“My thanks to you for listening to my piece, Aunty Sova,” Maria Loren intoned in the politest tone she thought she could handle, bowing to her sorta-aunt/not-really-stepmom with her arms in her robes, like one was supposed to do with this type of thingy. Sorta. A public plaza wasn’t exactly the most politest of places, but there was some etiquette stuff she was supposed to observe when it came to nobles.
“You are very welcome, Maria,” Sova replied, smiling as she sat on the side of Shioneri Plaza’s main fountain, which was outside the town hall. It was the exact center of the town, so yeah. “Though ‘allowing me to say my piece’ would be more proper if you’re really trying for that.”
“…Aw dangit.” Stumbling right at the end, great. “Well, uh…exception for family?”
“You’re excused this time.” Sova giggled as she stood up too, smoothing down the front of her flowing skirts. “Do try to remember your courtesies when in the presence of other nobility, however. There are those who can be very irritating about the respect they feel they are owed.”
“Ah, right, yes Aunty.” She bowed again, very politely. “My thanks for your tutelage.”
“You are quite welcome. In turn, allow me to thank you for your company.” Sova smiled, then paused, looking past Maria. “Ah, I see Mister Yew has returned. I imagine that means our meeting will be commencing soon.”
Hm? Oh hey, Teach and Doug were back. And Teach was currently disguised with a red cloak and white mask, weird…Did he borrow one from Mask?
Anyways, they seemed to be talking about something–she could make out plenty of words, sure, mostly stuff about how to handle the meeting and if Douglas needed rest which he said he didn’t–and there was Sylsa and Mask, who were also in conversation–about sheep, for some reason; apparently Mask had never seen any. Lots of talking today, and there was definitely going to be more considering the big conference thing…Probably better than fighting though, if less interesting.
Or maybe it would be interesting? Could be fun seeing royals argue and shout at each other, and Valondrac would probably add some fun.
“Hey Teach!” she greeted as they approached, deliberately looking towards Douglas, though she did take a sec to wave at Mask and Syl, who waved back but kept up their convo about the merits of fluffy wool, “Time for the big meet up?”
“Oh yes, just about, and hello Lady Vioka! I hope your meeting with your odd sort of relative person has gone well!” He could just ask Maria if it went well. Though, did it? Shit, now she was worried.
“It did, Mister Yew,” Sova replied, so, good, no need to worry there. Plenty of reasons to worry in other places, but here was good. “I must say, I did not expect such a push for peace to come from such distant sides here. To have the Dark Land Empire and the Zemavan Pontiff both share your goal…how, precisely, did you accomplish that feat?”
“Well it’s less forcing them into such a goal and more so the natural drive for peace and comfort that we all so share here!”
“My, how optimistic of you.” Ouch, that was a really insincere smile, not a good sign. “You do realize that there are those out in the world that prefer war to peace, no?” She glanced at Teach. “Such as your…rather intimidating friend.”
“…Well, that is what fighting rings are for, though, hopefully this small island doesn’t become one if things go sour!”
“I’m almost certain that it will.” Oof. “But I’m sure someone as smart as you has a backup plan in case it does.”
“I may, I may not, so it’s a very good thing that won’t happen.”
“How wonderful for you to be so trusting. I wonder how well placed it is.” With a small bow, Sova walked off, apparently done with the conversation.
“…That could have gone better,” Maria muttered once she was sure she was out of earshot. Which was a big range. She knew; her mom could hear things super well and always seemed to catch when Maria said something unflattering.
“The fact that she was willing to listen is more than I expected,” responded Douglas as he began to walk away and lead the group elsewhere.
“Yeah, but she didn’t need to be so insincere. I seriously don’t get what’s up with her.”
“Well that involves a history lesson! All dating back to the time when Caligori was banished.” Oh, okay, guess the lesson time was now. “Now, as you know, Sova’s race is commonly called City elves, correct?”
