'Where do I start?' Guy said to himself looking at the blank whiteboard he had set up in the living room.
The girls had to cover the topic of government today so Guy proposed to give them a brief history and structure of the current government.
'It has taken a long time before we are where we're today but I'll describe the major steps.' he said and started drawing a crude map of the continent.
'I'll start with the time when we were divided in separate countries with separate governments. The time before that just meant more smaller states which combined through wars into the later countries.' he said drawing dotted lines through the continent.
'With improved relationships between the countries, a ruling body was formed to unite common interests. Formalities were simplified, border crossing became easier, trade went up, some laws were consolidated and eventually the different currencies were replaced by one single currency.'
He scratched the back of his head. 'I think it took about 40 years for this first part. You'd have to look up the exact dates.'
The girls nodded.
'Wasn't there resistance to uniting that far?' Feli asked.
Guy nodded. 'Of course. There were plenty of people with nationalist pride, but the majority wasn't afraid they'd lose their identity by this.'
He drew a line under the keywords. 'With that as a start this body got transformed into a top government to all the states. The people chose their own government and through that their representatives to the united government. In time it facilitated more unified ways in governing each country. But there was still one flaw and it slowly created more civic unrest.'
'Abuse of power by large corporations and certain people?' Avia asked.
Guy tapped his nose and pointed at her. 'Exactly. Because there were too many incidents of self-enrichments and corporate abuses in changes in laws, people got tired of bearing the brunt. The voices of interest groups for science, environment and economists for instance became louder and got more support from especially the younger generations. Eventually a sort of revolution started after some major protests by the combined efforts of these groups. They forced the creation of new ministries, each one formed by experts in their area of expertise.'
He tapped on the map with his marker. 'Now, by this time, a 40 to 50 years later, these borders were becoming obsolete. Since there were no more border controls in ages, most laws and regulations were the same, and people just mingled with everyone, the proposal was made to unite into one big country and divide it into new provinces based on the size of the population.'
'Quite a change.' Ara said.
'True. It took a long time for the idea to settle in but by now the great majority of people didn't feel a difference based on country. So, eventually the old borders disappeared.' Guy said and wiped the dotted lines and drew new ones. 'Thus now we have a new layout of the continent.' he said when he got interrupted by a knock on the door.
Cani opened and let miss Tesha in with Anna and Michelle.
'Good morning. What brings you in today?' Guy asked.
'I ran into these girls on the street. They were on their way here as well.' miss Tesha said.
'We wanted to invite you for lunch today in the park.' Michelle said.
'Good idea. I'd love to go.' Cani said while she poured tea for them.
'For sure.' Mami said. 'Shall we?'
The other girls agreed.
'Well, let's finish this first quickly then, unless you have urgent business, miss Tesha?' Guy asked.
She shook her head. 'It can wait.'
'Well then,' Guy continued, 'and, girls,' he said looking at Anna and Michelle. 'correct me if I'm wrong, this change was the first step of a major change. The people knew there would be some difficulties at first with changing the structure of all governmental organisations. Luckily there were no major incidents in this and a couple of years later things were running smoother than before. This brought enough confidence for the new government to transform itself into the current one by changing completely into specialised ministries with the focus on applied knowledge instead of bureaucracy. So now we had for instance environment, economy, foreign affairs, internal security, infrastructure, health and others comprised of a team of experts chosen by their peers.'
Guy drew a chart of the new structure. 'Each head would form the core and they would debate any change in regulation with the help of a chosen chairman. They started with dividing any necessary responsibilities and created the current structure of ministries. To know what's in the mind of the people they set up an online petition site where anyone could post suggestions and upvote issues they feel are important.'
'Wouldn't that just invite spamming?' Feli asked.
'Good point.' Guy said, gesturing at her with his marker. 'But posting can only be done with authentication. You have to sign in to make a suggestion or upvote, but the suggestion itself will be anonymous to other people. They want people to take it seriously, and even if they suggest something horrible they won't get punished for it. Unless they're really overdoing it, then they get banned.'
