Ah! Does Size Really Matter? Ch19

Urd's to do list (unabridged):

Save my sisters!

Problem 1: Belldandy's soul in need of salvation.

Solution 1: Get Belldandy laid before she gives up on life entirely.

Result 1: Frightening, the silly cow went and fell in love with a mortal!

Problem 2: Keep Skuld from fate.

Solution 2: Re-arrange Skuld's timeline so she lives long enough to get laid.

Result 2: Hoping Sentaro is faster on the uptake than Keiichi.

Problem 3: Get laid!

Solution 3: Oh Samson…

Result 3: Proof positive that there are very few problems in the universe that cannot be resolved using a suitable application of the Big Bang theory.

000

As soon as the nexus faded Hild turned to the Almighty One and spoke flatly, "You should really consider putting her down, you know. Right now she's all befuddled with her new boy toy but eventually she will grow tired of him and turn on our daughter. Our thrones are meant to belong to Urd, not to some mongrel bitch that screws the first thing she finds laying in the gutter!"

"What does Peorth have to do with anything?" the Almighty One asked.

"I'm talking about Belldandy you dense fool!"

"Belldandy is no threat, dearest."

"How can you possibly say that!" Hild spat, "She routinely defies your edicts and whatever rules that get in her way!"

"And Urd doesn't?" he asked bemused.

"Urd is different, she was meant to rule! That's why we both taught her to question. It's Belldandy who doesn't seem to know her place!"

"And it's Keiichi who will keep her there." The Almighty One answered, "Belldandy's problem is that she never aspired to greatness, my love. Rather Celestin drove her to it, left to her own devices she would much rather go about saving the world one soul at a time."

"It doesn't matter how she got to be as powerful as she is! Right now she is the only person in all three realms that can challenge Urd. For safeties sake she needs to be neutralized."

"Can't be done, right now Belldandy is untouchable."

"Why not? And don't give me that, 'We wouldn't be any better than her crap!' You are the Almighty One and that rule does not apply to you!"

"I didn't say wouldn't, I said I couldn't," the Almighty One corrected. "Keiichi is a friend of nature and thanks to our daughter Urd; Belldandy is our only way of maintaining a connection to him. You need to consider that as well."

"There is nothing to consider! Keiichi is a mortal and possessed by that realm's evil! What happens when he decides that maybe he and Belldandy deserve a better lot than cleaning the divine trash out of the world's sewers? What happens when the two of them decide that maybe they want your job! Urd was meant to succeed the two of us and no one else!"

"There you are wrong," the Almighty One corrected, "Urd was meant to restore balance to our worlds. Whether she does it from the throne or from the shadows is of no importance as long as the job gets done."

"I can't believe you!" Hild hissed, "How could you possibly be satisfied with our daughter spending her life hiding in the shadows!"

"I'm not happy with it!" the Almighty One conceded, "But I had hoped that Urd would have the luxury of having lived a few iterations before fate forced her down destiny's chosen path. However, events are advancing much faster than anticipated and with all three of the divine guardians of time wanting to stay on the surface world we no longer have the luxury of being able to manipulate their flow as we would prefer. Urd's actions just now confirmed that."

"How so?"

"Just now when she felt the need to defend Keiichi why do you think she did that?"

"Probably some misguided sense of fairness on her part."

"And fairness is a form of?" he asked.

"… Balance." Hild answered him.

"And for her to feel compelled to correct such a minor offset in the Keiichi-Belldandy reticulum is evidence of just how precarious things have become."

"I don't believe that."

"You should, Urd binds the fate of our two realms together." The Almighty One explained, "Belldandy is bound to Urd by blood and consequently to your realm as well as to mine. Thanks to Urd's meddling Belldandy has chosen to bind her fate to Keiichi's and Keiichi being a friend of nature, whatever the hell that is supposed to mean, binds all of us to the mortal plane."

"I see." Hild said nodding her head.

"It gets even better," the Almighty One continued, "Now combine all of that with the fact that all of our futures are in the hands of my youngest daughter and you get a flow chart that looks something like this." The Almighty One finished as he waved his hand in the air.

