A Ranma ½ / Oh! My Goddess crossover story
Disclaimer: Okay, li'l keiki, you know the drill… Ranma ½ and its characters and settings belong to Rumiko Takahashi, Shogakukan, Kitty, and Viz Video. Oh, My Goddess belongs to Fujishima Kousuke, Kodansha, TBS and KSS films; AnimEigo, Studio Proteus, and Dark Horse Comics. I'm just using them shamelessly. Other characters and situations that may appear in the series are inspired or borrowed from Jim Bader, Nicole Manders, DB Summers, or a number of others that I haven't yet mentioned…
Certe, Toto, sentio nos in Kansas non iam adesse…
Chapter 3: The Big Date, or Kuno Gets Lucky?
Kuno was at his favorite French restaurant. This, in itself, was hardly unusual. He had a female companion with him. This, also, was not rare, for his sister often accompanied him to the place on those occasions when peace broke out in the Kuno household. No, what made this visit so remarkable was the fact that the self-proclaimed Blue Thunder's company wasn't his dearly-loved-but-twisted sister, but rather a woman of divine grace and incredible beauty. In short, Kuno was on a date with Freya.
Now, one thing Tatewaki Kuno could never understand was his tremendous difficulty in getting dates. Was he not, after all, tall, handsome of feature and manly of bearing? Indeed, was he not every fair maiden's dream? Why, then, had he been turned down so many times? Akane Tendo… the Pigtailed Girl… Miss Hinako… Shun Kisaragi from that Greenwood school… the list went on. It must surely be a curse inflicted upon him by that vile sorcerer, Ranma Saotome.
And wasn't it interesting, Kuno thought to himself as he watched his date dig into her food with a surprising gusto, how they met. There was a small park, a mere patch of green amidst the concrete vastness of the city, which he passed regularly in his daily rounds, thinking nothing of it. But this time, there was something different. A young woman of regal bearing, evidently practicing with a sword. Kuno, being quite interested in swords, paused to watch. His practiced eye took in her form. The sword was certainly not Japanese; it was straight, unlike his collection of katana, and short, being about — as he measured it visually — some three feet in length. It also seemed to have quite an amount of steel in it, but the woman wielded it as if it were made of sea-foam. The weapon looked almost… primitive, but its owner used it with a grace and skill he had never seen before.
So it was quite natural that Kuno would challenge the sword-bearing beauty. He had his bokken with him, of course; he never left home without it. It was clear his chosen opponent was foreign, and he had no idea if she could speak Japanese or not, so he attempted to make his intentions clear by saluting her with his sword, then pointing it at her and taking up a fighting posture. He breathed a sigh of relief as she smiled, nodded, saluted and took up her own guard stance.
Now, Kuno was indeed the rising star of the high school kendo circuit, as he quite often pointed out, but just at the moment he was a little unsure how to start this match. His opponent seemed able enough in practice, but there was a vast difference between practice and actual combat. He decided on an easy and cautious approach, so as to not unduly startle and frighten the "sword-wielding beauty".
He needn't have bothered. Freya quite easily blocked and parried each of Kuno's half-hearted attacks, and then, to indicate her impatience with his "go easy on her, she is but a mere woman" style, opened a flurry of aggressive attacks that took Kuno momentarily by surprise and that he countered only with difficulty. The pair broke apart briefly and Kuno re-thought his strategy.
Now he used all his expertise, delighting in an opponent both beautiful and skilled. He generously granted that the woman before him might indeed be almost as skilled as himself. A flurry of mutual attacks, parries, and counterattacks followed, blades moving fast as thought. Passersby who saw the pair in action could see nothing but blurs where hands and weapons should have been†.
Another pause for breath, and Kuno issued his ultimate challenge. "If you should win, I will allow you to date with me." And much to the young man's unexpected astonishment, not only did the beauty show that she understood the language of the gods (that's Japanese to you), she replied in the same language, "All right…"
Kuno was, as I have related before, accustomed to being turned down whenever he made this offer. He didn't understand it, certainly, but it was a basic fact of his life. He was so surprised, therefore, when this warrior maiden before him agreed to his magnanimous offer that he stood rooted to the ground for the briefest of moments… long enough for Freya to move inside his guard and bop him, quite lightly, on the head with the hilt of her sword.
