The God's Child
Takuya remained gone the rest of the day. Rika awoke in the early afternoon, the pitter patter of little feet running down the hall waking her. She crawled out of the covers, careful not to wake Yuki who was still out cold. She closed the door, silently making her way to the kitchen where she found their mother making an attempt at cooking a late lunch.
“Let’s see, I wonder if I should go ahead and add the roux?”
“It smells like she’s making curry.” Rika observed the smell of boiling potatoes and carrots reaching her. She was about to step in to assist, but realized Kikyo was also there.
“I think we should let the veggies boil just a tad bit longer.” Kikyo suggested, stirring the vegetables. “You cut them rather thick so it’ll take more time for them to get tender.” Rika thought the young girl looked a lot more cheerful compared to earlier in the day. There was more color to her cheeks and her eyes, though still red, were no longer puffy.
“Good call!” Mrs. Kase agreed, starting on some dishes. “Guess it’s been awhile since I’ve used the cutting board. I really appreciate you helping out, even though you’re our guest. You must think I’m such a bother.”
“Not at all.” Kikyo replied sincerely. “I’m used to this. My mom and I used to always cook together.” A shadow fell over the teen as her lower lip gave a small quiver.
Mrs. Kase handed her a hand towel, smiling gently. “Would you like to help me dry?” Kikyo nodded, instantly grabbing a wet dish. As they worked, Mrs. Kikyo said, “You know, believe it or not I used to cook quite a bit. And I was quite good! But that all changed after my husband died a few years ago.”
“Your husband passed away?”
“Yes, it was very unexpected.” Mrs. Kase replied, passing her a mug. “I’m afraid it hasn’t been easy for me to move on. He was an architect and worked on this building. Because of that, everything in this house seems to remind me of him. To a point where I find it difficult to even leave my room some days.”
“Did you ever think about moving away?” Kikyo asked curiously.
“Several times. But the thought of leaving the home he made for us just seems even more depressing.” Mrs. Kase answered. “So I just continue to grieve. If I didn’t have my daughters here, I don’t know what I would have done.”
Rika felt a prick of guilt. Was it even possible for her to leave with her mother like this?
Mrs. Kase set a hand on Kikyo’s shoulder kindly as she continued. “I’m telling all this because I want you to know it’s okay to be sad right now. You lost both your parents in one night and you need to let your heart and mind process that. But I think your brother is right when he said he wanted you to continue living your life normally. I’m starting to realize that’s the only way to truly move on.”
Kikyo nodded sadly. “I wish he wasn’t leaving me though.”
Mrs. Kase sighed, setting a soapy spoon back into the sink. “Since I don’t really know the circumstances of what happened with your parents, I can’t say for sure, but your brother seems like a very responsible young man. I’m sure if it wasn’t important, he wouldn’t be leaving his precious sister behind. Trust me, you would feel more bad if you kept him away from doing what he thinks is the right choice.”
She fretted with the string of her apron, returning to the stove. “I know sometimes I feel like I’m holding my daughters back with my behavior over the last few years. Yuki not so much. That girl is stubborn and very set on her future. I don’t think anyone could hold her back. But Rika..”
Rika tensed, listening as her mother continued.
“Even as a mother, I don’t really know what she wants. While I hid myself away, she took over all my duties without a complaint. She even took on extra jobs to make sure our finances didn’t slip away.” She stirred the vegetables as her mind wandered elsewhere. “I’m ashamed to say I took advantage of this, so I continue to live in my own world. I hate myself for being so weak. I don’t want to hold any of my daughters back from their goals in life.”
She turned abruptly, clasping Kikyo’s hand determinedly. “Kikyo-chan. I promised you and I will get through this together!”
Kikyo smiled, coming over to check the vegetables. “I’ll be sure to send Onii-chan off with a smile.”
“Better yet, let’s send him off with a batch of tasty homemade cookies!” Mrs. Kases suggested.
Kikyo laughed. “Yes!”
Rika silently backed away from the kitchen, not wanting to interrupt the two. She walked through the sitting room, opening the sliding doors that led to the back porch. There she spied Jesus and Emi playing a game of tag in the overgrown garden. They both paused, beaming as they spotted Rika.
“Rika, you’re awake!” Jesus exclaimed, bounding over and leaping onto the porch.
