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Rated: E · Short Story · Fantasy · #2210268
Two friends have an 'exciting' day trying to make a wedding run somewhat smoothly...
"You look absolutely ravishing!"

I fired off a flirtatious wink towards my best friend as she walked into the room. In response, she blushed a deep beetroot red. While Monica always looked gorgeous in my opinion, today she really knocked it out of the ballpark. Gone were her dull and boring clothes. In their place was a beautiful scarlet dress with a black rose pinned over her right breast. Her ponytail was likewise gone, replaced with a mesmerizing spiral of blonde hair that cascaded down her left shoulder like a waterfall of soft hair. And on her left wrist, courtesy of myself, was a beautiful bracelet of gold, a sparkling ruby set into it.

Of course, while Monica had cleaned herself up for the day's festivities, I had done the same. Or tried to, anyway. Compared to her, I was as scruffy looking as ever. My dress had an aqua top with a white ruffled skirt which revealed everything below my knees. This meant my boots, which were also white but obviously meant for activities other than weddings, were visible to the world. My own hair, which I had dyed a bright white and highlighted with an aquatic blue, was pulled into a side-ponytail, held in place by a decorative golden wing clip.

"W-What did I say after I invited you here?!" The aforementioned ravishing girl replied, folding her arms in a manner that would suggest that she was rather irritated with me already. "You are here as a friend! Nothing more!"

"Aw..." I pouted, folding my own arms in a more disappointed manner. I looked at my friend with sad eyes for a few moments before cracking a wide grin. "Come on... You really need to lighten up, Monica! Wouldn't want to ruin that beautiful face of yours before the big day!"

Once again, Monica blushed. Unlike the last one, which persisted for a while, this one was a bit more short-lived and once it was done, her trademark 'Please stop pissing around, Shio' look reappeared on her face.

"Please stop. Please," She asked with a heavy sigh, brushing past me to take a seat in our room's rather plush recliner. "This day is going to be hard enough as it is without having to deal with your constant flirting".

"Jeez, Monica..." I said, reigning in my jovial tone and replacing it with a slightly more serious one. "You really are worried about today, huh? Normally you just ignore my constant flirting. Having you comment on it is... Well, it's a bit weird to have you finally acknowledge it. But hey, just for today, I'll switch it off if it really bothers you".

"Thank you, Shio..." Monica replied, flashing me a grateful smile. "It truly means a lot to me, both that you stopped and that you are here. But even so, I am worried that something will go horribly wrong..."

"Hey, look at me".

Marching over to Monica, I grabbed her firmly by the shoulders and turned her so we were face-to-face. I allowed myself a few seconds of admiration before clearing my throat and giving her a confident smirk.

"When do things ever go right for us?" I asked. "Wait, that came out wrong. What I meant to say is, if things always go wrong when I'm by myself and they go right when you're by yourself, then mathematics dictate that everything should go right! After all, a positive and a negative make a positive!"

"No, it does not," Monica replied with a sigh. "A positive and negative makes a negative".

"It does?" I asked, trying to recall my ACE Mathematics.

"It does," Monica said gently, removing my hands from her shoulders. "And anyway, this is not simple mathematics. This is a wedding between two people who, if I am totally honest with you, are more prone to getting in trouble than you are".

"Think that's impossible, but whatever..." I muttered quietly before smiling again. "Well, mathematics or not, the two of us can handle anything that comes our way! After all, we're the famous duo! The Celestial Dancer and the Moonlit Manipulator! Nothing can stop us when we put our heads together!"

Flexing a muscle for dramatic effect, I spotted a flicker of a smile on Monica's face. However, it only lasted for a few seconds before worry reappeared.

"I sincerely hope you are right, Shio..." She murmured.

Unfortunately, before I could confirm that I was one hundred and ten percent correct, there was a knock at our door. Getting to her feet, Monica made her way across the room and cracked it open slightly. From where I was standing, I couldn't see who it was, but I could hear them whispering urgently to Monica. About a minute later, the door was closed and Monica approached me, anxiety etched on her face.

"That's the look of somebody who knows everything is going well," I commented. "What's happened?"

