**This fic is connected to Godhood, though it stands alone fairly well. **
There was a tremendous explosion, followed by a massive crash as the oni fell to the ground. However, Utsuho didn't feel like letting the matter end there. She dashed to the fallen oni's form and slammed her cement encased foot onto his chest, before using her control rod to bathe him in plasma. Her rage somewhat subsided she kicked the unconscious form away.
"When I say I'm not interested, I mean it!" the hell raven yelled. "Did you really think I'd fall madly in love with some twit who can barely fly, just because you dragged down a fresh corpse? Idiot!" Okuu took a few deep breaths to try to let the anger finish draining out.
"Nice kick, Okuu," said a voice behind her. Utsuho turned to see her old friend Rin floating behind her, wheelbarrow at the ready. "Still I don't think you should hit him again. An oni corpse might make my cart nice and heavy, but it'd be more trouble then it's worth in the long run."
Utsuho sighed. "Yeah, you're right. These oni are so annoying though. At least the other ravens don't think fist fights are the way to impress a girl."
Rin smiled. "Oh yeah, that's right! I dropped by your house to see if there were any other gifts. I ended up carting away 28 corpses, sorted out 18 love letters and put 35 shiny objects into the bin. Some of those corpses were awesome too. It was great."
The raven simply sighed again and shook her head before giving Rin a weak smile. "Thanks Orin. I guess I should sort them all out..."
Rin frowned, then walked over and slapped Okuu upside the head. Utsuho flinched then flapped her wings in annoyance. "What was that for!"
"You're getting too worked up over this, birdbrain. Come on, lets go home and relax a bit. You've been away too long," the kassha stated.
Okuu looked over her shoulder at the large building at the core of the old hell. "But the reactor..."
Rin sighed. "Okuu, the reactors fine. It's putting out way more energy than it needs to. If anything you've been letting it run too high. You need a break from work. And while running around the surface starting fights is fine, I think you need something more passive."
Utsuho still looked uncertain, so Rin pulled out her trump card. "At the very least you should talk to Miss Satori, so she doesn't think you've up and left her behind now that you've become a god."
"What? I would never! But... I haven't seen Miss Satori for a while..." The hell raven looked pensive. "You're right, Rin. I'll go home today."
Satori looked up and smiled. "Utsuho, Orin, it's good to see you two again." She smiled at her pets. "Oh. You shouldn't worry, Okuu. I know you won't forget about me."
The two ran up to hug her. "I'm sorry I haven't been visiting." thought Okuu. Satori simply replied by petting the hell ravens hair. Of course she paid attention to Orin as well, to prevent anyone from getting jealous. Those two had been her first pets, and while in many ways they'd both probably outgrown her, she still couldn't help doting on them.
After a bit Satori nodded at a passing thought. "Yes Orin, dinner sounds wonderful. Utsuho, would you be a dear and set the places?"
"We're having curry tonight Okuu," the kassha said as she ran off to the kitchen.
"Right," Okuu replied heading for the appropriate plates.
Satori watched the two chattering as they finished preparing dinner. Utsuho alternating between confident and lost, while Rin laughed or scolded her.
She couldn't help but think that their odd friendship was probably the reason why they were so strong. A Satori could communicate with animals, true, but Rin and Utsuho had always wanted to talk to each other. This had forced them to master their humanoid forms and the magics associated with them.
Of course there were other reasons to master a human form, as Orin's curry was proving right now. Satori had never mastered cooking beyond 'heat meat and rice'.
As they ate Satori looked over at her pets. "So, how have your jobs been?"
Rin shrugged. "With the reactor there's not much to do other than make sure Okuu doesn't flip out and collect corpses."
Satori glanced questioningly at the hell ravens heart. "Ah, I see. You've been having problems with suitors? Why is that?"
Okuu sighed and buried her face in her hands. "I don't know. I've been more reclusive than before if anything..."
"It's the god bit birdbrain," Rin said with a sigh. "Now that you're actually divine people want to hook up with you. Toss in your figure and they're suddenly 'madly in love.' Doesn't help that most of the oni see it as a challenge." Satori raised an eyebrow as Rin's tails lashed a bit.
"It can't be something that stupid, Orin." Utsuho stared as Satori shook her head. "You mean it is that stupid?"
"I'm afraid so," Satori patted Utsuho on the head as her face fell. "But I'm sure it will pass with time. And who knows. You may meet someone from all this."