"I win!" she smirked. "And, as I am the victor… it is you who may date me!"
Kuno wasn't used to having his offer of a date turned on its head.
And thus it was that the two of them, having agreed on a day… and then on another day after that nasty Happosai business put paid to the first day, were together in a top quality — and expensive — French restaurant. Kuno had not minded when Freya, as he had learned her name was, ordered the most pricey item on the menu, but watching her dive into her food with a determined single-mindedness, and hearing her ask about the chance of more, made him feel some concern for the state of his wallet. No matter. A true gentleman and samurai should not trouble himself with such petty details as expense on such occasions. Still… it was amazing how she was eating. Kuno never stooped to watching anything so common as anime (but he did have a sizable collection of kabuki and samurai drama videos), but he had heard about the dining exploits of Lina Inverse from those whose tastes were less refined, and he briefly wondered if his date was somehow related to that sorceress.
What he didn't know, of course, is that being not just a warrior maiden, but a Nordic goddess warrior maiden tends to give one a tremendous appetite. Not to mention the fact that Freya had demonstrated time and again that she could certainly keep up with the boys in Valhalla.
Meanwhile, behind a dumpster across from the restaurant…
"Nabiki!" Kasumi scolded, "This isn't right!" The elder Tendo daughter loved her sister dearly, of course, but there were times that she came up with plots and schemes that were decidedly improper. Like lurking behind a dumpster, camera in hand, just waiting for something to happen, just as an example. It's a good thing Akane isn't around to see this, Kasumi thought.
"C'mon, Kasumi! Like I told you before, this whole set-up between sis, Ranma, Shampoo and Ukyo just rubs me the wrong way. Used to be about the only thing Akane and our resident gender-bender had in common was fighting with each other. Toss in Ukyo and Shampoo and they'd all end up practically destroying whatever building they happen to be in. It's worse than being on the set of Toho Studios! And now they're a loving couple plus two? It just doesn't add up! And somehow, I just know Freya's behind it!"
"But Nabiki, that's impossible! You know it was Ukyo's unfortunate suicide attempt that brought them all together, and that happened before Freya visited." Kasumi pointed out. "And anyway, the four of them make a cute couple, don't you think? Besides, Ranma and Akane still fight… especially when Sis tries to cook…"
"I know that Ukyo trying to fling herself off some building, and Shampoo rescuing her and almost getting herself killed made them decide on a group arrangement, but… Oh, I don't know, Kasumi, I don't even know what I'm trying to say, it's just that I feel there's something… not right about it all. I don't want to break the thing up, really I don't… When do you last remember seeing Akane so happy, after all? I don't want to ruin that, I just want some explanations, that's all. Maybe I'm just being paranoid, but—"
Kasumi interrupted her sister's rant with a question that had been bothering her ever since they got into position. "Nabiki, what's the camera for?"
"Weeeell…" Nabiki drawled, "…Maybe I can catch Kuno and Freya in a compromising situation. A bit of kissy-face, perhaps? The boys at school have been asking about that hot new babe at Shampoo's, after all. I just might be able to make a bit of money, and then a bit more when Freya tries to buy the photos back. Girl's gotta look after her profit margin, after all."
There were times when even Kasumi had to draw in a breath.
Back in the restaurant, Kuno was busy having his curiosity satisfied.
"So you are from Norway? You are a long way from home, then. What brings you to these shores?" the erstwhile Blue Thunder inquired.
Freya had to think fast. What was that story she had worked out with Cologne? Oh, yes… "I'm an exchange student at… at Nekomi Tech." She just said the first university that came to her.
"Ah, indeed? And what is it that you are studying here that you cannot learn back home?"
"I'm studying… comparative mythology." Yes, that's it… comparative mythology! Yeah, that'll do…. "I'm quite familiar with the legends and doings of the gods back home, of course, but I'm interested in your indigenous deities…" Freya lied. Well, not entirely; after all, she was quite aware of the doings of gods back home, since home was Asgard, and she had "done" a number of the gods… and not a few of the goddesses, too.
