Chapter 9:

The Harvest Goddess

The God's Child

Almost immediately after Rika’s paw came down on the stone platform, a loud feminine voice rang out across the silent shrine.

“What holy creatures have entered my domain?”

A low growl escaped Rika as the shrine suddenly came alive with movement. Small, brown snakes seemed to slither out of every crack and cranny, their eyes glowing red as they looked upon the intruders. Yuki gave a startled gasp, flapping into the air as one slithered over her talon. Takuya ignored the serpents, his gaze focused on the main worship hall.

A figure was appearing from the shadows of the oratory. She gave the illusion of a ghost, almost gliding towards them. It was only when she entered the moon lit grounds that they realized why this was. Though Ugajin-sama bore the appearance of a lovely priest with her face painted white and and her dark hair pulled back into an elegant bun, her lower body revealed her godly origins. Under her noble priestess robes were no legs, but the long, scaly body of a white serpent.

She faced the group, her tone puzzled as she addressed them. “Again I ask...why have holy creatures of the gods entered my shrine?”

Takuya took a step forward, raising his gun at Ugajin-sama. “We’re here to get my sister back! Hand her over!”

“You’re sister?” Ugajin-sama repeated, her long reptilian tail twitching.

“Yes! My sister! Her name is Kikyo Yamamoto!”

Ugajin-sama looked at him with unblinking eyes, her hands hidden in the long sleeves of her red and white robes. “So you are not one of Zeus’ agents?”

“Do we look like we work for Zeus?” Takuya asked, sarcastically.

Again Ugajin-sama fell silent. After several heartbeats had passed, her head tilted to the side confusedly. “I’m not sure.” Rika and Yuki shared a glance as Takuya slapped his face.

Yuki held up her wing as she whispered into Rika’s ear. “Is it just me or does this goddess seem a” Rika nodded.

“She does seem a little more lax than I anticipated.”

Beside them, Takuya was steadily losing his patience. “Cut the crap! Just tell us what you know already!”

Ugajin-sama gave a loud yawn, her sleeve covering her mouth. “If you are not holy creatures of Zeus then any other affairs can wait until morning. Have a pleasant evening.” She called out lazily, turning away.

A shot rang out, it’s sound echoing in the silent shrine. The wooden pole next to where Ugajin-sama’s head stood was now blackened by a small bullet. Ugajin-sama slowly turned towards Takuya who still had his gun out, the nozzle smoking.

“Don’t you dare turn your back on us!” Takuya demanded, seething. “Not after you’ve been sending your little pets out to kill us all night!”

Ugajin-sama once again looked confused, cocking her head. “Have I?”

Takuya’s face was a mixture of both boiling anger and bewilderment. Before he could lose his temper, Rika quickly cut in, getting between the two.

“Ugajin-sama.” Rika said, trying to be polite. “We were attacked by both a white serpent and a horde of white mice. All of which are supposedly yours.” She glanced at Yuki, who hesitated before stepping forward, dropping the wooden tag down at Rika’s feet. “ This belongs to you, correct?”

A snake slithered over and clamped the tag in its jaws. The serpent delivered it to Ugajin-sama, who picked it up to examine. “Yes, it appears this does belong to me. But I am confused as to why you are in possession of it. My creatures were only instructed to attack only one, a child of Aphrodite.”

An angry shiver ran through Rika, but she kept it at bay. No matter how nonchalant she seemed, this was still a goddess they were dealing with. There was no telling what sort of powers she harbored. “I can’t let her appearance fool me.”

“Why do you want to destroy Aphrodite’s child?” Rika asked calmly. “What sort of threat is she to you?”

Ugajin-sama seemed to think hard about the question before answering, one slender finger twirling a strand of her dark hair. “As of yet, the child is not a threat to me or my shrine. Of course, that would be a different case if Zeus-sama discovered my servants had failed their task.”

“But don’t you think what you’re doing is wrong?” Rika continued, finding it hard to keep her tone level. “You’re basically killing an innocent child, one who has done absolutely nothing to you. She has to realize how horrible that is!”

Again Ugajin-sama had to ponder Rika’s words before answering. “You said that what I’m doing is wrong, but if going against these orders prevents me from doing my job as a goddess, won’t that be wrong as well?”

“Uhh…” This time Rika seemed at a loss. She swished her tail, agitated at this whole conversation. “Isn’t it your job as a goddess meant to protect humans, especially since it’s because of them you even exist?”

