Part Three: Infirme Conscius
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.
Right. Parts four and five will likely be delayed, pending a complete re-write…
Keiichi warily regarded the rolled up futon that had been shoved into the sidecar. Otaki had found it… somewhere.
Nodding decisively, he hefted it onto his shoulders. "Okay," he muttered, "I'll use this, and give mine to Megumi."
He took two steps towards the temple, and froze, seeing Banpei waiting at the top of the steps. "Um," he called out, shifting the rolled up futon awkwardly to his other shoulder. "Hello?"
Skuld and Megumi bounced out of the temple like a pair of excitable children, momentarily dazing him with a swirling blizzard of long, black hair. "Keiichi! Keiichi! Keiichi!"
"Ack!" he managed, falling to land awkwardly, the futon clutched protectively to his chest. "What? Huh? You two calm down a little? Please?"
The girls quieted, Megumi taking the futon, and Skuld helping Keiichi to his feet. "Keiichi! We want you to get a movie for us!"
The boy slumped slightly, but nodded. "Right, right… I'll go get a movie…"
"Wait!" Megumi cried, nearly dropping the futon. "We want a certain movie!"
Skuld nodded, presenting Keiichi with the open magazine, and pointing to a picture. "We want this movie!"
Keiichi took the magazine without looking, and nodded again. "Okay, okay… Megumi, can I talk to you later, like… er… I asked yesterday? I still need some advice from you…"
Megumi smiled, still clutching the futon. "Of course! Be careful, big brother!" she called out before dashing back into the temple with Skuld.
Sighing, Keiichi looked at the magazine, and something deep within him seemed to stir. "I've seen this movie…" he murmured to himself, looking at the pictures. "Haven't I?"
Mara had swept outwards from the goddess' temple in a spiral, her senses and magic sweeping the area carefully. The chances of her master being reborn that near were slim, but surety and safety over trusting things to chance… And with their superior numbers, and hence power, they would have an advantage over her in searching.
Yet… nary a sign. She sighed, stretching her arms and straining her limited energy further.
Bad enough that her more powerful sister had abandoned her… twice. Bad enough that Belldandy was happy, and that happiness and love was constantly eating away at her through their doublet link. It was a constant annoyance, even in the depths of the abyss.
But… something was off, and that constant light of happiness was wavering. And that made Mara happier, somewhat, but it was nothing compared to the blinding joy over the fact that her master was back somewhere.
She gave a giddy laugh, and spun in a loop, exalting once more. "Destiny!" she yelled to the winds, not caring who heard, or who woke.
And below her, as though in response to calling his name as she meant it, a faint response was felt.
Keiichi shivered slightly, and began to wonder if he should have worn a jacket. "Nah," he muttered, as the shivering passed. It was likely nothing to worry about.
He couldn't help but think that there was something about the movie he was carrying home for the girls, though. That there was some memory that tied into them… somehow.
Pulling to a stop at an intersection, he looked up, stunned to see a familiar form descend from the heavens to stare at him in bewilderment, great black wings folding away as she peered at him in confusion. "Keiichi?" she asked, confused.
He blinked, nodding. "Mara? What… what are you doing here?" he asked, eyes narrowing, and the memory of a certain run-in at a hot-spring rising to the fore.
The demoness stalked forward, oblivious as normal to her scantily clad state — nothing more than severely abbreviated and torn denim shorts, and a leather bustier. "Who are you?" she asked, peering into his eyes deeply, before a shock of recognition seemed to flash through her.
"I'm… Morisato Keiichi, Mara… did you forget, or something?" He tensed his hands on the throttle, preparing to make a hasty retreat, should he need to.
"You're him!" she said slowly, a wicked smile coming to her lips. "You're the Once and Future King, aren't you?"
The name sent a hot flash of confusion and… anger?… welling up within him, and he shook his head. "No…" he said slowly, struggling to find his tongue, fighting off something deep within that fought, writhing inside him… trying to surface. "I'm not…"
He shook his head, his hands falling to his sides and his vision dimming as a black aura seemed to seep out of him, suffusing the area with shadow.
Mara stepped back in confusion. "What is this?" she asked, confused. Was this her master? Or was it an echo of the Lord of Terror? The only thing she knew for certain was that he was either her master, or the King, or something even more powerful. She lifted off the ground a short distance, as the boy made warding gestures towards her.