"And where are you residing during your stay here?" Kuno was, of course, a perfect gentleman, but given his date's beauty and considerable… charms… Well, even he had the brief notion of a nighttime visit to Freya's domicile. He'd been reading Tale of Genji again…
Freya quickly put a damper on that. "I've been staying at the Nekohanten, with Shampoo. Do you know her?"
"Ah, yes, the fair noodle vendor… Indeed I know her." Kuno didn't mind Shampoo; she was quite nice, for a foreigner, but if Freya was staying with Shampoo, that meant she was also staying with the old ghoul… Err… The aged but esteemed Cologne. And the thought of her making an appearance when Kuno might be trying to sweet-talk his Sword-Wielding Beauty was enough to give him nightmares and take the steel out of his sword, in a manner of speaking.
And so the two of them talked, each thinking their own thoughts about each other. Kuno was amazed at Freya's command of the Japanese language, and, as he drew out her knowledge of the Nordic gods (he maintained an interest in Japanese mythology, and it wouldn't hurt to expand his knowledge. After all, there were some things even he, the mighty Blue Thunder, did not know.). He was captivated by her story-telling skills. Why, the way she told some of those legends, it might almost be that she knew the gods themselves, or knew someone who did. He was coming to the conclusion that there was something very special about her, almost magical. As much as he disliked admitting it, it seemed as if his precious Akane and his treasured pigtailed girl now had serious competition.
Freya had her own opinions regarding Kuno. His talk was so full of bluster and a clear "me first" attitude, that it reminded her of several warriors and heroes that she knew… about a thousand years ago, actually. Thinking about them made her just a little bit… well… hot. She'd have to continue Shampoo's education tonight. In the meantime, she pondered the chances of getting Kuno into Valhalla. In the old days, All-Father would give the selected hero some gift of power and strength, or a mighty weapon, and the aforementioned hero would run rampant over all and sundry for a while. And then divine favor would apparently be withdrawn, and the hero would be killed; usually in some rather gruesome and unpleasant manner. Thus would another hero be gathered up on the off chance that Ragnarok was due. Still, Freya considered, things couldn't be done like that in this day and age. Maybe she'd just find a way to sneak herself into Kuno's bed sometime, and blow his… mind. She got the impression he wouldn't mind that too much.
Kuno, blissfully unaware of the goddess's thoughts, was regaling her with tales of his samurai ancestors. Much to his surprise, Freya actually seemed interested. Enthralled, even. Kuno was accustomed to being ignored — nay, even mocked — when he related his lineage. How was he to know that Freya, being a typical Asgardian, was fascinated by epics of heroism, especially if there was a lot of slaughter. And in this case, there was plenty of blood and guts to go around. For Kuno's ancestors were particularly active during the Sengoku (Warring States) period, slicing and dicing whomever their lord directed.
Freya couldn't help but to revert to… older notions, and she briefly considered honoring Kuno with an ancient Nordic ritual, the Blood Eagle†. But again, she dismissed the idea as being hopelessly retro.
There comes a point in any date, especially a first one, where both partners eventually run out of things to say, and a flat, embarrassed silence settles over the table. In such occasions, just about any interruption or distraction is welcomed. This point had now been reached by Freya and Kuno, and the interruption was about to occur.
A strange, sibilant voice called to Kuno's date from the very back of the restaurant. "Freya! What in the name of the Pyramid of the Sun are you doing in Japan?!" it hissed in astonishment.
Freya and Kuno both turned, and Kuno, for one, brave and puissant though he is, instantly regretted it. For the one that addressed his sword-bearing beauty was a hideousness unlike anything he had ever seen.
