Chapter 40: Epilog: Belldandy's Choice
Belldandy was busy sweeping the front porch with her broom. She was humming a pleasant tune. Then she heard a commotion on the front lawn.
Skuld was chasing Keiichi with a red mallet. Presumably it was for some perceived slight to her sister's honor. "Keiichi, come back here so I can whomp your crummy head! You stay away from my Big Sis!"
"Aahh! Get away from me!" They were both going around in circles on the lawn.
Skuld yelled, "Stop running, you coward, and take your punishment!"
He dodged another swing. "You're wrong, it's not what you think! I can explain!"
The seraph stopped sweeping the portico. She watched the commotion on the lawn with a small smile.
Her eyes were bottomless pools of languid blue. They were deep and fathomless. And the mind behind those azure orbs was beyond the understanding of any creature or spirit that was not eternal.
Then she sensed that someone was standing behind her.
Belldandy continued to watch Keiichi run from Skuld.
Belldandy said aloud, almost to herself, "Apparently, neither one remembers."
The voice replied, "But you do."
"Yes, thank you."
They continued to watch the chase.
Then Belldandy spoke to the entity standing behind her without turning around. "I am sorry that I am out of rotation again."
The voice said, "For now, your duty is here. This is where you belong."
"This is another mansion? A different one?"
"Yes. It is the original one."
They continued to watch. Skuld yelled, "I hate you!" as she narrowly missed Keiichi's head with another swing of her red mallet.
"Belldandy, my sister-child, I envy you."
Belldandy finally turned around to face the person speaking to her. It was Anzus.
Belldandy asked the seraph a question. "The One sent me here, and He told me that this time it would be different. May I ask how?"
Anzus answered, "You will remain with Keiichi here. And instead of dying, you will live happily ever after with him. Eventually you will enter the Judgment Gate together, hand in hand."
"And will we pass?" Anzus was the gatekeeper.
Anzus smiled at her sister-daughter, "Yes."
"Then I am glad."
Anzus then explained. "In this mansion, Hild did not attempt to start Ragnarök. You did not die at her hand. Instead she is overthrown by Hagall in a coup."
"Yes. And then Hagall will use Hrungnir to launch a campaign on Earth for demons to fulfill every human's most base and selfish wish, no matter how destructive to others. To stop this calamity, you, Keiichi, and your sisters will agree to help Hild regain her throne. And so Hild will devise a plan using Keiichi as a secret weapon that Hagall will not suspect. All of you will go into Hell, into Niflheim, and will face many challenges devised by Eihwaz. You will face Hrungnir, Thrymr and Halval, and defeat them all, but do so only by replacing Keiichi's original wish with a more powerful contract where you agree to join and unite with Keiichi on Earth. This triggers your latent seraph powers and Hagall is utterly defeated. Hild is grateful and never harms either of you ever again. You pass the Judgment Gate even as Tyr cheats to try to stop you from joining. Finally, you will marry in a ceremony witnessed by Urd, Skuld, Lind, Peorth, Hild, Marller, and Welsper. No mortals will be present.
Belldandy remained silent as she absorbed the information. "None of Keiichi's family will be at our wedding ceremony? None at all?"
"Then what happens?"
"You live your life together. Keiichi insists on living on Earth, to be with his family and friends. You assent gladly, as Keiichi's happiness is your own. No children will issue from your union because you two are not biologically compatible - he has only three dimensions. He grows old while you remain forever young. Eventually he dies. You spend the next 8,000 years in mourning. Eventually you fade away, and all Valhalla mourns for its loss."
Belldandy looked down. "I am not sure that I like this future."
Anzus then spoke again. "Very well. I have another future for you."
"Despite the fact that he had declined Tyr's offer previously, Keiichi changes his mind and accepts Tyr's offer of immortality. He becomes an L3 whirlwind elemental. You marry him at the temple with the same witnesses as before, but with Megumi, Keima, Takano, and all of Keiichi's other mortal friends all in attendance as well."
"This sounds better."
"I am not finished. Keiichi is at first very happy, but the honeymoon goes badly. It goes badly for the same reason it did in your first future. It is because you are forced to withhold your love for him, lest your powers ignite uncontrollably and you burn up the world, and him. And so on your wedding night you can give him only your shell, your body, but not yourself. Keiichi senses what you are doing, and he refuses. But you insist because you want him to be happy, and so you again offer your body to him, but again he refuses. You explain that sharing your body with him will make you happy, because you want nothing more than his own happiness, which is your happiness as well. And so he finally relents, telling himself that doing so will make you both happy. But just at the moment he takes your body, he sees the single unstoppable tear in your eye that reveals your true feelings of sadness, how you must always keep a barrier around your own feelings and remain forever apart from him, and he hates himself for it. It creates a permanent barrier between you and him. He is rarely physically intimate with you after that.
"Urd and Skuld are recalled to resume their duties in Valhalla. 20 years later you are forced to move away from the temple to hide your longevity, lest suspicions by the other humans be aroused. And so you move again every 20 or 30 years or so. Meanwhile everyone Keiichi ever cared about on Earth dies. He remains with you faithfully, even though you can never fully love him.
"And so you and he are alone. Meanwhile, you sense that Keiichi very much wants to have a family. You suspect that he wants children because unconsciously he wants someone who can love him back wholeheartedly, which you cannot. Being an elemental he is forever bound to the Earth, the same as his mother Takano. And so, after great difficulty and several miscarriages, you finally manage to produce a son for Keiichi, another whirlwind elemental. He bonds tightly with his son, but you remain distant. When he is of age he departs, and so you are again alone. Eventually you both fade away, having never fully loved each other."