"What…" he grated out slowly, seeming to stand at the center of a swirling maelstrom of tremendous force that drew itself from nowhere, sheathing him in an aura of dark energy. His hair seemed to lengthen, black strands snapping about as though in some great wind, swirling with the flow of power.
"Are…" he continued, driving something back, as the aura suddenly seemed to stop, all the summoned power hanging still and thick in the air; a promise of violence and power yet to be released.
"You…" came next, the power… rippling… and changing its formation forcibly, reshaping the very fabric of reality by his will alone.
"Doing…" followed, as the power seemed to sharpen itself into some invisible weapon, preparing to strike the demoness.
"To…" Mara could only stare in a dumb sort of shock, as the young man's hair reached its full length, somewhere just beyond his waist, flaring behind him like a black cloak. The power hanging between them seemed nearly… alive… ready to sunder her.
"ME!" he roared, throwing his hands wide, as the power launched upwards — more energy in that single burst than all of humanity had utilized in all of their existence, and all of it, seeking HER out.
"Wait!" she screeched, throwing a hand towards him desperately, playing her trump card — too soon, in her mind, but this young man was playing for keeps, and she couldn't match the power he casually seemed to toss about without better planning. "You can't destroy me."
A dark light seemed to flare in his eyes for a moment, and he floated above his motorcycle, facing her with his arms hanging limply at his side. "Oh," he called sweetly, in a voice so Keiichi, and so much more — so very sinister, "but I can…"
He smirked, and the power came rushing down, an invisible force, Mara knew, one that would leave no trace of any happening to any mortals that would pass. She closed her eyes, waiting for the inevitable. A force of that magnitude would destroy her even if she were to try and flee to the abyss. Only the World Ash could possibly stop it, or…
She heard his fingers snap, and the power she was so frightened of halted, held in check above her. "Now… why shouldn't I?"
In a quavering voice, she whispered, "If I am destroyed, then Belldandy will be, too."
He stared at her, then nodded slowly. "As it would be… as it would be… leave me now." With that, he turned his back on her, striding towards his motorcycle in the still empty street, while she sank to her knees, gasping for breath suddenly.
Who was he? Her master? He couldn't be… could he? But… that was not the Lord of Terror, either. It was something else… something equally dangerous. She shivered. "I'll take care of you later," she whispered, lifting herself from the ground and continuing her search nervously. "My master," she breathed, wishing she could deny the fear that ran through her, "where are you?"
And more importantly, to her… what was going on?
The three sisters wordlessly shared a glance at the unmistakable surge of power that was flowing from something nearby. That much power had not been so casually bandied about in longer than any of them cared to remember — easily more powerful than any of the goddesses alone.
Urd knew from a technical standpoint that the Lady was at least that strong, but recognized the signature of that power. It was the Lady's brother. "He's awake," she murmured.
Belldandy shook her head. "It's merely a fit. He'll pass into slumber again."
Megumi and Skuld looked at Belldandy quizzically, Megumi asking, "Who are you talking about?"
Urd answered in Belldandy's stead. "Nothing you should need to worry about, Megumi…"
Megumi frowned petulantly, but let it pass. "I hope Keiichi gets home soon."
Urd nodded in agreement. "Yes… that tape should help us find who we're looking for."
Keiichi came to his senses when he was nearly home again, dazed and tired, feeling something heavy — yet comforting — pulling at the back of his head. He pulled into the temple, shivering slightly at a faint resistance as he drew to a halt. The wards, he supposed, though he wasn't certain why he would think that, and it had never affected him before…
He climbed off of the motorcycle slowly, wondering where his helmet had gone. He ran a hand through his hair, only able to grimace as he noted that it was — once again — long. "Great," he grumbled. "Maybe I should just leave it that way… wonder what made it grow this time?"
Shaking off a momentary wave of disconcertion, he climbed up the steps, slowing as Banpei made no move to let him pass. "Hey," he called out, eyeing the robot warily. "This thing won't let me into the temple!"
