Devil Hunter Yohko Fanfic
dwills@world.std.com (David E Wills)

The following is my first attempt at a fan fic, and before I knew
it, it had grown into the monster you now see here.(Help!
Yohko!)
Notes: Some events are drawn from the Manga for Oh My Goddess,
while others are from the anime. Aspects of character personality
may reflect this. Of course, no part of this should be considered
canon, and I extrapolated things where there was no clear guide.
Also, references are made to Yohko^2, which is in production now,
and as such, I could only make some guesses from the plot teaser
listed in a magazine.
The events depicted here take place about two years after the first
episode of Devil Hunter Yohko, which happened concurently with the
events of Oh My Goddess. Yohko and Chi' are about 18, and Azusa is
about 14 going on 15. Skuld is about 14, Belldandy is about 22, and
Urd would be 26 or so. Figure that Keiichi is now in his last year
of college

Apologies to Kosuke Fujishima, Masao Maruyama, H.P.Lovecraft, and
anyone who's characters play a camio here.
This Fan-fic may be posted and copied anywhere, but must contain
this header in its entirety, and may not be sold or distributed for
a charge/fee, and credit made to the author.
                                   Mark Babcock
                                   Gloucester, Ont.
                                   24/08/95



                       Oh My Devil-Hunter

                       By Mark Babcock


Yohko slowly picked herself up out of the dirt for the nth time in
the last ten minutes. "This is not going well" she thought, shaking
leaves from her hair. The demon was currently fencing with Azusa,
who was only just parrying its blows. With a side of swipe of it's
tail, Azusa went spinning through the air to land next to Yohko.
"Aahhg! I can't even make contact with it!" she wailed.
Yohko considered briefly, and decided this patch of forest was
working to their disadvantage. "Time to beat a strategic retreat,
Apprentice."
"Huh?"
"Run!"
"Oh!"
Taking off at a staggering run, they got to the street before the
demon had clued in that they were running. With a howl of horrible
glee, it took off in pursuit.
Running down the street in their torn and dirty dresses, spear and
soul-sword in hand, the local residents of the neighbourhood who
were out for an evening walk were rather taken aback by the pair.
This was nothing compared to their reaction when the demon roared
by seconds later, intent on its prey.
"I *pant* *wheeze* can't go *pant* much further..*pant* " Azusa
managed to get out three blocks from the site where they first
encountered the demon.
"There! Up ahead! *gasp* The old Temple! We'll make our stand
there!" Yohko wheezed.
Running up the stairs to the temple's courtyard, they could hear
the demon's coarse breath just behind them. As they reached the top
of the stairs, under the archway, Yohko caught her toe on the edge
of a flag stone and went sprawling. Because of her training, she
managed to twist in mid air to land painfully on her back, soul-
sword at the ready for one final desperate defence. To her
amazement, instead of the demon dropping down upon her, it stopped
dead in mid leap and was thrown back down the stairs by some
unknown force. It then proceeded to stalk back and forth at the
base on the stairs, thwarted, but not about to give up.
Leaning on her soul-spear, and looking about to collapse in spite
of it, Azusa panted heavily. "I don't get it, Mistress, what's
holding it back?"
"I think its because this is a holy site. The powers that this old
temple is dedicated to must still hold sway." Yohko mused.
"_Old_ Temple, Yohko-sama? This place looks almost new."
"Yeah, its been abandoned since I was a little girl....Huh?"
Looking around, Yohko noticed that the temple, and the small house
that was off to one side of the courtyard, was indeed looking in
very good repair. Yet Yohko remembered coming by here two years ago
on a shopping trip with her grandmother and it had looked about to
fall in on itself. Just then a sliding door on the veranda of the
house opened, and a tall, well dressed woman came out, a mug of tea
in her hands. As she sipped from the mug, her eyes roved the
grounds with a bored expression in them. When they got to the pair,
standing inside the gate leaning on their weapons, she straightened
with a look of interest. "Belldandy! Could you come out here for a
minute?" she called over her shoulder, her voice rich and sultry.
As she proceeded to cross over to them the slight breeze wafted her
long white hair to one side. The devil hunters could see that she
had strange tattoos on her forehead and cheeks.
When she was near Yohko bowed to her. "I apologize for the
intrusion ma'am, but we are Devil Hunters you see and..."
"..And you think you're gonna find some *here*?" The woman said, a
hint of amusement in her voice.
"No, uh, actually we were running from that one...." Azusa said
pointing down the stairs.
"Whats going on, Urd?" another woman, perhaps a little younger,with
long brown hair and wearing a sweatshirt and shorts had joined
them. A girl with long black hair about fourteen or so was leaning
against a post on the verandah, idly twirling what looked to be a
long handled mallet. Both also had the strange markings on their
faces.
"Beats me, sis. They say they're Devil Hunters but it looks like
the devils are hunting them." Said Urd, hooking a thumb down the
stairs.
When Belldandy saw the Demon, her normally pleasant look changed to
one of anger. "How did that get into this world?" She demanded.
"Uh..We don't know *how* they get here. We just try to send them
back when we can...." Yohko sputtered. She didn't know who these
people were, beyond the fact that they are all foreigners, but
something about them made her want to not offend them in any way.
"Well, you would have trouble with a Duke of Hell even if you were
twice as powerful. Leave this to me." said Belldandy, moving to the
archway.
"But...." said Yohko and Azusa together, moving to intercept her
when a hand landed on each of their shoulders, stopping them.
"Watch and learn, ladies. This should be fun." Urd said, grinning
widely.
Belldandy had stopped just inside the arch, her head bowed and her
fingers clasped as if in prayer. "Powers of light, grant all the
sight, and banish the evil from this night" She intoned. She then
opened her hands and a small ball of light appeared there. It grew
in intensity until it was almost as bright as day in the courtyard.
Yohko had to look twice to be sure, but it seemed this Belldandy
was floating up off the ground a good two feet. Just then the ball
of light streaked down and enveloped the demon. With a roar of pain
and anger, the demon faded from sight, the light disappearing with
it.
Belldandy, steadying herself against the arch, paused to catch her
breath. Turning, she looked at them and smiled. "Won't you come in
for some tea?"
"Uh, Yes Ma'am." Yohko and Azusa chorused unsteadily.
Just then, Belldandy noticed the cuts and the blood dripping off
the two. "You're hurt! Please, come in at once and I'll attend to
them."
Yohko stopped just short of the house, looking down at her torn and
dirty dress. "If you'll excuse me for just a moment.....?" She
closed her eyes and called upon the well of power within her. She
dispelled her soul-sword and was soon wearing the loose blouse and
jeans she had on earlier. As she opened her eyes, she saw that
Azusa was just completing her transformation back into her usual
blouse and plaid skirt.
 "Sorry about that," she said "but that dress was not fit for
polite company anymore."
"Oh, no problem. Who likes to be a dirty guest." said Urd, smiling
to take any insult out of the comment.
As the two of them settled at the low table, Urd and the girl made
themselves comfortable across from them.
"Um, Just how did you end up being chased by a Duke of Hell?" said
the girl, a calculating expression on her face.
"Uh, well, just at the right place at the wrong time I guess,
Haha..." She shrugged, an awkward silence descending over the
table.
In the distance, a motorcycle could be heard approaching along the
street.
"Here we are," said Belldandy, coming into the room with a tray of
six mugs, tea pot, and assorted utensils. She quickly had the tea
poured for them all with two mugs filled at vacant places at the
table. Belldandy stopped, and a warm blue glow filled her hand.
Yohko didn't know what this was about, but suddenly she felt a
little dizzy. When the world straightened out, she saw that all the
cuts and scrapes were gone, along with some of the worst of her old
scars. Shaking a little, she thanked her host, and picked up her
tea, surprised she wasn't spilling any.
The motorcycle seemed to have come in via a rear gate and stopped
just behind the house. Shortly after a young man and a woman that
could be his sister came in the back door shedding helmets and
motorcycle jackets. After they had settled at the table,
introductions were made. Yohko properly introduced herself and her
Apprentice. The others were Belldandy, her older sister Urd, her
younger sister Skuld, and Keiichi Morisato and his younger sister
Megumi.
After tea, Keiichi and Megumi excuse themselves and set up lights
outside in order to work on a dragster bike.
Belldandy looked at Yohko for a moment, and asked, "So, you called
yourselves `Devil Hunters'. You evidently have some powers
pertaining to such a calling, as you command soul-weapons. But to
challenge a Hell Duke is not a trivial thing."
"Please ma'am, I have to ask...Who are you? You toasted that demon
where we couldn't even make a dent in it. Please tell us how you
did that..." Yohko said humbly. She wasn't thrilled with the
comments about the level of their skills, but this woman was
something else.
Looking out the door to see if they might be overheard, Belldandy
said. "We three are Goddesses. Skuld here is the Goddess of the
Future. I am the Goddess of the Present, and Urd is the Goddess of
the Past. Why we came to be here is a long story, and not meaning
to be rude, but it is one that is somewhat private, also."
"Goddesses! Oh Wow! Yohko, isn't this exciting! I never met a real
Goddess before!" Azusa gushed, making Yohko wince. While Belldandy
took this with a good natured smile, Urd and Skuld rolled their
eyes.
"So that's how you dealt with that demon like that." said Yohko in
a small voice."When a demon or devil are near, our rings glow
green, and we go into action. It isn't a matter of who or what we
have to face, for it is our duty to purge the world of evil. This
last one was the nastiest yet, and they seem to keep getting
tougher. I thank you for intervening, and apologize for bringing it
to your door."
"Oh, no need for that, you were smart to come here as it would have
perhaps have harmed you otherwise, and then others would have been
hurt or killed. Still, it is a worrisome thing to have such as that
show up in the world and have those charged with fighting such evil
so ill prepared for it." Belldandy paused for a moment, looking at
her sisters. "I think," she said "we should consult with higher
authority about this."
"Uh, problem, I'm still banned from the heavens." Commented Urd,
which got a surprised look, quickly stilled, from the two Devil
Hunters.
"Then we'll use the phone." Belldandy explained, which got a bigger
look of surprise out of the girls.
Moving to the other side of the room, she picked up the phone and
dialled a rather long number. After a short pause, it was answered.
"Hello, Kami-sama? It's Belldandy. We may have a problem.....Well,
does a Hell Duke running down the street sound serious? (she
winced, and pulled the phone away from her ear) Uh, Yes Kami-sama,
that's right....It was chasing some Devil Hunters.......No, they
don't know where it came from.....Yes, I got rid of it......Uh,
hang on... Yohko-san, what is the toughest you two ever had to deal
with?"
"Uh, I guess that would have been the Demon Tokima.." Yohko
replied.
"Thanks...She said the Demon Tokima....Really? Wow....What should
we do about all this.....Uh, huh.....Yes Sir.....Thank you Kami-
sama..Bye..."
"What did he say?" Skuld asked.
"We have some preparations to make....It seems Keiichi and Megumi
aren't the only ones busy tonight. Yohko, you and Azusa should
perhaps spend the rest of the night here... Please feel free to
call your folks and let them know your all right."
"Uh, Yes ma'am..." said Yohko, moving toward the phone.
"Oh, please, call me Belldandy, it makes me feel so old to be
called "ma'am"." She grinned.
As Yohko dialled her home number, the three Goddesses went into a
brief huddle and then Urd and Belldandy left the room heading for
the back of the house. Skuld sat down at a computer and started
using what looked like a graphics program, drawing a complicated
series of rings and circles. Azusa sat down next to her and studied
the screen as Skuld worked for a while. Abruptly, she
exclaimed,"That's a Gate of Power, But I've never seen such a
configuration at the edges before."
"That's because most gates are made to summon the powers of
deities, and concentrate all the power they can get. Because this
is being made by us, we have to control the power, rather than
concentrate it. If we used a gate drawn for human use, we could
blow the roofs off all the houses in town." Skuld paused, looking
at Azusa hard. "How do *you* know about gates of power?"
Azusa pulled, from seemingly out of nowhere, a large, ornate
leather bound Tome. "Oh! Its all here in my copy of `All you Really
Need to Know about Hyper-Space and Pan-Dimensional Travel'." She
said brightly.
(Skuld face-faults)
"Well really!" exclaimed Yohko as she slammed down the receiver.
"Is there a problem?" asked Belldandy, coming back into the room.
"Not really, its just my mom thinks I'm shacking up with some
*guy*!"
"Would it help if I talked to her?" Said Belldandy, a shocked look
on her face.
"No, But what really pisses me off is that if she was just
concerned for me, I could handle it. The point is mom thinks I
*should* be shacking up! Humph!"
"......." thought Belldandy.
"Um...Megami-sama, may I ask a question?" queried Azusa.
"Yes, but please, call me Belldandy."
"That man, Keiichi, and his sister. Do they know about all of you,
or should we watch what we say around them?"
"Keiichi knows all about us, but his sister doesn't know yet, I
think. Which for the moment is as it should be, I guess."
During all this, Urd came out of the back of the house with arm
loads of blankets and then returned with Skuld carrying several
futons and pillows. Skuld then grabbed a sheet from a small ink-jet
printer in the corner as Urd dug into a bag, pulling a box of
artist's pastels from it. Together they went back down the hall.
"Please make yourselves comfortable,"said Belldandy, "you will be
sharing this room with Megumi, as I think they will be working on
that engine 'till midnight for the race this weekend. I've put
another pot of tea on and there is lemon and honey if you desire.
I'm sorry if I seem to be such a poor host, but we three have much
to do before noon tomorrow. Please feel free to help yourselves."
Left alone for a while, Yohko and Azusa sat in silence for a bit,
trying to absorb the weight of what they just landed in. Looking
around, she decided that the futons needed to be laid out and
prepped for the night. With Azusa's help, she laid out the three
futons and placed the pillows and blankets on them. Sitting on the
edge of one, she sat and thought for a bit, until Azusa came back
from the kitchen with a mug of tea for each, her's with lemon as
she liked it.
"Thanks, Azusa-chan. I needed this...."
"Yohko-sama, that circle Skuld-sama was drawing, it was for the
charging of artifacts too, I think."
"I'm sure they'll tell us whats going on in good time, though
Belldandy was sure upset about that demon. I hope we're not gonna
be in any trouble about that." Picking up her tea, she said "I for
one would like a closer look at that Bike!"
Wandering out the door of the veranda, she sat down on the edge of
the walkway and nodded a greeting to the two students. Megumi was
helping Keiichi fit a new fuel injector into the engine. A box on
the ground had a part sticking out of it that looked like a
miniature jet fan. Megumi looked at Yohko and asked, "Are you
friends of Belldandy's?"
"Uh, well... truth be told, we only just met her a little while
ago," explained Yohko, " She sort of saved us from a fate worse
than death.."
"That's Belldandy for you, she is always so helpful," replied
Megumi."You'd think she was a Goddess or something, she's so nice."
At this Keiichi slipped with his wrench, barking his fingers and
looking an amusing cross of guilty, surprised, and pained.
Megumi looked at his fingers, "Ow, that must've hurt, hang on while
I get you a bandage or three."
As she went inside, Keiichi looked carefully at Yohko and Azusa.
"You know?" he asked.
"We know." Yohko replied
"You more of her friends from the Heavens?" he asked, looking a
little worried.
"No, we're just a pair nice, friendly, neighbourhood Devil Hunters"
Yohko said with a grin, guessing correctly that Belldandy's sisters
and friends must make life interesting this college student.
"Devil Hunters! I *don't* even want to know!" He retorted with mock
severity, mopping up some blood with a clean sheet of paper towel.
About this time Megumi could be heard returning, and so ended the
current conversation. After helping her brother with the Band-aids,
the two carried on with the work on the bike, the four of them
chatting about various topics, though Yohko and Megumi had fun
annoying her brother talking about what type of guys they'd like to
date. Azusa made trips to the kitchen to bring the tea pot for
everyone, or sat listening quietly to the chatter. Occasionally
Belldandy or one of her sisters would stick a head out to see if
everything was ok, and sometimes join in the chatter briefly.
It was around 11:30 when Yohko started to catch herself dozing off,
Azusa already a limp weight against her shoulder. Excusing herself,
she rousted her apprentice and went in for bed. The last thing she
thought as she drifted off was that there was *NO WAY* Chi' was
gonna find out about these people.
  It had been a dreamless sleep from which she woke, a cold feeling
creeping over her. Looking at the VCR across the room, she could
see it was 3:36 in the morning. The shapes of Azusa and Megumi
sleeping could be seen in it's glow. Padding to the bathroom, Yohko
could see a faint light under one of the doors at the end of the
hall, and hear low voices in discussion. After returning from the
bathroom, the sense of unease was still there. She decided a little
night air was what she needed. Pulling on her jeans and top, she
wrapped herself with the blanket and quietly went outside. She
stared at the stars for a while, and then wandered over to the
Temple, slowly climbing the stairs to the entrance. Inside, the
interior was dimly lit by a pair of large candles near the alter.
Moving to the alter, she took one of the incense sticks from a
bundle, and lighting it from one of the candles, placed it in one
of the holders in the alter. As the smell of Jasmine spread, she
clapped her hands and offered a silent prayer to the gods, as was
customary. Sitting down, she thought about how odd it was what she
had just done, given who was living on these very premises.
She soon became aware that she wasn't alone. Turning, she could
make out a shape standing in the shadows at the far end of the
temple. The figure moved closer to the shrine and showed herself to
be Belldandy, wearing a quilted dressing gown and pink bunny
slippers.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to intrude on your worship." Belldandy
explained. "I needed to think things through, and this is the
quietest place for that." She turned to go.
"Please, don't go because of me." Yohko returned hurriedly. "This
is _your_ temple, after all..."
Belldandy gave her a surprised look, then broke out in a grin.
"Oh! This isn't *my* temple. This is a Shinto temple."
"But, but..." got out Yohko, utterly confused.
Belldandy sat down cross-legged in front of Yohko, revealing a
white flannel night-dress under her house coat.
"I am a Norn Goddess, as are my sisters. I was responsible for
Keiichi getting thrown out of his dorm, and was able to get
permission for us to stay here." she explained.
"We get all sorts of Monks stopping by, and we do provide for those
in need, as best we can. But don't worry about how you worship,
that has always been a private thing, I think."
"I just feel so odd." replied Yohko. "I suppose I believed, really
believed, in Gods and Goddesses when I became a Devil Hunter. After
all, there has to be *something* to oppose that evil. But I never
figured I'd ever be sitting on the floor of a temple in the middle
of the night, talking to one wearing `Bunny Slippers'" she ended,
with a small smile.
Belldandy rocked back with a burst of giggles. "They were a
Christmas gift from Keiichi, and they *are* warm too. I won't tell
you what Urd got him, save to say he went as red as the holly when
he figured out what it was. His sister teased him about it for
weeks afterward. Ah, my goodness." she said, sweeping her long hair
out of her face, which had a fond expression on it.
"Um...Belldandy...?"
"Hmm?  Yes?"
"If I may ask, What is the big worry over that Demon
today...yesterday....I guess? Is it really that serious a thing? I
mean, it was a bad one, but we had dealt with tough ones before.."
Belldandy let out a long sigh, considering her words. "Long ago,
when mankind first walked the earth, the demons and gods made an
agreement. No demon or devil, or god or goddess, above a certain
rank, could enter the mortal realms or affect it directly. and
there were strict rules about how other levels could operate too.
I am almost as powerful a goddess as you can get and still have no
restrictions on what I do. Only seven levels are above me, and I
don't think I'll ever be able to attain them, though. Nor do I care
to, really. I'm happy with what I am..." she continued briskly.
"But that Hell Duke was *way* over the limit, and may be a warning
of more to come. There is something evil growing and I fear that
demon will be the least of our worries, somehow....I should really
get back, those two are libel to start World War Three if I'm not
there to referee." She got up to go.
"And I really should get back to bed, or I'll be grumpy in the
morning..." Yohko laughed, getting up as well.
Together, Goddess and Devil Hunter returned to the house.
                     ************
"Yohko-sama! Wake up! Belldandy-sama said you had just enough time
for a bath before breakfast!" Azusa said, shaking her.
Yohko groaned, silently cursing the 107th Devil Hunter for
providing her with this human alarm clock. She didn't think she'd
been able to sleep in one Saturday since Azusa showed up. Suddenly
the import of her words sunk in, causing her to sit up abruptly.
Letting out a small shriek, Azusa jumped back, looking for all the
world like a startled bunny with her scarf in her hair. Yohko got
up, and pulling the blanket around her for modesty, headed for the
hall. From the kitchen, a pleasant singing, and an even more
pleasant smell, drifted.
 She was drying the loose ends of her hair when she heard voices
outside. Peering out the small window, she could see a large man
supervising the loading of the drag bike onto a trailer by Keiichi,
Megumi, and a tall blond man wearing what looked like spark-plugs
for ear-rings. Belldandy came out with a large basket, and spoke
privately with Keiichi, looking apologetic about something. Keiichi
didn't seem to be concerned about whatever it was she said, and
gave her a reply that caused her to give him a big, passionate
kiss. This caused his sister and his friends to start in on him
with a round of ribbing that left him red faced and glowering at
them, as he took the basket from Belldandy and climbed onto his
bike, an old black BMW with a sidecar. He gave his sister the
basket after she had clambered into the sidecar, still laughing at
him as he fired up the bike. The two older men drove off after them
in a three wheel car towing the bike trailer. Yohko tossed on her
clothes and made it to the living room just as Belldandy and Azusa
came in carrying large steaming platters of okonomiyaki and a large
pot of tea. Urd and Skuld showed up shortly after, looking tired
and both with chalk smudges on their faces and clothes. Everyone
dug into breakfast, and the pile of food soon started diminish.
"So that you know what is going on," said Belldandy, "we are going
to do a summoning for your patron Goddess, in hopes she sees the
nessecity in upgrading you powers and weapons. I have never met
Yoshiko-sama, but I hear she is very beautiful. We will also be
summoning a demoness of our...acquaintance... in order to find out
just how serious the situation is. You will *not* be dealing with
her. She is our little problem..."
Urd spoke up. "I can guess who you mean. Marllar, right?" she had
a sour look on her face.
"I know you don't like her, but she is the one demon I *know* we
can handle safely." replied Belldandy, sipping her tea.
"Oh, don't worry about me. I'm looking forward to making that
little bitch squirm..." Urd said, a nasty grin spreading across her
face.
"You said her name was Yoshiko-sama?" Asked Yohko. When Belldandy
nodded, she continued. "I remembered Grandmother showing me a very
old scroll, written by my ancient ancestor, Haruka Mano, the first
Devil Hunter. Grandmother was always frustrated that the scroll had
been damaged with age, as the name of the Goddess who had granted
her the power was one of the details that was rendered unreadable.
Oddly, there was a drawing showing the Goddess transforming Haruka.
If the picture was accurate, she is very beautiful." Yohko looked
suddenly amused. "Grandmother is gonna jump for joy when she finds
this out..."
At this everyone broke out laughing. Everyone that is, except
Azusa. She had a pensive look on her face and was picking at her
plate. Skuld looked at her from across the table.
"What's the matter, Azusa-chan? You look like someone has told you
you're about to be shot."
"Well....I don't know if Yoshiko-sama will find me worthy. Yohko-
sama is so awesome, and she at least has heredity to her credit."
Azusa looked down at her lap. "I'm afraid she'll take this away."
she said, holding up her amulet.
"The fact that you *are* able to transform into a Devil Hunter
should be a good sign that you *are* worthy." said Urd, buttering
a roll. "That sort of power is never handed out to those who would
waste it or abuse it, and I dare say you are certainly brave enough
for it. Don't worry about it." she said, taking a big bite of the