For once Ugajin-sama didn’t have to think of her answer as she spoke. “It’s true I am here only through the desires of the humans of the past. But I was not born to protect. I am merely a goddess of the harvest, given life through the wishes of humans to have a safe and bountiful harvest. Nothing more.”

“If you’re a goddess of harvest, what’s with all these snakes?” Yuki asked, glancing nervously at the many serpents that slithered about. Ugajin-sama held out her hand, allowing one of the snakes to wrap around her arm. She patted its head fondly.

“As a goddess of harvest, I also assume the care of creatures affected by the agriculture process. Snakes are by far the most abused animals in the fields. Often getting injured and dehomed in the harvesting process, despite their usefulness. My shrine gives them a place to rest and recuperate as they feed on my own specialty milk.”

“Specialty milk?”

“Yes, it’s quite nutritional.” Ugajin-sama explained, lowering her robes slightly so that the tops of her plump breasts were revealed. “I would be happy to serve some.”

“No thank you!” Yuki declined quickly, all the blood rushing to her head as she blushed.

“Suit yourself.” Ugajin-sama turned back to Rika, her expression indifferent as she spoke. “As you can see, if I am to perform my proper duties as a goddess of this shrine, I can not risk inducing Zeus’ wrath.”

“Well what about my wrath!” Takuya interrupted angrily. “It’s obvious this conversation is going nowhere. Just tell us straight out if you know anything about my sister!”

Ugajin-sama carefully set the pin back into her hair. “Unless this sister of yours is the child Zeus is after, she is of unimportance to me.”

Yuki held out her wing shielding Takuya before he could speak. “So you’re saying that there is no human girl hiding here? Correct?”

Ugajin-sama shook her head. “Humans only come here to pray, not to stay.”

“Good to know!” Yuki replied, forcing a smile. “Well in that case, we’ll just be on our way!”

Both Takuya and Rika turned to look up at her with identical angry expressions. “What?!”

“Yuki, what are you saying?” Rika growled softly, eyes darting back towards the goddess to make sure she couldn’t hear. “ We can’t leave. You heard her, she’s still going to try to kill Emi!”

“Yeah and even if Kikyo isn’t here, she has to have some information about where she could be.” Takuya added. “She already thought we were agents of Zeus. I'll bet money that she’s expecting them to show up sometime soon. If we stay, there’s a good chance we can confront them head on.”

Yuki held her wings up to stop them. “Hold up. First off, we came here to find Kikyo because we assumed she was kidnapped by Ugajin-sama. We now know that’s not the case, thus it’s pointless for us to stay here any longer than we should. It’s also too reckless to confront an enemy we know nothing about. We know about Haruto but who knows what kind of other freaks are working with Zeus.”

She turned to Rika, her sapphire eyes cold as she spoke. “Rika, I know what you’re trying to do and I don’t think it’ll work. These gods just seem to have a different mindset from us mortals. We’re not going to change that in one night.”

“But it's our job to protect Emi!”

“There’s nothing that can be done here. What are we going to do? Two newbie protectors are going to go up against an immortal goddess? It doesn’t take a genius to know how that’s going to play out.”

Yuki held up her wings, taking a deep breath. “Let’s just backtrack and try to get control of the situation we are in after a good night’s rest.”

“I’m afraid I can’t let you do that.”

The trio turned and found Ugajin-sama with her hand resting on the head of a familiar demon mouse. His little red eyes glared at them with a mischievous smirk. Yuki gasped, pointing a wing at him. “Hey I know you!”

“Yes, Shuu-chan has just given me a report on his encounter with you.”

“Shuu-chan?” Yuki-mumbled, slightly bemused at the ridiculous name for a demon.

“And he has informed me that the child of Aphrodite that they’ve been searching for is in your possession.” Her head fell to the side in her usual confused manner. “So where is she?”

A tense silence fell on the trio. Yuki cast her twin a nervous glance, unsure of what to do. Rika dug her claws into the stone, her white fur bristling as the snakes suddenly started hissing and moving back to the shadows as if they knew a battle was coming. Takuya glanced back at the twins, lips barely moving as he whispered, “We need to go, now!”

But before they could move, the familiar sound of many clawed feet was heard. The group turned and saw to their horror the horde of mice had returned and were now blocking the torii gate.

“Damn it.” Takuya cursed.