“Uh, yeah? Or well, ‘drow’ too, right?”
“Correct! However, long ago, they were referred to as ‘Dark Elves’, much like how High Elves used to be Light Elves and Wood Elves are still Wood Elves, but, after the goddess of darkness was banished, anything perceived as ‘dark’ was given a negative connotation. As such, they were persecuted, and Sova’s family is descended from one such group that faced hardships. Nowadays, things are better, but not perfect, and the scars of the past run deep.”
“Oh…uh…well, I see.”
“Yes, truly the old wounds of the past still scar the present…”
Maria blinked. Kinda repeating himself there. “…So what does that have to do with Sova, personally, being all deceptive-y? You know, smiling while threatening someone and all.”
“Well, I regard that as a part of how she was raised, nurture forming one’s nature. The Vioka family remains quite tight-knit as a direct result of the persecution their ancestors once faced, as they provided a haven for those fleeing a far crueler Light Church, so they have a severe distrust of foreign powers, and the various ‘empires’ of the Dark Lands certainly haven’t been kind to them, which is where the majority of their attitudes came from and persisted even as they rose in power. Of course, that doesn’t mean all Viokas are the same.
“Where Sova distrusts any outsider, Dario only cares about family, so, regardless how small the connection may be, he loves anyone he views as family.”
“Hmm…” Well, that…made some sense. Probably. “So, what’s the plan with your ‘friend’ there?”
“Well there’s no need to say friend like that, he is still my friend despite his frequent irritation with my mannerisms-” Teach grunted. Probably an agreeing grunt? Probably. “-and while my main plan here is to officiate the meeting today, at least in some regards as Lady Valondrac is almost certain to take the actual lead in presenting the case for peace, you and certain other members of our party-”
“So me and the rest of the team,” Maria interrupted, because yeah, it wasn’t like any of them really had political experience. Well, maybe Syl? She should ask-
“-and Tisma, Cyrus, Lady Valondrac’s generals, your older sister–” Ohh, right right, she actually had one of those here today. Ah jeez, that was a weird feeling, kinda exciting but also worrying? Maria had good luck with relatives so far–Sova was at least polite, and her half-brothers were nice–but an older sister was, like, weird. She had people kinda like that back home, like the older druids, but no one blood related. “–will be staying in a side room, which is right this way.”
Maria blinked, then glanced up at the town hall as Doug led her around the side, to a side door in the side of the building. Very side-y.
And inside was a room. Yay.
A big room, which had most of her friends inside already. Actually, with Mask and Syl following behind her, that was…Okay, Soph wasn’t in yet, so still most instead of all. But yeah, Adrien and Sue were over with that Hans guy and…right, uh, so, first off, they were setting up some kinda big mirror thing and Serge was sitting nearby, probably for “encouragement” instead of actually helping, but also, second off, that…that one guy, uh…might be her dad.
Doug might’ve said something, but Maria was already heading over to the guy sitting in one of the chairs–which were set up in front of the big mirror, which, by the way, seemed to have a bowl of water set on top of it? And also weird pink gems in its sides, what?–and tuning a guitar.
“Ye-…” As her father looked up, a harsh twang sounded out through the room as one of the strings on his guitar snapped. “…Y-You must be Maria.”
“Yup! Nice to meet you…is ‘dad’ okay?” She beamed. Definitely not nervous, no nervousness here. Actually, she really did feel elated! Like wow, this guy was her dad!
“Oh, yes, yes it is. It’s more than okay.”
“Then it’s a pleasure to meet you, dad! Glad I could meet you, even if it took a long time!”
“…Yes, that would be my fault. I…wasn’t being the smartest of people.”
“Well, mom always said you were more of a charmer than smart guy.”
“Even then, it was really stupid of me to not know about any of you.”
“Haha, well like I sa-” Eh? “…wait, what?”
“…Oh…I thought Julius would have mentioned that…”
“He didn’t.” She frowned. “You do that now.”