Skuld (Future)

Heavenly Realm-Urd-Infernal realm

Belldandy

Keiichi

Mortal Realm

"As you can easily see this is a self balancing configuration almost like a scale, but with Keiichi and Belldandy paired together this chart could also be re-drawn to look like this:"

Skuld (Future)

Heavenly Realm-Urd-Infernal realm

Keiichi & Belldandy

Mortal Realm

(Once again it appears that the host word processor isn't up to the task. This time I was using pipes & dashes to connect things together to make a scale but the system keeps editing the additional symbols.)

"Looked at that way you can see what we have are two scales tied together with the balance of the larger one, (AKA our two realms.), being totally dependent on the balance of the smaller one."

"That's a single point failure configuration!" Hild responded as she stared at the new chart in dismay, "How could our daughter have been that stupid! Tying all our fates together like this."

"More like devious." The Almighty One smiled, "If anything bad happens to either one of them then the balance becomes skewed."

"Do you mean to tell me that she is deliberately holding the fate of all creation hostage in exchange for Belldandy's safety?"

"More like instinctively. You see, when the council forced her to give Belldandy that potion Urd vowed that above all else she would always protect her sisters. She has made the safety of her two sisters the central focus of her life. That is why she always held herself back, remaining just a second class goddess and never allowing herself to achieve her full potential. But somewhere in the back of her mind she also knew that we had other plans for her and she wouldn't be able to protect Belldandy forever. So she found for her another protector in Keiichi then tied both their fates to the balance of the world so we couldn't touch them.

"I see," Hild smiled to herself as her daughter's intentions became apparent, "I don't know if I should be proud of her or slap her upside the head!"

"Neither, I think it is time we let her have her head. We have always known that the fates of our two realms have been tied to that of the mortal's. After the events in Hiroshima and Nagasaki establishing a permanent connection to the mortal plane was a top priority. Urd gave us that by bringing Keiichi and Belldandy together. Now that I have one established losing it, even temporarily, would be too big a risk to take. But Urd must also know that her current configuration is tenuous at best."

"If that's the case then why put Belldandy in harms way like I know you are going to do?"

"It's the only way I can keep the two of them viable. Otherwise I would have to punish Belldandy by incarcerating her on the moon. If I were to do that then Keiichi would turn his back on both of us and we would be back to square one."

"It would seem that Urd has everything tied up in a nice neat package, but what if the council tries to do another end run around you and force you out?" Hild asked. "We both know that Heaven only accepts her because she is your daughter. Once you are out of power there will be no place for her here, and before you say it's all right for her to come and stay with me remember that it was you who instituted a rebellion in my realm against me."

"As I recall that was at your request."

"Doesn't matter! Urd could very well find herself caught in the middle of the very power struggle we were hoping to avoid if she is not careful which way she jumps."

"Not to worry, I'm already working a solution on that problem."

"Well since I'm her mother don't you think you should share with me?"

"I'm sure you noticed that slab of beef-cake she was hanging off of just now."

"That Guardian Samson?"

"You know of him then."

"Of course! That's the same bastard that choked my pet hydra to death with his bare hands!"

"I see, well he seems to be quite taken with our little girl and since he just happens to meet all the other requirements I was thinking about grooming him as a possible candidate for my post."

"Shrewd," Hild acknowledged, "they won't be expecting for someone like him to come out of left field like that and while he may not be politically connected the ease at which you took out all the other contenders will make the council wary. Enough so that they might be willing to surrender some of their political leverage in exchange for a stronger leader."

"Not only that, but since Urd already has her hooks into him, were he to take my place she would already have his ear and a ready made place in his inner circle. But it will all be for naught if in our desire to help we end up spoiling her plans, that is the warning in Urd's design."

"All right then I'll back off on Belldandy, but you had better keep her on a short leash! I know you care deeply about all three of your daughters, but Urd is my only issue and I fully intend for her to rule in my place."

"I understand my dear."

"Good, now where can we go to be alone? Those dam Sirens are about to drive me crazy."

"As it so happens I've just closed on this little cottage just up the beach from where we are. Beautiful view of the ocean by the way."

"That reminds me," Hild said sheepishly, "can I have my banker back before he gets drawn and quartered?"

"I might be willing to exchange him for say…a buy out option for Daemon Thomas's contract?"

"Hobson? Why him?"

"I'm thinking I can make good use of him in my logistics department."

"Well then," Hild said seductively, "sounds like we might have something to…negotiate."

