Disclaimer: I do not own any rights to the Ah!My Goddess franchise. This is only a work of fiction based in that world.
Ah! Tragedy and Rebirth
What? Oh, no! Here we go again! Keiichi thought.
"No, it's not what you think! It was an accident, Skuld!"
Belldandy looked on in confusion at Keiichi's frantic attempts to evade Skuld's attack. He barely escaped the bomb's blast radius by scrambling out of the room and down the hallway. All the while, Urd's expression turned sour at yet another botched attempt to push the two together.
Good! Another successful save. Belldandy is mine! I will definitely not lose her to you, Keiichi. I don't hate you, per se, but I refuse to actually let you tell her that you love her , or get any closer to her.
As Keiichi sprawled on the floor of his room, panting from the exertions, he breathed a sigh of relief. It was close, that one. One of these days, though, he might not be so fortunate. Skuld was getting more crafty all the time.
What had happened? He was reaching for his tea, when he felt Belldandy's hand brush his. They both looked up, startled, to find that, inexplicably, they where looking at each other, face-to-face, over the table.
Urd's up to her usual stunts again, Keiichi thought, covering his face with his palm. Oh, well. I might as well go to sleep. We'll need to get an early start tomorrow.
While Keiichi removed his bed mat and laid it out, Urd was moving about her laboratory, brooding. Things had been going so well, that time. It had been a beautiful setup: both Keiichi and Belldandy had been exposed to the requisite components, and their tactile contact activated the binary agents. That way, there were no unfortunate side effects, such as falling in love with the wrong person. But then, Skuld walked in just as the effects started to kick in.
There's always tomorrow, Urd mused, beginning to formulate the next scheme. The process is almost more enjoyable than getting the results.
Urd laughed out loud, getting caught up in her own enthusiasm.
The next morning, Keiichi and Belldandy left the temple earlier than normal, knowing traffic would be slow due to road construction.
It's definitely a good thing they're doing road's been awfully rough lately. I've had to do more work on the BMW's suspension than usual. It's even been rattling Belldandy in the sidecar.
With that thought, Keiichi glanced over at Belldandy, and became lost in memories of their time together.
I love that smile, always beautiful, happy, and trusting. It always seems to calm me, bringing me peace of mind and comfort.
As if reading his mind- Which is entirely possible, he thought- Belldandy looked over at him, her own smile widening. Keiichi's face blushed red and he quickly turned his attention back to the act of maneuvering through the construction zones.
I really am a coward, as Urd and everyone else claim. I can't even work up the nerve to tell her I love her, let alone hold her hand without becoming nervous and self-conscious. And we've been together for three years, now!
With that, he started recalling other instances when he attempted- or more commonly, was coerced by one means or other- to admit his feelings for Belldandy:
-At the beach, when Megumi gave him tickets for the two of them to have a good time, and for him to open up to her. Somehow, Urd and Skuld found a way to worm their way into the trip, also.
In fact, I nearly drowned, and Belldandy had to save me, once again. Even then, Skuld continued her efforts to keep the two of us apart. Not to mention Urd's pushing and prodding along the whole way...
-At the temple, the time that Peorth descended from Heaven, too. In fact, Urd and Peorth tried to get me to tell Belldandy "I love you", each in her own strong-arm way. In Peorth's case, it was to try to get me to be more forceful in my approach (and, of course, Belldandy walked in at the most awkward moment, misunderstood the situation, and took off before I could explain).
As for Urd, the approach was to use one of her strange pills. Unfortunately, it caused the one hearing me say "suki" (translated as 'like' or 'love') to have a sort of system crash of the mind, if you will. The recipient was bombarded with all of my feelings at once, overloading them for a few minutes. It was almost a complete disaster, as both Belldandy and I were on the roof at the time. I only just managed to catch her before she fell off (twice , in fact). Skuld saw, again misinterpreting the situation, flew up, and was overcome herself when I tried explaining. I barely grabbed her, too, before she fell. When Urd and Peorth arrived from where they had concealed themselves to watch, I told them, and they actually did fall (I only have two arms, after all).
As I recall, the effects lasted for more than one day, in that particular instance...
-Urd's pushy, not so subtle, hints and actions, trying to force me into making a move...
-Peorth's attempts to "help" me along...
-And all the while, Skuld was there, trying to drive a wedge between myself and Belldandy. In fact, I can clearly remember, about a year after Belldandy granted my wish, a rather pointed instance of this.
It happened about six months after her arrival. We had just settled the Lord of Terror problem. However, due to Yggdrasil, Heaven's control system, having lost it's memory banks, my wish had been corrupted. Belldandy was going to have to return to Heaven, and her previous duties, if I couldn't recall the exact phrasing of the original wish. I was having a hard time remembering it, so Belldandy and I went to the college.
When we arrived home that evening, we discovered a large bundle of cables snaking their way from the back of our phone and down the hall. We crept along, carefully, suspecting Skuld, but not sure of her intent. We came upon her room, door slightly ajar, and the cables all heading inside, to converge on a crazy contraption in one corner. Skuld sat there, amid a jumble of tools and components, talking to herself.
Belldandy commented that Skuld was probably doing this because she was worried about my feelings. No sooner had the words been uttered, than Skuld suddenly burst out with the real reason- she was going to retrieve the information forcibly, in the process showing me up as a "moron", so that Belldandy would return to Heaven with her in disgust.
Of course, seeing who Belldandy was, she brushed it aside, not thinking anything of it. She really was very trusting and naive at times, especially where her sisters were concerned.
Keiichi sighed inwardly, continuing on to work.
Belldandy sat in the sidecar, watching Keiichi out of the corner of her eyes. He had started out that morning so happy, even given the delays, and the color of his emotions had been so wonderful. Then, slowly but surely, his mood began to sour, the colors of his emotions beginning to mix with shades of sadness and frustration, finally blending with tinges of red- ANGER! What was he thinking of that soured his feelings so? His face betrayed the sadness, but the anger soon began to dominate his features.
"Keiichi-san?" No answer. "Keiichi-san?"
She repeated his name a couple more times before he seemed to notice and responded.
"Huh? What is it, Belldandy?"
"What's wrong? Have I upset you in some way?"
"No! No! Why would you think that?"
"Your emotions, I can see them clearly, remember. You were so happy when we started out, but you became so sad and angry all of a sudden."
Concern! I had better reign in my feelings before I upset Belldandy anymore,
"No, really. It's nothing you need to concern yourself with. I'm just working a few things out in my mind. Please, don't worry about it."
He smiled at her, but Belldandy could tell how strained it was. She had, long ago, decided to trust Keiichi-san completely; but that didn't mean that she didn't worry about him. She knew that she was a little more capable of hiding her worry than Keiishi-san, at least normally. So, she smiled back at him to show her understanding.
