Chapter 7:

Pitch Black Milk

Through the Christmas Glass

It was a quiet night for both Kuro and Laura. No nightmares or assassins reared their head. Both were able to enjoy a full 8-hour sleep. At 6:30 a.m. they were both up; soon after Laura knocked on the door of Kuro's room.

“Good morning Master Kuro”.
“Good morning Laura, did you sleep well?”
“Like a freshly washed, powdered and fed baby. You?”
“Mo... more or less the same; I think. That was an odd simile by the way“.
“The baby thing? It's a common saying in my country”.
“Of course it is”, Kuro sighed.

When they entered the dining room almost everyone's eyes were fixed on Kuro. Church of Diversity or not he was still an oddity in this world; he was starting to get used to being the center of.. unwanted attention by now, but he still felt weird when all those heads turned at once. Opelë village and the Gay Unicorn were much sparser after all. Too bad there was no Goddess of Color Skin..

The dining room of the Church was enormous. It was more than twice as large as the dining room of Kuro's college, which was considered quite large. Kuro counted at least forty long tables each with twenty chairs or more. So he estimated that 800 to 850 people lived and worked here. ‘Quite a lot of mouths to feed; their kitchen must be huge’, Kuro thought.

They took two dishes, picked what they wanted and sat down next to a table where all the bishops were, to keep an eye on them. Apart from the three bishops Kuro met there were seven other bishops, but they had the entire table to themselves. The Cardinal was nowhere to be seen.

“I see that the Bishops love their... social distancing”, Kuro joked.
“Come again bosu?”
“Don't mind me Laura, I was just thinking aloud. So the Church has ten bishops in total?”
“No, there are only ten stationed at the HQ. In total the bishops are...”, Laura counted in her head for a while, “...thirty-five. The Bigot Church has the same number of bishops too. There are also four more Cardinals here beside Laicolassë but they all dine in private”.

Laura sipped some warm black milk and then smiled. Instead of the usual white milk on red lips she had black milk on cyan lips with pitch black teeth in between them. Kuro wondered for a few moments if he had been dreaming all that time; whether he was still at that Akihabara cafe and took a nap while waiting for lovely Yuki to bring him his morning coffee.

He tried testing this. Rather than pinching himself he stabbed his hand with his fork. He put a bit more force to the spoon than he planned however; he let out a loud cry of pain and his palm started bleeding from four tiny holes. He drew many heads again.

“What are you doing bosu? What got into you all of a sudden?” Laura healed his hand quickly with a minor healing spell.
“I was just testing if I was dreaming Laura; apparently I'm not. This black milk in front of me is a little bit too much. The milk of my world is white because its lactose reflects equally all colors; the same with snow, white paint etc

What could this milk possibly contain to be pitch black? Black lactose?? Could such a thing even exist? Or is it actually white and we just see it as black due to the violet light of the sun which, as far as I know, makes no sense in terms of stellar formation, astrophysics, optics, color theo....”

“Bosu... Bosu!! You are rambling bosu! You are speaking words I do not understand! Drink your milk and eat your breakfast or they'll get cold!”
“Hai hai Miss Laura, I will. You do not need to scold me”.

After great hesitation Kuro tasted the black milk. It was a bit fatter than normal, surely because semi-skimmed milk is not a thing in this world, but otherwise its taste was fine. He just hoped his body would be fully compatible with the anti-foods of this world.

The soup and bread they had tasted normal as well. This morning chicken soup with vegetables and grain was the ‘special’ of the menu, so they both picked that.

After they had breakfast Bishop Jaakkima approached them and told them they were to meet Cardinal Laicolassë in 20 minutes; he said the Cardinal wanted to start Kuro's training asap, because time was of the essence.

A while later they were in the Cardinal's private chambers.
“Mr Kuro we need to get you in shape soon. And in our world this means getting to know the Goddesses; and have them getting to know you. What do you say?”, the Cardinal said.

“If this means I can finally cast a magic spell or too I'm all in”, Kuro smirked.
“Let's get you prepped then. First change your clothes with those”, he showed a set of blue robes with a golden sigil in them shaped like a bird that looked like a peacock,

“then go to the Great Hall and meditate to clear your head for about half an hour; I've already arranged for it to be cleared for the next few hours. You know how to meditate right?”