"Tell me," the Almighty One asked curiously, "Just how do you choke a three headed dragon to death?"

"Haven't a clue." Hild shrugged, "One moment Puff was fixing to dine on his ass, the next he is laying dead on the ground with his necks braided together."

000

Some more from the Almighty One's to do list:

Problem: Daughter's consort in possession of forbidden knowledge threatening realm.

Solution A: Sanction consort with extreme prejudice.

Result A: Negative, poses unacceptable threat to daughter.

Solution B: Place Talisman on consort's soul.

Result B: Negative due to daughter's interference.

Solution C: Elevate consort's status to level high enough to place him under Yggdrasil's direct control.

Result C: Open new project code The Keiichi Morisato ascension project.

Problem: Eldest daughter unwilling to start down her path to greatness.

Solution: Hawk daughter as possible candidate for leadership post.

Result: Waiting for Hell to freeze over.

Problem: Resolve Binary Lind issue.

Solution: Ad lib.

Result: Done. Close out job number to Keiichi Morisato ascension project.

Problem: Save middle daughter from mortal curse.

Solution: Delegate problem for resolution to other two daughters.

Result: Done. Close out job number to Keiichi Morisato ascension project.

Problem: Begin to place host on full-time war footing due to the unexpected threat being posed by remnants of pre-fallen human kind. (Ravers.)

Solution: Top down shake up of command structure required…

000

January 01, 2013.

"Thank you very much," said Urd as she signed for the scroll the Mercury Messenger had handed to her. Passing it off to Samson she waited until the squadron was assembled for him to read her father's latest judgment.

"Attention to orders," came the authoritative voice of Samson as he addressed the class. Reading directly from the scroll he continued. "I hold here the judgment of the Almighty One. These are his words and I quote:

'There has been some discussion as to the conduct of several members of the host regarding the events of 20121221 HMT (Heavenly Mean Time). Upon careful review of all the facts surrounding this matter I have made the following determinations:

'With regard to all the members of the Extreme Combat Training class:

'For the charge of unauthorized entry into Heaven I find that the class' actions were the result of orders that they were given by Commander Lind, there were no valid reasons for any of her subordinates to question their veracity. While the actions taken were unorthodox their intent was pure and intended to be in the best interests of the realm. We also find ourselves forced to acknowledge that emergencies are just that and sometimes require extreme and heroic measures for which you rose to the occasion. Therefore we find that your actions were altogether lawful and proper considering the circumstances.

'With regard to the Goddess First class (provisional) Urd:

'For the charge of jumping the chain of command, not following proper procedure and attempting to influence Yggdrasil operations. I find that you too were acting under the orders of Commander Lind and were using your best judgment in the execution thereof.

'With regard to the Goddess Peorth:

'For the charge of negligence for failing to seal the heavenly gates. Here we find that we have several misgivings. However, we also must acknowledge that it is incumbent upon supervisors such as you to make difficult and sometimes painful judgment calls on the spur of the moment based on incomplete and inaccurate information only to have them second-guessed later on. Our misgivings not withstanding, in this instance we find your judgment to be sound based on the information you had at the time.

'With regard to the Valkyrie Lind:

'For the charge of misconduct and abuse of authority: It is upon you and you alone that responsibility for these actions must lie. Here we find that we must acknowledge the circumstances surrounding the ascendancy of Keiichi Morisato are unique and the realm has considerable time and resources involved in this project. It was also in your hands that the heavy responsibility for the completion of this project was placed. We further acknowledge that the matter involving the loss of his borrowed angels was both unfortunate and unforeseeable and was precipitated by events over which you had no control. Therefore, we deem that your actions and the actions of your subordinates were indeed in the best interests of the realm. All charges of misconduct and abuse of authority are hereby dismissed.

'Here now is my dispensation: To the Class of Extreme fighters whose wings protect us all. You are all therefore exonerated and permanent entries in your records will be made proclaiming you to be the heroes for whom you really are.

'To the Goddess Peorth: Since you seem to be bound and determined to get yourself banished to the mortal realm you are hereby relieved of your position as Yggdrasil operations lead and are to be placed on a temporary leave of absence before you succeed in getting yourself into real trouble.

'To the Goddess First class (provisional) Urd: It seems as though your banishment to the mortal plane expired several years ago but the paperwork for your reinstatement somehow got lost in the system.'"