If we take a look, and not too close a one, we can see Kuno's point. After all, its not every day you see a rather beefy looking woman — at least, we assume she's a woman — wearing a skirt made entirely of writhing, hissing, and very much living snakes. Big ones, too. And that necklace made of what seemed to be human hearts and severed hands was, to say the least, distressing. And speaking of tresses, the apparition's hair was an absolute mess, matted and knotted and plastered down with a substance that appeared to be… well… blood. You certainly wouldn't want to get too close to smell her hair, that's for sure. She also seemed to have a bad skin condition, considering how rough and scaly it appeared. Her face, while human, was sharp and angular. In fact, she looked as much like a serpent as any person could.
Kuno's opinion of this vision out of Hell was succinct. "Gah…" he said.
Freya's reaction, however, was not one Kuno, nor the restaurant staff, aghast that someone like that Snake Lady could somehow slip in (because it was quite obvious she didn't come in through the front door), had expected. Surprise, of course, was perfectly normal when faced with something like this. What wasn't standard operating procedure was an apparent fond familiarity.
"Coatlicue? Question is, what are you doing in Japan? You're way off your normal turf," Freya greeted the thing, then, incredible though it seemed, hugged the frightful creature as if it were a long-lost friend.
"Ahhh, you know, just hangin' out dirtside… Heard there was a few goddesses here, thought I might drop in on them. Say, is your friend over there feeling all right? He looks a bit green," pointed out the snake lady. And to amuse herself, Coatlicue strolled over to where Kuno was sitting.
"Hey, baby… Care to show a lady a good time?"
"Coatlicue! Kuno's my date!" Freya protested.
"Easy, Goddess! Just a joke. Don't get your feathers ruffled."
"Goddess?" It was the first intelligible thing Kuno said since Coatlicue popped in.
It's… um… just a nickname. It doesn't really mean anything… really! Heh. Me, a goddess? Silly idea. Silly, silly, silly! Heh…" Freya quickly ad-libbed.
"You mean he doesn't know?" Coatlicue whispered to Freya.
"Of course not! The only people that know I'm a goddess are my clients! You know the rules!" Freya whispered back.
Meanwhile, Kuno remembered his heritage. He remembered he was the heir to a long tradition of samurai nobility, and as such, must act in a suitably noble manner. Therefore he mustered up his courage and swallowed his disgust over this Coatlicue's awful appearance, and…
"Sadly, my lady, I must decline. As my sword-bearing beauty has pointed out so rightly, this is her date, and it would be an insult most grievous to divide my attentions between two (cough) beauties…" And, the brave and noble Tatewaki Kuno thought to himself, if you think I'm going to date you, you're crazy!
"Ooooooh, he's smooth! The Aztec goddess† observed, impressed.
Back outside the restaurant, Kasumi and Nabiki were waiting for something… anything… to happen. At first, they ignored the sounds of sirens wailing in the distance, but those sirens became less and less distant, until the Tendo sisters found themselves in what appeared to be a police situation. They watched from their hiding place as the police and special operations elements deployed themselves around the restaurant. Kasumi's eyes were wide as she began to softly whisper a muted "Oh my", but her sister's hand suddenly appearing over her mouth prevented her from saying more than the first syllable.
"Keep it down, Sis. We don't want the police to know we're here! Something big's going on in there, and I'd just as soon keep out of everyone's way. I don't want to get caught up in some hostage situation," Nabiki hissed into Kasumi's ear.
"But… Freya and Kuno are in there," Kasumi pointed out.
"Yeah, I know. And while I have plenty of suspicions about Freya, and you know what I think about Mr. Blue Blunder… I… I don't want to see them get hurt. So let's just stay here, out of everyone's way, where its nice and safe, and see what happens, okay?"
Kasumi nodded her agreement and settled down to await events, which weren't long in coming. For the police shouted out, as police tend to do, "We have the place surrounded! Give yourselves up and there won't be any trouble!" (Actually, they didn't have the place surrounded. They didn't know about the hidden trapdoor that led to a dark and mysterious system of tunnels, wherein were performed unspeakable rites and rituals… But then, neither did Freya, Coatlicue, or Kuno.)
Back inside the restaurant, two goddesses were rather surprised to find themselves the center of attention by the local agents of law and order. Kuno, of course, had long since passed the level of surprise, and was hovering somewhere around the point of astonishment. And it started out to be such a nice date, too.