Belldandy arrived first, and spoke to the robot in a low tone, causing it to step away, seemingly unhappy about the event. The goddess offered her normal radiant smile to Keiichi, and he smiled back, wondering. He still needed to talk to Megumi about… he wondered how many of his thoughts showed through on his grin, and flushed, offering the tape he had picked up to her.
She accepted it, taking his hand and leading him into the temple. "Thank you, Keiichi… Did something happen?"
He shrugged, glancing at Skuld as she stared at him in confusion. "I don't know… I don't think so… but… heh, my hair got long again."
The youngest of the sisters mumbled, poking at her latest device. "I think it's just residue…" she said after a moment. "First the…" she trailed off, smirking, and poked Keiichi's chest inquisitively. "Anything else starting to come back?"
He rolled his eyes at that. "No." Muttering, he stepped inside, dismissing the incident for the moment.
Urd pulled Skuld to the side while Keiichi chatted with his sister and tried to explain his hair to her. "Skuld? Did you sense something from Keiichi when he came in?"
Skuld nodded, showing Urd a readout from Banpei's display. "Yeah… for some reason, Banpei thought that Keiichi was a demon."
Frowning, Urd studied Keiichi closely. "You don't think that he's been possessed, do you?"
Seemingly surprised at the thought, Skuld stared at Keiichi for a long moment. "I'd better scan him again!" she exclaimed, pulling a module from her sleeve and plugging it into the robot's back.
Urd crossed her arms, watching as the robot studied Keiichi closely, and spat out its various data on him. "Well?" she asked impatiently, "what's the situation?"
Skuld sighed, shaking her head. "Nothing. Like I thought in the first place, it looks like residue from… something else. Maybe the Lord of Terror."
Tapping one finger against her lower lip thoughtfully, Urd nodded. "We'll just have to keep an eye on him… We don't want to let anything happen to him."
The youngest of the sisters nodded, returning Banpei to patrolling the perimeter, and thus missing as a small wisp-like form slipped away, leaving the temple. "We can't afford to let ourselves be distracted… I'm going to have Banpei scan the area."
Keiichi tied his hair up for the moment, deciding he could cut it later. For tonight, he needed to relax, he needed to ask his sister about… that… and he needed… He blinked, looking at his reflection in a mirror.
There was a smudge on his face, but when he peered at it more closely, it was gone, leaving him to wonder. "Huh…" he murmured, "I wonder…" Taking a nearby rag, he rubbed at the mirror, nodding to himself when it came back with a faint sheen of… something. The mirror had been dirty, and nothing more.
Stretching, he tossed the rag aside, trotting towards the main room, the assembled women waiting for him with varying degrees of patience. Megumi and Skuld were lying near each other on the floor, their legs beneath the main table, while Urd sat to one side, and Belldandy the other. Saving the best seat for him, he noticed, smiling his thanks at them.
Belldandy returned his smile warmly, while Urd rolled her eyes impatiently. "Are you ready yet?" she asked, her tanned face betraying only a hint of annoyance. Still, Keiichi had learned to read her in other ways…
"Yeah," he said in apology. "I didn't mean to take so long, sorry."
She waved her hand dismissively, starting the cassette player in the same motion. Keiichi sat carefully, sitting slightly nearer to Belldandy than Urd. She smiled sweetly at him again, then turned her attention to the television, as the movie started.
To Keiichi, the movie seemed vaguely familiar, though every time he tried to pinpoint where he remembered it from, it slipped away, elusively. His patience began to wear thin as the movie progressed, largely annoyed with himself over his complete lack of memory about something that should have been so familiar.
More than that, the movie itself grated, full of events that seemed trite, pointless, and devoid of any ultimate purpose. Shaking his head, he idly scanned the box, checking the year. Had he seen it before? The date said that it was too recent for that to be the case, but it seemed so familiar.
Still, the girls were completely absorbed in it, seemingly enthralled by the events that bored him so. The main character — Arthur — got a magic sword from a woman in a lake, fought his enemies, and established a great kingdom.
And from there, it was largely about his exploits, and his attempts to make the world a better place. Keiichi grimaced, rubbing at his temples and wishing he could understand why that seemed so… trite. Wasn't making the world a better place a good thing? Perhaps just foolishly idealistic.
