Bladegash had gotten a considerable upgrade since boarding the Yggdrasil, she noticed. She wasn't an expert on gears, but she could tell from the hum of it that she had a better engine. She had also been outfitted with had a sharper-looking, lighter sword that reminded her of the kind of sword Hyuga used. She guessed that she'd find out any other improvements fairly soon.
When she emerged from the Yggdrasil's hangar out into the open, she found the other Elements easily, keeping a perimeter between the ship and the lighthouse that served as the topside entrance to Zeboim.
Tolone was the first to notice her. "Well, look who's done bashing her head against the wall!"
"How are things going? Is there any kind of plan?" Dominia asked.
"We've just been squashing Seraphs to keep a path clear for the others right now...which is kinda...ironic?" Seraphita said. "Is that the right word, Tolone?"
"Yeah, for once, that's the right word, Sera."
"Apparently there's some kinda business dealer down there selling ridiculous gear upgrades and DRIVE," Seraphita continued.
Dominia was immediately concerned. "Wait, they're using DRIVE?"
"Hey, don't act so scandalized. We're going after God, aren't we? We've been on DRIVE for reasons less important than this," Seraphita said. "Though I did suggest they concentrate on getting the gear parts first. I still have a pretty decent stash in Grandgrowl here that I'm planning to hand over, but I wanted it to be a surprise."
"I knew you were holding out on us!" Tolone exclaimed.
Dominia let Tolone and Seraphita bicker for a few moments more. She could feel her resolve starting to build back up. Maybe if they were distracted enough, she might not have to breach the subject. She turned around and her heart jumped in her throat. She hadn't noticed Marinebasher creep up behind her. "It is rumored that this arms dealer has been alive for 4000 years. It seems that the other nanomachine girl was drawn there, as well. She had been prodding at Fei for quite some time before they ventured out," Kelvena said.
"Is there a plan after this?" Dominia asked.
"We still have to make our formal announcement to Fei to join him. We have decided amongst ourselves that we're joining them whether you or the Commander do or not," Kelvena replied evenly. Tolone and Seraphita stopped their bickering to listen.
"Count me in, too," Dominia said. "There's no sense standing around while there's ways we can help, and I don't think the Commander is going to be far from us, even if he doesn't fight. Sigurd Harcourt had some space officially cleared off for us, too."
"Aaaaa, Dominia, that's great news~! I was getting a little tired of those cramped barracks." Seraphita piped.
"So, like, did the Commander ever get up?" Tolone asked.
Her heart jumped in her throat again. "He did."
"Did he have anything to say?" Tolone pressed.
"He...apologized to me for calling me a traitor in the Merkavah, and I told him I would be fighting against Deus whether he was going to or not."
"Woah, how did he react to that?" Tolone asked. She could tell the others were anxious. Kelvena's silence was beginning to get to her.
"He just apologized again. I'm not sure if he thinks he has the means to help. Sigurd told me that he doesn't know that they have Vendetta in the hangar yet."
Tolone was getting suspicious. "We left you about four hours ago, though. Did he really just apologize to you for that long?"
Dominia wasn't sure if having this conversation over the comm system was better or worse than doing it in person. "I had a lot to tell him, at least."
"Wait, does that mean you--" Tolone started.
"--you told him your feelings?!" Seraphita finished.
The others converged on her when she didn't immediately sputter out the expected 'no' that had happened the last five or so times she'd attempted confessing. "I did."
"Ohhhhh!" Seraphita hooted.
"Ohhhhhhhh!" Tolone hooted back.
"What did he say?" Kelvena asked softly.
Dominia was disheartened by her tone. "He said that he was flattered to have the affections of someone as loyal as me..."
"...and then what? You've been gone for hours, Dommi!" Dominia really hated when Seraphita called her that, but she could use all the humanizing she could get right now.
She steeled herself for the rest of it. Sigurd's advice seemed to slip like sand through her fingers. It was all just happening too fast, and she lost control. "He said he was sorry he couldn't respond to my affections right, so I kinda...kissed him and he didn't push me away, and I..."
"And then you what???" Seraphita piped.
"A-and then, never you mind!" The other girls were silent for a while, which scared her. She scrambled to get some kind of dignity back. "I'm sorry. I wasn't thinking of anyone's feelings but my own. I wasn't thinking of the consequences. My loyalty should have been to you guys first, and it was really selfish of me to--"
Tolone cut her off. "Wait, so you're apologizing for doing...something you've always wanted to do?"
