R-2 Dinnan

     Meis laid his hammer down and held up the knife he had been working on.  It glinted
warmly, the spirit within glowing with pleasure.  He wiped his brow and set the piece down on a
nearby shelf.  As he walked to the water urn, he reflected on his skill.  True to his promise, he‚d
become a master spirit blacksmith; his works surpassed even those of his master, Jyabil.  Meis had
even discovered how to improve weapons without the spiritual aid of a woman.

     Of course, that kind of defeated the entire purpose of being a spirit blacksmith.  After all,
it was the women that made this job.

     After splashing his face clean, he studied his reflection in the water.  The years had been
kind to him; the only sign of age was some gray hair on his temples.  He thought it made him look
more sophisticated anyway.  He practiced his őcharm‚ smile and his
őI-can‚t-believe-you‚d-think-of-me-like-that‚ shocked expression for a few minutes.  Satisfied that
he had not lost his touch, he turned back to the smithy.

     An odd mood was on him today.  Rather than go back upstairs to the house proper, he
decided to stay down at the forge.  It was peaceful down here anyway; all of the elemental spirits
hummed with a subtle harmony.  He got a chair and a footstool from a closet and set them up so
he could watch the flickering flame of the forge.

     He wondered what Jyabil would say if he saw Meis chillin‚ in the smithy like this.  Meis
grinned.  Jyabil would probably shake his head, mutter some comment like őso this is what they
teach you in Kant.  I would not expect anything different from the seventh pig of that Triumph
family.‚  And then Jyabil would‚ve made him clean the smithy.

     But Jyabil was not here and this was Meis‚ smithy to run as he saw fit.  Besides, he had
fulfilled all of his obligations to Jyabil when he‚d saved  the world.

      Saved the world.  Meis chuckled.  It sounded so trite when he said it like that, like it was a
matter of flicking a switch.  It hadn‚t been that simple, nor had it been easy.  But Meis Triumph

     He laughed.  Well, he and his friends had.  Unfortunately, saving the world had not been
as great a thing as he‚d hoped.  In fact, here it was, twenty years after the final battle, and what
did he have to show for it?  Nothing!  If he hadn‚t had to save the world, he‚d be married with
kids now.

     On second thought, maybe the current situation wasn‚t so bad after all.

     But still, it reflected on the underlying problem.  He had saved the world.  And while he
had given everyone the őcorrect‚ reasons as to why he had done it, there was another reason, one
equally if not more important than the other ones:  őSaving the world‚ was the absolute best way
to get the attention of all the girls in the world.  If you save it, they will come.  It had secretly
been one of his driving motives.

     Oh, and they had come.  During the first few years of rebuilding the world from the mad
Emperor‚s final attack, the chicks had come by the busload.  So why was he not happy?

     The roots of that problem could be traced back earlier, back before he had become Meis
Triumph: Hero.  In the process of becoming a hero, he had  won the hearts of several women.  All
of these women shared similar traits: beautiful, strong-willed, independent, and influential.  And
by some unspoken agreement, all of these women made it clear to the masses of idol-worshipping
girls that had flocked to see Meis--  that Meis was off-limits.  And there was one of these women
in every town. That wouldn‚t have been so bad, except all of these women were so irritatingly,
infuriatingly moral!

     He winced as he remembered Marion‚s method of doing declaring Meis off-limits.  Hers
had been the least subtle and probably the most effective.  He had gone to Mounthand, the great
railway mounted city of the Gadget Masters as part of his victory tour.  As he stood on a great
platform, basking in the adoration of the girls who had gathered to see him and hear his story,
Marion had managed to get on the stage without him noticing.  After he had finished describing
the desperate battle with the Emperor, just as he was about to announce that he was going to
raffle off some tickets where the lucky winners would be able to date him, she had run up and
tackled his neck in a hug from behind.

     „Meis!š she had cried.  „You‚re so cool!š

     „M-Marion?!š he‚d gasped, squirming to get out of her choking grasp.  „W-What are you
doing here?š In his struggles,  he‚d inadvertently dropped the ticket book.

     „I live here, you silly!š She spotted the book and reached for it, letting him go in the
process.  „What‚s this?š

     He dove for it, snatching it and putting in a pocket in his cape.  „I-it‚s nothing,š he said,
trying his best to smile nonchalantly.

     Marion was having none of that.  „M-E-I-S,š she said, giving him THAT look.  „Are you
hiding something from me?