Her dad shifted slightly and cleared his throat. “Well…I may have been quite…unwise and assumed I never had any children.”
“In my defense, I wasn’t able to really check up on most of my former loves, as I had a habit of angering those in charge of…everywhere I went. To the point that many would arrest me if I went back.”
“And you couldn’t write?”
“…I find words come better to me with my mouth, rather than my hands.”
“…” Now, Maria didn’t know what to expect when it came to meeting her dad. Sure, he was a former hero, but her mom always told her stories about how dumb that team was when they fought one another. Like, really dumb. Those stories did kinda make her underestimate Teach, but he was still a huge goof, so she did expect her dad to be at least a little dumb.
However, she did not expect him to be this fucking stupid.
“…You can’t be f-”
“Hey, pops, you’re not messing with this girl ri-…”
Maria stared at the taller, paler, but still orange-haired lady staring right back at her. Oh hey, Teach was watching nearby. Like a protective mama owl. Though he seemed to be talking to a card, which was talking back–
“-and I’m honestly somewhat baffled you even managed to contact me. These cards are meant for spying, not two-way communication.”
“Yeah Douglas is amazing like that. Can we focus?”
“Right, of course. Well, if need be, I suppose I can use my influence to potentially overrule a negative decision Vioka makes, but I cannot guarantee there won’t be conflict nor can I do much directly when I’m not present at the meeting. Which, by the by, was quite stupid of your friend.”
“Yeah, I know, he figured it would be better to just not have a Rosian representative here. He had some logic to it, but it wasn’t his best decision.”
“No, it wasn’t. Now, you did make the offer of some recompense–”
Weird. And alright, that was a woman made out of lightning, sure, and the spider lady was there too but also holy fuck–
“Are you my sister?” Ah, no, don’t squeak in front of cool older sister lady, bad voice, stay calm!
“Uh…yeah? I guess so?”
“Nice! My name’s Maria, I’m so glad to meet you!” Hand out, shake for greeting!
“…Mira, same to you.” She did not return the handshake. Hm. Alright, drop hand, might be different customs–Oh, her right hand was black, okay, sure, neat red marks, probably good to change the subject.
“Oh wow, weird, your name is really similar to mine. That’s kinda crazy but also cool?”
“…I’m being too weird, aren’t I?”
“No, no…just, didn’t even know I had siblings until recently, so…”
“Oh! Well don’t worry, we can take things easy. And whenever you want, I can introduce you to some of our other siblings! Though I really only know two of our brothers. Ah, one’s Andrew and the other’s Tarin, they’re both city elves but they’re not related. Well, aside from with dad. Different moms. Andy’s nice and Tarin’s alright, I guess? I dunno, I was kinda hanging around with grandpa then–Oh yeah, so we also kind of have an adoptive granddad too, his name’s Dario, and he is super willing to spoil us because he’s really really rich, so keep that in mind if you’re ever in Rosiava.”
“Ah, Maria, Mira, why don’t the two of you sit down?” Dad said, finally speaking up after replacing his broken string and patting the two chairs next to him.
“…Huh? Oh, yeah, sure,” Mira replied, then glanced at her…weird lightning friend. “Lightning, could you go over to Hans? I need to speak with my…family, I guess.”
Lightning–very straightforward name there–nodded with cheery…smile? Yeah, a smile, just one without a mouth. Kinda like how Mask would “smile”. Who also had a very straightforward name…Conspiracy? Mayhaps…
Anyways, they were sitting down now, and both sisters were looking at their dad expectantly.
And Dad stared back, then started playing a little tune on his guitar. This continued for a few seconds before he shrugged. “I have no idea how to start any of this and I’m genuinely hoping that one of my friends will interrupt with something important. It’s not like I don’t want to deal with you, I just have no idea how to, and I am deeply afraid of ruining this newfound thing I did not realize I even had.”