"Too many things..." Monica answered wearily. "Firstly, the band called. They can no longer make it to the wedding, so there is no band".

"Already solved that issue," I said excitedly. "As you may know, I'm intimately familiar with a pop idol known and loved all over Red Rock. I'm sure she would absolutely love to get up on stage and sing a few songs. Who knows, maybe she even has a few new ones to debut?"

"Are you sure, Shio?" Monica asked. "It would mean you wouldn't get to enjoy the reception".

"But I do get to enjoy singing and dancing~" I sang happily. "Anything else?"

"A few things," Monica replied. "Firstly, the Best Man, Jerick, has gone missing. All we know is he was out drinking someplace other than the hotel bar. The rest of the Groom's Party are currently searching for him, so that is being handled. Secondly, the Maid of Honour, Jan, is complaining that the dress she ordered is cream instead of white. In protest, she has locked herself in her room. The bridal party are trying to coax her out so, again, we can be of little assistance there..."

"Can we actually help anywhere?" I asked.

"Yes, actually..." Monica replied reluctantly. "Apparently, the bride's former boyfriend has caught wind of the wedding and seems to be trying to stop it from taking place altogether. We have been asked to... persuade... him to leave".

"Okay..." I nodded. "Are there limits to what kind of persuasion techniques we can use, or is he free game?"

"All I was told is 'Keep it both civil and legal', so I'd say - ", Monica tried to explain, but she was cut off when I let out a maniacal cackle.

"Swords aren't illegal if you don't get caught wielding them!" I laughed, extending my left arm. As I did, lines of blue began to draw themselves across my arm until my arm had an artificial sleeve of glowing lines that weaved various beautiful patterns. Clicking my fingers and holding my hand out, a pale-blue longsword shimmered into existence within my grasp. Pointing it towards the window, I let out a giggle as I caught sight of myself wearing a dress and holding Petallic, my beloved weapon of choice. Sadly, before I had the chance to summon my other weapon of choice, Monica interrupted me.

"Shio..."

Monica let out an extremely heavy sigh that quite clearly conveyed her displeasure with my actions.

"No swords. Please?" She asked.

"Aw, come on..." I pleaded in response. "Being threatened by the Celestial Dancer doesn't have the same kind of message if I'm not wielding at least one sword!"

"Let me rephrase what I just said..." Monica said, extending her own arm. Clicking her fingers once, the air around my sword shimmered again before emitting a bright light. Once it had died down, Petallic had vanished, as had the Petallic Bond, leaving my hand empty and arm bare. "Absolutely no swords!"

"Fine..." I grumbled in response. "We'll do it your way, I guess".

"Good. I am glad we sorted that out," Monica replied. "Now, come along. Apparently he has been spotted lurking outside the chapel".

"Hold up!" I called out, stopping Monica before she even had a chance to move. "The chapel is over two miles away. The wedding will be over by the time you get there!"

"And I suppose you have a quicker method of transport?" Monica asked.

"Of course I do!" I said with a grin. "Just follow me, dear Elemis..."

=====


"When you said you had transport, this was not what I had in mind".

Spinning on my heel, I grinned at the stunned Monica, who was staring wide-eyed at the vehicle I had elected to bring with me. Normally, I rode about Red Rock on a motorbike, but today, I had swapped my two wheels for four. More specifically, a shining, metallic blue Pariah that was among the most desired cars in Red Rock, And for today only, I had full run of its power and beauty.

"And what did you have in mind?" I asked curiously, leaning casually against the driver's door.

"Honestly? I thought you would have brought your motorcycle. I am a little relieved that you did not, as we might reach the Chapel in one piece now".

"That kinda stings, Monica," I said, a little hurt at her comment on my riding skills. "I've only ever had one incident while riding and, honestly, it wasn't even my fault. I was going to bring the bike, by the way, but at the last moment, Dad offered me the use of his car. And, as you well know, I absolutely adore his car! I mean, just look at it! Second most beautiful thing in the garage after you!"

