Chapter 46
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Chapter 46:

  I discovered something while composing ballads for Mylene to sing outside her window. Perfect memory solved a lot of problems. I still couldn't Omnislash one winged angels, but my range of skills could grow rapidly in whichever direction I applied myself to. I was actually pretty smart, all things considered. The moment I gained the memory retention to go along with my thinking, I could understand just about anything. Learning an instrument took a ridiculously short amount of time, as well as learning the tune. All I had to do was get the fingering down correctly once and I had it for all time. This was definitely my favorite blessing out of all Cute-sama's miracles, aside of course from the 100 waifus she'd provided in the first place.

  Lafiel's prediction had been a little off. When I sang my new single, "Fa-scism, Fa-scism, Ra-ra-ra! Fa-scism, Fa-scism, Ra-ra-ra!" it was met with a rather cool reception. Mylene stuck out her tongue and said, "The Basara I know was more of a free spirit."

  Yes but there's such a thing as being too much of a free spirit. While you were getting raped back at Macross 7 Basara was off singing and dancing with a pod of space whales. At some point you could both have used a bit more fascism.

  I had taken Lafiel's additional advice and composed a few more songs, though, so overall the night went well.

  Since learning one instrument had gone so smoothly, I resolved to learn more than just the acoustic guitar. Soon enough I'd gained a rudimentary skill for every instrument known to man. I feverishly kept ordering more from Siri, up to and including a gigantic pipe organ. Maybe someday Paradise would need a New Year's Orchestra or something and my pile of instruments could see some future use.

  Then I acquired basic skills in all the known sports, from skiing to diving. I was always an indoors type so none of them really appealed to me, but it was nice to think that if one of my waifus wanted to go on a sporty date I could now properly accompany them.

  Next came a bunch of useless trivia skills, like how to administer first aid, tie knots, survivalism, orienteering, how to skin and butcher an animal or a fish, all sorts of delicious cooking recipes, how to make my bed, how to set a table, how to assemble a computer from spare parts, and so on. None of it was any use, but I figured if I was going to be an immortal, I should act like one and at least know kung fu. The mortals I came across should all be like, "you had 1,000 years to learn all things, teach me master!" I couldn't let them down by saying I played Da Capo Poker the entire time.

  This didn't qualify as self improvement, not a single skill was sufficient to get me a job. Yes, I learned how to write haikus, no, they weren't any good. I could more or less draw straight lines and make decent floor layouts. No, I wasn't good at coming up with new building designs on par with the Taj Mahal. But it was a fun way to pass the time and see new sides to life.

  I studied various strategy manuals on war and became a decent field commander in virtual reality remakes of the standard epic battles across Earth's history. I even became a crack shot -- though guns (outside of Makina's sniper rifle and Mumei's steam-punk armaments which were part of their identity) didn't exist in Eden, nor would any weapon of mass destruction if I had my way. The last thing I needed was a single spree killer ending Eden overnight. Our population was low enough that I could totally see it happening. And Cute-sama had already said she would stand aside and let it happen should we allow ourselves such a colossal error.

  Note to self -- do not upset Louise, Mikoto, Mitsuki, Lucy, Wendy, Mirajane, Usagi, Iris. . .just don't upset anyone to be safe. I felt like most of my wives could make short work of Paradise even with Nanoha and Fate patrolling the skies. It only took one spell, and the attacker always got to go first.

  Nanoha and Fate were saints, and they would do their best to save us from ourselves, but ultimately it came down to love and peace. With enough love from me there would be peace among my wives, and none of our children had inherited remotely as great powers as their parents -- no doubt due to my utterly mundane DNA contribution.

  I could trust my wives. I couldn't trust the endless children. Not with megaflares, and not with guns. Even one unnecessary death was one too many. Just imagine if Sherria were shot dead tomorrow by some stupid emo punk. I'd never get to see her or touch her again. That would be it. The girl I'd loved for eighty years but not nearly enough, the busty loli so beautiful she could give Wendy a run for her money, dead because I let an idiot near a gun.

  I'd seen enough mayhem on Earth. Never again. Life was not some cheap thing to play around with. These people meant everything to me. I wouldn't let the mere pulling of a trigger be enough to take them away.

  But in the end I was probably just running away. No matter how many skills I picked up, the one skill I really needed was how to hold a decent conversation with all the girls I'd been neglecting. The petition signers weren't the only ones with legitimate beefs. Of course I made conversation on the evenings of our sexual encounters, but it wasn't enough. Idle conversation and pillow talk could happen with anyone, it was as the petition signers said -- if it was generic talk that could have happened with any waifu interchangeably, it still wasn't the conversation they were hoping for.

