Quality Assurance

An "Oh, My Goddess!" Fan Fic By Robaato

"Oh, My Goddess!" characters (c) Kousuke Fujishima and Kodansha, licensed to Studio Proteus and Dark Horse in America. Used with reverence, and the best of intentions, without permission, and of course with no thought of profit.

"Aaaghh!"

The ringing of the phone startled Keiichi so much that the pencil in his hand snapped, smudging the blueprints he was working on. Muttering a bit, Keiichi grabbed another from the cup on his drawing table, and erased the stray mark.

The phone continued to ring.

Why doesn't someone get that? Keiichi thought to himself, as he tried to figure out where he had left off. This project was due tomorrow, and he was hurrying to finish on time. His professor was notorious for refusing to accept late work, and Kei was afraid that he'd be pulling an all-nighter.

The phone rang again, and Keiichi suddenly remembered: He was the only one home at the moment. Belldandy had taken her sisters out shopping earlier that day, so that he could have some peace and quiet to work. Keiichi smiled to himself. Bell...you are always so considerate...

Keiichi was startled out of his reverie by another insistent ring from the telephone. He jumped up from his desk and dashed out into the hall, grabbing the handset before it could ring again. "Morisato residence, Keiichi here."

"Is this... uh... Keiichi Morisato?" The insistent female voice immediately began to irritate Keiichi. Didn't I just say that?

However, he did his best to keep the irritation from his voice as he replied, "Yes, that's me."

"Ah, Mr... Morisato, my name is Ex, and I'm with the Helper Goddess Office. I'm calling you as part of our Quality Control Program for Customer Satisfaction Assessment. I have a few questions for you --"

Keiichi tried to interrupt, to explain why he couldn't do this now. "Uh, look, I really don't have --"

"This is Keiichi Morisato I'm speaking to, yes?"

"Yes, but --"

"And you did place a call to the Goddess Technical Help Line last year, correct?"

"Yes, well --"

"Now let me see...." Keiichi could hear the clicking of a computer keyboard in the background. "Your access request was answered by... the goddess Belldandy, right?"

Keiichi sighed. "Yessss..."

"Well, then." There was a barely muted triumph in her voice, oddly mixed with boredom. "Since Belldandy granted your access request, you were given a wish. My job is to make sure that you, the customer, are satisfied with the quality of your granted wish. So, I'll just need a few minutes of your time."

Keiichi had already surrendered; he had picked up the base of the phone and taken it back into his room, silently giving thanks that the phone had an extra-long cord. "Okay, okay, go ahead, I'm listening." Keiichi sat down and wearily rested his head on his desk.

"All right, then, Mr. Morisato. We've already established that you made an access request, and the goddess Belldandy responded to your request by contracting with you for a wish." The operator had settled into the bored monotone of someone reading from a script for the umpteenth time. "Now, has your wish been fulfilled?"

"Yes, so far," mumbled Keiichi.

"Excuse me?"

Keiichi raised his head from the desk. "I said, yes, so far." He began to realize that answering this woman's questions and continuing to work on his homework were mutually exclusive.

"So far? Hmmm." There was another burst of typing sounds in the background. "Would you say that your wish was fulfilled in a timely fashion?"

"Err... yes, I suppose."

More typing. "Are you satisfied with how your wish was fulfilled?"

"Well, yes, very much so."

"Could you elaborate on that, please, Mr. Morisato?"

Keiichi was taken aback by that one. That's getting a bit personal, now.... Aloud, he responded, "Well, uh, this past year having Belldandy here with me has been the best --"

"Wait -- wait a minute." The typing had stopped. "'Having Belldandy here with...'" The operator had been surprised out of her usual routine. "You mean... Belldandy is still there?!"

"Well, not right at this moment, but, um...yes."

"Ah, so your contract is one that is taking an extended period to fulfill, correct?" It sounded as if Ex had regained a portion of her composure.

Keiichi smiled. "You could say that, yes."

"All right then.... Hold one moment please." Keiichi heard some muted clicks and beeps. "Okay, Mr. Morisato, I've pulled up your initial contract file here. Your wish was --" There was a pause. Keiichi amused himself by imagining the look on the operator's face. "You wished for a goddess like her to be with you forever!?"

Keiichi's smile widened. "Yes, that's correct!"

The operator sounded as if she was in shock. "And that wish was approved? I don't believe it! This is highly irregular..."