Monica flashed me an irritated look before opening the passenger door and getting in. Following her, I spent a few minutes adjusting my seat and putting the roof down before turning to her, a wide smile on my face.

"Ready?" I asked excitedly, turning the car on. The engine mere feet in front of me roared to life before settling down to a powerful purr. Testing the accelerator, I giggled as the engine responded, flaring to life with a deep growl.

"Please, just drive carefully, Shio," Monica asked, a hint of anxiety in her voice. "I would very much like to arrive at our venue in one piece".

"Ah, don't worry about it!" I assured her, moving into first gear. "After all, if anything happened to the car, Dad has threatened to find me in the Underworld and give me one hell of a telling off. Now, hold on tight!"

Monica barely had time to grip the handle in the door before I pressed the accelerator and began to move. Instantly, the car sprang forwards, quickly reaching twenty miles an hour, which, for an underground parking garage, wasn't too shabby. I mean, I've got my bike up to thirty before having to stop, but in terms of acceleration, my bike easily trumps the car.

Flying out of the garage, I quickly joined the nearby road. For a few, immensely irritating moments, we were stuck behind somebody who had obviously left their accelerator pedal at home. Thankfully, as we reached the highway, they peeled off towards Red Rock Proper, allowing me to put my foot down and really see what the Pariah could do. As it turned out, it could do a lot. So much, in fact, that as I hit about eighty on a road with a limit of sixty, Monica was forced to reprimand me.

"Slow down!" She yelled over the rush of wind. "It took me forever to get my hair sitting like this! Please, do not ruin it!"

Glancing over at my passenger, I saw her desperately trying to hold her hair in place. Chuckling to myself, I eased off the accelerator and brought the car down to an even fifty. Just as well, as around the next corner was one of those dastardly mobile speed cameras. Skimming past it at an even speed of sixty, we continued on to the Chapel in relative silence. Every so often, I would glance over at Monica, whose worried expression persisted until the spire of the Chapel came into sight, at which point her anxiety took a turn for the worse.

"Shio..." She gasped, suddenly grabbing my shoulder and startling me. "P-Please... Pull over..."

Hearing the worry in her voice, I nodded gently and pulled into the next layby. As the car came to a halt, Monica scrambled for the door handle and, once she had found it, practically fell out of the car.

"Monica!"

Vaulting over my own door, I did a completely unnecessary, but probably cool-looking, slide across the bonnet. On the other side, I found Monica sitting with her back against the wheel, her knees pulled up to her chest. As I took a seat next to her, she leaned into my shoulder.

"What's up, buttercup?" I asked softly, navigating my arm around her shoulders.

"I... I can't do it, Shio..." Monica responded haltingly. "They... They're trusting me to... to get rid of him and... I don't think I can! If I mess up, then the whole wedding... It... It'll be..."

"Now, now..." I whispered gently. "You won't mess up. Know how I know that you won't?"

She nodded slowly.

"Cause you're Monica Elemis," I told her. "The Moonlit Manipulator, the Elemental Expert, the Vice Captain of the Celestials. You've stood against foes that threatened the existence of not just Red Rock, but Earth and New Earth! You can face off against me in single combat and actually pose a threat to me! And that's only your combat prowess! What about your smarts, huh? You took half of your ACE's while ill, and still managed to get better grades than I did! And your ECE's? You breezed through those, and even the examining board said that the exams written for our year were more difficult than usual! So I know you won't mess up because you can't mess up, even if you tried!"

For the next few moments, Monica sat in silence, staring down at her heels. I did the same, except I was enamoured with a nearby bee buzzing around a beautiful Wildthurn, a wild flower native to Red Rock. As the bee finally found its way into the flower, Monica spoke again, her voice even.

"...You are right," She said, pushing herself off my shoulder. "What is a wedding when compared to the Extinction Crisis? If this goes wrong, then it will be due to factors out of my control. After all, I know not if Jerrick has been found, nor if the Maid of Honour has been convinced to leave her room. If we can achieve our goal, then they can not attribute the failure to us".

"Uh... Sure!" I responded hesitantly. "That's sorta the attitude? Maybe a little more positivity is needed, but yeah! Lets go get rid of an angry ex-boyfriend!"