roll.
"Besides, I'll have something to say about...it..." Yohko's voice
trailed off as she remembered in who's company she was in. The
three Goddesses pretended not to notice as she went bright red,
though she saw Belldandy wink at her with just a slight smile just
before taking another sip of tea. Yohko wished the floor would just
open up and drop her out of sight.
The meal ended soon after, and she and Azusa helped Belldandy clean
up the dishes. Urd and Skuld disappeared down the hall, arguing
about something or other. As the last plate was dried and put away,
Belldandy looked at the clock in the kitchen, and seeing the time,
chased them out and down the hall. The time was 11:50.
When they reached the end of the hall, Belldandy entered the back
bedroom, the floor now covered in intricate circles and loops, all
done in coloured pastel chalk. The patterns even extended up the
walls, with a big main circle enclosing two smaller ones with four
more tangent to it in each corner of the room.
"Don't step on the chalk lines, you two." said Urd, now wearing a
dark blue gown that showed her leg to the waist. She was closing
the circle she was in with a bit of chalk.
"Yeah, it'll smudge real easy and we won't have time to redo it if
you do." Added Skuld, from the left side of the room, opposite Urd.
She had also changed, now wearing an outfit of white and red that
consisted of a mini-skirt and a jacket that had a flaring tail that
almost reached the floor, like a second skirt. She was kneeling on
the floor, arms folded.
"If you would transform, we can get started." commented Belldandy,
studying the floor carefully.
Yohko closed her eyes, and silently said the `spiel' she usually
used when transforming. She could feel her body spinning through
the air as her clothes exploded off her. This time, however, it
felt like something was guiding her passage, and as she landed on
her feet, her Devil Hunting garb forming around her, she could
sense Azusa close by her. When she opened her eyes, she was
standing in the larger of the two circles with Azusa. Looking over
toward the door, Belldandy had changed her clothes as well, now
decked out in a beautiful gown with a blue and white mantel over
it. She was bending over the outer circle, closing it behind the
girls.
Floating into the circle next to the door, she closed that one as
well. Looking over her shoulder, Yohko could see that the circle in
the corner opposite to Belldandy was already closed, runes
surrounding it.
"What ever you do, don't cross the lines around you." cautioned
Belldandy. "When we summon Marllar, she will appear in that circle
next to you. Do nothing in regards to her, she will not be able
break free of here, unless the circle is broken from the outside.
Please call your soul-weapons, and be patient" She looked at a
clock in the corner. It said 11:59.
Yohko called forth her sword, and beside her, Azusa brought into
being the Spear of Fuma, holding it blade up and close to her body.
As the clock flipped to 12:00, the candles in the room ignited, and
the three Goddesses started a complex chant in a Scandinavian
sounding tongue. It then changed to an old and formal form of
Japanese. Turning to look at the circle behind them, the two girls
were just in time to see the floor in the circle glow brightly.
Then a form appeared within the blaze of light, and the light died
away with the chanting. Standing within the circle was a woman in
a black and red dress, that, but for the fact that it was floor
length and had sleaves, was of similar cut to Yohko's own. Her hair
was a rich, deep black that reached almost to the floor, with a
gold brett keeping it under control at waist level. She was easily
as beautiful as the two older Goddesses, yet her looks were not
intimidating.
"Who is it who summons me thus?" she ask quietly, looking around
the room. Yohko saw her mouth tighten slightly at the sight of the
two Devil Hunters only a few feet away, an eyebrow raised slightly
in curiosity.
"I, Belldandy, do summon you, and give you welcome here."
"And I, Urd, do summon you, and hope you hold no anger for doing
so, as we have none for you."
"And I, Skuld, do summon you, in hope that you will share your
wisdom, and aid us in our cause."
"I will hear your words, and measure my response by them. So let it
be." Yoshiko replied.
"So let it be." echoed the three, bowing.
"Now that the formalities are out of the way, what is it you want?
I hope it's not to punish these two for some transgression." Yohko
began to sweat.
"Oh, nothing so minor, we could have dealt with that if it had been
the case." answered Belldandy. "The problem is much more serious,
and was brought to our attention by these two, in fact. A Hell Duke
was loose in the mortal world last evening, and chased these two to
our door."
"What!" exploded Yoshiko in shock. "That's not possible! That
violates every agreement with the Dark Hosts."
"Please believe it, as I dispelled it myself, and you know I speak
the truth." replied Belldandy.
"You *are* a Goddess of rank, and thus I know you do speak the
truth. But this is a worrisome bit of news." She turned her
attention to the Devil Hunters. "Just what were you thinking,
taking on such a thing?"
"M..Megami-sama, we did not know that we shouldn't have. It was a
demon, so we went after it. We only found out later what it was."
Yohko got out in a rush. "And we did distract it from it's intended
victims." She ended, thinking of the couple in the park that had
been terrorized by the Hell Duke before they arrived.
The Goddess looked at them closely. "You have done that which is
your true profession then, the protection of the innocent from
evil." She smiled suddenly. "Even if you have more courage than
brains. No. That wasn't fair, you had no way of knowing. And it is
I who should be berated for lack of brains. Please forgive my
words."
Looking at Azusa, her brow creased. "But where did you come from?
I recognize the ring I gave to Haruka Mano all these years gone on
your friend's hand, but I never gave her two of them. How did you
become a Devil Hunter?"
"I am Azusa Kanzaki, Megami-sama. Yohko-sama's grandmother was the
friend of my grandmother, and when she came to visit, she use to
tell me stories about Devil Hunters fighting evil monsters. And she
taught me how to train to be a Devil Hunter, and I trained very
hard. The last time she came to visit, she said that Yohko-sama was
now a Devil Hunter, and told me that if I wanted to be one that I
should go and ask to be her apprentice. She also gave me this." she
finished, holding up her left hand to show the amulet on the back
of it.
"So that's where that got to. That's the prototype of the ring
Yohko now wears." Yoshiko sighed. "Artifacts have a funny way of
showing up where they'll do the most good or the most harm, even if
you think they're safely stored away...." She looked at Yohko. "And
who is it that is heir to Haruka's legacy?"
"I am Yohko Mano, 108th in a proud line of Devil Hunters, and your
humble servant." Replied Yohko, bowing as much as she dared in the
circle.
"108th...I *have* been out of touch...Hmmm. Yohko-san!"
"Hai!"
"Has your apprentice been worthy of the duties of a Devil Hunter?"
"Hai, Megami-sama! She has been a dutiful and hard working
apprentice, fearless in the face of evil. She even led a rescue
attempt into hell itself!"
"Bet there's a story behind *that* one. Azusa Kanzaki!"
"Hai!" Azusa all but squeaked.
"You are now officially the first of a new clan of Devil Hunters,
though you must stay apprenticed to Yohko-san until you are at
least 16 to compleat your training. Congratulations."
"Yaaayyy!" cried Azusa, getting a big hug from Yohko. The other
Goddesses applauded from the corners of the room.
"But your not going to reach your 16th birthday if we don't do
something about your combat abilities, not if you have to tangle
with the likes of last night." Yoshiko studied the circle. "I see
that you prepared for that possibility, good! Do you know the Flow
Infusion method?"
"Why not use the Well-Sink Tap method?" Ask Skuld.
"I haven't heard of that one. How does it work?"
For the next twenty minutes, the four Goddesses were involved in
technical magic talk. Yohko and Azusa settled on the floor and
tried to follow the discussion as best they could. Which is to say,
almost not at all. Finally, the Goddesses agreed on the conventions
to be used, and the two girls were asked to stand up.
The four Goddesses started a chant that wove between them, first
one then another, two together, and finally all four in some
archaic version of Japanese that Yohko couldn't follow. The floor
started to glow underneath the Devil Hunter's feet, and soon got so
bright that Yohko had to close her eyes against the brightness. The
energies swirling up off the floor was making the loose ends of her
hair fly up, and it felt like something was crawling up her legs
and all over her body. Her soul-sword suddenly felt blade heavy,
then the balance corrected itself. When the flow of power around
her subsided, she risked a peak, and seeing that the glow was gone
looked down at herself, amazed at the changes. First thing she
noticed, the red dress was changed. The dress was now black with
gold trim, and it now had sleaves. The Yin/Yang symbol was done
over in silver and gold thread. The gold bracers were now armoured
pads sewn into the sleaves, with the cuffs embroidered in more
silver and gold. The whole dress was covered in runes and kanji in
silver thread so fine, it was only visible when the light caught
them just right. She now wore knee high black leather boots, the
shins protected by attached greaves, and also trimmed with embossed
gold and silver. Her sword now had a longer and slightly thinner
blade, made from some material that shone like chrome, but looked
like it could cut through rock. It also had letters in some dark
material written along both sides of the blade. The edged hand
guard was also longer and thinner, and the hilt was wrapped in silk
cord.
Azusa's clothes were also changed to black and gold with silver
trim. She also had boots that were the twin of Yohko's, and the
scarf in her hair was now of black silk with more gold thread woven
in. The spear had a new blade, slightly longer than before, and
made from the same material as the sword. It also had characters
written on the haft of the spear, now made of some black metal.
She was obviously delighted by the new look, and was all but
bouncing with excitement.
"Your new clothes are spelled against most forms of lesser Devils
and Demons," Yoshiko explained, "and as such, they will find it
painful to grapple with you, at the least. Don't think this will
make you invincible, as they are still susceptible to counter
spells above a certain level, but should protect you from most
harm. The blades of your weapons are made of a magically created
alloy that is as hard as diamond, and stronger than chromium steel.
The edge will cut through most material, even magical armour to a
degree. So don't use it to carve up your dinners." She added with
a smile, quite pleased with the results. "The writing on your
weapons are a spell of last resort _only_. They will allow you to
channel a single burst of power through them, but use them only
against an arch-fiend or greater, and then only if there is no
other option. The surge could destroy your soul-weapons in the
process, and this may not be something I could fix later."
Both Yohko and Azusa bowed formally. "Domo arigato, Megami-sama."
they both said together.
"We have yet a demoness to summon." said Belldandy,"Would you like
to stay for supper, or do you desire to be elsewhere. You would be
most welcome."
"You won't regret it if you do. One-sama can cook like nobody
else." said Skuld
"With such an offer, how could I refuse? Besides, I too would like
to know what is going on. Please, continue." said Yoshiko, settling
down on her knees, arranging her dress around her.
Belldandy then started a chant in that Scandinavian tongue again,
and was joined by Urd and Skuld. This time, the chant had a harsh,
commanding edge to it, and suddenly there was a *poof* and a small
ball of smoke went up from the centre of the small circle. As it
cleared, a rather good looking young woman was sitting casually,
one arm over her knee, a wry look of amusement on her face. She was
wearing black leather pants and jacket, and a black mesh tank top
that hid nothing. She had long blond-white hair, and a mark on her
forehead in a \/ pattern, and small triangles on her cheeks.
"I figured you'd be pulling this about now." she said, a smirk on
her face. She leaned over and tapped a finger over the circle. A
loud crackling filled the air, and a blue barrier appeared, defined
by the circle and about the hight of the ceiling. She grinned at
the Devil Hunters. "My my... *Two* Devil Hunters, and Yoshiko too!
All this for just little ol' me?" The sarcasm was not lost on the
others.
"You know we can compel you to answer our questions," stated Urd,
cracking her knuckles, "so why don't you tell us what we want to
know."
"Oh, I'll co-operate. Besides, I think I know what this is all
about, and for once, I'm on your side. Eeewww!"
"What do you mean by that? Even you would fight a compulsion just
on principal." Belldandy asked, a suspicious look on her face.
"If I co-operate, I get out of here that much faster. Besides,
It'll piss off Urd." stated the demoness "I take it something way
outside the `Agreements' was caught running around here abouts.
Well, this is the least of your worries. The Elder Gods have
returned." She shivered, stating that last. The Goddesses looked
rather shaken by it as well.
"The Elder Gods have returned? Why? And what has this to do with
the `Agreements'? Asked Belldandy, not happy about this.
"Yeah, they showed up on the third level of Avernus, putting the
munch on everyone they could catch and demanding that we obey them
or die.(or was that,"obey us *and* die?) Anyway the Dark Hosts are
split, and there are two camps. One camp wants to keep the status
quo, and the other want to break out and destroy the multiverse."
Marllar explained, looking uncomfortable about something.
"I take it you're with the group that wants to keep the status quo.
What is the numbers in each camp, and what do you think is the
break point?" asked Skuld, notebook computer on the floor in front
of her.
"About 45% for them, and 50 to 53% for us. There seems to be a
small number who are fence sitting. I think if the numbers get up
to around 65 to 75%, they may try a breakout, regardless of the
consequences. Mestophilese is heading up our side, or he was when
you grabbed me." She was defiantly looking anstsy about something,
and a sweat was starting to form on her face.
"I think we may need to combine forces." Belldandy declared. "Will
you consent to being the contact for your side?"
"Yeah, sure. Whatever. I'll need something to return here though."
"Oh, I have just the thing for that." said Urd brightly, making a
pass in the air with her hands. Suddenly a collar with a large
silver bell appeared around Marllar's neck, with a high musical
chime.
"You bitch! You really missed your calling, step-sister. You wait!
I'll get back at you for this!" snarled Marllar, the bell tinkling
with her movements.
"We will contact our superiors, and we will expect to hear from you
tomorrow morning. We will pass on whatever message you bring.
Agreed?" Asked Belldandy.
"Yeah, yeah, agreed." Muttered Marllar, hugging her knees to her
chest, rocking slightly.
"Fine, then. You are dismissed, Marllar." Belldandy made a pass
with her hand.
"I'm out a here!" she cried, vanishing with another *poof* and the
sound of the bell. As the bell faded away, the Goddesses broke out
in a fit of laughter. Urd was pounding the floor, incoherent with
tears pouring down her face.
"You have no idea how long I've dreamed of doing something like
that to her!" she managed to gasp out at last.
"Ah, well. I can't say that doesn't put paid for some of the
trouble she's caused us in the past." giggled Belldandy. "I think
we're done here." she put on a straight face. "Let the circle be
broken." She intoned.
"Let the circle be broken" echoed the others, and a faint glow
chased around the chalk lines and died.
"You may step out now, Yohko-san, we are done." explained
Belldandy, rising up and adjusting her robes. Skuld was laying out
bits of chalk, each bit the same colour as the line she put it on.
Urd was blowing out the candles, and opening the drapes, let in the
afternoon sun. Yoshiko stepped next to Yohko, looking at the floor
intently.
"Does that say what I think it says?" she asked Skuld, looking
amused.
"It was the nastiest thing I could think of that would put pressure
on her, but wouldn't get me in trouble for it." Skuld grinned.
"Excuse me, Skuld-sama, But what does it say?" ask Azusa, looking
at the unfamiliar runes.
"Oh, just a spell to make her need to go the bathroom *really*
bad." she answered, causing Urd to let out another bark of
laughter. "Now, are you gonna stand here all day, or can I get on
with cleaning up?"
"Ok, we're leaving." laughed Yoshiko, shooing the two Devil Hunters
out ahead of her. Yohko and Azusa stopped in the hall, and watched
as Skuld started twirling her mallet, causing a rush of air. It
seemed to Yohko that the chalk lifted up off the floor, and each
colour streamed to a bit that grew as the room cleared. Within
seconds, the room was clean and a small tray held all the pieces of
chalk, now restored.
Entering the living room, she saw that Belldandy was on the phone,
relating the news to some other deity. Yohko still had her sword
with her, so she decided to go outside and try it out. Though the
sword was perhaps a bit heavier, it was perfectly balanced, and she
moved through the forms with the grace of a dancer, the sword light
and quick in her hands. A movement out of the corner of her eye
caused her to turn, the sword blocking the path of a long staff as
if on it's own. She was surprised to see her assailant was Yoshiko,
who winked and spun the staff in a reverse blow to Yohko's head
that was nothing but a blur of motion. Much to Yohko's surprise,
she stopped that strike as well. She then went on the offensive,
raining a flurry of blows that was only barely parried by the
Goddess, who's hair became a dishevelled mess from the exertions.
The fight moved back and forth across the temple courtyard, neither
gaining the upper hand, until Yohko, manuvering under a sideways
blow of the staff, did a leg sweep. This dumped the Goddess on her
back, her Staff clattering across the flagstones. Yoshiko froze
when Yohko's counter blow whistled down to stop with the blade just
in contact with the side of her neck. Looking at the blade out of
the corner of her eye, she collapsed back onto the ground, roaring
with delight.
"Well done! I yield, I yield!" she cried. "My! I haven't had such
fun since....I don't remember when..." She accepted Yohko's hand up
off the ground, and proceeded to beat the dust off of her dress.
Belldandy and Urd were applauding, but what surprised Yohko was
that Skuld and Azusa were going at it tooth and nail as well. Skuld
had a longsword with an intricately worked hilt that looked just a
little too big for her, but she cut and parried with it like it was
second nature. They both seemed to be well matched as opponents.
The two would come together, weapons flashing in a rapid exchange,
only to part with neither gaining any ground against the other.
This continued for a while, until both were glaring at each other
after one such exchange with a look that said that this was
starting to get personal.
"Break!" shouted Urd, realizing the danger before the two could
resume. "Enough of this, you two. You're both on the same side"
Startled, both girls took a step back from each other, and bowed
too each other, looking a bit embarrassed.
Skuld dug the point of her sword into the ground, panting hard.
"You're good, real good. I couldn't even get close to penetrating
your guard." She said.
"Yeah, you swing a pretty mean sword yourself." Said Azusa,
dismissing her spear."
"Thanks," replied Skuld, propping the sword on her shoulder. "I
need something to cool off with, come on." she finished, leading
the way back into the house.
As they grouped back into the living room, Belldandy appeared with
a tray of wash cloths and small towels, to which the combatants
greatfully descended upon.
"If you'll excuse me, I'll be starting supper soon, but just ask if
there is something you desire." she said moving toward the kitchen.
"How about a Hunk that looks like Biryu-sama for a boyfriend"
muttered Yohko to herself, wiping her neck with a towel.
"You know of Biryu, the son of the Dragon King?" Ask Yoshiko in
some surprise, having overheard.
"Ulp...Uh, Yeah, I sort of freed him and Yanagi-sama, a while back.
These," she continued, indicating her hair ornaments, "were a gift
from them."
Yoshiko got a faraway look in her eyes and said, "Yea, he is a good
looking lad, and many a girl's heart broke when he declared himself
for Yanagi. Not that she isn't a lovely and deserving lady in her
own right." she ended, continuing to brush her long black hair into
order.
Just then, Belldandy could be heard exploding in mock indignation
from the kitchen. A few seconds later, Azusa appeared, looking red
faced.
"Honoured guests don't cook their own meals." was all she said,
sitting down next to Yohko.
Urd and Skuld came into the living room and started laying out the
table for eight, adding a leaf to the low table to make the
necessary room. Tea was also brought in about this time.
After about 30 minutes or so, Belldandy came out of the kitchen,
wiping her hands on a towel.
"That will have to stand for a bit, so I'll tell you what Kami-sama
told me." she said, pouring herself some tea. They are going to
call a Grand Convocation of the Gods this evening to plan strategy,
and set up a liaison with Mestoph's crowd. We have been asked to
keep a watch here on Earth, and thus are omitted from the summons."
"Dammit!" exploded Urd, who subsided grumbling.
"Is something wrong?" enquired Belldandy.
"I was hoping I'd get included in the convocation, so I could get
back to my apartment to get a few things." Urd replied, a sour look
on her face.
"Hey! I'm bribable." chimed in Skuld, a smirk on her face.
"Not a chance, small fry. No way I'm gonna give *you* access to my
sanctum. Besides, 'tis some private things I want to retrieve. Oh,
well." She sighed, sipping some tea. Skuld made a face.
"As I was saying, they will call us in the morning to fill us in,
and we are to pass on anything we hear from Marllar." Belldandy
jumped up as a buzzer sounded in the kitchen. "Ooops, that's it for
now..." she said hurrying back into the kitchen, taking her tea
with her.
For the next hour and a half, the conversation drifted around the
table, Yoshiko asking to hear about the girl's adventures, and the
Goddesses explaining about the hierarchies in the heavens, and the
sphere of influences each have, as well as the makeup of the evil
realms. Belldandy would check to see that all were comfortable, and
would add a word or two. As time wore on, she would look worried as
she checked her watch. Soon after six, the sound of a motorcycle
could be heard coming in the back gate. But instead of stopping in
back, it could be heard to be coming around to the front. Looking
out past the verandah, Keiichi's BMW came into view as Belldandy
came rushing out from the kitchen, worry on her face. As Keiichi
got off the bike, they all saw that the passenger, Megumi, was not
in good shape. Her foot was propped up on the side of the sidecar,
encased in a cast, and her head was wrapped with a bandage, her
face showing bruises on one side.
"Keiichi! What happened to her?" Belldandy cried, moving to help
him lift Megumi out of the sidecar.
"Careful, she has some cracked ribs." he warned, lifting her up to
her good foot. They had all come out, and now made way as Belldandy
and Keiichi helped her up into the living room. Skuld appeared with
what must have been every pillow in the house, and scattered them
around Megumi's place at the low table. She then helped propped
them around Megumi as she was settled into place. Urd put a mug of
tea in front of her on the table. After she was made comfortable,
the story was told. The gang from the Auto Club had met at the
track to test the bike as planed. This had gone rather well, and
everyone was looking forward the race the next weekend, as Keiichi
was getting better than expected times out of the bike.
By mid-afternoon they were thinking of calling it a day, and were
cleaning up to leave. Megumi was taking some trash out behind the
pits to put in the dumpster, when someone pushed a large stack of
shipping crates down on top of her. No one was caught, and as the
rest of the team could be accounted for, all that could be done was
to get her to the University Hospital for treatment.
"Who ever did this to her is gonna be toast!" Growled Urd, magical
energy snapping briefly around her clenched fist. Startled by the
sound, Megumi's head spun around, but she was too slow to see it.
"Shouldn't you still be in the hospital?" asked Belldandy.
"They wanted to keep me overnight, but..well, I *hate* hospitals,
and I don't like being in one. It's not rational, but they scare
me, and I insisted on leaving. I'll check in with the family doctor
tomorrow." Megumi explained. "Sorry if this puts a damper on your
party. What's the occasion, anyway?"
Everyone suddenly remembered that they were still in their robes
from the ritual, and the two Devil Hunters were still in their
"fighting" dresses.
Keiichi excused himself, saying he needed to change, and left the
room after being introduced to Yoshiko.
 Keiichi had just finished pulling on a clean pair of pants, and
was putting on a clean shirt when a soft knock sounded at the door
to his room.
"Keiichi, I know you haven't wanted for Megumi to find out about me
being a Goddess, but I can't just sit by and see her suffer in pain
while I can do something about it." said Belldandy, on entering his
room.
"I know you're capable of healing, but is this wise? A lot of
people saw what happened to her, and if she were to suddenly show
up all better, they would demand to know how this was possible."
answered Keiichi, leaning against a wooden support pillar.
"I am not strong enough to fully cure her, but I can speed along
her internal injuries, and block the worst of the pain. Please, let
me do this. I know we can trust her, and she may have been a victim
of something related to what happened last night."
"Alright, but tell her what you mean to do before you start, or
she's libel to freak out." relented Keiichi.
"Oh, thank you!" cried Belldandy, giving him a kiss.