Another moment of silence passed. "Umm, is that the end of the questions? Because I've got this project I need to finish --"

"Look, Mr. Morisato, this is all very unusual. Your wish -- well, it's quite irregular. I'm going to have to check with my supervisor about the validity of this contract."

"What? Hey, wait a minute --" But all Keiichi heard was a click and then some light music. He had been put on hold.

Oh, well, Keiichi thought. At least I can get some more work done. He cradled the phone between his shoulder and his ear while he continued his calculations.

A few minutes passed. Keiichi had begun to hum along with the music, when he suddenly realized what the operator had said. Check on the validity of the contract!? After all that he and Bell had been through that past Christmas, was he in danger of losing her again?

Keiichi firmly pushed that thought from his mind. Even Kami-sama had said that Belldandy could stay. He was sure that this was just some computer glitch. He hoped.

With another click, the music stopped, startling Keiichi. "Hello? Hello?"

The voice of the operator was hushed, almost respectful. "Mr. Morisato? It seems... it seems that my supervisor would like to speak to you."

Keiichi felt as if his heart had stopped for a moment. "Your supervisor?"

"Yes.... Please hold for Kami-sama."

Kami-sama? Keiichi's pencil fell from his suddenly nerveless fingers. Oh boy...

The phone clicked again, and Keiichi almost jumped across the floor. Before he could say anything, a deep, mellifluous voice spoke from the handset.

"Greetings to you, Keiichi Morisato. How are you today?"

Keiichi was frozen in shock. It--it's Kami-sama, he thought nervously, and he's making small talk with me! All that came from Kei's mouth was a nervous stuttering sound.

"Keiichi? Are you there?" The voice of Kami-sama was at first concerned, then amused. "Ah. Please, relax. I just want to have a few words with you."

As if those words had flipped a switch in his mind, Keiichi felt a measure of calmness pour into him. Kei's body relaxed a bit, and he let out a breath he didn't even know he had been holding. He cleared his throat, still just a little nervous. "Uh, good day, sir! I'm doing fine, I think..." Keiichi looked at his project spread in front of him and sighed.

Kami-sama chuckled a bit. "Don't worry about your schoolwork, Keiichi. I will endeavor to not take too much of your time, but I do need to have a serious talk with you."

"Thank you, Kami-sama." Keiichi was surprised to note that his voice had steadied. "What about, sir?"

"You are in a unique situation, Keiichi Morisato. I know of no other mortal who has shared residence with not one, but three goddesses for any length of time."

"Yes, well, things sometimes get a little rough, I mean between Urd and Skuld, but Belldandy always fixes things." Keiichi swallowed nervously. "I mean, we've all kind of settled down. Like a family, I guess."

The amusement had returned to Kami-sama's voice. "Oh? We still occasionally register energy surges centered on your location, you know."

Keiichi floundered a bit. "Sibling rivalry," was all that he could think to say.

Amusement gave way to kindly laughter. "Well put, Keiichi. I couldn't have said it better myself."

Keiichi joined in the laughter for a bit, but abruptly fell silent. This is GOD that I'm talking to! he reminded himself, awestruck.

Kami-sama continued to laugh for a moment. "Speaking of that, Keiichi," Kami-sama went on, "how are you doing with both Urd and Skuld living there with you and Belldandy?"

"I -- I'm not sure what you mean, sir." Kami-sama wants MY opinion on something?

"Well, although I have been keeping track of events, I would like to know how you are doing. After all, Urd's dealings with the world of men have not always been for the best, and Skuld hasn't had much experience there at all. How do you think things are going?"

Keiichi racked his brain for a response to that one. "Uh... things are going fine, sir. Urd and Skuld have picked up a lot of... people skills, I guess you could call it. And they seem to be adjusting to life down here okay." Meaning, of course, nothing's blown up lately.

Kami-sama chuckled a little. "I agree with you, Keiichi. Urd and Skuld are benefiting greatly from their time on earth. They are learning how to relate to mortals on mortal terms, both by observing Belldandy, who has a natural knack for it, and by living with you. You've been a good influence on them."

The compliment caught Keiichi by surprise. "Why...thank you very much, sir!"

"You're very welcome, Keiichi. But checking up on Urd and Skuld wasn't the reason why I wanted to speak to you."

Keiichi put down his pencil, confused. "I... I don't understand, sir."

"I am curious as to how you feel about living with three goddesses."

"Sir?"