  I had a perfect memory, which meant now I could recall every detail of everyone's source works. This was a major advantage, especially after 70 years of the details blurring away. I should know them and their special someones whose relationships I had purloined as well as they knew themselves. Between the two, I should be able to make something work with everyone, so why were there still so many I had never said much of anything to at all?

  The answer was time. There truly wasn't enough time. Between juggling my 101 waifus, my 601 children, my time in the Mayor's office, my 2d hobbies, my outdoor hobbies, my job as an educator in the classroom, our communal breakfasts and dinners at the mansion and sleep. . . It was pretty funny, but as an immortal I think I had less free time than as a mortal. It didn't matter how many years I piled up, if I had a free hour I wanted to spend it visiting Ushio and asking about her day at school, if she was getting along with her friends, and if she'd like anything new to wear. (Ushio was all grown up now, but it sure was fun while it lasted.)

  And that was only one option among thousands. That's how many important people and things there were to me now. It was a miracle I'd spent quality time with as many wives as I had. The goal of sharing something special with all 101 was as daunting as K2. Was there enough specialness within me to stretch that far? Was there anything left to share with the remainder? So long as it was a date night and we could always fall back on the sex we'd come together for, I was safe. But connecting over deep talk about our innermost secrets? 101 times, with 101 different people? None of it generic, none of it repetitive. . .which could only be considered a con to the women involved. . . The more I tried to summon up the courage to call out Wendy for a date, the more I decided to just learn the drums instead.

  What if I wasn't right for Wendy after all? What if the girl I loved most in the world really had nothing in common with me? What if, aside from my ability to impersonate Natsu, the girl I cherished most thought nothing of me? I knew this seemed like a stupid worry after 81 years together and six children -- but with 101 wives that actually amounted to less than one year of married life together, and I hardly knew any of my children so it's not like we had any shared memories of raising them together. I knew their names -- Natsu, Charles, Agnes, Saki, Pacifica and little Tenri -- but even that was only due to Cute-sama's gift of a perfect memory.

  Actually Wendy might be a comparatively easy challenge. Ever since I had admitted she was my favorite in front of my entire assembled harem I felt we shared a secret but charged bond. She knew in her heart that I was above all hers, and when she looked at me with a proud smile my heart always fluttered in return. It told me that she knew, and she liked it, that likewise, I was the #1 in her heart, and she treasured her status as my favorite more than anything else in the world. Maybe our deep connection was already formed -- inadvertent as it had been, the decision I made that day had connected us in a way no one else could copy -- which was exactly what I wanted. But if those words always just remained words. . .what did they even mean? Surely if she was my favorite, I should have shown her some favor above and beyond the norm by now, but instead. . .

  I stopped clutching my head and stood up. Wendy was my favorite. And I was going to show that with more than words this time. If that disrupted convention and various people's schedules, oh well. That's what the title of favorite meant, that's the kind of weight it carried. Tenri was only 1 year old, which meant recently I'd delightedly made love to Wendy 24 times. Some of those times she'd given me the honor of embracing her pink haired, pink eyed, white winged Dragon Force mode. I had loved every minute of it, and my heart had raced with her perfect beauty even after it was obvious she was already pregnant and we doggedly kept going at it anyway. But that was my physical love for Wendy. This time I wanted to give her my soul.

  "Myusel," I phoned my maid who was doing chores somewhere in the mansion. "Can you ask Isara to take over Tenri's care for a week starting this very second? Plus, cancel all appointments. I want to do something that's been pending for far too long."

  "Goshujin-sama, I request similar service." Myusel's reply came promptly over the cell phone.

  "Maybe someday," I smiled to myself. The time I'd had unending sex with Myusel, with new bursts of Ruby-inspired energy across the entire night, was still an unforgettable 'similar service' she'd eventually finagled out of me. But I couldn't let Myusel hog all the fun. I hung up on Myusel and waited long enough for Tenri to be out of the way, and then I girded my courage and went to knock on Wendy's door.

  "Who is it?" Wendy asked nervously, a rise in her voice indicating she knew something was already afloat.

  My stomach started twisting nervously as if in response to her own. How should I reply? Something corny like, 'someone who loves you?', Something lame like 'It's me?', or perhaps I should just break down the door without any reply at all?