Back in the living room, Belldandy knelt down next to Megumi and
addressed her.
"Megumi, I can help you feel better, but it will require letting
you in on something that has been kept secret from you. I just want
you to know that I feel that I can trust you, and ask that you
trust me."
"Uh, sure. I guess..." replied Megumi, not certain of what was
going on.
"First," explained Belldandy, "you must understand that my sisters
and I are Goddesses."
"Goddesses?" Megumi said doubtfully. She looked over at her
brother, who, with a small smile, gave her a confirming nod.
Collapsing back into the pillows with a wince, she declared, "I'm
surrounded by lunatics. I hurt too much for this...."
Belldandy closed her eyes, and extending her hand, seemed to mouth
silently some words. From her extended palm, a ball of light sprang
forth and grew, sending out waves of gentle warmth. As Megumi
looked at Belldandy wide eyed, the bruises faded somewhat from her
face, and the swelling subsided compleatly. After a few minutes,
the glow faded and Belldandy opened her eyes with a sigh.
Megumi was now sitting up, feeling her side and her cheek, a
shocked look on her face.
"It doesn't hurt nearly as much..." she looked at Belldandy, an
awed expression crossing her face. "You really *are* a Goddess!"
Suddenly her face burned with a blush. "I...I'm sorry...I didn't
mean to doubt you... I mean, for someone you know to come out and
tell you...Well....Please forgive me."
"Of course I forgive you!" Belldandy said, collecting her in a hug.
"But you must continue to wear that cast, and take care not to
stress yourself for the next few weeks. You were sorely hurt, and
if I heal you further, others will start to wonder. You are welcome
to stay here if you like." She cautioned.
Belldandy tried to stand up, and proceeded to stagger and then fall
into Keiichi's lap.
"Oops! I think I may have over-extended myself a bit today."she
said, leaning hard against Keiichi and looking a little dazed.
"Urd, Skuld, could you perhaps bring out supper for me? It should
be all ready."
As the Goddesses headed toward the kitchen, Megumi looked across
the table to the others.
"Are you Goddesses too?" she asked.
"I am a Goddess. These two are Devil Hunters, mortals who have been
found worthy to defend the world from the encroachment of evil."
Yoshiko explained, indicating Yohko and Azusa.
Megumi took a long drink of her tea and fixed her brother with a
hard look.
"You have a lot of explaining to do, Big Brother. And I _am_ going
to get an explanation. One of these days...." She said, sinking
back into the pillows with a sigh.
The table soon filled to overflowing with food and all dug in,
savouring the meal that even for Belldandy was a tour de force in
culinary delight. As the evening wore on, the platters and bowls
were emptied and soon even the chocolate cheese cake was a much
missed memory. It was a significant point to Belldandy that both
Urd and Skuld offered the last piece to their guests before they
split it for themselves. This was a first as both would usually
fight tooth and nail for such. Belldandy was still weak from her
spellcasting, and spent most of the evening curled up in Keiichi's
arms, much to both their secret delight.
It was around eight thirty when the party started to break up.
Megumi had dozed off in her nest of pillows, and even the Goddesses
were starting to yawn. The two Devil Hunters had changed back to
their `street clothes' in the washroom and with Yoshiko, bid their
hosts good night. Urd and Skuld saw the three out to the arch,
waving goodbye as they proceeded down the street.
"Was it really only yesterday?" thought Yohko, looking at the tall
Goddess striding along beside her.
"I know it is bad manners to invite oneself to someone's home, but
I would like to meet your predecessor, the 107th in your line. Your
mother must be proud of you." said Yoshiko, as she stopped to look
in the front window of an electronics shop.
"Uhhh, well....Mother thinks this is all a lot of silly
superstition, actually." answered Yohko, causing Yoshiko to take
her eyes off of a tv showing a motocross race and look at her with
a confused expression. "My Grandmother is the 107th Devil Hunter."
Yohko explained, a bit red faced.
Yoshiko appeared to consider this as they continued down the
street, ignoring the wolf-whistles from some youths in a passing
car. At a soda stand a bearded American was on his knees pleading
with a young blond girl with ponytails, who was starting to pay
attention to him when he caught sight of the Goddess and lost it.
"David no Baka!" she cried, and knocked him into next week.
They made their way through the streets to Yohko's neighbourhood.
At the top of a hill, the Goddess paused to watch a 747 turn in on
final approach to Narita International. As the jumbo jet descended
into the distance, Yoshiko sighed. "You have accomplished so much
since I last walked the earth. Yet I fear it may all be undone if
this coming crisis is not successfully managed."
"Megami-sama, who, or what, are the Elder Gods?" asked Azusa
suddenly.
"That is a good question. Unfortunately, I do not have a good
answer. They were around millennia ago, causing all sorts of
trouble, and suddenly they disappeared." the tall Goddess frowned
in thought as the proceeded up the street. "Were they Gods from an
older time, lost to us now, or the deities of some other, alien
race? I don't think we'll ever know for sure, but they are very
powerful, and very dangerous. You will likely be called upon before
this is done with, I expect, but I know you will do well."
Yohko was lost in thought about this when a voice behind her made
her jump.
"There you are! Do you know I looked all day for you! There was a
report of a monster last night and could I find you two? No!"
scolded Chigako, standing there with her fists on her hips, her
long ginger-brown hair framing her glasses. "And on top of it all,
we were suppose to go bargain hunting today!"
"Uh...I'm sorry, Chi'. Something came up." said Yohko.
"Who is your friend?" asked Yoshiko.
"I am their wise and dedicated business Manager of all thing
related to Devil Hunting, Chigako Ogowa." answered Chi, holding a
finger in the air and sounding important.
"Oh really?" asked the Goddess giving the two other girls a
questioning look. Yohko just rolled her eyes upwards and winked
back, trying to hide a smile in the process. To this Yoshiko smiled
slightly and turned back to Chi'.
"Yes really!" Chi' seemed to see the Goddess for the first time.
"Uh, excuse me, but are you a Devil Hunter too?"
"In a manner of speaking...." Yohko sensed the Goddess was
controlling her mirth with difficulty. "I am called Yoshiko.
Pleased to meet you." she said, adding a small bow.
They turned into the street that had Yohko's house.
"So..You are a manager of Devil Hunters. How does this work?" asked
the Goddess.
"Well, I got the idea from "Ghostbusters". I think there are people
that would pay well to get rid of some poltergeist. These people
would get in contact with me, and I'd arrange for these two to show
up and do their stuff for expenses and a small but reasonable
commission. If *these* two wouldn't just go rushing off and dealing
with the devils *before* I can get a contract signed, we'd might
actually make some real money! Yes, I've dedicated my life to Devil
Hunting." Chi finished, her eyes flashing.
"I see...Hmmmm" said the Goddess as Yohko led them up to the house.
Yohko was more than a bit afraid that her friend would be turned
into a dormouse or a toad or something. It was obvious that Yoshiko
had something in mind from the small smile that lit her face. She
unlocked the door and lead the way into the house. As they were
removing their shoes, Yohko found a note from her mother saying she
had gone out on a date, and not to wait up for her.
"Azusa-chan, could you please make some tea while I find
Grandmother?" she asked, as her guests settled in the living room.
"Hai, Yohko-san!" replied Azusa, heading for the kitchen.
Yohko went to her Grandmother's study, and found that while she
wasn't there, the computer was on, indicating that she was down
below in the secret library. Tapping an icon her grandmother had
shown her with the mouse, the floor started to lower. As the room
below came into view, her grandmother looked up from where she had
been making notes from an old book.
"Yohko, I'm glad your home! I sense that something terrible is
about to happen..." Madoka Mano's voice trailed off when she saw
this was no surprise to her Granddaughter.
"Grandmother, we have a guest of some importance that I think you'd
want to meet." was Yohko's reply. Madoka looked at her, and then
turned out the work light and came over and clicked the icon that
would raise the floor.
As the two returned to the living room, Yoshiko stood up for
introductions. Madoka stopped in her tracks at the sight of the
Goddess, exclaiming in shock,"You!"
Yohko stepped in. "Madoka Mano, the 107th Devil Hunter, may I
introduce you to Yoshiko-sama."
"Welcome to our home. To what do I owe this unexpected honour?"
said Yohko's Grandmother shakily, bowing low.
"It was my wish to meet the person that turned out not one, but two
exceptional Devil Hunters. Their skills are most impressive, and
the need could not be greater than now." the Goddess replied,
bowing in return.
"Yes, I have detected a growing miasma of evil, of a like I've
never seen before. Do you know what it means, Megami-sama?"
"Oh yes, your Grand-daughter and her apprentice have already dealt
with the first stirrings, and the Heavens are preparing for a
serious showdown."
"Uh...Just who are you, really...?" asked Chi' suddenly, looking a
little pale from her perch at the end of the couch.
"I am Yoshiko, Patron Goddess of the Devil Hunters" she answered,
taking a cup and saucer from Azusa and holding it out for Yohko to
pour the tea into.
"Wha....Patron Goddess.....Oh my......" Chi stammered into silence,
looking like death warmed-over as realization sunk in.
"What are we to do about the problem at hand?" asked Madoka
"Oh, I think three Devil Hunters will be more than enough to deal
with the problem locally, though they may be called away to other
planes to aid some deities of my acquaintance in the near term."
explained the Goddess between sips of tea.
"I am old, but I am ready to take up the hunt as you wish, but I
have given my ring to Yohko." Madoka said, rising.
"Oh! I didn't mean you. You have done your duty to your ancestors
and then some. Though your wisdom may be of useful guidance for the
girls. There is another I have in mind." exclaimed the Goddess, a
smile tugging at the corners of her mouth.
It was all Yohko could do to keep from spraying her tea across the
coffee table, having a good idea who this `third' Devil Hunter
might be. Swallowing with difficulty, she waited for the other shoe
to drop.
"Megami-sama, there is to be another Devil Hunter? Wonderful! Who,
who is it?" exclaimed Azusa, bouncing up and down on the couch in
excitement.
"Why, your friend Miss Chigako, of course. She did say she had
dedicated her life to Devil Hunting, didn't she?" Yoshiko said
brightly, pretending not to notice Chi's whimper from the end of
the couch.
"Yaaaa!" cried Azusa, giving Chi' a hug that the older girl hardly
noticed in her shock.
Turning back to Yohko's Grandmother, the Goddess continued. "To
that end, I must ask, do you have someplace with at least 3 meters
on a side of clear space?"
"Hmmm...I suppose the garage might have enough free space.."
answered Madoka thoughtfully
"Well then, may I make use of it for a while?"
"Of course, my house is your house. Please, If you need anything,
just ask!"
"Thank you, but would be rude of me not to ask permission first.
Shall we go?" Yoshiko asked, standing.
Madoka led them to the door leading into the garage, Yohko firmly
tugging Chi' along by the wrist.
The garage, meant for two cars, was empty but for a Yammaha V-Max
motorbike, and the girls bicycles. A small but neat workbench stood
in the back corner. Azusa was sent in search of some candles, while
the Goddess made some preparations at the work bench. From a pouch
purse at her waist, she drew forth a stick of charcoal, and a small
bar of silver and another of gold. She deftly drew a small
pentagram on the bench top, and placed 5 of the candles that Azusa
had produced at the points of the star, and placed the silver and
gold bars in the centre. She then dug out of her pouch a small and
rather plain looking stone, and placed this on top of the metal
bars. With the girls gathered around she made a pass with her hand
and the lights went out, and the candles sprang up in flame.
The Goddess started a low chant, her hands raised around the
circumference of the pentagram. In the centre of the star, the
metal and stone started to take on a greenish glow, and it looked
like the bars were starting to melt. The glow intensified until the
girls couldn't see to it's core, and the chant, in some unknown
language, got louder with it. In a few minutes, Yoshiko stopped,
and the glow died away. In the centre of the pentagram was a ring
very much like Yohko's, and two small shells of stone that had
contained the green gem now in the ring. Picking up the ring,
Yoshiko turned to Chi', who was looking at it with an expression of
wonder and dread.
"I know you didn't have this in mind when you said you had
dedicated your life to Devil Hunting, but I sense within you the
potential to become a great Devil Hunter, and you already are
trusted by your friends, and, I think, that you trust them."
"B..But, M..Megami-sama, I don't know how to use a spear or sword,
how can I help Yohko and Azusa if I can't even protect myself?"
Chi' asked, her eyes wide behind her glasses.
"Soul weapons tend to be that which are best suited to the user.
Yohko had been trained by her Grandmother here to use a sword like
weapon, and I assume Azusa-chan practised with a pole or spear.
Don't worry, you will be of use and aid to your friends. Now," said
the Goddess briskly, "To compleat this procedure."
With the girls help, a larger pentagram was drawn on the floor
while Madoka sat out of the way and watched with great intrest from
the seat of her Yamaha. The candles were transferred to the larger
pentagram, and Chi' was asked to sit in the centre. Yohko and
Azusa, when asked, then changed into their Devil Hunter garb,
drawing a gasp from Chi', and compliments from Madoka. The girls
knelt down equidistant from the Goddess and each other, and Chi'
was instructed to put on the ring. A different chant was started
and soon a flair of green colour came up off the ring on Chi's
hand. In a burst of energy, her clothes exploded off of her body as
it was drawn into the air over the pentagram. As she settled back
to the floor, her new clothes formed around her ripe figure. The
dress was of similar cut and pattern to Yohko's old dress, but
where her's had been red, Chi's was a brilliant emerald green.
Instead of the low shoes and metal shin guards, she had knee high
boots like the other Devil Hunters had, only dyed green to match
her dress. A bandanna to hold her hair out of her face and a pair
of long green leather gauntlets, one of which was modified to
accept her ring as part of it, completed the picture. Her left hand
crackled with energy, and as she looked at it, it flowed out in
both directions to form a compound bow, with a quiver of arrows at
her back.
Yoshiko had stopped chanting by this time, and was kneeling back
admiring her work, her head cocked to one side like a cat.
"I hadn't expected a bow to be your soul weapon, do you know how to
use one?" asked the Goddess, the surprise evident in her voice.
"It makes sense, Megami-sama," interrupted Yohko, "she compeats in
the inter-school games, and has won several trophies too."
Chi' knocked an arrow and pulledhas has has has has has has has 
slowly released the tension on the bow and lowered it.
"It's perfect! If only I had this last spring...." she said to
herself, awe in her voice. She turned to Yoshiko, bowing low, the
bow clasped across her chest.
"I will do my best to become that which you need, Megami-sama,
Thank you!"
"You will have to serve as apprentice to Yohko, with Azusa, until
she deems you worthy of the title of Devil Hunter. I'm afraid
you'll have to put aside any ideas of getting rich from Devil
Hunting, as it is now your duty, not a vocation. Do well, as I
think you will, and you will start another lineage of Devil
Hunters." The Goddess said, putting out the candles and putting
away her things. She looked over to where Madoka was sitting on her
bike, giving Chi' a critical eye.
"I understand you have records of your ancestors. Would you allow
me to study them for a while?"
"I would be pleased to. We'll leave the girls to clean up here."
said the small woman, hopping off the big bike.
As the two left the garage, Yohko handed out a broom and a brush to
Azusa and Chi', taking a smaller brush herself to the workbench. By
the time she was done the floor was clean of the charcoal as well,
and Chi' was inspecting Azusa's new clothes.
"They're beautiful." she said, fingering the silk of her own dress.
"Tell me, where did you meet her? And what about that monster that
was in the park last night?"
Sighing, Yohko changed back into her normal clothes, and after the
others had changed as well she led them upstairs to her bedroom,
where she and Azusa filled in Chi' as to what they had learned in
the last day or so. This did nothing for Chi's confidence, and as
the evening wore on she started to look a little worried.
"Goddesses living with college students, Elder Gods, Demonesses in
biker leathers, all we need now is a cat that talks....What are we
going to do?" she wailed.
"We do what we can, to the best of our ability, and hope it is
enough." Yohko said with conviction.
"That's right! Why, with the three of us, the powers of evil will
have plenty to worry about!" enthused Azusa, waving a fist in the
air.
As by this time it was getting late, Chi' figured it was a good
time to make her way home, with the promise that the girls would
meet in the morning at the local coffee shop.
After she left, Yohko and Azusa cleaned up the things left over
from tea, and made their way to their beds. Yohko's last thought
was to wonder what the next few days would hold in the way of
surprises.