"Belldandy lives there because of your wish, and because she wishes it too; Skuld is there as an earth-trainee; and Urd, well, Urd is working off some suspensions she's accumulated. But, at least with Urd and Skuld, no one has really asked you how you feel about the situation. I would like to remedy this now."

Keiichi was beyond surprise at this point.

"So, Keiichi Morisato," Kami-sama went on, "you have gone through many trials in the past year. Your life has been disrupted greatly - everything from system bugs to demon attacks, yet you have borne it well. Better, in fact, than any mortal could be reasonably expected to."

Keiichi interjected, "But sir, even if living with three goddesses helped cause these... trials, isn't it also true that living with three goddesses helped me deal with them?"

"Yes, this is true."

"Well, then," Kei went on, "there are benefits to living with three goddesses."

"This is also true, Keiichi. What I am asking you, then, is whether in your mind the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. Are you willing to continue having all three goddesses live with you?"

Kei felt a bead of sweat trickle down his forehead. "Well..." A surprisingly unpleasant thought suddenly occurred to Keiichi. "Kami-sama, if I could ask --"

"Go ahead, Keiichi."

Kei swallowed nervously. "Er... are you trying to tell me that... you need Urd and Skuld back in Heaven?"

"Oh, no, don't worry, Keiichi," Kami-sama said, reassuringly. "Even though the Helper Goddess Office is a bit short-handed right now, the benefits of Urd's and Skuld's experiences living on earth certainly justify a little extra work here. Besides, there are a few other divisions that can pick up the slack."

"And...(gulp)... Belldandy?"

"Ah, Belldandy. Now that's a different case altogether." Kei's heart froze for a moment. "Do not fear, Keiichi," Kami-sama continued. "Now that the problem with the bug exhaust port has been eliminated, all is as it was before. Belldandy has been released from her duties here in Heaven in order to fulfill your wish."

For the first time since this phone call began, Keiichi truly relaxed. Kami-sama had just laid his last nagging fears to rest. I still have a hard time believing that such a wonderful goddess would stay with me - on the strength of a wish! Kei thought to himself.

"Well, that's easy to explain, Keiichi," said Kami-sama, just as if Keiichi had spoken aloud. "It's not just your wish at work here."

"Uh -- what?!"

"Never mind, Keiichi. All will become clear in time." Again, Kami-sama sounded amused about something. "We have gotten a bit off topic here."

"I'm sorry, sir...."

"Don't worry about it, Keiichi. Take your time -- think about it."

Keiichi frowned in thought. "Well, I guess there have been a lot of hard times in the past few months..." Kei thought of some of the things that had happened since he began living with the goddesses. Little things, like Aoshima trying to steal Belldandy away from him; bigger things, like the demon Mara turning his sister Megumi into a car (but oh, what a nice car that was.... Keiichi shook his head abruptly - stay on the subject!); to that horrible business with the bug exhaust port that almost took Bell away for good. He shuddered a bit.

But then, Kei remembered how Urd and Skuld worked so hard together to solve the problem and close the port. He remembered how Urd helped him regain his energy, during that week when it seemed he was working twenty four hours a day. He remembered how Urd, and later Skuld, would always lend a hand with the motor club, from helping recruit members to cheering at races, to building -- and sometimes rebuilding -- vehicles from the ground up.

On the other hand, thought Keiichi, there's the way that Skuld kept on trying to prevent Belldandy and me from getting too close, while at the same time Urd keeps on trying to push us closer together...

Keiichi shook his head again. He gathered his courage in both hands, and in a rush, he said, "Kami-sama, sir, I'm sorry, but it's no good trying to weigh benefits and drawbacks."

"Oh?" Kami-sama replied. Keiichi swallowed hard, and continued.

"Yes, sir. I mean, well, there will always be good and bad things about living here with three goddesses. But like I said before, we've become a family. Yes, we have occasional... difficulties, but we always work through them. We've stuck together, through both the good and the bad. Being together means more than just profit and loss..." Keiichi trailed off at this point.

"It is true that you have managed to surmount every 'difficulty' you have had to face, Keiichi, but I must warn you that these trials are not going to get easier." Kami-sama said. His voice had become more stern. The atmosphere in the room seemed to darken, to get a bit heavier. "In fact, they are going to get much harder."

Kei's eyes opened a bit wider at this. "Harder...."

"Yes, Keiichi. I must warn you that many problems await you on the path you are taking. You will be faced with forces that are beyond your comprehension, forces which haven't been seen on earth in millenia."

