Temple of Aphrodite, Myridia

Kristen Lynn feels increasingly out of place. She didn’t know what to expect during this visit, but watching dozens of Kari duplicates immerge themselves in the sacred waters to be re-absorbed by Kari’s original body would be weird even without being surrounded by naked statues. She pretends not to be distracted by Kari’s moaning, and looks away when she emerges from the bath.

-You shouldn’t have skipped the orgy, Kristen. At least did you have fun with Max last night?

-Kari, please, stop embarrassing us both – Vesta tells her, covering her up with a white blanket. Despite the awkward situation, the goddess has a way to make Kristen less tense. Which is good because this is the part of the ritual where she cuts off a lock of Kari’s hair with a silver knife.

-I suppose Null wasn’t there either? – she asks, thankful for the chance to change the topic while she hands the lock of purple hair to Vesta.

-She wanted to be alone. Kari, do I have to do this? – the goddess complains.

-I know it’s stupid considering what we went through with her, but please, it’s tradition.

-Alright, alright. “Artemis, virgin goddess of the wilderness, please accept the last offering of a young maiden before she becomes a woman” – Vesta recites, incinerating the hair she’s holding.

-Why the offering? I thought you were going to have a civil wedding? – Kristen asks.

-There’s really no such thing on Myridia. I had to dig through very old rituals to find the ones that involved the gods as little as possible… present company excluded, of course.

-That’s going to be a little harder at the reception – Vesta sighs, remembering the guests.

 

Null City Hall, later that day

Max Black is trying to adjust his toga in a way that doesn’t make him feel completely ridiculous.

-At least we didn’t have to wear a dress – he comments to Todd Slate, who is standing next to him wearing similar clothes.

-It’s called a chiton. People wore them in Ancient Greece; apparently it survived on Myridia as formal wear – Todd replies.

-In hindsight, maybe I should’ve researched that before we came here – Max shrugs.

-Enjoying the feast, guys? – Vesta asks them. She’s wearing an orange peplos that should be a rather conservative dress, but with her curves she’s still ridiculously attractive.

-Nice… dress – Todd compliments her, loosening his toga at the neck to make breathing easier.

-Oh thank you! It’s a little tight on the chest, but I like it. I never get to wear stuff like this on Earth.

-Nobody’s stopping you, believe me. How are things on the women’s table? – Max asks, changing the subject while trying not to make Vesta notice how he’s admiring what’s beneath the dress.

-A little boring, actually. I don’t know anybody except Kristen and Tyche: one is busy interviewing anyone within earshot, and I’m trying to avoid the other.

-Gentlemen. Lady Vesta – Syzar joins the conversation without being invited, with two Myridian duplicates holding his arms. Maybe it’s the physique of an action hero, but he manages to pull off wearing only a white chiton with the length of a miniskirt without looking ridiculous.

-President Syzar. You already know Quantum; may I introduce you to Todd Slate?

-Where is Null? We have important matters to discuss – Syzar answers, completely ignoring Todd.

-I haven’t seen her. You should try at the women’s table – Vesta replies; with her smile she’s able to sound sincere, and he leaves without taking much interest in the goddess.

-What’s going on? It seems like nobody’s seen Noriko since we got here – Todd points out.

-Maybe she’s trying to contact Torn. He’s late as well – Max points out, ironically with perfect timing because just then there are red lines appearing in the air, drawing a pentagram.

The guests stop chattering when they see a column of fire rising from the ground, disappearing to reveal the arrival of four people with red skin: a man, a woman, a teenager and a kid.

-Dad! Look at all the humans!!! – the youngest girl exclaims, pointing at the crowd.

-It’s not polite to stare, Lesion. Remember we’re guests here – the woman reminds her.

-I liked Earth better – the teenage girl complains, looking upset at having to be here.

-Don’t tell the humans – Torn tells her, leading the other Demons to meet the others and ignoring the rest of the crowd. He’s wearing his usual brown duster and the rest of his family is similarly informal, with leather clothes that seem more suitable for a bar fight than a wedding.

-These are my wife Agony and my daughters Laceration and Lesion. You’ve already met Quantum and these are Vesta and Todd.

-Hello. Are you the male that penetrates Null? – Agony asks Todd bluntly, having even less human skills than her husband.

-Nice to… meet… you – Todd struggles to put together a sentence to answer.

-Dad, why is that man throwing away his food? – Lesion asks, pointing at the priest that is pouring wine and pig blood into the ground. Vesta kneels to speak to the Demon girl eye to eye.

-It’s a ritual offer to Demeter, to bless the couple – she explains.

-Does Demeter live underground? Why can’t she come up to drink it herself? – Lesion asks.

-Also I thought Demeter was dead – Laceration adds.

-Oh! Are they resurrecting her? Can we fight her, dad? Please? – Lesion asks excitedly.

-I, ehm, ah, maybe some other time? – Vesta tries to change the subject, luckily helped by Torn.

-Come on girls. I want you to meet Old Man Vor.

Without adding much, Torn leads his family towards his old friend, leaving behind the others.

-Torn’s family is… interesting – Todd says diplomatically; he’d already met Laceration, but her mother makes Bob Null look like a conservative parent.

-Yeah, they kind of make him look normal by comparison – Max says; Vesta takes him a little closer and tells him lowering his voice:

-It’s not like Noriko to be this late, I’ll go check on her. Can you keep an eye on Tyche and Dionysus while I’m gone?

-I don’t think that’s going to be a problem – Max replies, looking over his shoulder: the wine god is already attracting attention by balancing an empty bottle on his nose. When Max turns back, Vesta is already gone.