Rin snapped her fingers. "Hey that's right, what about the Norse twins? I thought they seemed actually interested in you."
Utsuho frowned and waved her hand dismissively. "Didn't work out. One of them was always looking down on me for not remembering things, and they were both way too obsessed about their boss. I'm not going to fly around the world on some god's whim looking for stuff because he's too lazy to leave his personal bar."
The kassha laughed. "That's what they do? Seriously? That's not being a pet, that's just being stupid."
Satori noticed the flitting thoughts across Rins heart and frowned. She quickly hid her worry and smiled at the two. "How about you two hop in the bath while I clean up? It sounds like you could use some relaxation."
Satori sighed as the two wandered off to the hot springs. It seemed she'd need more tuna in the near future.
Rin stretched as the warm water helped her muscles relax. After a bit more soaking she turned to where her friend was slowly preening her wings. "Hey Okuu, mind if I help you?"
"Thanks Orin!" Utsuho said with a beaming smile. The hell raven slowly spread out her wings and presented her back to Rin, who began helping to remove damaged feathers and smooth out the rest. Okuu enjoyed her human form a lot more than Rin did, but it did make grooming much more of a pain.
"It's too bad you can't use your god powers to keep your wings clean." Rin smirked a little. "Actually, have you been able to do any miracles other than adding 2 centimeters to your bust and height?"
Utsuho flushed a little, "I don't think so... There was a kappa who claimed I kept his invention from exploding, but I don't remember that. I think it happened while I was sleeping."
"Hm..." Rin considered the matter as she pulled out a broken feather. "You should shake down one of the two idiots responsible for this for tips."
Utsuho sighed. "I keep trying to, but the frog one doesn't know anything. 'I was born knowing how to use these powers,' she says. And the snake one's always busy."
Rin laughed. "Maybe I can steal some info next time I visit the red white miko."
The two fell quiet as they continued the long work. In the silence Rin considered her own situation.
The truth was that Rin had had something of an on and off crush on her friend, at least, ever since the two of them had mastered humanoid forms. Admittedly some of that was just the passing of seasons, but Rin had always been somewhat interested in adding "with benefits" to their friends status.
Still Okuu had, well, been Okuu. The hell raven had never shown an interest in sex, or even dating really. With anyone. Orin had always figured it had been because her friend was young. Just as there was a language barrier between cats and crows there was probably an age barrier as well. And being youkai just added to the oddities. Rin herself had rather hazy memories of being quite old before she'd changed into a very young kassha.
So Rin had decided to just wait on things. She had found other partners here and there, some which lasted longer than others. And she'd stuck by her friends side, waiting for her to change, or not as fate might have it.
With a little tweak she properly arranged the last feather. Now that the feathers were dealt with Rin switched to massaging Utsuho's shoulders. The hell crow relaxed and murmured, "Thanks," again to her friend.
"No problem," Rin cheerily replied before returning to her own thoughts.
The problem had come when Utsuho had gotten that gods power. First Rin had been worried sick. Then somewhat annoyed at her friend for not confiding in her. And then Utsuho had turned into an actual god and all hell had broken loose.
There had been a bit of a delay. The oni weren't all that in the loop, and the other hell ravens were mostly in awe of Okuu. But then one raven got bold and made a move, and after Rin shot him down the oni had figured things out...
And the worst part was Rin still wasn't sure what to make of it. She'd always assumed Okuu had just been clueless about the whole process. But it actually seemed her friend had an in depth list of qualifications her dates needed to meet. And even more surprisingly, it seemed she had an actual eye out for someone who fit them. What was worse, Rin didn't know what those qualifications were. Apparently no one had met them, though Rin did have to admit most of them were losers. She'd been a little worried about those other raven gods, but they had just been passing though.
So had Utsuho finally grown up, or had Rin just totally missed something?
Obviously Rin was going to have to figure that out. She wasn't going to be left behind here. She'd found Okuu first and everyone else would have to live with that. She just needed to find out what Okuu was looking for then meet or beat it.
Fortunately she didn't need to worry about Okuu figuring out her plans. For someone who could run a nuclear reactor by herself, Utsuho was absolutely terrible at figuring out social interactions.
Thus in this case, the direct approach was best. "So Okuu, did you really toss that idiot out just because he couldn't fly?"