  How does one act in front of one's crush? She could level me with a single withering look. If I said or did one thing wrong, I'd lose my self-esteem forever.

  "Hi. I'm Christopher." Cute-sama save me! Was I a door-to-door insurance salesmen meeting Wendy for the very first time?

  Wendy opened the door and looked far up to meet me eye to eye, her plain brown eyes such a distinct contrast to her long loose blue hair. She was wearing her favorite green dress from her Cait Sith days, something she could still fit into thanks to the power of the Silver Crystal after all this time.

  "I was wondering why Isara rushed to my door and asked if she could take care of Tenri for me. Is there something you needed?" Wendy asked politely, leaning into the open door to support her weight. If she needed something like that as a support, maybe she was as nervous as me?

  "Yes. I want you to come to my room and. . .to stay." I managed to get out.

  "The night?" Wendy's eyebrows lifted. It would be rude to steal another girl's scheduled assignation.

  "For now. . .the week." I replied nervously. There's no way she'd say she felt bad for the other girls and turn me down flat, would there be? I know she's nice but wouldn't that be taking things too far?

  "It's true that Tenri's off the breast and onto the bottle, so technically it would be possible." Wendy looked at me with consternation. This had literally never happened with anyone before, she actually looked like she wanted to check me for a fever.

  "I want to spend an entire week with you in my room. And I don't have anything grand planned. I just thought we could watch the anime and read the spinoff manga together. Just you and me. Of course we'll still go to the dinner table to eat, but then we'll get back in bed and resume the marathon. . . it's. . .my idea of spending the best time possible. . .with the best girl possible. . ." My hand started to shake as I tried to phrase things right, to appeal to her in some way, as an otaku to his dream.

  "You want to retrace our steps together. In Fairy Tail?" Wendy smiled at me and put a hand over my trembling arm. It didn't help at all.

  "It's a long journey, so I thought we should take our time together." I managed to explain my reasoning.

  "I'll come. Just let me get some changes of clothes. If we're spending a week together, I want to look and smell my absolute best. I'll need my shampoo and razors and. . ." Wendy blushed and then backed away from the door and closed it. "Anyway, please wait outside while I get a bag together. I never thought I'd be moving in with you so I don't even know where to start. . ." Wendy started piping out excuses as she started banging open various cabinets.

  After what felt like an eternity, Wendy opened the door again, her hair suddenly up in twintails, her dress my favorite white one with the red ribbons. She took my arm in hers and held it against her side like a properly escorted lady. "Christopher." She nodded to me that she was ready, and so I slowly walked her to my room, arm in arm, crossing endless corridors of probably oblivious waifus already going to bed with their own children to take care of. But I got nervous just thinking what they would think if they saw us together. Showing that I wasn't ashamed of loving Wendy was part of the point of this date, but then again it was probably rude showing off in front of others, so in the end what was right and what was wrong?

  We met one mother returning with her kid from the public baths in the mansion and our hearts leaped as we stood to the side of the hallway to let them through. Only later did we realize that it hadn't even been anyone we knew and we started laughing. The population of the mansion was the exact same as the population of Eden. Of course most of the people we came across would be strangers.

  When we got through the front door of my palatial master bedroom, which she'd shared with me innumerable times before but never quite like this, she gave out a gasp and ran to jump onto the bed.

  "Yokataaaaa." Wendy sighed in relief, burying her head in my sheets. As a Dragon Slayer, her sense of smell was especially sharp, and she seemed to love the smell associated with me to the point of inebriation. "I was desperately searching for something to say if she called me a doroboneko." Wendy squeezed her fists together nervously.

  "It's all my fault. I broke all the rules and brought you here. How could you resist your lord's call?" I reassured Wendy, climbing into bed with her and holding her hands in mine.

  "It doesn't work that way between women. Men are helpless objects of our manipulation, so I had to have done something to seduce you. That's how we're judged over on this side. Tomorrow at breakfast. . ." Wendy blushed redder and redder imagining the confrontation with the girl whose night had been canceled.

  "At least tell me who it was today." Wendy whispered.

  "It's okay, I planned this out pretty well. Tonight was supposed to be Aisia's turn. After that comes Koko and then Yukino. There couldn't be a trio of nicer, less selfish girls. They won't say a thing." I comforted her.

  "Thank you." Wendy almost teared up, her burdens lifting.