                             **********

Yohko woke from a confused dream where her alarm clock was
possessed by evil demons and she was chasing the thing around her
room trying to dispatch it with her sword, only to find that the
alarm clock must have indeed been possessed as there was no way she
would have set it to go off so early on a Sunday. Prying her eyes
open, she bashed the clock with her hand and looked at the time.
Sitting bolt upright she swore as the clock read 10:00. She almost
ran into Azusa leaving her bedroom, who, dressed in a bath robe,
was on her way to the bathroom as well. Yohko decided a shower was
probably faster, and had a quick scrub down while Azusa brushed her
teeth. The girls then switched places and Yohko had to cringe while
Azusa sang off-key as she took her turn in the shower. Yohko
brushed her own teeth and with a towel wrapped around her headed
back to her room. She pulled on a clean pair of jeans and a t-shirt
with the logo of a western rock band that she and Chi' had seen
when they were in Japan for a concert. The t-shirt seemed a little
tighter across the chest than she remembered, and turning sideways
to look in the mirror, decided she had perhaps filled out a bit
more up top since she last wore it. Her musings were interrupted by
the sound of a bell coming from the window.
Turning, she saw the Demoness Marllar lounging on the window sill,
an amused look on her face.
"You're on very dangerous ground, coming here, Marllar." Yohko
growled, snatching her ring up from the dresser where she left it.
"Don't get your knickers in a twist, girlie. I'm not here to give
you any grief," Marllar snorted, the bell on her collar ringing
with her movements. "Quite the contrary, I'm here to give you some
advise and to make sure you know whats going on, and to give you
this." she continued, holding up a scroll.
"What's that? And why should I even begin to believe anything you
tell me?" Yohko wasn't sure, but it looked like the bell had been
stuffed with wads of tissue, to no effect.
" I can't help being what I am any more than you can help
what you are. *This* is a partial list of the true names of those
idiots that are siding with the Elder Gods. Take this to Belldandy
or Yoshiko and they'll clue you in. They already have their
copies." The Demoness considered Yohko for a moment. "What do you
think your job is anyway?" she asked.
"To rid the world of evil, of course!" retorted Yohko, as Azusa
came charging into the room in full combat mode. Yohko motioned to
Azusa to stay back with her hand.
"Oh, Please! An army of Devil Hunters couldn't do that if all the
demons were asleep for a week! Your job is to act as a balance to
us. If some demon or devil gets too far out of line, you swat him
down before the balance gets too far out of kilter. Just as my job
is to give Belldandy and her lot as much grief as I can get away
with. Not that they haven't pulled a good one on me *this* time."
she said, giving the bell a flick with her finger.
"The Elder Gods don't give a squat about the balance, and I suspect
they destroyed their world as a result."
"I would have thought that the dark forces would have loved to grab
the chance to gain the upper hand. Most of the ones I've dealt with
want to take over the earth and enslave everyone." snorted Yohko.
"Oh, there are lots of those around, some even on our side. The
problem, you see, is that in normal course, folks like you two, or
Goddesses like Belldandy's crew, will deal with the threat, and
shove things back onto more or less an even keel. And the universe
continues. But this is serious because not only could the world be
destroyed, but destroyed compleatly! No Gods or Goddesses, no
people and no Demons and Devils. So like it or not, you're gonna
have to deal with some demons and devils in the near future, and
that means you're gonna be fighting *with* them, not just against
them. Though I wouldn't exactly trust them in any event."
The Demoness looked around the room. "Nice digs, would be fun to
throw a party here. Look, if you don't believe me, talk to your
patron or Belldandy or someone, I gotta go, but we will meet again.
See ya!" With that she jumped off the sill and disappeared.
"You don't believe her, do you?" asked Azusa as Yohko picked up the
scroll from the floor with her towel and tossed it into a plastic
grocery bag that was in the corner.
"Actually, I do, for most part. She may not be telling *all* the
truth, but I think she's scared, even if she can't admit it to
herself, and that she is right about us not being able to fully rid
the Earth of evil. Not that I'm not going to do my best, whatever
she says."
Grabbing her socks and stuffing her wallet into her pocket, she
followed Azusa out of the room. Azusa disappeared into her room and
appeared in her usual clothes as Yohko finished getting some cereal
out for the two. After they had a bowl and cleaned up, Yohko took
the scroll to her Grandmother's den, and seeing no one there,
lowered the floor to the library. There she found both her
Grandmother, and Yoshiko. The latter, now dressed in a skirt and
blouse, with a long coat over top, was reading from a scroll like
the one Yohko had in the bag.
"Good morning, Yohko! You sleep well?" her grandmother called from
the table where she was touching up an old tome with a fountain
pen.
"Hai, good morning Grandma, Megami-sama. Um.. I had a visit from
Marllar this morning, and she left me this." Yohko replied, holding
up the bag with the scroll. "I don't trust her, so I haven't
touched it, and I thought you might want to check it over for
Booby-traps."
"Well, bring it here then." instructed Yoshiko.
She proceeded to wave a hand over top of the bag, and mumble a few
words of a spell. A small *poof* of blue smoke billowed out of the
bag, and the Goddess's hand changed it's motion to waving away the
smoke with a slight cough.
"Well, that little demoness is a nasty little bitch. She had the
whole scroll laced with a sneeze and an itch powder. Good thing you
hadn't tried to open it, or your room would be hell on earth for a
few days. Not that it would have actually have harmed you, but it
wouldn't have been pleasant. Go ahead, its quite safe now." She
commented, a wry expression on her face.
Yohko pulled the scroll from the bag as Azusa came down the ladder
set into the wall and joined them.
"She said it was a partial list of `true names' of some of our
opposition." Yohko said as she undid the ties and unrolled the
scroll on the table. Yoshiko placed her scroll next to the other
one and started to compare the two. After a few minutes she sighed
and said, "Well, it looks correct, but you need to know who's who
before it'll do you much good." Rolling up the scroll, she gave it
back to Yohko. "Your lot should be familiar with the major names on
this list, they're listed in the first half page or so, but try to
remember as many as you can, as it might make your job easier."
Yohko took the scroll, and thanking the Goddess, explained that she
and Azusa were to meet Chi', but they'd look at it over at the
coffee shop. Bidding fairwell, the two took the elevator floor back
up to Madoka's study. As they were going down the hall to the front
door, Yohko's mother could be seen in the living room, wearing a
house coat and nursing a hangover. She waved weakly to the girls as
they said good morning, and wincing, went back to her coffee.
Looking through the window, Yohko decided that she might need a
light jacket later, and so grabbed one out of the closet. Azusa
also grabbed her jacket and so armed, the girls left for the coffee
shop.
 As the two entered the coffee shop, Chi' waved from the back of
the shop where she had grabbed a booth in the corner.
"Sorry if we were late, Chi'. Things have already been weird today,
and may get stranger." Yohko explained as she slid into the seat
across from her friend, Azusa next to her.
"Oh, it's ok. I over-slept too, and only just got here myself."
answered Chi' with a dismissing wave of the hand. "I just can't
believe that I'm a Devil Hunter. Uh..In training, that is. I had to
transform this morning to convince myself that it wasn't a weird
dream!" she concluded, looking a little bemused.
Chi's order came, and Yohko and Azusa ordered cheesecake and
American style coffee. When they had received their orders, Yohko
took out the scroll from her jacket pocket and explained the
importance of the document to Chi'. After they had finished their
cakes, Yohko unrolled the scroll and they spent the next hour and
a half memorizing the first page of it. Surprisingly, Chi' was the
best of them at rattling off the strange names on the document, and
it wasn't long before they had ordered another round of cheesecakes
to celebrate their success. It was while they were waiting for
their order that the door to the shop opened, and Yohko saw a
familiar face enter. Waving, she got the attention of the young
Goddess as she was about to sit at the bar, and with a grin, Skuld
joined them in the booth, sitting next to Chi'. After introductions
were made, Yohko explained what had transpired the evening before,
and brought Skuld up to date on what had been said and done that
morning by Marllar.
"Figures! Marllar would try a stunt like that!" Skuld snorted. It
will really piss her off when she finds out you didn't fall for
it." turning to Chi', Skuld held out a hand. "So you're now a Devil
Hunter too, Congratulations!"
Chi' shook hands with Skuld, and looked a bit startled when Yohko
explained that this raven haired girl was a Goddess, and was the
younger sister of Belldandy.
The cheesecakes came about this time, along with a large banana
split and a soda for Skuld, the waitress winking at Skuld with a
smile as the Goddess giggled with delight at the fact that she was
going to order just that.
"Guess they've got me pegged!" she laughed, digging into the
confection.
"How is Megumi this morning?" asked Yohko, sipping her coffee.
"Sore, grumpy, and in a really foul mood. In short, feeling better.
I think she wants to find who's responsible for a little *personal*
pay back. She even has Urd taken aback with her viscousness.." the
small Goddess said around her spoon.
"Belldandy and Keiichi have gone to the track to investigate the
site of the incident to see if it was related to whats been going
on, or just somebody being unpleasant." She continued.
"Have you heard from the other deities yet?" asked Azusa, popping
a piece of cake in her mouth.
"Yeah, and I think your not gonna like the answer. We've got a
meeting with Mestophilese for this afternoon, and Belldandy is
asking Yoshiko-sama if she can borrow you lot as bodyguards." Skuld
explained.
"This afternoon!? Where? And why would she need us? You're all
Goddesses, we wouldn't be much use." Yohko got out as Chi' choked
on her coffee and fell into a fit of coughing.
Uh, well... That's the bad news. The meeting will take place at the
gates to Nifflehime. Actually, you lot will probably not be doing
much beyond standing around and looking tough. Though if some
upstart gets carried away, you may have to toss him back through
the gates, so to speak. Oh yeah, if you *do* toast some demon while
you're there, its permanent. They don't come back 100 years later,
nope, nada. So you see, you lot will be a real good incentive for
them to behave themselves."
Just then they noticed the waitress standing by the table with the
bill and a worried look on her face. Yohko accepted the bill as
Skuld forced a laugh. When the coast was clear, Skuld quietly
thumped her forehead on the table saying "BAKA" each time.
The other girls waited until she had finished, and proceeded to
toss together the cash to pay the bill.
As they left the cafe, Skuld explained that as Goddess's, they were
bound by the truce to not attack demons at the meeting, but some of
the demons might be from the other faction, and could try to upset
things, hence the need for the girls.
She lead the way back to the temple, chattering on about this demon
or that devil and the things they would be prone to do. As they
were walking down the street that the temple was on, the sound of
a motorcycle could be heard approaching from behind. As they turned
to look, Keiichi, with Belldandy riding in the sidecar, roared
past. With a wave from Belldandy, the BMW turned into a side street
that led to the back of the compound and disappeared. The girls
hurried up the stairs to the temple compound and arrived as
Belldandy and Keiichi appeared from around the side of the house.
"Konichiwa! Thank you for coming!" She called.
"Konichiwa, Belldandy-sama, Keiichi-san!" Yohko answered, bowing to
the Goddess.
As they entered the house and shed their shoes, Yohko introduced
Chi' to Belldandy and Urd, who had come into the hall as they
arrived. Further introductions were made when they entered the main
room and found Megumi propped up with pillows watching TV.
"Oh, this is so wonderful! A new Devil Hunter!" exclaimed
Belldandy.
"Well, I'm just an apprentice for the time being, really.." replied
Chi' uncertainly.
"Ah...You'll do ok. Just follow Yohko-chan's lead, and everything
will be just fine." said Urd, slapping her on the shoulder.
Everyone had settled down around the table except Urd and Keiichi,
who had gone to get the tea, when Belldandy started to fill them in
on what she had found out at the track.
"It was definitely a demon." she said. "4th, maybe 5th class,
limited.. Not too dangerous, but a potential threat to those like
Megumi who would have had no warning. It seems to have gated back
to it's native plane, so there isn't much we can do about it unless
it comes back again. I've spelled the area it came through so as to
trap it should it return, but I think it was a one time event."
"All I want is ten minutes alone with the creep!" Megumi snarled,
a dark look on her face.
"Well, I can't help you there, I'm afraid. Gomen." Belldandy said
quietly, a bit taken aback herself.
Just then the phone rang, and Urd jumped up to answer it, as she
was the closest. Yohko was idlely wondering what their long
distance charges were like when Urd held out the phone to her.
"It's Yoshiko-sama..." she said as Yohko took it from her.
"Hai!.....Yes, Skuld-sama explained what they wanted....Hai....Yes,
they're both here, too....Good....We'll do our best, Megami-
sama.....Sayonara.." Yohko hung up the phone. "She's made it
official. We're at your disposal, Belldandy-sama."
"Good! Then I guess we'd best get going.." She suddenly looked
bothered by something. "Uh, Keiichi? I'm going to gone the rest of
the day, but we should be back by late tonight."
"Belldandy, I know the Ultimate System Force is suppose to keep us
together, but if the Elder Gods get their way, then we won't be
able to be, as I see it. So I think it would be in the interests of
the System Force for you to deal with this as you see necessary."
Keiichi replied with a wry grin. Both Urd and Skuld looked wide
eyed as the implications of what he said and the wisdom of it sunk
home.
"I suppose that true....Well! I guess we're on our way, then." She
said.
As they got up, she led the way out onto the verandah and across
the yard to the Temple. Even Megumi came, helped along by her
brother.
When they reached the Temple, Yohko and the others could see a
pentagram already drawn on the floor before the alter. It was much
larger than the one that had been drawn in the Goddesses bedroom.
"Yohko-chan, if you and your friends would change, we can get
started." Said Belldandy.
Yohko was all set to recite her "mantra" when she noticed Keiichi
watching them curiously. "Uh, Megumi-sa...Could you cover your
brother's eyes while we do this?"
"You mean like this?" Megumi replied, moving behind her brother and
clamping both her hands over his face.
"Yeah, that'll do." answered Yohko with a grin.
"I don't see why I have to put up with this...." grumbled Keiichi.
"Its so you *don't* see..." explained Urd in a teasing voice.
Yohko and the others were quick to change, and when Megumi saw
*why* she had been asked to cover Keiichi's eyes, she clamped down
even harder, causing a squeak of protest from her brother.
After the transformation, she let go of her brother and as he tried
to get his eyes to see straight, and looked on in amazement at what
the three girls were wearing now. Yohko's and Azusa's dresses she
had seen the night before, but the bright emerald green of Chi's
dress was most striking.
"Keiichi, if you would sit there, and Megumi over there."
Instructed Skuld as she took a place in one of the points of the
star. Urd stood in a point two to her left, as Belldandy took up
position in the point next over from Urd. The Devil Hunters, with
warnings not to step on the lines, were instructed to stand in the
centre pentangle. After Keiichi and Megumi were at their places
outside the main circle, each at the empty points of the star,
Skuld explained that they were under *NO* circumstances allowed to
cross into the pentagram, or to disturb the chalk lines in any way.
The three Goddesses then changed into their robes, and proceeded to
chant in a Scandinavian tongue. The Pentagram started to glow,
first the lines, and then the areas between them. The glow grew
until it became a cylinder of intense light. When it faded, the
Goddess and Devil Hunters were gone, though faint spots of light
chased around the Pentagram, showing it was still active. Megumi's
face as she looked across the circle at her brother was full of awe
and amazement. Settling herself more comfortably, she said, "I
think now would be a good time for you to explain how all this came
about, Dear Brother." She gave him a look that brooked no
arguments.
Sighing, he launched into the story how he had met the Goddess, and
how a promise had been made and eventually kept, and a wish
fulfilled. The sun was setting as he finished his story, but
neither wanted to leave the Temple.
                        *******
The first thing Yohko noticed before she even opened her eyes was
the smell. That burnt smell of rock and other, more unspeakable
things. "How Totally Cliche" she thought yet again as she surveyed
her surroundings, taking in the gates set into a rock face a small
distance away. They were decorated with demons doing unpleasant
things to terrified young women. In other words, the usual demon
shtick. She called her sword into being as she followed the three
Goddesses as they picked their way over the broken ground to a long
and ornate table set up in front of the gates.
Turning, Belldandy said in a quiet voice. "Do not drink or eat
anything here, no matter how good it looks. For to eat here is to
loose a part of your soul to the underworld."
The table had three chairs on each side, and after a brief
inspection, Belldandy stood in front of the centre chair as Urd
took the one on the right, and Skuld took the one on her left. The
Devil Hunters took up position just behind and to one side of the
Goddesses.
They waited only a minute before a loud gong sounded, and the gates
before them opened slowly. Standing in the centre of the group
revealed was a darkly handsome man with a neatly trimmed goatee and
wearing richly appointed clothes. Despite herself, a slight shiver
ran down Yohko's back as she saw that his eyes were solid black
orbs with glowing red puples. To his left, a Lamia swayed gently,
her head and torso that of a beautiful and comely woman, blending
into a snake's body from the waist down. But for gold jewellery and
arm-bands and bracelets, she was naked. To his right, a familiar
figured hulked. The Demon King that Yohko and Azusa had vanquished
in the Forest of the Orb stood there.
In behind the three were two Imps, and Marllar standing around
looking bored. When the Demoness saw Yohko she started to grin
until she saw the smile and small nod the Devil Hunter gave her. A
small frown crossed her face as she surveyed the others, and the
frown deepened as she got a good look at Chi'.
"Do you abide by the agreements made pertaining to these
proceedings, and speak for those in your entourage, Arch-Demon
Mestophilese?" ask Belldandy
"I do. Will you, Norn Goddess of the Present Belldandy, abide the
agreements made pertaining to these proceedings, and speak for
those in your entourage?" answered the tall demon in a rich,
cultured voice.
"I will, and so saying shall we begin?" The Goddess replied, taking
a seat.
As the others sat down, she noticed that the Demon King was giving
Yohko a hard look. "Is there some problem, Uujookan?" Belldandy ask
as the hulking Demon King settled himself into a chair that grew to
accommodate his large frame.
"Don't like those two being here. Object to their presence, I do."
He said with a snarl.
Belldandy turned to look at Yohko, who simply said, "We trashed his
ass the night Azusa-chan gained her powers in the Forest of the
Orb."
"That hass nothing to do with why we're here, sso we will forget it
for now." said the Lamia, coiling into her chair, which adapted to
fit her body too.
Reaching into her mantel, Belldandy pulled out a large scroll and
held it up. "This is a break down of our chain of command and
disposition of our forces to date." she said laying the scroll down
and breaking the seal.
>From his coat, Mestophilese pulled a similar scroll and laid it
down on the table in front of him, also breaking the seal. "And
this is a list of the hosts we know are still loyal and our chain
of command, though it is somewhat incomplete. Some hosts are also
split, each contingement following different leaders, some of them
*both* declaring for us, against us, or both...Quite a mess,
really."
As the discussion got down to details, Yohko concentrated on the
two Imps that were in the background with Marllar, who didn't seem
to want anything to do with them. As time wore on, she noticed that
while one of the Imps was twitching about with that nervus energy
that they all had, the other seemed to be fixated on Belldandy, and
was way too calm compared to its companion. Suddenly, it let out a
scream and bounded over the top of Mestophilese's chair in a high
arc that would have landed right on top of the startled Goddess,
had its forward flight not been interrupted by a green bolt of
light that inbedded itself into the Imps' chest. As the Imp was
thrown back over the Arch-Demon's chair, the bolt resolved itself
into a green fletched arrow. The body of the Imp changed to that of
another demon briefly before exploding with some force,
disintegrating compleatly. It was all Yohko could do to keep her
follow through from taking Skuld's head off as her sword passed
through the spot she had figured on hitting the Imp. Looking to her
right, she could see that Chi' had another of her green fletched
arrows knocked, bow bent and ready, pointing at Marllar.
"Chigako-chan, please relax, I think there will be no further
*incidents*." Belldandy said in a measured voice. As Chi' lowered
her bow and relaxed the string both she and the demoness she had
been aiming at let out a long breath, both their faces white.
"I am sorry for this breach of protocol, Belldandy-san. I do hope
this doesn't cause problems between our two groups?" said
Mestophilese, a frown on his face.
"Actually, I'm glad this did happen, as I did sort of expect
something like this." she drew another scroll from her robes.
"These are the *real* documents to which we must discuss strategy.
I think you might have another scroll, with a bit more accurate
data, I'm sure?" Belldandy said, cocking an eyebrow.
Letting out a chuckle, Mestophilese also dug out a new scroll, and
the six principals got back down to negotiations.
While the discussions at times got rather heated, mostly between
the Demon King and Urd, the details got sorted out rather quickly,
and in fact the big holdup was with Skuld and the Lamia, who were
making notes of the proceedings. Skuld was pounding furiously on
the keyboard of her NoteBook computer, and the Lamia was scribbling
on a scroll with a pen. It was several hours later that the
negotiations wrapped up with Mestophilese and Belldandy, who had
for some reason put on some large, wire frame glasses, were reading
over Skuld's print out, and the Lamia's scroll, respectively.
Satisfied with what she read there, she signed the document, and
waiting until Mestophilese had signed his copy, she exchanged
copies with him and signed her name to the document after verifying
his signature. Rising, she bowed politely to those on the other
side of the table, and made ready to leave.
"I didn't know you Norns were into Devil Hunters," Mestophilese
commented as he returned her bow. "I always thought they were
Yoshiko's pet hobby."
"We're not, and they are. These three are on loan, as it were."
replied the Goddess, putting away her glasses. "They certainly
proved their usefulness this day...." she replied with a smile, to
which he chuckled shortly.
"I suppose, my dear, I suppose...We must be going ourselves, as I'm
sure poor Kikarra here is finding the air much to dry for her
tastes." he said, indicating the Lamia. She made a sour face and
replied, "Yess, itss much too dry, sso sstop yacking already and
letss go.."
With a final bow, Belldandy lead the way back to the spot where
they had first appeared. Yohko, Azusa, and Chi' all kept an eye on
the demons until the gate had closed behind them, and then hurried
to catch up with the Goddesses. Standing in the middle of the
Goddesses, Yohko couldn't shake the feeling that something wasn't
right as the three Norn's linked hands and chanted in their own
tongue. To Yohko's surprise, she could understand the words of the
chant, if not the meaning of the phrases. It occurred to her that
the Norns had spoken the whole time in their language, and that the
demons had spoken in either a harsh demonic tongue, or in a thick
British accented English in the case of Mestophilese.
When the light had dimmed from the spell, they found themselves in
almost compleat darkness, the only light from a dim candle at the
alter. After her eyes had adjusted to the light, she could just
make out Keiichi, with his sister's head pillowed on his lap,
dozing against the wall. With a smile, Belldandy moved to them,
only to stop when Yohko made a small sound to get her attention.
Yohko then indicated her clothes and gestured with her hands them
going away from her. Belldandy broke out in a grin as she
understood, and moved to block Keiichi's view of the Devil Hunters
should he wake. The girls quickly changed, and then Belldandy bent
down and gave him a kiss on the cheek. Yohko then noticed for the
first time that she wore a diamond ring on her left hand. More to
the point, she had noticed the ring before but hadn't made the
connection with the young student until now. As Keiichi stirred,
she saw the look of joy on his face as he saw who it was who woke
him. After a few quiet words were exchanged, Megumi was roused, who
complained about being stiff as she sat up. Both Keiichi and
Belldandy helped her up, and with one on each side, led her to the
door of the Temple. Skuld stayed behind as the others left the
Temple, and Yohko presumed it was to clean up the pentagram on the
floor. Sure enough, as they crossed the yard, a noise like a small
whirlwind came from the temple. Soon the house was brightly lit,
and tea and cakes were handed to all. Belldandy excused herself,
saying she had to go somewhere for a short time, and then stepped
into a mirror, causing both Megumi and Chi' to choke on their tea
briefly. The mirror swirled for a time, and then settled down.
"Do you lot do this sort of thing all the time?" Megumi asked, as
she wiped the edge of the table with her napkin.
"Sometimes." Skuld replied cheerfully. "And other times, we're just
like everyone else.
"Yeah, right. I always thought things were weird around here, but
before yesterday, I couldn't figure out why." Megumi snorted, then
broke out in a shy grin. "But it does sort of kick the supports out
from under reality to find out that my future sister-in-law is a
Goddess."
"I wouldn't worry to much about it, Megumi-chan. Your biggest worry
is to not eat too much of her food, or your figure will start to
suffer." Urd said with a wink, refilling everyone's mugs.
"Sister-in-law?!" Broke in Azusa, eyes wide. "You mean Belldandy-
sama and Keiichi-san are engaged? Wow!"
"Uh-huh, happened late last fall. They're planing to tie the knot
when Keiichi graduates and gets a job." Urd explained, spiking her
tea with a little sake.
"Uh, yeah well....I don't think its right to for me to sponge off
her, even if she is a Goddess. A man should support his wife with
an honest living...." Keiichi put in, a little red faced. He poured
a small amount of the sake in his mug, and handed the bottle to
Yohko, who took it with some surprise. After a moments hesitation,
she poured a little into her mug as well and passed the bottle to
Chi'. Chi' poured a bit into her mug, and then after a thoughtful
pause sloshed in a bit more. The sake went around the table, and
even Skuld and Azusa had a little.
Urd raised her mug, and in true Norn fashion, intoned, "To Victory
and success for our side, defeat and confusion to the Elder Gods!
Skl!" She then tossed back her drink as everyone echoed her and
took a sip of their own.
Though Skuld and Azusa abstained from the sake after the first
round, the rest raised toast after toast until the sake was gone.
Yohko was rather ploughed by then, and was sitting quietly watching
the world spin in a detached sort of way while Chi' and Megumi
commiserated about their mutual lack of boyfriends and proclaimed
that all men were pigs except certain ones that lived with
Goddesses. Urd staggered around waving the empty bottle like it was
a mace telling some story about Thor and his hammer, as Keiichi
ducked her swings. Azusa was sitting in the corner with Skuld, who
was playing an instrument that look like a cross between a guitar
and a mandolin.
About this time the mirror started to swirl all rainbow colours.
"Wow, far out! I wish I could find a mirror like that for my
bedroom." was the thought that drifted through Yohko's mind, when
Belldandy stepped through the mirror into the room.
Taking in the scene, she gave Urd a hard glare that went ignored
and dumped three large bags that rattled and clunked as they hit
the floor.
 "Hey, lil' sister! What did the old farts say about the
treaty?" Urd said unsteadily from the table where she had plunked
herself.
"Oh, they were quite satisfied." She said as she sat down at the
table and poured the last of the tea into a clean mug and took a
sip. "I also got the things you wanted from your apartment too,
*except* the cask of 50 year old scotch." She said reprovingly.
Urd gave her a dirty look and stuck out her tongue.
Looking at Yohko and Chi', Belldandy gave them both a look of
disappointment that said more than any scolding could have.
She then raised an eyebrow at Skuld as she plucked out a funeral
dirge on her instrument. She then sighed, remembering when she had
been young and foolish, and decided that there was no real harm
done.
"I've brought Megumi and you something that you might need in the
next few weeks." the Goddess said as she dragged one of the bags
closer to the table, addressing Keiichi.
She then proceeded to pull pieces of armour, helmets, and a pair of
beautifully worked Katana out of the bag.
"In the morning, Yohko will start to teach you the basics of sword
fighting, as things are about to get very dangerous, I think, and
you will need all the protection you can get."
"Uh....Belldandy? I can't even lift a sword, let alone use one..."
was Megumi's protest.
"I know, but you should wear this armour, at least, and the swords
are lighter than they look. The armour is that which a Valkyrie
would wear, and as such, is magical. You will also be the first
living mortal in history to wear such as this." Belldandy replied,
indicating a pile she had made to her right with the armour.
"The armour I brought for you, Keiichi, is also magical, and was to
be a gift for you under better circumstances. Sadly, circumstances
warrant that I give it to you now for your own protection." She
continued apologeticly.
She continued to pull pieces of armour out of the bag and make a
second pile to her left. This pile seemed to have a lot of gold and
platinum pieces mixed into it, and both Yohko and Chi' looked on
wide eyed as they tallied up a rough estimate of the cost of the
armour at current prices for the metals alone.
"Skuld, the items you asked for are in that bag." Belldandy added,
nodding toward one of the two remaining sacks.
"Arigato, One-sama!" said Skuld as she put down her instrument and
started digging through the bag, handing things to Azusa until she
was in danger of dropping stuff. The two then disappeared with
Skuld dragging the sack behind her.
Yohko noticed that the bag next to Belldandy still had a lot of
things in it, and the Goddess, with a sigh and a stretch, stood up
and bent to pick it up.
"Umm...Let me, please?" Yohko asked, gathering up the bag.
"Oh, ok, and thank you." the Goddess replied, picking up her tea
instead.
Yohko's head spun for a little bit as she stood up with the bag,
but she forced her eyes to focus on Belldandy as she led the way
out into the hall. They ended up in the room where the ritual had
taken place the day before. Now, however, there were three futons
laid out for bed, and other personal effects ranged around the room
in a simple, yet tasteful, manner. Belldandy indicated where Yohko
could place the sack, and digging under a pillow, pulled out a
nightgown.
"Belldandy-sama?"
"Hmmm? Yes?"
"I'm sorry...."
Belldandy looked at Yohko, and smiling slightly, sat down on the
edge of her futon.
"It should be me apologizing, for not warning you about my sister.
But it is not for me to judge you, and as long as one learns from
one's mistakes or errors of judgment, then all will sort itself
out, eventually. And you and you're friends were a big help,
today."
Yohko was almost in tears of shame, despite the kind words. She
still felt dizzy too, in fact, and it was getting worse.
"Ulp....`Scuse me...Megami-sammmm....." Yohko got out as she
scrambled for the bathroom.
She was seriously tossing her cookies when a warm hand touched her,
supporting her forehead. After what seemed to be an eternity of
retching that left her quite empty, she collapsed into a heap on
the edge of the empty bathtub, holding her head in her hands. Her
head was pounding of a sudden, and if it weren't for the support of
Belldandy holding her, she likely would be on the floor. Belldandy
took a wash cloth and wiped Yohko's mouth and chin for her. Azusa
showed up with a glass of water for her, which she drank with
Belldandy's insistence. She did feel a little better after the
water, even if it only washed the bile from her mouth.
"Azusa-chan, would you call your folks, and tell them that you'll
be staying with us again tonight? And ask Skuld to set up the
living room for Megumi-chan and your people?"
"Hai, Belldandy-sama!" Azusa said, taking the glass back. Her
cheery reply making Yohko wince in pain.
"Are you feeling better, Yohko-chan?" Belldandy asked
Yohko nodded weakly, getting to her feet with the Goddess's help.
She paused to get her balance against the sink, but almost didn't
recognize herself in the mirror. The face peering back at her was
almost grey, with dark circles under the eyes. As they entered the
living-room, Keiichi was clearing away the table to one side of the
room, as Chi' sat against the wall, holding her head. Azusa was
talking on the phone, chattering away as Skuld came into the room
with some futons. Of Urd, there was no sign. Megumi was sitting in
the doorway to the yard, keeping out of the way, examining the
armour she was to wear.
Belldandy let Yohko sit down next to Chi' and proceeded to coax the
brown haired girl to her feet, leading her down the hall.
It was a few minutes later that she led Chi' back, the latter
looking as grey faced as herself. She started to help Skuld, but
was firmly told to stay out of the way by the small Goddess as the
blankets were laid out, and Megumi's nest of pillows was
distributed around the room. Keiichi, after picking up his sword
and armour, said goodnight to the girls, and, getting a goodnight
kiss from Belldandy, left for his room. Azusa hung up the phone and
gave Belldandy a thumbs up, who then thanked her and then bid the
girls goodnight herself.
Skuld helped Megumi to her bed, and then slid the outer door shut.
She also took her leave, leaving the girls to get undressed for
bed. Yohko was asleep almost as fast as she hit the pillow, curling
up into a little ball under the blankets.

