“Do you want this Council to fail, Lucifer?” Eidolon leaned on his desk and Karla clutched his arm. “You set it up without proper guidance, set ridiculous deadlines to undo damage that you allowed to occur and are making no effort to aid with any of it. Now this? Why sow this unrest among us? I have long been your friend, long been loyal to you. Like every other time you have broken my heart I will find a way to forgive this. Do you think the Wyrms will be so forgiving when their bride begins to mourn this?”
“It is because I don’t want this Council to fail that I have given little aid to your current dilemma. I expect you to put bickering and nonsense aside and work together to solve the problem, but before you insult me further I have already started to restore my protection where I had removed it. All the twelve of you need to do is clean up the mess.” Lucifer created several tablet computers in his hand and slid them across the desk. Each was engraved on the back with the name of the intended recipient so there would be no more questions on the matter regarding his acceptance of Eidolon’s decision to let Natasha play secretary to the Third. He also included one for Kaneko and simplified versions without access to Circle or Council data for the entire pack. “As far as your accusation that I am sowing unrest, my recent orders are unrelated to the work the Council has been doing and quite frankly none of the Council’s business. If the Wyrms take issue with it, they are free to bring it to the table, but they will regret the intrusion into my personal affairs and I don’t care how their bride mourns. If her tears leave her a dried out husk she’ll make good kindling for their fireplace. I’ll say this only once, Eidolon. Do not mention her to me again.”
“Understood.” Eidolon had let himself say too much and was grateful the response to it was as benign as it was. He was barely scolded at all for his insult and Lucifer instead seemed to reward what self-control he had managed to use. Eidolon neatly gathered the computers into a stack and sat them aside. “And thank you.”
“How can you thank him?” Karla sniffled and wiped her face dry before she looked at Lucifer and pouted. “And how could you do this to Kaneko? You pretty much raised her, didn’t you? This is just mean.”
“Quiet, Karla.” Eidolon lifted her chin and pulled her to look up at him. “I know you mean well, but you also know better.”
“Okay, Master Eidolon.” Karla did know better. Yelling at Lucifer never ended well and he was trying to protect her from herself. As angry as she was over the situation, she had to be patient and hope for the best.
“You hate Snowflake now, too?” Kaneko sniffled and turned to look at Lucifer. “Do you hate Kaneko? Kaneko is always a good girl.”
“Yes, you are.” Lucifer pulled out his phone and he stood and shifted beside Kage. He pulled up his own little biography before he stooped to rub Kage’s back and show her. “You and your sister Neka are our beautiful girls. Your brother is a bit of a nuisance at times, but Kage, Lilith and myself love all three of you. We are a family, Kaneko. A proper one, like you always wanted.”
“But Kaneko is still sad.” Kaneko pouted. “Kaneko didn’t get very much time with her mother.”
“You have had plenty of time with my Lilith.” Lucifer brushed the tears from Kaneko’s face. “You always wished for this, don’t hate me for granting your wish. You know that granted wishes always come at a high cost.”
“But…” Kaneko couldn’t find a good way to protest. She had wished for it. She wanted to be his daughter more than anything when she was small. She was always jealous that Shiroi had been the lucky one. But Kaneko felt just as lucky when she came to Tsumi and met Eidolon. She had love and happiness. Spending her days with Eidolon and Karla brought her so much joy and she had made so many friends. She still missed running around Lucifer’s estate and napping with Lilith, she loved them both, but her time in Tsumi gave her something else that she adored. Kage. As much as she had been brought up to hate the things he had done, Lucifer still told her stories of how he had once been so great and when she met him that was all she could really see. Her great father. Unfriendly, antisocial, generally unlikeable and in her eyes: perfect. He was strong, feared and always smelled like magic.
“Shh.” Lucifer tussled her hair. “Set a good example for Neka. You have always made me proud, Kaneko. Accept that this was for the best.”
“Neka.” The baby grabbed a fistful of Kage’s hair and yanked it making him cringe.
“I hope this fascination of yours ends quickly, child.” Kage kissed her face and rubbed Kaneko’s back. “You have every right to be angry. I have something to give you before you run from me.”
“Kaneko doesn’t run from anything.” Kaneko sat in front of him and held out her hands. “You told Kaneko you would be a good Father if Kaneko could forgive you. Kaneko is going to try really hard so Kaneko can make you keep your promise.”
“I want you to have this.” Kage pulled one of the bracelets from his pocket and laid it in Kaneko’s hands. As her lip quivered he knew she recognized it and he closed her fingers over it and held them tight. “It split in two as she passed. I believe she wanted each of you to have one.”
“What about…” Kaneko started to wonder why even Nexus would exclude Shiroi but realized in her last moments she must have been thinking only of her life with Kage. The only children she wanted were the ones she had with the one she loved. “Was she happy? Were you nice?”
“I…” Kage was going to tread lightly to avoid the frustration it would cause Lucifer but decided Kaneko deserved the truth. “I took her life as she asked me to, Kaneko. Nexus died in my arms knowing she was loved.”
“No!” Malice cried as Neka grabbed her legs and shook her like a rattle. “I’m not a toy.”
“I told you not to get so close.” Kagemusha scolded her quietly. “You twit.”
