Part Four: Plene Evigilo
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.
This story should be finished pretty shortly…
Senbei grumbled to himself, glad he was quit of the household, and its goddesses, thankful for his day and a half of freedom. Mara had been too busy doing… whatever it was she was doing to try and summon him again.
He had no desire to meet with Mara's master — he had met with the being once, and it had been enough.
There were gods, and there were demons… And Senbei knew, there were Concepts, too.
Himself being little more than an especially powerful spirit, was in no position to deal with a Concept. Things like… well, it was best not to think of them too much, or their attention could be drawn.
Mara would be just fine invoking her master's name — she had no reason to fear that kind of attention. Senbei, on the other hand, had every reason to fear it.
The Concepts were divided into two groups, each being an opposite of the other. Where there were many goddesses of love, there was only one Concept of love, and then, she governed over each kind of love… though curiously, humans seemed to spend much more time and interest in romantic love rather than any other kind — like familial. Senbei never really understood that, and didn't really care. He took care to stay out of Love's way.
Concepts had more power than even first class unlimited gods and demons, and could only truly rate themselves against each other. Love, wherever he was, would likely never look at Senbei, which suited him just fine, though Hate found the spirit interesting. Senbei shivered at that. He was on good terms with Hate, he supposed, having run into her in the abyss, but still preferred to avoid all contact with the Concept. She was simply too powerful for something as… fragile… as himself.
Worse, the concepts were subject to themselves, and each other in ways too complex for Senbei to understand. As a rule, things that Senbei didn't understand, but could casually destroy him, were a Bad Thing.
So he considered simply laying low, hiding, and completely disassociating himself from Mara for the duration. She never liked him, anyway, only the things he could do for her. And that didn't suit him at all. Besides, he reasoned, he had done his part already.
And in the house they shared with Keiichi, the three sisters stared at each other.
Urd found her voice first, "That… was unusual."
Skuld nodded, eyes wide and blinking. "What do you suppose that… that all meant?"
Belldandy pursed her lips thoughtfully, taking the cassette and replacing it in its case. "I believe," she started cautiously, "that Megumi… might be the Lady."
Two pairs of eyes locked on the goddess, younger and older sister alike only able to stare in shock. "But," Urd said, struggling for words, "how? And… who's her broth-" She fell silent, her eyes widening.
Skuld missed Urd's epiphany, and asked, "What? Who's the Lady's brother going to be? Who?"
Urd winced, glancing at Skuld sharply. "Who's Megumi's brother, Skuld?"
The youngest of the trio blinked repeatedly, mulling it over. "It… it can't be Keiichi," she said slowly. "If it were, then… wouldn't he have been able to keep the Lord of Terror from taking him over?"
Urd frowned, contemplating. "He couldn't stop him directly, no, that's not how his power worked."
Belldandy interjected smoothly, "But he could easily make it so that the Lord of Terror's attention was drawn elsewhere. That would be simple for him to accomplish."
Nodding slowly, Urd conceded the point to Belldandy. "You could be right," she admitted. "It would be too obvious for him to be her sister as his next incarnation. I don't think that Kami-sama works that way."
Skuld nodded, chiming in, "No way Keiichi could be him. But what do we do now? I don't think Megumi remembers yet."
Belldandy stared towards the room that Keiichi and Megumi had disappeared into for a moment, then smiled. "I think that we should be careful, and let her remember without too much pushing," she suggested.
Not wholly convinced, Skuld shook her head, asking, "Is that okay? What if her brother wakes up and remembers everything faster? We're going to be in big trouble, then."
"Have faith, Skuld. I think everything will be okay, as long as we're calm, and have faith."
"Right," Skuld grumbled doubtfully.
With that, they separated, considering how to best wake Megumi up without confusing her unduly.
