Part One: Dormio Animus
An Oh, My Goddess story
By Brian Randall
Disclaimer: Ah! Megami-sama © Kousuke Fujishima, Kodansha, AIC, Animeigo, Studio Proteus, and Dark Horse Comics.
Notes: It's an alt, as should become apparent shortly, since I've read most of the U.S. manga, seen some of the OAVs, and not watched the movie.
He nodded, pulling the blanket further up around his waist as Belldandy smiled at him gently, placing a tray with a warm pot of tea and a pair of cups on the floor.
He scooted to one side, making room for her. She took a seat nearby, leaving the hall light on, and door ajar, but the main light off. Blinking away the confusion and fatigue, he tried to focus on her. She was clearly defined in her bedclothes, with the light behind her, only turning soft and indistinct where the illumination was not shining on her… but she was familiar nonetheless. "Thank you, Belldandy… Why are you awake?"
She shook her head, sitting on his futon carefully, and poured a measured cup of tea for Keiichi. "I… had a bad dream. I was hoping you wouldn't mind…"
Keiichi's heart skipped a beat, and he managed a soft laugh. "Ah, no problem. What was the dream about?"
Her eyes become distant, staring at a point in the darkened corners of Keiichi's room as she pressed the warm teacup into his hands. "It was… something that happened a long time ago, Keiichi. Something that happened before this incarnation."
He sipped at the tea — Belldandy's normal excellence easily apparent when he tasted it — and put a hand atop hers, his heart jumping again as he did so. The memory of the last time they had kissed was clearer in his mind than any half-remembered dream. "Incarnation?" he asked, driving away the thoughts of kissing. Now was not the time for that…
She nodded, her eyes fixed on some faraway point. "Yes… My sisters and I were alive long ago, but we're also fairly young. Before we became what we are now, we had prior incarnations." She pursed her lips thoughtfully, parting them to sip absently at her own tea. Setting her teacup on the floor, and shifting her position to face Keiichi, she said, "It's not important, I suppose… I just like to be with you when something troubles me." She smiled endearingly, and Keiichi tried to force down the grin he felt building. She always knew just what to say to make his worries pass… if only he could do the same for her.
He tightened his grip on her hand, leaning towards her seriously. "Belldandy, if there's ever anything you need, just ask me, okay? If there's anything I can do…" he trailed off, seeing the way her face lit up at those words, and she seemed to simply… glow.
One hand went to her lower lip, as though she was half-trying to hide her own smile. "Keiichi," she said warmly. "Thank you. Just you being there is enough for me…" Keiichi smiled once more, ignoring a sudden feeling of apprehension. As long as they had each other…
The wind whistled across the empty lot, tossing loose trash and papers about, but Keiichi's attention was elsewhere. Things were in a constant state of flux. Something was going to happen.
That much was a given. He'd led an odd life even before Belldandy had come onto the scene.
It had escalated in oddity as time progressed, with three goddesses living under the same roof with him, and he didn't really expect it to stop anytime soon. But behind the constant chaos that he expected to dog him until his eventual grave, he wanted to take things another step with Belldandy.
Megumi had spent a long hour some months ago suggesting very plainly that he needed to 'make a move' on the goddess, lest he lose her… And that didn't seem to be right, to him. When he seriously considered, it just… didn't feel right, yet. He needed something more, before he could do that, and it had come to him when he was filing one edge of a washer in the machine shop earlier that day.
He spent a long minute staring at the washer dumbly before its true significance hit him.
He wanted to marry Belldandy.
He stumbled to his knees right there in the empty lot, his bike a few paces away, as the enormity of the thought nearly bowled him over anew. He wanted to marry her.
Stifling a laugh, he shook his head, staring heavenward. "What am I thinking?" he asked himself. Could he marry her? Want to, certainly, but… she was a goddess, and he was just… He cut that line of thought short. She loved him. He knew, as easily as he could admit to himself, at least, that he loved her.
But marriage? He'd have to ask her, first… and that was the stumbling block he hit. Could he? He had lived with her for so long… what would truly be changed?
They'd share a single room instead of separate rooms. That realization made him wonder. Aside from the other intimacies that it entailed, so little would change… They were already so close. "Yeah," he mumbled stumbling to his feet again. "Just gotta ask her."
He shook his head, climbing onto his bicycle, and starting the engine. But first… he would need a ring. A ring worthy of her, and that would entail money, which he had precious little of. Perhaps he could ask Megumi for help or ideas…
A smile grew on his face as he headed towards the temple he shared with the sisters. An excuse to invite Megumi over should be simple, and then to ask her a few questions while they were alone… and maybe a trip with her to pick the ring out…
He snapped his attention to the road as he narrowly missed hitting a stone barrier, and berated himself. Safety first; he could worry about the ring later.