Belldandy thought back over the past three years that she had lived with Keiichi-san, fond memories flooding back to her. She really did love him, had even admitted it to him (due to Keiichi's wish through Peorth, that time). She also knew he loved her, and he said so, himself, a couple of times:
-At the beach, under the moon, on those rocks (even though Skuld ruined the moment with her interference)...
-That time, at the temple, on the roof (though Nee-san's pill caused that sensory overload). Twice, that time, in fact...
And yet, he never got the chance to tell her properly, in his own words, without any distractions.
I really would like to hear it from him, she mused wistfully, not for the first time, her eyes drawn back to him. He was once again caught up in whatever thoughts plagued him.
All that day, Belldandy could tell that Keiichi-san was preoccupied with his ruminations. In fact, Chihiro-san had approached her privately about it.
"I don't know. He's been like this all day. He was happy enough with the bento we shared at lunch, even praising it as normal. But, as soon as he thought I wasn't paying attention, his thoughts would return to whatever is bothering him. He wouldn't even tell me when I asked on our way to work."
So Chihiro caught him outside, while he was repairing a customer's bike, alone.
"Nothing," he ground out, through gritted teeth. "There's nothing wrong."
"Nothing, you say? Then tell me, Morisato, how long did it take you to get to work today? Hmm? You usually know that without a second thought."
He thought a moment, but couldn't come up with an answer. That was unusual for him.
"What was your first job this morning? What was in Belldandy's bento at lunch? What about..."
"ALRIGHT! I get it! So I'm a little preoccupied! So what?"
Chihiro lost her cool.
"MORISATO! Don't yell at me like that!"
With an effort, she brought herself back under control. She saw him staring at her in shock. Chihiro continued, more calmly.
"Even I can tell that something is bothering you, and I'm no Belldandy."
"Huh? Belldandy? What do you mean?"
"You haven't noticed, have you? Well, whatever is bothering you, also has her down. She hasn't sang a note, not even humming to herself, all day. Not once. She's worried sick about you, and knowing her, feels like she's the one at fault. But she doesn't know how to broach the subject, since you wouldn't open up earlier.
"Now, what's wrong?"
How could he hope to hide a single thing from Chihiro-san? Or Belldandy, for that matter? Chihiro-san and he were much alike in far too many ways. Thus, they got along so well, both at work and away. Also, she had been of great help at other times.
And then there was Belldandy, who had lived with him day-in and day-out, for three years.
He came to a decision after some consideration.
"Okay, it's like this..."
Chihiro listened in silence, getting a more complete picture of this young man who had worked so diligently beside her for the last couple of years. She listened to how he had grown up, alone; how he had met Belldandy and her sisters (though not the exact circumstances), and then came to care for them; how everyone (herself at times, Urd more often, and still others frequently) seemed to feel that they needed to pressure him about his relationship with Belldandy; how Skuld was so against said relationship (violently, often enough). She began to understand that, as timid as he was, he wasn't completely oblivious or incapable- in fact, he was often very quick at problem-solving- and that his true feelings would soon need to be aired to all involved.
Then, with a frown, something occurred to her.
"Wait! You haven't even told her you love her yet, from the heart?"
He hung his head, and replied.
"That's what I mean to say. Every time..."
"After three years?"
He seemed to shrink in on himself, and she instantly regretted her outburst. Then she considered what he had been saying more closely.
"No, I haven't," he mumbled into the silence, almost to himself. "Every time I try, something or... someone... interferes, and that's that."
Chihiro sat down next to him on the steps to think.
"Belldandy knows that you love her- it's plain for all to see when you two are together. However, as I told you before, girls are insecure and need to hear those words, coming from the heart. You have the courage to tell her- you displayed it by bearing your soul to me just now. Think about what I'm saying."
She put her hands on her knees and stood. Looking around, as if trying to remember something, she finally said:
"Go on home. I'm going to close shop early today. Take some time, until after the weekend."
"But, Chihiro-san! What about work tomorrow?"
"I'll take care of it, don't worry. You have something else to deal with: your relationship with Belldandy and her sisters. See to that."
She turned to head back in to Whirlwind, paused, and looked over her shoulder.
"And, for God's sake, tell her you love her!"
Keiichi continued sitting on the steps several more minutes, trying to sort out his thoughts and feelings. He truly loved Belldandy- and even Urd and Skuld, for their parts, despite their tendencies. But, they were more often than not up to something- tricks, spying, or some other crazy stunt.
And how was he supposed to tell Belldandy? She was so open and trusting of others, especially her two sisters. Not that he could fault her for that. He loved that aspect of her personality.
True, she caught on to Urd's tricks once in a while, but when it came to Skuld...
With a start, Keiichi realized that Belldandy was standing in front of him, her face only inches from his.
Her eyes are so beautiful, and her smile so warm and inviting! he thought to himself. Then, he blushed and shot backwards up the steps, startled anew, and embarrassed.
After a moment- I've got to talk to her- he stood and started forward. He passed Belldandy, paused, made up his mind, and said:
"Belldandy, before we head home, would you mind going somewhere with me for a bit?"
He's so serious. What's wrong? Is it me? Does he not want me by his side anymore?
"Of course, Keiichi-san."
There, again! That gorgeous smile that lights up my whole day! Unconsciously, he smiled back, the first real smile since the beginning of the morning. Turning around, they set off.
A short time later, the two of them sat upon a rise overlooking the ocean, watching the waves lapping at the shoreline, the breeze swirling around them. Keiichi's stomach churned with apprehension. How was Belldandy going to react? Angry? Understanding?
"Belldandy," he began, then faltered.
She turned at the sound of his voice, concern plain upon her face.
"Belldandy," he started again, then in a rush: "I would like to go somewhere with you this weekend. Just the two of us. It's been a long time since we've done anything together, alone."
She stood a moment longer, trying to read his emotions, since his mind was in such a state that she couldn't tell what he was thinking.
"I would very much like to go somewhere with Keiichi-san, just the two of us."
Feeling a little more confident, he pushed on.
" The reason I say "just the two of us", is that, no matter where we go, Urd and Skuld tend to follow,somehow managing to bring themselves along. Just this once, I would like to be with you, without Urd trying to push some potion on us, or Skuld doing what she can to separate us."
There it was! In a rush, but it was out there, in the open. He held his breath.
"I know Urd can be a bit forceful at times,"- "Forceful", she says!- "but Skuld doesn't mean anything, and doesn't really try to keep us apart," she finished, frowning.
"Belldandy, please don't take this the wrong way, but, please watch them closely tonight and tomorrow. Then, if you would like, we can leave the next morning."
"Alright, Keiichi-san," she replied, clearly troubled.
"I am sorry to bring this up this way, Belldandy."