Classes, and indeed most of the rest of the day had disappeared into a pleasantly confusing blur of faintly remembered colors, and rough snatches of conversation. He came jarringly to his senses sitting on his bike again, preparing to return home. Keiichi hesitated, pondering a deviation from his course, and ultimately, gave in.
He wasn't certain where he was going, except that he would know when he saw it. He didn't know of any jewelry stores in the area, but Megumi had told him something he felt was true. Whatever he gave Belldandy had to be from the heart, and… well, that would be hopefully be enough.
The trouble was, after all that they had been through together, he couldn't help but feel that she had always done much more for him, than he had for her. And that meant that anything he did give her should be special. He should have to work for it, something…
Something to prove his worthiness to her, he supposed, though he wasn't certain what, yet. He idly wondered if he should have found a way to bring Megumi along, but she was busy calling their parents, along with whoever else needed to be told about the fire. So that left him alone to find a ring… a ring for Belldandy.
Whistling softly, still not knowing where he was going, Keiichi drove away from his school, going further from his home. He would find something, he was sure.
Megumi sat the receiver back on its cradle, done for the moment with her calls. Her parents were understanding, and had encouraged her to stay with Keiichi — who needed to call them, they reminded her.
She sighed softly, clad in one of the outfits that she had bought yesterday with her brother. Bought for her with money that he might have been saving for an engagement ring for Belldandy, she noted guiltily. The woman in question, however, was sitting near the back door, humming idly, and knitting a scarf. Megumi speculated briefly — did Belldandy know what Keiichi was planning?
Urd and Skuld watched her, the pair sitting at the table attentively, bright eyes flickering to shoot glances at one another before darting back to her.
Megumi decided to ignore the eldest and youngest sisters, instead turning to study Belldandy. The woman was completely composed, calmly knitting quietly. The backyard was visible through the door, and she looked out at it occasionally, before turning back to the cloth before her.
"Um… Belldandy?" Megumi began cautiously.
Belldandy set her knitting aside, smiling at Megumi warmly. "Yes, Megumi?"
Megumi smiled weakly, looking at the scarf. "Isn't it a bit warm for a scarf?"
Frowning thoughtfully, Belldandy studied the nearly completed scarf that lay in her lap, and shook her head. "Perhaps… but I don't worry about that too much. I'm making it for Keiichi."
Megumi's smile strengthened at that. Her brother was a good guy, she thought, and Belldandy was great person, too. They deserved each other. "Oh," she said quietly. "I'm glad… glad you like my brother so much."
Belldandy laughed softly, nodding. "Yes, you've always been considerate of us, that I remembered."
Megumi nodded, remembering — vaguely — that she had in the past… She shook her head, wondering at the memories. "I remember…" she said slowly, groping for the fading images in her mind.
Belldandy smiled hopefully. "Yes, that's right."
Urd and Skuld were flanking her, smiling warmly along with Belldandy. "I remember that you were always nice to me, even when we made mistakes," the youngest added.
"Yes…" Megumi murmured, her eyes becoming distant. "I remember…"
"And how you accepted me from your brother's allegiance to your own?" asked Urd.
In a dizzying rush of nausea, the memories vanished, and Megumi was left shaking her head in confusion. "What?" she asked Belldandy, who was already working on the scarf once more. "What happened?" Urd and Skuld remained silent, not nearby, but watching the television. Had it been her imagination?
Belldandy merely sighed, smiling softly, seeming entirely focused on her work. "I'm sure it's nothing to worry about," she answered after a moment. "When it's important, you'll remember."
Seething inwardly, hurt, tired, and alone, Mara finally paused to rest. She was tired, oh so tired…
But she wouldn't give up! The last time she had tried invoking her master's name, something had gone wrong. She wondered the best way to deal with the boy, and what powers he had… It made no sense to her.
What kind of mortal could possess that power? The more she thought of it, the more she became certain. Keiichi… somehow… was her master.
But that didn't make sense.