"Now, I wonder how that happened?" Skuld said under her breath as she listened to the pronouncement.

'Since that problem has now been rectified you are to return to the heavens forthwith and upon completion of your first class license exam you are to resume your duties in the Yggdrasil control center as Peorth's replacement.

'To the consort of my daughter, Keiichi Morisato: We find that the angel now resident in your soul to be the property of the heavenly realm and henceforth you are to consider yourself under the direct control of Yggdrasil and subject to the laws of our realm.

'To the Valkyrie Lind: That which were two has now become one. Through your selfless actions atonement has been granted. Therefore, your banishment is hereby lifted and you are relieved of all duties save the matter of Keiichi Morisato. You are to get your affairs in order and proceed with all dispatch to the heavenly realm where you are to assume your new duties as Supreme Commander of all heavenly forces.'"

000

"Nothing about Belldandy?" Skuld asked Urd.

"By making his ruling all about Keiichi then Belldandy doesn't enter into it," Urd answered her, "Her actions will be considered as independent of everyone else's. That way she can be judged separately."

"Is that a good or a bad thing?"

"I'm not so sure, it doesn't bode well though. Our old man just twisted the law like a pretzel in order to get the rest of us off."

"I see," Skuld looked at her sister sadly.

"Don't worry," Urd said patting her on the head, "I have a feeling that everything is going to turn out just fine."

000

Two days, three hours and 7 orgasms later (Including 3 earth shakers 2 of which required orbit adjustments.)

"Urd you deceitful wench," Belldandy shouted from the bedroom, "you lied to my Keiichi!"

"Relax dear," Urd mocked, "You've been in need of a good spank since you got here."

"It's not that! You made my Keiichi suffer!"

"I hear that suffering is good for the soul." Urd answered her.

"Service!" Belldandy shouted as a blue spell ball flew out of the bedroom bouncing off the walls ceiling and floor in a spiral fashion as it traveled on its way towards Urd.

"Oh crap!" Urd squeaked, fleeing for the safety of the outside just making it to the threshold of the doorway before being blasted halfway across the courtyard to land at the feet of a bemused Samson.

"May I ask what is going on?" he inquired.

"It's a sister thing," Urd remarked as she formed a depth-charge spell in her palm.

Taking critical aim at the ruined doorway she tossed the ball in the air before swatting it with her other hand like a volleyball, "Service!" she shouted back.

The spell ball traveled back towards the house. Entering the house it traveled down the hallway bouncing off of the far wall then traveling back towards the entrance before being intercepted by Skuld's head when she stuck it out of her room to see what the commotion was all about. The depth charge striking her so caused its direction of travel to change deflecting the spell ball across the hall and bouncing it off the opposite wall directly into Belldandy's room. Belldandy saw it coming and dodged but Keiichi who had been trying to calm her down caught the full force of the blast propelling his body through the outside wall.

"Service!" Belldandy shouted again as another spell ball traveled its convoluted path towards Urd weaving itself in and out of the trees. Urd tried faking right then left only to have the ball second guess her every move finally she gave up and tried to levitate herself away only to have it follow her. At the last moment Urd realized she needed to move towards the ball in order to foil its attack. The spell ball missed its intended target and struck the ground at Samson's feet, the blast propelling him up and over the house so high he had to use his wings to break his fall before landing next to Keiichi.

"Are they always like this?" Samson asked with a grin.

"No," Keiichi answered, "they are just getting warmed up."

"You're kidding I hope."

"Skuld bomb!" they both heard just before an incredibly powerful blast took out the entire side of the house revealing a naked Tamiya and Peorth standing in the far corner their arms and legs intertwined about the other totally oblivious to the fact that they were no longer sequestered.

"Now it's a party!" Keiichi smiled.

000

Later, as the exhausted parties warmed themselves next to the fire that was the remains of their home Urd, who had somehow managed to nestle herself in Samson's arms, looked upon the peacefully sleeping forms of her two younger sisters as Skuld spooned with the unconscious Belldandy who in turn was spooned with Keiichi.

Sensing her gaze upon him Keiichi looked toward Urd and noticing the almost blissful expression on her faced asked, "What is it?"

"It's nothing really," Urd answered contentedly, "I just wanted to say thank you Keiichi. Thank you for just accepting us for who we are."