Guy drew a square for the site and arrows to the ministries. 'Suggestions with most votes get priority most of the time but suggestions with less votes get their own slice of time so they will not stay buried forever. These suggestions are then discussed by the responsible ministry or ministries if it has impact on the others and a proposal is sent and discussed by the core. Then the proposal is open to public vote in each province for three months. If it's accepted by majority it will be made official.'
Guy turned to Anna and Michelle. 'And what other change made the government more open?'
'More up-to-date numbers on each province.' Anna said. 'We can see current statistics on financial status, health and well-being and more, including history.'
'Exactly. With this the public is made more aware of the consequences of accepting or rejecting proposals. If it's a bad decision it can be repealed not sooner than half a year later, just in case it still works out.'
'It does sound like this government can't pull a fast one for their own benefit.' Cani said.
'Yep. It's worked out very well so far.' Guy said, stretched and yawned.
'Is the topic so boring, or is there a reason you're so tired?' miss Tesha asked.
He grinned a little. 'I'm just a little tired today.'
She sipped her tea. 'So you finally did it with them.'
Guy chocked and coughed, Feli and Cani looked away, Mami dropped her notes and Avia and Ara almost spilled their drinks.
'What, whatever do you mean?' Guy managed to ask.
Anna and Michelle watched the girls and a thought dawned on them.
'I heard.' miss Tesha said, smirking slightly.
'Heard, what?' Feli asked looking innocently at her notes.
Michelle nudged Anna and whispered in her ear.
'Yeah, we see now.' Anna said.
'What's there to see?' asked Ara, spinning a bit of thread.
Ara froze. 'Ah.'
'They're not completely hidden by your fur, and Guy's has the five stones that each of you have.' Michelle said.
Anna leaned forward with excitement. 'So tell us! Did you really do it?'
'Inquiring minds want to know.' miss Tesha said, sipping her tea again.
Guy sighed and sat down. 'Fine.'
'He proposed?' Michelle asked Feli.
Feli nodded. 'Two days ago, at my home.'
The girls squealed. 'So what was it like? Did he go down on his knee? He surprised you?' they asked and the girls tried to answer all their questions.
Miss Tesha sat down next to Guy. 'So, did you turn into a beast when you got home?'
'More like Feli did.' said Ara. 'She was the first to jump him as soon as we got inside.'
'Ara!' said Feli, not daring to look at Guy.
'It's true though.' Mami giggled. 'She had dibs on being the first.'
'Well,' Guy said leaning back against the wall. 'It was in a way surprising, but wonderful.'
'Less surprising than our Avia being aggressive enough to take second.' Cani laughed.
Avia looked away shyly.
'Well, well.' miss Tesha said. 'That is a surprise. Did you get any sleep at all?'
Guy smiled. 'Not telling.'
'Any plans on announcing it or the ceremony?' miss Tesha asked while they were all walking to the park.
'Not really.' Guy said carrying the lunch boxes. 'For now we'll keep it quiet and we asked Anna and Michelle to keep it secret. First thing will be visiting the rest of the families to let them know of our intentions. Hopefully they'll accept.'
Miss Tesha nodded. 'You're going to make history.'
'Maybe. But I only care about them.' he said dreamily.
She slapped his back. 'You're going to be even more world famous, like it or not!'
And thus the group arrived at Cani's home several days later.
Cani gestured at the small apartment complex her parents owned. 'Welcome to my humble home.'
'Not so humble, I'd say.' Ara said looking around as they walked through the inner garden filled with green leaves and colourful flowers in all shapes and sizes.
'There's twelve apartments, my parents live in one and rent out the others. My grandfather's friend owned a few buildings and when he died he gave my grandfather the chance to buy it cheaply. And my parents inherited it after.'
'Lucky.' Guy said, heard a rustling from the bushes, then the next thing he knew he found himself on his back with Tobias on top of him.
'You had better be nice to my sister since I left.' he growled.
Guy grinned. 'You have no idea.'