Or did it? Would he willingly allow the course of events to put the Lord of Terror in his own body as they had, trusting that the situation would be resolved? It had resulted in a good deal of system damage…
She blinked, pieces sliding together slowly.
"Oh," she whispered, finally seeing the plan — the plan that he had never had a chance to tell her about before it was too late. "I see it!"
Everything… everything was deviously crafted to put him in the center of their lives! As someone that they would value, and treasure, and then, in an ultimately spiteful burst of betrayal, he would reveal his true nature.
Even if he couldn't truly hurt them without damaging himself — or her — he would have destroyed them in every sense that had meaning!
But what could she do to aid him? A slow, wicked smile formed about her lips. The previous encounter was because she had invoked his name at a time he wished to lie dormant. If she weren't to invoke his name, then…
"Ah," she breathed softly, shifting her spells to search for Keiichi.
Keiichi pulled to a halt before a small store, eyeing the sign in the front casually. "Hmm," he mused, reading the sign. 'Jewelry'. Nothing more than that, but then…
A journey, he thought, parking, and walking into the store. A mission to retrieve something worthy of her. That would be a step in the right direction. If it was harder, then it would make things more worthwhile.
The thick wooden floor bore a faint layer of dust. Assorted antiques lined the walls, short display cases littering the floor, and dim and failing lights showing various rings on small velvet displays. He pondered briefly at the darkness, and a faint chime sounded as the door swung shut behind him. The atmosphere was not the most welcoming, but it felt… familiar, somehow.
The proprietor lurked behind a counter quietly, glancing at Keiichi for a moment, and then away.
Dismissing the man for the moment, Keiichi turned to the rows of display cases, peering closely at the nearest selection of rings. "Hey," he complained after a moment, "none of these things have prices."
Coughing softly, the man behind the counter approached, eyeing Keiichi distastefully. "Of course," he murmured. "My general clientele have no need of 'prices'."
Keiichi pulled his hand back from the edge of the display case, frowning. He had little enough money, as it was — less after helping Megumi and buying her new clothes — and the man's attitude suggested to Keiichi that it would take much more money than he had to afford anything good enough for Belldandy.
But giving up was tantamount to failure at this point. He'd managed to get as far as he had without backing down when it mattered in longer than he could remember. He'd take this challenge as well.
Staring at the clerk, he pointed at one ring — a simple gold band — and asked, "What about this one?" He waited for the clerk to tell him, busily offering a silent prayer that he somehow had the money at hand.
Counting the money a second time, putting as much effort into snubbing the boy before him as he could, the clerk grudgingly handed over the band, which the boy eagerly pocketed. "Will that be all?" he asked stiffly.
With a shake of his head, the boy departed, leaving the clerk alone for the moment. The clerk grumbled, remembering how even the boy seemed surprised when he had produced the cash.
But he was able to meet the price the clerk had insisted on. More than the real value of the ring, but he didn't need to know that. Smirking, he opened the safe to deposit the money, closing and sealing it securely.
Securely enough that even he would have to wonder how the money had turned to dust, only hours later, and he with no proof that the boy had ever been there.
Drumming her fingers against the table thoughtfully, Skuld frowned.
There was a sensation in the pit of her stomach… the feeling of impending disaster. But she pushed it away. Belldandy said that Megumi was the Lady. With the Lady, nothing could go wrong, she told herself. Nothing.
She just needed to be patient, and wait for the Lady to wake, and remember…
Keiichi looked up slowly, sensing something approaching him. He wasn't certain how, but he sensed it. Pulling to a sudden stop, he glanced around the empty street. No more stops to shop for anything, and far from home yet, but… Something told him that he had to be there.
He frowned at that. 'Something'. It was so vague — why was he letting it guide him so strongly, if it were so unclear? He had a job to do — give the ring to Belldandy — and he was still uncertain how he intended to propose.