"You're welcome, I guess," he answered her back, "but I haven't really done anything after all."

"But you have. You have given me a gift beyond measure; you have given me back my Belldandy."

"Hey! What am I, chopped liver?" Skuld asked as she listened to the two of them.

"You know what I mean," Urd laughed silently.

"You're right I do," she answered her back, "I guess I should thank you too."

"I still don't know what the deal is?" Keiichi asked.

"You've saved her Keiichi." Urd answered him; "You saved all of us."

"But I didn't do anything!" Keiichi replied puzzled.

"Jeez, Keiichi are you really that dense?" Skuld asked him in disgust.

"I guess I must be." Keiichi answered.

"Well since you are one of us now I guess we should fill you in. You see, in Heaven its all about the what and not the who." Urd explained, "For instance Peorth is a slut, Lind's soul was twisted, Belldandy has blood on her hands, and I'm the spawn of the devil!" She finished as she waited for Samson's arms to loosen their grip, instead they squeezed her tighter has he silently reassured her. "Of all of us only Skuld is considered to be a prim and proper member of heaven."

"And that's only because Belldandy rode me so hard and made sure I towed the line." Skuld remarked.

"But you have never looked at us that way Keiichi and neither did your friends." Urd spoke softly, "even now with the enhanced sight of your angel you still see us as you always have. Despite all of the beauty and wonder that is Heaven's it is because of the attitudes of those who live there that make it a less than ideal place for us to stay. That is why until those attitudes change we would rather be here on Earth, our new home."

"And I don't think I want anything to do with people who think that it's okay to look down on my beautiful sisters." Skuld said.

"How is it that attitudes like that still exist in a place like Heaven?" Keiichi asked, "I mean shouldn't you gods and goddesses be more… enlightened than the rest of us?"

"Not really Keiichi," Urd answered him sadly, "Heaven is ruled by paradigms, know the paradigm know the outcome or so they think. But sometimes the paradigm doesn't spit out the expected result. When that happens rather than embrace the anomaly as something new and wonderful people become afraid and recoil in fright because of their fear of the unknown."

"I don't mean to disillusion you, but I fear the unknown too."

"Not like we do in Heaven," Samson said as he entered their conversation, "Mortals like you don't share the same phobia. Instead you embrace the unknown, for you everyday is a new beginning, a chance to learn something new. You couldn't care less about the paradigms that rule your life and haven't the slightest hesitation when it comes to abandoning one for another. The way you live down here would terrify your average god! I know it scared the shit out of me!"

"Paradigms?" Keiichi asked.

"Yeah," Skuld began, "like the one that ruled my life until you came along. Ever since I can remember I knew what my fate was supposed to be. If I hadn't been so afraid I could have rewritten my own future but I never had the courage. Now, thanks to you I'm not afraid of the unknown anymore. Now I know that even if I do make a wrong choice all that happens is I get to pick up the pieces and try something different."

"That is another reason we don't want to go back," Urd continued, "the freedom we've come to embrace down here is just too precious to give up."

"Oh yeah," Skuld piped up, "now that Urd mentioned paradigms, if today's events are any indication, it's a good bet that you can kiss the little Miss Yamato Nadeshiko paradigm goodbye."

"What!" Keiichi exclaimed, genuinely distressed.

"You remember how when we first came here to live with you how sometimes our disputes would…escalate?"

"You mean like the time when you two started going at it right after you arrived?"

"Precisely, that was my Belldandy, the Belldandy who didn't take crap from nobody, the Belldandy who didn't have any compunction about openly expressing her… displeasure if she felt the need."

"That's why I hated you so much." Skuld grumbled. "My beautiful, powerful, assertive big sister turned herself into a…a… pansy. Because she was afraid of what you, a puny mortal, might think of her."

"And now your telling me that has changed?" Keiichi asked bewildered.

"It's your own fault," Urd replied, "Now that Belldandy knows that she has all your love completely and unconditionally she doesn't have to put up a front anymore. She is no longer afraid of just being herself around you."

"So what does that mean?"

"You will need to be a lot faster on your feet if you want to avoid getting blown through the walls from now on." Skuld told him flatly.

"Note to self," Keiichi said as he retrieved a small note pad from his jacket and began to scribble in it, "Ask Lind about additional training in defensive tactics involving wind spells and depth charges…"

"Don't forget Skuld bombs!" Skuld interjected.

