I watched with a wry smile as Cecilia fussed over me. It was kind of heartwarming, even to my cold stone heart. Everything was in place, I had all my senior hive members check and re-check. When you have a gestalt mind of over a million individuals, you tend to avoid blind spots.
I was bringing a Vanguard Queen into hell, she would be useful for setting up a base of operations. Plus, a Light Vanguard Brood could be useful for scouting and this particular Brood Mother was designed to be slightly flexible in genetics. Meaning I could modify her in the field to something more combat-orientated, maybe even make the Hell equivalent of Nafas.
But that little possibility would have to wait. To be fair, utilising this opportunity to create a seperate Hell Hive was really… REALLY tempting. However, the broader strategic needs came first. If the opportunity arose I would most definitely try it out.
I mean, just think of it: swarms of red flaming members of my hive swarming over the enemy. It would be absolutely amazing.
“Ok, now remember when are down there do not try to antagonise the Daemon Princes first.” Cecilia said as I glanced down at her.
Her brow was creased with worry, and her small pink lips, which were devoid of her usual lipstick, were upturned in a worry-filled scowl. Her fiery red hair was a mess, and she was wearing her silk nightgown very sloppily. So sloppily in fact that it was askew and a generous portion of her chest was exposed, alongside that the robe was fluttering so much a hint of her underwear could also be seen from time to time.
But Cecilia naturally didn’t care, after all, when we started out she made it a habit of bathing and walking around nude. She did that less now obviously but there was this rumour going around that the Empress frequently spent time with me in the room in various states of undress. The rumour was relatively tame considering the truth was that she would take part in orgies in front of me…
The only reason she was even wearing the robe was that Mahaila was in the room prepping as well. The Crowfather had left and was, as he said, laying his ravens. I checked in on this and I did notice that the crow population in Averlon seems to have gone up slightly. A closer examination revealed that they were magical constructs that acted as surveillance vectors.
He was still at it and from what I gather he might be laying some flocks in the neighbouring cities. Good that he was paranoid, it only inspired confidence on my part.
Mahaila was kneeling on the ground as she faced what could only be described as an armoury laid out neatly on the floor. She had an impressive arsenal of weapons. All sorts ranging from glaives, spears, pikes, sabres, short swords, long swords, great swords, claymores, scimitars, focii blades and several more weirdly shaped weapons.
“Friend, are you listening?” Cecilia asked hotly, worry clearly colouring her impatient tone.
“Yeah, don’t antagonise the daemon princes until we know at least who is on whose side.
Don’t trust what Alastor says even if what he said is true.
Figure out the best way to get a working majority first before attempting to make a bid for the Black Heart.
Don’t trust what Alastor says even if what he said is true.
Get detailed information on the troop composition of each of the rings and prepare for countermeasures.
Don’t trust what Alastor says even if what he said is true.
Avoid the infernal sea, it’s too exposed even with flight.
Don’t trust…” I said wryly but Cecilia just gave me a light slap upside the head for the teasing.
“Ok ok fine…” Cecilia replied with a light laugh.
“I know your worried but you have to admit it seems weird.” I said with a laugh.
Cecilia gave a small sigh as she nodded, conceding the points. As she lowered her head in the sigh she noticed the state of her robe and went to adjust it. Now looking far more decent she decided to smooth out the mane of mess that had become of her hair.
“I’ll send messages back every day. I have a plan for interdimensional communication. I will need it since I can’t exactly be cut off from the hive even if control is limited. Plus how will I know to rush back to pull you out of the fire in case something happens.” I said with a grin.
“So you rush out of hell to pull me out of the fire. Now that’s an interesting line to put in a book.” Cecilia replied with a grin of her own.
“Well, hopefully, it won’t be as dramatic as that, even if it would make for interesting reading.” I replied with a laugh.
“But seriously you are going to drop everything and rush back? I might be able to hold out for a while.” Cecilia replied as she gestured in her general vicinity where the Briars were standing invisible.
“Yes, current projections does put holding out a decent possibility. Not in the least since from what the Crowfather has said, the Drown Admiral will attack Divonia if such a thing were to occur. Naga and the Mugummans will do much the same for the Merchant Princes and Eastern Voleria. I would also bet that the Syndicate would pounce on this same opportunity and reignite their assault in the north.” I replied and she nodded, agreeing that an attack by the angels would incite serious counter-offensives. At this time attacking me would quite simply start a world war. The Seraphim have made far too many enemies during their stewardship of this world.
Just as my mind wandered I felt Cecilia move forward and hug me. She was hugging me rather tightly and judging by the sensations she had just unset her robe again. I looked down and saw her heart hammering in her chest and she was filled with anxiety, separation anxiety to be exact.
I reach down and place a gently hand about as large as her around her and gave her a few gentle pats. Feeling this I saw the faintest traces of a smile on her lips before she separated from me her robe once again completely askew.