Sighing, he stood, frowning at a fleck of rust on the handlebars of his bike. "That's not right," he muttered, peering at it more closely, climbing off of the bike. "I just chromed this thing last weekend…"
A voice alerted him, and he spun, seeing the demoness from the day before again. "Mara," he said levelly, trying to push the images of her at the hot springs out of his mind. Why did they haunt him like that, anyway? "What are you doing here?" He blinked suddenly, remembering. "You did something to me yesterday!" he accused.
"No," she whispered, softly, striding towards him slowly, wings half extended and curled about herself like a demonic mantle. "I did nothing to you… yesterday. Today, however… I am going to do something to you."
He blinked, stepping back — nearly falling over his bike — and shaking his head. "What… what are you going to do to me?" he asked, unable to keep a note of fear out of his voice.
Leaning forward, Mara licked her lips, running her tongue across her well-defined canines, and seemingly unmindful of the view she was offering Keiichi of her more-than-generous cleavage. "Why, Keiichi!" She playfully exclaimed, "I'm going to take you to heaven…"
Keiichi swallowed, wishing he could edge further away, even as part of his mind urged him to move towards the demoness.
In the port city of Sasebo, a pair of young duelists broke off their kendo practice, staring upwards at the sky. The sun had just set, and the first stars were coming into visibility.
The first lowered his bokken, stepping away from his partner, some sensation he couldn't pinpoint sweeping through him. "Did you feel that?"
The second nodded, scratching the back of his head nervously. "Yeah. I did. We should probably go home…"
Keiichi stumbled after the demoness, part of his mind trying to resist, even as another battled against the resistance.
She simply smirked, turning to look at him, and he fumbled for a moment with his wallet, paying a clerk — where had the clerk come from? And the money?
The clerk looked patently bored, handing him a key.
Keiichi blinked at the key dumbly, not remembering moving from the clerk's office to the door before him. Everything was disjointed, confusing. Mara cooed into his ear softly, "And it doesn't matter what you try, my little Keiichi… you'll be mine before the night is over."
She led him into the room — when had the door been unlocked? And drew him towards the bed, purring softly.
"Wait," he said slowly, his tongue slowed for some reason.
"No," she whispered, pulling herself to him, and delicately nipping his ear with her teeth. "Not any longer, Keiichi… You're mine."
"Bell…" he said slowly, trying to fight off the strange compulsion. "Belldandy…"
Mara smirked, reaching to place one of Keiichi's hands on her chest. "Do you feel that, Keiichi?" she whispered, still using her seductive tone. He nodded in response slowly. "I'm real… you can touch me… and tonight?" He blinked, unable to answer her questioning tone. "You will," she completed, her tongue peeking from between her lips as she faced him again.
Gasping for breath, Megumi sank to her knees, clutching her head. "What…" she said, her voice strained, "what's going on?"
Belldandy gently placed her hand against Megumi's forehead, retaining her ever-present warm smile. "I told you that you would remember when it was important," she said cheerfully, as Megumi's entire being was suddenly set afire — each point of it surging with some strange force, leaving her blindingly, achingly aware of herself.
It was as though she could feel the very floor beneath her, not against her skin, but against… itself, as though she were suddenly becoming part of the world surrounding her. Buoying her against the nauseating rush, Belldandy's presence seemed to expand, as though on some higher level it were more than a simple touch, instead a comforting embrace, releasing her as she slowly began to control the rush of information.
Then too, her mind seemed to… unfold, to expand to be able to accommodate the influx of information. Dazed, she drew away from Belldandy, barely aware of the fact that the new clothes that Keiichi had bought for her only the day before had been reduced beyond cinders, and she was instead clad in some light, comforting material.
Shivering, she bobbed slightly above the surface of the floor, as memories of who she was began to seep in, the barrier between her former incarnation and her current one crumbling. As it crumbled, her mind rode through eons and eons of memories in a rushing torrent, the memories slowly whirling about her to settle themselves.