                        **********
Yohko woke slowly, the dim light of the dawn filtering through the
drapes. But for the sound of breathing, the room was quiet. She sat
up, drawing the blanket around her, and pondered on what she had
allowed herself to do the night before. True, Urd-sama hadn't seen
it as a problem, but Yohko was starting to see that the Goddess was
somewhat less than responsible, at least compared to Belldandy. And
true, no real harm had come of the incident, but Yohko knew that
was just stupid luck. They could have had a major incursion of
demons, and with the exception of Azusa, the local Devil Hunter
contingement would have been fairly useless.
She quietly got dressed, and pulling on her jacket against the
chill dawn air, went outside. She strolled around the compound,
looking at nothing in particular, until she came to a large rock
set into the garden next to the temple. She found that the rock was
just the place to watch the dawn, and it there, an hour later, that
Belldandy found her. The Goddess was wearing gym shorts and a tank-
top, with sandals on her feet.
"Ohayo, Yohko-san. Did you sleep well?" she enquired
"Hai, Belldandy-sama, I did. You?"
"Well, If you excuse Urd's snoring, yes." the Goddess replied,
winking. From the house, a loud sneeze could be heard.
"Breakfast will be ready shortly, If you care for some."
"What? And miss one of *your* wonderful meals?" Yohko hopped off
the rock. "Take me to your muffins!" she said, striking a dramatic
pose. The two both dissolved into giggles, and headed back to the
house.
As they entered, Urd was sitting at the table growling something at
Skuld, who looked less than pleased with her oldest sister at the
moment. This didn't make much impression on Urd; Urd didn't seem
too pleased with Urd at the moment, either. Skuld was wearing a
pair of shorts and a t-shirt, as was Megumi. Urd was still in her
dressing gown, and as Yohko could see from her location, she seemed
to favour wearing black lace teddies to bed. *Transparent* black
lace teddies.
Chi' and Azusa were both sitting at the table, looking very much
like they wished they were elsewhere than ground zero in an
argument between two Goddesses, one of whom was hung-over.
Keiichi showed up a few minutes later, also in shorts and a t-
shirt, as Skuld and Belldandy started bringing out piles of food.
Everyone dug in, and Urd's temper seemed to improve with the mug
fulls of coffee she poured into her with her meal. The breakfast
was truly wonderful, yet Yohko had the feeling that she and her
friends should start contributing if they were to have many more
meals at the Goddess's hospitality.
After breakfast, Skuld, with Azusa's help, showed Megumi how to put
on the Valkyrie armour. First to go on was a pair of leather
britches and a loose silk shirt. It was decided that the boots
would support her broken ankle with some re-enforcement, and so the
cast was carefully removed. Belldandy supervised the binding of the
foot, and after the boot was laced up, Megumi tested her weight
carefully on that leg. Satisfied, Belldandy resumed helping Keiichi
into his armour. As piece after piece was laced into place, Megumi
wise-cracked that she probably looked more like one of the Mongol
Horde than a Valkyrie, bringing a retort from Skuld that "At least
the Horde had a better sense for armour than some people did at the
time." Urd had wandered out of the room while all this was going
on, commenting that she had to get ready herself. When Megumi
finally put on the helmet with the small wings sitting flush with
the side, Yohko had to admit that she did look impressive, and the
Katana, slung with the hilt over her left shoulder, really didn't
look out of place. With her bruises, she even looked like a veteran
campaigner.
Keiichi by this time was looking even sharper, his armour shining
in the light coming in through the open door. Yohko made the
comment that he looked like Parn from Record of Lodoss Wars.
Keiichi said that Parn was taller and better looking, bringing an
objection from Belldandy, who stated flatly that she would prefer
her Keiichi to some hot headed glory hound.
"Besides," said Skuld, teasing, "He's too busy chasing that Elf to
notice anything else." Belldandy chuckled at the comment.
Skuld then left to put on her own armour, taking Azusa with her.
When Belldandy stepped back from Keiichi, he *did* look every bit
the young hero from some sword and sorcery Anime. The armour was
put together much in the same manor as Megumi's, with mobility and
protection of vital body parts given priority over style, but
stylish was still a good adjective to describe how he looked.
"Darn! I wish my camera was here. I'd like to send a picture to
Mom. She'd get a real kick out of seeing you dressed like that!"
Megumi complained.
"She would probably think you all went and joined the local chapter
of the S.C.A." Chi' said with a grin.
"Keiichi, don't you have a camera?" asked Belldandy
"Uhh...Well...Now that you mention it...Yeah, I do. It's in my
room." he said reluctantly.
Before he could voice any protest, Megumi hobbled out of the room
and down the hall in order to retrieve said camera.
"I will leave him in your capable hands then, Yohko, while I go get
ready myself." Belldandy said, patting Keiichi gently on the cheek.
"Ok, uhh... I just got to get changed, won't be a minute...." said
Yohko as she gently shoved Keiichi out the door an slid it shut.
"Chi', I want you to join us, as there are some tricks you need to
learn."
"Great!" was the response from her friend.
They both transformed as Belldandy headed for her bedroom, and
Yohko led the way outside. A wide eyed Megumi following with the
camera and a tri-pod.
Yohko started with some stretching and warm-up exercises, noting
that Keiichi and Megumi both seemed to know how to stretch the
right groups first. Forming her soul-sword, she had the two adopt
a stance like her's, and she slowly ran them through the forms that
she had learned from her grandmother. Megumi was doing fairly well,
despite her injuries, but Keiichi was a real surprise. Though
hesitant at first, he quickly gained a level of grace that
indicated that he had some training at one time. During a pause to
give Megumi a breather, they both admitted to having taken Kendo in
public school for a few years, but never continued it in High
school.
"Excellent! There are a few moves that are done differently, but on
the whole, my style is much the same. Though one thing I'll teach
you, is that some moves will get you killed against a demon. And
remember, There will be no judges, and your opponents will use
every foul and dirty trick in the book, and a few that aren't."
She left them to practice for a bit, and showed Chi' how to form
and use energy balls, and other `psychic' attacks. Leaving Chi' to
blow up some hapless cardboard boxes, she then asked Keiichi if he
had any boken. He said he did, and as he turned to get them, he let
out a gasp.
Standing on the porch, with a proud, icy expression on her face,
was the oldest of the Norns. She looked every inch the part, from
the two braided locks hanging down either side of her face, to the
really impressive longsword that rested under her hands, it's tip
digging into the wood. Her armour shone with platinum and gold, a
skirt, slit to the thy, swirled mid-calf over well tooled knee-high
boots. A metal cap, with a long white horsetail coming out of the
top and lined with fur, sat on her head, her white hair flowing out
from underneath. A long dark blue cape hung from her shoulders,
completing the picture.
"Wow..." said Yohko, Keiichi, Megumi, and Chi' at the same time.
Urd, pleased that she got the desired result from her entrance,
took the long sword in one hand, and stepped down onto the
flagstones of the temple compound.
"Mind if I join you?" she asked pleasantly, limbering up.
"Sure, Urd-sama." was all Yohko could say.
Keiichi ran inside as she turned to give Megumi some pointers on
how devils and demons attack and the best ways to counter them.
Megumi was holding up better than Yohko had expected, but she
decided that the college student was going to take a break a little
later.
Keiichi returned with a pair of the bamboo swords used in kendo.
Yohko dismissed her soul sword, and took one, testing its weight
and balance. Squaring off with him, she bowed, and came on guard as
he mirrored her. After a little bit of gentle feeling out, he made
an attack that was pretty good despite being a bit sloppy. Yohko
stopped it easily though, and counter attacked, pleased to see he
was using the defensive routines she had taught him. They duelled
back and forth across the flagstones until she tagged him on the
side of the head. He collapsed, more startled than hurt, shaking
his head to clear it.
"Not bad. It's too bad you didn't continue with the training. You
have potential." Yohko said as she took a breather.
"Yeah, well, I didn't exactly figure I'd end up fighting monsters
in order to survive." Keiichi replied, picking himself up.
Acting on some deep seated warning sense, Yohko suddenly dropped
the boken and called her soul-sword into being, turning and
parrying in the same motion. She found herself nose to nose with
Urd, their swords locked together. The Goddess smiled in amusement.
"Not bad, yourself. Let's see how you do with me!"
Urd pushed Yohko off, and then followed up with a flat swipe of her
longsword that rang up and over Yohko's head, only just deflected
by her soul-sword. The ensuing combat tested Yohko's abilities to
the breaking point, as the swords clashed and danced. A demented
look of glee was on the white haired Goddess' face as Yohko had to
avoid getting split from one end to the other again and again.
Suddenly, as Urd was pulling her sword back in a wind up, a hand
grabbed her wrist from behind, and spun her around.
Both Skuld and Azusa were standing there, Azusa was looking
worried, Skuld looked annoyed.
"I said `Break" more than once, sister. What are you trying to do?
Kill her off as a favour to Marllar?" Skuld snarled at her older
sister.
An expression crossed Urd's face that had Yohko afraid she'd go at
Skuld. Then, with deep breath, she seemed to relax compleatly.
Sheathing her sword, she said, "You know how I get when the battle
lust is up. It's the berserker in my blood. Hey!" Turning toward
Yohko, she held out a mailed backed glove. "Sorry if I was a bit
rough with you, I tend to get carried away..."
"Uh, It's ok, really!" Yohko replied, breathing hard. "I think a
break is in order. Got anything cold to drink?"
"Over on the porch, Yohko-sama." Azusa answered, pointing to where
a tray with a pitcher and glasses sat.
As Yohko filled her glass, she studied Skuld's armour. It was quite
a departure from what everyone else was wearing, as it looked more
like she lifted the design from the movie "Aliens". Over a tunic
and britches, was a white and red painted clamshell made out of
some composite material. Thy protectors of the same material, plus
heavy looking boots with odd little vents on the ankles protected
the legs. Attached shoulder and arm guards were present as well. An
odd looking backpack, with a thick cable running up to a flaring,
American style helmet, gave the Goddess the look of a diminutive
Mecha. Her longsword's hilt was visible over her right shoulder,
and her ever present mallet also rode there. Urd was busy making
derisive remarks, as Skuld listed how much better her armour was.
She said the armour had diamond fibers over layers of titanium
steel and ceramic, held together with a high-temperature resin.
Reaching up and pushing something under the edge of the helmet, a
small square popped down over her right eye. At the same time, a
short barrelled weapon sprang up over her left shoulder, and
started to follow the movements of her head.
"I got the idea from `Predator'." the young Goddess explained
proudly. "It'll fire a `shock wave' without needing to use your
hands."
"I thought Belldandy said you couldn't watch that movie." said Urd,
with a "you're in for it" expression on her face.
"Well, she never said anything about the Manga, did she?" Skuld
stormed off to test out her new "toy" on the remains of the boxes.
Yohko had no idea what she was talking about, but she suspected
that the "dark haired girl who wasn't" was probably better armed
than a tank company. A movement behind her made her turn to look.
"I'm sorry for taking so long." Belldandy said, coming out onto the
verandah. Where as Urd looked impressive, Belldandy had a look
about her that while not flashy, was still formidable. It wasn't
because the armour was awe inspiring, it just looked like the owner
was very good at protecting herself. She had on a silk embroidered
shirt, over which a short sleaved chain-mail shirt reached to her
mid-thy. Over top of this was a tooled leather vest that extended
to just past the tops of black knee high Buccaneer boots. Lozenges
of platinum inlaid steal were stitched onto the vest to protect the
legs. Dark blue leather pants were tucked into the boots. A wide
tooled belt, with a pattern that Yohko had seen on various items
around the house, held the vest and supported a bastard sword. The
sword alone was note worthy in that it looked rather plain, if very
well made. A small ruby was set in the pommel, its only visible
decoration. The scabbard was black leather with runes written down
the side in platinum. Yohko figured she could guess what the runes
said. Leather gauntlets, the same colour as the pants, were tucked
into the belt. A small steel cap, like Urd's but with a small band
of white fur running around the edge, and without the horse-tail,
sat on top of her head. Her light brown tresses were woven into a
thick braid down her back.
Yohko and Azusa gasped, the changed was so startling in the pretty
Goddess. Keiichi could only stand and stare, his mouth wide.
Belldandy came up and took his hands, suddenly looking shy.
"Is something wrong? Keiichi-san?" she asked.
"No...Uh...You just look so terrific, that's all." he replied in a
rush.
"My knight in shining armour." Yohko heard the Goddess murmur as
she put both arms around his neck and planted a passionate kiss on
his lips. Urd started to say something derisive, but Skuld shut her
up with a kick to the shins and a hard look. Looking at the two,
Yohko suddenly felt very lonely, and wished she had someone
herself. Looking over at her two `apprentices', she saw a similar
look on Chi's face, while Azusa had a dreamy expression on her's.
Belldandy and Keiichi parted, blushing hard, and the Goddess turned
to Yohko.
"Forgive me, but he looked so handsome I just had to..." She
blushed deeper, unable to finish her sentence. Pulling on her
gloves, she then asked briskly, "May I practice with you?"
"Uh, sure!" answered Yohko. Finishing off her drink, she followed
Belldandy out into the yard, stepping over Megumi who had propped
herself against a roof support to enjoy a glass of ice-tea as well.
After waiting for the Goddess to stretch, Yohko and Belldandy came
`on guard'. Yohko studied the Goddess's eyes across from her, and
saw a calm, collected opponent. She moved almost without knowing
it, and parried a lightning riposte and counter attacked in the
same move. Belldandy deflected Yohko's return and slashed back at
her, trying to get under her guard. The dual slowly increased in
the speed of the exchanges to the point that to outside observers,
the two swords became a blur of silvery fire that occasionally shed
golden sparks. This was turning into the toughest fight that Yohko
had ever encountered, yet she found herself revelling in it.
Whereas Urd was all strength and aggression, Belldandy was a
technician. Yohko found it a thrill to fence with the Goddess, and
was hard pressed to keep up with the sheer skill behind the
attacks. After several minutes of hard fencing, Yohko gave
Belldandy a look that indicated she'd had enough, and the two broke
apart cleanly. Panting heavily, Yohko sagged against her soul-
sword, looking at Belldandy with much respect. Belldandy, for her
part, was also breathing hard, a grin across her face as she wiped
her face with a hanki. Cheers from the porch could be heard in the
background.
"I think you will do well in the upcoming battle, Yohko-san. My
goodness, its been too long since I've done this. I'm rusty!"
"YOU'RE RUSTY??! Goddess, I don't *ever* want to fight you when
you're in form!" Yohko exclaimed, a dazed look on her face.
Belldandy laughed merrily, and throwing an arm around the younger
girl, guided her back to the porch, where Chi' and Skuld had
brought out damp towels. Yohko dismissed her soul-sword, and
plunking down on the step, accepted another glass of ice tea from
Skuld. Something was bothering her, and she finally put her finger
on it.
"You said we'll do well in the battle. You mean we'll be fighting
right next to Gods and Goddesses? What good would *we* do in such
company?" Surprisingly, it was Urd who answered.
"Don't sell your abilities short there, girl. You have today fought
with a Goddess who is perhaps better than any demon and held your
own quite well. I know. Little sister here wasn't pulling her sword
by very much, if at all, and we all saw you trounce Yoshiko-sama
the other day. If you had intended to, I think you could have
beaten even me, eventually. Do not think you will have no small
part in the up-coming battle. The mortals that will be taking part
in this may be the deciding factor. I hear Yoshiko-sama will be
collecting all the Devil Hunters of the world for this one."
"Great, that means that I'll likely have to put up with cousin
Ayako and her `attitude' again." Yohko muttered to herself as she
took a sip of her drink.
"Oh, probably. Then again, you might get the chance to meet some
really cute guys, too." the eldest Goddess said with a sly wink.
Sighing, Yohko leaned back against the wooden pillar, and closed
her eyes. Without realizing it, her head sank down on her chest,
and she slipped into a light doze.
"Yohko-chan! Wake up you lazy girl!" Yohko came awake with a guilty
start, wondering how her grandmother was going to attack her this
time. Looking around wildly, she found herself still on the porch
of the temple's house, Yoshiko and her grandmother looking on with
some amusement.
"Hai! I'm sorry, Megami-sama, grandmother!" Yohko cried, leaping to
her feet.
"Seems our Yohko has been very busy today, to be so tired out."
Madoka Mano said, a smirk on her face.
"Actually, she *has* been rather busy this day." Belldandy said as
she came out onto the porch from the living room. "Won't you all
come in for some lunch? Yohko realized that the sun was high
overhead now, and the mention of food caused her stomach to
complain loudly.
"Well, one part of you has better sense than you do." Yohko's
grandmother laughed. "
"I would be most honoured to dine at your table again, Belldandy-
san." Yoshiko said, bowing formally. With a slight rattle of mail,
Belldandy returned the bow, and gracefully gestured them inside.
After Yohko's Grandmother had been properly introduced, they found
themselves jammed around the table, which had been expanded as far
as possible. Lunch consisted of sandwiches made from cold cuts that
everyone could select from a large platter in the centre. More ice
tea was served to wash the meal down.
After the meal, Yohko's grandmother took control of the training,
and worked them all very hard for the rest of the afternoon. About
the only one to be somewhat spared from her training was Megumi,
who Belldandy ordered to bed when her ribs started to hurt so bad
that it was interfering with her breathing. Yohko was close to
collapse by the time she and her friends made ready to leave for
home. It was agreed that everyone would meet back at the temple for
more training in the morning. Madoka and Yoshiko left for home on
the Yammaha, and the girls trudged wearily home. As she got ready
for bed, she wondered about how she could be so casual about the up
coming battle. True, she had been "dead" once before, and that was
not an experience she wished to repeat, but that the whole world
depended on the out come of this battle should have left her
shaking. She decided she was just tired, and was asleep with that
thought.

                     ***************

"Yohko-sama, Yohko-sama! Time to get up!" came Azusa's voice in
Yohko's ear. She sat up abruptly, as usual getting a squeak from
her apprentice, and let out a scream of pain as every muscle in her
body let her personally know that this was simply not any way to
treat it. After a hot shower, she sat down to a large breakfast
cooked by her grandmother, and as usual played referee for the
altercation that invariably arose between Madoka and her daughter.
After she and Azusa made sure that no lasting harm had befallen
them, they hopped on their bikes, and collecting Chi and stopping
at a bank machine along the way, they headed to the old temple that
was home to some unusual people.
Belldandy came out to greet them as they parked their bikes,
already wearing her armour.
"Ohayo gozaimasu! I'm sorry, but Keiichi is a little slow this
morning, or we would be ready for you."
"Oh, no rush, I'm still sore myself from yesterday." was Yohko's
reply. "Good morning to you, Belldandy-sama." Yohko bowed formally,
mirrored by her two apprentices.
"There is tea ready if you like?" the Goddess invited.
As the others entered the house, Yohko tugged on the Belldandy's
shirt sleave to get her attention. She then held out an envelope to
her.
"Please, Belldandy-sama, accept this to help cover the costs of
food for my Apprentices and I. You have been so very generous, but
I feel we should chip in as well."
Belldandy look at the younger girl for a moment in surprise, and
smiling, said "I thank you for your offer. You do your family proud
to do what others would overlook. I accept this in the spirit you
intended."
Training began after Madoka and Yoshiko showed up, and the next few
days were the most gruelling that Yohko and the others had ever
been put through. The only thing to stand out in this period for
Yohko was when Urd and Skuld had to be physically kept apart during
one of their spats. This was notable in that both were armed and
rather hot headed at the time. It took Belldandy and Yoshiko the
better part of an hour to broker a truce between the two, with dire
warnings to both not to breach it. All in all, it wasn't the way
Yohko had intended to spend her summer holidays.
On the Thursday of that week, while everyone was taking a break
during the morning training sessions, Tamiya and Ootaki showed up,
with a small but very pretty woman clinging with shy possessiveness
to the tall blond man.
"Keiichi-kun! What is it with you that every time we turn around,
you are surrounded by more and more beautiful women?" Tamiya
complained.
"Uh... Well...They're friends of Belldandy's, you see..." Keiichi
said, looking embarrassed.
"Are you practising for a play, Sempai?" Satoko spoke up from under
Ootaki's arm. "Those outfits and weapons look very authentic."
While Keiichi struggled for an answer, Yohko figure she knew how to
respond. Striking a pose and putting way too much drama into her
voice, she said, "We are going to join forces to save the world
from certain destruction at the hands of the evil hordes lead by
the Elder Gods!" She then gave them a big wink. The three gave her
a blank look for a second, then burst out in laughter, obviously
thinking it was a grand joke. Yohko noticed her patron giving her
an appraising look, so she gave a small grin back.
It turned out that the three had dropped in to deliver some flowers
and a get-well card from the motor club to Megumi, who shyly
thanked them, and asked them to thank everyone for her.
Ootaki commented that her bruises were healing fast, to which she
responded that she had placed herself in Belldandy's care, and that
anyone would get better faster with her nursing them.
The two said that they were to meet Hasegowa at the track in order
to test some new ignition ROMs, and so had to go. Satoko asked
Belldandy if she might be permitted to stay so that she might
sketch the group during their practices. It was seen as no great
trouble, and she settled down on a rock in the shade of a tree with
her sketch book. As practice continued, she was almost forgotten
until lunch, she was so quiet. During lunch, she showed them the
drawings she'd done so far. One showed Keiichi and Belldandy back
to back, stealing a glance at each other while apparently defending
each other's backs. Another showed Urd, riding an eight legged
horse, waving her sword as if rallying some troops. A third picture
showed Yoshiko with her hand outstretched as if casting a spell,
with her three Devil Hunters ranged before her in a half circle.
Everyone agreed that the likenesses were very good.
The afternoon session was drawing to a close when Satoko came to
Belldandy saying she had to leave to meet her boyfriend, but she
wanted to show everyone the drawings she completed. One of the new
ones had Skuld standing in front of a group of solders in body
armour holding a very large and sci-fi looking rifle, a dark smile
on her face. Another showed Megumi duelling it out with a demon,
while a mother and child cowered in the background. What bothered
Yohko about this picture was the fact that the demon was an
accurate rendering of a type she had fought before. Glancing at
Yoshiko, she could see that the Goddess had noticed this as well.
"I know that these are fanciful drawings, but I have never done
drawings that seemed so ... right, before. Oh, I'm sounding
silly..." The art student laughed.
After she had left, promising to make copies for everyone,
Belldandy looked at the other Goddesses.
"Do you suppose she has a latent ability of for-knowledge, that
comes out in her art?" she asked.
"It may well be. The likeness of that Gru-demon was too close to be
coincidence, and why would she depict Urd-san on Sleipner, of all
creatures. A horse I could understand, but that one in particular?"
Yoshiko commented, looking troubled.
"In my younger and wilder days, I did ride Sleipner once. Got in
trouble for it too..." the tall Goddess admitted.
"Yeah, she had to clean out the stalls for a year as
punishme....Herk!" Skuld cut off short as Urd's hand closed around
the back of her neck.
"Well, its not as if her drawings portend anything untoward."
Madoka said. "So the only thing to do is to carry on until we get
the signal, and not fret about it.
Just then the sound of a bell could be heard from the entryway,
causing them all to turn and look.
Standing there looking annoyed was Marllar, wearing black ring-mail
and leather armour that somehow looked like it belonged on the set
of a Mad Max movie. A black hilted sword with a silver skull pommel
rode at her left shoulder. As the blond Demoness sauntered across
the flagstones, the bell at her neck rang softly, despite the fact
that it appeared to be stuffed solid with rags.
"Well, don't we look all formidable and dangerous." she said
sarcasticly. "Still, I suppose its a good thing your human
contingent is getting some practice, they're gonna need it."
"Do you have news for us, Marllar, or is this just a social call?"
asked Urd, fingering the edge of her longsword casually.
"Oh, a little of both, Urd dear. The word has been passed. Everyone
is to be ready to move to the site of the battle at short notice.
Belldandy, I know we've had our differences in the past, but if I
can stay here until the call, it would be simpler for me. I promise
you, on the treaty that was signed, I won't cause any trouble while
I'm here, I so swear. Pax."
Belldandy studied the Demoness carefully, and turned to Urd. "Her
words are binding, and without any preconditions. Can you promise
not to start anything with her if she stays here?"
"Yeah, if she's not going to provoke anything, I can deal with her
being around. I promise not to start anything if she doesn't."
"Very well then, Marllar, you may stay. You may join us for supper
if you wish, also."
Though it was obvious she had bitten back something else she was
going to say, she only bowed slightly, and said,"Thank you, I'd
like to.
Yohko's grandmother said she had some preparations to make at
Yoshiko's request, and giving all three girls a hug and a well
wish, she took her leave of her Goddess-hostess. Yohko watched her
ride off on the big V-max, wondering if she'd survive to see her
again.
At supper, The Demoness sat at the table between Skuld and Megumi,
looking very uncomfortable. When she was served her plate, she
tasted the food with an expression of dread that turned to shocked
surprise as she chewed. As the meal progressed, she said little,
and concentrated on eating like she had never had food before.
Much to Yohko's surprise, Marllar's table manners were more than
civil, if not up to a state dinner's level. As Marllar polished off
the last of her dessert, she leaned back against the wall with a
contented sigh.
"Your servants can really cook, Belldandy. I haven't eaten like
that *ever*." she said, picking at a crumb on her plate.
"But Marllar, you know we don't have any servants. I made this with
Skuld-chan's help." Belldandy replied easily, collecting up plates.
Sitting up straight, Marllar blinked several times. "Oh...right"
was all she said, a confused series of expressions playing across
her face. After supper, Skuld and Marllar left for the temple,
saying that the gate that they were going to use had to be modified
to accommodate the Demoness. Everyone else helped with the cleaning
up, making short work of the dishes. Yohko privately thought the
sight of Urd, still wearing her armour but with an apron over it,
drying dishes was too funny. Little did she know that Urd thought
the sight of Yohko in her black Devil Hunter outfit, sleeves rolled
up and wearing yellow rubber gloves, her arms in the sink, was even
funnier.
Everyone piled onto futons or sat at the table and either chatted
quietly or watched TV. With the various pieces of armour and
weapons scattered around the room, the owners of same dressed for
war, Yohko thought it odd to sit there and watch a science show
about the universe. Urd had fun making derisive comments on where
they went wrong in the narrative.
Yohko had fallen asleep against the wall, with Azusa curled up with
her head in Yohko's lap, when she was startled awake by a loud
*BONG* coming from the yard. A collective "Huh?" came from everyone
as they rose from where they were sleeping. Yoshiko slid the door
open, and Yohko, looking out into the yard, watched as the log on
the temple bell pulled back and struck another note all on its own.
As she flung aside the blanket someone had put over her, the phone
rang. In the grey pre-dawn, other bells could be heard ringing out
from churches and temples all over town. The door to the hall slid
open, and Belldandy, carrying her sword and cap, with a dark blue
campaign cloak fastened over her armour, entered.
"That was Kami-sama. We are to depart for muster as soon as we're
able. Collect your things and hurry, please."
"It's about bleedin time!" grumbled Marllar, struggling into her
boots.
Belldandy helped rebind Megumi's foot, as Keiichi came into the
room struggling with his armour. Skuld and Urd followed him in,
both ready to go. The small Goddess had even more gadgets attached
to the belt of her armoured suit.
Chi' watched Belldandy for a minute, then went into the kitchen,
returning moments later with a broom handle.
"Here, I thought she might need this to help her get around." she
said, handing it to Megumi.
"What a wonderful idea, Chigako-sa! Thank you!" Belldandy told her,
helping Megumi to he feet. "Oh! That reminds me!" she continued,
dashing into the kitchen herself. She reappeared a few minutes
later, her arms full of packages. Giving one to everyone, she
explained that they were snacks she had prepared, figuring that
they might be called away on short notice as they were now. After
checking with Yoshiko and Marllar, she lead the way to the temple.
Taking a last look around, Yohko wondered if she would live to see
another sunrise, and followed Megumi into the temple. A large
pentagram dominated the floor of the temple, with a smaller
hexagram connected to it with smaller spell-circles.
Marllar stood in the hexagram already, looking a little white-faced
from being in the temple such a short time. With the girls and
Keiichi crowded together in the centre, the Goddesses joined hands
around them and with a command from Belldandy, the gate opened.