“Rika!” Emi squealed, running over and hugging the older girl’s leg. Rika noticed her clothes from last night had been replaced with a fresh pair of blue jean shorts and a cute purple top, decorated with pink sakura blossoms. It took her a moment to realize these were her and Yuki’s old clothes.
“Your outfit looks cute, Emi!” Rika complimented.
Emi giggled, twirling around in a circle proudly. “Rika’s mom says I’m princess!”
“More like a goddess to me.” Rika replied, ruffling her hair.
Jesus propped his paws up on her shoulder. “Did you rest well?” He asked.
“Yeah, I did.” Rika replied, starting a pat-a-cake game with Emi. “Yuki’s still sleeping.”
“That’s good!” Jesus purred. “Both of you worked hard last night.”
“Yeah…”Rika agreed, distracted as Emi ran off to chase a butterfly that appeared. “Jesus, what are your plans after Takuya and Emi leave?”
Jesus who had settled down in the sun, opened one green eye at her curiously. “My goal is to eventually stop Zeus from killing any more innocent demigods. So most likely I’ll be joining Takuya when he departs. I have to make sure Emi makes it safely to her mother after all.”
“Do you know where Aphrodite is now?”
Jesus shook his head. “Most of the Greek Gods keep on the move, never staying in one location too long. As of now, I have no idea where Aphrodite is located.” He gazed at her, questioningly. “What about you? Will you be accompanying us?”
“I’m...not sure to be honest.” Rika fell back onto the warm wood, gazing up at the roof. “Yuki and I still have half a year of school left and I still have to study for college exams and….” She glanced sideways, noticing Jesus’ green unblinking stare. She blushed, suddenly feeling what she was saying was very inadequate compared to the mission of saving human lives. “Look I know it’s silly, but to seventeen year old girls this stuff is very important! It’s what decides our future. A future...I don’t even know about yet.” Rika finished lamely, wishing she at least had an inkling of an idea what kind of future she wanted.
“A future where Takuya and Emi are safe.” The thought came to mind before she had time to think.
Jesus’ whiskers twitched, amused at Rika’s outburst. “Please don’t think I was belittling your concerns. I understand that what’s important is different to every individual. At this stage in your young lives, thinking about your future careers is your main objective. For someone like me, who had my life path chosen for me at birth, I really admire that you have this privilege. You should take it seriously.” He bowed his head to her respectfully. “Though I admit I would love to get to know both you and Yuki more, it is not my place to deter you from the path you choose.” He placed a paw on her hand, giving her an encouraging smile. “That is for you and only you to decide.”
“Thank you Jesus.” Rika replied gratefully. “That really helps.”
They sat together peacefully, enjoying the day and watching Emi play. It wasn’t long before the afternoon light began to fade and Rika’s mother called them in for dinner. Rika stretched, gathering Emi into her arms. “I’ll bring a bowl to you. Just wait in my room for now.” She promised Jesus, who meowed his thanks. As she slid the door open, she felt herself bump into someone.
“Oh sorry!” She apologized, looking up over Emi’s head. It was then she realized she had knocked into Takuya, who had just walked in. He gave her a passing glance before silently walking away from the dinner table. He passed Yuki in the hall, who had just emerged from the bath.
“Aww...so much better.” Yuki purred, toweling her hair as she sat at the table. She glanced at the food, mouth watering. “Oh curry. I’m surprised you had the energy to cook.” She commented as Rika set Emi down between them at the table.
“I didn’t.” Rika replied, putting a bib on the toddler. “Mom made this.”
Yuki’s spoon froze mid bite, looking down at the food with a new level of uncertainty. Mrs. Kase entered, bringing out more plates of curry for the guests. “Is something wrong Yuki? Does the food taste bad?”
Rika motioned for Yuki to eat. She tilted her head towards Kikyo, who followed behind their mother carrying a tray of tea. Yuki’s eyes narrowed suspiciously before allowing the food to enter her mouth. “No mother.” Yuki replied, tersely. “The curry is delicious.” Her eyes widened as her mother threw her arms over her, beaming with pride.
“I’m so happy you like it!” She exclaimed, squeezing her daughter. “You’re usually so critical, so I was worried.”
Yuki’s face reddened as she awkwardly patted her mother’s back. “Okay, okay, let me enjoy my meal.”
“Okay but don’t get too full! I also made cookies for dessert!” She bustled back into the kitchen happily. As soon as she was gone, Yuki turned to her sister in disbelief.