That night, and all the next day, Belldandy kept a careful watch on her sisters, all the while going about her everyday routine. She began to pick up a pattern, realizing just how much her two sisters interfered in the daily life of Keiichi and herself- especially Keiichi. She also began to understand that he must be under tremendous stress all the time, worrying about what would happen next. For instance, she caught Urd putting something in the tea that Belldandy was making for Keiichi, when she thought Bell wasn't paying attention. She quietly poured the cup of tea down the drain and made a fresh cup for him, after Urd left the room. Skuld would inevitably cause some sort of commotion any time she seemed to feel that Belldandy and Keiichi were getting too close, too romantic. In fact, at one point she chased poor Keiichi-san all the way outside and then unleashed Banpei-kun on him, when they brushed each other and stopped to stare for a moment.
Slowly, and quite painfully, it dawned on her how much time had been lost between the couple due to the machinations of one sister or other. Foremost among the culprits was Skuld, and her pointed attempts to separate the two. With a heavy heart, she recalled the instance of Skuld trying to hack into Yggdrasil over Keiichi's wish. She remembered clearly , with new insight, Skuld's proclamation about how she was going to show Keiichi a "moron", and get Belldandy to return to Heaven with her.
That night, Belldandy approached Keiichi's room, solemn.
"Keiichi-san? May I come in?"
"Of course, Belldandy!"
She slid the door to his room open, and he could tell that she was very upset. She closed it again, moved over across from him, knelt down, and folded her hands in her lap.
"I have failed in my duties as a goddess, my contract with you. Because of me, you have faced many problems. Time and again your life has been put in danger. Because of my sisters, and my not wanting to see the evidence before my eyes, you..."
She looked up at the man she cared so much about, her mouth hanging open, the thought dying in her throat at the vehemence in his voice.
"If anyone should be apologizing here, it is me. My selfishness, my anger, have caused me to upset you. I was looking for a way for us to spend time alone, for a couple days, without your sisters tagging along and causing problems. Yet , through my own fumbling attempts, I've caused you pain. You're the one whose smile brings joy to me, whose love fills me with happiness whenever I'm down."
She leapt across the space separating them, throwing her arms around his neck, and hugged him tightly. He could feel her tears on her cheek, where it was held against his own. Carefully, he put his arms around her as well, aware that Skuld could appear at any moment.
Elsewhere in Keiichi's room, while he tried awkwardly to comfort Belldandy, a mini-Urd cloaked herself in the shadows- watching, listening, thinking.
Well, now. He's finally showing a little backbone, more than is usual for him. Maybe I can turn this to my advantage. Whatever I do, I will have to work fast, if they're planning to leave tomorrow morning.
For a while longer, the micro-goddess listened to the two planning their trip beginning on the morrow, all the while formulating her own scheme to finally push them together.
"We're going to be gone until tomorrow evening..."
"I'm coming, too!" Urd and Skuld exclaimed in the same instant, interrupting Belldandy's announcement.
"Not this time, Nee-san, Skuld," she replied with a smile, to lessen the rebuke. "It will just be the two of us. But, don't worry, you will get the chance to come along next time."
Both females stared at Belldandy in open amazement (though Urd heard the previous evening's conversation, she felt that Belldandy would capitulate under the assault of both of them).
No way! She's really telling us no!
What? Onee-sama and Keiichi...at the beach... Alone...FOR TWO DAYS? No way am I staying here!
"You two keep an eye on the temple. Keiichi-san and I haven't done anything alone in three years, really. We're long overdue."
With a heart-melting smile and hugs for the two goddesses staying behind, Belldandy descended the stairs and settled in the BMW's sidecar. Both she and Keiichi gave a last farewell wave, and started on their way.
Hmph! Can't go, indeed. "Stay here"? Right. Not when Keiichi finally grew a pair, worked up the nerve to set this up, and then stood firm against Skuld and myself. I'm too interested in this, now, to sit meekly behind. THIS should be FUN!
With a grin, Urd pushed herself away from the gate and rushed back to her room to prepare her own departure.
"Stay here"? As if! Not with Keiichi being alone with you. I've got to go, too. I'm NOT letting him say or try anything. Onee-sama belongs to ME!
Skuld hurried off to collect Banpei-kun and her own things for the trip.
That day, things just seemed to go great for the vacationers. In fact, they enjoyed themselves immensely- lying on the beach, watching the waves rolling in on the shore; the shorebirds going about their own business; feeling the breeze swirl around them, carrying the scent of the ocean to their noses; even getting a little swimming lessons in on Keiichi's part, as he never did learn to swim well.
They even felt the worries that had been dogging them the last few days begin to melt away, as they were able to completely relax in each others company as they hadn't in years.
However, no matter how alone they felt, it was only an illusion. Hidden among the fronds of a large-leafed plant, another mini-Urd was watching, growing more frustrated by the minute at Keiichi's apparent lack of progress at getting 'That' done.
Further away, on the roof of a building with an unobstructed view, sat Skuld, binoculars in hand, with Banpei. She, likewise, was becoming more agitated. How could Belldandy tell her to stay at the temple and miss out on all the fun at the beach- not to mention keeping an eye on Keiichi the Pervert? Slowly, her anger rose, along with her feelings of betrayal.
As the sun started to sink lower in the sky, Keiichi and Belldandy returned to the single room that they had rented (one room out of lack of funds for two rooms on such short notice- much to Urd's delight, and Skuld's dismay and horror). As they sat at the table making their dinner plans, other plans were already being set into motion.
The couple sat, finishing their dinner, Belldandy enjoying the novelty of having someone else wait on her. She truly loved to cook for everyone at the temple, especially Keiichi-san, but every once in a while this was nice, too. While their attention was elsewhere (on each other, more often than not), a mini-Urd slunk up and spiked Keiichi's tea with one of her powders. With a snicker of pure mischief, she sneaked away before she was noticed, to a safe, hidden, vantage point, to watch the ensuing fun. Surely, this is the perfect opportunity to force him to make his move, she reasoned.
They finished up with dessert, and moved back to the room, to settle back and watch the last rays of the beautiful sunset, as the sky was painted in shades of yellows, oranges, and reds. Soon enough the moon would rise, and they had no plans other than to sit in front of the open window and watch it's progress, reveling in the quiet, intimate moment.
"Thank you, you know, for coming here with me," he stammered, face flushed, not aware that, even now, Urd's cocktail was taking effect.
"I wanted to come, Keiichi-san. We haven't spent time together like this in a long time."
His face blushed a deeper red as he glanced over at her, and realized that she was staring back. He felt his heart catch in his chest, and remembered the reason for the wish so long ago.
"Belldandy, I wished it back then, and even more so now: 'I want a goddess like you to stay with me forever'. I wish this because I have come to know, after these years we have shared together, I need you in my life, by my side. I know one fact that will never change. That fact is, you have shown me so much love and devotion, and in return, I have come to love you with all my h..."