Monica nodded confidently and got to her feet. Jumping to my own, I gave her a nod and slid back across the bonnet. Getting back into the car, I waited for Monica to buckle herself in before flooring it again.

=====


At the speed we were travelling, it didn't take us long to reach the Chapel. As we drove up the somewhat narrow road leading to the front, we caught sight of the offending ex-boyfriend.

"That's him?" I asked in disbelief, turning into the car park.

"I... believe so," Monica answered with equal surprise. "The way he was described to me... I imagined him being a little more intimidating".

Stepping out of the car, Monica and I made our way around to the front of the church, where some sort of religious dude was trying to argue with our offender.

"Sir, the Bride and Groom have both said that they do not wish you here!" The religious guy tried to say, but our offender wasn't having it.

"Ah, get outta my way, ya barmy bastard!"

Upon hearing the insult, I stifled a giggle. Rather than the burly guy with the build of a club bouncer Monica and I had both been expecting, the ex-boyfriend was smaller than me by a good two inches. He had a wispy beard that he obviously didn't care for, as it was flecked with crumbs and dripping with some sort of liquid. The way he dressed was no better, as his 'suit', if you could even call it that, was stained in places, unbuttoned and looked two sizes too big for his body.

As we giggled between ourselves at the sight of the Angry Ex, he took notice of us. As he did, he let out a strangled yell, which instantly silenced us. Reaching out a hand and placing it squarely on the religious guy's chest, he let out a cackle before his hand ignited with flame, blowing the guy back a good number of feet. As he hit the dirt, Monica and I exchanged a look.

"Sword?" I suggested, reaching out my left arm and allowing the Petallic Bond to etch itself into my skin.

"Sword," Monica agreed, reaching out her own hands. Her left hand shimmered for a moment before a frosty ball of scarlet ice burst into existence in her palm, while emerald-colored lightning danced between the outstretched fingers of her right. With her hands crackling with Manipulated Panim Particles and a crystalline longsword clutched in mine, we stepped towards the Ex, who didn't look worried by us in the slightest.

"More Manipulators!" He laughed maniacally, pointing a smouldering finger at me. "How fun! But ya can't stop me from stopping this wedding! Evalyn belongs to me, and me alone!"

"Actually, I believe she belongs to... Uh..."

Racking my brain for the groom's name, I eventually turned to Monica, who was watching me struggle with a slight smirk.

"Monica, what's he called again?" I asked. "Clint? Derrick?"

"Samuel," She answered. "But you were close. Maybe a few more seconds and you might have got it".

"Ah, yeah! Sammy!" I exclaimed. "How could I have forgotten - Hey, now!"

Swinging my blade sideways, I cut through the fireball that the Ex had fired towards me. As it dispersed back into Particles, both Monica and I returned our attention to him.

"Didn't anyone tell you it's incredibly rude to interrupt a conversation by throwing fireballs?" I asked, pointing Petallic at him. "If you can even call that a fireball, that is. A proper fireball would've easily challenged Petallic here, not just broken apart. Monica, care to show him how it's done?"

Stepping aside, I allowed Monica to step forwards. On her face was an irritated expression, though I wasn't entirely sure why she was annoyed.

"You dare say Evalyn belongs to you?" She demanded, a blue fireball appearing in her hand. "A man like you... No woman should ever belong to you!"

Firing her own fireball at him, Ex tried to counter with his own regular looking one. However, Monica's, living up to her title as the most powerful Elementalist in Red Rock, easily destroyed his and continued towards him. Just before it collided with his chest, it froze. Like, literally froze. Scarlet ice coated the flame and, now affected by gravity, fell onto his foot, causing him to let out a pained howl.

"Ah, my bloody foot!" He yelled angrily, his bloodshot eyes returning to us after a brief inspection of his foot. "You... You whores! I'll cut you limb from limb!"

Reaching into his pocket, he produced a small switchblade, which he opened and brandished towards us, obviously forgetting that I held a sword much longer and much sharper than his knife. Monica didn't forget this and stepped to the side, allowing me to step forwards.

