Mel was still breathing heavily as she dropped into her chair, but her hands were steady as she picked up a soft polishing cloth from inside the carved box and started to clean the blood off Hine-nui-o-te-paua’s edge.
“Do you want your cloak back now, or later?” Wufei asked in a low voice, leaning over her shoulder from behind her chair and carefully not looking down, keeping his eyes on the jade weapon instead. “And do we need to keep an eye out for attempts at payback from Princess Ngaire’s followers?”
“Not until I’ve cooled down a bit,” she murmured back, flashing him a quick grin. Her eyes were bright and excited, shining with triumph. “Put it on the back of Ngaire’s chair so you have your hands free to take the box back when I’m done with this. And I don’t think so; Ahorangi – Ambassador Harawira – will make sure all her personal retainers go back to Aotearoa with her. Damn that was fun,” she added, grin widening as she refolded the cloth to get a clean section and began polishing away the slightly sweaty marks left on the stone by her grip.
“Is your aunt going to be angry?” he asked, glancing surreptitiously around the huge ceremonial chamber as he carefully folded the feather cloak and draped it over the chair, using the movements to hide his scrutiny. It wasn’t that he didn’t trust Asuka to keep an eye on everything that happened; he just wanted to stay on top of events himself, rather than having to catch up in a hurry if anything did happen.
Ngaire and her personal attendants and guards had been ushered out of the room before Mel even got back to the table, and several medical attendants were gathering to fuss over her defeated opponent, one just running in from a side door clutching a light portable stretcher and a backboard. The various delegations who’d abandoned their tables during the fight were slowly resettling themselves, several cameramen were buzzing around like flies trying to get good angles without being run over by the medics – at least three were vying for the best possible close-up of Mel cleaning her weapon, and the microphones could probably pick up their conversation, but if Mel didn’t care Wufei wasn’t going to – and there was a general excited buzz of discussion audible through the room.
“Oh, I devoutly hope so,” Mel snickered, and Wufei managed not to roll his eyes too obviously.
“I knew what you meant, I just couldn’t resist. I hope Aunt Whina isn’t upset with me,” she admitted, carefully resettling Hine-nui-o-te-paua back into its padded recess and closing the box, settling the shell-inlaid lid back into place almost reverently, “but if she is I’ll apologise and take my medicine. And whether she is or not, I bet she’s really ticked at Ngaire. Lady Tutankanep might be forgiving because she’s a friend of mine, but that was one hell of a personal insult Ngaire just handed her. She’d be within her rights to demand a bunch of diplomatic concessions in return for not throwing our whole delegation out of the country.”
Ah. It’s not that she doesn’t care if we’re overheard; she’s counting on it, Wufei realised, mentally adjusting his evaluation of how adrenaline-buzzed Mel was downwards and his estimation of her political savvy upwards. “As you say, Hine,” he murmured in respectful tones, and bowed as she handed him the cloth-wrapped box.
After that, the rest of the Alliance anniversary ceremonies were rather anti-climactic. Practically all of the delegates who got up to give speeches stumbled through them, shooting nervous or fascinated glances to where Mel sat in solitary splendour at the Aotearoan table, grinning like a shark despite the massive bruises blackening on her arm and side. The hasty cleanup had missed some of Matua’s blood, smeared over the smooth marble floor, and one minor delegate nearly sprained something when she executed a high-speed balletic sidestep to avoid treading on it.
When it was Mel’s turn, she strolled out and delivered her speech from on top of the spot where she’d brought her opponent down, still-bare feet firmly planted in the middle of the bloodstain. She made no reference to the challenge or to her aunt’s departure, sticking firmly to her pre-rehearsed polite speech, though it was notable that when she referred to the Aotearoan delegation she remembered to say ‘I’ and not ‘we’.
