Part Two: Suscitatio
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.
Belldandy had awoken first, Skuld and Urd staying up late into the night to whisper about something they refused to speak of to anyone else, leaving her to mind the house while everyone else recovered from the previous day's ordeal.
Megumi remained asleep, as did Keiichi… though Keiichi should have been up, by Belldandy's reckoning. Still, it would be best were he to awaken with his sister, she decided. The girl would not want to be alone.
She called him… she called, she called, she called… such sweet longing, love, and devotion in her call, her essence so richly saturated with her feeling for him. Feelings that hurt the demonic to be near, but they could contain so easily…
And yet he maintained his self-imposed slumber, despite his yearning to break free, to burst into the world and strike down his foes, to destroy them as he had long ago promised.
If he were awake, then she would be, too. And his sister would need to remain yet asleep for his plan to work… So he slowed his awakening, and used what subtle manipulations he could to affect the world around him.
The first, the key, which had worked as it should have… But more… the King would be slain, and he would spite his sister a final time, turning the tide and declaring a victory. Destiny before Fate, as always…
She was confused, tired… unable to force herself to wake.
There was fire, and pain, and her very essence was rent asunder, cast to drift in the sea of chaos, and she could not wake…
And then the sense of nearness to waking faded, leaving her to sink into dream again, and there was fire, smoke, and she was being smothered — so very frightened of her brother…
Keiichi awoke to his sister's screams, groggily pushing back the thick veil that seemed to cloud his mind, and lay a hand on her shoulder. "Sis?" he asked, worriedly.
She snapped awake, horror etched into her features as she stared up at him, finally melting into simply anxiety, as she threw herself at him, crying into his shoulder. "Bro…" she sniffled, unable to say anything beyond that except to sob for a long moment.
He sighed, making a face at the scent of smoke, still in her hair. "It's okay, Megumi… it's okay. The fire's gone, and you're safe now."
She quieted, pushing herself away slightly, and nodding. With a slight hiccup, she managed, "I'm sorry… I was so stupid… I shouldn't have… I'm sorry."
Keiichi shrugged, rising, and moving to dig through his closet. "I… don't know. Don't worry about it too much, sis. I got a feeling that there's something there that's not your fault…" he mumbled for a moment, then tossed a pile of clothing at her feet. "Look… uh… why don't you take a bath, change clothes, and relax a bit. We'll figure out what happens next later, okay?"
Climbing to her feet with a pair of Keiichi's old jeans and a T-shirt in hand, she nodded, staring at the floor as she trudged out of the room. The young man sighed, shaking his head. "Ooo… what next?"
Megumi stumbled her way into the temple's bathing area, unable to repress a certain knowledge that something was… off. Different, in some way.
She couldn't place it, as much as she wanted to. Sighing, she dismissed the thought for the moment, turning her attention to the bizarre fire. "It's not right," she muttered to herself, stripping. "I know enough about these things to keep that from happening."
As she began to scrub away the faint soot, she marveled that she emerged unscathed. Her breath came easily, and she couldn't find a single sign to prove the burns she remembered receiving earlier. "I know way more than enough to fix a stupid stove," she muttered, grabbing a bottle of shampoo and scrubbing her hair, working out the scent of smoke. "Bleah. What am I going to tell Mom and Dad?"
Rinsing, she shook her head, wiping a stray bit of soap from her eyes. That was the only reason they would be tearing… not that she was going to cry over anything like that. No one was hurt, after all. Probably, at least. Only three or four people would be home at that time of day, and she remembered her fire alarm going off clearly.
"Why? I shouldn't have been in danger from anything so stupid… why did Keiichi have to rescue me?"
Dim and smoke-drowned memories of breaking down a neighbor's door came to her… freeing two children, and pushing them into the arms of another woman on her way out. That thought surfaced through the hazy morass of confusion.
She smiled slowly, wrapping her arms about her shoulders. "At least Keiichi did save me," she murmured softly. "Even if it is kind of embarrassing."
Belldandy hummed quietly as she finished preparing breakfast. Keiichi had no school for the day, and considering what had happened the day before, doubted he should go even if there was. He probably would anyway, but she would have wished him to remain with her regardless.
Skuld stepped into the kitchen cautiously, rubbing sleepily at her eyes. "Belldandy?" she asked. "Did you… feel what happened last night?"
The elder sister shook her head, smiling at the younger. "I don't think so, Skuld. What happened?"
For a long moment, Skuld seemed to struggle, finally simply shaking her head and turning away. "Nothing… nothing important."
Belldandy pursed her lips thoughtfully. If something was amiss, she should know, too…
Urd paced in her room, having fallen asleep on the floor while Belldandy slept in her futon. But now that her sister was gone, she was awake, and alone with her thoughts. Skuld knocked at the door quietly, then let herself in. Urd ruffled the girl's hair, still in thought.