Utsuho twitched a little before relaxing again. "Well he was also an idiot. Seriously, I don't care about strength. Well okay, my mate shouldn't be weak, but being strong isn't enough." Utsuho stretched and moved to face her friend. "But yeah, flying is important. I want someone who can keep up with me."
"Hm..." The kassha's ears twitched a little. This was working perfectly. "So what else is on your little list?"
Okuu blinked then shrugged. "Let's see, flight, loyalty, looks, good personality, cunning. That's the start up. Then I figure we'd hang out together for four or five years to see if we're compatible."
"Wha?" Rin's tails stood straight up. "Four or five years? That's a long time to be stuck in dating mode there!"
"Unyu?" Okuu looked puzzled. "I was thinking it might be a little too short. I mean, it's important that we're compatible, if we're going to be together for life. That's the other reason so many of these guys are so annoying, they don't ever consider the long term."
Rin simply kept staring at her friend. "For life?"
Utsuho blinked then looked away. "Oh right, cats don't do that. Yeah, we ravens mate for life."
Utsuho turned back and gave Rin her normal empty headed smile. "Anyway I should probably get out before I lose all that effort on my wings. Thanks again, Orin! I'll meet you outside, okay?"
"No problem," Rin weakly replied, before sighing and collapsing back in the bath. That had been unexpected. Quite frankly, it didn't make any sense to her mind. And she knew Okuu couldn't explain it.
Rin considered heading to Satori with the problem, but she wasn't sure she could face her master like this. She needed to find someone else who could help her understand.
Fortunately she already had a backup plan. Crows were like ravens, and she knew a place that had a whole lot of crows...
Momiji once again let her eyes scan the horizon, changing where her peripheral vision was focused in order to catch the slight movements of intruders. Guard patrol was a mostly meaningless duty, since there weren't any serious threats to the tengu left in Gensoukyo. However, that just meant it would be even more pathetic if you screwed it up.
Today, however, she had been watching one particular intruder for some time. The white wolf had at this point decided it was playing a game with her. It could have slipped around her some time back, but the small creature was deliberately trying to get as close as possible without being caught.
Perhaps it was time to teach it a lesson.
The wolf tengu feigned ignorance for a few seconds more, just enough to get it into range. Then she pounced!
There was a brief chase, then a scuffle, followed by Momiji extracting herself from the bushes carrying a twin tailed cat by the scruff of it's neck.
"You know, we Tengu don't care about animal youkai wandering about the mountain, but you shouldn't test us either," Momiji commented.
The kassha squirmed and returned to her normal form. "Sorry about that sis... Anyway you caught me good! Mind letting me go now?"
Momiji dropped her. "Why are you here anyway? The corpses would be down near the village."
Rin looked away innocently. "Well I wanted to ask some questions about crows, so I figured I could chat with the Tengu. Maybe look around a little bit too."
Momiji's eyes widened a bit. "Ah. Really?"
The wolf Tengu called on her magic to set her fairy minions into patrol mode. This little distraction had caught her full interest. Guard duty was important, but she could leave the watching to her aides for a few minutes. "Well if you want to know about actual crows you should ask one of us wolf Tengu. The crow Tengu are too proud to admit that in many cases they're more like humans than crows."
Rin's tails lashed as she smiled. "And you wolf Tengu aren't arrogant, sis?" she asked.
Momiji frowned. "Well, perhaps. But we know we aren't exactly like wolves, so we don't mistake our own society for the actions of animals similar to us. Wolves do some dumb things."
The kassha seemed to consider the matter for a bit, then she turned her full attention to Momiji. "So then, maybe you can explain this monogamy thing."
"Eh?" Momiji looked at the kassha in surprise. "What do you need to know about it? Isn't it self explanatory?"
Rin pointed at her. "I've heard it used for ravens, wolves and humans and I know it's not all the same thing. So spill, sis."
Momiji regained her composure and thought about it for a bit. "Yes that's true... And this is one of the cases where asking me would get you the better answer."
"Simply put, when we Tengu marry it's a commitment to stay together. 'Until death do us part' as they say outside now." Momiji caught the kassha's questioning glance. "I'm sure you're wondering why. It's a matter of respect and loyalty, and a show of love. Stating that you'll stay by that person's side forever." Momiji realized she was getting starry eyed and quickly shook the feeling off. "Ahem, anyway that's probably a certain amount of what you're looking for."
Rin frowned as she thought over the matter, her tails showing her irritation. "Isn't that part of being friends though? Someone you'll stick with no matter what? Why does romance need to be tied up in that mess?" Rin sighed and sat down, looking down off the mountain. After a few moments Momiji sat down as well.