“What the hell happened to our mother while I was sleeping?”
Rika smiled, spooning curry into Emi’s bowl. “I think she just enjoys having company.”
After she ate her fill, Rika decided to take a bowl out to both Jesus and Takuya, who had not showed up to dinner. She went to her room where she found Jesus napping on her futon. She set the bowl next to him, not wanting to wake him. She wandered around, looking in the spare bedrooms for Takuya.
“He’s not here.” Returning to the sitting room, she found Yuki showing Kikyo several of her sketches as their mother picked up the dishes. Emi was flipping through some of her and Yuki’s old picture books. Walking past them quietly, she slipped through the sliding doors leading outside. Stepping onto the porch, she moved to the corner of the house, where part of the porch was hidden from view. There she spotted Takuya, hunched over in the shadows.
He glanced up suspiciously as she approached but relaxed slightly when he realized who it was. Rika held up the plate of curry. “Dinner?”
“Thanks.” Takuya as she sat down, passing him the plate.
“Why are you hiding out here?” Rika asked.
“I’m not hiding.” Takuya answered, spooning rice into his mouth. “I just didn’t feel like being around anyone.”
“That sounds like hiding to me.” Rika replied, watching as he finished his plate. They sat in an awkward silence, with Rika not sure of what to say. “Maybe I should just leave.” She reached for the plate, but froze when he moved it out of her reach.
“Hold it.” He said, his dark gaze drilling into her. “I need to talk with you.”
“Uh, okay.” She replied, sitting back down. He scratched the back of his neck, suddenly seeming hesitant.
“I’m….sorry about pulling that gun out at you.” Takuya apologized gruffly. “I shouldn’t have reacted that way. Not to you at least.” He pulled out the gun, dropping it into her palm, much to her surprise. “See, the gun wasn’t even loaded. I know it was still wrong, but I just wanted you to know you really weren’t in any danger.”
“Ummm I really appreciate your apology.” Rika replied, looking down at the weapon in her hands uneasily. “But even if you give this to me, I have no idea how to check if it has bullets or not.”
Takuya turned to her, actually looking stunned at this statement. “You’ve never been to a shooting range before?”
Rika laughed. “No, is that really that surprising?”
For the first time since this whole ordeal started, Takuya actually grinned. “I guess having a dad who’s a chief of police makes you used to some things. You should definitely try to go though. It’s important to learn how to use a weapon even if you don’t own one. You never know what kind of situations you will find yourself in. Here, I’ll show you.”
Like a boy showing off his favorite toy, he showed her the main parts of his pistol. Including where the bullets go and how to cock it and put the gun in safety mode. Rika listened, only able to take in parts of his explanations. “He really is a gun otaku.” Rika thought to herself, amused. “But I’m glad he looks happy.”
“It’s too bad I can’t carry this around anymore.” Takuya sighed, returning the handgun to his belt.
Rika blinked, confused. “Why not?”
“I turned in my badge today.” Takuya explained with a frown. “If I’m going to stop Zeus, I can’t stick around at my job. Plus I still have to track down Aphrodite so Emi can stay safe. Luckily the guys at work just think I’m in mourning so they didn’t make too much of a fuss about me leaving.”
“When are you going?” Rika asked, quietly.
“Soon. Tomorrow if possible.”
“Don’t you think that will be hard on your sister? She’ll be saying goodbye to her parents and her brother all in one day.”
“It can’t be helped. She already survived death by sheer luck. The longer I’m near her, the more at risk she will be.” He looked up at the sky mournfully. “Ever since I found out about all this crap with the gods, I’ve been trying to live my life standing out as little as possible. Hoping to hide away and be safe. After tonight, I realize that’s an unrealistic reality. For a child of god, there is no safe place. Which is why I can’t return, not until I know she’ll be out of danger for good.”
“But will that ever happen?” Rika wondered sadly, looking up at the stars that were just starting to pop out as the sun sank over the mountains. Her hand found the ruby pendant dangling from her neck, grasping it tightly. “Maybe if they had help…”
Rika turned to Takuya, surprised to see him observing her. His stern gaze bored into her as he said, “Rika, I don’t want you to think you have to help me and Emi. You’re safe now. You should just focus on graduating and enjoying your last year of high school.” He reached over, pulling the necklace over her neck. “Please….just forget about what happened tonight.”