"Hey!" The girl exclaimed, pushing Urd's hands away. "We don't have time for this!"
Urd shook her head, sighing apologetically. "Sorry, you're right. What's the first thing we have to do?"
Setting her hammer across her lap as she sat on the floor, Skuld considered. "We need to find the Once and Future King. We need to make sure that… he… doesn't interfere and destroy him."
Skuld nodded solemnly, jumping to her feet when she heard a knock at the door. Urd frowned, gesturing. "Who is it?"
"It's me," Keiichi's voice called out. "Belldandy said to tell you that breakfast was ready."
Urd sighed, shaking her head. "After breakfast, we'll try and find him. If he's born yet, then probably one of the signs will be fulfilled."
Skuld nodded again, still deep in thought as she slid the door open and walked past the confused Keiichi, still in his soot-marked clothes from the day before. "Is something wrong?" he asked.
The sisters shared a glance, and shook their heads in unison. "No," Urd supplied. "Everything's fine so far."
Megumi eyed the clothes Keiichi had given her, then sighed, brushing her long hair behind her. It wasn't until she had pulled on the shirt he had given her that she realized…
Her hair wasn't that long… With no small amount of trepidation she crept over to the large mirror in the bathroom, and stared with wide eyes. Her hair was long, easily past her waist now. She ran a hand with trembling fingers through the mass of hair that had been shorter before she had even got into the bath.
But something simply felt… right… about it. Like it was supposed to be that way. Her fingers gathered up an abandoned hair tie from near the mirror, and affixed it with practiced ease. Practice she didn't have…
Shivering, she dismissed it. Hair could be cut… and her life had been odd enough. Some fluke of some sort, not something she should worry about.
Shaking her head, she finished pulling on Keiichi's clothes, and plodded back into the main area, where she could hear people talking faintly. Skuld and Urd sat on Keiichi's left, as he sat at the table in the main room, seemingly distracted and lost in thought. "Morning," she called out, and then again to Keiichi. "Morning, bro." After a moment, she stared at her feet, forgetting her hair for the moment, as the others seemed oblivious. "I'm sorry…"
Keiichi shook his head, while Megumi sat at the very end of the table, seemingly trying to shrink in on herself. "It's okay, Sis'," he reassured her. "I have a little money saved up. How about we go shopping, and buy you some new clothes? If you lost all your stuff in the fire…" he trailed off, offering her a friendly smile.
She bit her lip, nodding slowly. "I'm… sorry, Keiichi…"
He waved a hand dismissively. "I'm sure everything will be just fine. Aside from which, you can stay here." He frowned thoughtfully. "We can pick up a futon for you later, and I guess you'll have to share a room… but you're welcome here."
"Yes," Belldandy interjected before Megumi could respond. "You're always welcome here."
Keiichi blinked, then scratched his head, frowning. "Wait a minute. What happened to your hair?"
Megumi raised a hand to her head, and racked her fingers through the soft mass. "I… don't know…"
Urd colored slightly, and whispered, "Oops…" More loudly, she asked, "Did you use my shampoo?"
Megumi shrugged. "I thought I grabbed Keiichi's… but I don't remember."
Keiichi waved it off. "It… suits you. Don't worry. Weird stuff like that always happens around here." He managed a hollow laugh, ending in a sigh. "Well, why don't we go ahead and do the shopping now? You can call Mom and Dad when we get back, okay?"
She nodded slowly, still only able to stare at her feet.
Belldandy watched Keiichi lead his sister outside and towards the motorcycle, though she held her tongue until the sound of the bike's engine had receded. "Urd, Skuld… What's going on?"
Urd and Skuld exchanged a wary glance, Skuld speaking first. "We think the Lady's come back."
Glancing between her younger and older sisters, Belldandy nodded slowly. "Do you think that her brother is trying to hurt Megumi?"
Urd shrugged. "He wants to hurt all of us. I bet he's going to go after Keiichi."
Skuld looked askance at the darker-skinned goddess. "How is that supposed to hurt us?"
Belldandy ignored the comment, as Urd absently swatted Skuld upside the head. "Anyway," Urd continued, "I think we should try and watch over him… and Megumi. Until we know who the Lady is. And we need to search for the Once and Future King, anyway."
Skuld nodded, setting her hammer across her knees. "Remember," she said, "we outnumber him. It's just him, and… well. We should be able to find the King and protect him before he can act."
Urd frowned thoughtfully, noting, "Of course, now we have more people to watch over, so this could be harder… at least Yggdrasil is functioning, but if we use it…"
Belldandy sighed, placing her hands on the wooden table before her. "Why don't we ask the earth spirit that lives in Megumi's apartment?" The other goddesses simply raised eyebrows at her statement, waiting for Belldandy to act. She smiled, murmuring, and closed her eyes, trying to reach out to contact it…
She gasped, sitting forward and opening her eyes. "Yggdrasil!" she exclaimed, closing her eyes again. "The earth spirit… his file is sealed, and I can't reach him!"