Dominia was glad this wasn't a face to face conversation after all, with how red her face got. "It was all just very abstract before now, and I don't really know how you guys feel about him, either."
"Dominia, I was ten years old when he saved you. I'm just a little girl to him...and I'm kind of...stuck this way, you know? You're, like, my sister. Don't apologize for something like that. At least not to me. I'd much rather you be happy, you know?" Tolone said.
"Yeah, the Commander is super great, and yanno, without him, I have no clue where I'd be. I'm happy to just be by his side, but I kinda can't think past that. He's gorgeous, you're gorgeous, and I'm not as dumb as Tolone thinks I am, so even if I did feel that way, I think you got dibs, man." If Seraphita had said anything like that to her in the middle of Etrenank, she would have been mortified, but somehow, there and then, it put her at ease.
Kelvena stayed silent a little longer. "I have something to say in private, but I think it can wait. I am not sure how I feel, but thank you for coming at this apologetically."
Of all the girls, she hadn't wanted to be at odds with Kelvena. She always kept quiet when the other girls were egging her on to confess her feelings to the Commander. "I understand."
The rest of a potentially awkward conversation was interrupted by Fei, Bartholomew and Emeralda resurfacing. Dominia had never seen Xenogears up close before. It was an impressive sight to behold.
"Hey, did everything go all right?" Tolone asked.
"Yeah, things went all right. I think we're done for the day. A lot of stuff just happened and the sun's about to set, so we'll try again tomorrow," Fei replied.
"Did you guys get all the parts you wanted? Once we get in, the girls and I kinda have a surprise for you!" Seraphita said.
"Man, we are nowhere near where we'd like to be," Bart said. "We just don't have enough money to give Big Joe for the upgrades he's got. I have no idea why he's charging so much! There's like, no economy anymore. I don't know where the hell he's going to spend all that money down there all by himself."
"I guess when you've been alive for 4000 years, economies kind of are a joke to you," Fei mused out loud. "Oh, Dominia, looks like you've joined back up?"
"Er, yes." She still wasn't sure about how to go about conversing casually with the Demon of Elru.
"Let's get back inside, then. I think there's a lot to go over."
The Elements fell in behind Emeralda, who had been silent as usual, but Crescens carried itself differently enough that Tolone noticed. "Hey Emeralda, are you okay?" Tolone was naturally curious about her, both of them technically being cybernetic organisms.
A completely unfamiliar voice answered her back, "Yes, I'm fine."
"When we get back, I'll show you."
Tolone continued to excitedly press for details and Dominia turned to look back at Kelvena in Marinebasher. Neither of them said anything.
When everyone dismounted in the hangar, Emeralda stepped down fully grown, and everyone around gaped as Fei recounted what happened. Dominia found it interesting, but she was more focused on worrying about Kelvena.
When the main group dispersed, Tolone kept talking with Emeralda and Seraphita seemed content to stick around her, so she took the opportunity to tap Kelvena on the shoulder. "Are you ready to talk? I can show you the space Sigurd set aside for us."
"Sure." It was icier than Dominia was comfortable with, and she should have expected it, but apparently not.
Kelvena followed her over to the door Sigurd had showed Dominia before. They both looked up at Vendetta, which was even more torn apart than it had been before Dominia had left. She pressed the door panel and showed her in. "It's a lot more private than the barracks..."
"It's...very nice..." A polite lie, Dominia surmised, to be sure. As the only one of the Elements that was born and bred in Solaris, 'nice' for her must have started at second class.
Dominia shifted uneasily. "Wanna tell me what's going on?"
"Are you going to be all right?" Kelvena asked. "The Commander is in an extremely bad state of mind, and has been since Bledavik. Are you sure you are okay with things happening this way? It has not been very long since Miang's...departure. Are you sure you want to be a...rebound girlfriend?"
"I-I never said we were dating. He kept apologizing for not really being emotionally available, and I was the one who threw myself at him. If I hadn't, I probably would have just left the room and let him sleep. Nothing's set in stone with this."
"Yes, and as the Element of Earth, how does this situation make you feel in the long term?"
"I wasn't really thinking about the long term...I just...I've wanted...to be close to him for the longest time that I didn't really give a thought to who's taking advantage of who..."
"I suppose I should get to the point of why I wanted to talk privately about this," Kelvena said, sitting on one of the beds. As usual, she had not opened her eyes the entire time. "I do not like the idea of you waiting around for years for someone who might not be capable of truly loving you."
"Why would you really care about something like that? It's just me and my stupid decision," Dominia replied, folding her arms.