"Keiichi?" Megumi smiled inwardly, cradling the receiver against her ear as she poked at the stove in an attempt to make it function. It was gas, and she was reasonably sure she understood what it was supposed to do, but it was not working, and she couldn't cook without it… She grumbled an obscenity beneath her breath as her hand slipped, and she scraped her fingers painfully on the edge of the stove.
"Humph. Nice to hear from you again, too, Megumi."
"Keiichi!" she grumbled. "I'm trying to fix my stove!"
"Oh, um… Sorry. I was wondering if you were busy, I need to talk to you about something…" There was an odd note of hope in his voice, and Megumi rolled her eyes, jabbing at some obstruction deep within the bowels of the stove. The note of hope spelled out 'hopelessly in love' to her trained ears. She couldn't imagine what kind of problem he would be having with Belldandy… except for the slow pace that their relationship moved at.
"Ah," she said, smirking as she abandoned the non-functional device for a moment to walk to the small chair at the opposite end of the phone's reach. "Finally got her pregnant?"
"MEGUMI!" she drew the phone away from her ear, smirking. "I DID—" his voice cut off, and she moved the receiver to her ear to barely make out a muffled noise as Keiichi mumbled to someone else. When he returned, his voice was much lower. "Megumi, I haven't… done anything like that with her yet."
Megumi tossed her hands up in the air, not remembering that she was holding the phone in one, and the screwdriver in the other. "You're pathetic— ooops!" She dove for the phone, ignoring the screwdriver for the moment, and caught the receiver moments before it crashed to the floor. "Keiichi," she restated, righting herself to sit on the floor, "you're hopeless. I think I know what you want to talk about. No one's ever tried with me, but I've got a pretty good idea of what a girl wants." She smirked to herself, hearing her brother groan. "Anyway, I'll come over tomorrow, okay?"
"Um… Okay. Tomorrow works fine."
Megumi frowned absently, realizing that the screwdriver was missing. "Ah, dangit."
"Huh?" Megumi tucked the phone between her ear and shoulder, as she searched the stove area for the screwdriver. "Ah, there it is. The screwdriver went behind the stove."
Keiichi's voice spoke volumes of worry. "How are you going to fix a stove with a screwdriver?"
"Oh, you know, they use all kind of tools," she murmured, her hands reaching behind the stove to search for the hint of red plastic handle she had glimpsed. "Just using this to poke around… Ah. Got it. Now…" she tugged experimentally at the handle, noticing only a very slight give. "Anyway, I was using this to try and scrape off some of the gunk on the pipes… how do these things get so dirty, anyway?"
"I don't know. Be careful, okay, Megumi?"
"Yeah, yeah…" she grumbled, giving the handle one powerful tug, freeing it with a muffled cracking noise, and holding the screwdriver proudly. "Hah!" she proclaimed. "Got it!" Keiichi said nothing, providing the silence she needed to hear a very faint hissing noise from the back of the stove.
She frowned, dropping the screwdriver to peer over the edge behind the appliance. The cutoffs for the gas were a little lower than the upper level, and she gave the back of the stove one strong yank, granting her a few inches of additional clearance to reach them as it slid forward slightly. Grumbling, she stretched over the stove, grasping one handle, and straining to turn it. "Damn thing is stubborn…"
"Megumi?" Keiichi's voice carried an entirely different kind of worry. "What's going on?"
"Ah," she muttered, "nothing, just a gas leak. Going to turn off the valve…"
"Megumi!" Keiichi nearly yelled. "Be careful!"
"Yeah, yeah," she muttered, grunting as the handle refused to turn. Sighing in exasperation, she muttered, "Hang on, I'll be right back," before setting the phone down.
Climbing onto the stove for better leverage, one of her feet nudged the small dial on the burner from 'off' to 'high'. She ignored it for a moment, since the stove was broken, and placed both of her hands on the small handle for the gas valve. She grunted, feeling her body slowly warming with the exertion, and gradually started to worry more, the less the handle turned.
Jumping down from the stove, she grabbed her largest pipe wrench, grinning to herself. "I'll get you, pesky little—" the rest of her words stuck in her throat, as the nearest burner inexplicably sparked, lighting itself up and throwing gigantic gouts of flame towards the ceiling. She moved a half-step towards the stove, when a secondary cracking noise reached her ears, and the hissing suddenly increased from a subtly annoying sound, to a horrifically loud one.
"Megumi," Keiichi warned over the phone, "this isn't funny. Megumi? Megumi!"