Urd frowned, glancing at Skuld briefly. "Who sealed it?"
"It says…" Belldandy's eyes opened, and she sighed, shaking her head. "It's sealed by Mara. And the note says… says that it's sealed in the name of her master."
Urd shivered suddenly, rubbing at her arms. "Oh," she said softly. "That's the only way she could seal something in Yggdrasil, anyway. We have a problem. Skuld? Can you turn Banpei on?"
The youngest sister nodded, scampering away to do just that, and leaving Belldandy alone with Urd for the moment. "Are you afraid, Urd?"
She shook her head, smiling. "No, just remembering… when I left him. But I'm not going back. Don't worry about that."
Belldandy smiled encouragingly at her. "You'd still be our sister, Urd."
Mara struggled back through the layers of reality beyond her home, forcing back layer upon layer of restriction, until she was close enough… And was left merely needing to be summoned.
No time to play, she told herself, pressing against the barrier alongside her fellow demons. No time to try and extract petty vengeance. It was time for blood. For revenge. The marks that would scar, not merely hurt. She simply needed to push, and be summoned…
Sakakibara Shiho muttered to herself, holding her hands over the circle she had drawn on the floor.
She would drive the demons out. This time.
She would completely eradicate them. This time.
She had even gotten all of the symbols right. She hoped.
She had come to realize, however, slightly less success with each attempt, and the young couple behind her, hoping she could exorcise the house, was slowly becoming impatient. Taking a deep breath, she focused herself. This time, she would get it right. She called the words softly, seeming to simply spring from a place deep inside her mind, coming to her more easily then ever before.
She exalted inwardly. This time for sure! The symbol on the floor suddenly flared to life, intense white light rolling off of the symbol to flood the room, blinding in its brilliance. The center of the symbol seemed to buckle, something from deep within distorting the space nearby as it emerged. And emerge it did, in all of its brilliance.
A statuesque blonde with confounding facial markings, a toothy grin, and a pair of frightening black wings framing her well-proportioned body. "You called me," she whispered, hovering over the center of the symbol. "What is your desire."
Gathering up her courage, Shiho shouted, "I demand that all of the spirits haunting this house leave!"
The being before her laughed wickedly, and nodded, her teeth glinting in near near-darkness. "As you wish."
And then, she was gone, and with her, all of the wards and symbols that Shiho had spent careful hours crafting. Ignoring a vague sense of apprehension, she pronounced to the couple behind her, "This place… is clean!"
She summoned her favorite servant to her side, calling him tersely. "Wake up!"
The spirit stirred, whisping into being near her warily. "What you want? Senbei not happy. And when you get back here, anyway?"
Mara crooned at the spirit sitting on the palm of her hand, "My master is back, Senbei." She grinned toothily, not bothering to hide her wings. "And you're going to help me, to help him!"
Senbei swallowed uneasily, muttering, "Senbei definitely not happy."
The blonde woman scowled, gesturing below her. "Look, I want you to go and make a mess of things. Distract Belldandy and her sisters. They can't be allowed to interfere with the plan."
"'—Not happy'," Mara mocked. "I don't care. Shut up and get to work."
Grumbling, the spirit did as he was bidden, dissipating into a fine mist that seemed to slink through the air, and to the temple below.
Skuld wiped her forehead, despite the lack of sweat there. Tradition was tradition, after all. "Okay!" she cried out, powering up the robot again. It whirred to life slowly, the readouts showing that everything appeared to be in working condition. "Banpei," she ordered, "take a scan of the house, and if conditions change beyond these parameters, then warn us all."
The robot made a rush of beeping noises, and began stalking about the house, scanning a few spirits native to the house as it patrolled. Dusting her hands together, she walked back inside, pausing before the door to really look at the exterior of the temple.
Where she lived. With her sisters. And Keiichi. And what about Keiichi?
She was aware of her maturity, all-too-obvious with her slowly manifesting power. And she was aware of the bond between Keiichi and her sister. She could claim to hate Keiichi as much as she liked, but she knew the truth, and suspected that everyone short of Keiichi knew, too.
She couldn't hate him, really. He was simply too nice. "Bleah," she said softly, clasping her hands behind her and staring upwards at the sky. So how did she feel for him?
A grimace came to her face at that thought, even in the light of recent events. She loved him. Not in the way that Belldandy did, thank the Almighty. But she did… he was like the older brother she never had, and… how could she resent someone Belldandy obviously loved so much?
Not that she would ever admit that to him, though he probably knew… from the way she had hung onto his arm when she had been 'aged', and Urd made younger, if nothing else. No, she decided. Keiichi wasn't smart enough. Aside from which, he was hopelessly devoted to Belldandy.