                      **************
The first thing Yohko saw as her vision cleared, was a landscape of
gently rolling hills and a dull, lead grey sky. A young girl,
dressed in leather armour and waving a baton like the ground crews
at airports would use, approached and asked them to hurry out of
the arrival gate as others were needing it. Looking back as they
cleared the pentagram, Yohko saw another group appear where they
had been standing, to be chased out of the circle by the girl, as
well. Looking around, she could see many pentagrams and hexagrams
on the hill-sides, flashing blue or red respectively as parties
arrived. As they topped a low hill, the sight below stopped the
humans with a gasp.
Spread out below them was a vast plain, and stretching as far as
the eye could see in both directions was a vast army ranged along
the near edge. A dark smudge across the plain was all that could be
made of the opposing forces, though Yohko had the uncomfortable
feeling that something big was moving around behind that smudge.
Lines of people could be seen joining the encampment below from the
arrival points.
Belldandy lead the way down to a pavilion that was set up below
their position. Looking around, Yohko noticed that someone was
missing from their group.
"Hey, what happened to Marllar?" she asked.
"Her entry point was further down that way." Skuld answered,
pointing off to the left. "She has to report to her own
commanders."
As the group made their way to the pavilion, Yohko and the others
were startled to see huge Mecha moving in collum toward the left
flank, with boxy tracked vehicals moving in convoy with them.
A flight of attack helicopters buzzed overhead, external speakers
blaring Wagner. Watching them go by, Urd commented, "The Valkyries
are gonna be cheesed off that those guys are here."
The pavilion was open, and a great many Gods and Goddesses were
standing around in small groups, usually with a scroll being read
by one of the group. Yohko figured they would have to wait a while,
but they were waved on into the tent by an attendant.
Inside, there were a handful of people and deities clustered around
map tables. As they approached, One God, with a handsome face and
black shoulder length hair, turned to them.
"Urd, Belldandy, Skuld, and Yoshiko. It has been too long since I
last looked upon any of you. Well come, and well met." he said,
bowing politely. The Goddesses returned with a deeper bow, which
was hastily copied by the humans.
"It has been a while, All-Father." Belldandy replied shyly.
"And who are your companions, Daughter?" he asked.
Pulling him forward to stand next her, she said, "May I present my
fiance, Keiichi Morisato, and his younger sister, Megumi. Keiichi
looked a little pale as he bowed and said it was an honour, while
Megumi just swallowed hard and bowed as much as she could with her
injuries. Yoshiko introduced her Devil Hunters, and as the God
looked into her eyes, Yohko felt that he knew every little thing
about her from that glance. She suddenly felt very shaky as a
result.
"Surely Megumi-chan won't be expected to take part in the battle?"
 He asked, a small frown on His face.
"No, she will be in the protected zone, as I felt it was too
dangerous to leave her unattended back home. She has already been
the victim of one demon attack." the Goddess replied.
"And your Fiance?"
"I will leave it to him to decide weather he joins his sister or
fights by my side." Belldandy turned to Keiichi.
Taking her hand, he said, "If we fail, we can't be together, and if
we're apart, I'd worry myself sick. I will fight at your side!"
"Oh, Keiichi!" Belldandy cried, wrapping her arms around his neck
and bussing him soundly.
"Ahem...Yes, well, now that is decided, to the job at hand. Skuld!
You'll lead the Mechanized forces on the left flank. Your job will
be to stop their Giant brigades. Go and report to your troops, your
escort is outside."
"Hai, Kami-sama!" giving a salute, she bounced out of the tent,
pausing only to give Azusa a wink and a thumbs up.
"Urd, you will be in charge of the calvary in the centre ranks. As
you are the only one to have ridden Sleipner without permission, I
am giving you the use of him for the battle. He is outside right
now, along with your escort."
Bowing, she turned and clapping Keiichi on the shoulder, strode
from the tent, her cloak billowing out behind her.
"Belldandy, you will lead the ground troops just to the right of
Frey's group, here." he said, indicating a tall fair God with long
hair and mustache. "Vara will guide your fiance's sister to the
protected zone, and luck be with you both."
 A Valkyrie came and bowed to Megumi, who, after a hug from both
her brother and Belldandy, shuffled off in the wake of the warrior-
maiden, the two looking much alike. Belldandy and Keiichi followed
her, pausing as well to say farewell to the Devil Hunters.
"Yoshiko, your Devil Hunters are in this area," he continued,
indicating a section of the front on a map, " and of course, I'll
leave it to you to decide how best to deploy them. Also a regiment
of demons under Marllar will be assigned to support you. They are
at your orders, but only through Marllar. Is this acceptable?"
"Oh, certainly, but I'd better get there before they do or it might
get tense."
"Then go, and victory be yours." Kami-sama said.
The Devil Hunters and their patron bowed once more, and took their
leave of the tent. Pausing outside, to get her bearings, Yoshiko
lead them along the right flank.
"Yohko-himi-sama!" a voice called out behind them. Turning, she
recognized Biryu, dressed in a Samurai's armour, approaching them.
"I am so glad we've had a chance to meet again, Yohko-himi-sama. I
owe you so much for the joy you have brought into my life." he said
as he bowed to the group. This statement caused Yoshiko to look
strangely at Yohko, while Chi' gave Yohko a hard glare.
"Um... Hello Biryu-sama, good to see you again. How is Yanagi-
sama?" Yohko returned the bow.
"She is great with our first child, otherwise, she is very well,
thank you." he turned the Goddess. "You must be very happy to have
such an able Devil Hunter looking to you."
"I am very proud of her. Thank you for your kind words, Biryu-
sama." the Goddess said, flushing a little.
"I must go, but perhaps after the battle, we all might meet again?"
"Perhaps." answered Yoshiko, returning his bow as he took his
leave.
Waiting for him to get out of earshot, Chi' grabbed Yohko by the
collar and dragged her nose to nose with her.
"You mean to say you let *him* slip through your fingers?!? Shame
on you!"
"There was nothing I could do about it, really!" Yohko sputtered.
"Leave off, Chigako-sa. Biryu had declared his love for Yanagi a
thousand years ago. I *am* glad that Yohko did come to his aid,
even if the outcome wasn't what she was expecting." the Goddess
said quietly as she looked the way he had gone.
"I had said I was doing it for love, and I still think I did."
Yohko said looking at nothing in particular. Yoshiko looked at her
with surprise as she led them on.
 Pausing to let a group of "things" slither by, she said, "I'm
proud of the way you handled yourselves back there. I could tell
Kami-sama was pleased with you, even though you said little to him.
He knows you were the ones to give us first warning of all this,
which is why you were allowed into His presence at all."
"But Megami-sama, I didn't have anything to do with that. Why was
I allowed in, then?" Chi' asked, confused.
"You and Azusa-chan are Yohko's Apprentices. And as such, are her
responsibility. You are a part of her, if you will, until such time
as your skills are deemed acceptable for you to be able to go out
on your own." The Goddess replied, as they continued on their way
up a low rise. "Keiichi is Belldandy's fiance, and Megumi-chan is
her future sister-in-law. It was proper for them to be presented to
Him."
Topping the rise, they could see a long way down the front. It
still amazed Yohko how many beings were going to be in this fight.
As they continued on their way, she commented, "Artillery lends
dignity to what would otherwise be an unsightly brawl."
The Goddess chuckled. "That sounds like something Skuld would say."
"Actually, I think it was Napoleon who said it. I seem to remember
it from some show on TV." Yohko said, scratching the back of her
neck.
"Wow! Would you look at that!" Chi' exclaimed, pointing ahead.
Looking where she had indicated, she saw a massing of people, all
of the ones she could see clearly wore the yin-yang symbol in some
form or other. Although most were female, some men and teenage boys
could be seen as well, and all were armed with a bewildering array
of weapons. As they approached, a cheer arose from the ranks, which
Yoshiko accepted with grave dignity. On a nearby hill, a flag with
her symbol was hoisted. Yoshiko made her way toward it, after
telling Yohko to stay with her. The crowd of Devil Hunters let them
pass, and Yohko saw that they were from all over the planet, and
maybe a few others as well, if the two teenage girls with the cat
like ears and eyes were any indication.
As they reached the top of the low hill, the Devil Hunters fell
silent waiting to hear from their patron. Yohko recognized her
cousin Ayako and her apprentice standing in the front row, a frown
on her face as she studied Yohko's new outfit. Yoshiko raised her
hand, and addressed her followers.
"Never before in the annals of history, have all the clans of Devil
Hunters been assembled like this. You, who have for most part been
solitary in your battles to hold evil at bay, must now combine your
skills and your powers against an evil that will destroy the cosmos
as we know it. We *must* succeed! There is no other alternative.
This young lady here is Yohko Mano, 108th in a proud line of
Hunters, and I am appointing her my Leftenant and second in
command. Know also, that a contingent of demons, under the command
of Marllar, will be joining us and will fight by our side." This
brought a shocked grumble from those around, and many were openly
displeased by the idea.
"There is a treaty that has been signed with the forces loyal to
Mestophilese, and I will punish any who dare break that treaty, as
he will any demon or devil who does so. I know you don't like them,
but you will have to fight along side them. And you *will* aid any
who are in need of it. I so charge you." the Goddess said in an
aside to Yohko, "Will you and your apprentices attend me, please?"
Moving to the chair and table that was set up inside a small tent,
the Goddess sat down and indicated to a map on the table.
"You will need to defend this part of the line, and it will not be
necessary to go on the offensive. We must merely hold this section
of front." she indicated items on the map. "These are earth-works
to confound and slow the enemy, our line will be just behind it
here, and will extend from this point down to here. I know you may
think you don't have the skill to order a battle, but I've seen
enough to know that you have the ability. Think about how you'll
position the troops, and don't forget to allow for reserves. Also,
don't forget Marllar's lot, and listen to her. She may tell you
something you can use to our advantage, now and later. Any
questions?"
Yohko thought for a moment, and said, "No Megami-sama, I think I
see what to do."
"Then go to it, Yohko." the Goddess looked pleased, and watched as
the young Devil Hunter left the tent. The crowd of Devil Hunters
fell silent again as she rased her voice to be heard.
"Alright! I want everyone with pole-weapons to group themselves
over here." she hollered, pointing to her left. "Everyone with bows
or other ranged weapons are to gather over here." she said,
pointing to her right. "Everyone with close fighting weapons are to
form up down here in front. If you don't know what group you belong
to form up over here, and we'll sort you out." she concluded,
indicating a small gully off to the left.
"Azusa-chan, Chi', you will stay with me." She ordered as she
watched as the throngs sorted themselves out.
"So, you finally got the family honours, Yohko. I guess that leaves
me out." said Ayako sourly.
"Ayako, you are the 109th Devil Hunter in the Mano family, and only
Yoshiko-sama can take that away from you. Your daughters and their
daughters will continue the line, as will mine. Why must you act
like it must only be me or you?"
"Then how come you two have the new outfits? How come you're the
leftenant to our patron Goddess, huh?"
"I guess we were at the wrong place at the right time. We also had
the help of some Norn Goddesses." Yohko explained, shrugging.
"I guess I'll be going to join my group, then. Sayonara,
Yohko-Chu-i." Ayako said, collecting her apprentice.
"Cousin....Good luck." was all Yohko could say as Ayako paused at
her call. Ayako studied her for a moment, and nodding an
acknowledgment, continued on down slope.
"I wish she wasn't so competitive...." Yohko muttered to herself,
watching her go.
"She will out-grow it, I think, or it will be her un-doing. She can
take care of herself." Yoshiko said quietly, coming up behind
Yohko.
"You're not... I mean...She didn't...." Yohko stammered in panic.
"No. I won't intervene as long as she is capable of doing her duty.
And I think I may have seen a ray of hope for her in your last
exchange."
By this time, the Devil Hunters had sorted themselves out somewhat,
and Yohko decided it was time to take matters in hand again.
"Ok, I want the two most senior Devil Hunters in each group to
report to me please, as soon as you can!" Turning to her patron,
she said, "I guess it's time to get this show on the roa....Huh?"
Looking back over the group on her right, she could see a collum of
troops approaching, a familiar figure in the front.
As Marllar made her way up the slope, her demon troops came to a
halt and milled about, looking uneasily at the Devil Hunters around
them. Yohko was glad to see that for most part, they all looked
human, the majority of them female as well, though she had never
seen a larger collection of nasty looking women in her life.
"Hey, Yoshiko. I was told to report to you with this lot. Whats the
story?" The Demoness said as she topped the rise.
"You will be my Leftenant in charge of the forces you brought with
you. Yohko is in charge of the Devil Hunters, please work with her
on the deployment of your forces." The Goddess said calmly.
"The kid? Yeah sure, whatever... So..Yohko, whats the basic plan,
or do you have one?" Marllar looked like she was about to slap the
younger girl on the back.
"DON"T TOUCH ME!" Yohko shouted, causing Marllar to jump back in
surprise.
"Hey, don't get your panties in a twist about it. I wasn't gonna
hit you that hard, sheesh!"
"Baka! My clothes are spelled against demons! If you had made
contact, you could have lost an arm or worse!" Yohko explained.
Marllar looked a little taken aback, and then bent over to look
closely at Yohko's dress. She straightened up, looking very pale in
the face.
"Uh..So I see now....I never knew about that.....sorry, and thanks,
I guess...sooo...Now what?"
Yohko explained the battle plan, and her ideas for deployment.
Marllar listened, making a few suggestions about specific areas of
the front, but otherwise found the younger girl's plan basically
sound. Eight Devil Hunters had shown up by this time, saying they
were the senior Hunters in each group. Of the Hunters with the
spears, the oldest was a thirty five year old Zulu woman named
Mati. Her partner was a Hunter from the Steppes of Russia, a tall
but rather plain looking woman named Lita. From the second group,
a forty year old Canadian with brown hair, named Karren, introduced
herself. Her second was an english woman named Monica. From the
group with the ranged weapons, came a woman named Tia from Chile,
and a grizzled Australian Aborigine man wearing a loin cloth, his
body covered in tribal paint. He said his name was Juute. She
carried a bola and other throwing weapons, he had a pair of
boomerangs.
Yohko and Marllar agreed that it would not be a good idea to
directly mix the two forces, but rather that Marllar would split
her troops the same way as Yohko's, and that they would be deployed
in self contained groups next to the Devil Hunters. It was also
agreed that a third of their forces would be split off as a reserve
and rapid reaction force. Yohko tasked the third group to provide
covering fire and to keep the air born demons off the ground
forces. The group with the pole arms were deployed just behind the
earthworks with the main group with infighting weapons to form up
behind them in support. Marllar left to deploy her forces in
support, as Yohko turned to the last two from the forth group.
To her surprise, she found herself face to face with the two girls
with the cat ears. They introduced themselves as Chinna and Tikia,
and that they specialized in magical attacks and hand to hand
fighting, as did most of the forth group. Yohko decided they would
be perfect for a guard for Yoshiko, and as a backup for the reserve
force. As the twins turned to go, Yohko saw that both had a fluffy
tail, the colour of their hair, poking out from under the
traditional Devil Hunting dress, which in their case was a royal
blue. Yohko turned to ask Yoshiko where they were from, when a
movement above made her duck.
"Dispatch, Ma'am!" said a young girl, dressed in a Halloween style
witch's outfit, compleat with broom and a small black cat as she
swooped in to hover next to Yohko and Yoshiko.
As Yoshiko read the scroll, Yohko reached out and gave the small
cat a skritch under the chin with her finger nail. This brought a
small cry of pleasure from the cat, who then started purring madly.
The small witch turned at the sound, and smiling at the sight,
said, "Looks like somebody's made a new friend." Yohko giggled in
return as the cat almost fell off the broom in it's pleasure.
Yoshiko quickly wrote a note in reply to the dispatch, and gave it
to the witch, who stuck it in her pouch, and with a wave, zoomed
off back the way she came.
"That message said the enemy is expected to arrive around one
o'clock local time. We must be ready before then." The tall Goddess
informed them.
"What time is it now, Megami-sama?" Chi' asked coming over from
where she had been watching the deployment.
"Not quite nine thirty...Oh my stars, I forgot, you don't have
watches! The Goddess gasped.
"Nine thirty? We'll be ready for them in about a hour, I think.
Will we be able to get something to eat before then? I know I'm
hungry." Yohko looked down at her stomach as it growled at the
mention of food. "Quiet you!" she told herself. Yoshiko laughed.
"There will be box lunches handed out around eleven for the troops.
Mind you, that reminds me about the snack Belldandy was good enough
to make us. Don't worry, most everyone here had something earlier
before we arrived." The Goddess explained.
Taking a break, Yohko found a rock to sit on, and opened the
package Belldandy had given her earlier. A Bento box, of very nice
make, chopsticks, and a can of coffee, that suddenly became warm as
she picked it up, were in the wrappings. A note was attached to the
top of the box.
"Hope this will tide you over until lunch. Enjoy!  B." was all it
said, with a cute cartoon drawing of the Goddess's face smiling
next to her initial. Her two apprentices joined her as she took the
chopsticks out of their sleeve and popped the top of her coffee.
As she ate, she watched the dark stain on the horizon move slowly
closer, the gloom pierced by flashes of lightning that slowly
became a dull grumble as the enemy came closer. Finishing the last
of her breakfast, she took a sip of coffee, and silently thanked
the Goddess who made such good food. Miles away, Belldandy suddenly
paused as she and Keiichi made their way along their position, and
a small smile appeared on her face.
"Is something wrong, Belldandy?" Keiichi asked, concern on his
face.
"No...Nothing is wrong." she said, suddenly happier. They continued
on.
Yohko, taking her coffee with her, went over to group of Devil
Hunters that were milling around Yoshiko's tent getting acquainted
with one another. They quieted as she approached, looking at her
expectantly.
"Um...Just like to meet some of you...." she said, more than a bit
embarrassed.
Hesitantly at first, several of the Devil Hunters gave their names
and the regions and countries they came from. As more of them
introduced themselves, she was surprised to find out just how many
were from Japan, England, and oddly, New Hampshire. She was even
more startled to come face to face with a girl her own age that she
had known in public school, and still sometimes ran into.
"Mita! I didn't know your family were Devil Hunters too!" she
exclaimed.
"Well, like I found out a few days before I became one, you know."
the dark haired girl explained.
"Yeah, that's sort of what happened to me, too." Yohko admitted.
Everyone looked up as a flapping sound was heard overhead, and a
collective gasp went up as the Devil hunters saw what was causing
it. A great golden Dragon was circling down to land down the line,
near where Yohko's party had arrived earlier. Yohko's face held a
look of wonder and delight at the sight of the reptile, as big as
a wide bodied jet, as it daintily landed and folded it's huge
wings.
Yoshiko had come out of the tent to watch the dragon land, her
mouth twisted in amused surprise.
"So! Even Mighty Kotokokan has stirred himself for the coming
fight! We live in interesting times."
Noticing Yohko, the Goddess addressed her.
"Ah, Yohko-chu-i, We'll need some runners for communications, and
a party to go meet the transports to collect the lunches. How are
things progressing?"
"Uh..." Yohko took a fast look around her. "Things seem to be
progressing well. I still think we'll be ready before noon, maybe
11:30 if we push it, Megami-sama!"
"Very well, then I'll leave you to it." As Yoshiko was about to
turn away, Yohko came to attention and snapped off a salute. "Hai,
Megami-sama!" she said. The Goddess smiled briefly and winked at
Yohko as she left them.
Yohko had no trouble finding volunteers for messengers, and it was
suggested that the Hunters form up into sections of fifteen or so,
and that one from each group would go and get the food for the
section. This worked out very well, and within an hour and a half
both contingents had been deployed with minimum fuss.
>From down the line to the left, at a point that was about eight
kilometres away, long white contrails started streaking up into the
sky, left by rockets that were too small to be seen. Rocket after
rocket thundered upwards towards the enemy line, still a long way
off. After about twenty minutes of that, large field guns dug into
hidden emplacements behind the lines, started a truly massive
barrage, while smaller rockets flashed out from down to the left
again. Suddenly a pair of binoculars were handed to her.
"Looks like Skuld-chan wants to start this party early." Yoshiko
said with a smile, looking at the enemy lines through her own pair.
Yohko looked as well, and could see whole areas the size of
baseball stadiums suddenly erupting in thousands of small
explosions, cutting down demons and devils in huge numbers. Larger
explosions could be seen here and there, and she decided these must
be from the artillery. It was not lost on Yohko that despite the
large number of losses the enemy was sustaining, that they just
trampled their dead and wounded and kept coming, filling in the
gaps rapidly. Yohko hoped Skuld had lots of ammo for her guns.

                   ***********************

Skuld sat at her command console, watching the effects of her
barrage on remote cameras, while trying to sort out a last minute
logistics glitch that sent 400 power packs for plasma rifles to
troops armed with M-60 machine guns, and 400,000 rounds of 7.62mm
NATO to the guys with the plasma rifles. There was only one other
snafu that she had, she decided there was nothing to be done about
it. She had, amongst all the other equipment she had ordered, asked
for six Cougar ATV's, a form of assault gun on a six wheels.
Instead, some smart-ass sent her six cougars, the furry type. One
of the oversized hair-ball generators was lazily lounging across
the top of her console, having decided to follow the young Goddess
around.
The Command-post vehicle was her little dream toy. As big a tandem
tractor-trailer, heavily armoured, with full communications, it had
a Connection Machine's CM-7 super computer built into the walls,
and a machine that put out probably the *best* cup of coffee in the
multi-verse in nearly unlimited quantities. It could sleep three
full shifts, feed them from a small galley, and with the push of a
button send thousands of troops to battle.
She had gone rather overboard when she had sent Kami-sama her
weapons and troop request, going through the several issues of
`Jane's Defence Quarterly' and armourments manufacturer's
brochures.
That she got almost all of it shocked her, especially the Mecha.
The only thing she didn't get was the Tomahawk Cruse missiles with
the nuclear warheads. To be honest, she didn't think she would get
any  "crowd pleasers" anyway, but you never know if you don't ask.
Shoving the cat's tail out of the way for the twentieth time, she
read the display showing the status of the counter-fire batteries,
the big tracked vehicals that launch eight of the rockets that
dropped many sub-munitions when they arrived at their targets.
Though she had twenty of these launchers, she had fifty reloads for
each, and it took ten to fifteen minutes to load after each volley.
She planned to have all but two reloads fired off before the Forces
of the Elder Gods came into contact with the ground troops. The
artillery, and the smaller rockets, were also softening up the
enemy, and would do so even after combat had been joined.
"Forward observers report good dispersal on the cluster rounds,
with few malfunctions on the delivery systems, General Skuld." a
young comm-tech informed her. She inwardly winced at the rank, as
she rather felt it sounded like a demotion. After all, was she not
a Goddess? Smiling, she decided that the only thing these troops
really understood was rank, and there was no rank of Goddess in any
army she had heard about, even if it was alleged that Chief Warrant
Officers could walk on water.
"Very well, have the F.O.'s dig in their camera's at the assigned
places, and have them pull back to the lines. I'm going to my room
for ten minutes or so."
As she closed the door to her small room at the front of the
command post, after letting the big cat in after her, she stuck her
thumbs into the gaps of her clam-shell under her arm-pits, and gave
a twisting wrench. When she had designed the armour she wore, she
had taken into account the fact that she was going to grow taller,
but she hadn't figured her figure would "plump up" quite the way it
had. Just over 14 now, she was still in a growth spurt that, while
she was still a little shorter than Belldandy, she showed signs of
topping the Goddess of the Present in the not so distant future.
Puberty had struck her with a vengeance, and her bust line had
grown larger than she had expected, and was still going. She had to
ditch the hated bra, and had only a silk camisole under the light
shirt she wore under the armour, but it was *still* a tad snug.
Backing to a bracket against the wall, she undid the snaps of the
clamshell and unhooked the helmet cable. Laying the front half of
the armour on the desk, she noticed that there was a line in the
padding just above where her diaphragm would be while wearing it.
Undoing the screws that held the liner in place, she carefully
pulled it back, revealing the padding underneath. She pulled the
top layer of padding back, and looked with surprise as a second
layer of padding was found in the upper section of the armour.
"That's odd." She told the big cat, who had hopped up on the chair
to watch. "I don't remember putting this layer in..." Removing the
second layer and inspecting it, she could see that the padding was
roughly cut, and much thicker than the piece she had installed.
Flipping it over, a small "L" could be found on the back of the
padding.
"Loki!" She exploded. "When I get my hands on you....." she
seethed, angry that the God of Mischief had messed with her stuff.
She assembled the armour without the extra padding, and hastily put
it on.
"Ah... *Much* better!" she exclaimed, more comfortable now.
She went back to her seat in the command centre, and got an update
on things. The cougar clambered back up onto the console.
It seemed that one of the launchers was failing to fire one of it's
missiles, and it wasn't clear if it was a miss-fire or an
electrical problem. Ordinance crews were dealing with the problem,
and expected to have the unit back on line shortly.
The other batteries had picked up the slack, somewhat, and Skuld
smiled as she noticed that the lines of enemy forces were slower to
fill in the gaps that the big rockets made in their line. The smile
disappeared, however, when the big monitor at the front of the room
showed something big with tenticals hundreds of feet long moving
behind the enemy.
"So this is an Elder God." she thought, shivering at the sight.
Others in the command post could only stare in horror at the sight.
Suddenly a screen came active to her right, and the face of a mecha
pilot could be seen on it.
"General Skuld. We have found the far end of the enemy's lines, and
as you had expected, they were trying to out-flank us. Sending data
now. Awaiting your orders, Over." She said, as the main screen
switched to a tactical map, the new data flashing red as the
computers highlighted it.
"Your orders are to try to drive them back in towards the main
group, and if you need re-enforcements, let us know. Just don't get
too close, and try not to lose anybody. We'll redirect some of the
barrages in support of you, ok?" the Goddess replied.
"Roger that, Nirvana-1. Hornet Group OUT." the pilot replied, her
face being replaced with a camera view from her mecha. Skuld
watched as the large mecha cut into the Giants with everything from
machine-guns to particle beams. Short range guided missiles
streaked out and hit several Giants, knocking some down. One mecha
took a hit from an axe the size of a station wagon, it's left
weapons pod dropping to hang limp, hydraulic fluid gushing out like
blood. The pilot fired back with the other arm's weapons, and the
giant that threw the axe went down, it's chest a smoking crater.
Large areas behind the enemy's skirmish line abruptly exploded in
hundreds of small eruptions as the cluster bomblets rained down
from the sky, cutting down demons and wounding the giants. Unable
to bring up re-enforcements, the giants that had engaged Hornet
group were eventually destroyed, the remainder of the flanking
force retreating back toward the main group.
Six of the fourteen mecha were damaged, one so badly it's pilot was
being medi-vac'd to a field hospital with serious injuries. Three
were able to return under their own power, but the remainder needed
the large recovery vehicals to get back.
All in all, the exchange had been decidedly in favour of her
troops, and they had thwarted the end run the enemy had tried to
do, while leaving them the option to do the same.
Skuld knew that things were far from over, even if she could report
the first small victory up the chain of command.