"You call that a knife?" I asked, holding up Petallic. "This... This is a knife! Well, it's more of a sword, but whatever. It's bigger than yours, no matter how you look at it".

Perhaps sensing that he was woefully outmatched, Ex slowly lowered his knife. Looking between us, he eventually made a weird noise of disappointment and took a wobbly step backwards. However, before he could take anymore, the air around him shimmered before a cage of ice formed around him.

"Call the Police, would you?" Monica asked, lowering her frost-covered arm. "Crimes involved are Manipulative Assault resulting in Bodily Harm, Attempted Manipulative Assault with Intent to Harm and Possession of an Illegal Weapon".

"Got it," I said, moving back towards the car. "You know, you'd make one hell of a lawyer, you know that?"

"I am studying Law, Shio," Monica replied dryly, watching the Ex as he tried to figure out his icy prison. "It is pointless to try and escape. My ice can withstand all but the hottest flames. Whatever you produce will not even be enough to crack it, let alone melt it".

Despite her confident warning, Ex tried to melt it anyway. Flinging a rather weak ball of fire at one of the bars, he yelped as the ball exploded as soon as it touched the ice, sending embers hurtling towards him. Spotting this, I giggled as he hopped around, trying to avoid the smouldering embers now scattered around the floor. While I found this hilarious, the ES Operator on the other end of the phone didn't.

"Ma'am? You were telling us about a rogue Manipulator?"

Remembering that she was there, I took a deep breath and managed to compose myself.

"Uh, yes! Apologies about that!" I apologized, still smiling as Ex continued his manic hopping. "Currently, we are at... Uh... Hostway Chapel..."

=====


After finishing my call to the police, I joined Monica, who was busy tending to the smouldering wound on the Priest's chest. Running her hand gently over the wound, the burnt skin seemed to melt away, replaced by a thin sheet of white ice.

"That is the best I can achieve with my abilities," Monica said once she was finished. "It would be best if you get it looked at by a proper Healer, rather than by an Elementalist."

"Another Priest is practiced in the Art of Healing," The Priest replied with a grateful smile. "Thank you very much".

Crouching down, I helped pull him to his feet. Brushing dirt from his robes, he cast a nervous glance at Ex before hurrying into the Chapel. We followed him until we reached the steps, where we took a seat and waited for the Task Force. Neither of us spoke, merely listening to Ex grumble and complain about his prison while enjoying the other's company, until the Manip Task Force, a branch of the Police assigned to deal with Manipulators, rolled up the path. As they came up one road, which was the wrong one, the Wedding Convoy appeared on the other. The two met in the middle, where Ex had given up trying to escape and was lying on his back, staring up at the sky above him.

"This should be interesting..." I muttered, jumping to my feet and brushing myself off.

"Indeed," Monica replied simply, doing the same. "Shall we wait until somebody has need of us?"

"Probably the best course of action."

And so, we watched as the Task Force surrounded the icy cage. Two of them stepped forwards, raising their hands. However, as they pressed them against the cage, frost instantly began to travel up their arms. They both jumped back, cursing loudly. Next to me, Monica let out a gasp while I burst out laughing.

"I am so sorry!" She apologized profusely, hurrying over to the cage. "I completely forgot to take the enchantment off of the ice!"

As Monica busied herself with dispelling her cage, the Groom, whose name eluded me once again, appeared next to me.

"I see you dealt with him," He noted, nodding his head in the direction of Ex.

"Course we did!" I replied. "Did you expect any less from the greatest couple Red Rock has ever seen?"

"We are not a couple!" came a distant shout from Monica, who was helping the Task Force navigate Ex out of his cage.

"Sorry!" I shouted back before turning to... the Groom... and whispering, "We're totally a couple. She just doesn't know it yet!"

"Uh, okay?" He answered, nodding hesitantly. "Anyway, are we good to proceed? We do have a wedding happening today."

"Yeah, of course!" I responded. "Go right ahead! I assume that while we were dealing with Ex over there, you got everything else sorted out?"

