“Hey, Raphi, thanks for taking the time to talk with me.” Lilith said, motioning at one of the beanbag chairs scattered around her room. “Please, take a seat.”
Raphi sat down hesitantly. “Um…I’m not…in trouble, right?” She asked worriedly. “I know I messed up some of the food yesterday, but…”
Lilith laughed and sat down in one of the other chairs. “Nothing of the sort. And the food was fine, it was a little burnt, but still totally edible. Believe me, I’ve made worse in my time.”
“Oh, um…good? So…why did you want to talk to me, then?”
Lilith gave her a comforting smile. “I noticed that you were feeling a bit…uncomfortable when Mai asked to call you ‘big sis’. So, I wanted to talk that out with you. If you don’t like it, you really don’t have to humor her, that’s totally acceptable.”
“No, it’s not that.” Raphi replied. “Um…well…” She trailed off, clearly unsure as to what exactly to say.
“You can say exactly what you feel.” Lilith said. “I’m not going to blame you for any of your feelings or anything. As long as you feel ready to share with me, I’ll listen to whatever you have to say.”
“Ah, um…well, to be honest, I can’t forget who Mai is. Was? I don’t know, it’s just so…confusing. On the one hand, she’s sort of…sort of a boogeyman, someone who was always in the shadows of history as a potential threat to society if she ever…came back. But, on the other, she’s just this…sweet little girl who looks just like you, and I really don’t know how to feel.
“And…um, Perfect Chimeras were kinda my…idols for a long time. That’s…probably the wrong word for it, but I really looked up to them, you know? They were like…like superheroes, and all the kids I knew wanted to be one someday. I think everyone did, at one point or another.”
She paused, a conflicted expression on her face. “And…I mean, I didn’t look up to Mai the same way I looked up to everyone else, since she was the bad guy, but it still feels weird to have one of your childhood heroes calling you ‘big sis’. It was like…like she was looking up to me, and I don’t know how to handle that.”
Lilith nodded. “I think I understand, I imagine I’d feel the same way if I was in your shoes. What can I do to help make you feel more comfortable around her?”
“I think…I think I just need time.” Raphi said. “I haven’t spent much time with her yet, but the more I do, the less…mystic she feels. She feels like…well, like Carmen, just a rambunctious little kid. And then every time I start to think about her like that, I remember who she is and just…”
“I get it.” Lilith replied. “But let me know if you ever think it’s too much. I’ll have a talk with Mai, and we’ll get something figured out. How does Aria make you feel?”
“She’s…fine actually.” Raphi replied, a somewhat embarrassed expression on her face. “I don’t know if it’s because she’s not using her old name or because she’s a lot quieter than Mai or even just because she wasn’t…a villain, but she doesn’t make me feel weird like Mai does. She’s actually kind of…calming to be around.”
Lilith gave her an encouraging smile. “That’s good to hear. Anything else you’d like to talk about while you’re here?”
Raphi paused, then shook her head. “I…think that’s all for now. Um…thanks for talking with me, though. I’m glad I was able to…well, talk to someone about it. Sorry I’m not…you know, totally comfortable yet, I’ll do my best to adjust.”
“It’s perfectly fine to feel that way.” Lilith said reassuringly. “I know that my Skills mean that my family and I adjust way faster than is normal. I don’t expect you to feel completely comfortable around Mai, not for a while. Obviously, I do hope that you will at some point, but it doesn’t have to be now, it doesn’t even have to be for years to come.”
“Um…thanks.” Raphi mumbled. “May I go? I need to start getting dinner ready.”
Lilith nodded. “Sure thing.”
“So, what do we still need to get the whole Queen of Monsters thing off the ground?” Lilith asked, glancing at Eve and Kali.
I need to make another dungeon core so we can get Eve’s castle set up. Nuwa said. Or we need to grab one from somewhere, but I’m more hesitant to go with that, it feels a bit too much like murder.
“I can find you one that’s still forming, if it helps.” Kali said. “They don’t gain any sort of sentience until well after their dungeon’s established, and they start as basically lumps of unusually dense Mana. Sometimes they’ll go away on their own or something else will stop them from becoming full-fledged dungeon cores. I can swoop in and save one that’s about to get destroyed and then give it to you instead.”