"Jeez, what's all that noise in aid of, anyway? And where'd all those people come from?" Coatlicue pressed her hands to her ears to block out the painful sounds from outside.
Freya shook her head in puzzlement and looked around. Significantly, the restaurant manager was no where to be seen. "Crap. Must have been him that called in the fuzz," she mused.
"Why call in the police, anyway? There's nothing going on," Coatlicue observed.
"Well, darlin', my guess is the manager took one look at you and call in the troopers. After all, you must admit that to these mortals, you do present a rather intimidating appearance."
Kuno didn't understand why the two ladies — or at least, one lady and one something else — were flinging words like "mortals" around, but he felt obliged to support Freya. "Indeed yes, you do look most unique. I, the Blue Thunder, have seen many things, but nothing to compare to you." This from a young man who once had a phoenix perched on his head.
"Yep, a smoothie, all right. Anyway, I can't help how I look! Blame it on those crazy priests; they're the ones that gave me this form to begin with. Bloody weird Aztec imagination, if you ask me," Coatlicue complained.
Freya hissed sharply in her Aztec friend's ear. "Keep it down! You're giving away too many hints about us! You'll get us both in trouble! Kuno may be like the heroes of old, big and dumb, but even he can put things together, you know." (Little did she know — especially when it came to a certain flame-haired girl with a pigtail)
"Relax, will ya? Don't getcher feathers all ruffled! How 'bout I go out, talk to the nice men in the uniforms, explain that it's all just a silly misunderstanding and they can leave now," Coatlicue offered with a toothy grin.
"I know what you're thinking. Talk to them, like fun. You're planning on putting a big scare into them, and we all escape in the confusion! Somehow I don't think that'll work. This place, Nerima… Its not like other cities here in Japan, or anyplace. It's not as bad as, say, Arkham, but from what I've been told, even the domestic residents are used to seeing weird stuff and weird people, here," Freya explained.
"So the Big Bad Bloodthirsty Aztec Goddess bit won't work here?" pouted Coatlicue
"No," said Freya. "But I might have a way… Feel like a bit of fun? Like a good rumble?"
"What? You mean… a fight? With them? Out there? The nice men with the uniforms… and the guns?" The Aztec goddess shivered.
"Hey, what's guns to us, right? We're both goddesses, or have you forgot?" Freya reminded. "We zoom in, deck 'em, and zoom out! Simple!"
"Um… Freya… I know you're a battle goddess and all that, but couldn't we just, you know, teleport or fly out of here instead?"
"Well, where's the enjoyment in that? What's wrong, Coatlicue, not turning green on me, are you?"
"Look, gimme a break, okay! I mean, what do you expect, I was attacked by 400 of my children, and had to rely on my son Huzzy to save me!" Coatlicue huffed. "Besides, what do we do about your date there?"
"Ummm… Yeah. That is a problem…" the Asgardian goddess pondered.
Kuno, of course, had his own thoughts on the subject, especially since he heard them discussing battle. "Nay, shall I, Tatewaki Kuno, allow such fair maidens to sully themselves in combat? Permit me, then, to draw my mighty sword of justice and carve for thee a path to true freedom!" he nobly offered as he brandished his bokken.
Coatlicue took in a glance at that bokken. She boggled. "What? Are you off your nut? You, go thrashing away against them guys out there with the guns and all, armed only with a dirty big stick? Freya, I hate to say this, but your date's a loon!"
"Well, actually, in the hands of an expert, those 'dirty big sticks', as you call them, can break bones, split skulls, and burst internal organs," Freya explained.
"Well… Okay, but still, one mortal against the boys in blue out there? This isn't exactly the old days, Freya, where one hero could overcome impossible odds," Coatlicue pointed out.
"Yea, though I wade through an ocean of blood, I shall fulfill my mission and keep my fair maiden," and one not-so-fair maiden, "safe." Kuno was off again.
"Unfortunately, Kuno, Coatlicue is right. Brave though you are (it never hurt to stroke a guy's ego a little, so long as you didn't overdo it), I really am much better suited for this sort of thing. You just wait here, and let me be your Battle Maiden, okay?" And she effectively stilled any protest Kuno might have made by a quick peck on his cheek.