Mil Warcraft and Sergei Kushrenada also walked across the bloodstain as if it wasn’t there. Jiao didn’t stand on it, but didn’t make an obvious point of avoiding it either, merely walking gracefully onto the floor, delivering her speech, and returning to her chair without acknowledging it by so much as the shiver of an eyelid. She also managed to look and gesture directly at Mel while acknowledging the Han ruling family’s deep debt to Aotearoa, without looking as if there was anything unusual at all about her appearance or behaviour. Wufei thoroughly approved.
* * * * *
“I’m amazed you didn’t do a victory dance,” Ambassador Harawira grinned, welcoming Mel and company back to the Aotearoan Embassy. “That fight deserved a haka to commemorate it.”
“Eh, it would have looked bad,” Mel demurred, waving it aside. “The ceremony was delayed long enough as it was, and given my reputation it would have seemed too self-congratulatory.” She was still grinning hugely, though.
“I suppose,” the Ambassador sighed, grinning back. “Need a couple of icepacks, there?”
“Yup. Big ones,” Mel agreed, lifting her arm and craning her neck to get a good look at the purple-black bruise covering half her left ribs. “And then I need to call Aunt Whina, make a formal report – though I’m sure she already knows all – and offer her my head for washing if she wants to yell at me.”
“I’m surprised the medics didn’t get you some right away,” Ahorangi went on, gesturing to one of the servants, who hurried out. “And Princess Whina definitely knows, because I was watching the live broadcast and messaged her to let her know she should switch it on, in the unlikely event that she wasn’t already watching.”
“The medics offered her ice packs, but she turned them down,” Wufei pointed out dryly, carefully setting the wrapped box down on a side table. The Maori guards who had filed in after them eyed it warily and gave it a wide berth. “Painkillers, too.”
“Well, sitting there with icepacks stuck to me would have looked bad too,” Mel protested. “The uncool sort of bad, not the arrogant sort of bad, that is.”
“And not accepting standard first aid makes you look rather stupid,” Ahorangi pointed out, waving the guards away. A couple of them shot mildly envious glances at Wufei and Asuka as they left, dodging the returning servant carrying a stack of bright blue coldpacks. “Or at least pointlessly stubborn.”
“I prefer the word ‘tenacious’, myself.” Mel sniffed, taking a couple of the larger coldpacks and a roll of surgical tape; she pressed a pack wincingly to her ribs, ‘eep’ed at the chill, and sighed. “Hopefully Aunt Whina will prefer my terminology. Okay, lead me to your secure vidphone. Ave, Ruling Princess; we who are about to get scolded salute you!”
- - - - -
< < I’m sorry, Hine, but Her Highness is on another call at present. > >
Mel’s calm, lazy official persona held enough to restrict her reaction to nothing more than a lifted eyebrow, but her fists clenched below the line of sight of the vidphone’s camera. “Ah. Should I wait or hang up and call later, do you think?”
< < If you would hold for a moment, I will ask– > > The woman on the screen cut herself off, glancing up and to one side, and then bowed. < < Excuse me. > >
< < Melanie? > >
“Mum?” Mel almost yelped in surprise as the secretary got up and moved out of camera range, making room for a tall, elegant woman who bore a striking resemblance to both Mel and Ngaire. “Um! I mean, good afternoon, Mother,” she amended, a little sheepishly.
Princess Hinemoa smiled warmly at her daughter, laugh-lines crinkling at the corners of her eyes. She looked gentler than Mel, eyes wider and softer, and seemed to have a sweet smile as her resting expression rather than Ngaire’s pinched sourness. < < Good afternoon, dear. Did you get some attention for those bruises? > >
“Ice packs,” Mel admitted, lifting her arm into view. “I, ah, gather you were watching the live broadcast?”
< < I certainly was, and– > > Hinemoa paused for a moment, looking to the side as the sound of a door closing was audible. < < –nicely done, sweetheart! > > she finished, smile broadening into a grin a lot like the one Mel had had on her face after the fight.