“Neka, that’s bad.” Kaneko slid the bracelet onto her wrist and inched closer to help. She gently took the babies hand and opened her fingers to let Malice crawl onto her hand. “Be nice to fairies. Malice is a friend. Kaneko will show you. Put your hands like this.”
Kaneko sat her hands together like an open book and let Malice dance on her fingers. Neka smiled and started to wiggle around until Kage sat and let her rest in his lap and she mimed her sister’s actions. Neka kicked her feet excitedly as Malice bravely fluttered over to the infant’s hands. The blanket Kage had her wrapped in opened enough to expose her long white tail as it swayed.
“Good kitty.” Kaneko patted her sister’s head.
“Neka kitty.” The baby squealed and startled Malice. Neka was still just as happy with the shimmery dust the fairy left behind and her new friend. “Neka kitty.”
“Nyaa!” Kaneko smiled and grabbed her tail to show Neka. “Kaneko is a kitty, too.”
“She’s going to talk like Kaneko.” Kagemusha sat on Kage’s shoulder and leaned against his neck.
“What’s wrong with the way Kaneko talks?” Kaneko cocked her head to the side and twitched her tail along the floor.
“Nothing at all.” Kage smiled. “Would you like to hold her?”
“You haven’t even let me hold her.” Lucifer smirked. “You haven’t let go of her at all.”
“Naked Neka!” Kaneko lifted the baby and hugged her closed. “Can Kaneko make her not naked?”
“You would know better how to dress her.” Kage nodded.
“You worried for nothing.” Lucifer pulled Kage to his feet as he whispered to him. Kaneko was raised in Lucifer’s care, taught to respect his orders without question. He knew that she would accept the end of Nexus in time regardless of the pain it caused. The promise of a more perfect family and a younger sister to look after would help her move forward quickly and spare Kage the hatred he feared. “Your daughters will both adore you.”
“I’m glad she will grow fast.” Malice smiled at the baby as she sat on Kaneko’s head. “Babies are a little scary.”
“Neka is not scary.” Kaneko laughed as she stood and carried her sister over to Karla and Eidolon. Now dressed in a frilly white dress, black tights and shiny red boots, Neka giggled and pulled at the lacy frills. “Neka is so pretty. Look, Master Eidolon. Like a backwards Kaneko.”
“She is!” Karla tightened one of the tiny bows on Neka tiny boots before she pet her tail. “She’ll be a white kitty.”
“You will be raising her together?” Eidolon asked and let Kaneko rub her face dry on the jacket of his suit as she held her sister. “The two of you and Lilith?”
“Is it not fitting that I am Father to my husbands children?” Lucifer grinned. “Or is it that you find me unfit as a Father at all?”
“You raised Kaneko brilliantly, my Lord.” Eidolon smiled. “I don’t question the ability. Only the decency of it.”
“It was Nexus’ desire that both Lucifer and Lilith become family to her children.” Kage informed them. “She was humbled by the care they took with Kaneko, she would want no less for Neka.”
“It was always in tragedy that woman managed grace.” Lucifer muttered to himself. He realized Kage’s interruption was meant to help, but it only served to make Lucifer look villainous. Lucifer had no problem with a prolonged visit to fawn over the child, but he wanted an end to the sympathy for Nexus so he decided to force a change in topic. “How did you enjoy your trip through the realms of souls, Karla?”
“Some of it was a bit sad.” Karla let Neka grab her finger and chew on it as she continued. “But it was mostly amazing. The second place was better, they were happier. Why bother having two?”
“Most of them seem content where they are.” Lucifer explained. “Perhaps some of the older souls would accept a place with the Lost, but most the Blessed have a certain attachment to the idea of the ever after that keeps them clinging to the realm they found their way to.”
“You would make room for the ones that would go?” Karla asked. “I mean if someone were to make the offer?”
“I would.” Lucifer grinned. “Talk your husband into bringing it up when some of our larger concerns are dealt with. It would make an interesting project.”
“Would I be able to help?” Karla smirked. “Since it was kind of my idea?”
“I’m certain we can find a role for you.” Lucifer laughed. “But be patient and yield to your Master’s decision.”
“They always do.” Eidolon smiled proudly. “Neither of my brides give me trouble.”
“You want her back?” Kagemusha rubbed Kage’s neck gently and he gave a quick nod. She had noticed him tense as Kaneko carried the baby away and he had been watching quietly with no interest in the conversation. Kaneko and Karla were playing with the girl and she could see that there would be plenty of affection for Kage’s second child, but her Master was not ready to share Neka so soon after losing the one who had left her in his arms. “Just ask.”
“I think Neka might miss her Daddy.” Lucifer shifted behind the girls and put his hands around Neka. Kaneko and Karla pouted and hugged Eidolon as Lucifer walked away with the baby. “Don’t pout you two. You will see plenty of her.”
“It was fine.” Kage took Neka into his arms and cradled her lovingly. “Kaneko is entitled to time with her sister.”
“You are welcome.” Lucifer grinned as Kage smiled at the girl in his arms. He checked the message from Maefyl on his phone and chuckled. “I am going to leave you to spend some time with the girls. It seems my son wants my attention.”