At that moment, a Skuld Bomb sailed through the air towards Keiichi. Belldandy, shocked to her core, and overwhelmed to finally hear the words she had been wishing for him to utter for so long, failed to notice it, and thus didn't have time to erect a barrier.
The room shook with the force of the explosion, which sent Keiichi and Belldandy flying to opposite sides like ragdolls, to smash into the walls. The table was sent hurtling through the paper partition of the door, into the hallway. Two bodies crumpled to the floor in heaps, Keiichi with one arm and a foot at odd angles.
"I won't let you tell her that- EVER! Onee-sama belongs to me! You can't have her!" shouted the youngest goddess as she appeared from her concealment. Tears were streaming down her face, hurt and anger etched into her eyes, her voice. Unknown to her at the time, she had imbued the explosive device with that very same malice before tossing it, amplifying it's destructive force far beyond what it should ever have produced.
As the smoke started to dissipate, Urd appeared in the room through the screen of the TV in the corner, rushing to Belldandy's aid. She stirred, groggy from the impact. Suddenly, her eyes widened and her hands flew to her mouth, panic showing in her wild attempts to look around. All color drained from her as she looked from Urd, to Skuld, and finally settled on the prone, broken form of Keiichi across the room.
NO! she gasped through a strangled sob. Her world started to collapse around her, spinning and crumbling.
"KEIICHI-SAN!" she shrieked in horror, her throat dry and aching from the force of her scream.
Urd whipped around to find him, lying against the far wall, debris strewn around and over his body. Her face grew ashen. Keiichi was there, alive, yet there was no movement, no response from his mind. His aura, usually so vibrant and magnetic, was dull, washed-out, barely visible to her. She moved to check him over, found a faint pulse, nothing more. Turning to Belldandy, she gave a pained, shocked expression, unable to speak.
Belldandy's face bore an expression of horror and despair, which quickly morphed into one of such blackness, that Urd, daughter of Hild, felt a terror that almost rivaled that which she experienced when confronted with her mother. An ominous, black, nebulous mass was forming around her younger sister, a malignant blight on the world. The air itself crackled with the power emanating from that mass, as it started swirling around Belldandy, a sure sign of the pent-up rage escaping her control.
Skuld stood in the doorway she had jumped through, still clutching a second bomb, staring stupidly at Keiichi, as Belldandy rounded on her. The bomb slipped from nerveless fingers numb from horror- the horror of her own actions.
"I didn't mean to hurt him," she managed. "I just couldn't let him say that to Onee-sama, to... take... her...away..."
Her voice trailed off when she caught sight of he older sister, her countenance.
She fell to her knees, grief overcoming her. She came to know how she had amplified her bomb with her jealousy and anger in that moment. Then a stray thought hit her, like a locomotive colliding within her mind, a thought so terrible that it froze her soul to the core:
I may have just KILLED Keiichi!
Urd ran to Belldandy, grabbing her by her shoulders.
"Belldandy! Belldandy, snap out of it! I need your help!"
But her words wouldn't penetrate the blackness that had taken Belldandy. All at once, a bolt of black energy tore through the blackened, broken husk that was the rented room, destroying the few remaining lamps. Soon, others appeared, showering the onlookers with dust and debris, where they punched new holes in the ruined ceiling and walls.
Urd gathered her own, not inconsiderable, reserves of power, and put as much force in her voice as she could muster, to Command Belldandy to action.
"Belldandy, STOP! I need your help! KEIICHI needs your help, NOW!"
That broke through, and, as fast as it appeared, the haze dissipated, leaving Belldandy staring coldly at her youngest sister- huddling, sobbing, where she had fallen to the floor.
Turning her back on Skuld, Belldandy sped to Keiichi's side, an icy chill gripping her heart, running up and down her spine. She performed a perfunctory healing on him to stabilize his condition, before gathering him to her, cradling his head against her shoulder, holding his limp body as tightly as she could dare.
Then, Belldandy- Goddess First Class, Rank Two, Unlimited License- did something she had never done before- she called out to every living thing, every thing which possessed a soul, gathered all the power granted to herself, gripped Keiichi tighter, called upon Holy Bell's assistance, and launched herself through the remains of the roof, destroying whatever protection it might have still afforded. She stopped in mid-air, about a thousand feet up, to get her bearings, turned toward the temple, and blasted away so fast, and with such speed, not even Urd's famous flying broom , Stringfellow, could have hoped to keep up. She called on more power than she had ever done before, with the notable exception of the Lord of Terror incident. Her wild, harried, flight sent shock waves through space, through the gate, and into Heaven. Yggdrasil registered a force unparallelled in recent memory, for a goddess still shackled by her limiters.
At her station monitoring Yggdrasil, Peorth came out of her chair in disbelief; In the Valkyrie sparring arena, Lind and Chrono were knocked off their feet; and even in the Demon Realm, where Hild sat upon her throne as Daimakaicho, she was startled from her musings by the display of raw, unchecked energy.
Urd did her best, in her current state, to repair the inn's room. Then, she grabbed her sister, all of their belongings, even Keiichi's motorcycle, and transferred back to the temple through the TV. She was surprised to find Belldandy already there, on the phone with Kami-sama Himself.
Huh? Where am I? Who am I?
I look down, studying my hands, my body, recognition failing me. Looking around, I find naught else. My movements, strangely muffled. I glance down, trying to focus. The ground appears soft, giving. As my vision finally clears, I can see that the ground is covered in a thick blanket of grass, and that it seems to go on for as far as the eye can see, in every direction.
I hear a soft sound off to my left, and I turn to see a stream gurgling away into the distance.
Wait! That wasn't there a moment ago. Oh, well, I might as well get a closer look at it.
I decide to follow it for a while.
What was that?
I look at my hand, to find a droplet in my palm, almost like a teardrop. What the...? Another? And then more! What is this?
I could swear that I hear crying, a voice calling me, and singing. Yet, no one else is about. I must be hallucinating, as the voice was a girl's voice.
Right! As if! I was never popular with girls. Too short, at five foot three inches. Overly-thick eyebrows, and a forgettable face. Not to mention, absolutely no fortune to speak of. Of course no girls would have anything to do with me!
Still, something tickles at the back of my mind, but I can't tease it to the surface.
I continue along the stream's bank for a while longer, stopping occasionally to take a drink. It's refreshing, clean, no chemical taste. So enjoyable.
I settle down with my thoughts, the gentle rippling of the water my only companion. It's so peaceful here- relaxing, comfortable. One thought keeps standing out in this quiet reverie: Belldandy.
Who is that? Why does that name sound so familiar, hold so much meaning, for me; more specifically, why would a girl's name hold so much importance? Girls avoid me. I mean, look at Sayoko!
Sayoko? Another girl's name. What's going on here? The memory slips through my fingers, gone as fast as it arrived.
Might as well move on, then.