“You’re not mad? I mean, I figure this is going to cause some problems…”
< < Well, yes, but nothing we can’t handle. > > Hinemoa shrugged expressively. < < Obviously things would be simpler if Ngaire hadn’t pulled that little stunt, but that’s exactly what happened; Ngaire did it, and you dealt with it. Any problems resulting from today are entirely her fault, and backing down would have caused worse ones than standing up to her did, so don’t second-guess yourself now, all right? > >
“All right.” Mel smiled back. “I hope Aunt Whina agrees with you, though.”
< < Oh, she does. > > Hinemoa frankly smirked. < < In fact, she’s talking to Lady Tutankanep right now. Formal apology, reassurance that Ngaire will not be representing Aotearoa in any governmental or diplomatic capacity ever again, asking her opinion of a few things in the official statement she’s planning to give in… > > She checked an expensive-looking watch on her slender wrist, and raised her eyebrows. < < Hm. About ten minutes, actually, so I suggest you go find a television; half the marae’s media ops staff spent the last hour calling all the stations that carry the Alliance anniversary broadcast to arrange for it to be shown as breaking news. > >
“…Gonna tell me what she’s planning to say?” Mel asked, not sure whether to feel anticipation or terror.
< < Of course not, dear. That wouldn’t be nearly as much fun, now would it? > > Princess Hinemoa winked at her daughter, and cut the connection.
“Hn,” Asuka snorted from behind Mel’s shoulder. “I guess we know where you get that from.”
“I have a sudden urge to fly back to Assiut Base, climb into my Gundam, and not come out again for about a year,” Mel sighed, levering herself up to her feet. “C’mon. Let’s go ask Ahorangi where her biggest TV is. If we’re gonna watch this, we might as well do it in style.”
- - - - -
“Popcorn!” Christy yelled, catapulting into the main living area of her private quarters and shedding bits of her Pharaonic regalia on the way. “Turn on the TV! Call Jay and tell her she needs to be watching the news! And somebody get us some popcorn!”
- - - - -
“Quick! In here, TV on, it should already be on a news channel–” Jay stopped dragging Heero and Trowa in her wake for a moment to snatch up a remote control, then did a double-take at the wall screen when a ridiculously bouncy cartoon in eye-searing colours appeared. “That’s not the news. Somebody’s been bringing in rugrats and parking them in the conference rooms again– ah, that’s better!”
“Why are we panicking?” Trowa asked, deadpan.
“We’re not panicking, wot,” Jay told him, dropping into one of the comfortable chairs and gesturing with the remote for the other pilots to sit down. “We’re preparing to enthuse.”
“I have no idea,” she admitted, “but Christy called, and apparently thinks it’s going to be popcorn-worthy.”
Trowa and Heero exchanged thoughtful glances, then sat down.
The pair of news anchors on-screen were talking animatedly in front of a slideshow displaying assorted freeze frames of Mel’s confrontation with her aunt and the subsequent duel. Jay hit another button and brought up the sound.
< < –in a truly spectacular display, > > the female anchor said, glossy black curls bouncing against her brown arm as she gestured to the current picture, one showing Mel kicking at Matua and being blocked by his spear. The pose was dynamic, her muscles were tensed, and her short grass skirt-thing had flipped up far enough to demonstrate that she was wearing tight black gym briefs underneath it.
< < Yes, Nadeen, and it’s already causing a lot of commentary, > > her co-anchor replied, nodding solemnly. < < Princess Melanie Tangaroa’s public life to date has lent very little credence to her claims of warrior status, as her aunt pointed out today, and yet she won this duel in what certainly looked like excellent form to me. That’s a traditional fighting style, she has to have studied it quite intensively, but I don’t think she’s ever been seen to set foot inside a gym! I’m forced to wonder what else the Party Princess has been hiding. > >
“’Party Princess’?” Heero asked dryly, and Jay shrugged.
“One of the press nicknames for Mel. She really has been working on that reputation for most of her life.”
“So that nobody would connect her to the Gundams?” Trowa asked.