     „N-no,š he‚d managed to begin, when suddenly there was a brilliant flash of light.  When
his eyes cleared, he saw a large scorched hole in the stage.   He leapt back in fright.  „What was

     Marion glanced at the hole, then at a gizmo she held in her hand.  „Oops.š

     „Oops!?š Meis shouted.  „Oops?  That nearly killed me!š

     Marion absently waved a hand at it.  „Oh don‚t worry about it,  I was just trying to build
something that mimics the flame of the Sacred Altars.  I must‚ve accidentally hit the switch.š  She
smiled at Meis, leaning forward while rocking back and forth on her heels.  „Anyway, I was just
thinking how bad it would be if my Meis didn‚t like me any more.š

     Strangely enough, no one was interested in the raffle after that.

     He‚d done his best to avoid Mounthand after that.  Even though Marion had supposedly
gotten another boyfriend, well... just in case.

     Once the celebrations and world tour were finished, the work had begun.  He‚d made
promises, and it would damage his reputation if he backed out on them.  The most pressing thing
had been to help rebuild Wano.  He had promised Kyoka.

     Kyoka.  It had been a while since he had thought of her.  She was a pretty thing, and her
enthusiasm had made rebuilding her homeland less of a task than he would have thought.  He had
even briefly considered settling down with her.  The problem with doing that was twofold.  First,
he still wanted to sow wild oats and with Soushi as her brother, she would have seen though Meis
entirely too quickly.

     The other problem was that Soushi was her brother

     Meis kind of felt sorry for Kyoka.  Soushi did not really appreciate the sacrifices that she
made for his sake.  Why,  she had even told Meis, once, that she was not going to get married
until Soushi settled down.  Which, unfortunately, meant Kyoka was no doubt still single, and still
trying to get Soushi to mend his playboy ways.

     Not that he had anything against Soushi.  It was just that Meis and Soushi both considered
themselves to be the top predator on the female species.  Unfortunately, there can only be one
leader of the pack, and Soushi was too bull-headed to admit that Meis held that spot.

     Other than that, they got along just fine.  He remembered the party they had thrown when
Wano had been rebuilt.  They had managed to get Muza drunk and dared him to go talk to Wyna.
Neither of them ever found out what exactly had happened during that conversation, but now
Wyna was captain of the Langoud and Muza was her first mate.  They had the cutest little
daughter too.  In fact, in another year or so....

     Meis killed that thought there.  Wyna still knew how to use that hammer of hers.

     He should go visit them.  It had been a while since the last time he‚d seen them.  Plus,
Palma was on the Langoud.  Maybe the priestess was even willing to be on speaking terms again.

     That incident was his fault, but still....  She could have at least tried to understand.

     The Langoud had been ferrying supplies to Wano during the country‚s reconstruction.
Meis had been working at the harbor with a labor crew and he had not seen a female in almost
twenty-four hours, which meant he was pretty much at his limit.

     Palma had left the security and relative cleanliness of the Langoud, hoping to see Meis.
When he saw her, standing on the platform above, radiant in the sunset like a goddess come to
grant him relief from his suffering, he lost control, charged her and gave her a great big hug.

     In his exhaustion, he had forgotten her extreme aversion to any sort of uncleanness.  Plus,
he had been working out in the dusty summer heat since before sun up.

     The slap he had gotten knocked him into the water of the harbor.  Apparently she suffered
a nervous breakdown from the incident, and he hadn‚t been able to apologize then.  He never had
had the chance either, because she had refused to see ősuch a filthy, unclean beast‚ ever since.

     He had put the incident out of mind, since the work at Wano had finished a week later.  At
the celebration, sometime after he and Soushi had sent Muza off, Kyleen had approached him
with the hare-brained scheme to rebuild Sharan.  It had made sense while he was drunk and he
had readily agreed to it.  Mostly because Kyleen had taken full advantage of his weakness.  She
had to go and wear that dress, the one that just absolutely screamed őlook at my body!‚  He had
been badly defeated by the double whammy of alcohol and décolletage.

     Once he had gotten used to the idea, rebuilding the floating city had not been that bad.
With the aid of the Gadget Masters and the great Library of Myscatonia, they were able to
reconstruct much of the basic framework in a year.  Plus, hanging at the Library gave him a
chance to hit on the mature, sexy Metalia.  That relationship had ended when Metalia noticed that
Meis only went out with her on the days Kyleen dragged Nelsha down to Zozotto.

     Maybe őended‚ was a bad word.  Cooled.  Yeah.  That sounded much better, like it was a
mutual thing.

     Kyleen had been scamming the casinos in the Zozotto, looking to earn enough money to
be able to finance the reconstruction of the floating city.  The girl was good, that was for sure.
The time he had been down with her, the Damashi of the casinos had begged her not to play, so
the casinos would not go bankrupt.  Apparently she had cut a deal with the Damashi to allow her
to exchange coins for money, and they were coming out on the losing end.

     Well, that was unlife, Meis supposed.  She had repaid them by setting up a casino in
Sharan that sent its profit directly back to Zozotto.