“I implore you to answer my question.” Ugajin-sama repeated calmly. “If you wish to protect the child of Aphrodite that is your decision, but I warn you, postponing the inevitable will only cause you all more grief. As a minor shrine goddess it is beyond my abilities to deny Zeus-sama’s wishes.”

“That’s a lie!” Rika growled, baring her teeth at the placid goddess. “Whether you’re a god or a human, you always have choice in your decisions!” She thought about her first battle against the monstrous serpent from earlier in the night. How she could have just ran away and let Emi get killed. “I didn’t do it because I knew I could never live my life knowing I had sacrificed an innocent child just so I could choose the easy way out. I could never live with that decision.”

She snarled, taking a step towards the serpentine goddess, golden eyes glowing angrily in the moonlight. “Admit it! You give in to Zeus’ demands not because you don’t have a choice, it’s because you’re scared!”

“Rika, that’s enough!” Yuki hissed, hoping to try and placate the enraged wolf. “She’s a goddess, don’t test her!”

But her sister was too far in to be calmed. The ruby gem that hung from Rika’s neck was glowing, as spurts of flames started to sprout from the wolf’s feet. The passion that had attracted the life gem was now in full force as she confronted Ugajin-sama. “Well let me tell you something! You’re not the only one who is scared of Zeus. Yet you and your pets are adding to their torment. Tonight I’ve witnessed true terror reflected in an innocent child’s eye.” Rika pounced into the air, soaring towards the goddess with fangs ready to sink into her flesh. “I WON’T LET HER GO THROUGH THAT AGAIN!”

“Rika!” Both Takuya and Yuki yelled in unison.

A shadow fell over the goddess, the white wolf’s form blocking the moon. Calmly, she raised the sleeves of her robes upwards. “Serpent’s revenge.”

Rika’s eyes widened as hundreds of white snakes shot out of her sleeve, soaring straight at her. They hit her like many little bullets puncturing her skin as the snakes attached themselves, their fangs sinking into her fur. She yelped in pain, falling to the ground in a white heap. She instantly started rolling, trying to dislodge the pesky serpents.

“Get them off her! Get them off her!” Yuki shrieked, panicking in fear at all the serpents that were attacking her sister.

“Hold on!” Takuya yelled, running to Rika and instantly pulling at the nearest snake that clung to her back leg. It came off with an angry hiss, turning its hooded head towards him instead. He cursed, dropping it almost instantly.

“Don’t touch them!” Rika growled quickly, lifting herself off the ground. “These guys are venomous. I don’t want you to get bitten!”

“What about you!” Takuya asked, voice laced with worry. “Are you going to be okay?”

“Don’t worry, I’ll be fine. The heat from my body will burn away any venom that is injected.” Rika explained. “Speaking of which…” She gave a loud howl, fire bursting from her feet as her whole body gave out a soft red glow. The snakes that were still attached to her instantly burst into flames, their bodies dissolving into dark ashes. Rika shook herself, her body now free from the pests.

“What an impressive display.” Ugajin-sama remarked, clapping her hands as she slithered out from the oratory towards them. Takuya tensed, as Rika protectively moved in front of him. Yuki hovered in the air above them, watching anxiously as the goddess paused in front of the group. Now out in the open, they were able to fully see her impressive, serpentine body which was even longer than they thought, ranging around 30 feet in length. Her white scales shimmering brightly even in the darkness of the night. Despite her early attack, she showed no hint of anger as she spoke. “It has been many years since I have been in any sort of combat. It is, as you say, refreshing.”

She faced the white wolf, her expression mildly curious. “If you truly wish to protect this child, then I allow you to go ahead and fight me. Though, I admit I am quite confused by your hostility.” She brought her sleeves together in a pondering stance. “Throughout the ages, humans have been sacrificed for the gods countless times. It is not pleasant, but many things in life aren’t. This child is just one of many in history who has been through the experience.”

“It’s just one more reason to change that!” Rika replied heatedly.

“As someone who has lived through many centuries of human and god turmoil, I have found many things do not change.” Ugajin-sama replied.

“We’ll see about that!” Rika growled, crouching down as she prepared to attack. “Yuki, Takuya! Get through those mice and get Emi out of here!” Without waiting for a reply, she darted forward, racing towards the goddess. “I’ll stay on the ground so I can dodge if she hits me with that snake attack again!”