“Oh, no. Long before that. There was some political stuff going on to do with her ancestry, and her cousin, and people manoeuvring to try to cause a constitutional crisis using her as a pawn,” Jay said off-handedly, digging around in a small wheeled cupboard half-hidden underneath the conference table. “Aha! Candy! Not popcorn, but it’ll do. Mint? No? So anyway, she decided to do the Scarlet Pimpernel thing, look like a buffoon, be ready to kick ass as necessary, and generally act like someone the Aotearoan population might kind of like, but not want to put anywhere near the throne, don’t’cherknow.”
Trowa reached over and snagged a handful of mints out of the bag Jay was clutching, looking thoughtful. “Before the Gundams? Mel’s eighteen, and your Gundam programs have been running… how long again? Five years?”
Mouth full, Jay nodded. “M’r ‘r l’ss.”
“So she started working up her ‘cheerful layabout’ public persona before she was thirteen?”
“On the plane, remember?” Heero put in, sinking a little lower in his chair. “She said she started when she was five.”
“Mmm.” Swallowing, Jay nodded again. “We’ve all been acting for years, but for Christy and me it’s not much different from what anyone from our families is expected to do. Y’know, formal manners in public, keep the scandals to a minimum, go to the right events in the right clothes, wave and smile and have acceptable hobbies for the paparazzi to latch onto. Mel does formal manners in public, stirs up scandal and innuendo without actually doing anything inexcusable, goes to the right events in the right clothes, goes to the wrong events in slightly-too-fashionable clothes, waves and smiles and has unacceptable hobbies for the paparazzi and half her relatives to latch onto. Apparently–” her voice got rather indistinct as she stuffed three more mints into her mouth, “–she tol’ her parents what she was doing when she was ‘bout six, ‘n’ they tol’ her Aunt Whina not long after that. ‘N’ of course when she started in the Gundam program a bunch more people hadda find out. Miracle it hasn’t leaked yet, really.”
“Her double undoubtedly helps with that,” Trowa pointed out, snagging more candy.
“Oh, yes. Absolutely bloody spiffy, they are. Wups! Here we go!” Jay cheered, turning the volume up further.
< < –and now I believe the Aotearoan Ruling Princess is about to make a public statement, isn’t that right, Adel? > >
< < Yes she is, Nadeen. Ruling Princess Whina Tangaroa, live from the Turangawaewae marae at Ngaruwahia, > > the male anchor said, pronouncing the place names extremely carefully.
After the usual pause with both anchors smiling fixedly at the camera and shuffling papers on their desk, the image blinked to a tall, queenly woman dressed similarly to the way Ngaire had been, stranded skirt and feather cloak both much longer and more elaborate than Mel’s, with a bodice woven in geometric patterns of red, black and white. Her arms didn’t seem to be tattooed – not anywhere that was showing under the cloak, at least – but her face had far more of the swirling blue lines than either Mel or Ngaire showed, extending up onto her forehead and temples, and she had about twice as many feathers tucked into her long black hair. A ticker across the bottom of the screen identified her for anyone who had missed the verbal introduction, and Heero blinked in surprise at the spelling of her name.
Huh. I thought it was spelled with an ‘F’. That looks like it should be pronounced ‘Whiner’, not ‘Feena’.
< < Ladies and Gentlemen, Maori and Pakeha and others, allies and enemies; tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa. > > she began in a rich voice. < < I’m sure you’ve all seen the recordings from the Alliance anniversary celebrations opening ceremony by now – and if you haven’t, I recommend you seek them out, as they are well worth watching. > >
Trowa blinked, straightening up in his chair. “That’s not the sort of reaction I was expecting.”
“Ssshhh!” Jay sputtered at him, nearly spitting a mint at the screen as she stifled a giggle.