“I do Cardinal, I'm Japanese after all”, Laicolassë did not seem to understand the reference but did not ask for clarification.
“Great! In half an hour or so I'll join you! As for you Laura you no longer need to shadow Kuro wherever he goes; he is safe here”, Laura looked startled; presumably she did not expect the Cardinal to say that.

I asked her Cardinal; I feel uncomfortable in public places, since wherever I go I draw looks like flies are drawn to honey; everyone stares at me like I'm an exotic animal or something. I needed someone who knew me, who had also seen other people from my own word and thus knows I'm not a singular weirdo. She is not with me for safety, but so that I can feel less uncomfortable. That's not a problem is it?”

“No it's not Mr Kuro. Besides, she's been assigned to you personally, as your guide and bodyguard. I just meant that you do not need to go everywhere with her inside the Church grounds, but if you feel uneasy it's fine. So! I'll see you in 30 minutes!”, the Cardinal appeared to be quite a busy bee.

Laura guided Kuro to the Great Hall. She showed him where to meditate and how.
“What kind of weird yoga-ish position is that Laura? There is no way I can relax enough like that to actually meditate, even if I manage to reproduce your.. whatever that is”.

“This is a standard meditation position bosu, how do you meditate?”
Kuro showed her.
“This appears to be too easy”.
“Isn't that the point?  So that, you know, relax?
“Not in our world; at least not in Ambarussa”.

“Let me meditate how I know for now and torture me later, the clock is ticking”, Kuro tapped his index finger on his right wrist, though Laura did not understand why.
“Fine bosu, I'm not supposed to be here anyway. Meditate however you like and I'll keep guard from that corner right there, at a distance. The Cardinal will arrive shortly”.

Laura left Kuro to meditate and soon after Cardinal Laicolassë arrived. In time.
“Are you ready? Are you calm?”
“As much as I can be Cardinal”.
“Good. Let's get started there! We're not going to do the normal goddess summoning session, we're going to do the express one. The normal takes one to two weeks, the express requires just two - three days”

“Because time is of the essence and Cardinal Curufinwë is on the move”, Kuro stated.
“Exactly. Your gateway to the other Goddesses is the Goddess of Prayer. For the next couple of hours you need to pray to her until you can hear her voice”.
“Wh.. what do I say in my prayer?”

“You need to memorize this litany, and you need to say it repeatedly until the Goddess responds:
‘Goddess of Prayer please show the Way
to lost soul who barely knows how to pray
allow my pitiful existence to serve you
I'm a lowly worm at Your feet, I beg you’ ”

“Wow really? These are some strong words!”
“Most goddesses prefer mortals to crawl at their feet like worms; if pride gets to us they stop aiding us. So we need to be humble even if we are powerful”, Laicolassë explained. “This litany is called ‘First Lesson on Humility’ ”

Kuro felt embarrassed but he wanted to get over with it, so he learned the verses and started praying. He went on for 1 hour. Nothing. Then, a bit after 2 hours passed, he heard an eerie female voice in his head:

“Greetings Otherworlder. I am grateful you humbled yourself before me, even though you are not of this world and you are of another religion. To thank you I will grant you my power, access to the other Goddesses.

I will also give you one
extra gift. I ..............................................................”  The rest was inaudible to this nameless quasi-omniscient narrator; it's possible that the Goddess of Prayer ran interference and kicked them off Kuro's head. How rude...

A small gulp escaped Kuro's mouth and his eyes widened a bit.
“What is it? Did the Goddess speak to you?”, the Cardinal asked. He remained close this whole time.
“Yes she did Cardinal. She just gave me access to the other Goddesses!”, Kuro said looking a bit more awkward than usual.

“That's great! So Step 1 is complete. Go to your room to rest for a few hours and we'll meet here again at, say, 1:00 p.m. Right after lunch”.
“It's a date Cardinal”, Kuro made a military gesture which Laicolassë did not get either.

Kuro rejoined with Laura and they walked toward their rooms.
“Hey Laura let me ask you something. Do you think the Goddesses can be trusted? I mean fully trusted?”
“Goddesses never lie bosu. If they did our trust and faith in them would be lost, so they would lose their believers and they would start to die. Why do you ask?”
Kuro was about to say something then changed his mind.
“It's... nothing. Never mind. It can wait”.

Kuro got back to his boobie-trapped room, lay on the bed, looked at the ceiling and wondered, aloud:
“What on Earth am I supposed to do with the info-bomb of a gift this goddess just handed to me?”
He was quite agitated but still managed to get some sleep.