However, before I take more than a step or two, I again hear the girl from before, as well as the singing. I look around, trying to pinpoint the source, when I notice a faint form approaching. As it nears, I can start to make out some details in the ghostly form. It's a beautiful young woman, with a white dress on, a blue coat over it, trimmed in yellow triangles. She has long, flowing, light-brown hair, and wings upon her back. She shimmers in front of me for but a moment, gesturing for me to approach her, and then fades away. I stare at the spot occupied moments earlier by the apparition, confused.
A short time later, while strolling along-side the stream again, I really do hear singing. Soft, but singing. Startled, I find that it was me singing. It is rather enjoyable, even if I'm not very good at it. Besides, it will help pass the time. So I start singing all the songs that i know (admittedly, not many), and then start on the ones that I only know snippets of.
More singers? Who? Above me?
Staring into the sky, I see a most remarkable sight- 8, no ten now, whales(?) soaring gracefully through the air. They are white, with what appear to be two antennae or whiskers protruding from their bodies. They are the other singers, though not the same ones I could swear I heard before.
I stand, transfixed by their singing voices, so light, yet so strong. Their melodies leave me lost in wonder.
Almost like angels,...or...
Where did that come from.
I try to follow along with the songs they are singing. Soon enough, look! One of them has noticed me following behind them. It turns to me and begins to descend to my level. I feel as if he's friendly, has no ill will toward me. In fact, I am put completely at ease.
As it draws near, I feel another mind brush against mine, as light as a feather, yet as profound as a bolt of lightning.
Hello! I had thought never to see you again.
You know me? Who I am?
Yes, Traveler! lightly amused. We spent a most happy time together, during which you taught me how to sing. It was quite some time ago, though time has no meaning here.
Indeed! The Infinite Spaces of the Universe.
Hmm, something again at the back of my mind, crying out for attention, but then steals once again into the recesses of my memory.
Tell me, Traveler- how goes your journey?
Truth told, I don't really know. I woke up here, but I don't know where here is, how I got here, nor who I am.
Ah! I understand, as you will come to, eventually. I will only say that the mind is as much an Infinite Space as any other you may find. Maybe more so, considering the boundless possibilities that are. Pauses, contemplating. Would you care to travel with me for a time?
It is most kind of you to offer, and I am sorely tempted to take you up on it; however, I feel that there is something binding me here, as if I am waiting for something, or something is going to happen. I don't really understand it myself.
Chuckles to itself. I see, as you will in time. Still, I may stay only a short while, as you learned during our last visit.
I spend an agreeable couple of days(?) with these gentle creatures, learning, singing.
Soon, all too soon: It is time. I must away. I may dally no longer. Sadness fills it's mental tone.
Are you sure you cannot stay longer?
It is, sadly, impossible. I must move on. I wish you well on your journey, Traveler, and hope that you find what you are searching for. I shall treasure our time here forever.
Farewell, my friend. I shall not forget you, either, nor our time together. May your own journey be safe and joyous.
I wave goodby, a strange tranquility suffusing my being, yet also a sadness at the parting.
The whale(?) gracefully soars back into the sky, to join it's fellows waiting there. In the blink of the eye, they are gone.
Voices! Real voices, not in my mind! But, from where?
I spin around, frantically searching, for that was the same girl's voice I heard the other day.
"...ichi-san! Keiichi-san, please answer me!" Pain and desperation in that voice.
And who is that? Is that my name - Keiichi? But, then again, why is a girl calling out to me?
That wasn't a girl's voice. Too deep, resonant.
"Wake up Morisato Keiichi. Return to us once more!"
Such a commanding voice! Who would have such power? Without conscious though, my legs begin to carry me back the way I came.
A brief memory flashes through my mind- myself, three girls (goddesses), a temple.
A smiling face floats there, singled out from among the visages of my memory, brighter than the others, drawing me forward. It's the face of the beautiful girl from the other day. It's smile warms me, the concern in it's eyes lends speed to my step. A thought floats to the front of my mind, as if out of a sea of mist: Belldandy!
Is that her name? Belldandy? Why the sadness in her eyes, her tone, especially here?
'I want a goddess like you to stay with me forever.'
My voice, my words! Spoken rashly, but undoubtedly me.
The dam of my memories bursts, flooding back to me in a torrent, threatening to overcome me- to drown me. Too much, too fast!
Furiously they vie for attention, flashing past almost too fast for me to grasp them- Urd, ... Skuld..., wishes, goddesses, the last three years, Belldandy,...
I feel a warmth surrounding me, wrapping me in it's caring, loving, protection. Turning my head, there is Belldandy on one side, and on the other is Holy Bell, with their arms around me, guiding me. Arrayed behind them- Urd, World of Elegance, Lind, Cool Mint, Spear Mint, Noble Scarlet.
The form on the seat nearby jumps at the near whisper, as loud as a gun shot in the almost silent room, hope warring with fear. Was the sound real, or just wishful thinking? It was so quiet, strained.
No, there! His mind, it's there! And his aura is returning. Pale, but stronger by the moment.
"Keiichi-san!" She bounds out of the chair to his side, sobs of joy pouring from her. "My Keiichi-san!"
Urd runs into the room daring hope herself.
"Bell...da...ndy?" His voice is raw, rough, hardly able to speak above a whisper.
Keiichi's eyes open reluctantly. However, he can already tell that something is different, not just with the surrounding environment, but within himself.
What is it? I can't quite lay my finger on it.
The young man turns his head toward the sound of muffled sobs, finding a head buried in his shoulder, familiar tresses bobbing in time with her crying.
"Belldandy? Where...am I? Something's...different."
"Oh, Keiichi-san! I am so sorry. Because of me, you've been through so much pain and misery. Please, forgive me."
He musters enough strength to bring his hands up, gritting his teeth against weakness and pain, and enfolds her in his arms. Keiichi held on as tightly as he possibly could, never wanting to lose this treasure, this reason for going on.
"I've never regretted my wish, not for one day. You have only ever brought me happiness, and have filled that pit in my life that no one else ever could. My only sorrow is... that one day we... will be parted from each other." He starts to choke up at the thought. "When that day comes, know that I will await your return. No matter how long it takes, I will wait for you. There is not now, nor will there ever be, anyone else for me."
"Keiichi-san, no we won't. We will never have to part again., for as long as you want me by your side."
"What do you mean? Of course we will- I'm a human and you're a goddess. I will even...tu...ally...die..."
The pieces finally clicked into place- the odd feelings and sensations, her words, everything. Slow he may be at times, but at other times he caught on very quick, such as this.
"I won't die, will I?"
"No, my Keiichi-san, you won't!"