< < The subject of my niece Melanie’s status as a warrior has been a matter of debate, argument, and even insult for years, > > she went on, face calm but dark eyes glittering. < < We Maori have long held that status must be earned and proven, not simply granted. It is true that Princess Melanie has never publicly proven her right to hold the titles and bear the tattoos she does, and there have been mutterings about nepotism and favouritism, notably from my sister Ngaire. She would not accept my declaration that I was satisfied of Melanie’s suitability, and today attempted to prove her unworthy. > >
Whina took a deep breath, folding her hands together at her waist, and stared challengingly out of the screen. < < By meeting Ngaire’s challenge and defeating her champion, Princess Melanie has demonstrated her right to the title of warrior. By wielding Hine-nui-o-te-paua in that duel, she has demonstrated that her personal mana is of unparalleled quality. And yet, thanks to her public reputation and the efforts of my sister Ngaire and her political allies to further besmirch it, this is not enough. Matters which have been kept secret until today must now be spoken of openly. > >
Jay’s hand stopped, poised in midair as it was about to pop yet another mint into her mouth. “…Ooo-er.”
- - - - -
Christy cackled ominously, crunching popcorn. “Here we go!”
- - - - -
“Uh-oh.” Mel was staring at the screen wide-eyed, and starting to look frankly alarmed. “Oh, Auntie, no, you’re not gonna…”
< < My sister Ngaire is a bigot, > > Princess Whina said bluntly, and Mel abruptly relaxed.
“Phew! And ow, that must’ve hurt her to admit publicly, but mostly phew,” she muttered, and Ahorangi reached across from her end of the sofa to smack her lightly on the back of the head.
“Hush! I don’t want to miss any of this!”
< < As I’m sure you can understand, we in the Tangaroa family have always done our best to present a united front and minimise any controversy that might be caused by a family member’s personal beliefs and attitudes, > > Whina went on. < < For the last three generations, it has been Crown policy to remove legal and social divisions between Maori and Pakeha, bringing an end to the disadvantages and, yes, discrimination that non-Maori face in Aotearoa and the Austral Territories; working gradually, and carefully, and with as little disruption to the fabric of our society as possible. > >
< < Ngaire has never accepted this policy. She has chosen instead to ignore her own Pakeha heritage, and work with conservative anti-Pakeha groups to hinder progress towards this goal. Due to our wish to avoid public confrontation, so long as she did not act openly I, too, was unable to oppose her openly. > > She paused for a moment, looking down, then lifted her chin adamantly. < < I am both saddened and relieved that her actions today have freed me to speak out. > >
< < Turning to the other player in today’s events… my niece Melanie is not a bigot. Far from it, > > Whina said fondly, smiling. < < She is kind, generous, and loving– > >
“You’re bluuuuushing,” Ahorangi sing-songed gleefully, and it was Mel’s turn to reach across and smack her.
“Weren’t you just telling me to hush so you could hear? Hush yourself!”
< < –and yet if you were to rely only on the media portrayal of her behaviour, you could be pardoned for thinking she was lazy, greedy, and many other things that I don’t choose to repeat. The truth is entirely otherwise. > > Turning to her left, Princess Whina held out her hand in a graceful but imperious gesture, and Mel’s double walked into shot, dressed in expensive European clothes and smiling her serene, languid smile.
Ahorangi did one of the most classic double-takes Wufei had ever seen, and Asuka snickered from behind them. “What the hell–”
“Um.” Mel seemed torn between embarrassment and glee, staring at the screen. “You know how you were saying you weren’t cleared for stuff? I think everyone just got cleared for stuff.”
< < This, > > Whina announced, < < is Mereana Kerehoma, my niece’s double. While Princess Melanie has attended every event and ceremony in the last five years that required someone of her personal mana or legal status – all religious ceremonies, and every occasion on which she was representing Aotearoa in an official capacity – Mereana has impersonated her at almost every purely social event. Between them, they have constructed a public image that was intended to make Princess Melanie… disregarded. Overlooked. Not taken seriously. They have succeeded, > > she added, mouth quirking wryly, < < perhaps a little too well. However, the main aim of this masquerade has been to free Princess Melanie to perform the other duties in which she represents Aotearoa. > >
< < I am pleased to reveal to the world that Princess Melanie Tangaroa, my niece, is the pilot of Gundam Taniwha. > >
“Aw man, she did it,” Mel groaned, curling into a ball and falling over against the sofa’s armrest. “OW. Ribs! Ow.”