But just as Rika’s claws were about to come down on her, Ugajin-sama dodged with inhuman speed, feinting to the side. The giant wolf lost balance, tumbling over her front legs. She quickly jumped up and once again, ran at the snake-like goddess, swiping at her head. Just as before, Ugajin-sama’s body nimbly fell to the side, causing the white wolf to miss her attack. Fuming and losing all sense of caution, Rika and Ugajin-sama began their own dance of the wolves, where Rika continued trying to attack as Ugajin-sama moved gracefully around each strike.

Finally Rika had to pause, her tongue lolling out of her snout as she panted wearily. It was the opportunity the goddess was waiting for. Several of the white scales on her body began to glow as they detached themselves and rose into the air. Ugajin-sama raised her hands, her quiet voice uttering, “Blazing Scales.” The sharp scales suddenly rotated their pointed ends towards the wolf, sailing through the air at her.

“Freezing Feathers!”

Blue ice covered feathers zoomed down from above, interfering with the attack. A few scales still managed to get past, stabbing into Rika’s shoulder. She flinched, blood dripping from the wound and staining her white fur. “Great, now it’s going to be even harder for me to get a hold of her!” Trying to ignore the pain, she glanced to see Yuki hovering overhead.

“Baka!” She exclaimed, wearing her usual annoyed expression.

“Yuki! Shouldn’t you be helping Takuya?” Rika asked. She could hear gunshots being fired near the entrance so she knew he was still in the middle of a battle. Yuki rolled her eyes in response.

“And leave you to fight a goddess alone? Please! The way you rush into things, I knew you wouldn’t last very long. Looks like I was right.” She said, her talon pointing at Rika’s bleeding side. “As for Mr. Police-kun over there, he’s as happy as a trigger hungry otaku can be shooting at all those mice.”

“Besides…” Yuki finished, blushing slightly. “You said so yourself, twins stick together. That means fighting together too.”

A fanged grin appeared across Rika’s muzzle. “Thanks Yuki.”

“Don’t thank me yet.” Yuki warned as she turned towards their immortal opponent. “This isn’t going to be easy. From what I can see, both of her attacks are long range, so the logical step would be to fight in a close combat style.”

“I’ve already tried that.” Rika grimaced slightly, her wounds stinging. “She dodged all my attacks like it was nothing.”

“She’s half snake and snakes are known for being very nimble. They’re also known for being sensitive to extreme heat and cold which can be an advantage to us.” Rika could see the same look of concentration Yuki often wore when drawing as she watched the goddess. Ugajin-sama seemed unconcerned with the new addition to the battle and was patiently waiting for them to make a move. Yuki turned to Rika. “You said you were able to breathe fire, right? Why haven’t you done so yet?”

Rika shook her head. “Too dangerous. I don’t want to risk catching the whole mountain on fire.”

A look of surprise crossed Yuki, but she decided not to comment. “Okay, well I think I have a plan. Listen to this.” Yuki whispered the plan from where she hovered, but with Rika’s sensitive ears she was able to make it out clearly.

Rika nodded her head. “Leave it to me!”

“Okay Rika, just stick to the plan!” Yuki called out, flying towards Ugajin-sama. Rika ran after her, once again raising a giant paw to strike at the goddess. Ugajin-sama dodged to the side, then quickly ducked as Rika’s jaws snapped onto thin air. The two continued their dance of swiping and biting, looking like two white blurs as their speed increased.

Suddenly, Ugajin-sama’s tail came up and collided with Rika’s paws, knocking the massive wolf to the ground. Before Rika could get up, the serpent tail coiled itself around Rika’s neck. She gasped as she found herself unable to breathe. She struggled in panic, bucking and pulling her body away while her claws desperately tried to swipe at the scales that felt as hard as diamonds. But the more she struggled, the tighter the hold became. She finally collapsed to her side, worried that if she moved even an inch more, her neck would snap.

During all this Ugajin-sama watched silently, her face bare of any emotion. Only when the wolf grew still did she decide to speak. “This can end now, if only you would decide to cease this useless battle. The child you’re trying to protect has already fallen prey to Zeus-sama’s wrath. To go against him, whose powers are immense, is asking for death.” She bowed her head, solemnly. “It is not my wish to bloody the grounds of my shrine pointlessly.”

Rika felt flames tickling the roof of her mouth but she willed herself to keep them at bay. “Don’t do it’re stronger than that.” But her words had hit a nerve, sounding almost identical to what Haruto said. Both of them had just accepted there was no point in defying Zeus. “Was he really all that powerful?” She felt worry mix in with her anger. How could she stand against Zeus when here she was struggling against a small country shrine goddess? Her ears fell back, as her vision started to become blurry.