“Sorry.” Cecilia replied as she sniffed slightly and wiped the corner of her eyes. I knew why she was like this, she had been stuffed into a tower as a teenager and basically abandoned by her family. Compoud that with the fact that her first love was basically executed and she watched the whole thing she would have plenty of… what was the word? Trauma? Yes that, trauma related to being separated to those she was close with.
“Nothing to forgive, I broke you out of the tower remeber?” I replied with another wry grin and that a laugh out of her.
“How could I forget, we have been inseparable ever since.” Cecilia said with another sniff as she blinked her tears away.
“Come now, Empresses do not cry.” I said gently, so gently in fact Mahaila paused from her work and she turned around to look at us in confusion.
“Come on, get dressed let’s spend some time together.” I said and with a simple command one of my proxy bodies appeared. This was one looked like a human but it’s gaze and demenour fully betrayed the fact that I was in the pilot seat.
“The other half of me will work with Mahaila, so don’t worry.” I said before Cecilia could protest, and she nodded gratefully.
I made the half of me that was controlling the body gently start to clean her up into something more presentable. In the meantime I used my actual body to approach Mahaila and stare down at her arsenal. When you went into battle it was always good to know what you had at your disposal.
Mahaila gave me a questioning look and I just stared back.
“What?” I asked.
“What the hell was that?” Mahaila asked.
“No breeding instinct remember? When a Firstborn breeds we…” I began but Mahaila waved away the rest of the statement.
“Yes you die but what does she feel?” Mahaila asked and I shrugged, honestly I was lost as to why this was interesting to her.
“Her pheromones go crazy when she sees me in that particular proxy body, as to romantic inclination I have no idea. But I can easily make a drone to handle that part if she really wants.” I replied matter of factly. I could help Cecilia on the physical part but for the spiritual part nothing I can do frankly. I tried adjusting my mental state and apparently, that part was impossible. As fluid as my essence was, there were still some ground rules it seems. Breeding was another one that was impossible without sacrificing my ability to spontaneously evolve.
“Uh huh, ancestors, she has the weirdest taste in the world.” Mahaila replied with a shake of her head, that migraine expression plastered all over her face.
“So would you do it if she asks?” Mahaila asked as she rasied a brow.
“If she wants to then sure. I can just control it by proxy and create a body to her tastes. I can even make it humanoid enough for breeding but it would bear no genetic resemblance to me. If she really wanted me to give her child for some reason, insemination would be a better alternative since I could tailor the other half of the genetic code.
But that would come with a whole host of problems which would have to be addressed by strengthening Cecilia herself.” I said as I tapped my chin, thinking of this highly technical problem. It would be possible but I would need some live test subjects to ensure it’s safe.
“What kind of problems would there be?” Mahaila asked.
“Babies kick in the womb, imagine if has super strength?” I said and the realisation dawned on Mahaila what I meant.
“Yeah, that would be a problem.” Mahaila nodded in understanding.
“Overall she just needs to ask but she hasn’t so far. She has implied that she would be interested in a custom drone but she hasn’t said anything else. She seems to be hung up on the same thing you are on now.” I stated and Mahaila did this odd sideways shake of her head as if turning the notion over in her mind.
“Well, you wouldn’t understand. Hard to explain honestly.” Mahaila muttered in response.
“Yeah I thought so, some parts of humanoid psychology I will never understand.” I replied with a shrug. I have tried almost everything, I wanted the advantage, know thy enemy and all that. But no matter how many memories I sifted through I just couldn’t figure it out.
Part of me wished that I died during puberty in my previous life since it would have given me more context. But then again as I thought back to my feelings of for little sis back in my old life it seems so… empty. Like it was someone else memory for me to dissect and analyse, I could barely fathom that strange affectionate feeling anymore. I guess this was part and parcel of being a Firstborn. I just couldn’t feel certain things anymore. I remember being able to feel it more acutely at the start of this life but now it was this vague understanding and comprehension rather than genuinely feeling it. My best guess was that all the various genomes I received are overriding my human tendencies.
“Well, I suppose it is what it is. This is the weirdest thing I have seen so far.” Mahaila said with another shake of her head as she returned to her work.
“So tell me about all of this. Need to know what toys you have.” I said and Mahaila nodded as she reached for her signature rapiers.
“You know all about these, you’ve been on the receiving end of it. It’s one of my best of equipment, a very flexible set of blades and it has high penetration.” Mahaila explained and I nodded in response.
“But it lacks reach and raw destructive power.” I stated and she nodded.
“For reach naturally you have these.” Mahaila said as she gestured to the various poled weapons.
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“These all have extremely high penetration, even more than these rapiers. They are there to fell large targets like dragons and the like.” Mahaila explained.
“If I don’t even want to get into melee I use these.” Mahaila said as she picked up a throwing knife and expertly tossed it before catching it neatly between two fingers.