     It had taken another few years to get Sharan fully restored to its former glory.  There was
a big celebration then, which had been a lot of fun.  He had ended up alone with Kyleen, and she
had been wearing that dress again, and this time she was the one drunk.

     Unfortunately, she had passed out.  Even more unfortunately, she talked in her sleep.  And
most unfortunately of all, Meis had heard something he shouldn‚t have.

     He had lain her on her bed and was having a vicious moral crisis as to whether or not he
should be a gentleman and leave, or whether she might be more comfortable with less on.

     „Meis?š she had called softly.

     He froze, looking at her.

     He relaxed.

     „Since Sharan‚s finished....š  More soft snoring.

     „Would... would you...š

     He froze again, for an entirely different reason.

     „Marry me?š

     He had fled the room as though his pants were afire.

     Lucky for him, it seemed that she did not remember anything of it the next day, and that
horrible, scary question never came up in sober conversation.  Of course, he avoided Sharan
almost as much as Mounthand after that.

     Nelsha had come to his rescue then, giving him an excuse to skip town.  It seemed that
while at the big Sharan party, that idiot Bandiger had stolen several of Nelsha‚s outfits on his
quest for őtrue love.‚  The stupid thief had led them on a merry chase around  the world before
they caught him.  Meis had laughed for days after that.

     It seemed that Bandiger had tried to steal something from a lady in Boyzby and she did
not appreciate it.  Apparently, in the ensuing scuffle, Bandiger had indeed found true love.  So he
had  gone looking for good presents for the lady and Nelsha‚s outfits were one of them.  Their
relationship was so funny that Meis even convinced Nelsha to write off her outfits as lost.

     Unfortunately, watching the way Bandiger‚s beloved handled the thief had given Nelsha
ideas.  She had started looking at him like she did when she was in disco mode.  That look on
Nelsha‚s normal face frightened him.  Fortunately, a message from his father had given Meis an
excuse to avoid any sort of confrontation.

     Cliff was retiring, and it was time for Meis to take over the family business.  As a spirit
blacksmith, that is.  Cliff had no intention of retiring as a perverted womanizer anytime soon.

     Returning to Kant sounded like a good idea.  Besides, he hadn‚t seen Mil in forever.
Unfortunately, it turned out that Mil had seen him and much more recently than he had thought.
In fact, it turned out that she had be őobserving‚ him ever since they had returned from the moon.
őObserving‚ she called it-- it was stalking, plain and simple.

     At first he didn‚t believe her.  Her notes indicated otherwise.  After making him squirm for
several weeks, she told him she was going to make her mark on history by writing a book called
Meis Triumph: The Truth of the Legend.

     The memory of what her notes contained fresh in his mind, Meis had broken down and
begged her not to.  She had giggled and told him that there was something he had to do.  If he did
it, she would not write it.  When she said she would not tell him and that he should figure it out
himself, well.... He was good at playing dumb.  It had been several years since then, and still no
book.  In fact, he still poked fun at her by telling her some random thing he had done and asking
her if that was what she had been talking about.

     She was cute when she got frustrated.

     Being in Kant also meant being close to Boyzby, meaning it put him close to Sodina.  He
was glad Sodina was back to being a person.  Some things that can be done with women just
absolutely can not be done with a sword.  He had seen her since the moon; quite often in fact.
She had worked alongside him almost everywhere he had gone.  It was just that, since her
transformation, it had seemed that she was content just to be with him.  She was still fun to be
with and all, but when they were alone, she would just cling to his arm quietly and rest her head
on his shoulder.

     Not that there was anything wrong with that, it was just that she was content with their
relationship like that; and Meis, he was all about furthering it.  So....

     When he had returned to Kant, this time for good, Sodina had come with him.  But since
he had never proposed to her or anything and her house was in Boyzby, she had ended up moving
back.  He figured  that she had done so to avoid looking like his mistress.

     She still came to visit, though.  In fact, almost all of them did.  Even Metalia had come a
time or two.

     He had done some serious thinking the first year at home as well.  Meis wasn‚t dense, and
he did love each of the women in his own way.  Because he loved them, he didn‚t want to hurt
any of them.  So rather than break any hearts, he had made the decision to remain single.  That
way no one would get hurt.

     So he would wait.  Eventually, eventually, they would find someone else.  While his pride
would suffer from someone taking one of his women, it was the best way.  One day, there would
be only one woman left, and that one he would woo with all of his passion and skill.

     Back in the present, Meis stretched and settled lower in his chair.  The flickering warmth
of the forge was making him drowsy.  Yawning, he folded his hands over his belly and closed his
eyes.  He began to drift off.

     Unfortunately it seemed like the girls had figured out his plan and they were all trying to
wait out each other.

     Pity none of them liked the harem idea.

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