After a while the cat looked over at Momiji. "Not gonna try to tell me how I'm wrong and your ways are superior, sis?"
Momiji laughed. "Who would be stupid enough to try to tell a cat they're wrong? Might as well try to teach them to fetch. You'll do whatever you want to do, right?"
Rin managed to break out into a smile. "Yep. That's true!" The kassha turned thoughtful for a bit. "Hey sis, do Tengu have these kinda problems often?"
Momiji blinked. On one hand admitting Tengu weaknesses might make her look bad, on the other there was a good chunk of gossip there... Eventually gossip won through. "Not often, but sometimes it can get pretty bad. Usually though Tengu have issues with falling for humans." Her face twisted into a wry grin. "That shrine maiden's probably going to break a heart or two when she matures a little. Those can turn out to be kabuki level tragedies there."
"Falling for humans huh? That'd be weird." Rin looked up at the sky. "How does it usually turn out?"
Momiji's grin faded. "Miserable failure," replied the wolf Tengu. "I've heard a few stories where it ended up bittersweet, but that's when both sides put a lot of effort into their relationship. And even then..."
Rin continued to gaze at the clouds. "Hm... Effort into the relationship..."
Momiji stood and dusted off her hakama. "Yeah. You can solve a lot of problems if you work at them enough."
Momiji hesitated for a moment. "There's one thing I probably should mention," Momiji stated. "Unlike us Tengu, when a raven mates for life they mean for life. They don't remarry, and they don't expect their partner to do so either. Keep that in mind when you make your decision. It'll be one of the things you'll have to work out."
Rin frowned deeply, then hopped to her feet. "Thanks for your time, sis." Then the kassha switched to her cat form and dashed off into the underbrush.
Momiji idly wondered what might actually be happening underground, and how it might resolve. Perhaps she could trick one of the reporters she knew into finding out. Or maybe the cat would tell her story again afterwards.
Still that would be something to check later. Faeries were a good stopgap measure, but long term scouting required personal attention. It was time to return to her duties, needless as they may be.
Once again she began to look across Gensoukyo.
Satori Komeji relaxed in her rocking chair, the warm weight of Orin's cat form resting on her lap. Every now and then one of the two tails would thump into her side, showing her pets displeasure with current events. Rin's heart was also twitching about, flying from one thought to another. Satori just rocked back and forth, and stroked the kassha's back while waiting for her to calm down.
After a long time Rin's thoughts began to coalesce into something intelligible. Satori smiled lightly as she read the kassha's heart. "Yes, I did know something like this would happen. I expect the tuna I had gave it away?" Rin's ears twitched in annoyance.
"Hm..." Satori closed her eyes. "How did I know? Well this isn't the first time something like this has happened with one of my lovely pets." She scratched Rin behind the ears before continuing. "It was a few decades after you two had come under my care. A young raven came to me crying because the girl she loved had run off with some 'thieving cat.'" Rin's tails bristled. "Yes. So now you know why she was so angry with you back then."
The two rocked back and forth for a while before Rin gave a plaintive meow. "I'm afraid I can't tell you what to do Orin. I can only read your hearts, not control them, or even predict where they will wander." She held the kassha close to her. "But I'll always be there for you Orin. I promise."
Rin's ears seemed to perk up, and the cat's thoughts began to spiral around. An idea was forming in the kassha's mind. After a while the swirling stopped and Satori saw the idea in full. She frowned then nodded slightly. "It does show your feelings Orin. But I think you should talk to Utsuho first. You've already had so many problems because you think differently."
Rin mewed in return, and Satori sighed. "Ah. I understand now. So long as you accept that this path may hurt you." Rin hopped down and began to walk out. "Remember, I'll be here when you need me."
Satori smiled as she read her pets response.
Utsuho yawned, then readjusted her cape. She loved the accessory, but getting the thing to sit correctly on her wings was a serious pain in the morning. At least she didn't have to mess with lamps or curtains for lighting anymore. Her powers had made that issue a thing of the past, though creating miniature suns for lighting might be considered overkill by some people.
The hell raven felt surprisingly well rested as she headed out of her 'nest' in the reactor. Apparently one of the four devas of the mountain had told off the oni that had been pursuing her for 'making the rest of us look bad,' so she'd had less problems on that front. And the reactor was churning away nicely. She checked the gauges right before looking for breakfast just in case, but these days she could actually feel the reactors state. In fact she could feel it better than ever this morning.