"I know," she said slowly, "who I am again…"
Belldandy calmly rose, and bowed towards her. "It is good to have you back, Lady."
Urd and Skuld simply stared from their own places, their eyes overflowing with joy — a joy that Megumi could feel flowing from them into the space about her. Feel… "Thank you, Belldandy. But there is no reason to fear speaking my brothers name."
"Keiichi?" Skuld asked worriedly.
"No," Megumi said slowly, her mind still letting the odd memory and bits of knowledge settle, "Destiny." Her mind reeled momentarily, two personae struggling for dominance —
She walked across the yard to her brother, who was reading a book, and he smiled at her.
She drifted across the void between the realms, searching for her brother and flanked by her two servants.
She watched her brother try and rebuild his first motorcycle engine.
She presented the Once and Future King with his blade. He dubbed it, 'Chrysaor', 'Durandal', 'Sanglamore', and many other names, in many other instances.
She attended her first day of high school, where she met the boy who would be her first boyfriend.
She watched with horror as her brother defeated her again, sending an adder to end the life of the King. Arthur, Parikshit, Marduuk, and more… each falling to her brother before his Fate was complete.
She got her own apartment, preparing to live life on her own as she went through school.
She fell to nothingness as her brother destroyed himself in the stuff of Chaos, where none could follow…
She woke up, surrounded by three sisters.
— and in one voice, the three sisters spoke, "Welcome back, Lady Fate."
Mara lay tired, catching her breath. Her wings were gone for the moment, as they had interfered with… She glanced at the room, only dimly remembering the process of obtaining it.
The room itself was tacky, garishly decorated in too-bright colors and probably none-too-clean behind the sparse furnishings. Smiling, she turned to look at the man she had entered the room with. He lay quiescent, staring at the ceiling thoughtfully.
"Mmm…" she began, biting back her first word. "Are you mad at me?" she asked instead.
He smirked, shaking his head without meeting her eyes. "Nay."
Biting her lip, and feeling the fatigue of her assorted exertions overtake her, she asked, "Are you… did I make a mistake?"
He said nothing for a long moment, then shook his head again. "In the first instance only, and then, you are not to blame. You could not have known of the plan… But no more. Let us quit this place. You are tired, and as much as I enjoyed your tender affections… I have not yet subsumed 'Keiichi'." He paused for a moment, considering, then added, "I will do that later. For the nonce, however, I would have you rest. Come."
With that, he stretched, ignoring the discarded clothing that they had worn, and touched her wrist gently. Her world fell to a rushing flood of black flames, though his presence shielded her from the worst of the disorientation… and then she was back, among the fallen columns of Destiny's palace.
He eyed the decay for a moment before shrugging, and with a gesture, a small Grecian building stood where once there was rubble. "The rest, I shall take care of later. For now, you may rest, recover, and when I need you again, I shall summon you."
She nodded, standing again, and unconcerned about her lack of clothing. Destiny was already clothed once more in his traditional gray cloak, his armor beneath it, though that faded, to be replaced with the clothes Keiichi had worn into the love hotel. "I…" she began, biting her lip and turning to look at her feet.
"Think you, then," he began, "that that meant nothing to me?" He shook his head. "You think wrongly. I care for you. Deeply. That you have aided my quest draws me closer, I should think. I do not mind at all… you have remained loyal to me, where…" he grimaced distastefully, "where your sister has not. We will speak of this later." With that, he reached a hand to her chin, cupping it gently and drawing her into a deep, searching kiss. "Rest, now."
Overwhelmed, she nodded, as he ascended beyond the abyss in a roaring column of dark energy. "I love you," she whispered to his vanishing trail. "And you care for me…"
And suddenly, the blinding optimism of the love that Belldandy felt as her doublet partner wasn't such a nuisance anymore. Sighing softly, she retreated into the chamber her master had prepared for her — replete with fresh clothing, so that she wouldn't need to expend any of her own energy to create them — and rest.
To be continued.
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