Several weeks passed, during which he recuperated from his injuries- broken bones, scrapes, bruises, internal injuries, and, of course, the coma. The temple saw many visitors during that period, people wishing him a speedy recovery. Lind and Chrono arrived shortly after Peorth, and all three goddesses entered together to check on his progress (with a groan of dismay escaping Keiichi upon sighting Peorth). Chihiro dropped by several times after work, concern plain upon her features when she saw him swathed in bandages and casts over large parts of his body. His sempais, likewise, checked in on him, their enthusiasms held in check by the combined efforts of Belldandy and Urd (rather forcibly, at one point). Megumi was in constant attendance, stopping in whenever she was able. She even had the courtesy to forgo her usual glib comments after the first visit, when she caught the pain on his face as he tried to rise to her baiting. Much to Welsper, the cat/ demon's chagrin, Wasp of the Blue Lance was adamant that she be there to help with his tending, as well as guarding him. It was more than just wishing to pay him back for his kindness, though all involved decided to keep quiet on the subject. Her loyalty to him, seeing that he was her host only briefly, touched him very deeply.
There was a near-constant stream of well-wishers and acquaintances that stopped by during that period. Everyone who knew her was shocked by the appearance of Hild, at one point; all the more so since she didn't destroy anything with her appearance on the scene. In fact, no one knew she was there until she spoke up. Ostensibly, she was there to take a peak in on her favorite human, for she'd taken a shining to him some time ago; however, her jovial attitude didn't quite mask the fact that her devious mind was working overtime.
All the while, Urd never tried pushing any noxious pills or potions on Keiichi, other than the occasional pain medicines- a fact that worried him a few times during the ordeal. In fact, she was as much help in his getting around as Belldandy, and almost as solicitous. After a short-lived protest (he didn't have the flexibility,strength,or stamina to maintain it), Keiichi even acquiesced to their aid in bathing. I mean, how do you stand up to the wills of two very determined goddesses and a demon-angel when you can't even stand on your own?
That was when he discovered the true extent of his injuries, and the fact that he had almost died at least once. He could tell that the two goddesses were hiding something else important from him, though they refused to divulgeit. He also found out that he had been in a coma for over a week, due to the head trauma.
"Time... really does move differently in Infinite Space, doesn't it?" It was more a statement than a question.
Wasp cocked her head in curiosity at that statement, from her assumed post above his head, where he lay.
"Huh? What do you mean, Keiichi-san?"
"While I was in the coma, I once again happened upon Schrodinger's Whales. One of them, the one from last time, told me that the mind is just another form of infinite space, open to whatever you desire to fill it with. I didn't understand most of what he was saying at the time, but he assured me that I would over time. I believe I am beginning to glimpse some small bit of his meaning. I spent what felt like only a couple of days in there, but out here, more than a week passed by. And you say that the difference is just as pronounced in Heaven?"
"Yes, the time stream does move quite differently between the Earthly Realm and Infinite Space. That was a large reason why the whales were thought extinct for so long, on top of the fact that it is called Infinite Space for a reason. Recall how difficult it was to find anything in that room? Imagine trying to search all of the spaces like that for the whales." Urd swept into the room with that statement, and began checking on Keiichi's bandages, World of Elegance and Wasp looking on in rapt attention. "I'm surprised you have had the chance to meet them again. Most beings that have met them can only claim one such meeting in their entire lifetime, and that includes the gods and goddesses.
"Of course, this is you we are talking about. You have an interesting habit of breaking every expectation, and finding funny loopholes in Heaven's control system. Eh, Belldandy?" Belldandy gave such a convincingly innocent look that Urd almost fell for it- until Bell burst out laughing her most infectious laugh at the now infamous wish that broke convention. "You've lived with not one, but three goddesses for a little over three years; fought demons, monsters, and the wrath of jealous girlfriends (at which point she shot a teasing grin at Belldandy, who playfully slapped her on the back); played host to two angels (and she looked over to Wasp); taught Schrodinger's Whales to sing; met a race of living, sentient machines; even managed to call Heaven multiple times (on purpose, mind); and talking to Kami-sama, Himself. You are now immortal, for all intents and purposes (though you can still die if you are damaged too much). You've even been given..." She suddenly broke off, pointedly clamping her mouth shut.
Remembering how tight-lipped the duo could be when they wanted to be, he wisely decided to let the moment pass.
They turned their attention to him, worried that he might be in some sort of pain or discomfort. He continued solemnly.
" I have been a burden on you since the time that you came into my life. I'm clumsy, a magnet for trouble. Time and again, you have saved my life, put your lives on the line for me, giving of yourselves tirelessly. Yet, I have been unable to repay even one tenth of the debt I owe you, Heaven, Kami-sama, everyone. I don't even have the abilities to protect the two of you as you do me."
The two goddesses exchanged a quick, meaningful glance, then looked back to Keiichi. Urd answered him, just as serious.
"No, Keiichi, it is we who should be apologizing to you, myself included- and don't go getting any funny ideas- because we have encroached upon your house, subjected you to those same dangers you mentioned, and presumed upon your kindness and hospitality. All the while, you have been the most kind, understanding gentleman I have ever met on Earth. I would like to offer my apologies to you, Morisato Keiichi."
Keiichi stared at Urd, at a total loss for words. He had rarely heard her show remorse for anything, let alone say she was sorry for her actions.
While he was thinking, Belldandy moved over beside him, putting her hand in his, and gently squeezed in agreement with her sister. Holy Bell and Wasp of the Blue Lance both graced him with looks that spoke volumes of their love and gratitude.
A jolt of abject terror ran down his spine, jerking him upright painfully, startling all in the room into combat readiness.
"What's wrong Keiichi?" shot Urd.
"Skuld! Where's Skuld?" he blurted out in his panic, expecting the normal antics from the youngest goddess, or her faithful robot, Banpei.
The group reluctantly relaxed their stances, exchanging guarded glances. Urd let out an audible sigh, looking troubled.
"It was bound to come up sooner or later. Might as well get it out of the way, Belldandy. Due to Skuld's actions, her lack of self-control, she caused you grievous harm, nearly killing you. She was recalled to Heaven the day after the incident, and must remain there, pending investigation."
He was silent for so long that the goddesses almost thought him asleep, save for the fact that his eyes were open. He stared off into space, lost in thought, until:
"Do you mind letting me do some thinking in private, for a bit? I need to work out a few things."
The goddesses nodded their acceptance of his request, then quietly filed out of the room. Only Wasp remained, ever vigilant, and determined not to leave his side for now. Her loyalty touched Keiichi, and he reached up to grasp her hand in gratitude. She smiled down at the once-mortal with her warmest, kindest smile. Welsper, who had been watching from the doorway, hrumphed to himself, and settled into a ball just outside, keeping watch with a half-lidded eye.
"Thank you, my friend. You have all been a large part of my family for so long."
Keiichi spent the rest of the afternoon deep in thought, interrupted only occasionally by one of the goddesses or their angels checking in on him, whether he needed anything. Belldandy and Urd talked in subdued tones, sometimes joined by Welsper, about all that had occurred, and what Keiichi must be milling over. Belldandy began to worry again that he might ask that their contract be absolved, after all that had happened, and with his sudden serious tone. He almost never went this long without talking to them.
