Eventually, Nova and Delia’s efforts managed to lift the mood, though Louis’s mind was still clearly elsewhere, and the three spent most of the day together. As Delia had told her on the phone, she and Louis recklessly put off whatever responsibility they bore to make time for her, and even Jamil and Celes, the king and queen, popped in to say hello. Of the Astias Nova knew, only Ingrid wasn’t there – she was still working at the daycare in Saltwell, presumably.

When the sun started dipping toward the horizon, Nova finally bade her farewells and left. Fortunately enough, no one assaulted her on the way out or anything like that. It looked like the day would end peacefully.

Leaning against the side of her motorcycle, Nova let out a tired sigh and glanced back at the vast palace behind her.

Even though I tried to be as definitive as possible, I wonder if that’ll be enough to convince Louis he’s barking up the wrong tree. He’s not the kind of guy to cling on for dear life and make himself a bother, but he’s also not the kind of guy who’d give up on what he wants at the first hurdle. I’m not sure what he’s going to do.Continue reading

“Miss Storm, hello and welcome,” the servant said as she opened the door. She bowed and stepped to the side, making way for Nova to enter.

The servant girl was quite pretty, but the maid outfit she wore was too modest and not at all revealing. It was plain, even. More work clothes than anything else. Nova couldn’t help but be disappointed, every time she visited this place and saw the maids working there. It seemed like Altera’s monarchy had yet to realize that maid outfits deserved the chance to shine the brilliant light of truth and goodness down upon the unenlightened masses.

Nova wasn’t going to say anything about it, though. People might misunderstand and see her as a pervert who lusted after the maids. That would be awkward.

Especially since she didn’t.Continue reading

After spending a pleasant evening with Lynn – though it was somewhat shortened by her need to return to her school group before the accompanying teachers started getting too angry at her absence – Nova returned to Ryner’s apartment to spend the night again.

The next day, she was back on her motorcycle, this time heading for the royal palace. She’d messaged Delia first, to know if there would be an opening in whatever schedule she and her brother had planned today, in order for them to meet Nova privately.

As it happened, there was indeed such an opening.

Delia and Nova easily arranged the specifics of their meeting. As for Louis, he was actually supposed to be busy at the time they’d chosen, but he’d forcefully pushed everything else off to make room for Nova.Continue reading

Chatter resounded inside the vast concert hall, like a tide of incomprehensible sound, sometimes ebbing, sometimes, flowing, more background noise than anything else, yet still loud enough that Lynn had to strain in order to hear the voices of her classmates as they tried to speak to her.

“Sorry, what did you say?” she asked.

“I said, does it pay well, to win a medal at the Olympics? Surely, you must have made a ton of money from it, right?”

Lynn shook her head. “Not so much, no. The competition itself technically didn’t have any money prize, if you discount the silver in the medal itself. The government gave me a reward for my participation, though. I don’t remember the exact phrasing, but it was something about increasing Altera’s prestige on the world stage.”Continue reading

Nova was back on her motorcycle, navigating the streets of the capital, relying on her memory of the last time she’d visited the Royal Concert Hall, around 3 years ago.

However, her mind was not focused on the road, nor on the performance she would have to give tonight in front of a large audience.

Rather, they were on Ryner’s last few words, as Nova had been about to leave for the Concert Hall.

‘Louis and Delia also want to see you. You should pass by the palace and say hello, don’t you think? It’s been a while since you guys saw each other.’Continue reading

Unfortunately, neither Esfir nor Ryner seemed enthused by Nova’s idea.

Instead, once the two’s work day was over, they all gathered in front of a giant TV screen and watched movies together while picking slices from a few large pizzas they’d ordered at a ridiculously overblown price.

Nova suggested they watch a horror movie. While she disliked them – she just didn’t see the appeal in scaring herself – it would have provided her with an excuse to cling onto Esfir’s arm in fright. Unfortunately again, this woman was as sharp as ever. Her glare told Nova that her plan had been seen through, and they ended up watching some fantasy thingy that reminded her of the Lord of the Rings.

Ryner and Esfir’s penthouse apartment was luxurious. All its outer walls were made of large panes of glass, whose tint and opacity could be controlled from small, transparent panels set into the glass itself. They gave a rather stunning view over the city of Altera and the shimmering lake on whose shore it was built; even Nova had to admit it was all pretty cool.Continue reading

230 years.

Approximately.

It’s difficult to retain a precise sense of time, while in dormancy.

It’s quite a long time, admittedly, but not all that long. At least, for unaging gods, it isn’t. And yet, many things seem to have changed, in that time.Continue reading

Esfir sat back into her comfortable, swiveling office chair and glanced at her future sister-in-law.

She sighed inwardly as she watched the girl shrug off her short jacket and lie down on the couch near Esfir’s desk, each movement graceful and fluid like a trained dancer’s – which Nova was, in point of fact. It felt uncharitable and uncomfortably close to blaming the victim, but Esfir couldn’t help the thought that Nova would have been less likely to be harassed by that worthless playboy in the elevator if she had been wearing more modest clothing than this. The halterneck she wore underneath her jacket and the low-rise pants tucked into her knee-high boots hugged her form a bit too snugly for propriety. And it was rather obvious that Nova wasn’t wearing a bra today, either.

Esfir shook her head to free it of its wayward thoughts – even for her, despite her attempts to resist it and the few years of acquaintance that had somewhat inured her to it, Nova’s beauty was a potent distraction.

Now that she had welcomed her guest, Esfir got back to work on her computer, plinking away at the keyboard, while still leaving half of her focus on Nova to give her some polite conversation.Continue reading

[…Phineas.]

(That’s right. It’s me. I apologize for the delay, but…) Phineas looks down at himself. (I’m all better, now. Every bit of damage has been fixed.)

Right…

His soul was injured.

I’m not quite sure what he’s so proud of, though.Continue reading

plick, plick, plick…

Water, dripping down onto stone, one drop at a time, coming from somewhere.

I don’t know how long I spend listening to this regular sound, as if it’s ticking down the elapsing seconds. Probably very long. Long enough for those drops of water to erode the stone on which they fall, it even seems.

I feel Sanae nearby. She was probably standing guard over me while I slept.Continue reading