-So that’s what it feels like – he realizes.

 

Presidential Palace

If this were any other world, having both the president of planet and the President of the Mortal Republic at the city hall would mean leaving the Palace relatively unguarded. On Myridia, this just isn’t an issue: the same duplicate are still surrounding the building. Luckily for Vesta she doesn’t have to be bothered by them, as she simply flies towards the window she’s looking for.

-Noriko, this is Vesta. Is everything okay? – the goddess asks, tapping on the glass. The window is designed to be opened only from the inside; of course she could tear through the walls with her bare hands, but it wouldn’t exactly be the most diplomatic choice.

She knocks again, a little louder this time. That seems to do the trick, since someone does open the window… but it’s not a 21 year old Japanese girl, it’s a shirtless Ulysses.

-Good morning, Vesta. What a pleasant surprise – he greets her, leaving her confused.

-Ulysses? I didn’t even know you were on Myridia! I was looking for Noriko.

-She’s still asleep. You can talk to her, if you manage to wake her up – Ulysses tells her, inviting the goddess to fly inside the room. When she does, she stops mid-air while her brain processes what she’s seeing: Noriko laying on the bed, tangled in the sheets, in her underwear.

-What… what did you… – Vesta mumbles before she sees the empty glass on the nightstand, next to a blister of open pills. When Ulysses snickers, something snaps.

-A gentleman never tells – he jokes, immediately regretting it when Vesta grabs him by the shoulder and pushes him against the wall. He doesn’t scream, letting the sound of his collarbone breaking speak for him; if he was still mortal, this would’ve probably killed him.

What have you done to her? – Vesta asks; her voice changed and her eyes are on fire.

-I didn’t… hurt her… I swear on… Zeus – Ulysses says through his teeth.

She lets him go, ignoring the grunt of pain he gives when he falls to the floor, and flies towards Noriko to check on her. She only has two words for Ulysses:

Leave. NOW.

He may be a legendary hero, but he’s not stupid: he recovers his clothes and is out of the room in less than thirty seconds. Vesta tries to shake Noriko to wake her up, but she’s knocked out cold. Only then she inspects the pills, recognizing them as common sleeping pills. She then recovers a bottle of water: it’s room temperature, but as soon as Vesta touches it starts to give off steam.

Wake up – she orders Noriko, dumping a few drops of hot water on her head.

Noriko wakes up instantly, screaming; two Genius Guns suddenly appear in her hands, and it’s only when she points them at Vesta that calms down and realizes the situation.

-What the… are you crazy!?

I could ask you the same thing. Did you sleep with Ulysses?

-That’s none of your business – Noriko replies, clumsily trying to get out of bed while untangling herself from the sheets; when Vesta blocks her with her arm, it’s like bumping into a wall.

-Ouch! Watch it, that hurts!

Stay away from people like him. You don’t know what that man’s capable of.

-I can take care of myself. You can’t tell me what to do – Noriko brushes her off, trying to push her away. Vesta responds by holding her right wrist in a titanic grip.

I can when you forget how to behave like an adult. Now you will shower, dress up, and be a model bridesmaid for your friend because we are NOT going to ruin Kari’s wedding, okay?

-You’re hurting me – Noriko admits. Maybe it’s the voice, maybe it’s the flaming eyes, but she’s never seen Vesta being so scary.

 

Null City Hall

President Sil looks nervously at his watch. The other guests are beginning to suspect something’s up: the maid of honor is missing, and nobody has seen the wedding’s most talked about bridesmaid.

As it’s to be expected, the most nervous ones are the bride and groom. Kari is wearing a pink peplos with a white veil covering her face, while Kiros is in a blue chiton. He holds her hand whispering:

-Are you sure she understood the ritual?

-She’s being fashionably late; it’s an Earth thing – Kari minimizes, although she’s also tapping her foot. Luckily for her heart rate, now Vesta lands near the altar carrying Noriko Null in her arms.

-Sorry I’m late. I had a problem with the dress – she lies, although her attire is convincing: she’s wearing a black and green floral dress, clearly inspired by a kimono. She walks towards the couple, awkwardly balancing on high heeled shoes, and she hands an apple to Kiros.

-You have my blessing to take my sister’s hand, young son of Myridia – she recites.

Kiros bows and takes the apple, watching both Noriko and Vesta take their seats in the crowd… with the latter strangely looking upset to spot Ulysses sitting next to Noriko.

Continuing the ceremony, Kiros removes the bride’s veil and hands her the apple. She takes a bite, gives it back to him for taking the second bite, before the apple is tossed into the ceremonial fire as an offering to Hestia. The irony of the ritual, with Vesta being a few feet away, isn’t lost on them.

Then President Sil takes charge, reciting in front of the couple:

-Kari Zel and Kiros Mas, having come to this temple to seek Myridia’s approval to formally unite you in marriage, and being assured that no barriers hinder this proper union, please join your hands and give heed to the questions now asked to you. Kari, do you come here freely and without reservation to give yourself to Kiros in marriage?

-I do – she answers, looking at her husband in the eye.

-Kiros, do you accept Kari without reservation as your wife in the name of Zeus?

-I do – he declares.

-By the power vested in me by Hera, according to the laws of Myridia, it is my honor and delight to declare you wife and husband under the house of Zel. You may seal this declaration with a kiss.-

The couple kisses under the cheers and applauses of the guests; for once, Myridia has a reason to celebrate. Only two people in the audience aren’t doing anything: a large blond man and a woman with white hair.

-I can’t stand this anymore. When are we going to see some action? – he asks.

-You have been patient enough, Phobos. Show them what fear means – Ilithyia responds.



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