Finally, around nine that evening, Wasp floated into the room to summon the two women, leaving Keiichi for the first time since she took her self-appointed job as his guardian.
"I would... I would like to talk to Kami-sama," he announced gravely. Belldandy's insides twisted in knots.
I have upset him enough for him to want to talk to Kami-sama directly! Oh, Keiichi, I'm sorry!
Urd's stuttering query broke the silence: "W-Why? Y-y-you c-can't. He's too b-busy!"
At that exact moment, the phone rang, loud against the absolute quiet that followed Urd's outburst. Belldandy left to answer it.
"Why? Why do you need to talk to him so urgently?"
Belldandy returned, wearing a confused look, to let him know that the phone was for him. Her solemn demeanor clued him in to exactly who was on the phone, as if the timing hadn't already.
Keiichi carefully swung his legs over the edge of the cot that had been erected for him, and rose to his feet. Slowly, with great care, and an ever-watchful Wasp following, he made his way to the receiver.
The duo could make out his voice in the hallway, but not his words. The goddesses resisted the urge to send mini versions of themselves to eavesdrop on that conversation- Belldandy out of a sense of dread (a foreign feeling to her), and Urd for fear of whatever Kami-sama would do.
Soon enough, they heard the muffled, shuffling sounds that announced the return of Keiichi. He looked a little worse for wear, even to the point of leaning on Wasp for support. As Belldandy rushed in to help, she discovered that he had a smile on his face.
"I have some things to discuss with the two of you, important matters concerning our futures."
Belldandy settled herself next to the low cot, while Urd moved in closer and Wasp once again assumed her post.
"Here's the situation, as I see it, and I'm sorry for not discussing it with you beforehand. Feel free to jump in with your opinions, if you want, and I will listen.."
They talked into the early morning, until utter exhaustion overcame Keiichi. The two resettled Keiichi, then quietly crept from the room. They met in the communal Tea Room.
"Would you like some tea, Nee-san?'
"That sounds wonderful. Perhaps something for nerves- maybe some jasmine or lavender, if you don't mind."
Belldandy smiled back at her sister, slightly sad, but a smile, nonetheless. It was a start back to her easy-going, ever-trusting self. Hints were there, but there would need to be time to fully heal.
It's good to see her smiling again. I have never seen her like that before. I don't think I have been more terrified in my life, not even from Hild's outbursts. Up till now, even during all of our problems, that warm, genuine smile was quick to show itself for Keiichi, and her family. These last few weeks have been strained, to say the least, between caring for poor Keiichi and Belldandy in such a slump. Maybe it's time for her to emerge from that sorrow. We'll have to wait and see.
Belldandy poured two cups of tea, and Urd smiled to herself. Soon, it widened to include her younger sister.
"He's too nice for his own good, you know. But, I think everything's going to work out just fine."
Keiichi stands, facing his attacker across the Tea Room table, no expression on his face. Her head is bowed, her chin resting on her chest, yet he can still make out the signs of recent crying. Her face is flushed, and there is a puffyness that accompanies the act. She has apparently been crying a lot. Her shoulders are sagging, and her back is hunched over. Gingerly, he walks around the table without taking his eyes off her. Catching her chin in the palm of his hand, he raises her head to stare into her eyes. She tries to turn aside, but he holds firm.
He studies her for a moment longer, then: "Come, sit with me for a bit, Skuld."
Bewildered, she obeys without protest, robotically. Keiichi leads her outside, to the temple's deck, where the two of them first sat together, two and a half years before.
"Do you remember the first time we sat out here, to have a talk? " She nods, silent. "The bugs in Yggdrasil were causing us no end of trouble at the time. You had been trying to convince Belldandy to return to Heaven, vilifying me." He sighs.
"Look, Skuld, I've been doing a lot of soul searching recently. I know why you did what you did. Frankly, I don't blame you. I might have done similar, in your shoes. I also know that you didn't want to seriously hurt me, at least not consciously, just drive me away from your sister. You felt I was taking her away, that you would be left alone. You missed her. You said as much not twenty minutes after your arrival. You blamed me and my wish for all the problems happening here on Earth, and those in Yggdrasil, too- the bugs, Yggdrasil breaking down, Belldandy's unstable heart- all of it. Truth is, Skuld, you may have been patially right, just not entirely so. Yes, because of my rash wish, I was kind of monopolizing your sister, and I am sorry.I did take her away from you, Urd, her home, her duties, friends, family- all so I could have her with me. And, in the beginning, she stayed because of our contract, her promise.
"However, over time, we learned more of each other, and, much as you may not want to hear it, we fell in love. I may have been too much of a coward, too timid, to tell her how my heart felt. I didn't realize it then, because I am inept when it comes to these things, but somewhere along the way, she started to feel the same towards me. Now, instead of a contract or any lingering sense of duty holding her here, it's due to my asking her to stay, and her own desire to stay. She reciprocates the feelings that I have for her."
"I know," Skuld whispers, half to herself, resigned to the enevitable. "I hate to aknowlege that those feelings are there, but I can't deny them, no matter how much I try."
He looked at the young lady sitting beside him, sizing her up, and came to a decision.
"I've talked with Kami-sama," surprise in her bloodshot eyes, as she really looks at him for the first time since the reunion. "Actually, before I go further, please ask Noble Scarlet to come out. What I'm about to say affects you both."
Shyly, Noble Scarlet emerged from her back, happy to see Keiichi again. He could see that she had been taking the whole situation very badly.
After a brief, warm greeting to her, he continued.
"Now, as I stated, I talked with Kami-sama- had quite the discussion, really. I made a small request of him- presumptuuous of me, I know- after all, three of his best goddesses have been living with me for three years. However, the problem arises, that a family should stay together, no matter how rough times seem to get. Skuld, you are as much a part of my family as either of your sisters, my sister, my parents,even. I have grown to love all of you, each and every individual, for who you are. I also know how much pain it brings to my heart when I contemplate the idea of even one of you going away. The burden would weigh too heavy upon me. To that end, therefore, I have requested permission for you to resume your Earth License training here, at the temple. Skuld, Noble Scarlet, I am asking that you return, to once again live here with us, to try to forgive me and my ignorance. I am willing to try to mend the rift between us, but I can only do so much from my end of things."
Skuld sat, riveted in place. Fear was battling with Hope. Keiichi continued.
" There would be two conditions, though." Her heart sank. "First, you will cease all attempts to drive a wedge between Belldandy and me. Second, you will go to Belldandy and apologize for your actions, as they have hurt her deeply."
