Lilith groaned, rolling over as she woke. There was so much light and noise and people were talking to her and – it all vanished, leaving her in relative darkness and quiet.
There was the sound of a chair falling over and someone standing up. “Are you awake?!” The person asked, panting slightly.
Lilith groaned again. “Wish I wasn’t. Can I have five more minutes?”
“Five- no, you can’t have five more minutes! Everyone’s been dying to see you again! Come on, get up!”
Belatedly, Lilith realized that she didn’t really recognize the voice. It was vaguely familiar, but…
Frankly, she was too tired to care. She rolled over again, pulling the covers up over her head. “What’re you talking about?” She mumbled. “Just let me sleep.”
“No, no sleeping!” The observer protested. “Mae, help me out here!”
Mistress, Mae said gently, what’s the last thing you remember?
Lilith frowned. “No fair, ganging up on me.” She mumbled. “Thought you were on my side, Mae.”
I am. Just bear with me for a minute. Please, try and think about what you were doing before you went to sleep.
“I was…talking with Carmen…no, with Lilith? I…” Lilith opened her eyes, gears beginning to turn as she thought about what had happened. “Oh, we sorta…merged. Back to being one person? Then we…went to sleep.”
Do you remember how long you were supposed to be asleep for?
Lilith frowned. “Um…I think it was three…years.” She poked her head out of the covers and sat up, rubbing her eyes. If it had really been three years, then she supposed that she had better get up and say hi to everyone, tired or no.
Then, she blinked, looking at the girl at her bedside. It was…Raphael, who was looking much older and, for some inexplicable reason, was wearing a maid outfit.
“Raphael?” Lilith ventured. “Is that you?”
The girl beamed. “Yup! Everyone just calls me Raphi, now, so you can too! You have no idea how glad I am to see you awake after so long!”
“Why the maid outfit?” Lilith asked, taking her feet off the bed and preparing to stand.
Raphi took her hand and helped her up. “I’m helping Emily out as your maid to help make things up to her. I’m thinking of taking up the post permanently, though, it’s a lot of fun!”
“I don’t normally associate maid duties with fun, but I’m not going to say no if you do decide that.” Lilith replied, yawning. “Mae, why don’t I have any of the Parallel’s memories from while I was out?”
We couldn’t get them to you while you were out like that. We’re going to be giving them to you in chunks, one month every night while you sleep. There’s a lot of memory there and we don’t want to overload you so soon after getting up.
“Right. What time is it?”
“Well, looks like my sleep schedule shouldn’t be too messed up going forward, then.” Lilith said, stretching and heading for the door, drowsiness gradually beginning to dissipate.
“Ah!” Raphi exclaimed, hurrying to the door. “Let me go let everyone know!”
“No, don’t.” Lilith said. “I’ll surprise them.” She left the room and went towards the closest room that had people in it. She…wasn’t quite sure why she knew exactly where everyone was, but she assumed that Mae had figured out some way to give dungeon senses to her other bodies.
And, now that she was thinking about it, she only had the one set of senses online at the moment. When she asked Mae, Mae simply responded that it was for the same reason she didn’t have the memories; they didn’t want to give her information overload right away, so they had held back as soon as she woke up.
She made small talk with Raphael as they walked, and eventually they reached that cluster of people, which turned out to be one of the general living rooms she had made. As she opened the door, she was greeted by a small group of people, and, more noticeably, a white dog the size of a lion bounding towards her, a small girl of four or five riding on its back.
“Aunt Mae!” The girl called. “What’s going on?! Aunt Eve said we all needed to come here but wouldn’t tell us why!”
Aunt Mae? “Um, I –”
“Waah!” The girl cried in shock, letting go of the dog, whom Lilith could only assume was Fenrir, and falling off.
Fenrir caught the girl’s clothes in his mouth and placed her gently on the floor. Now that Lilith had a better look at her, she could see that the girl was…a sheep, just like Anna. She had the same white wool as Anna, small horns, and black hair that reached just above her shoulders.
She was wearing a t-shirt and shorts, and the moment she was on the floor, she scampered off to the other people. “Mom!” She cried. “Aunt Mae just talked! With her mouth!” She waited for a response, then pawed at Anna’s leg. “Mom? Are you OK?”