And thus it was that Coatlicue and Freya emerged from the restaurant, prepared to do battle. Well, at least Freya was. While the assembled agents of the law boggled at Coatlicue, who muttered, "Why do people always look at me that way…?", a nimbus began to surround Freya, glowing ever brighter until she flared. And in the place of a exquisite woman dressed for a date, there was instead a veritable winged goddess garbed in gold-washed chainmail, the links small and finely crafted, that reached down to her waist, her loins covered by a short pure white skirt that left her curvaceous legs exposed (and she'd better have something under them…), a shield shining bright as the sun on one arm, and the other holding sword that looked like it meant business.
Off to the side, behind the police lines and well-hidden, Kasumi gasped in surprise as Freya transformed, and Nabiki started snapping photos. She hoped she had enough film, because it suddenly looked as if things were about to get interesting. And well about time, too, she thought.
And so they were. Freya exploded into a blur of motion, the only evidence of her passage a gold-colored streak across the front of the police. There were sounds of heavy thumps all along the line, and suddenly Freya was back at her starting position, the police still standing, but apparently in a state of shock. The goddess walked up to the nearest, who evidenced no reaction to being approached by such a divine form, his eyes focused fixedly ahead. Freya gently puffed on him, and down he went, falling stiffly onto his nearest companion, who also fell onto his neighbor, and so on, like a line of dominoes, until there was a circle of fallen police and SWAT units around the restaurant.
Freya, satisfied with a job well done, gathered up Coatlicue and went back into the restaurant for Kuno, while from their hiding place, Kasumi and Nabiki boggled at the quick work she made of the police, and the question in both their minds was, "What is this Freya?!" Kuno was suitably impressed seeing his date in her battle garb, puzzled at her wings, and was amazed, as he emerged from the eatery with Freya and her Aztec friend, at the sight presented by a circle of comatose police. Oh, and one Ford LTD that had just arrived.
Freya turned slightly pale as the bulky car pulled up, and Coatlicue didn't look much better. "Oh crap, not them! Freya groaned. "Can't a goddess have any fun anymore?"
The car parked and two figures, dressed in black suits, got out. The shorter, stockier of the two, both women, adjusted her sunglasses and strode up to Freya. Her face, as if cast in stone, revealed no emotion as she surveyed the scene… Unlike her companion, a tall, willowy black woman with an almost fashion model beauty, who was looking at the circle of fallen officers with frank amazement.
"Hello, Freya. I heard you were up to something here," spoke the first suit.
"They're not… dead, are they?" the taller one asked.
Freya sighed. "Hello, Kay. I'd say I'm glad to see you, but it'd be a lie, and goddesses aren't supposed to lie, you know. And no, they aren't dead, just taking a bit of a nap. Who's the newbie, Kay?"
"Um… I'm Jay," spoke the black woman, in a bit of awe from being addressed by a being of evidently great power.
"What are you guys doing out here, anyway? We are goddesses, not aliens, or haven't you noticed? You're a bit out of your jurisdiction," Freya groused.
"Jurisdiction's been expanded lately. There's been too much attention given by you divinities to this sector to go unsupervised. And you gods and goddesses do tend to play around with we poor mortals like so many toys," explained Agent Kay.
"Poor mortals, my shaved… er… never mind. But I swear, you guys exist to take the joy out of things," the Nordic goddess pouted.
"All part of the job," Kay said. "Jay, you look after the police there and the restaurant staff. I'll neuralize the boy." And she pointed to Kuno, who was suddenly of the distressing opinion that he was in the middle of something that was above even his head.
Freya looked upset. "Can you wait just a minute or two?" She went up to Kuno, wrapped her arms around him, and much to his surprise, pressed herself against him and kissed him deeply. Kuno's toes curled as a result.
"At least give him a good memory, okay? This was supposed to be a date, after all."
