to the studio about getting some passes, and then I’ll let you know the exact details.”
After pausing to take a drink, Luna asked, “So?”
Sonia turned to her.
“When you first agreed to do the show, you weren’t entirely sure, and you said you’d try it for a season before deciding if you were going to continue or not. So, how do you feel about it now?”
Sonia looked up at the ceiling, resting her teacup in her lap as she thought. “Hmmmm…I don’t know that my feelings have really changed all that much. I still think there are some benefits—people can relate to some of the show’s events, so I can try to inspire more people this way. We’ve gotten a lot of support, and I’m really thankful for all of it, and I don’t want to let anyone down.”
Leaning towards her, Luna said, “If you don’t enjoy it, you shouldn’t keep at it just to please other people.”
“It’s not…” Sonia started, but then stopped. “…I know. I know, I’m not going to be able to please everyone. But I don’t mean to sound like I hate working on the show. It can be a lot of fun, and they’ve given me tons of creative freedom.” She sighed and took a drink. “I guess I’m kind of indifferent. It’s weird, you’d think I’d have a better idea by now, right?”
“Maybe. I don’t know, it could just be a relative thing. You seem to enjoy it, but not as much as you enjoy music. Comparing the two, the drama must come up short.”
“Huh, maybe that’s it…” She shrugged. “Whatever it is, I actually haven’t decided if I want to do a second season yet. I’d like to give them an answer before we finish production, but…”
Luna watched as Sonia rotated the cup in her hands, staring at the tea as it swirled around. Reaching out, she tugged on the sleeve of her hoodie and said, “Don’t let them rush you into any decision. If you need a little more time to know for sure, then you take it, alright?”
“I’d hate to keep them waiting.”
“If they have to wait, they have to wait! A little hiatus never hurt anyone. You’ll have an answer for them when you’re good and ready. That’s all there is to it!” Shifting her attention to Lyra, she added, “Make sure she remembers, okay?”
Lyra nodded. “You can count on me, dear.”
A smile slowly broke across Sonia’s face. Looking between the both of them, she said, “Thanks.”
Luna let go and took another drink. “Well of course.”
“Either way, I was thinking I’d like to go on tour soon,” Sonia said. “It feels like it’s been forever since I put on a show someplace new. I already picked out a few possible cities, actually.”
“Oh…um, so…” Luna started, hiding her mouth behind her cup. “H-How far were you thinking of going?”
“At this point, I almost feel like a world tour, buuuut maybe that’s going overboard.” After thinking a moment, she turned sharply and added, “Uh, so I probably won’t be going too far. And even if I do, we can just use the Wave Roads to get back and forth in a snap, so it’ll be like I never even left in a sense!”
“Ah, that’s right,” Luna mumbled.
“Heck, considering that, you could come and see me anywhere and get back home in no time. I’ve always got a ticket with your name on it, you know.”
A small smile could be seen behind Luna’s glass. “Heh. I’ll keep that in mind.”
Sonia giggled. Finishing her cup, she said, “The tea’s delicious, by the way!”
She set the glassware on the coffee table and then grabbed her guitar, taking a moment to tune it and verify it hadn’t been damaged in the rain. Once she was satisfied with the instrument’s condition, Sonia thought for a moment, and then started to play slowly, while Luna watched intently and she pretended not to notice. Lyra and Ophiuca floated quietly on the other side of the room. Sonia’s music lazily wove around them all, set against the faint roaring of the rain hitting the roof.
Luna stared, mesmerized by the gentle melody coming from Sonia’s guitar. She moved from one note to the next so fluidly, like it was happening on its own, like she could produce such expert sound without even needing to put conscious thought into it. Luna’s eyes wandered over Sonia’s face, her expression neutral but still having a cheery air about it. She thought she saw her eyes move her way, just a little, but wasn’t sure—the hypnotic sound gave everything a dreamlike quality. Luna wanted to move closer to Sonia, but all she could do was shift slightly before she froze up.
What’s holding me back?
She wanted to be closer, but when she tried, a nervous shock swept through her, rudely waking her from the dream. So Luna stayed where she was, and she listened. After some time there was a flash at the window—headlights, she assumed, and they reflected off of the trophy case for a brief moment. Remembering Sonia’s request, Luna decided to try something else and downed the remainder of her tea.
“Hey,” she whispered, almost feeling wrong for ending the tranquility of the moment. Sonia immediately stopped playing and faced her. “Let’s…I-I mean, if you still want to…we could play together…”
Light filled Sonia’s face. Eagerly, she leapt to the edge of her seat and near-shouted, “I’d love to!”
They both blushed a little. Luna cleared her throat as she stood, and then headed down the hall to her room. Sonia followed, while Lyra and Ophiuca decided it best to stay put. Rounding the corner, Luna reached through the doorway and flicked on the lightswitch, and then stepped over to the piano and carefully lifted the cover off the keys. Sonia sat down on the bench next to her, facing the opposite direction so that she could hold her guitar without it poking Luna in the face.
Luna ran her hand down the keys, and they each sounded off. “I, um, I’m not really used to being part of a duo, you know. So…what should we play?”