“Lilith, is that you?” Anna asked, staring at Lilith.
“Yeah, it’s me. Who’s the munchkin?”
Anna smiled, picking up the kid. “This is my daughter, Carmen. Carmen, that’s Aunt Lilith, not Aunt Mae.”
Carmen tilted her head. “But she’s not lying down. I thought it was only Aunt Lilith when she was lying down.”
Anna ruffled Carmen’s hair. “Not anymore. Aunt Lilith woke up, so now it’s always Aunt Lilith. Aunt Mae’s still in there, she’s just going to be quiet.”
Correct. Mae supplied. I will be letting mistress do most of the talking from now on.
“Oh.” Carmen said. “Hi!” She squirmed around in her mother’s grip, until she was eventually put down. “I gotta go grab the puppies!” She said excitedly. “I’ll be right back!” Without waiting for any sort of response, she dashed out of the room.
Now that she had a bit more time, Lilith surveyed the assembled people. There was Anna, of course (now sporting a wedding ring, Lilith noticed), as well as Jameson (wearing a matching ring), Eve, Alex, and Emily.
“So, uh, I’m back.” Lilith said awkwardly. “Miss me?”
“Of course we missed you, you goof!” Jameson replied, coming over and slapping Lilith heartily on the back. “There’s so much to catch you up on!”
“Like the kid.” Lilith said. “Yours, right?”
Jameson grinned. “Yup! The two of us got married a couple months after you went under and had her a few after that. Turns out beastkin gestate faster than humans, which was a bit of a shock to us, but it’s nice in its own way.”
Lilith nodded. “And the name?”
Anna shrugged. “We thought it felt fitting, seeing as how Carmen is, in a sense, responsible for her race. And we thought it would be a nice little…memorial of sorts, sappy as it is.”
Lilith scratched the back of her neck. “That’s…really sweet, but she’s not gone. Not really. I know it may not seem this way because Lilith’s name carried through instead of hers, but she’s just as much here as Lilith. The…old one, I guess you could say.”
“Right, speaking of,” Alex said, stepping into the conversation. “How are you feeling? Any troubles from merging two personalities like that or…” She trailed off, letting the sentence hang.
“I’ve been awake for like five minutes, but so far I feel fine. It’s…hard to describe, but it’s almost like I was two puzzle pieces that hadn’t been put together yet, and didn’t know I was supposed to go together, but now that I am it’s obvious? That aside, I’m super tired and my head vaguely hurts, but I’m otherwise fine physically, too.”
Alex nodded. “That’s…good, I guess. Eve, notice anything on your end?”
Eve shook her head. “My head is vaguely hurting too, but I’m fine. I guess it’s just side-effects spilling out to all of us now that she’s officially up.”
I also feel slightly uncomfortable, although not really in the same way. Nuwa added. I’m a dungeon core and we don’t feel pain, so it’s more like…a mental itch? That’s not entirely accurate but it’s the best analogy I have.
I can confirm that I have the headache as well. Mae supplied.
“Hopefully it’ll be gone in a bit, but it’s really nothing worth getting worked up over.” Lilith said. “Where’s everyone else?”
Emily curtseyed, then responded. “They’re out at the moment, mistress. Your parents are hunting on Haven, Judy is managing her property and information network, and Kali is out on business with other administrators.”
“Right, Mae, please go ahead and let them know to come back now.”
Aside from Kali it’s already done, they should be arriving as soon as they finish their business. Kali has told us should be back in a week’s time, but she could be delayed.
“So, what’s everyone been up to–” Lilith began, but she was cut off by the door bursting open to reveal Carmen riding Sekhmet, leading the other dogs in.
“Aunt Lilith, these are my puppies!” She said proudly, dismounting Sekhmet. The term “puppies” was stretching things, to say the least; like Fenrir, they were all lion-sized and would have looked fierce were it not for their wagging tails.
Oblivious to this incongruity, Carmen called the dogs over and began introducing them in turn. “This is Fen-Fen, and this is his wife Sekky, and this is Erry, and this is Cernny, and this is Fengy, and, finally, this is Fluffy! They may look really big and scary but they’re really sweet and I’m sure you’ll love them a lot!”