Rika’s hand instinctively moved to her neck, already missing the warmth of the life gem. “You know I can’t do that.” She spoke honestly, returning his gaze. They stared at each other in a showdown that was strikingly similar to their earlier confrontation. Just like before, Takuya was first to break away, giving a resigned sigh.
“Here.” He grumbled, handing the necklace back to her. “Just think about it, okay?”
She gratefully put it back around her neck, feeling as if an old friend had just returned. Before she could say thanks, Takuya’s head suddenly fell onto her lap. “”Hey! What are you doing?”
She stammered, blushing as her head swiveled to make sure no one was around.
“Relax, I’m just resting my eyes for a minute.” Takuya mumbled, eyes closed as he made himself comfortable. “You were a lot softer as a wolf.”
“Well excuse me for being human.” Rika grumbled, still glancing around self consciously. “Takuya! Seriously, if you're tired, let's just go inside...” She fell silent, realizing the exhausted officer had already fallen asleep.
Rika sighed, resigning herself to her predicament. The sun slowly cast it’s brilliant red light across the two as it slowly lowered itself under the horizon. “At least I have a nice view.” She commented lightly. A small smile graced her lips as her fingers lightly grazed Takuya’s wavy hair as he slept peacefully.
Rika returned to her and Yuki’s room, right as her sister was finishing up a cup of coffee at her desk. She glanced up from her laptop, eying her twin suspiciously. “Where did you disappear too?”
“I was just talking with Takuya.” Rika replied casually. Yuki’s eyes narrowed at the slight redness that crept up on her face.
“Hmmm, I assume you two made up?”
“As he should!” Yuki exclaimed heatedly, rolling out her futon. “Pulling out a gun on a lady. The nerve!”
Rika kept silent, unrolling her own futon. They entered in unison, both staring up at the ceiling. After a few moments, Rika fidgeted uncomfortably, turning her head towards her twin.“Are you tired?”
“Not a bit.” Yuki replied instantly. “It’s going to be hell trying to get my sleep schedule back on track.” She turned to Rika, frowning. “So I assume you’ve made a decision?”
Rika fiddled with her pendant, guiltily. “I think so.”
Yuki was silent for several moments before replying, “You know I have my own goals. I refuse to let those go.”
“I know.” Rika replied solemnly. “I would never ask you to.” She waited for Yuki to say something, but heard nothing on her other end. She raised her head up worriedly, wanting to explain herself. “Yuki, I….”
“I’m sleeping.” She cut Rika off, facing away from her.
Regretfully, Rika crawled out from the covers, glancing once more back at Yuki’s still form before exiting the room. She made her way to the kitchen, where she was surprised to see her mother reading through some of her old cookbooks. She glanced up, startled to see her daughter up.
“Oh, I thought you went to bed.”
“I wasn’t really tired.” Rika answered, sitting across from her. She felt her mother’s gaze observing her curiously.
“Is everything okay?” She asked.
“Actually mom…” Rika began, moving to sit next to her. “There’s something I want to talk to you about.”
The next morning, Rika found herself standing in front of their guest bedroom where Takuya and Kikyo were staying. She could hear shuffling on the other side as if someone was preparing to start their day. Before she could announce her presence, the door slid open with Takuya pausing in the entryway.
“What are you doing up?”
“I kind of had a hard time sleeping last night.” Rika confessed. “I wasn’t sure when you would head out, so I wanted to make sure I could catch you. May I come in?”
“Kikyo’s still sleeping.” Takuya answered, sliding the door shut. “Let’s go outside.”
They returned to the porch, where they could see the early morning mist hanging over the dew covered grass. The grey sky cast a chill in the air, that was a reminder the summer was coming to an end. Rika and Takuya took a moment to gaze upon the scene before turning to each other.
“Well?” Takuya asked, crossing his arms.
Rika took a deep breath. “I’ve made my decision.” She paused, bracing herself. “And I’ve decided I want to join you and Jesus on your mission.” She held her hand, stopping him from saying anything. “Before you try to stop me, here me out! I know what you’re going to say. How the god’s war has nothing to do with me. But you’re wrong!” She held up her ruby life gem determinedly. “This gem chose me to protect Emi. It gave me that responsibility and I can’t be like Haruto and just turn my back on that!”
“I know you want me to continue going to school and enjoying my life, but how can I even fathom doing that when I know what kind of suffering is going out there? Suffering I may be able to stop.” She shook her head angrily. “I’m sorry but I just can’t do that.”