"Oh and that reminds me," Urd said, taking her queue from Keiichi, "Skuld dear, do you have your To Do list handy?"

"Yes I do, why?" Skuld answered her back.

"Well then go ahead and mark off the Save Belldandy's Life task as being completed and make sure to log all your hours so you get proper credit."

"Completed!" Skuld protested, "How can we call that completed!"

"The task that our father laid before us was to save her from a mortal's death. We have without argument accomplished that goal."

"But what about Belldandy's scarlet wings, what about the evil that still lives in Keiichi's soul and what about father recalling us to Heaven?"

"Totally different charge codes that will be some considerable time in the future before we can close them, but for now we are done with this one."

"Yeah, but it just doesn't seem right somehow."

"That's because like the rest of us, you don't want to see the story end."

"On the other hand look around you." Samson said, as he made a sweeping gesture of all the recently paired Valkyries and Guardians, (An aftereffect of their recent visit to Sirenum scopuli.). "Until the other day each stood apart from the other, but now a new paradigm has been created. Where before we could only fight side by side now it seems that it is possible for us to sleep side by side as well."

"I'm getting confused again." Keiichi said.

"The fate of the Guardians and Valkyries has always been one of isolation and loneliness," Skuld said sadly, "A Guardian, if he is lucky, might find himself adopted into a grand house as their personal protector. But even if he were he would always be looked upon as an outsider, little more than the hired help."

"And Valkyrie's like Lind don't even have that hope." Urd said, "For the most part they are doomed to live out their entire life in isolation. If they ever do get to feel the joy of a man's touch it will be but a painfully brief interlude in an otherwise dismal existence."

"That kind of makes me ashamed," Keiichi said as he thought about it, "all the time I was suffering under her training I never gave thought to the possibility that she might be suffering too."

"You have nothing to be ashamed of Keiichi," Urd smiled, "You will never know just how much joy Lind felt every time you smiled her way."

"Huh?"

"Years ago Peorth told me that she had detected a subtle change in the winds of heaven. That change began after Lind returned, after she had met you for the first time."

"And this is what that change has become." Samson said excitedly, "just look at all the new stories that will now need to be written." Focusing his gaze on Skuld, "And they will all need the Norn of the future to get them off to a good start."

"Yeah Keiichi, thanks for all that extra work," Skuld interjected as she halfheartedly tried to appear angry.

"Who me?" Keiichi asked.

"Just another thousand year old paradigm that you shattered so you could keep getting into Belldandy's pants." Urd said playfully.

Three days later another Mercury Messenger arrived with a letter from the Almighty One. It was short and to the point. Belldandy was recalled to heaven and now that Keiichi was an official member of the host he was ordered to ascend as well in order to bear witness to her fate. As soon as they arrived Belldandy was called before the Almighty One and promptly stripped of her position at the Goddess help line for conduct unbecoming before finding herself unceremoniously outcast to the frontier. Keiichi was sent with her as well seeing as his duty was to keep Belldandy's divine ass out of anymore trouble.

000

While it is impossible to show it on a 3 dimensional map there is a small peninsula of the heavenly realm that is bordered by the Pishon River on one side, just above the Tigris and Euphrates, and by Hild's summer palace, where the Gihon used to be, on the other. On the other side of the Pishon lies the mortal realm but the river itself is impossible to see from that side due to the fact that the riverbed proper lies entirely within the heavenly realm. Impossible for heaven to defend, and equally impossible for hell to hold it is a rather pristine example of undeveloped divine real-estate. Recently two new interlopers, the War goddess Belldandy and the Mortal God-to-be-in-training Keiichi had set up housekeeping in a small cottage that had more doors than rooms. Co-located not all that far from Basra its location enabled the pair the luxury of being able to walk to work, sort of.

Moving Day:

The Norn's time on the mortal realm was finally at an end. For most of his adult life Keiichi had shared his home with the three goddesses and the thought of having to face an uncertain future on earth without them he found disconcerting. As they finalized preparations for their departure the emotional strain was beginning to show on everyone. The three Norns had spent most of the prior day packing away all the bits and pieces of the life they had once lived as they prepared for their re-ascension. The hallway of their small house was filled to overflowing with containers of every conceivable shape and size that held the ingredients for Urd's alchemy while Belldandy and Skuld each had a small suitcase that held those few items that they couldn't bear to leave behind. Finally all their good-byes were said and the three Norns gathered their belongings and headed down the hallway. Reaching the door at the far end Urd sighed before flinging it open and unceremoniously throwing all her belongings into her new digs. Skuld took the next nearest and tossed her suitcase into the room while Belldandy took the room diagonally across from Keiichi's.