“If I want to attack at high speed and strike without losing momentum, say if I was attacking in flight and raking a target I would switch to these.” Mahaila said as she gestured to the curved blades that allowed her to scythe along the target so that she could cut with rapid speed to prevent any loss of momentum. The curved edge allows it to cut just by holding it still and running it along the target.
“All the curved blades are enchanted with powerful [Lacerate] enchantments. Cuts become gouges with these blades.” Mahaila said as she moved on to the swords.
“So these hit alot harder than anything else I have. They prioritise raw damage, as you can see except for the short sword they all have handles long enough for a two-handed grip if need be.” Mahaila said.
“And I assume since you like duel wielding, the short sword is there as an off-hand weapon if required.” I stated and Mahaila nodded in affirmation.
“But usually if I use these swords I try to keep to a one-handed style. I am quite familiar with my master’s style after all.” Mahaila said.
“I assume that’s the blade of The Blade.” I said as I nodded at one peculiar sword that was radiating so much ether it was lighting up on my thermal vision.
It had a peculiar design, it had the bladelength of a long sword but the handle was short and curved slightly. The guard and pommel were desiged like knuckle dusters and the blade had serrations on some parts of the inner edge.
It was clearly made to a very specific design, for a very specifc person who fought with a very specific style.
“Ah yes, The Obliterator.” Mahaila said as she picked up the sword almost reverently.
“Obliterator?” I asked. That was a rather bellicose name…
“He… wasn’t great at naming things.” Mahaila said softly as she ran a gentle hand over the side of the dark metal blade.
“I like him already.” I replied with a grin and I saw a faint smirk on Mahaila’s lips.
“Yes, I suspect the two of you would have gotten along for a time.” Mahaila replied softly.
“Yes, but at the end of the day, the strong will always come into conflict. Peace is but a temporary reprieve.” I replied and Mahaila nodded solemnly.
“That I know all too well.” Mahaila replied as she put the sword down.
“Why don’t you use it?” I asked as I stared at it.
“Too much of a giveaway of who I am, also I… my master told me to find my own path, relying on his sword could be seen as using his blade as a crutch.” Mahaila replied.
“Huh, well it is far more powerful than any of the other stuff here.” I mused and Mahaila nodded again, she of course was painfully aware of that fact.
“But a bit of advice Mahaila.” I said as I paused, watching her slowly turn to look at me, her gaze filled with curiosity.
Strength is strength
Doesn’t matter where it comes from
I should know, after all, I am Firstborn…
As I was scrutinising swords with Mahaila I was walking with a rather skittish-looking Cecilia as we headed to her private garden. Her garden was a very private place, no one other than her, me and some hive guards were permitted in.
Not even her own family has ever entered this place. It was, as Cecilia put it, a place of peace, far away from the rest of the world.
We walked in silence until we came to a quiet and simple little bench. It was a very basic-looking thing, but to Cecilia it held a very special significance. It was the same bench she would relax in when she was younger. Even now as it was old and creaky she likes to sit here and think about all that was to come.
“You know a part of me likes it when you are like this.” Cecilia said as she took in a deep breath.
“Why? This body is weak, even if it is familiar to you.” I replied as turned to look at her.
“I don’t know, I mean your expressions are far from human.” Cecilia mused.
“Don’t really know how to be one honestly.” I replied as the other half of my mind chatted with Mahaila.
“I can imagine…” Cecilia said as she let out a small laugh.
“You speaking with Mahaila now?” Cecilia asked suddenly.
“Yeah, why?” I asked as I tilted my head which was a rather exaggerated movement by human standards.
“Can’t imagine having my mind in two places at once, let alone piloting two bodies at once.” Cecilia replied.
“Well, I’m piloting a few more than that at the moment. Ordias needs something and I’m spying on some angels chatting next to the temple.” I said and Cecilia giggled in response.
“Would it kill you to spend some one-on-one time with your favourite human?” Cecilia asked wryly her tone betraying the fact that she knew it was a silly question.
“Now’s not that convenient. But sure when I come back I can do that.” I said, and that caught Cecilia off guard.
“Really? I mean, it’s obvious that you can easily do multiple things at once.” Cecilia asked.
“It’s fine, if you want me to just talk to you for whatever reason, then I’m happy to oblige.” I replied with a shrug.
“I see…” Cecilia replied with a small smile that seemed almost wistful.
“Could you stay still for a moment?” Cecilia asked in a voice that was just a tad too small.
“Sure?” I replied with another quizzical tilt of my head.
Cecilia in response leaned over and laid her head down in my lap. I saw her sigh softly as she lay there, seeming more relaxed than I had ever seen her.
“Cecilia?” I asked still confused.
“Could we just stay like this for a while?” Cecilia asked softly as she seemed like she just might fall asleep.
I could somehow understand vaguely why she was behaving like this. In those old memories of my past life that seemed so strange and out of place in my mind now. Like I was… missing something…
Oh well, probably nothing important…
“I’m going to miss you…” Cecilia said softly as if she was about to fall asleep.
I’ll be back before you know it…