Takuya sighed, not looking pleased. “And what about your mother? Your sister? Aren’t you forgetting about your family?”
“I spoke to my mother last night.” Rika said, not backing down. “And she is okay with it. I didn’t go into too much detail, only telling her that it may be dangerous for me to stay here and that I want to help with your investigation. Which is true!” Rika exclaimed, seeing Takuya’s skeptical look. “What if Haruto decides he wants to get revenge on me and Yuki for not joining him? I don’t want my mom or Kikyo to be in danger.”
“I highly doubt that.” Takuya replied. “Haruto doesn’t even know your full identity, so I doubt he’ll waste his energy trying to track down a non demigod. And what about Yuki? Do you really want to leave her? She’s your twin.”
“I know…” This had been the hardest part for Rika to get over. Yuki and her have always been together. “But she did tell me to do what I wanted.” Rika thought, “And this is what I decided.” Even so, guilt clawed at her from the inside. “Yuki….”
“Is coming along.”
Both Rika and Takuya turned to find Yuki standing in the doorway, sipping on yet another warm cup of coffee. She walked over, handing a cup to her stunned twin. “You’re welcome.” She shot Takuya a glare. “You can get your own coffee, Mr. Gun Otaku.”
“Yuki, what do you mean you’re coming along?” Rika gaped, ignoring the drink in her hands.
“Just what I said.” Yuki answered, matter-of-factly. “Did you seriously think I was going to let you trouse around fighting gods by yourself, especially with this gun slinger.” She said, once again eying Takuya distrustfully.
“But...But…” Rika couldn’t think straight. Yuki couldn’t come, not when she had her dreams to worry about. “Yuki, what about school?”
“We don’t actually need to be present at school to graduate.” Yuki explained, unzipping her back. “As long as we are able to pass the graduate exams, we can still get a diploma. Which means….” She pulled out a tablet, waving it in Rika’s face. “We’ll be studying while we are away. I did the liberty of downloading all our textbooks onto this tablet. You’re welcome.”
“Wow, Yuki….you shouldn’t have.” Rika said, exasperated as she looked down at the shiny tablet. “But wait... we don’t know how long this will take. You were planning on starting college in the spring, right?
At this, Yuki’s confident smile seemed to falter. She glanced down, glasses dipping down her nose. “Yeah….well. Some things can wait. And to be honest, I mostly wanted to just get out of here and see the world. I think in the long run, seeing and discovering new people and areas will only improve my art.” She straightened her glasses, facing her twin. “Besides, you said so yourself. Twins stick together.”
Rika smiled, nodding in agreement.
Their touching moment forcefully came to a close as Takuya popped both of them in the head with his fists. “Hey ladies, this is nice and all but I don’t remember actually agreeing to any of this!”
Rika grimaced, rubbing her head painfully. “You don’t want us to come?”
“Of course not! This is not some school trip!” Takuya replied heatedly. “What we’re doing is dangerous and you two should just stay out of it!”
“Oh so I guess you’re going to defeat Zeus with just you and what army?” Yuki asked sarcastically. “Face it. You’re going to need our help whether we like it or not.” She held up her sapphire gem, smirking. “Besides, I’m kind of your babysitter now.”
“Like hell you are!” Takuya growled, reaching over to grab the gem as she hid behind Rika.
“She’s right.” Jesus commented, walking up to them as Emi tagged along behind him. “If we do plan on facing God someday, we’ll need all the help we can get.” He sat down, his green eyes lighting up proudly as he gazed upon the group. “I’m so glad you and Rika have decided to join us. Though Takuya’s concerns are valid, please remember this. The gods are not the only deities that become more powerful as their followers increase. Over the many years I’ve been alive, I’ve witnessed humans too grow as their bonds with others became stronger.”
He gave a purr of amusement as he added. “And she is also correct. Yuki, Rika, you two have the dire responsibilities to watch over both Emi and Takuya.” His gaze fell on Rika as she held the still drowsy Emi close to her on the ground and then on Yuki, who was sticking her tongue out at an equally annoyed Takuya. His ears twitched as he wondered just what fate awaited these young humans as they made this journey together into the unknown.
“From this day forth,” Jesus declared, raising his paw skyward as the dawn sun broke over the horizon. “You two will be known as Protectors of the Demigods.”