  "I just want to say this to your face. Wendy Marvel, I love you more than anyone else in the world. You're my favorite. I stare at your picture even when we're apart. I close my eyes and imagine you at night, and even when I'm sleeping by the side of another girl, my perfect memory can summon you to my side and. . .just like your name, it's just marvelous. I have 101 wives but you occupy 10% of my hard drive. While I was on Earth, I spent more time with you than any of the others. By any metric, by any measure. . ." I trailed off as I saw Wendy nodding and tears dropping from her eyes.

  "I know. I've always known, since the day of that dinner. And I wear that badge with pride. Especially since. . .I know how very good everyone else is. . .from the other girls in Fairy Tail, to the girls I've come to know here. They're all such good girls. And now there's even a Goddess. And I knew that I'd beaten them all." Wendy replied bravely, not willing to feel guilty for the secret pleasure in her heart.

  "All I have are words and more words." I wiped Wendy's tears away with my thumbs and hugged her to my breast. "I wish I had more. . .but I'm just an otaku who got run over by a semi-trailer truck. And this is the new me. You fell in love with the hero who saved the world, from Zeref, from Acnologia, from so many people. But all I did was get run over by a truck, and I had the effrontery, I dared. . .to make you mine. . .when you deserved so much better. Can you ever forgive me?"

  "Forgive you?" Wendy hugged me tight in her super-powered arms, which were a hell of a lot stronger than mine. "You are him, the savior of the world, and I owe you my life. Over and over again."

  "That's just what I made you think. Really I'm a lawn mower, a virgin who couldn't drive, whose highest ambition was to gather a bunch of lolis together under one roof. . ." I confessed.

  "Think of it this way -- If Wakaba can have two souls, two different but equally true origins, why can't you? You are he. Nothing you say can change my mind. And Christopher, you've become quite the hero here too, if you still haven't noticed. When we got here all we had was an open meadow and two changes of clothes. Because of you, the decisions you made, we're now the crown jewel of creation. Not me, Christopher. And not Natsu. You saved this world." Wendy looked me in the eye, her brown eyes still swimming with unshed tears.

  I shrugged and twisted my arm helplessly. "You all had superpowers, Cute-sama gave her blessings. . .even this, anyone could have done it. . .anyone could have taken the lead, I'm the least among all of you, taking advantage of a love potion I never earned, embracing the girl I could never have."

  "If Natsu had turned evil for 81 years running, done nothing but rape me and other little girls all day every day, and then locked me in his room for a week and told me I was his favorite. . .do you really think I would put up with it?" Wendy challenged me with an infinitely soft smile.

  "Eternal gratitude, even a lifetime can't repay it, isn't it the same for all of you? All those great guys, everything paid in advance." I gave my theory.

  "You're right. Natsu has my eternal gratitude. And Lisanna's. And Lucy's. You roped in all three of us with just one amazing guy." Wendy kissed me on the lips. "But any one of us, if we thought you were taking the wrong path, because we love you, none of us would have stood idly by. You'd be a black and blue pile of welts the moment you tried anything funny. Even Natsu couldn't get away with pranking Lucy, so do you really think she would have let anything pass with you? Do you take us for automata? It isn't gratitude for something that happened 81 years ago that brought me to this room. It was the last 81 years together."

  "But you're Wendy." I gestured as if that explained it all. "You couldn't possibly love me."

  "God can love you but I can't?" Wendy laughed incredulously.

  "But you're so nice, and look -- I'm so mean! It's just impossible. By all rights, the real Wendy would hate me by now." I protested, stepping on dangerous grounds and not caring. I wanted to be honest with her, to bare my soul most to the girl I loved most, and this is what I truly believed.

  "Kamoshirenai. The real Wendy is just a blot of ink, so I don't know her heart. But--" She took my hand and placed it over her breast, letting me feel the soft but sure beat of her heart. "This Wendy is real to me. Am I real to you?"

  I nodded, looking at her with helpless adoration.

  "Mou. I told you before, if you had any worries, you could talk them over with me. So why did you wait 80 years to ask me these things?" Wendy kept my hand firmly over her beating heart, looking at me with exasperation.

  "But what if you said you hated me and you'd never forgive me? I'd have no choice but to die." I admitted freely.

  "Well, ink Wendy, who we're about to read together, she may have had her own opinions on things. But I've spent a long time with you, and I'm allowed to make up my own mind. I've experienced more here than I ever did over there. I am nice, and you are mean. But guess what, I fell in love with Natsu, who was a lot meaner than I ever was then too. And I stayed in love with you. You are mean, but only because you love us so much you can't bear to see us harmed. And that. . .isn't so different from me. . .or why do you think I stood up and fought so many times? Just because I was only casting support magic -- do you think the dragons I slew were any less dead?"