“Woah. Heavy.” Maria considered that. Considering over. “Okay, so, I’ll start. Where have you been for the last nineteen years? Or however many old Mira is.”
“Ah, twenty-three.” Oh, four years older than her. Not a huge gap, so that was nice.
Dad paused. “Ah, traveling. Sorry, I try to use French as…I’ll talk about that later. I just travel, that’s what I do. I was born with a lust for wandering and I want to see the world, so I travel, I play music, and I live my life.”
“And you fuck,” Mira deadpanned. Which, funny because of how Dad cringed, but also terrible because ew.
“Eugh…Okay, second question, do I have grandparents? Oh, first second question, where are you from?”
“Er…in order, I’m from Luceneva, specifically the Eden Duchy. As for my parents, or your grandparents, well…Mon père et ma mère were…Stifling. They were clerks, upper-middle class in service to the Valmont family, who’re direct vassals of the Edens.” Dad shrugged while he plucked at one string, like a little rhythm. “They had so many expectations and plans for me, ways to rise above our station and become ‘important’. I had different ideas. Things fell apart from there.”
“…Did you leave?” Mira asked with a weird tone of her own.
“Is it odd to think with what you know of me?” He chuckled, a little sadly. “I suppose abandoning my family is all I’ve ever been good for.”
“I dunno, you seem pretty good at music.” Maria smirked as both her dad and sis stared at her. Always nice to get that wide-eyed surprise. “No getting bogged down in the sad stuff, alright? We’re here now, so the rest doesn’t matter. Though, did you ever see them again?”
“…I did. I went back to our home after the war. By then, I was a hero, so they were…not exactly happy, but more forgiving. Then I paid them back for being a terrible son with a good deal of gold and left again.” He shrugged. “It wasn’t a teary reunion, but my parents are not teary people. They’re…professional. I think that mutual sense of duty drew them together in the first place. I was more raised by our housekeeper, Selma. She raised me, they educated me, and I ran away from all of them because I couldn’t handle it.”
“Huh. How’s Selma doing?”
He blinked. “Oh, fine. Getting on in years, but she still sends the occasional letter and I send some gold and souvenirs back.” Dad shrugged. “I guess I could take you two for a visit sometime? I haven’t exactly been banned from Luceneva yet, I just have…certain people that disapprove of me. Ah, other than my parents.”
“Well, it’ll be nice to visit. Though I have a feeling you’ll be in trouble with Selma once you tell her how reckless you were,” Maria pointed out, her ears twitching slightly as she heard a familiar rustle of robes and a set of hooves walking on in. Seemed Tiz and Soph were here now, nice. Lots of conversations going on too, but it was rude to eavesdrop, and her Dad did seem like he was searching for the right words to say so her focus went to him instead.
“That is very likely, oui. So many children for her to meet…” He sighed. “Merde, a full family reunion would be insane.”
“…Welp, guess I know what I’m doing after this.”
Dad paused. “Eh? What will you be doing?”
“Finding all my siblings. Duh.”
“…That may take a while.”
“I’ll have the time. You just make sure the reunion party is good to go!”
Dad cleared his throat. “Are you sure I can’t just-”
“Pops, you’ve said it before, but you’d get arrested in most of those places if you went back,” Mira pointed out.
“…Maybe not arrested, but-”
“Nope, no risking your life on stupid stuff,” Maria cut in, still grinning, “That’s my job as a hero~!”
Mira snorted. “Since when is saving the world a stupid thing?”
“Okay, maybe not ‘stupid’, but…yeah, I don’t have a word, sorry,” she replied, maybe a little flippantly. It did get Mira to giggle again, so victory to Maria.
Then Doug clapped his hands over near the mirror and everyone looked at him, a wide grin on his face.
“Now then, I hope you’re all prepared and ready, the meeting is about to begin and we shall need to be prepared in case anything happens! Provided it doesn’t, however, feel free to sit back and enjoy the show as they discuss the fate of the world.”