Her heart shriveled in despair. The first condition was...difficult, at best. The second- impossible. She had seen her beloved Nee-san's face that day, felt the waves of rage ond hatred that radiated off Belldandy. How could she ever face her again, knowing she abhored her. Fresh tears ran down her face as she resigned herself to the loss of her old life, her sisters, all she had known.
A hand gently wiped the tears from her face, while two more descended to her shoulders, comforting her. She could feel the love eminating from those hands. She looked up from her own hands hanging limply in her lap, to Keiichi's face, and then turned to see a pair of sad blue eyes peering back at her. Incredulously, Belldandy had a smile! An honest-to-goodness smile! True, it was a little guarded, but it was there.
The tears grew, but tears of Hope. "Onee-sama!"
The two wrapped her in their arms, holding her as she cried herself out, sobs wracking her small frame. She fell asleep wrapped thus. They carefully carried her to her room and laid her in her bed, sitting next to her for a time, brushed a few stray strands of hair from her face, then rose and moved through the door, slid it shut, and adjourned to the porch.
As the two relaxed on the deck, Urd watched them from the shadows.
It's been quite some time, and you've both faced a lot of challenges. You have many more to go, too. I've watched you grow and change, Keiichi, as well as influence my sister's developement. And, it's all been for the best, I think. You've changed , youself. But, in all the ways that count, you have remained our beloved Keiichi. I am truly happy for the both of you.
"Urd?" a tentative voice asks.
"Hmm? Skuld? So you're awake again?"
"Why? Why did he do it- take me back after what I did?"
"This is Keiichi we are talking about. His heart is almost as large as Belldandy's. Also, you know how important family is to him, despite all that back and forth between him and Megumi. Too, when you had that little heart-to-heart earlier, he was watching you carefully- your attitudes, your reactions. He based his final decision on what he heard and saw. Think about it for a while. Besides, since he won't die now, it's best to mend the relationship between you two."
"Thank you, Nee-san."
"No problem, kid," she retorted, Skuld having already turned back to the scene playing out on the deck, not even noticing the old jab.
She had just returned her attention to the couple on the deck in time to see Belldandy lay her head over on Keiichi, a spike of jealousy and anger coursing their way through her, a low growl emerging from her. She quickly quashed the feelings, mindful of her stipulations, while Urd frowned down at her.
Like an apparition, Skuld melted back into the shadows, returning to her own room. She sat down on the floor, amidst several scrap components, and began to assemble them. After all, she thought best while constructing something. Noble Scarlet emerged, offering and begging support.
"Keiichi-san? Thank you for what you did for Skuld. You could have easily, and rightfully so, forebade her from..."
"Shhh!" he replied, puting his fingers over her lips to stop her, an act he wouldn't have ever attempted not eight weeks prior. "I had various reasons for my final decision: Urd, you, even Skuld. But the largest was a bit more selfish, more personal- myself. Each one of you are a part of my family now, and will remain so forever. I couldn't stand to lose even one of you, although I had to know her true feelings before the final choice was made."
Belldandy sat in silent contemplation for several minutes more. Then without looking up, she said:
"Keiichi-san, you were trying to tell me something that night. Do you remember what it was?"
"Yes, I do," and a smile tugged at his mouth. " I was telling you how you have brought happiness into my life, a bright center to my existence. I then reiterated my wish of three years ago, for you to stay by my side forever." He caught her hand in his, and looked her in the eye. "Then, I started to tell you this : Belldandy, I have come to know this simple truth- I love you with all my heart, and I cannot see a future for me without you in it. Please, walk beside me, as my partner, no matter what may come, for all eternity."
"Oh, Keiichi-san! Thank you!" She edges herself over to him, as close as she can get. "I, too, love you with all my being, and would gladly walk with you through life, for as long as you would have me."
Belldandy lay her head on Keiichi's shoulder, unaware of the audience behind them, who quietly slipped away. Keiichi, out of habit, tensed at her contact for a moment, then gave in to his own desires and lay his head over on hers. They sat together that way, until well after the moon rose, then set, enjoying this new aspect of their relationship.
The next morning, Keiichi awoke to the sound of Belldandy and Holy Bell singing within the gardens that adorned the temple grounds. He could also make out the unmistakable sounds of Urd and World of Elegance practicing with Skuld and Noble Scarlet, elsewhere around the building.
Something inside him prompted him to move outside, closer to the singing. He recognized one of the restoration melodies that Belldandy frequently used, now that he could hear it clearly. Perhaps it was the time he spent with Schrodinger's Whales, perhaps something else entirely, but the once-mortal couldn't stop himself from stepping foward, openning his mouth, drawing a deep breath, and...
Thank you for reading my story. Please, try not to be too harsh, as this is the first fanfic I have ever written.
A few notes about the story: I drew upon all the sources I have available to me- the OVAs, the manga, and the two anime seasons. I tend to look at each kind of like two different people, looking at the same scene, from differing perspectives- kind of like one looking down from a rooftop, while one is looking on from a passing vehicle. I can't remember every little detail, from every episode or chapter, but I did my best.
That analogy also fits for the wish that Morisoto Keiichi made. There are two translations that I have found. The first, which this story is based upon, was translated thus: 'I want a goddess like you to stay with me forever'. Later, when I bought a boxed set of the anime, it had been translated like this: 'I'ld like a goddess like you...to always...stay by my side'. I chose the first translation, as it was the one I saw when I first got into the series, a month or so ago, and also because it fit how I wanted the story to develop.
Also of note: as of the time of the posting of this story, Chapter 278 of the manga has been published. In it, without spoiling everything, Belldandy and Keiichi nullify their contract themselves, and form a new one. The wording is more precise, and may spell MAJOR changes to the series, as a whole.
In writing the story, I attenpted to stay true to the honorifics that the Japanese use, as the meanings are lost in translation (no pun intended). I know of -san, -sama, -kun, -chan, just to name a few. Now, I don't claim to be able to translate any of them, or know how to properly use them in everyday life; however, these are the way that they were used in the manga and anime, as far as I have been able to tell. Each type of honorific has many forms- where in English we may say Mr. Morisato- and it could be meant different ways by the inflections, etc.- each meaning has it's own honorific to convey the proper meaning, without question. You may see a character (Belldandy, for example) call him Keiichi-san, a very familiar form of address (his personal name, as opposed to the family name, and a familiar honorific), whereas another (Kami-sama, say) may call him Morisato-kun, which is a mix of proper address (the family name, rather than the individual's name) with the honorific used to speak to a younger individual. The English language just doesn't convey the full extent of the Japanese culture or language.
And, for those who may not know, either only watching the English anime, or never having seen an anime or picked up a manga before in your life, Kami-sama has been translated as God or Almighty. Just a clarifying fact for those few souls not in the loop.
Again, thank you for your interest in the story, and feel free to comment. Just, please, remember that this is my first story since graduation 16 years ago :D. Also, flaming is not allowed, at all. Constructive criticism is one thing, but flaming has no place in civilized life.