He distantly heard her voice in the background, as he strained to make out her words, "… pesky little—" The rest of the speech was cut off with a decidedly worrisome rushing noise, followed by an increase of static. Not even pausing to think, he dropped the telephone, running full tilt towards his bicycle, shouting, "Megumi!"
The goddesses merely had time to blink as he thoughtlessly vaulted over the table in the front room, sliding across the final tatami mat to land roughly in his shoes. From there, a precarious leap across the stairs, and then a quick dash, and he was halfway down the street before he remembered starting his bike, the sidecar empty beside him.
Heart racing, the streets passed in a blur of confused lights and faint screeching tire sounds, until he skidded to a sudden halt before her apartment. Thick smoke and flames obscured the upper levels, rolling out in great, billowing clouds. He vaulted from the motorcycle, ignoring a sharp pain in his ankle as he charged up the stairs, sliding past a startled woman and a pair of wailing children. "Megumi!" he yelled, shocking himself when he collided with a badly singed and coughing girl at the top of the landing.
She latched onto him, whimpering, "Keiichi?"
He nodded, gathering her up in his arms and stumbling down the steps. "Ugh," he said, not thinking about his words as he navigated the slowly smoke-filling stairwell, "you're heavy!"
She coughed, still clinging to him, wearing an oddly serene smile as she shook her head. "Thanks… Keiichi…" With that, she seemed to fall limp, breathing uneasily and coughing slightly, until he had managed to wrestle her unresisting form into the motorcycle's sidecar. He turned back to face the building, and it seemed to… shudder… for a moment, the power of the conflagration suddenly increasing tenfold, making all of the windows shatter as the fire greedily sucked in more air.
Keiichi shook his head dumbly, hearing the faint keen of approaching sirens, and decided that getting Megumi to the temple, and the goddesses, was the most important thing for the time.
Skuld poked at her invention angrily. The latest Banpei model had increased functions, though she had — as much as it galled her — actually toned down the 'anti-perversion' measures. She sighed, patting it on the head before turning her attention to her sisters. It wasn't Banpei's fault, after all.
Urd lounged in a seemingly indolent manner, her eyes occasionally tracking from the television to Belldandy, then resolutely back. The youngest of the sisters had a firm suspicion that Urd was feeling vaguely guilty over something or another. Possibly the continued mooching off of Keiichi, but it could have been something else, too.
Pulling her attention away from Urd to Belldandy, Skuld intently studied the woman's worried expression. Keiichi didn't normally have a habit of leaping over the table screaming his sister's name and then taking off faster then she'd ever seen him move before. Some circumstance had motivated the boy beyond anything she was aware of short of her sister being in dire peril.
Belldandy was clearly troubled by it as well. And what to do about that?
Keiichi chose that moment to stagger into the house, his clothing soot-stained, carrying the prone form of his sister in his arms. He grimaced, stepping forward gingerly as Megumi coughed, still apparently unconscious. "Sorry," he apologized, apparently hoping to dismiss his hasty departure, and casting about the room absently. "Um… there was a fire at Megumi's apartment."
Before Skuld, or even Urd, could react, Belldandy was at his side, helping Keiichi ease his sister to the floor. "Keiichi," she said softly, her voice calm and in control, "you must lie down, you've hurt yourself."
Grimacing, he sat at Megumi's side, watching the girl worriedly. Belldandy sighed noiselessly, placing her hands atop Megumi's and murmuring quietly. Keiichi shook his head, wiping absently at Megumi's singed clothing. "This is so weird," he murmured. "I hope everything's okay…"
Belldandy offered him a sweet smile, as a soft, warm glow began to suffuse her, flowing into the unconscious girl. "Don't worry, Keiichi. Everything will be okay." She released Megumi's hands, the girl now breathing more easily. "You've hurt your ankle, Keiichi… Let me look at it."
He managed a jerky nod, seeming to be partially in shock. Urd found her wits first, striding to Keiichi's side to peer at he and his sister, then shook her head. "Keiichi… what happened?"
Shrugging, while Belldandy inspected his ankle gingerly, he explained slowly, as though unsure of his words, "I was talking to her on the phone about something, and then she said something about a gas leak… and I don't remember… everything kind of blurred… Next thing I know, I found Megumi in her apartment, and there was a lot of smoke." He shivered suddenly, as Belldandy's hands began to glow, the light seeming to seep into him, though the expenditure left her woozy.
Keiichi managed a thin smile. "Don't worry, Bell-chan… I'll be fine." Yawning, he climbed to his feet, staggering towards his room. "I need… to lie down for a bit."
Belldandy nodded, steadying herself against the floor with one hand. "Urd," she asked after a moment, recovering some of her strength, "can you please help me take Megumi to Keiichi's room? I'll let her borrow my futon. I think she will want to be near her brother when she wakes."