'And what's that supposed to me-' he said before getting whacked with a magazine by Natalie.
'Welcome, and excuse him again.' she said, helping Guy get up.
'Thanks. Good to see you again.' he said watching Cani chewing angrily on her brother's ear.
'I hope you had good trip.' she said guiding them inside. 'I'll bring you to your apartment.'
'Ah, we can get a hotel.' Guy said.
'Nonsense, there is an empty apartment so you're free to use it. Not much furniture though but there's a table, cushions to sit on, futons and spare glasses and dishes you can use.'
Guy smiled at her. 'Thank you very much.'
She led them upstairs, unlocked the door from the apartment and led them into the main room. 'It's not big but we figured you'd manage for a couple of days.'
Mami opened the window and looked outside.
'It saves us having to walk or take a taxi so it's great.' Ara said. 'Arigatou.'
'Get settled and freshen up if you like, I'll see you all later downstairs. Dinner's almost ready.'
Cani, who was already downstairs, introduced everyone to her parents. They were so friendly even Ara was surprised she got hugged by them so casually.
'See, no need to worry about who you are.' Cani said leaning against her.
'Maybe they're just as nuts as you.' Ara said poking her.
'Oh really?' said Cani and poked Ara back playfully.
'Girls, girls!' said Guy seeing them play fight. 'Behave! We're guests here!'
'Hai..' they said, then continued.
Cani's mother laughed and made Guy sit down. 'I've never seen her more happy.'
Her father came in with food and the next moment the two girls sat at the table. 'This always works to calm the kids down.'
During dinner they talked about each other's experiences being abroad. Natalie told about life here while she fed an embarrassed Tobias to the amusement of the rest.
After dinner they all made themselves comfortable while Cani's mother poured tea. Guy looked at Cani who nodded shyly.
Before he could stand up though, Natalie nudged Tobias and they stood up together. Tobias fiddled with his fingers as Natalie leaned close to him.
He cleared his throat. 'There's, something I, we, want to announce.'
Everyone looked expectantly at him and made him more nervous. Natalie nudged him again.
'Right.' he said taking a deep breath. 'Last night we talked and we decided we're ready to become an official couple.'
Cani's mother didn't know what to say and just hugged them tightly. The girls hugged and congratulated the couple, Guy shook Tobias's hand firmly with a knowing smirk and Cani poked him down on the floor before hugging him.
Cani's father brought out the wine and Guy lifted his glass. 'To the lucky couple.'
Everyone toasted, then Guy coughed politely. 'It also makes it easier to announce something else.'
Cani's parents, Natalie and Tobias looked at him in wonder while Guy looked back at the girls.
'I've asked Cani, Feli, Ara, Avia and Mami for their hands in marriage and they accepted.'
Cani's parents looked at her in surprise.
'Really?' her mother asked and Cani nodded.
Her mother held out her arms and Cani jumped into them crying.
Her father moved to Guy. 'I'd like to threaten you by saying you'd better make her happy, but I already saw that.' he said and hugged Guy tightly. 'Welcome to the family, son.'
'Arigatou.' said Guy, a bit overwhelmed.
Cani's parents and Natalie hugged the other girls while Tobias shook Guy's hand again. 'Seems we're in the same boat again.'
'Yeah, let's hope we have a liferaft ready to save us.'
'Hey!' Cani said poking Guy. 'No liferaft's gonna save you now!'
Cani's father poured another round and toasted on the sudden expansion of the family, and wished the guys all the strength in the world to handle the women.
'Oh, you speak from experience?' Cani's mother said and pulled his tail while the others laughed.
When the girls and Guy finally snuggled up to sleep at the apartment Mami stared up at the ceiling. 'Your parents were really happy with the news today.'
'Are you worried about your family?' Cani asked.
'I have no idea how they will react.'
'If you have any doubts..' Guy said.
Mami smiled softly and stroked his arm. 'Never.'
'We're all in this together now,' said Ara. 'so you're not alone.'
'Arigatou.' said Mami and closed her eyes to sleep.