“You’re Taniwha’s pilot?!” Ahorangi almost screeched, standing up and clutching at her hair. “You– but– I have a wall poster of Taniwha in my room! You teased me about owning the plushie!”
“I want an autograph!”
“You what?!” Mel uncurled, clutching the icepack against her ribs and looking up incredulously at the ambassador.
“I want an autograph!” Ahorangi insisted, wild-eyed. “On my wall poster! One signature, that’s all, I swear! I– hang on, has your double ever gone to stuff I invited you to?!”
“You two can talk this out later,” Asuka snapped, leaning forwards to snatch the remote off the table and turn the volume up. “She’s still going.”
- - - - -
“Hooray! She did it!” Jay cheered, throwing up both hands and showering the room with mints.
“Cue the increased security problems,” Heero muttered, catching one and eating it.
“Well, yes, there is that, but it’s not like the Theos aren’t already trying their best to squish our Gundams. It’s just that their best is pretty pathetic most of the time,” she shrugged, pouting at the now-empty bag. “And really, on one level Mel has had a lot of fun with that act, but on another it genuinely hurts whenever people she respects don’t respect her back because of it, don’t’cherknow. She does this little twinge thing that never shows on her face. Now she can just be herself!”
“If she can work out what that is,” he said, not entirely joking.
- - - - -
“Can’t believe you never told me, clearance or no clearance,” Ahorangi muttered, settling reluctantly back into her seat. On the screen, Princess Whina raised one slender hand, cutting off the babbled questions.
< < Ladies and gentlemen, this is not a press conference. This is a statement. Please let me finish. …Thank you. > >
< < Only one-quarter of Princess Melanie’s ancestry is Maori. Three-quarters is Pakeha. By Aotearoan law, since she does not meet the bloodline restrictions, she cannot inherit the throne despite being the undisputed direct descendent of the first Ruling Princess. Although it is never stated in so many words, the most obvious interpretation of the law is that her Pakeha blood makes her… flawed. Inferior. Ngaire believes this, and it is a large part of the thinking behind anti-Pakeha discrimination. Given that we wish to combat that discrimination… well, moving gradually and carefully and fearing disruption has merely prolonged the pain. I believe it is time to take a larger step. I believe it is time to change the law. > >
“Fuck,” Mel hissed, staring at the screen in genuine horror.
< < This statement stands as my declaration of intent to abolish the bloodline percentage requirement for inheriting the mantle of Ruling Prince or Princess in the Aotearoan Constitution. Expressions of dissent or agreement may be made through any local governmental office, or by e-mail, mail, or screen call to the Turangawaewae marae. Absent any compelling argument to the contrary, > > Whina said, serene smile widening a hair, < < I shall enact the constitutional amendment in six weeks from this date. Haere ra. > >
The screen went blank, staying black for a few seconds before the two Ta-Resu-Meht news anchors reappeared, staring open-mouthed at the camera.
< < Ah, I, that’s… a very startling statement from the Aotearoan Ruling Princess, isn’t it, Adel? > > the female anchor stuttered, recovering first.
“Can she do that?” Asuka asked, managing to sound completely disinterested as he tossed the remote back onto the coffee table.
“Absolute monarchy,” Ahorangi told him, still staring at the screen. “We’ve got a constitution, and a Ruling Princess who regularly ignored or changed the law to suit herself would run into major problems, but yes… she can do that. Ignoring tradition would be a bigger problem.”
“Auntie, noooo,” Mel almost whimpered, curling into a ball again. “I don’t wanna be able to inherit!”
“Better hope your cousin’s precocious and gets married and popping out kids at sixteen, then.”
- - - - -
“Mmm?” Still crunching popcorn, Christy bared her teeth in a rather worrying grin.
“You, uh, feel rather like you’re plotting something,” Quatre said uneasily, leaning away from her.