The dark, foreboding tones of Kami-sama's voice sent a chill into Keiichi. Kami-sama's words brought with them premonitions of danger, faint visions of an ancient evil awakening, all of them fighting for their lives. Kei closed his eyes against the dark visions.

A moment passed before Keiichi felt he could speak. "Well, I appreciate the warnings, sir. I understand that you want to spare me from too much difficulty." He took a deep breath. "But, Kami-sama, sir, well, if I can help fight this coming evil, I want to do all I can. I mean, I know I'm only a mortal, but I think that together, Bell, Urd, Skuld and I can do... anything." Keiichi felt as if he were holding up a shield against the darkness, and that shield was -- "We love each other, Kami-sama. We are a team. We are... a family."

"Once again, well said, Keiichi!" Kami-sama's voice had returned to being friendly. Keiichi let out his breath in a whoosh.

"Thank you, Kami-sama," he said, weakly.

A new, more formal note entered into Kami-sama's voice. Almost imperceptibly, the room began to brighten. "You have chosen a hard road, Keiichi Morisato. However, as you have begun to learn, the hardest roads can lead to the greatest rewards." The light in the room was now noticably brighter. Keiichi sat up straighter, eyes turned towards the heavens.

"The love you share with Belldandy will serve you in good stead as you travel the road you have chosen, but the kinship you claim with Urd and Skuld will also help you just as much." The light was so bright now that Keiichi could almost feel it flowing through him, filling his soul with the weight of Kami-sama's approval.

"My blessings upon you and your household, Keiichi Morisato. You have been tested and found worthy. You have earned the love of my daughter,
Belldandy. You have earned the trust and friendship of my daughters, Urd and Skuld. May that love and friendship serve you well in the days to come."
The light had gotten so bright that it was too much to bear; and yet, Keiichi felt that he could stand it forever. Impossibly, it grew even more intense, until --

Keiichi blinked for a moment, disoriented. What just happened? The past few hours seemed to blur in his memory. I was on the phone with.... He gathered his wits back together and looked over the papers spread in front of him. But then how did I get so far on my homework? he thought to himself. Kei looked at the clock, then back at the blueprints he was working on. Anyway, I should be finished in no time. He put down his pencil and stretched.

Kei heard the sound of the front door sliding open, followed by the voice of Belldandy. "Keiichi? How are you doing?" He smiled.

"Great! I got a lot done while you were out," Kei called out.

"Oh good," replied Bell, stepping into his room. "We ran into Megumi at the market. I've invited her to stay for dinner, if that's all right."

Megumi peeked from behind Belldandy and waved.

"That would be just perfect," said Keiichi, grinning widely. "Need a hand?"

"Oh, no, Keiichi! You need to finish your project!"

"It's ok -- I'll have time to finish after dinner. Hey, Urd!" Keiichi said, seeing Belldandy's sister peering into his room. "How are you today?"

"Fine," Urd said absently. She looked at the phone. "Were there any calls while we were out?"

Keiichi looked down, puzzled, until he noticed the phone still sitting by his desk. All at once, details of the last few hours flooded back into his mind, along with several options for responding to that question. Somehow, he didn't feel the need to explain exactly what the call was about -- after all, why worry everyone? "Ahh... oh, yeah," he said, in what he hoped was a nonchalant tone. "Just some relative, checking up on how we're doing...."

Behind Urd, Keiichi spotted Skuld coming in, carefuly trying to balance a number of bags and parcels in her arms. "Hey, Skuld, Megumi, let me help you with those." He quickly scooted around Urd and into the hallway.

Urd hung back for a moment, staring quizzically at the phone. Out of the corner of her eye, she thought she had seen it. . . glowing.

But the more she looked at it, the more she was convinced that it had been a trick of the setting sun. Urd shrugged to herself and followed Keiichi and Belldandy into the kitchen.

Author's Note:
This is a revised version of the first fanfic I ever wrote. I originally posted this on RAAC and the FFML quite a while ago. (A computer and 2 hard drives ago, actually) I received a few pieces of C&C, and I considered making changes to what I had written. At the time, I decided not to. However, as time passed, I would take a break from my latest fic and return to this one. Finally, last week, I decided to re-do the ending as was suggested to me by someone who's name escapes me at the moment (and the computer his message is saved on is half a world away). In the original version of the story, Keiichi doesn't remember his conversation with Kami-sama.

Thank you for your time. Please feel free to drop me a line and tell me what you think!
Robaato