Carmen, Erymanthos said gently, Aunt Lilith already knows who we are. She was the one who brought us to your mom.
“I thought Aunt Eve did that?”
Yes, but Aunt Lilith helped.
“Wasn’t she asleep?”
This was before she went to sleep. Erymanthos sighed, then turned to Lilith. Big Boss, glad to see you up again.
“Big Boss?” Lilith asked, raising an eyebrow.
Anna smirked. “I was playing that game a lot when Carmen was a baby and he really liked the term.”
Right. Erymanthos confirmed. Anna’s my boss, Eve’s hers, and you’re Eve’s, so that makes you the Big Boss. The origin doesn’t matter, it just fits the situation well.
Big words for someone who religiously watched whenever mistress played that game. Cernunnos teased.
That’s rich, coming from the person who constantly pestered mistress to play that one game. What was it, Breathe the Wilderness? Fenghuang jabbed.
Hey, the wild’s my thing! Cernunnos protested. It just so happens that game captured the feeling really well and I liked it!
That’s enough, guys. Sekhmet chided. Now’s not the time.
Lilith laughed. “You guys really got into the whole pet thing, didn’t you?”
Fenrir looked away. It’s Eve’s fault. He pouted. She made it feel so good that we just couldn’t help ourselves.
“There, there.” Carmen said, standing on her tiptoes to pat Fenrir’s head. “You don’t have to worry, you’re not alone anymore. We’re going to take care of you forever, I promise.”
Fenrir tried to look tough, but his wagging tail betrayed his real emotions.
“I don’t think you taking care of him forever was what was worrying him.” Lilith said.
Carmen tilted her head. “Then what could it have been?” She asked innocently.
“Never mind.” Lilith replied. She walked over to a couch and sat down heavily, laying her head against the back of the couch, closing her eyes. “Any other big changes I should know about?”
Well, Nuwa began. There are –
She was cut off as another one of the doors flew open and Siph barreled into the room, followed closely by Jessica and Mike. “Lilith!” She cried, rushing over to her daughter. “Are you OK? How are you feeling, any issues? Don’t lie, either, we deserve to know!”
Lilith cracked a smile. “I’m fine, mama. Just tired with a bit of a headache, but it’s nothing that will really affect me.”
Mike and Jessica both took seats next to Lilith. Lilith idly noted that they had changed their hair and eye color, choosing to make them match with the scales of their dragon forms instead of the colors they were before.
“That’s good.” Jessica said. “Do you want me to grab some painkillers? It might help.”
Lilith shook her head. “To start, I don’t even know if painkillers will work on me, but the headache isn’t a physical thing, I think. All the other Parallels got it too as soon as I woke up, so I’m assuming it’s magical in nature.”
“As long as it’s not too bad, we can probably deal with it when Kali gets back, if it hasn’t gone away by itself, that is.” Mike said. “Good to see you up and about again.”
“Heeeeey!” A voice called from outside the open door. “We’re out of milk again!”
There was a moment of silence, and then the owner poked her head into the room. “What’s everyone doing? I thought you people were all busy, so why is everyone here?”
Eve sighed heavily. “Lilith woke up, Saria.”
There was a crash as the girl, Saria, fell to the floor. She shakily stood up, moving into the room, giving Lilith a better look at her. She had long hair that was a bright white and dark black in equal measure, the colors intermingling flawlessly. It wasn’t really dyed, it was more like half of the strands were white and the other black, with each color distributed randomly, resulting in an uneven but strangely coherent blend. She was tall, busty, and dressed in what appeared to be a sort of military uniform-styled armor, which she moved so naturally in it was as if she wasn’t wearing it.
She gave a clumsy salute, shaking as she did. “S-Saria, All-Type Valkyrie Version Twenty Two–”
“Twenty three.” Eve corrected.
“Version Twenty Three, c-captain of the Adjudicators, at your service ma’am.” She stuttered. “I-it’s a pleasure to finally meet you a-after all this time.”
She’s…not always like this, right? Lilith asked the Parallels.
No. Eve said resignedly. When she’s out on official business she’s calm, collected, poised, and ruthlessly efficient. It’s only when she’s off the clock that she gets all clumsy and ditzy.