He dismissed that for the moment, as the movie slowly improved — when things began to go wrong for Arthur. The girls all sighed together, shaking their heads sadly, as Keiichi leaned forward, actually becoming interested. He wasn't certain why he found it more interesting, it simply felt… right… for some reason.
The movie ended with the king dying, and being borne away on a ship by a trio of women in white veils. Keiichi made a thoughtful noise, commenting, "That was a good movie."
Skuld pouted, shaking her head and complaining, "The ending sucked!"
"Really? I thought it was great."
Megumi sat up, turning to face her brother, and cocked her head to one side. Frowning at him quizzically as the tape rewound, she asked, "Why do you say so?"
Keiichi rolled his eyes at that. "It ended the way it was supposed to. I mean, stories can't all have happy endings."
"Maybe they don't," she countered, "but that one should have ended differently. He shouldn't have died."
"What are you talking about? He had to die!" Keiichi blinked, surprised at the venom that had begun to creep into his voice, and added, "I mean, if it was a happy ending, then what else would happen?"
"Well," Megumi began thoughtfully, "he'd bring about social reform, and try to make the world a better place." She nodded, as Skuld wormed her way around to peer at the pair of them, confused. "From there, he would expand his empire, bringing peace and a new way of life to the world."
Keiichi groaned, hanging his head. "Are you serious? You're advocating a tyranny! He would take over the world, and force everyone to live under his iron fist? Is that what you're saying?"
Stung, Megumi shook her head. "Of course not! But it wouldn't be a tyranny, because he's a good person, with a good heart, and he would have done everything to make the world a better place!"
"Ugh!" Keiichi retorted, "Can't you come up with a better argument than 'he's a good person'? I mean, seriously, you know what they say — 'The path to hell is paved with good intentions'. All you're saying is that 'he's a nice guy!', and you don't offer anything more solid?"
"You underestimate people, Keiichi," Megumi grumbled, crossing her arms beneath her chest. "Just because you don't see only nice people doesn't mean that they don't exist. You just don't have enough faith."
"Faith?" Keiichi retorted, mentally preparing a list of the arguments he would use to counter her. But… why? He shook his head, wondering why he was letting something this petty cause so much strife. "Aw… maybe you're right. It's just a movie. Anyway, it's not important… Megumi, can I talk to you for a moment?"
Megumi nodded sullenly, apparently still unhappy over the argument, as she got to her feet and followed Keiichi to his room. He glanced back at the goddesses, both Urd and Skuld simply staring at him and his sister, eyes wide, and Belldandy behind them, her expression worried. Dismissing them for the moment, he slid his door shut, turning his attention back to Megumi.
Megumi held her hands before her, clasping them nervously below her chest, and unsure why she was so uncomfortable near her brother. He seemed distracted, glancing about nervously, and she had to wonder at that, too. The movie, and she still couldn't understand why she had wanted to see it, still lay in her memory, and the memory of the argument, such an old argument.
More than that, though, her memories of the movie seemed to remind her of something in her own memory, something that felt like she was about to remember it… but couldn't quite. And she had never had an argument like that with her brother before. Had she? Some part of her remembered there being both more and worse arguments.
Keiichi began to smile slowly, a warm, distracted smile. "Megumi…" he started, staring at his feet, "I… I need your advice." Taking a deep breath, he blurted out, "Megumi, I want to marry Belldandy!"
She blinked, the faint surfacing memories completely blown away by her brother's words. "What?" she asked, trying to decide if the hopeful young man before her was her real brother, or some clever imposter.
Keiichi's face had turned entirely crimson, and he was completely absorbed in studying his feet. "I want to marry Belldandy," he said again, quietly.
Megumi smiled broadly, patting Keiichi's shoulder in a sisterly manner. "Why didn't you say so?" she asked, giggling. "What do you need help with?"
"Um…" he mumbled, "I need to know what kind of ring to get her."
"Oh!" Megumi exclaimed, clapping her hands together. "That's easy! Belldandy looks like the kind of girl who would want something that would last, and was from your heart!"
Keiichi blinked, at those words. "That's it?" he asked dumbly.
Keiichi grinned widely, gathering his younger sister in a hug. "Thanks, Megumi!"
She pushed him away, laughing quietly back at him, "Any time, Bro!"
To be continued.
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