"Just about..." He groaned. "Jan still isn't happy about the colour of her dress and won't shut up about it, but aside from her, we managed to find Jerrick. Turns out he got wasted last night and forgot he was here for a wedding. Was in the queue for the Gate to London when he remembered".

"Well, glad you worked everything out," I said cheerfully.

"Almost everything," He corrected. "Still no band, which is freaking Evalyn out. She's sent me message after message about it, and I've told her I'll deal with it, but..."

"Don't fret it," I said, winking at him. "I know somebody who is real eager to sing for the two of you".

"You do?" He asked hopefully. "Who are they?"

"You'll see later..." I replied cryptically. "Now get in there. You've got a wedding to attend!"

Groom took a deep breath before stepping into the Chapel. The rest of the guests followed him, with the exception of myself and Monica. We loitered outside until everybody else had disappeared inside.

"Well, this has certainly been a day to remember!" I said, stretching my arms above my head. "Wonder if my wedding'll be this hectic?"

"Knowing you, it most definitely will be," Monica giggled. "But do not worry. I will be there to ensure it runs without any major issues."

"Ah, I can't ask you to do that!" I said. "After all, I'll need my trusty Best Woman by my side at all times, just in case I need somebody to elope with!"

"E-Elope?!"

I laughed as Monica's face flushed a bright red.

"I'm kidding, I'm kidding!" I finally said after managing to calm myself down. "Unless..?"

"N-No, no eloping!" Monica told me firmly. "Now, hurry it up! The wedding won't start until all guests have taken their seats!"

Shrugging, I allowed Monica to usher me inside. As I took my seat, I noticed her lagging behind slightly, staring intently at the sky for a few moments. Eventually, she shook her head and joined me, a solemn look on her face. Before I could ask her what was up, the band above us started playing, removing any chance I had for questions.

=====


I didn't get the chance to speak to Monica again until I got a break during the reception. At some point during one of my songs, which had the entire room, not just the dance floor, dancing, I noticed her slip out of the room. Unfortunately for me, I couldn't chase after her until I had finished another two songs, at which point a rather rude DJ appeared and ordered me to 'Leave his goddamn stage'. I complied, partly because I noticed him leering at me, which I couldn't blame him for considering how revealing my Popstar getup was, but mostly because I wanted to know what my best friend was up to.

So I rushed through the crowd, nearly all of whom stopped me to say thanks for performing on such a short notice. I ignored the majority of them, aside from a couple of cute looking girls whom I stopped to flirt with briefly. One of them quickly stated she had a boyfriend, at which point I hurried along lest I started a brawl in the middle of the dancefloor, while the other responded that she 'Didn't swing that way'. I was disappointed for all of twelve seconds before remembering about Monica, at which point I resumed my journey through the overly grateful crowd.

When I finally found her, I found her sitting alone on a balcony overlooking the Delta Triangle. I silently took a seat next to her and admired the view for a few minutes. And this time, I actually admired the view, not the gorgeous girl sitting next to me. The Triangle sparkled with distant lights from various buildings and the Mag-Line Transport making its never-ending journey around the island. Behind the Triangle loomed SeaFloat Tower, each of its hundred floors decorated with a different lighting scheme. Casting a longing glance at the twenty third floor, which had no lights yet still lit up every few minutes due to the eternal lightning storm ravaging it, I found myself recalling the time the Marauders conquered the Tower and brought it to Red Rock...

"It was a tough battle, was it not?" A quiet voice next to me uttered. "Each floor presented us with a new challenge, yet together we persevered and completed it. I will not lie to you, Shio, the time we spent on that tower... Fighting, living, laughing... I cherish it all greatly."

"As do I..." I murmured in response, gazing up at the pinnacle of the tower, where a majestic azure structure sat. "Sometimes I wish I could return to the first floor with everyone and do it all again. Sure, we had some rough times, like the forty third floor..."

"I remember that floor. An intensely hot and dry desert, was it not?" Monica recalled with a smile. "You had to sit out the entire floor because of your inability to handle heat, correct?"

"W-Well, yeah..." I answered sheepishly. "But what about the fifty seventh floor, huh? As I remember it, you caught a cold when a rather weak Ice Imp surprised you!"