Utsuho's idle musing was cut short by the sound of a lecture coming from the entryway to the reactor. The raven shook her head and listened again to the voices. It sounded like Orin arguing with her 'Zombie' fairy slaves, but there was no reason for Orin to be here practicing some new trick. It was strange. Utsuho frowned and headed out to the front.
Arriving at the entryway Utsuho found a scene of mild chaos. There was paint and carpentry equipment scattered around the front door, and it seemed that someone had liberally applied that red pain to the walls and doors near the entryway. Several fairies were flitting about, picking things up, then putting them back down again seemingly at random. At the center of this chaos was Orin, who seemed to be trying to organize this mess and failing. Strangest of all she seemed to be wearing a Miko's outfit, except in black and red instead of white and red.
Orin turned to her friend. "Oh hey, Okuu!" The kassha laughed weakly. "I installed a proper torii for you," the kassha gestured up at the newly painted wooden gateway, "but unfortunately the fairies made a mess in the process. So I'm fixing that up now."
Utsuho blinked a few times. "Unyu?"
"Hey you're a god now Okuu, so you deserve at least the basic trappings." The kassha tapped one of the pillars. Seeing their masters attention drift the zombie fairies ran off. "Besides, as time passes you should be able to get your own worshipers, instead of having to sponge off those surface gods. You'll need a proper shrine for that."
Utsuho rubbed her head in confusion. "I guess you're right. And thanks for the torii gate. But why are you dressed up as a shrine maiden Orin?"
"Because I've decided to become a shrine maiden, of course," Rin replied. "Your shrine maiden."
Utsuho's eye's opened wide. "What? Why?"
Rin opened her mouth then hesitated for a long moment. After a while the kassha's eyes fell. "Because that's the only way I can show my love."
The hell raven's breath caught, and she found herself just staring at her friend. She saw in the way Rin's tails drooped that the girl was serious. Her wings trembled. She wasn't sure if she wanted to laugh, or to cry, or to embrace her oldest friend. In the end she leaned against the wall for support. "So you did love me. Back then too?"
Rin's ears flattened a bit. "Nya ha ha. So even you noticed. I feel kinda stupid now."
Utsuho couldn't keep staring at her friends sorrowful expression so she looked down at the floor. "It's my fault really. I should have told you. But why the shrine maiden thing? Does that mean..." Utsuho swallowed the lump in her throat. "Why that instead of just telling me?"
Rin turned away. "Because it won't work out."
"Why not? Would it be that bad to only see me?"
"Heh. It's good to see I'm ahead of you somewhere Okuu..." Rin clasped her hands behind her back. "How long do you think a god lives? Especially compared to us normal youkai?" Utsuho's brow furrowed in confusion. "Yeah, there are some legends that can live on as long as gods. But I'm not one of them. I'm just a housecat who outlived her master and fed on his corpse. I might live one thousand years, two thousand tops. The young god at the shrine is three thousandish already, and it looks like she'll be around for a lot longer then that."
"So? What does that have to do with anything!" Utsuho blinked away the tears that were trying to form.
"You're going to outlive me Okuu. By a lot." Rin clenched her fists. "And if we get together you'll spend all those centuries lonely because you won't just go find someone new."
Utsuho shook her head in denial. "So what if some gods live a long time? How many others just died off because they lost faith? The Yatagarasu's still a big name outside, but he died a century ago! I'm just a hell raven that got a little bit of belief. I'll probably fade away before you die Orin."
"No you won't!" The kassha whirled around and grabbed onto her friend. "You won't fade away!" Orin held Utsuho tightly. "Even if I wasn't going to make sure of that, you'd find a way to survive . You were always really good at that. You're going to become even more famous than Satori-sama one day." Rin relaxed her grip a bit. "That's why I'm going to become your miko. I want to stay by your side forever. I want you to watch over my children even if they aren't yours. If I could have you I wouldn't care about not seeing anyone else." Rin buried her face in her friends shirt to hide her tears. "But I won't let you spend your life after I pass away alone because you refuse look for someone else to be by your side."
Utsuho drooped a bit then embraced her friend tightly. "Orin, you idiot. I don't care about being alone in some future," the hell raven sobbed.
"You will." Orin sniffled. "Birdbrain."
The two held each other close, until they ran out of tears.