"All right," Kay agreed. She held a slender, pen-shaped object before a puzzled Kuno, pressed a small button, and the boy's face was bathed with a strange red light. "You had a wonderful date, you both ate a lot of good food, you went out dancing afterwards and you both had an enjoyable time. She even gave you an after-date kiss," the agent instructed the Blue Thunder.
"Just about finished here," Jay informed her partner.
"Good. We'll take the boy here back home. And Freya, you'd better go home, too, before you get into any more trouble. And Coatlicue, you should get back to your own pantheon," Kay advised, as she bundled a dazed Kuno into the car.
Kasumi and Nabiki had instinctively ducked behind their corner at the arrival of the strange pair of women in the black suits. For some reason, they both had the idea those two were Bad News. Then there was that red flash they could just see from their hiding place. Some heavy-duty weirdness had gone down, no mistake, and Freya evidently was not very happy about it, given the amount of grousing and complaining she was doing as she left.
That evening, after the two Tendo sisters had returned home, they watched the news together to see if there was any explanation of the day's events. There was. "…and today in Nerima, filming for a new monster movie got out of hand when an animatronic robot went out of control and injured some police that were called in to deal with the situation. More details at 11:00," the announcer read.
"Nabiki… That's not what happened, was it?"
"No, sis, and we've got the pictures to prove it. Or we will as soon as I get them developed. And then we'll have the goods on Freya!"
To be continued.
1. It should be remembered that Kuno is a quite accomplished kendoist. It's only in the light of the other martial artists that frequent Nerima that his star shines with less brilliance than its usual wont. (Okay, Kuno, now stop pointing that pig-sticker at me. Please?)
2. Just what is this Blood Eagle thing? Well, it's kind of gruesome. Basically, it involves staking the person out on his back and carefully splitting open his sternum. You then spread out his ribs so that they somewhat resemble the wings of a bird… and the point of all this is that if you're good at it, the honoree is still alive at that point. I can't imagine the victim of this procedure would have felt particularly honored, but it's in the sagas. Just don't ask me which one, okay?
3. Coatlicue, whose name means "She of the Serpent Skirt", was the Earth goddess in Aztec mythology, and also the goddess of Death. She was the mother of the god of war, Huitzilopochtli, by way of a virgin birth. Her husband was Mixcoatl, the cloud serpent and god of the chase. In Aztec accounts, Coatlicue was miraculously impregnated with a ball of feathers while sweeping out a temple at Coatepec. Her children Coyolxauhqui and the Centzon Huitznahua (the Four Hundred Gods of the South — Four Hundred, you gasp? Well, she was a mother goddess, after all) were furious at her condition and decided to kill her. At the moment of her impending death, Coatlicue gave birth to the fully-armed Huitzilopochtli, who, with his Xiuhcoatl weapon, dismembered Coyolxauhqui and routed the Centzon Huitznahua at the hill of Coatepec.
Depictions of Coatlicue are fairly rare in Aztec art. The Most famous representation, and one of the most powerful Aztec sculptures, is a colossal figure discovered in 1790 alongside the Cathedral of Mexico, which was built atop the foundations of the primary temple of Tenochtitlán. Standing on huge taloned feet, Coatlicue wears a dress of woven rattlesnakes. Her pendulous breasts are partially obscured behind a grisly necklace of severed hearts and hands. Writhing coral snakes appear in place of her head and hands, denoting gouts of blood gushing from her throat and wrists. The two great snakes emerging from her neck face one another, creating a face of living blood. A monument of cosmic terror, Coatlicue stands violated and mutilated, her wounds mutely demanding revenge against her enemies.
This chapter was written with the assistance of a passing Goon Show… and in case you're wondering, yes, I was reading George MacDonald Fraser's "The Pyrates". Again.
And once again, I'd like to thank Jim Bader for all his encouragement regarding "Aiyah! My Goddess?", and the inspiration he's given me from his many excellent fanfics. (Yes, that's right, this is all your fault, Jim!) I'd also like to thank Larry F for putting this series up on his site and giving it a home. And I thank Timm and Georgie, for just being there.
This chapter brought to you by the Kuno Family 100% Total Success Matchmaker Service!
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