Null City, 50 light-years from Earth

Noriko barely had time to adjust to the slightly higher gravity of Myridia before being escorted to her room in the Presidential Palace, a luxurious suite that makes the White House look like a motel.

She expected to see familiar faces here, but Alexer Syzar wasn’t one of them. The President of the Mortal Senate is a very close ally, but he’s supposed to be a hundred light-years away.

-Why are you here, Syzar? You have my number, you could’ve just called – she notes, sitting on the bed, seemingly ignoring his position as the galaxy’s most politically powerful mortal.

-Kari Zel is a hero for the people of Myridia and a powerful symbol of the mortal revolution; I’m here to honor her service to the cause by being a guest at her wedding.

-Yeah, right. What’s the real reason, Syzar?

-We haven’t spoken since your stunt at the Dragon Tomb won us representation on Olympus. I suppose you haven’t heard of the new developments?

-I’ve been out of the loop for a while. What’s up?

-I should’ve been the obvious candidate to represent the mortals, but Hera has decreed that only married people can be chosen as representatives.

-So what? You’re the galaxy’s richest bachelor, aren’t you? I can’t imagine you having trouble finding a wife, if that’s what you’re looking for.

-I’m glad you think that – Syzar answers, taking her hands and kneeling before her.

-Uh, Syzar, what are you doing?

-Noriko Null, will you marry me?

 

Another room in the Presidential Palace

Kristen Lynn is overwhelmed. She’s visited other countries before, but this is just crazy: a whole other planet, light-years away from Earth, populated by real people.

She watches the city from one of the windows, concentrating on the gigantic statue the looms over every other building. Arms stretched as if to embrace the entire world, it’s clearly meant to represent Null: there’s her Ø symbol etched on the breastplate of the armor she’s wearing, and judging by her eyes it’s been sculpted by someone who’s never seen an Asian person in his life.

-Incredible, isn’t it? And it’s completely different from how it looked the last time we were here; Myridians can build crazy fast – Max Black tells her; he’s even removed his Quantum mask.

-So let me get this straight. They built a huge statue in her honor, they used her name for the capital, and there’s a new church that considers her a goddess!?

-Yep. Though none of that was her idea… she hates that church. She asked them to get rid of the statue, but they only agreed to modify it to make one with smaller boobs.

-They’re still too big to be hers. Max, are you seriously okay with all of this?

-To be honest, I kind of preferred the first statue – he shrugs.

-Max, c’mon! Can’t you see what she’s done? You don’t get any closer to a cult of personality when there’s a literal church with your name on it!

-You’re getting the wrong impression, Kris. You have no idea how horrible things were when we first got here… we liberated this planet from a tyrant. Noriko could’ve stayed here and be treated like a goddess, but she did her best to make sure the Myridians would be independent.

-She did a poor job then. Is this what she has in mind for Earth, Max?

-Welcome back to Myridia – a man interrupts their conversation, entering the room without knocking or announcing his arrival, as it’s common on Myridia.

Max shakes hands with him; it’s a man in his forties with blue hair and a goatee. At the same time, an exact duplicate of the same man appears in front of Kristen.

-Hello. I’m Radul Sil, President of Myridia. And you are…?

-Kristen. Kristen Lynn, Washington Insider – she answers, reluctantly shaking his hand; it’s weird enough to see Kari use her powers, it’s even stranger see other people do it.

-“Insider”. So you’re here to represent planet Washington? I’m afraid I’ve never heard of it.

-No, I’m… I’m from Earth… I’m a journalist. Do you have journalists on Myridia?

-We do now: under Demeter, only the Oracles were allowed to inform the public.

-That’s… nice – Kristen reluctantly admits, seeing Max nodding with a half smile.

-I’ve been informed that you wish to learn more about our planet. Would you be interested in a tour of the city? We have a new Mortal Memorial Museum; I can be your personal guide.

-It’s a very generous offer, President Sil, but I’m sure you are too busy for these kind of things.

-Nonsense! Planetary cooperation is an important value for Myridia. Besides, I have a dozen duplicates in the Palace and a hundred in every city – he tells her; in fact, the first President Sil has already created a duplicate to talk with an aide that’s standing in the hallway.

 

New Rhetra

The small town would be unremarkable even for Myridian standards; before the uprising, Old Man Vor was its only stable inhabitant. But since the former Minister of War of the Demeter regime has turned into a hero of the new order, it’s become a popular place for construction workers.

The Old Man’s house has been completely renovated into a large villa, to the point of being almost unrecognizable to Kari Zel.

She’s approaching the house with Vesta, and the Myridian girl is looking uncharacteristically pensive. The goddess immediately picks it up and asks her:

-Is everything okay, Kari?

-I choke up a little every time I come back. Seeing that life here goes on without me… well, being able to be in several places at once, I’m not used to leave anything behind me. Listen, before we get inside… can I ask you a personal question, Vesta?

-You know you can.

-You’re immortal. You must’ve seen loved ones grow old and die.

-More times than you can imagine – Vesta admits, with an unexpected sadness in her voice.

-The Old Man is… well, really really old. He doesn’t have much to live; should I tell him that’s one of the reasons I decided to marry?

-What? I thought you loved Kiros!