There was a pause as Nuwa considered that. No, it’ll be fine. She said. Now that Mai and Aria are here, my DP generation has spiked, and I’ll be able to comfortably afford it in a couple of weeks. Faster if I don’t choose to build up a stockpile of DP first, but I would like to be able to kit out the new sub-dungeon as soon as I make it.
“That’s fine, then.” Lilith said. “What else?”
“I still need my abilities as Queen of Monsters.” Eve volunteered. “But the whole ‘monster army’ thing is already taken care of thanks to Nuwa’s little breeding grounds and the monsters Mai had stocked up.”
Lilith frowned. “Those might be kind of overkill, though. I think we need some…weaker ones to start with. Not too, weak, of course, but those would probably be too overwhelming for everyone right now. We can start small and then gradually work up to the stronger stuff, which we’ll place near your castle.”
“Those will just need to wait until I get my abilities, then.” Eve said. “I don’t have any good way of keeping perfect control of a large group of monsters that doesn’t involve using the brainwashing spell we got from Mai on each one of them, and that seems hideously inefficient.”
“I can have those abilities ready by the end of the day.” Kali said. “Then you can get started on building up your army.”
“Perfect. Then I’ll just need to get those monsters and I’ll be ready.”
Lilith nodded. “And we still need to pick out a group of heroes, right?”
“I have a few candidates.” Kali said. “I want to go over them with you first before we make any decisions, though.”
“And I want you to look at my invasion plans.” Eve added. “Just to make sure everything’s good.”
“Got it.” Lilith said. “Let’s start picking out those heroes, and then we can use what we decide to help us figure out how we’re going to do the invasion.”
“Do you wanna do that now, or…?” Kali asked.
“Might as well.” Lilith replied. “No use in putting it off.”
Kali gave her a nod and walked over to one of the room’s computers before turning on the TV and connecting the two so the computer was displaying on the TV.
“So, I’ve been looking for people that fit a couple of categories.” Kali began, opening up some sort of slideshow filled with pictures of people. “I need people with a strong moral compass, people that work well with others, and, preferably, people who aren’t particularly tied to either Earth or Haven. I’m going to start with the people I think are best suited, and then go down the list. I think four or five heroes is a good number, so we can stop once we feel we’ve got enough.”
She went to the first slide, and Eve groaned. “Can we…not?” She asked.
The first slide had two people on it, whom Lilith recognized as Bruce and Ava, the people who had showed Eve and her party around the adventurer’s guild.
“I know, I know, but hear me out here.” Kali said. “They’re good people who are respected in their community, they’re used to working with all sorts of different people, and they’re a couple from different planes. They’re the perfect candidates for this sort of thing.” Kali paused, then smirked. “Think of it this way: this will give you an excuse to actually fight Ava instead of just having to put up with her affections.”
Eve stopped, considering that. “I…fine.” She said. “I suppose that’s acceptable.”
“I have no problems with them either.” Lilith added. “Let’s put them down as the first two heroes.”
Kali smiled, and they began to pour through the rest of the people. No one else was anyone that Lilith knew personally, so they eventually ended up settling on two more people. One was a demon from Haven by the name of Raesn, a former craftsman who had taken up adventuring after the Shift. He had taken it upon himself to improve the standards of living of the homeless, orphans, and downtrodden in the frontier towns, and he had earned a great deal of popularity for his deeds.
The other was a human woman from Earth, Anala. She was a charismatic woman with a good eye for tactics and leadership, a self-proclaimed defender of the weak, and overall was just someone who seemed like a classic “hero”.
And those four, they decided, would make up the first party of heroes. After Eve had made her presence known to the world, they’d visit the four and offer them abilities from Lilith, and then things would truly be set in motion. And that brought them to the other thing they needed to finalize, the invasion plan.
“So, first off, placement of my castle.” Eve began. “I’m thinking of repurposing Mai’s compound. There’s already space made there, and it’s deep in the ‘unexplored’ regions of Haven. I want it all the way out there so that it forces people to explore and expand more.
“And then I was thinking of marching a really big and noticeable army towards the frontier towns. It should give people plenty of time to react and evacuate, maybe even launch a preemptive strike if they’re feeling bold. And once I take a frontier town, I’m going to occupy it with monsters and then march to the next. Monsters can’t normally use the portals, so that gives us a great excuse for not using them to just instantly attack everywhere.”