Sonia tapped her finger against the neck of the guitar. “How about…”
She started playing a simple tune. Luna listened for a few bars, and then began to mimic the notes on the piano. The two instruments strived to match each other, but the timing didn’t exactly match up, so the sound came out wrong.
“Hold on,” Luna said. They both stopped, and after a few seconds, she motioned to start again.
The two of them began playing at the same time, and were able to keep pace with each other much better. This time, rather than playing the exact same notes, Luna adjusted her playing to produce a slightly different sound that rose and fell just the same, and the resulting fusion sounded much better than their previous attempt.
“Great job,” Sonia said as they finished.
“I think I’ve got the hang of it now,” Luna said. “Let’s try something else.”
“Okay. You want to start this time?”
Luna nodded. When she had an idea, she played a piece of it for Sonia to listen to. It was more complex than the first tune, but nothing especially difficult; Sonia joined her when she restarted it, her guitar lining up perfectly with the piano and strengthening it with their harmony. They exchanged a glance, and then Luna altered the notes just a bit. Sonia matched her. They returned to the basic form for a short time, and then Sonia took her turn to improvise, and Luna followed her lead. They continued going back and forth like this for a while—neither was sure how long, but they enjoyed it so much they didn’t entirely care about the time.
Eventually, they wrapped up the performance and let the instruments grow silent. Sonia laughed, and said, “You really are incredible, Luna.”
Luna closed her eyes and straightened her back. “Hm. Well, it takes someone incredible to notice.”
She turned slightly, her eyes locking with Sonia’s. As they held their gaze, rain continued to pound against the roof above, though Luna could swear the pounding of her heart soon overtook it. Unconsciously, she just barely leaned towards Sonia. Sonia slowly came to meet her. Mere inches separated them. Luna felt herself freeze up again, and seeing this, Sonia stopped where she was as well.
She wanted to keep moving. Reaching within herself, Luna searched for the power to move her body those last few inches. Her concentration was broken by a sudden sound from the piano—her hands were shaking, and they had hit one of the keys by accident. Both of them recoiled in surprise. Luna pulled her hand close and clenched it into a fist, grabbing the wrist with her other hand, while Sonia looked down and awkwardly fumbled with her guitar.
“I-I’m sorry,” Sonia said, “I shouldn’t have—“
“N-No,” Luna interrupted, “you have nothing to apologize for, I’m the one—“
“No, no, it’s fine!”
“It’s not that I—I just—“
“It’s okay, really. It’s…it’s okay.”
They stared off in opposite directions, a deadly wave of embarrassment washing over both of them. The pounding of the rain sounded deafening.
What’s wrong with me?
The door groaned gently as it swung open. A tall, slender woman slipped into the room, scanning her surroundings with a narrow glance from beneath the pink hair that framed her pale face. Her shoulders and arms were covered in gleaming white sleeves, while the rest of her dress was a deep reddish-brown sporting a faint argyle pattern, each piece of the design housing one of the four suite symbols found on playing cards. Her fingerless gloves were the same color, though her boots were a much lighter shade of red, and from her neck hung a massive piece of jewelry, made of blood-red gemstones encased in gold.
Heartless barely made a sound as she strode purposefully across the green-carpeted floor, moving past the enlarged poker chip decorations on the wall and setting her sights on the vault at the other end of the room. There was someone waiting at its door, a middle-aged man with thinning black hair slicked back in neat rows and a long, spindly mustache sprouting from just above his mouth. He wore a high-collared dress suit that was a very dark shade of blue, accented by gold buttons and ornaments, and beneath that there was a comparatively plain white shirt topped by a red ascot. White gloves sheathed his hands, and over his eyes was a mask made of thin metal that curved upward into two sharp points just beneath his hairline. He sat encased in a floating chair made of black and gold metal, its front coming up to his waist before flattening into a desk that projected a series of holographic screens before him. When he saw her approaching, he spread his arms out welcomingly.
“Ah, my dearest Heartless!” he greeted. “Thank you ever so much for responding so quickly to my summons.”
Heartless bowed slightly. “Of course, Mr. King. What can I help you with?”
King moved his hands to either end of the row of screens before him, and then moved one towards the other in a single sweeping motion. The screens moved at his command, shrinking so that they all fell into a single stack in his palm, and then he swiped his fingertip across the top of the deck to send one screen flying out towards his associate. It came to a stop a few feet in front of her and grew into a full display once more. The image she saw was of a field of stars, and in one corner was an ominous blot of red light.
“This image was captured about an hour ago,” King said, shuffling the screens in his hand absent-mindedly. “It’s close now—almost close enough.”
Heartless grinned. “What wonderful news. It would seem you were able to lure it successfully, as we all expected.”
“Naturally,” King said with a flourish of his hand. “However, the plan is still far from complete. We have only a fraction of the Crimson we need. Therefore, I believe it is time to escalate our efforts.”
“A very wise decision, Mr. King.”
“Ha ha ha! Heartless, gather the children, if you would be so kind. It’s high time we had a family meeting.” As she turned to leave, King drew the top screen of the deck he held and smiled at it. “You should prepare your wager, WAZA. True, I may no longer have an ace up my sleeve, but now we’ll be playing by my rules. And here, the house always wins! Ha ha ha ha!”
Edited by Pahrak #0579, Dec 14 2017 - 10:58 AM.