  Wendy looked at me seriously, the same determined look she had made when facing off against the world's greatest perils. The look that engraved her face into my soul. "We both fight to protect the things we love. You have never hurt anyone you didn't feel you must. Now, if you're going to ask me, should girls be able to marry each other, or, do people really have to attend compulsory education, or, should racists be allowed to tell the truth about IQ gaps -- as a mage of Fairy Tail, I would say freedom should always come first, and people should follow their hearts."

  I nodded. That's the Wendy Marvel I knew. That's the Fairy Tail I knew. They would never bend their knees to some government. The real Fairy Tail would have launched a coup by now.

  "But that Wendy was only 14 years old." Wendy pushed my hand deep into her bosom to make absolutely clear how she felt about me. "Am I never allowed to learn any better?"

  I looked at her in bewilderment. Even if I was right, there shouldn't be any way to prove it. There shouldn't be any way to convince her. After all, on Earth, no matter how often I was right, I had never convinced a single person of anything. I had always been a martyr for the truth, and I was sure that even here, I would have to stand by my lonely positions, and be hated for them, like always, alone forever. No one would ever come around because the truth just hurt too much. It shattered too many pretty illusions, and the prettiest girls, the sweetest girls, had the prettiest illusions of all.

  "I have six children. I worry about them every day. Not that a dragon will come down and breathe a darkness nova on them. If it were only that all we would have to do is gather together and fight back like we always do. Do you know what I fear? That someday one of them will overdose on fentanyl. That they'll hang themselves from a tree. That they'll disgrace us all by some horrendous act like Araragi. Or that they'll be caught cheating on their spouse, a traitor to the most sacred trust men and women can give to one another. And you know what I think to myself?"

  I shook my head, feeling the steady beat of her heart.

  "'It's alright. Christopher taught them every day in school, the difference between right and wrong. And everyone will come back today, alive, in good spirits, and a hero just like their parents who showed them the way.'" Wendy told me.

  "I'm not worried about freedom anymore. I'm worried about my one year old daughter. I'm worried what's out there to get her -- things I can't do anything to protect her from. Things no fist can punch. The temptations, the mistakes, the decisions you can never take back. And I think to myself, it's alright. Christopher is on the job. He's looking after Tenri and all the others, so that it doesn't happen. He's gotten us this far, a place like no other. While every other plane in the multiverse is messed up beyond belief, all five of my children have succeeded to the fulness of their wildest dreams. Tenri will do it too. As long as he's Mayor and teacher both, Tenri, my infant daughter, my helpless little girl, is safe, even when I look away."

  "I'm 95 years old, Christopher. You've been anointed by Cute herself. Do I have to stay a Fairy Tail mage forever? Or can I be your wife of 81 years, a proud denizen of super fascist Eden?" Wendy asked me seriously, her arm still sticking my hand over her heart.

  "But you're so nice. . ." I protested one last time.

  "You're mistaken about one more thing, Christopher." Wendy patiently sighed and held firm our staring contest. "You've been just as nice as me, from the very beginning. From the year you gave us our personal space, to the honoring of our wishes when we said we were tired of that. To apologizing to Cure Flora for bleeding in front of her. To how gently you guided us through our first times. To the endless endurance it must have taken to get us all pregnant in a couple years. To the amount of care you put into arranging the hospital so that none of us would die. To the number of children you keep gifting us with every ten years so we'll never be alone. To every time you've cuddled us asleep at night, to every time you convinced a waifu not to stay left behind and join the ever growing circle of life, to every lesson you gave at school, to every law you passed in order to protect us, to how you burst in to tears just thinking about how much you loved us and couldn't thank us enough, you've been nice from the very beginning. And this is only my guess, but I bet you were nice to everyone on Earth too. Even though you hated the whole world and everyone in it. Even though you were just a virgin who couldn't drive. Were you taking it out on anyone? Were you perhaps kicking a puppy every night like a proper fascist?"

  I laughed and shook my head.

  "No, no doubt, it was you that was getting kicked every night, just for believing the truth. Just for knowing where Earth was headed, which we now know exactly where. Just for knowing a little bit sooner than anyone else, and wanting to save the world -- saving the world qualifies as mean now?! Who says a fascist can't be nice?" Wendy let a little anger animate her voice. "If anyone says Christopher isn't the nicest boy in the world, I'll deck them."

  Yahari. . . Wendy really was my favorite.