Belldandy looked down at the bottom of her broom. "I think I like this future even less."
There was another commotion on the lawn. Skuld had finally caught up to Keiichi, and she swung her mallet at his head again. He ducked as it missed him.
Then he got up and ran some more. Skuld yelled, "Come back here you pervert! Stand still and let me give you what's coming to you!"
"But I didn't do anything! Honest!"
As Keiichi ran he spied Urd sitting on the roof watching them. "Urd! Save me!"
Urd laughed, "Me? Are you kidding? This is too much fun to watch."
Anzus spoke again. "There is a third option. Keiichi recants his rejection of apotheosis and becomes a full Asgardian angel, an L2. He forsakes all his friends and family on Earth and lives with you in Valhalla..."
Belldandy raised her hand. "Stop. I can already guess the rest. Even if he was elevated to an L2, or even an L1, I could still never have shared myself with him, not fully. That is because if I ever expressed my real feelings to him I would still lose all my inhibitions and self-control, and then my fire as a seraph would still have seriously injured him and greatly damaged Asgard."
She looked down again. "And so we would still remain forever apart."
Anzus then spoke quietly again to Belldandy. "There is a fourth option."
She looked up. "A fourth choice?"
"Yes. Based on the experience of going through the Judgment Gate, you feel convicted for holding secrets from Keiichi, in particular the fact you could never be truly intimate with him. Although the secret was revealed to him before entering the gate - otherwise you would not have passed - you still feel ashamed for not telling him earlier. Partly it was because of your jealousy and your possessiveness of him, that you feared losing him if he found out. And so you think to yourself, 'I am not fit to be a goddess.'
"Tyr overhears your thoughts and asks you if you want to voluntarily relinquish your immortality and became human. You do, and he reluctantly agrees to your choice. Skuld and Urd are shocked and tearful when they find out, for they know their time with you will now be cut short. Keiichi is surprised as well and he begs you to change your mind, but you explain to him that it is too late, and that you did so out of your love for him. He takes your hand in marriage.
"After the marriage ceremony, where the human participants remark to each other how Belldandy's sisters must like to cry a lot at weddings, you joyfully ride away with Keiichi on his motorcycle for your honeymoon.
"And then, on your wedding night, you will love him unconditionally and completely, without holding anything back. You will love him with an emotional intensity that surprises both of you, as you make passionate love with your true mate, becoming one flesh, as you share all of your mind, body, and soul with your new husband.
"While it is true that your time together with him will be limited, it will be joyful beyond your imagination, with a joy that is magnified a hundredfold because of your knowledge that it will not last. And so the depth of your love for each other will grow beyond measure, as you share your innermost desires, thoughts, fears, and hopes with the love of your life. Keiichi will be at first somewhat surprised, then pleased to learn how complex you really are. You will spend many nights simply talking to each other until daybreak. And in doing so he will slowly grow to understand just who and what you really are, and how profound was the sacrifice that you made for him: the seraph who elected to become human. This will cause him to fall in love with you all that much more deeply, and you with him. It will be the kind of love between two mortals that few have seen on this Earth. But even then it will be the merest reflection of His own love for you and for everyone, a love that existed before the creation of the world, and the sacrifice that had He made as He gave His only Son because of it, as you give glory and honor and praise to the One who had made it."
Belldandy remained silent. She was gripping the broom handle tightly. Then she whispered, "Will I die before Keiichi?"
"No, he will die first, old and full of years, content and at peace. You will die very soon after. Then you will join him in the afterlife. Your time spent together on Earth will have prepared him to accept your intense blue fire without injury to him. And then, with your soulmate eternally by your side, you will resume your duty as a seraph in the True Heaven as you dance and whirl in honor and praise for the glory of the One who is called Love, who brought you together."
Belldandy now had tears on her face. They were tears of joy.
Anzus went on. "During your lifetime you will bear him many children, all mortal. And you will joyfully raise your family together. And eventually your children will bear your grandchildren, and they your great-grandchildren, the great House of Morisato. And that great family tree will grow almost beyond count, passing along to each generation a story, a legend, passed from parent to child, a fantastic and fanciful tale, the story of the man who fell in love with an angel."
Anzus then asked, "Well, my sister-daughter? What is your choice?"
Belldandy whispered under her breath, "You already know."
Anzus said, "Very well. When the time comes - after you defeat Hagall and you pass through the Judgment Gate - I will arrange to have your request granted. Your powers will be totally withdrawn. You will become completely mortal. You will be subject to illness, fatigue, age, and ultimately death."
"Yes. And I will make that request gladly, and without any reservation."
Anzus lovingly touched Belldandy's face. "Now you know why I envy you, my dear sister-daughter. I am happy for you. For both of you."
Keiichi yelled out, "Belldandy, please save me!"
Anzus nodded in his direction, "You heard him." Then she was gone.
Belldandy put down her broom and stood on the front step. She continued to watch the love of her life, the only finite being who would ever understand her, the only such being who would ever truly know her unfathomable mind and spirit.
She made another smile as the Song played in her head.
For she knew that one day he would hear that Song too.
And they would dance together before Him.
And so she stepped out onto the lawn.
And into Eternity.