It’s gap moe and it’s important! Nuwa said firmly. She’s just so much more loveable like this! We’ve already had this conversation, she’s been like this ever since she was made, and she’s sentient, so I’m not changing things now!
The two bickered in the background as Lilith snapped back into focus, realizing that Saria was waiting bashfully for a response. “Pleasure to meet you as well, Saria. The others are telling me that you do very good work, thank you for your service.”
“Ehehehe,” Saria giggled nervously. “T-thank you very much, ma’am.”
“Please, don’t stand on ceremony. Just call me Lilith.”
Eve cleared her throat. “That aside, might I ask why you were looking through the fridge when I called everyone to meet here?”
Saria let out a small “eep” and looked to the side. “I…was thirsty?”
“And that takes precedence over my orders?”
“You’re…technically not the one in charge of me and Nuwa didn’t say no so–”
“She shouldn’t have to say no!” Eve snapped. “Every time I call meetings it’s like this! You’re using the bathroom or getting a snack or a drink, why won’t you just come?!”
“Umm…well, I figure that I’m not really necessary most of the time and I’m usually busy doing other things before so I take care of my needs so I can come to the meeting at full capacity?”
Alex sighed. “Here we go again. Just ignore them, they’ll be at it for a few minutes. We keep telling Eve to just give up, if Saria hasn’t changed yet she won’t at all, but that doesn’t stop Eve.” She gave Lilith a thoughtful look. “You might be able to knock some sense into them, though. Worth a shot, right?”
Lilith nodded. “Hey, you two, cut it out!”
Eve turned to Lilith. “No, she’s like this all the time, it’s insufferable!”
“I’m sorry.” Saria mumbled, looking down. “I just get sucked into things and when my attention is taken away from them, I realize just how much I was neglecting eating or drinking or using the bathroom or whatever and I have to do it really bad.”
Lilith sighed. “Look, how about this. Eve, if it’s something that you need Saria here for desperately, let her know when you call the meeting. And Saria, if she does call you like that, you need to come right away. Otherwise, you just need to be a little faster than you have been, alright? That sound fair?”
Eve harrumphed. “I suppose I’ll live with it for now.”
“I’ll try my best, ma’am, uh, I mean, Lilith.”
“Good.” Lilith replied. “Now, anything else or can I get some food?”
“Um,” Alex said hesitantly. “Raphi, you tell her, it’s your news.”
“Right!” Raphi replied brightly. “I disowned Elenoa, and then I let Alex adopt me. I kept the last name Grandstar for grandpa’s sake, but I don’t really bother with any of what Elenoa said are “family duties” or whatever. I’m starting fresh, without any of her baggage, and it’s been great.”
Lilith gave her a big smile. “That’s good to hear! I think you made the right choice, excising Elenoa from your life like that. Unless she makes some big changes, she’s just going to drag you down, and I’m not expecting her to change any time soon.”
“That’s about all then, mistress.” Emily said. “What would you like to eat? Raphi and I will prepare it immediately.”
Lilith blinked. She had, momentarily, forgotten that she had maids who were supposed to do all this stuff for her. “Um, just cereal. We’re apparently out of milk, but I figured I’d just make some more.”
I took care of restocking our food while you were chatting. Mae said. You should be fine.
“Understood. What type of cereal?” Emily asked.
“Surprise me.” Lilith replied.
“Can do. Raphi, come help.”
“Got it!” Raphi chirped, leaving with Emily to go prepare Lilith’s breakfast.
“Is…cereal really a two person job?” Lilith asked once they left. “It seems kind of wasteful to have more than one person make it.”
“We all usually eat around the same time, so they’re probably preparing dishes for if the rest of us want to eat.” Eve answered. “Suppose I might as well take the opportunity to eat too. Anyone else who wishes to eat with us is welcome to follow.”
She strode out of the room, and a couple of people followed. As Lilith made to leave as well, Carmen tugged on her sleeve. “Aunt Lilith, can I sit next to you while I eat? There’s so much I want to ask you!”
Lilith smiled. “Sure.”
“Yay!” Carmen grabbed Lilith’s hand and began to pull. “Let’s go, let’s go!”
As they walked, Lilith’s smile remained firmly in place. Things were looking brighter than ever.