                      *******************

Word was passed up the line that Skuld's forces had given the
Giant's Forces a good thumping, and the troops could now see the
effects of the artillery barrages for themselves. Belldandy was
glad for her little sister and said as much while she and Keiichi
had their lunch on a packing crate, watching the enemy advance.
"Do you think everyone will be all right?" Keiichi asked, sipping
tea from a thermos cup.
Belldandy hesitated before answering. "I don't know. In a battle
such as this, there is just too many things that can happen, and in
this place, Gods and Goddesses are capable of dying, too. For all
concerned, this is as level a field as you will ever see. We can
only hope that everyone will do their best, and that they will take
care." she said, taking the last bite of her sandwich.
After they had finished eating, they both rose and walking hand in
hand, made their way down to the place where Belldandy was going to
lead her troops. Those troops parted respectfully for them as they
approached, some saluting her, some bowing, some just making eye
contact. But all had a calm look of determination that said they
would not accept defeat while she led them. They approached her
standard, a blue flag with a series of broken, interconnected
circles, and nodding to those gathered there, the Goddess gave the
order for the troops to stand to. A teenage girl blew out a series
of notes on a trumpet, and all up and down the line, troops could
be seen moving to their positions. The front ranks were armed with
18' Swiss Pikes. Behind that, there were the massed troops armed
with swords, axes, and the occasional shot-gun or rifle. To the
rear of the these, were the archers, and further back, were some of
Skuld's light howitzers and teams manning mortar emplacements
providing direct fire-support.
Belldandy then moved to stand with her troops, Keiichi at her side.
Suddenly pulling him to her, She gave him big kiss, which got a big
cheer from the troops around who saw, and left him rather red
faced.
"For luck, Keiichi." she said, her arms still around his neck.
"Thanks, I'll take all I can get." he replied, gently kissing her
back, getting an even bigger cheer. It was her turn to blush.
Pulling away reluctantly, she turned to face the enemy, and drew
her sword. A whisper of metal could be heard up and down the line
as her troops emulated her. A command was given, and the archers
started raining arrows into the enemy as they came into range.
Demon and Devil alike fell from the arrows, or were blown to bits
as shells and mortars dropped in on top of them. As the first wave
of enemy struck the pikes, many were skewered on the long pole-arms
as pressure from ranks behind drove as many as three or four demons
onto the shafts. It quickly turned into a bloody melee and Keiichi
soon found himself swinging at and parrying blows from a ugly
looking demon. Using the routines that Yohko had taught him, he
evaded one blow and stepped in with a stab to the stomach, angling
his blade up into the chest. Much to his surprise, the demon fell
over dead, the blade slipping free as it fell back. He didn't have
time to even consider what he had done, as he had to block an
attack from another demon. He was dimly aware that Belldandy was
chewing through demon and devil with her sword off to his right,
none standing for long against her.
Though he was in good physical shape, and the week of training had
helped, he was starting to get tired, and was having trouble with
this tenth, or was it eleventh, monster, when a spear flew over his
shoulder and pierced its chest. Two solders worked their way
forward past him, as Belldandy appeared behind him, pulling him
back. Fresh troops were rotating off the ones on the front line,
and he tiredly followed her back to the staging area. Someone
handed him a bucket and a towel, and so he soaked the towel in the
water and wrapped it around his head. Belldandy was wiping herself
down as well, keeping an eye on the front as she did so. A loud
crack of thunder made them all jump as a bolt of lightning speared
down into the line off to the left. Other bolts could be seen
striking at random along the front, scattering people like ten-
pins.
A tall, white haired God, wearing black and silver plate-mail and
missing his right hand, called out to her as he approached.
"By the All Mighty, Belldandy lass! Don't you swing a mean sword,
if I do say so myself!" He bellowed jovially as he swept her up off
her feet as one might a small child. She let out a small shriek of
surprise, but was laughing as he set her down.
"Uncle Tyr! I didn't know you were with our group! How wonderful!"
she exclaimed, giving the old God a hug.
"And who is this lad who fights so gamely at your side?" he said,
turning to Keiichi with a curious grin.
"This is my fiance, Keiichi Morisato. Keiichi, this my Uncle Tyr,
God of War and Law." She said, blushing slightly.
"How do you do, sir?" Keiichi said, bowing politely.
"Fiance?! Well, lad, I liked what I saw out there. You held your
own, and didn't risk anybody else. I'm *most* proud to meet the lad
who won over the heart of such a lovely lass." He said, thumping
Keiichi on the back with his stump. Turning back to Belldandy, he
said, "Well lass, it's good to see you still whole, but I must lead
my warriors into the fray. Take good care, both of you!" and with
that, he drew a broad sword with his left hand, and walk off
calling out to his men. Keiichi suddenly found himself being
hugged.
"He likes you, you know. He's very picky about who he compliments,
and he must have seen you fighting." She said, all excited.
Suddenly she froze. Turning, he could see wounded troops being
carried from the battle on stretchers, some however, were covered
compleatly in their cloaks or blankets. Belldandy gave a small
shiver, and silently said a prayer as they were carried by, her
face showing she was upset. It changed to a look of hard
determination as she watched them go.
A bottle that was being handed around the troops that had fought
alongside them during the initial attack was finally handed to
Keiichi, who sniffed at it, raising an eye brow at Belldandy in
enquiry. She nodded, indicating he should drink, so he took a pull.
To his surprise, it wasn't wine or something stronger, but a liquid
that seemed to fill his body with strength and vitality. He
couldn't really say if it had a flavour, but he suspected he'd
never find such a drink in a store. He passed the bottle to
Belldandy who finished it, looking suddenly more alert. Conferring
with an aid briefly, she drew her sword, and waving it, ordered her
troops forward.
This turn at the front was a bad one for Keiichi. The demon forces
opposing them sent some larger demons at them, trying to force a
break in the line. In the melee, Keiichi got separated from
Belldandy as the demons tried to break through. He was pulling back
with the solders around him in good order until he noticed that
Belldandy was cut off in a pocket of demons, only a handful of men
with her. Screaming something incoherent, he franticly tried to
fight his way to her. The troops around him, thinking he had
ordered an assault, fought with new vigour, buoyed up by his
example. The demons, caught by surprise by this counter attack,
fell under the assault as he reached the pocket she was in. To his
horror, he saw her jump one sword thrust, only to be struck just
below the waist by a weapon that resembled a razor edged discus.
She fell to the ground in a heap as he broke through and ran at the
demon that was raising its sword to finish her off. His katana took
the demon's hand off, and Belldandy, on her knees, stabbed it
through the sternum, killing it.
"Belldandy! Are you hurt!?" He cried out as he fought back another
demon. Struggling to her feet, she yelled out, "I'm ok! My armour
took it!" She slashed at another devil, taking its head off.
The solders by this time had worked around the pocket and had
closed off the gap, pushing the enemy back. This created a pocket
where the demons were cut off, and Keiichi and Belldandy, standing
back to back, had a short space to steal a look at each other,
relief on their faces. They made short work of the remaining three
devils, and took a short breather. It was then that Keiichi noticed
that her hair was loose. Grabbing a handful of hair, she let out a
small sound of surprise. Her hair, which in it's braid had reached
almost to her knees, had been severed where the throwing disk had
struck. Looking around, she found the ribbon, with a good seven
inches of braid still attached, lying on the ground.
Picking it up, she looked at it with annoyance, and then smiled at
Keiichi.
"I guess if this is the worst that happens to me, then I got off
lucky." she stuffed the severed braid into a pocket on her vest.
"Oh, well, it'll grow back." she said, turning back to the battle.

                   *********************

Urd was not happy. Oh, her calvary were repelling the enemy's
attacks with relatively small losses, but the commander of the evil
forces refused to engage her, sitting behind his legions on his
Dark Stallion. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see the
Valkyries on their pegasi wheeling through the air against the foul
reptile mounts of the enemy, combining the tactics of calvary and
WW-I dog-fighting. They had already lost two Valkyries, one had
received a horrible gash to her side, and another was down when her
winged steed had its right wing badly burnt from a fire breathing
opponent. On the plus side, however, the Valkyries had already
destroyed four aerial squadrons of the enemy.
Gesturing to her trumpeter, she leaned over in Sleipner's saddle
and quietly gave him a series of orders. Straightening, she waved
her sword at her troops and started Sleipner forward with a nudge
of her heals. The trumpet sounded the "Commander's Challenge" as
her line dressed off of her, breaking into a cantor. Lances came
down as they went to a gallop, and Urd could see the Arch-demon
moving to the centre of his line, accepting her challenge. "Good,"
she thought, "that bastard has enough pride not to hide from a
public challenge. Too bad for him though."
The two ranks of calvary were now closing at incredible speed, and
Urd's cloak and the horse-tail on her helmet were flapping behind
her as she plotted her attack on her opposite. As they flew past
each other in a shower of sparks, she was mildly surprised that the
berserker in her blood hadn't begun to boil yet. As she wheeled
Sleipner around, something flew at her from the side, causing her
to parry hurriedly with her sword. Whatever it was, it rang off the
edge of her helm with considerable force, rattling her for a second
or two. Shaking her head to clear it, she suddenly felt a warm
trickle down her face, from a cut just above her right eye-brow.
Her vision seemed to sharpen, and time seemed to slow down for her
as something exploded like molten fury in the core of her being.
She spurred Sleipner at the Arch-demon, an inarticulate cry of holy
anger coming from her like the scream of an eagle. The Demon
Commander knew fear from an opponent for the first time as this
white haired fury bore down on him, scattering his guard like
bloody ten-pins almost as an after-thought.
The Arch-demon was not happy.

                     *************************

As Megumi followed the Valkyrie out of the tent, she studied her
guide curiously. Although the tall blond Shield-maiden was nearly
six feet, her style of armour and dress was almost the same as what
Megumi now wore, if only larger to fit her well muscled frame.
As they walked toward the picket line where various mounts were
tethered, she saw Urd on a dark grey horse with eight legs, just
like in the picture Satoko drew. Urd saw them and waved, and then
turned an lead a group of horsemen off toward the front lines.
"Urd-sama has been granted a great honour to be allowed to ride
Sleipner in this battle." Vara said, returning the wave. The
Valkyrie looked closely at Megumi.
"So thats why Belldandy-sama wanted my old armour. It suits you,
too. You're her future sister-in-law, right?"
"Hai, so it would seem. I only found out about her being a Goddess
the other day, though, and it seems like so much is happening so
fast since then. This armour belongs to you?" Megumi replied as she
shuffled after Vara.
"Yep! Though I haven't worn it since I was a teen. What have you
done for Belldandy to give you such a gift?" Vara asked.
"Uh, well, I thought it was just on loan until all this gets sorted
out. You see, a demon or something shoved a large pile of crates
over on top of me, causing these injuries, and I guess she just
wanted to protect me from further harm." Megumi explained.
"Ah, I see." Vara gestured to the Katana. "You know how to use
that?"
"Some. I trained in Kendo in public school, and Yohko-chan and her
grandmother gave all of us extra training this past week to brush
up in our skills. Not that I expect to need it, but you never
know."
The Valkyrie appeared to consider this as she led the way down the
lines of tethered animals, some of them Megumi had only heard about
in legends. It was what was at the end of the line that drew a gasp
from the student. A white, winged horse, idly munching some grass,
stood there. She raised her head and snorted as the Valkyrie
approached, the wings spreading slightly. Giving the pegasus a
loving pat on the neck, Vara said, "This is my faithful steed,
Luffa. She will take us to where you will sit out the battle."
"She's beautiful." Megumi said, her voice full of wonder.
Vara carefully lifted Megumi into the saddle, and effortlessly
swung up behind her. After making sure her charge was settled, she
gave the steed a tap with her heals, who spread her wings and leapt
into the air.
Megumi's only regret during the flight was how short it was. She
was enjoying herself immensely as they flew low over the massed
troops, heading back into the low hills. As an engineering student,
she knew there was no way a winged horse could fly, but then magic
has a way of getting around such clumsy limitations, she reasoned.
A shallow valley came into view, two tall stones guarding the near
end. Landing the pegasus near the stones, Vara carefully helped her
down.
"Once you go through those stones, you will be in a protective zone
that is defined by this small valley. In theory, you won't come to
harm in there, but with this battle, nothing is certain, so please
be on your guard anyway. I must report back to my commander once
you've entered, so I guess this is farewell." the tall Valkyrie
held out her hand. "You take care, and don't leave the protected
zone for anything, hear?"
Hai, Vara-sama, and you take care too, huh?" Megumi replied, taking
the Shield-maiden's hand.
Megumi then turned, and leaning on her broom handle, made her way
over to the stones and entered between them, feeling a faint
tingling across her skin as she did so. Turning, she waved at the
already mounted Valkyrie, who waved goodbye and urged Luffa into
the air. Megumi watched them go, wishing she could ride a creature
like that, and wandered into the valley, making for a willow tree
that was growing there. As she approached, she heard the haunting
strains of a flute playing an old tune. Peering under the trailing
branches, she found several children and a few adults sitting
around the tree, listening to a beautiful woman with dark green
hair playing the flute. As Megumi worked her way to a bare spot
near the tree, the woman acknowledged her with a small nod as she
played. As she settled herself on the grass, Megumi noticed that
the Goddess, for that was what she surely must be, was very
pregnant, a fact that had been hidden by the long loose robes she
wore. The Goddess played until the thunder of Skuld's artillery
started, whereupon she put away her flute with a worried
expression.
Megumi offered her part of the lunch Belldandy had made, which the
Goddess politely declined, saying she had brought her own. The two
started talking about small things as they ate, and Megumi learned
that her name was Yanagi, Goddess of the Willows. As they talked,
she found herself liking the quiet spoken Goddess, and as the
morning turned into afternoon, she found herself telling Yanagi
about Belldandy and her sisters, and about the Devil Hunters.
"Devil Hunters? You wouldn't perhaps know their names, would you?"
Yanagi asked.
"Uh, yeah. Their Patron is Yoshiko-sama, and the others are Yohko,
Azusa, and Chigako."
"I know these girls that you speak of! Yohko-himi-sama was the one
who released myself and my husband from long imprisonment. And I
know of Yoshiko-sama by her reputation."
The Goddess related the tale of how she and Byiru had been sealed
away from each other in some bits of dragon claw, and how Yohko and
company had come to their aid.
As the afternoon wore on, the sounds of battle rose to an awful
level, and Megumi fretted about her brother and the others.
Suddenly, a loud series of thunder claps could be heard, the sky
outside flashing blue. This was soon followed by the sound of
running feet and screams. Hobbling out from under the tree to
investigate, she saw a demon, it's back turned to her, pick up a
small girl and bend it's head to bite her neck. Screaming "No",
Megumi drew her Katana and slashed at the demon, it's head falling
to the ground still wearing a look of surprise. The body collapsed,
dropping the terrified young girl, who scrambled away blindly.
Megumi could see that at least one other demon had gotten through
the barrier, with another twisting in pain, stuck within the magic
field. The second demon was approaching a woman with a small child
in her arms, who was paralysed with fear. Megumi moved to interpose
herself between them and the demon.
"Thats far enough, asshole. You want them, You're going to have to
get through me, first." She snarled, coming on guard.
"Ooooo, aren't we the tough one. You weren't so tough when I shoved
those boxes over on you, were you? Cried like a baby you did. Heh,
heh..."
"And you have just signed your death warrant, you cowardly bastard!
This time I get to do some pay-back!" she said, going very calm and
focused, just like in training. Yohko's voice seemed to come to
her, citing the weaknesses and strong points of this type of demon.
The demon sprang at her, and she dodged its blows and struck back,
just catching it on the shoulder. She then had to parry several
rapid blows, each one bringing a stab of pain from her ribs.
Realizing that she couldn't last for long against her opponent she
took a gamble. As the demon took a swipe at her, she made as if to
parry, but turned the force of the blow into a pirouette off of her
good leg, spinning around with all the force she could muster. the
demon, off balance from her move couldn't recover in time, and she
had clean blow to it's neck as she came around. The Katana took
it's head off much as she had the other one, dark green blood
fountaining from the severed neck. Looking at the two demon bodies,
she cleaned her sword, and sheathing it, hobbled over to a rock and
threw up.

                ******************************

Yohko couldn't believe how many devils and demons she had killed
this day, certainly more than she had slain up till now, anyway.
The Devil Hunter Army was making ground beef out of the enemy, but
there were so many that sometimes the line threatened to collapse,
only to have the archers and other ranged weapons rain down on
their foes, driving them back. Yoshiko was alternating between
casting really powerful combat spells, and dispatching the demons
that got past Yohko and company with her staff. The Demons under
Marllar were holding up their part of the battle well enough, in
fact some of the bloodiest fighting were in their ranks.
It was during a lull in the fighting when Marllar came up the hill,
as gore splattered as the rest of them. Taking in the bodies piled
around the crest, she turned to Yoshiko.
"We're holding our own with this bunch, but we have to do something
about Ugly there and pretty soon or this'll all be a waste of
time." she said, hooking a thumb at the Elder God that was behind
the enemy to their front.
"I concur, but I am at a loss to say what we *can* do about such as
It, beyond concentrating our attacks on It as best we can." The
Goddess responded, looking out over the enemy forces. "Heads up
people! Here they come again!"
Another wave of foes literally dropped in on them as flying demons
carried smaller comrades onto the hill, causing near panic as
Yoshiko's `Guard' scrambled to deal with the unexpected assault.
Yohko felt the stirrings of a spell of phenomenal power, and
dispatching her opponent, looked to see if it was her patron
concocting the spell. What she saw was Yoshiko looking toward the
Elder God, a look of horror on her face. The visible manifestation
of a spell streaked across the battlefield from a tentacle of the
Elder God, headed straight for her. Just then, Marllar, chasing a
demon that was fleeing across the hill top from her, crossed into
the path of the spell, getting hit squarely by the magical bolt.
Jerked into the air with a horrible scream, she convulsed as rings
of energy formed about her, moving from head to toe and back. The
ring colours were red at first, but rapidly moved up the spectrum
to an intense blue/white. As the coloured rings faded, Marllar
dropped to the ground, unmoving. Several demons and a few Devil
Hunters that were near ran to her side, but for some reason the
demons pulled back, shock evident in their faces. Yoshiko bent over
Marllar and made a pass with her hand. Straightening, she looked
positively rattled.
"She's alive, but she's no longer a demon!" she said as her face
went white.
"What kind of spell could do such a thing, and is it permanent?" a
short demoness asked, looking at her Commander with disgust.
"It might have been a powerful variant of the Reversal spell. If it
had hit me instead of her, I and all that I influence would have
turned to evil." Yoshiko explained, watching the front.
"That wouldn't have been so bad." another demoness commented.
"On the contrary, we exist because of you, and you exist to oppose
us. If one of us were to disappear, so would the other by default.
You can't have evil without good to measure it by, just as you
can't have good without evil as a contrast. *This* is what this
battle is really about, anyway." Yoshiko looked at the unconscious
form of Marllar. "I have no idea if this is permanent, but the
power of the spell was considerable, as it had been meant for me."
"Megami-sama? Is that demon over there their side's counterpart to
you?" Chi' asked, pointing out a demon with long black robes and a
horned Helmet, standing on a large platform carried by slaves. The
Goddess turned to look.
"Yes, that is he. Known as Belial, I think. Why?" the Goddess
answered as some Devil Hunters carried Marllar into the tent.
Chi' dug out an arrow from her quiver and held it up for Yoshiko's
inspection. The black paint on the arrow-head had letters scratched
into it.
"Is this his True Name?" she asked, causing several demonesses in
ear-shot to recoil in shock. Yoshiko read the name on the arrow-
head.
"Yes...It looks like it might be, but if you're going to use this
on him, you'll have to yell it at him before it hits, and he will
not be slow to react."
"Right, Arch-demon Shish-kebab, coming right up." Chi' said, a
slightly crazy expression on her face as she wandered down the hill
to a better vantage point. The others watched her go with stunned
expressions.
"I wonder if all this hasn't caused her to loose her mind..." the
Goddess muttered to herself wide eyed.
"Naw, she gets like this sometimes..." Yohko remarked, shrugging.
Chi' took up her stance, pulling the bow out to a full draw.
Pausing only briefly, she let fly, the arrow taking on a greenish
glow as it left the bow. She then shouted the Arch-demon's True
Name as the arrow flew, causing Belial's head to snap around and
focus on her. Her timing was perfect; the arrow struck him in the
forehead just as he was opening his mouth to call down some
terrible curse on her. For a whole second, he paused as his eyes
crossed looking at the shaft protruding from his forehead, and then
he screamed long and loud as the arrow worked it's magic directly
into his mind. Rigid, he slowly rose into the air as beams of
arcane energy flowed out of the orifices of his body, his skin
taking on a orange glow as light seemed to shine through the skin.
Abruptly, he exploded in a flash that cut down those around him
like grass, the shock wave felt by even those on the hill. As the
echo of the blast faded away, a faint gibbering could be heard as
his essence faded away. A cheer rose from the ranks of Devil
Hunters as they charged en mass the opposing forces, driving them
back in disarray. Yohko cheered along with the rest, until her
sight rested upon the Elder God to the rear of the retreating
enemy. She knew they would be back in short order unless somebody
took out the nightmare that writhed there, its bloated tenticals
casting off spells in all directions. Raising her sword to join her
sister Devil Hunters, she caught sight of the runes scrolling up
the blade, and paused, an idea occurring to her.
"Megami-sama? This spell on my soul-sword, could it be used to take
out that Elder God?" she ask, turning back to Yoshiko.
The Goddess turned to her, utter horror replacing her calm beauty.
"Yohko! No! It wouldn't have enough power to do more than harm it,
and you would loose part of your soul in the process! In the mortal
realms, and most other realms for that matter, I could possibly
gather back the energies and reconstitute that part of your soul
which is embodied by your sword, but here, I do not possess the
power to recapture your soul, and this place would dissipate it
forever." Yoshiko grabbed Yohko by the shoulders. "I beg you, do
not do such a thing *here*!"
"But, If the other Devil Hunters lent me their strength, would I
have the power? Yoshiko-sama, So many have died already, and we
haven't even started to deal with those!" Yohko waved a hand in the
direction of the Elder God. "If we can take one down, it'll make a
big help in morale, and I can't ask Azusa-chan to do this. Besides,
the Mano clan will still have a Devil Hunter to carry on the
legacy."
"If you borrowed the strength of your sisters, you might have the
power to take It down, but I can't say if you would even be left
alive, dead, or something in between. I cannot ask you to do this,
it would be an awful abuse of my authority."
Yohko took a deep breath, and closed her eyes. "I must do this, and
I state here and now that this was my idea, and that I recognize
that you have counciled against it, and explained to me why I
shouldn't. But people and deities are dyeing as we speak, and
nothing will bring them back. I must try this, and consign myself
to fate." At three different locations on the battle field, three
Goddesses suddenly paused, aware something was about to happen, but
unsure as to what.
Yoshiko looked like she was about to cry, but instead, she crushed
Yohko to her in a hug.
"I cannot make you change your mind, so I will give my blessing,
and pray for you. The name of Yohko Mano will be remembered by all
the Devil Hunters, whatever happens." She released the younger
girl, making a pass with her hand, finally tracing something on her
forehead with her finger.
Stepping back, Yohko bowed to her patron Goddess, and turned toward
the plain. Holding out her sword in front of her, she closed her
eyes and reached out with the power, calling upon the Devil Hunters
to lend her as much strenth as they were willing to spair her. As
their powers flowed into her, she began to feel giddy, and the
sword began to glow as the power it was being asked to hold grew.
She opened her eyes briefly, and was mildly surprised to find she
was eight feet in the air, the runes worked into the dress standing
out clearly as they shone with power. She found that as the power
within her grew, her body arched in pleasure that was almost
obscene, and then soon moved up into realms that had her wracked in
pain. When she felt she could endure no more, she pointed the blade
at the Elder God, and screamed the words written on her soul-sword.
The sword seemed to explode in an incandescent flash that blinded
Yohko as the powers within her streamed out through her hands.
She thought she must have screamed, but the only thing she could be
sure of was that her hair was flying loose as she lost
consciousness.

                            *******************

Skuld was bouncing around the battlefront, the thrusters in her
boots suplimenting her devine ability to fly, firing salvo after
salvo into the enemy forces from the massive plasma rifle she
carried. The Jump-troops in their power armour were hard pressed to
keep up with her as she flew from one hot-spot to another.
She had left Nirvanna-1 in command of an experienced officer, and
he was keeping her up to date on the status of the battle. She
knew, for instance, that despite the horrendous losses on the
enemy's side, that the battle against the Elder Gods was a
stalemate, with neither side gaining the upper hand. She was upset
that despite the near continuous barrage from her artillery, she
wasn't making a dent in the magic shield the Elder Gods had up, the
shells and missiles exploding short of their targets. She had just
finished making a breach in the line for a formation of Abram M-1's
and a few companies of Leopard tanks to punch through and roll up
the enemy's rear in both directions, and landing in a secure area,
decided to give her men a breather. Popping the top off a container
at her belt, she was pleased to see that the container of ice-cream
was still properly frozen inside. She was digging in as her
armoured troops were passing beers around, when she felt a tug in
her being; someone had invoked her as a Goddess, someone close by
and familiar to her. Not sure why, she non the less closed her belt
cooler, and standing, drew her longsword for the first time in the
battle. Holding it out at an upward angle, the flat of the blade
even with the ground, she slowly swung it around from left to
right. "Yes," she thought, "its definitely to the right, down the
front by some kilometres."
"Men! I need you to protect me for the next few minutes." she
ordered, pushing back her helmet.
She opened herself to the flows of energies, trying to find out
what it was that had called to her. She could sense Belldandy and
Urd also doing what she was, and as she had been taught, linked
herself to them. Skuld could sense Kami-sama also monitoring them,
but not more than just keeping tabs on them.
 Suddenly from down the line, a point source of energy formed,
drawing in power and growing rapidly. As the flows peaked, a
powerful spell, invoking soul-magic, was activated. Skuld realized
with shock who's soul was involved, and though distance separated
them, her sisters and she set a very powerful spell of their own in
motion.

