“No thanks, I brought my own.” She smirked and drew out small bottle that was nestled between her breasts.

“1692? That’s not your usual year.”

“No, but Lou insisted I try some.” She tapped a few drops into the mixture. “It’s a little overbearing, but not that bad.”

“Well, sometimes a thorn suffices, but other times a two-by-four is more appropriate.”

She twirled a strand of her hair as she sipped from her cup. “So—you didn’t ask us to come all the way up here just to have tainted biscuits and irish tea, did you?”

“Of course not. I am much more efficient than that. You observed the Ceremony, did you not?”

“Oh, yes. Welsper’s not only determined, but quite resourceful.” Her lips curled upwards. “It’s too bad Belldandy is destined for Another, don’t you think?”

“Welsper will be dealt with when the time comes. Before then, it is necessary to choose another Pair.”

She flickered a half-lidded look behind her. “And knowing you, you already have some Candidates in mind?”

“To be honest, I am—not yet certain.”

She blinked. “Well, this is something new. What are you waiting for?”

“A sign. And—your approval.”

“Why would you need—” she scowled. “No. Don’t even think about it. I have already lost a daughter.”

“Perhaps this time, you may be gaining a son.”

She flinched as she suppressed the words at the tip of her tongue, glaring even as those unspoken words were passed on.

“I apologize. I had thought although you employed my lieutenant, you saw through his veil of lies and hatred.”

She fanned herself with her napkin. “No, it’s my fault.” She gestured to the bottle before tucking it back in its original resting place. “That’ll teach me to look a gift horse in the mouth.”

“Don’t worry about it. I prefer to be hated than not to be thought of at all.”

“Oh, really?” She arched an eyebrow. “Then I shall endeavor to ignore you in every way I can.”

“You’re about to have your opportunity. Look.”

She followed the line of vision. “Oh, my.”

“Truly her mother’s daughter, is she not?”

“Indeed.” She touched her fingers together and grinned. “How absolutely delicious! The sheer potential of this match up!” She turned to face the table again. “You’re forgiven.”

“Then it is agreed?”

“Absolutely. We can hold the Ceremony right now, if you’re in a hurry.” She leaned forward. “And to make things interesting, we can arrange for some extra witnesses.”

“It shall be so.”