-I do, but that’s not the main reason I’m marrying him. I want to have kids.

Vesta is taken by surprise, stopping in her tracks. Kari is full of surprises, and this is definitely unexpected coming from her.

-You want to have children? You?

-Yes. What’s so strange about that? I’m 26, by Myridian standards I should’ve done it years ago.

-I just didn’t figure you’d be the type. But what does that have to do with the Old Man?

-I owe him my life; he’s been like a father to me. I want him to live long enough to see my children inherit the free Myridia that he helped us create.

-I don’t know, Kari. It’s a noble sentiment, but is it really worth it to rush through marriage?

-What’s the holdup? – another Kari asks, coming out of the Old Man’s house: it’s her duplicate currently living on Myridia. She walks towards them holding hands with a handsome man roughly her age, with an athletic build and sky-blue hair.

He approaches the other Kari and kisses her gently on the lips, while an exact duplicate of himself appears in front of Vesta and respectfully bows.

-It’s a honor to meet you, Lady Vesta. I’m Kiros Mas, Kari’s fiancée.

-The pleasure is mine. But just call me Vesta, please – she says, reciprocating the bow.

-Will the rest of your friends join us? I was hoping to meet them – Kiros asks her, while embracing one Kari with each arm.

-Not yet, sorry. Torn’s gone to Hell to get his family and Max is giving his girlfriend a tour of the planet, but they’ll join us later. As for Noriko, though… – Vesta hesitates.

-You’ll meet her soon. I don’t think she’s interested in talking about marriage – Kari concludes.

 

Presidential Palace

It’s rare for Noriko Null to be speechless, but she stares at Alexer Syzar awkwardly as the President of the Mortal Senate waits to hear her answer to his marriage proposal.

-Is this some kind of joke? – she asks.

-I’m extremely serious, Null. Our marriage would make us both the most powerful mortals in the entire history of the Galaxy. Our children would rule for…

-Whoa whoa whoa, hold on a minute! I’m not marrying you!!! – she emphatically declares.

-Why not? Do you prefer women?

-Why is everyone always asking me that!? I have a…had… a boyfriend, y’know.

-This has nothing to do with romance, Null: the Mortal Republic needs a marriage to survive.

-Not mine!!! Listen, Syzar, if you want to be the Republic’s representative on Olympus, you can marry the first woman you see for all I care – Noriko answers him rudely, storming out of her room.

Either by destiny or coincidence, when she opens the door there’s a woman standing there, ready to knock. A woman with short dark hair, a dark green robe and a silver pendant with the Ø symbol.

-Welcome back to Myridia, Lady Null. Do you have time for your humblest servant? – Ganos Lal asks her with a polite bow. Noriko grabs the Supreme Pontiff of the Church of Null by the arm and practically drags her away from the room, saying to Syzar:

-Forget what I said: don’t marry this woman!

 

In the palace’s garden

Considering this planet belonged to the goddess of vegetation, it’s no surprise to find a garden here. Noriko was dreading talking with the Ganos Lal: she didn’t ask the Myridian woman to create a religion around her, but she did take advantage of the situation.

-We have much to discuss, Lady Null. I have been told that the Zel marriage will follow pre-Demeter traditions, and that has sparked a debate among your faithful.

-Why do they care? Kari’s getting married, not the whole planet.

-Yes, of course. By she does have your blessing, and I understand you will attend the ceremony.

-That’s right. What’s your point?

-Will the marriage set the standard on how the ceremonies of the Church of Null should be?

-What? No, people can get married how they like, I don’t really care.

-Please forgive me, Lady Null, but I’m not sure I understand. Are you saying your church should not celebrate marriages?

-No, what I’m saying is… y’know, that could actually be a good idea, yes, let’s not do marriages.

-But… What about people who have already been married in the name of another god? Is their marriage no longer valid? Should their children be considered members of your Church? How should we distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate children? How will…

-I don’t know! Why are you asking so many questions, Lal?

-You ordered me to consult you before making changes to the doctrine, Lady Null. My duplicates have been to all sectors of the Galaxy and I have gathered many questions from potential followers: millions are tempted to join the Church but find our lack of ceremonies and traditions… suspect.

-Ah, religion – another voice joins the conversation, with a sigh. It belongs to a young woman wearing a modest blue summer dress, identified as a goddess by the flaming halo above her head.

-Can’t live with it, can’t rule without it, am I right? – Tyche asks, smiling.

-Ganos Lal. Please leave us – Noriko orders, locking eyes with Tyche while Lal bows down and silently walks away. The goddess of luck and destiny is an ally, but one with an unclear agenda.

-Don’t tell me you’re here for the wedding, Tyche. I’m pretty sure you’re not invited.

-Everyone loves it when gods crash the party. And trust me, you’ll love our announcement!

-“Our”? What’s this all HEY!!! – Noriko eeps, jumping away when someone touches her butt.

She instinctively draws her Genius Gun and points it at the groper, who is smiling obliviously.

-Dionysus!?!? What the heck are you doing on Myridia!? – she asks.

-I’m here for the party! Have you been invited yet? – the god asks, his breath smelling like wine.

-I was just about to tell her about it. You see, Null, Dionysus and I are getting married – Tyche says.



Ø
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