Lilith nodded. “Sounds good so far, but when does it end? Are you thinking an arbitrary number of frontier towns taken or…?”
Eve shrugged. “My general plan is to bring a really big army at first, but never reinforce it. Over time, it should dwindle to the point where people can start retaking their cities, even if that’s just because I need to start leaving more monsters in each city I take.
“I’m going to build a series of fortifications between my castle and the first frontier town I take, and leave a bunch of monsters in those too, so, to get to my castle they should have to fight through roughly twice as many monsters as were in the first army. That should give them plenty of time to gain strength before challenging me.”
Eve studied her nails. “I’ll go easy on them, of course. I won’t use any eldritch abilities, obviously no High Arbiter stuff, and I’ll tone down the rest of my kit so that they have a chance. I’m thinking I’m going to leave them all nearly at death’s door and then let myself get taken out by whatever desperation play they try.”
“That sounds good.” Lilith said. “Let’s go over the exact composition of the armies, shall we? I’ll need to make sure it’s not too overwhelming.”
Eve nodded, walking over to a computer and pulling up a document. “I have everything here.” She said. “Make whatever edits you need.”
Lilith and Kali walked over, and the three of them spent another hour or so fine-tuning the balance of monsters in the army. When they were finished, Kali stood up and gave Eve a smile. “Good work.” She said. “Now, let’s get you those abilities, shall we? I shouldn’t need to put you under this time, since you’re already a Higher Being, so as soon as you’re ready, we start.”
Eve grinned. “I was born ready.” She said, spinning her chair so she was facing Kali. “Let’s do this.”
Kali placed her hand on Eve’s forehead, and a moment later both Eve and Lilith received a window.
You have been put in charge of the domains of Monsters and War! You will receive Worship when regular people engage in acts relating to Monsters or War.
You have been given the Blessing Queen of Monsters!
You have been given the Blessing Mask of the Queen!
“And that should be everything.” Kali said, stepping back. “You should be able to use the rest of your kit to make up for any gaps you might have, but if there’s something you need that you just can’t do, let me know and I’ll see if I can’t give you a Blessing for it.”
Eve stood up, still grinning hugely. “Can do!” She said. “Now, I’m off to go build up my army!” She ran out of the room excitedly, leaving Lilith and Kali alone.
Kali watched her go, a fond smile on her face. “Haven’t seen her that excited in quite a while.” She said.
“She has been waiting for three years.” Lilith replied. “So…what should we do for the rest of the day?”
“I actually have a date with Alex.” Kali replied. “We’re leaving at five and I expect to be out for a few hours. Then I’ll be back for the rest of the night, and we can just relax.”
Lilith smiled and gave Kali a quick kiss. “Sounds good.” She replied. “I’ll hold down the fort here, let me know how it goes, okay?”
Kali nodded. “Will do. I’m going to go get ready, I’ll see you in a few hours.”
“Until then.” Lilith replied, and left the room. She…wasn’t totally sure how she wanted Kali’s date to go. She had rather enjoyed her date with Alex, but a part of her was still unsure about potentially having two girlfriends.
But only a part. Her parents made do just fine, and it was apparently quite normal in Haven’s society, so she was willing to give it a shot. After all, it wasn’t like she found Alex unattractive – Carmen had made her body with Lilith’s tastes in mind, and those hadn’t changed dramatically since.
Come to think of it, Alex was…rather similarly proportioned to Kali. That hadn’t been done on purpose, as Lilith hadn’t “met” Kali by that point, but it was interesting to see yet another holdover from her past life.
She cleared those thoughts from her head and made her way to a common room, where she found Saria playing some sort of shooter on a computer. “Oh, Lilith.” She said, looking up. “Care to play with me?”
Lilith sat down at the computer next to her. “Sure. What are you playing?”
Saria shrugged. “Whatever I feel like, really. I’ve been flipping between games for a while now. Right now, I’m destroying some kids in an FPS, but I’m up for whatever.” And she was, too. Nuwa had made it so Saria flipped into ‘serious mode’ whenever she played video games, and the leaderboards really showed it.
Lilith smiled, booting up the game Saria was playing. “I’m always down to embarrass kids online. Let’s do this.”