“You’re such a smart boy,” she half-crooned, turning to look at Duo. “Isn’t he such a smart boy? Trowa must be so proud.”
Mernetefnut twisted in his seat to look suspiciously at her, eyes widening as he saw her expression. “Christina– my Pharaoh–”
“Says who?” she purred, eyes narrowing dangerously.
“I beg your pardon. You shouldn’t,” he hastily amended, bowing his head in apology.
“Again… says who?” she asked, pointing to the screen. “They’re already starting to ask questions. It’s certainly the simplest answer.”
< < –and really, Nadeen, given this startling revelation, I have to ask; what about her two best friends? Princess Melanie, Lady Jarvia Vencedor, and our own beloved Pharaoh, Lady Tutankanep, are almost invariably in each others’ company. Now we find that for much of that time, it’s been Princess Melanie’s body double. Lady Jarvia and Lady Tutankanep almost have to have known about this! > >
< < Indeed, Adel, I think it’s safe to say that they must have been willing participants in this scheme– > >
“It’s certainly not the safest answer!” Mernetefnut protested.
“And yet again… says who?” she grinned.
Dan had been silent so far, eyeing Christy as she argued with her Vizier; now, he pulled a smartphone out of his pocket and typed quickly with both thumbs, hitting ‘send’ and then tossing it idly in one hand as he went back to watching the anchors babble nervously. After a couple of minutes, the phone chimed and he caught it, glancing quickly at the screen.
“Christy, ma chérie?”
“–Hm? Hold that thought, Uncle-Cousin, we’re not done. Yes, Dan?”
“I’m in,” he grinned, passing her the phone; she blinked at him for a moment, then looked down to read the texts displayed on screen.
< < Mon cher papi, Christy va révéler tu-sais-quoi. Je peux moi aussi? > >
< < Vas-y! > >
“…Your grandfather told you to ‘go for it’?!” she sputtered, half-laughing. “Wait, your grandfather? How come you’ve never told us about your grandfather? Who is your grandfather?”
“Vicomte Jacques Montagne de Ventadour,” he said cheerfully, taking his phone back and typing a reply. “Head of Greater Gaul’s Gundam program.”
“Oh, for– are we all going to turn out to have titles of one sort or another?”
“Since Gaulish titles almost never pass through the female line and I therefore don’t have one… no. Also,” he added, looking thoughtful, “if Asuka turns out to be noble in any way other than the ‘noble savage’ one, I will cheerfully eat his shorts.”
“You just want him to have another excuse to walk around naked.”
- - - - -
“Righty-ho!” Jay jumped up, scattering mints from where they’d lodged in the folds of her silk outfit. “Back to the palace we go, chop-chop!”
“…Why?” Heero asked warily.
“Because Christy’s going to want to put out some sort of statement in response to all of that,” she told him, flapping one hand at the screen, “and I want to be there when she does it. More to the point, I want to do it with her. And if I know Christy – and I do, because she’s not like Asuka and doesn’t threaten to shoot me for peeking, or at least not often – she’s going to want to do more than just give a waffly endorsement of Mel’s awesomeness, and I want to do that with her, too.” Halfway out the door, she checked and turned back, looking speculatively at the two male pilots following her. “Speaking of which, how do you feel about possibly coming out of the Gundanium closet yourselves? Fun in numbers and all that, don’t’cherknow.”
End of Warped Mirrors
marae - Maori: A meeting place, in this case a fenced-in complex of buildings belonging to a particular Maori tribe, subtribe, or family.
tena koutou, tena koutou, tena tatou katoa - Maori: Formal inclusive greeting to everybody present.
haere ra - Maori: Goodbye (from a person staying)
mana - Maori: Prestige, authority, control, power, influence, status, spiritual power, or charisma. (It’s complicated!)
Mon cher papi, Christy va révéler tu-sais-quoi. Je peux moi aussi? / Vas-y! - Gaulish (French): Dear granddad, Christy’s going to reveal you-know-what. May I too? / Go for it!
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