Urd nodded, sharing a glance with her youngest sister before gesturing absently, causing the young Morisato to levitate. "Go ahead and get the futon moved, okay, Skuld?"
Coming back to her senses from their extended absence, she rose, scampering to Belldandy's room to retrieve her futon and move it into Keiichi's room, barely laying it next to Keiichi's futon — and Keiichi's already prone form, collapsed as he was in his still smoke-marked clothing — before Urd arrived with Keiichi's sister. Megumi's own clothing was singed, badly, and it gave Skuld a moment to wonder at how bad the fire was, to damage her clothing so much, and her so little.
Belldandy followed, too weak to do much herself, and merely ordered the other two about, quickly stripping the unconscious girl and redressing her in a pair of Keiichi's older pajamas.
Urd nodded in satisfaction, crossing her arms beneath her chest. "He can change himself when he wakes up… unless Belldandy wants to do it," she finished with a smirk.
The middle sister colored faintly at those words, and shook her head. "I need to rest, Urd, Skuld. I'm going to lie down for a while… don't wake either of them, please."
The eldest and youngest sisters nodded dourly, helping Belldandy from the room. Urd shot a glance laden with meaning over Belldandy's head at Skuld. "Belldandy, why don't you rest in my room? We'll get an extra futon later." She nodded, allowing herself to be led to her eldest sister's room, while Skuld simply stalked into the living room to mull things over. This seemed vastly different from the normal occurrences for their household.
Unbidden, a memory returned, causing her to shiver. She wouldn't want to follow up on it without asking Urd, and she couldn't do it alone… "Oh, no," she whispered softly.
Urd drummed her fingers against the table softly. "So…" she began slowly, thinking of the pair of unconscious Morisatos, and her sleeping sister. "What do you think?"
Skuld stared at the table before her, thinking. "I think… I can remember…" she said, concentrating. "But it's too far past. I can't name him without risking… or the Lady. If we name her…" she fell silent, scowling at the table.
Unable to help herself, Urd smiled softly. "True enough." The smile faded quickly. "If it is him, and he is back… what do you think he would do?"
Skuld scowled, crossing her arms unhappily. "Well," she began thoughtfully, "he said he would destroy us, somehow… I think it's obvious. He'll kill the Once and Future King again."
Urd nodded at that. "You're right. It's what he does. We… we need to check in Yggdrasil to be sure… But that's something that's governed by… The Lady."
"And him," Skuld chided. "But if he is back, then so is she. The doublet system would make it so."
"But I didn't feel a single trace of his power…"
She shivered, cold and alone. Abandoned by her sister unfairly in two incarnations. Abandoned by her master, even as he had willingly unmade himself. Alone.
The abyss echoed as emptily as it had since he had quit this reality, when she had fled, tears streaking down her face, hot burning shame trailing her cheeks as she left the void and came here. And now she was 'home' again, sulking amongst the ruins of what had been his palace, along among the demonic spider webs and ancient dust.
Poorly remembered crumbling monuments to victory, heroes destroyed to spite the foe from her master's eternal conflict.
And unbidden, the tears came again. How cruel, how unfair that all of the love that Belldandy felt was echoed so hollowly through her, her partner in the doublet system. She giggled harshly at that. Demons weren't supposed to know who their partners were, anymore than the gods and goddesses were. But she knew. The entire thing was too neat and orderly to be any other way, and once she was aware of it, the link assaulted her.
Belldandy loved… loved so much, and it hurt, hurt so much more to be alone and unloved still, with her own master hundreds of years and more gone. And slowly building, consuming her from within, the ancient anger welled up. But she could no more destroy Belldandy then she could destroy herself, and her master's final, parting kiss had left her with the message that he would return, even if he only had one servant left to him, and his sister had three.
She mulled over that for a moment, when an echo… a strain… a mere glimmering of her master's power resonated through the air, sending her to her knees to shake weakly with barely contained hope, joy… things that a demoness should never be able to feel.
But she knew that it was so. She loved her master.
And at long last, he was returning. "Destiny," she whispered softly, her black wings folding around herself in a vain wish for a hug. "Destiny, Master… you've returned," she whispered again into the bleak darkness that surrounded the ruined palace, already seeming brighter and more neatly repaired in her eyes, tinged with hope.
"Oh, Master… I will find you again!"
With that fateful invocation, subtle ripples were sent careening through the very fabric of reality itself, whispering across the spaces between its multiple levels, god and demon alike pausing to feel the changes that it warned of.
And in a temple, a brother and sister began to dream.
To be continued.
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