Hm. Well that helped put things into perspective. “So is the mirror supposed to help with the ‘show’?”
“Oh yes, good question, I haven’t explained any of this in the slightest, right, Hans? Could you please handle this part, I do need to get to the other room for this.”
“It would be mine pleasure!” Oh hey, it was the old guy they fought in the Water Temple. Right, his name was Hans. No music this time, which was a shame…Hm. He had a freaky arm too. Could Mira play music with her arm? “Hello to everyone gathered here today! Please, be seated at the arranged seating, for we have a very simple presentation to go through before our viewings can begin.”
“Ah, hey.” Oh, Mira was tapping her shoulder.
“So, you see the old guy up there? Hans? If you’re in the Dark Lands and you need anything, go to him. He’s not exactly my grandpa, but he’s sort of in that position.” Oh, like Teach. Cool!
“Oh cool! Thanks for the head’s up!” Alright, be tactful, do not bring up the huge fight right at this moment, get to know the guy first. Maybe he was nicer out of battle?
“Greetings everyone, both friends and former foes-” Alright, he acknowledged it, still don’t jump right into talking about it. “-I hope you are all having a pleasant morning! Now, if you would, please direct your attention to the large mirror you see set along the wall here.”
It was a big mirror, as long as Maria was tall. It had a silver edge that was lined with blue and pink stones, and its surface shimmered like there was a layer of water over it.
“Now, as many of us, for one reason or another, would only get in the way of the meeting that is about to happen, so we are staying here, away from the royal delegates we could possibly offend.” Huh. Were his eyes on Teach or Dad when he said that? “That being said, not knowing what is happening could become quite nerve-wracking. As such, Douglas and I have devised a method that will allow us to ‘peek in’, as it were. Now, while they cannot also see us, I do ask that all of you remain quiet, for the walls are not the thickest.”
…Hm, for something that would probably just be a boring meeting, Maria couldn’t help but feel nervous.
If things went great, then that was that, and peace would hopefully be settled. Easy ending, everybody gets to go home happy and no one would get hurt. But if it didn’t…so many things could happen, then…Maria gripped her knees and did her best to keep herself calm. In and out, deep breaths–then she felt a hand gently touching hers.
Looking over, she found Mira and Dad looking over, worried, the former’s hand on hers. Her demon hand, which…felt weirdly hard, but also warm.
“…Ah, yeah, just nervous, is all.”
“Want to go get some fresh air?”
“No, no, I’m okay.” She took another deep breath, trying to bury–no, ease. Ease it, don’t bury it. Let it drift away in the breeze. “…Yeah. Yeah, I think I’m good.”
“Good.” Mira grinned. “You did good getting this far, right? So just sit tight and enjoy your victory lap.”
“…Pft. I don’t think you’re supposed to sit for a victory lap.”
“You do if you’re on a horse,” she replied, nodding her head sagely, which Maria couldn’t help giggling at.
Then her ears twitched as she picked up Sue’s voice. “-see? She’s fine, she’s with her family. We oughta give her some space.”
“I guess…we could sit closer though.” Oh ho, was Sophia worried about her? Aw, how sweet~!
Maria stood and turned towards her friends, who all bunched up in the row behind them. “Hey, party people, why are you sitting back there? Get up here and meet my cool older sister! She punches demons!” Probably. She didn’t actually know what Mira did, but demon hand probably meant demon punching, right?
“…I mean, that’s not inaccurate,” Mira muttered while her dad chuckled, starting to play a little tune again as everyone moved on over.
So, soon enough, though not without a lot of teasing and poking fun, everyone who’d be in the audience instead of in the meeting was settled in, ready for the show as the mirror’s shimmering surface shifted to show the meeting hall in all its…kinda rustic glory. It wasn’t the fanciest place out there, but then, it didn’t really need to be. All that mattered was getting the war ended.
Hopefully, it would be peacefully.