"T-That is not how it happened!" Monica argued back, blushing slightly. "His ice blast made me lose my footing and I fell into a pile of snow!"

"Rubbish! There was no snow because before we were attacked, somebody melted it all with fire to prevent Damien and me from having a snowball fight!"

"We were trying to enjoy a picnic!"

"Who has a picnic in the snow?!"

"As I recall, you were the one who insisted we go!"

"Oh, yeah..."

Monica let out a cute laugh as our argument came to an end. Relaxing in my seat, I turned to look at her. She looked back for a moment before looking away, her face turning a bright red.

"What?" I asked, suddenly self conscious.

"Y-You are not exactly wearing the most, um... covering clothing."

Glancing down at myself, I realized that I was still wearing my PopStar outfit which, as Monica had pointed out, was rather revealing. I personally didn't care much, as when I was up on stage earlier, I was constantly moving which didn't give anybody much time to look anywhere they really shouldn't be, yet I could see how it would make some people uncomfortable. Crossing my legs and folding my arms, I looked to Monica for affirmation that I was a little more covered. She nodded, her face gradually returning to its usual hue. We sat in silence for a few minutes more before I finally decided to ask what had been bothering her.

"So, what's up?" I said. "You've been down in the dumps all day. Am I that depressing to be around, or is something else going on?"

Monica didn't immediately answer my question, instead electing to continue gazing at the view spread out before us. When she did finally speak, I could sense something had changed with her voice. Rather than its usual calm tone, there was a hint of rare anxiety present that worried me. After all, Monica wasn't the type to worry easily about personal issues.

"I just... All of us, we are... I am sorry," Monica stuttered for a few seconds.

"It's fine," I said soothingly, shifting slightly closer to her. "Take your time. I'll wait until you can say whatever you need to say, no matter how long it takes".

Monica nodded gratefully, taking a deep breath. She was silent for another few seconds before speaking again, her voice back to its usual calm and composed tone.

"What we have together... The friendship between Damien, you and I... It will not last forever, will it?" She asked me, her forest green eyes flicking between my own mismatched eyes.

"I... don't know," I admitted, slightly surprised by the question. It was something I had always assumed would be true, that we would forever be friends, yet never actually took the time to consider. "I've never thought about it".

"Neither had I, not until today," Monica said. "You mentioned that I would be your Best Woman at your wedding. But what if you meet somebody better than myself before then? Somebody better, more relatable? Who is to say you would not choose them over me?"

"I say that," I answered simply. "No matter where I am, be it Earth, Red Rock, New Earth, you will forever be my best friend. I mean, think about the times we've shared together! The countless hours we spent fighting together in Origins! The times we spent hanging out after school, sneaking you out of your house and into town, only to be chased down by that irate nanny of yours. And that's only in the first year of us meeting each other! What about all the stuff that's happened since then, huh? We've been through so much together that I wouldn't accept anybody else standing by my side. They could be the most beautiful, most talented person I've ever met, yet they'd still pale in comparison to you!"

As my unexpectedly heartfelt speech came to an end, Monica sniffled. Dabbing lightly at her glistening eyes, she took a shaky breath before smiling at me.

"Y-You really think that highly of me?" She asked.

"Of course I do," I answered. "You're the best friend I could ever ask for. And no matter what happens, we'll be together forever!"

"Together forever..." Monica repeated slowly. "Yes... Yes, of course we will be. Thank you, Shio, truly. I too think of you as my best friend. But I am afraid I am not as skilled as you at coming up with speeches conveying my true feelings..."

"That doesn't bother me in the slightest," I said with a smile. "I can tell just how you feel about me. Now, how about we return to the reception? I've been so busy singing, I haven't had a chance to dance or drink yet!"

"A-Actually, can we stay here for a little longer?" Monica asked. "Just admire the stars together?"

"Of course," I replied, smiling gently. "But I want a drink and a dance with you at some time tonight, Elemis".

And so, we sat in silence for a good half hour, the Moonlit Manipulator and the Celestial Dancer staring up at the twinkling sky above them.
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