Refused access to anywhere in Heaven save the frontier lands the powers that be had been reasonably secure in their thinking that they had the loose cannons known as the three Norns of fate bottled up. The reality was that this restriction didn't even faze them. Although the cottage was listed as the official address of record for the Norns as well as Peorth and Keiichi, (Causing no end of wild speculation as to what one mortal could possibly be doing with all those goddesses.), nobody really actually lived there.

With the return of Koshian along with Peorth and Tamiya now living at the temple, Keiichi's extended family had already outgrown their little house. So, at Belldandy's request, and with their father's tacit approval, Skuld had cross-dimensionally linked the ends of the hallways of their old home on Earth with that of his vacation home in Heaven using a spin off of Skuld's space expanding device called, appropriately enough, the Space Sharing Machine. Little more than a way station with bedrooms, until recently the AMO had been using it as a clandestine meeting place for "Off the Record" negotiations with the leader of the Infernal Realm. The two residences being conjoined as they were had not only doubled their available living space but also allowed them all to continue living on the surface world while still technically being in compliance with Heaven's edict.

Inspired by his first visit to Nekomi the AMO had copied the basic layout of Belldandy's home creating an exact mirror image of the other. So close was the re-creation in fact that it was possible to accidentally walk in the front door of the house in Nekomi, down the hall and out the front door of the house in Heaven if you weren't careful which way you turned. The only real way to tell which side you were on was that the main room of the new house was almost completely empty save for a mirror, a large flat screen TV and an old Polaroid camera for use by the three senior goddesses.

This configuration proved to be quite fortuitous for Skuld later on because since Belldandy and Urd had both been recalled there was no longer any reason for her to stay on the mortal plane. As a result her surface world training status was revoked and she was once again placed under the direct instruction of Yggdrasil. Unfortunately this didn't sit to well with the young goddess, as she was just becoming aware of some of the more enjoyable aspects of the two-gender system with Sentaro being the primary target of her affection. This had almost resulted in her full-scale rebellion against Yggdrasil, since from her adolescent perspective placing an entirely different level of reality between her and her one true love was a bit extreme.

This could actually have led to the younger Norn's getting top billing along with her two elder sisters on the councils Supplemental High Intensity Training list had they not come up with a clever plan. By mutual consent the bathtubs of both houses were to remain filled at all times. That way once Skuld was done with her duties in Heaven for the day she could pop home via the tub in the new house, run down the hallway still dripping wet and dive into the tub on the Nekomi side arriving next to Sentaro in a matter of minutes, all without needing to access the gate. The fact that she did so without regard for whoever else might be using the bath at the time was disconcerting for some at first but they soon got used to it.

After Urd was finished organizing her inventory in her new room her first order of business was to mix up a small bottle of Iron Man potion for Keiichi. Knocking softly on the doorframe of Keiichi's room he looked at her suspiciously through the half-opened door as she offered him the vile.

"What's this for?" he asked.

"Oh, just something I think you're going to need in a couple of minutes when Belldandy finally loses her composure."

"Why would Belldandy lose her composure and why do you think I'm going to need that," he asked pointing to the vile, "if she does?"

"Don't be an idiot, Keiichi." Urd spoke as if to a child, "I'm sure you've heard the saying 'Distance makes the heart grow fonder?'"

"Yes."

"So, how do you think Belldandy is taking this enforced separation?"

"Urd, Belldandy's room is just across the hall. That is hardly what I would consider being separated."

"For you she is just across the hall, but from her perspective there is a whole different reality between the two of you right now." She explained as she pointed to the imaginary line in the hallway that separated the mortal and heavenly realms. "As sensitive as she is to such things I can guarantee you she is acutely aware of it and the pain she is feeling right now is likened to that of a sailor's wife whose husband has been at sea for far too long."

"If that is really the case then why doesn't she just step across the hall and knock on my door?"