"I think you need to understand something just a little bit better about me. In the course of the last few months, my best friend has turned out to have been the primary component in an interplanetary weapons system, her destined soul mate has destroyed my home, and the man I've looked up to all my life now needs to look up to us. The people I have been close to for most of my life are gone, except you, Tolone and Seraphita." She was wringing her hands. "I do not want to see you dragged down, too. I mean...I really do admire the Commander, but I am really worried that you will just...lose yourself to him in this."
"So are you saying I should just stop?"
"I am saying you should be careful. I know that is not your area of expertise, but if he breaks your heart even more, like he has been breaking your heart for the past seven years, I do not think I could forgive him..." Kelvena turned her head away. Dominia had never seen her flush before.
"Wait, what do you mean by that...?" She stepped closer.
"What do you think I mean by that?!" she opened her eyes, then, and Dominia saw the tears. "To be honest, I have not really thought about the future, either, but you should know that my feelings for you are very strong, and I do not want you to get hurt. If you are happy, that is fine, but...please, before you destroy yourself, I wish you would think of me. I know that might be an unreasonable expectation...I have never told you, or anyone else, the way I feel, but I have always admired you for you. Behind your reflection of what you admire in the Commander is this strong, beautiful, rash woman that I am too scared to try to be myself, but I still love."
"Oh, Kel...I'm so sorry. I didn't know. I wasn't paying attention. I'm such an asshole..." Dominia walked over to her and hugged her.
Kelvena hugged her back as fiercely as she was capable of, which wasn't much, but she still tried. "I did not know I was capable of having such feelings for another woman, but I suppose, here I am. I never thought Miang would be out of the way, and I underestimated how stubborn you are and how quickly things were happening. I should have told you when I had the chance. It is...my own fault, but...I am still sad." She squeezed her tighter.
"If you'd said this to me yesterday, I wouldn't have..."
"There's no need to say things like that to make me feel better."
"But—" Dominia could feel her own tears start to well up in her eyes.
"If things do not work out between you and the Commander, remember that I will be there for you. In the meantime, I will be all right. I have become very used to heartbreak. If we are able to save Elly, and things calm down, and the world has a chance to settle back in, all of us are going to be in a much better state of mind. Even if we are defeated, at least some of us will have left this world somewhat satisfied."
Dominia pulled away. "I will try to be careful, and I'm going to make goddamn sure we're not defeated."
Kelvena wiped the tears from her eyes and nodded. "Thank you for...not freaking out."
"Why would I freak out?"
"I was not sure if you liked other women, too..."
Dominia chuckled nervously. "To be honest, men who aren't the Commander don't really interest me that much anymore."
The door chirped and slid open, and Tolone backed into the room. "--But what if we could get Doc Ricdeau to like, I dunno, upgrade me? That would be so cooooool!"
"Yeah, yeah, I gotcha. We gotta save that stuff for after the big fight. We don't have all that much time, yanno?" Seraphita said. Kelvena and Dominia could tell that this was one of those very rare occasions where Tolone had managed to annoy Seraphita and not the other way around. "Oh, hey, sorry. Hope we didn't super-intrude. Sigurd dropped off your uniform from the laundry, Dominia."
Dominia flushed bright red as she handed it over with the Commander's underwear on the top of the pile. "Uh...thanks."
"This thing is a little too sexy for you, Dommi...and there's another pair of underwear that's much more your style in the middle of the pile. I don't think it's yours, hehehe..." Seraphita said, holding it up.
"H-hey, I stole that fair and square...!"
Kelvena looked up from her gloom. "So...the rumors of the Commander's tight underwear are true."
Tolone and Seraphita burst out laughing, and even Kelvena started giggling. Dominia tried to bite down her embarrassment, but made a grab for it instead, and Seraphita raised it above her head and attempted to start a game of keep away, but was interrupted by Sigurd opening the door.
"Ladies, I hope you're not interrupting, but I wanted to invite you up to dinne--" The girls stood stock still and he took in the scene. When his eye passed over the thong, he tried to contain a giggle, but it didn't work. He backed out of the door. "E-excuse me a moment." The girls could still hear him laughing from outside.
Seraphita gave it back. "Here, like you said, fair 'n' square. You should probably get that framed or something after we take down Krelian."
Dominia exhaled and put it back in her boot, and Sigurd knocked on the door. Tolone opened it and he bowed to them. "Dinner will be served upstairs within the hour if you ladies care to join us. Dominia knows where to get a change of clothes and a shower if you care to freshen up."