As Rika refused to answer, Ugajin-sama closed her eyes regretfully. “Very well, dear holy creature. This is the end.”

“Hey did you forget about her other half?” Yuki yelled, flying in and ramming into the snake goddess. Ugajin-sama’s eyes widened in surprise as her legless body began to slide on the rock floor that was now covered in a thin layer of ice. As Yuki flew upwards, the goddess’ sleeve came up as she prepared her attack.

The coils around Rika’s neck loosened and she instantly pulled herself free of its hold. Before Ugajin-sama could react, the wolf’s jaws came down on the tail. The goddess flinched, pausing her attack on the blue harpy. Using all her strength, Rika reared up pulling the goddess’ tail. Losing her balance on the icy ground, Ugajin-sama fell with a painful thud as Rika twisted her neck and flung the goddess against the wall of her own worship hall.

“Freezing Feathers” Yuki called out, shooting her icy feathers at the goddess. The sleeves of Ugajin-sama’s robes were instantly pinned to the wall of the shrine. The ice began to spread until both arms were frozen to the wall, immobilizing the goddess for good.

“Oh dear.” Ugajin-sama exclaimed, glancing at each arm calmly. “This is quite a predicament.” Despite her words, she didn’t seem very distressed.

Rika limped over to Yuki and together they examined their work. “We did it! WE ACTUALLY DID IT!” Despite her injury, she gave a howl of delight, rubbing her head against her sister. “Your idea was brilliant!”

Yuki blushed, trying not to sound too pleased as she replied. “It’s really nothing. I just figured this would be both a good way to prevent her from using her attacks and also from coming after us.”

Rika nodded. “The only way she can escape is if she forcefully breaks the ice. Which would also mean damaging her shrine.”

“She’ll just have to wait for it to melt, which with ice that thick, will take quite some time.” Yuki explained, crossing her wings smugly.

They took a moment to savor their victory. Rika glanced up at the shrine, voicing her thoughts aloud. “You know for a second there I was starting to doubt what we were doing. Why were we even fighting so hard to protect Emi, when in reality what we are up against is the most powerful being on earth. How could we have a chance when even this was a struggle?” She glanced at her twin, her golden eyes shining triumphantly. “But when I fight next to you, I feel like anything is possible.”

Yuki blushed, too stunned to reply. “We should go….before she escapes.” Rika nodded in agreement.

“Not yet.” Both girls glanced back and saw Takuya walking up to them, both hands holding handguns.

Yuki leaned closer to her sister, whispering, “Where does he keep all these guns?”

“I have no idea.” Rika answered, just as bewildered. She was happy to see he looked unharmed, just very tired. “I think we all are.” It would be nice to find somewhere safe to get just a few hours rest. But then what? What should they do then? “No, sleep first.” Rike decided. “Then we can think.”

Takuya surveyed the shrine, looking from Rika and Yuki to Ugajin-sama who still stood trapped against the wall of her shrine. His face was grim as he addressed Rika. “Before we leave, we should burn this place to the ground.”

Both wolf and harpy had identical looks of surprise. Yuki stepped forward, wings folded impatiently. “What kind of nonsense are you sprouting? If you haven’t noticed, Ugajin-sama is trapped. We are free to go. So let’s go!”

“We’ll never be free!” Takuya snapped, bloodshot eyes filled with anger. “As soon as this goddess is able, she’ll just send more of her creatures out to kill us! So will every other god and goddess we meet!” Yuki backed away, clinging to Rika’s fur nervously as the Takuya continued his rant. “No, the only way we have any chance of beating Zeus is to cut off his ties with these other gods. Destroy them before they have a chance to destroy us!”

He glared at Ugajin-sama’s immobile figure. “We may not have the power to kill a god, but we can take away its connection to humans.” He faced Rika, fist clenched determinedly. “Rika, let’s burn this shrine and destroy it for good. Without it, there will be no place for Ugajin-sama’s followers to pray. We know what will happen to a goddess who has no worshippers.”

The white wolf stood silently, golden eyes meeting Takuya’s dark gaze. Several moments passed, where Yuki and Ugajin-sama waited anxiously for an answer. Finally, Rika opened her muzzle and spoke. 

Real Aire