Smiling to herself, she reentered the house, letting her happy demeanor slip when she reached her sisters. Another problem was looming, one that needed more attention. "So," she asked, forced cheer in her voice. "What's the plan?"
Urd tapped the table idly, and shrugged. "We find the King and watch over him before… he… can interfere."
Belldandy smiled softly. "We should look for the Lady, too."
Urd sighed, shaking her head. "Well, we can do one at a time. We can look for her, for him, or the King. Which one?"
Skuld smiled brightly. "The Lady! We find her, and she'll help us find the King."
Urd sulked, shaking her head, too. "If we do that, then he'll wake up faster."
"Strength in numbers," Skuld admonished. "We've got five, they've got two."
"Five?" Belldandy asked, her lips quirking into a smile.
"Um…" Skuld flushed slightly. "Keiichi's on our side too, you know," she said defensively. "Remember when he made the bracelets for us?"
"Yes," Belldandy agreed. "You're right."
Keiichi let back the throttle, while Megumi stared at the bag of clothes sitting in her lap, flustered and confused, her hair whipping in the wind behind her. "Thanks," she shouted.
Her older brother gave her a grin and a 'thumbs up', turning back to the road in time to pull into the driveway, and let her out. He let the engine idle as she climbed out, yelling over the engine's roar, "Okay, Megumi, I'm going to go see if I can grab an extra futon from Tamiya or Otaki. I'll be back later, alright?"
She nodded, clutching the bag of clothing to her chest and staring at her feet.
"Oh," he tossed out before he left. "Don't forget to call Mom and Dad!"
She nodded again, slowly walking into the house as he rode away. She wasn't even certain her apartment had burnt down completely… but something simply felt right about staying where she was. She smiled slowly, and knocked on the door.
Urd answered, gesturing her inside. "Where did Keiichi go?"
Megumi smiled, remembering how kind Keiichi was being to take care of her. "He's picking up a futon… um… I guess I have to share a room with one of you… I'm sorry…" her eyes fell to her feet, clutching the bag of clothing to her chest like a shield, as her apprehension increased.
Urd frowned, closing the door behind Megumi, while Skuld muttered something about 'pattern acquisition failure' in the background. "It's nothing," the bronze-skinned woman assured her. "You're safer here, anyway."
"Safer from what?"
Urd looked away evasively. "Nothing important. Let's see about getting you set up in a room for now, hmm?"
Senbei ran some things over in his head from his position on a light fixture in the main room. He remembered Megumi dimly, and wondered at her change. She had always seemed much more confident, before… Not that it mattered, he decided. Unconfident meant unhappy, which meant that he would become happy!
Still… his senses told him that there was a way to make them more unhappy, and thus, himself more happy.
He stared at a discarded magazine on the floor, whispering its promises of further making them less happy to him. Working softly, slowly, subtly, since the goddesses were on guard, and the strange robot was pacing about the house, he summoned the faintest of breezes, turning the pages of the magazine until his senses told him that it was perfect.
Exhausted, and miserable with his expenditure of power, he waited. His senses rarely failed him, except where Mara was concerned, and this time… she was. He shook his head, trying to dismiss the sensation of being watched.
Trying to ignore Megumi's odd acceptance of the rather drastic changes in her life as human adaptability, Urd motioned the girl to sit, while Belldandy assured her, "You can share my room, Megumi."
The girl smiled back at Belldandy, a warm and thankful smile. "Thank you, Belldandy. But… don't you and Keiichi…" she trailed off, struggling for words.
Belldandy flushed slightly, raising one hand to her face. "Oh, no, Megumi, it's no problem. Really."
Megumi nodded weakly, and Urd shook her head, her eyes falling upon a discarded magazine on the floor. She blinked twice, a slow smile forming as she stooped to pick it up.
"Say," she commented. "Do you think we could convince Keiichi to pick up a movie?"
Skuld peered around Urd to look at the magazine, and stifled a slight gasp.
Megumi cocked her head to one side. Urd snapped her fingers and made a note to herself to make sure to hide her shampoo from Megumi, lest more incidents occur.
Belldandy and Megumi, both stared at the magazine for a moment, before Megumi's eyes lit with faint recognition. "I remember that story," she said slowly. "The boy who pulls the sword from the stone, and becomes a king!"
Skuld nodded, an eager light in her eyes burning fit to match Megumi's own. "Yes! If we get that, then we can find the Lady easily!"
Megumi frowned. "The Lady? You mean the Lady of the Lake?"
Belldandy flushed slightly at that, and shook her head. "Well, yes, dear… But you don't need to worry about it at the moment. Do you suppose we could ask Keiichi to get the movie for us?"
Urd nodded, smiling slowly. Surely it was a stroke of luck that had brought them this helpful clue… That had to be a promise of good things to come.
To be continued.
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