                       *****************
Belldandy had just finished casting the spell with Skuld and Urd,
and turned to look where the blast of magical energy had struck,
holding up her sword as it started to glow.
The Elder God had taken the full strike in its bloated body, and
was thrashing around as cracks of light formed all over it. Pieces
were breaking off and crumbling as everyone, human, deity, and
demon alike, watched in awe as parts of it started to erupt in
explosions.
>From Skuld's camp, a volley of rockets launched up in a high
trajectory in very rapid order, looking like she was in a hurry to
empty the launchers.
>From where Kami-sama was leading the fight down to her left,
another spell lanced out, striking a second Elder God.
The Elder God that Yohko had struck was exploding in sections, each
blast more powerful than the last as lightning and blue energy
fields chased each other over the still visible parts of the
creature. With a final explosion, the Elder God disintegrated in a
sphere of light that dazzled those looking on.
The Elder God opposing Skuld's line was taking a pounding from her
field pieces when the ground and parts of it suddenly erupted in
multiple fireballs. The rockets that Skuld had ordered launched
had detonated their load of aerosol explosives in and around the
Elder God.
The spell that Kami-sama had cast was having a similar effect on
the second Elder God as Yohko's strike had on her's, and far down
to the right the Hindu deities were launching a massive attack on
the last of the Elder Gods.
Belldandy barely paid any of this much notice as she concentrated
on her glowing sword. Keiichi, seeing that she was doing something
with magic, quietly stood next to her, watching the spectacle.
The brown haired Goddess was about close off her part of the spell
when an overwhelming force caused the energies she had been
collecting to suddenly fly out of her sword and arc away over the
heads of her troops. With a cry of anguish, she collapsed to the
ground, sobbing incoherently. Being linked to her sisters, she knew
that the same thing had happened to them, too.
As the last Elder God died in blasts of spells from the Hindu
deities, the remnants of the enemy turned tail and ran, unaware
that the way they came to this place was now sealed.
Keiichi could only hold onto Belldandy as she cried, unable to make
sense of what she said between sobs, other than that she wasn't
hurt. As the battle wound down, Urd appeared on Sleipner, wending
her way through the milling troops, her solemn expression showing
under the bandage tied over her left eyebrow. Soon Skuld showed up,
also wearing a haunted expression. Belldandy got control of herself
with difficulty, and led them all down the front to the Devil
Hunter's camp. There they found the demons forming up leave, and
that some deities were aiding wounded Devil Hunters, while others
were collecting up the bodies. Many Devil Hunters were standing
around the tent that Yoshiko had been using as a command post,
apparently waiting for some kind of news. They parted for the
Goddesses however, as Urd led the snorting Sleipner up the hill.
At the top, they found Chi' holding Azusa in her arms as the both
cried quietly. Looking in the tent, they could see two pallets, one
had the still unconscious form of Marllar, the other a barely
recognizable Yohko. Yoshiko was sitting on a chair, her back to
them, carefully holding a scorched hand, while Ayako stood just
inside the tent looking worried.
"Does she still live? Yoshiko-sama?" Belldandy asked gently.
The dark haired Goddess turned her head slightly at the voice.
"Yes, her body still breathes, for what it's worth. I should have
forbidden her to do such a thing."
"I have skill in healing, but I will need the help of others as I
have little power left myself at the moment." Belldandy offered.
Yoshiko simply nodded slowly, and as the Goddesses entered the
tent, Urd and Skuld did a double take, getting a good look at
Yohko's cousin for the first time. While the others held
Belldandy's left hand, she held out her right to the young Devil
Hunter, quietly saying the spell she knew better than any other. As
the waves of warm magic filled the tent, Yohko's scorched and burnt
hands and face slowly healed. When the spell had run it's course,
Yohko looked much as she did when they last saw her, but while she
was breathing easier now, she somehow looked more dead like this
than she had.

                   ************************

With a slight moan, Yohko slowly stirred awake. She found herself
alone in Yoshiko's tent, but for Marllar, who was a dim form on the
other pallet. In a detached sort of way, she noticed that Marller
no longer had the "V" shaped mark on her forehead but rather had a
small inverted triangle, much like Urd's. A candle on the table was
all the light there was.
Yohko felt very strange, there was a yawning hole in her being
where something seemed to be missing, but she couldn't remember
what it might be. She felt very weak, though she appeared otherwise
unharmed, as she raised herself up to a sitting position. She also
noticed her hair was unbound, and was at a loss as to where her
hair ornaments had gotten to. It was then that she noticed how
charred and torn her dress was, as pieces were flaking off with her
movements. She seemed to remember something about a blast of light,
but it seemed like too much of a bother to remember more than that.
As she sat at there, she had a passing desire for some cup ramen,
but thought it odd that there was probably none to be had. It
didn't matter, though, nothing seemed to, really.
It was then that the flap to the tent opened and a tall, raven
haired Oriental woman looked in, her eyes widening in surprise as
she took in Yohko sitting up. "Yoshiko. That is her name." Yohko
thought, remembering some of what had happened in the past week or
so. The Goddess called over her shoulder.
"Belldandy, she's awake." she said, entering the tent. Several
others soon crowded in, and while Yohko knew the faces, she had to
struggle to put a name to them, and it seemed like such a bother.
A younger girl in a short black dress and another her own age in a
bright green one suddenly appeared on either side of her, hugging
her fiercely and babbling on about how worried they were that was
going to die. Their names came to her, and some small part said
that they were her students or something.
Yoshiko pulled a chair over to her pallet, and sat down facing her.
She then took Yohko's head gently in her hands, and looked deep
into her eyes. After a while she turned to the others with a small
sigh.
"It is as I feared. She has lost that part of her that was her
strength, her vitality. She can respond, she can answer questions,
but she will need to be looked after as she will likely do little
on her own behalf. She has less will than an animal, though her
intelligence is intact."
"Is there anything we can do for her? " Skuld asked.
"I do not know. Perhaps Kami-sama can help, but this may be outside
even His abilities." Yoshiko answered.
"My aching, dying nerves. Did somebody get the license of the truck
that hit me?"  Everyone turned as Marllar sat up on her pallet,
holding her head in pain. Her collar rang softly, making her wince.
"Ow....Huh? What's everyone staring at?" she asked looking from one
face to another. Urd sat down next to her.
"Hold onto your britches, Marllar, but you're no longer a demon."
she said.
"Yeah, right. Like I ever was one.....Oh GAWD! she exclaimed,
remembrance suddenly coming to her like a bomb burst.
"Bu....But....What *am* I?" she said, starting to shake violently.
"We are not really sure, but we do know you are no longer capable
of evil." Belldandy said mildly. "Urd, I think we can dispense with
the collar, as she is no longer a threat to us."
"Yeah, suppose you're right." Urd made a pass with her hand and
said a strange series of words. The collar and bell fell from
Marllar's neck with a last chime, and she rubbed it in relief.
"Thank you.....What?" she said as the Keiichi, Belldandy, and her
sisters looked at Marllar in surprise.
Just then a voice came from out side the tent.
"Dispatch!" The young witch with the broom announced, looking into
the tent. She handed each of the Goddess an envelope, and pausing
to give Yohko a sad look, she departed.
"I would believe we all likely have the same message, barring
details." Yoshiko said, looking up from the page in her hands.
"Yes, we are called to our Lord's pavilion, and are to bring
Marllar with us." Urd said, standing up.
As they left the tent, with Yoshiko leading Yohko by the hand as
one might a small child, they found the entire Devil Hunter
contingent formed up in their four groups, the group leaders
standing out in front. The Devil Hunters came to attention as one,
and the leaders did a flashy weapons salute, the cat-sisters simply
bowing low, not having weapons.
"I would like to thank you all for your courage and sacrifice.
Today the World is safer because of your efforts, and I am very
proud of all of you. Please return home with this knowledge, and
remember those who never will. Domo Arigato.." Yoshiko bowed to
them. The ranks of Devil Hunters returned her bow, but held fast.
"Is there something else?" she asked, looking at Chi', Ayako, and
both Azusa's, who were standing just to the left of the tent.
"They want to know what will be Yohko's fate before they leave."
Chi' said, a catch in her throat.
"As do I, Megami-sama. We've had our differences, but she *is*
family, after all." Ayako added.
"Very well. We have been summoned to Kami-sama's presence, and
cannot delay. You may follow us to the main tent if the way is
clear, but we cannot wait for all of you. Ayako-sa, Chigako-sa,
Azusa's one and two, you stay with us, the rest will follow as they
may." The Devil Hunters again bowed, and turning, started to move
off in three ranks.
 Leaving Yohko to her Apprentices' care, Yoshiko and Belldandy, who
was holding Keiichi's hand, then led the group down off the hill.
 As they approached the main pavilion, groups of soldiers and
assorted deities stood around the square in front of the tent, or
celebrated the victory at various tables set with food and wine.
A familiar voice shouted out to them, and having got their
attention, Megumi waved from a table where she was surrounded by
Valkyries. Most of them were as covered with bandages she, and all
seemed to be intent on getting seriously bombed. Vara helped her to
her feet and guided her over to them, both looking a little
unsteady.
"Hey, Kei-chan! You survived!" she said as she gave him and
Belldandy a big hug.
"He impressed many today that are not easy to impress, and came to
my rescue as well. My hero!" Belldandy informed her as he went red
in the face.
"Then he isn't the only Morisato to earn distinction today. Some
demons got into the protected zone, and she took care of them all
by herself!" Vara interjected, giving the short student a light
slap on the back.
"Alright, Megumi!" Urd exclaimed, looking from shield-maiden to
student and back.
"Megumi, we've been all called to see Kami-sama, this includes you.
We really must hurry." Belldandy said, indicating the big tent.
She took one side as Keiichi took the other, and with Vara bringing
up the rear, they entered the tent.
 Inside, people devine and not lined the sides of the tent,
evidently waiting for them, a hushed murmur fell as Yohko was led
into the tent, her face vacant and disinterested.
Kami-sama returned their bow politely as they stopped just in front
of a low dias at the back of the tent.
"While no one person or group could be said to have won this
battle, These here did their best, and one did more than she need
to, at great cost. Keiichi Morisato, betrothed of Belldandy, stand
forward and please present your sword."
Keiichi swallowed hard as he drew his katana and held it out with
the blade resting in his palms. Kami-sama ran a finger down the
blade starting at the hilt. The blade lit up with incandescent
Kanji as he did so, which quickly faded to dark letters on the
brightly polished metal. `Megami no tate' it spelled out, and
Keiichi's face had a look of delighted amazement as he read it.
"You have already received your heart's desire, but let this sword
remind you of a time when all you held dear was in jeopardy."
Snapping the sword up to his shoulder, Keiichi did a formal bow,
stammering his thanks, and withdrew to Belldandy's side.
"Megumi Morisato, Please step forward and present your sword."
Megumi hobbled in front of Kami-sama, and held out her sword as her
brother had, her eyes wide.
"You were brought here for your own protection, and yet even with
your injuries, you came to the defence of those who could not, and
defeated two foes where none should have been."
"Kami-sama, I beg forgiveness at this interruption, but I have a
petition to give you on behalf of myself and my sisters regarding
this young lady." Vara spoke out, moving forward as she did so.
"What is the petition?" Kami-sama asked, a ghost of a smile on his
lips.
"Megumi was loaned the armour she now wears by Belldandy-sama. As
the owner of the armour, I have seen that this woman has brought
honour on herself and on the tradition of those who wear the armour
by birthright. I ask, therefore, that she be permitted to keep it,
and by consensus of the sister-hood of the Valkyries, that she be
inducted as an honourary Valkyrie." As Vara spoke, a delighted
smile spread across Kami-sama's face. Megumi's jaw couldn't have
been any lower as she looked at the Valkyrie in shock.
"I approve the petition. So be it." Bending back to Megumi's
Katana, he ran his finger down the blade as he had Keiichi's, and
again the blade burned with bright kanji, this time spelling out
`Valkyrie's Honour'. Tears of joy running down her face, she bowed
awkwardly and shuffled back, to choked up to speak. A ragged cheer
rose from the entrance of the tent where the remaining Valkyries
had crowded to watch. Getting a hug from her brother and giving one
to Vara, she looked like someone who had gone to the doctor with a
stomach ache and was told she was pregnant with triplets instead.
"Marllar, what are we going to do with you?" Kami-sama asked,
turning to the former demoness.
"I do not know, uh...My lord. I am not what I was, but I do not
know what I am anymore, either." Marllar said as she came forward,
looking at her feet as her face burned.
"That you remember what you have done in the past and are shamed by
it shows that there is something we can work with. Marllar, you
will be handed over for instruction to earn a goddess
qualification, and given your former skills, I suspect you will
prove to be a quick study." Kami-sama continued.
Marllar bowed, and returned to her place in the group, her face
still red.
"Yoshiko, it is due to the forces you command that a weakness in
the Elder Gods was exposed, allowing our side to finally defeat
them for once and for all."
"Kami-sama, the one who should be praised is not I, and she who
should be, paid a terrible price for that victory. Others have
died, losing their souls and spirits in the process, never to exist
again, but Yohko Mano still lives, and yet does not. I beseech you,
Kami-sama, is there anything you can do for her?" Yoshiko said in
a calm voice, a tear running down her cheek the only outward
expression of her grief.
"Bring her to me." Kami-sama said quietly.
As Chi' and Azusa led the blank faced Yohko to the dias, two aids
brought in a low table and placed it next to Kami-sama, a white
silk cloth covering what lay upon it.
"Due to the quick thinking of the Norn Goddesses Urd, Belldandy,
and Skuld, the essence of Yohko Mano's soul was captured before it
had time to dissipate, allowing me to make this." Pulling back the
cloth, a Devil Hunter's soul-sword slowly rose into the air, a
blue-white aurora forming around it as it drifted over to where
Yohko was standing. Her head snapped around to focus upon it as her
arm rose, hand stretching for the hilt as it slowly spun blade up,
revealing the Kanji that translated out as "God Slayer" written
along the blade.
A shocked expression was on the faces of the Norn Goddesses,
Belldandy's mouth making an "o" of surprise as she brought both
hands up to it. Yoshiko's staff clattered to the floor un-noticed
as she dropped it in her shock.
Blue sparks started to arc between the sword hilt and Yohko's hand,
as the distance closed between them. As she closed her hand on the
sword, the aurora raced down her arm and over her whole body, which
arched back, a small cry escaping from her lips. Her body seemed
pulse as she was drawn into the air, her hair a dark nimbus as it
floated out to it's considerable length on the currents of energy
that coursed through her. As she slowly settled back to the floor,
her dress glowed briefly as it was restored. Holding the sword with
both hands, she hugged it to her as she fell to her knees, sobs of
joy breaking from her as her hair slowly settled down past her
face. She swept her hair out of the way as she staggered back to
her feet.
"D..Domo arigato, Kami-sama." she managed to get out, and bowed
low, the sword still clasped to her breast.
"It is to you we say thank you, who risked what few would dare in
order to save your friends, and those you will never meet." Kami-
sama replied, a fond smile on his face. He then bowed to her, and
as she turned, those in the tent watching also bowed, causing a
blush to rise on her face. Suddenly, she was gripped in a hug from
both sides as Chi' and Azusa latched onto her, holding her tightly.
Then Yoshiko was there, holding her as well, tears of joy running
down her face. The Norn Goddesses, and Keiichi and Megumi, crowded
around her, and she reached out to Belldandy to give her a hug as
the Goddess tried to wipe the tears from her face.
Behind them, a gentle "Ahem" caused them to turn back to Kami-sama.
"Skuld, your troops did an excellent job today, and have the right
to feel proud of the work they have done today. Please convey my
thanks to them. Oh yes, there is a friend of your's waiting for
you, as well."
Skuld was about to ask him who he meant when something shoved her
hard in the rump, causing her to stagger and fall. Turning over
with a snarl on her lips, she was stopped cold as the cougar that
had followed her around gave her a big lick across the face. A good
natured laugh ran around the tent as Skuld shoved the big cat off
of her and stood up, wiping her face with a hankie.
"Urd, Belldandy. Your troops also did well, as did you, and your
aid in helping your friend was also well done. I'm sorry that I
couldn't let you know about collecting Yohko's soul from you, but
there just wasn't time. But I do thank you." Kami-sama bowed to
them, which they returned.
The group made their way out of the tent after one final bow, and
a cheer rose from rank upon rank of Devil Hunter, soldier, deity,
and other beings that had formed up in the square outside as they
left the pavilion.
Yohko soon found herself surrounded by ecstatic Devil Hunters. She
found it a little odd that women that were old enough to be her
mother were hugging her and telling her how proud of her they were.
Suddenly, Ayako was there in front of her, a dark look on her face.
"Looks like you managed to dodge the bullet once again, cousin."
Her face broke into a grin as she rushed in to give her a hug.
"Damn it! I'm glad your ok, Yohko." She said, as Yoshiko nodded to
herself in satisfaction, unnoticed.
Off to one side, Yohko could see Skuld in discussion with
Belldandy, the subject of the conversation sitting with her tail
wrapped around the young Goddess's legs and nuzzling her hand.
Skuld looked like she didn't know what to do, and Belldandy and Urd
were scratching their heads, obviously at a loss as well. Yohko
could see Keiichi standing behind Belldandy with his face buried in
his hands, evidently knowing instinctively what the out-come would
be.

                     *********************

It was late when the group, plus cougar, returned to the temple. As
they made their way across the yard, the door to the living room
slid open, revealing Madoka Mano standing there, the room behind
her festooned with banners and ribbons.
"Please forgive my entering your home uninvited, but Yoshiko-sama
wanted there to be a surprise for you upon your return. I did not
venture anywhere other than the kitchen and bathroom." Madoka said,
bowing low to Belldandy.
"Oh...How thoughtful of you. You went to all this work, but how
could you know if we'd succeed?" Belldandy replied, delighted with
the room as she sat down on the step to take off her boots.
"I figured if we won, then you would have a treat waiting for you
when you got home, and if we lost, well, it really wouldn't matter
then, would it?" Yoshiko answered as she stepped out of her shoes.
"Well, thank you, Yoshiko. I must say I'm starved. Wiping out an
army of demons is hungry work!" Urd said, propping her scabbard
against the wall and pulling off her helmet.
As the victory party progressed, it was clear that everyone was too
drained to really get into it, and after everyone had something to
eat, it only made them sleepy. Skuld was asleep with the big cat's
head in her lap, and Megumi and Azusa were nodding as well when it
was decided maybe it was time to go home. Yohko's mother came and
picked the girls up in the car when Madoka called her, and then
followed them home with Yoshiko on the Yammaha after they dropped
off Chi'. As Sayoko put the car in the garage, Yoshiko drew Yohko
to one side.
"This is where we part, Yohko. I will probably explore some of this
world, and pay my respects to the families who's daughters will
never be coming home. I may even try to recruit some new Devil
Hunters to replace some of them." She said, a little sad.
"Will we ever see you again?" Yohko asked.
"Maybe. I don't know. But two things I'll tell you. One, you will
probably have two to three weeks respite from demons as they'll be
sorting things out amongst themselves for a while. Second, your
ancestor, Haruka, was the first of the Devil Hunter clans I
created, and your family is the oldest and maybe the most powerful
of the Devil Hunters. I am very proud of you and your linage, and
I know you will continue to do well." Yoshiko paused as she turned
to go. "Oh yes, one last thing. Belldandy said you and your
apprentices are welcome to come over to visit anytime you're in the
neighbourhood, and she'd welcome the chance to brush up on her
swordsmanship with you."
"Gaa, she could teach me a thing or two." Yohko said a comic look
on her face.
"Quite possibly." The Goddess laughed. "But you will learn those
lessons too, I suspect. Sayonara, Yohko-chan. It has been a
pleasure and an honour to have met you."
"Sayonara, Megami-sama. Thank you for all that you have done for
us. I know Grandmother is beside herself from having met you. Domo
arigato."
As Yohko straightened from her bow, she watched as the Goddess
faded like a misty shadow into the moonlight, just making out a
final wave as she disappeared. For some reason, Yohko felt saddened
to see her go, and as she closed the door behind her, she hoped it
wouldn't be the last time she saw her Patron. With a heavy sigh,
she made her way upstairs to bed.

                            ***************

[epilogue]

It had been three weeks after the battle, and Yohko was sitting at
her grandmother's computer, entering her account of the battle for
the family archives. That she had started this on her own
initiative had startled her grandmother, who had been thinking it
would have been impossible to get the girl to sit still long enough
to even tell the story, let alone write it down.
She had started more out of boredom, truth be told, than to please
her grandmother. The simple fact that she hadn't fought a demon
since the battle had gotten on her nerves, because she kept waiting
for one to show up. Writing the account at least filled the empty
hours, when she would otherwise have fretted.
She had been over to the temple twice since the battle, once for a
little practice at Belldandy's invitation, and once she and her
apprentices dropped by on the way home from shopping, just because
it was on the way, and it would have been rude not to.
 Megumi had stayed at the temple for about a week, until she felt
she had recuperated enough to go back to her apartment. Keiichi had
found a pair of beautiful cedar chests at garage sale, and had
given one to Megumi and kept the other for himself to store their
armour in.
 Azusa was becoming close friends with the youngest of the three
Goddesses, and the two of them had caused quite a commotion when
they went for some ice-cream and Shasti, the cougar, had followed
them to the shop. The big cat had proved to be quite well behaved,
for most part, and at least now when Skuld took her for her walks,
the police didn't get all bent out of shape like that first time.
When the police had tried to trank Shasti, Skuld had interposed
herself between the sharp-shooter and the cat, her mallet out and
a very thin rein on her temper. The officer had later commented to
his buddies that he wasn't sure which had been the more dangerous
animal.
  Chi' was rapidly learning her skills, and Yohko felt it would be
only a short time before she earned her trade.
 Much to both their surprise, they both got several letters from
overseas the day before, from some male Devil Hunters, no less. How
they had gotten their addresses, she couldn't say, but two were
out-right proposals, if her english was even halfway accurate. The
third one was more subdued, merely asking for friendship and maybe
a chance for a visit sometime in the future. That he had taken the
trouble to translate the letter into passable Japanese, and that
the photo he sent, in his Devil Hunter garb, showed him to be
rather cute, had Yohko thinking she might just send him that
invitation, after all. It also helped that he lived in Victoria, on
Canada's west coast; so they were sort of neighbours, if you
discounted three or four thousand miles of ocean, that is.
 She had also gotten use to having her hair down, though from time
to time she still missed her hair ornaments. Lately she just wore
it in a simple braid, or one long pony-tail like she had now. She
never could find a suitable replacement for the ornaments, and had
even considered cutting her hair back a bit.
A knock on the door startled her out of her revery.
"Yohko, you have a visitor." her mother said, sticking her head
into the room.
Upon entering the living room, she was surprised to find Belldandy
sitting on the couch, holding out her cup while Azusa filled it
with tea.
"Belldandy-sama! This is a pleasant surprise. What brings you all
the way over here?" Yohko asked, the "Belldandy-sama" getting an
odd look from her mother.
"Good afternoon, Yohko-sa, I came to deliver a message on behalf of
someone who could not do it himself. Ah, thank you, Azusa-chan."
the Goddess added, as Azusa offered some fresh cookies.
Yohko gave her a curious look as she sat down on the couch next to
Azusa. Belldandy dug into the pocket of her dress, and produced a
large clear blue gemstone. She held the stone covered briefly in
her palm, her mouth silently reciting some words, and when she
uncovered it, it started to glow from within.
An image appeared in the air above her hand, depicting Biryu and
Yanagi holding a small wrapped form.
"Yohko-himi-sama, thanks to you and your courage, we now have a
lovely daughter. In your honour, we have decided to name her Yohko
as well, and hope to introduce you to her when she is older. We
hope this will find you and your friends well, and we hope you
suffer no lasting effects from the battle. Also, please say hello
to Megumi Morisato for us, as we understand you two are acquainted.
Also, Belldandy-sama has a small gift from us for you. Please do us
the honour of accepting it as small token for all that you have
done." With those words from Biryu, the image changed to a close up
of Yohko-chan, and after a long pause the image faded and the glow
from the stone died.
 Yohko sat very still for a moment, a shy, happy smile on her face
as tears poured down her cheeks. She had been really touched by the
gesture, and was at a loss for words, the final image of the
adorable infant still floating in her memory. All the while the
message played, Belldandy had sat with a look of delighted wonder,
which softened to a warm smile, by the end.
Azusa gave Yohko a big hug, barely holding back tears herself.
"How did she do that?" Yohko's mother said in a quiet, stunned
voice, having seen it from where she had been leaning against the
back of the couch.
"Oh, its just a little bit of simple magic." Belldandy answered,
causing Sayoko to blink in surprise, not quite sure the woman
across from her was joking or not.
"They asked me to give you this also, as they said." Belldandy
continued, handing a small silk bag over to Yohko, small bells on
the ties ringing gently. Inside were a pair of hair ornaments made
from magic stone like the last pair they had given her.
"Please tell them `thank you very much' for me, Belldandy-sama, and
thank you, as well, for your time." Yohko said in a small humble
voice.
"Oh! It was my pleasure, Yohko-sa. You can have this as well, and
I'll teach you the spell to restart it before I go." she said as
she handed over the blue stone.
 They chatted about various things as Azusa and Sayoko helped re-
braid Yohko's hair for her, such as how Keiichi was coping with the
cougar, and the letters she had received from overseas.
Belldandy had wrote down the spell for the stone, and instructions
for it's use, and finishing her tea, rose, saying that she was to
meet Keiichi and Megumi, and had to go.
The three of them saw her to the door, and opening a parasol
against the afternoon sun, she said a final farewell and headed
down the walk, and down the street.
Watching the Goddess go, Yohko held the stone tightly to her breast
and sighed, very greatful that she had met the brown haired
Goddess.




                             The End




Written by Mark Babcock, babcock@biologysx.lan.nrc.ca
  Posted by David Wills, dwills@world.std.com
                         david.wills@xevious.com
                         http://world.std.com/~dwills/index.htm



Thanks to NCS, Toho Company, LTD., and Mad House for releasing the series in Japan and to AD Vision for bringing the series to North America. Mamono Hunter Yohko is a copyright of NCS, Toho Company, LTD., & Mad House. Devil Hunter Yohko is a copyright of AD Vision. All Images Copyright NCS, Toho Company, LTD., Mad House, and AD Vision.

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