"Oh I'm sure she will get around to that eventually after her self control fails but by then it will be too late."

"What do you mean by too late?"

Keiichi got his answer by example as the door to Belldandy's room was ripped from its tracks as the love deprived goddess came flying across the hall and into his room. Knocking him to the floor she began frantically kissing him all over his body totally oblivious to her older sister standing in the doorway.

"I'll just leave this here," Urd said smiling as she placed the vile on the floor, "It takes about 15 minutes to reach full potency so don't wait too long."

000

There were, as Skuld had pointed out, two distinct divergences. Divergence A, what the Ravers intended, besides its obvious effect on the multiverse, would have resulted in a limited war between the nations of Japan and Iran. The rest of the world would, of course, express shock and outrage over the unprovoked attack but seeing its efficacy and fearing the same happening to them the other nations would have done little more than cheer from the sidelines. In the end Japan would have lost its position in the world as one of the financial superpowers and Iran would take center stage in world politics.

Divergence B, the nexus forced into being by an upstart mortal and the goddesses who loved him was totally different. The time and treasure put by Iran and her allies into the failed attack had been enormous and there was nothing to show for it, not even fear! The entire world, as far as they could tell, was totally oblivious to the existence of the threat they had sought to project. The only explanation the leaders could ascribe to this failure was that they had been sold out by the scientists. The scientists in turn knew their work was valid and concluded that they had been sold out by the military and the military in turn was convinced that they had been sold out by their leaders.

The people living in these oppressed nations could care less knowing only that they had been deceived and wanted to be bereft of the whole lot of them. As far as they could see the so called nuclear parity that the leadership claimed they had been trying to achieve was nothing more than a smoke screen, just another lie so their leaders could fleece their pockets while international pressure continued to build and the common folk suffered. The people began to doubt the credibility of their leaders. The Ayatollah's, the Mufti's, the Imam's, both those possessed by evil and those who were truly evil began to lose power as the people began to question. Soon, the Purges began and while the Ravers were able to flee, those mortals who had knowingly collaborated with them could not so easily hide. Some got away but most were not so fortunate. Oppressive governments were toppled; Shari law was being slowly replaced with parliamentary rule and a new power was beginning to flex its muscle behind the scenes. Ragnarok was coming and the world was being made ready.

Closer to home, Belldandy's sin had presented the Almighty One with both a conundrum and an opportunity. Technically she had struck down the Raver after her father's pronouncement regarding innocents, so it could be argued that she was just enforcing his will. But Final Judgment, the determination if a soul is allowed another iteration or is recycled is a power reserved exclusively for the Almighty One, not even Hild is allowed such power, so his daughter had also unquestionably overstepped her authority. Ever the opportunist, the Almighty One had decided to use his daughter as his unseen enforcer. The result was an ironic twist of fate where the supposedly homicidal Belldandy was sentenced to continue killing. Heaven's assassin, her punishment was to hunt down and destroy the very creatures she was accused of murdering.

In order to avoid an all out war between the mortal and heavenly realms the Almighty One had struck an unspoken agreement with the opposing side; The surviving Ravers would be allowed to live out the rest of their lives un-accosted as long as they remained in their permanent hosts. Any Raver found outside its host for any reason was to be ruthlessly slaughtered. Many of the Ravers, however, having held the upper hand in this region for so many centuries chose not to go quietly into the dark. They pushed the limits of the truce as far as they could and more often than not they got away with it, but not always. Soon stories began to surface throughout the Muslim world of people once possessed now freed and of the beautiful apparition of the auburn hared woman with the scarlet wings to whom they all gave thanks for their salvation. In the background always standing next to her, but seldom noticed, a short nondescript mortal with the soul of a god, Keiichi.

Afterword: I wanted to continue this story for a few more chapters but it seems that the story itself finally wants to end. I find this rather interesting as I had originally started out only wanting to put forth 10948 as a short story that would have ended with Belldandy and Keiichi consummating their relationship. The problem was that as each chapter was published new questions kept popping up that needed to be answered. Finally it would seem the story itself ran out of questions to ask and I had nowhere to go. For whatever reason this last chapter turned out to be a real pain to pull out of my head. Now that I'm done, however, I'm thinking that I might want to pull this story back along with 10948 and do some serious editing, adding some background, tying up loose ends and what not and then republishing the two under one title.