“Are you sure you want to do this again, Momioka?”
“Yes! And this time, I’m sure to beat you!”
I stare at Anya fiercely as she gazes back and returns to her position.
“Right, same thing as before then, I’ll only swing my katana once.”
“Come on, don’t hold back on me!”
Anya sighs and flips a coin she created into the air. During this time, Anya summons a practice katana while I fabricate a small, one-handed bearded axe with my newly learnt powers. Once the axe is completed, I get into position, putting my left hand in front of my eyepatch and my other hand with the axe behind me, mimicking a running posture.
― Hah! I’ve lured her close to the wall without her realising it. I have the upper hand this time, Anya!
Once the coin hits the ground, I sprint at full speed towards Anya as she transitions smoothly into a defensive position.
“Hah! You’ve done exactly what I want you to do!”
Utilising Anya’s confused moments, I dart to the wall on my right. Once reaching it, I make myself lighter by changing my mass just like how I learnt yesterday and leap onto the wall with a flash dispersion of the energy to jump higher.
― Just like how that video showed you… And remember your gymnastic training Momioka!
My right foot soon connects onto the wall successfully, getting a sturdy grip. I then quickly proceed onto my second step, landing my left foot horizontally on the wall.
― Yes! I’ve… Oh sh-
Thinking perhaps I have celebrated a bit too early, I lose grip of the wall and begin to slip backwards. But not allowing myself to fall, I rotate myself around and use my right leg to propel myself off the wall towards Anya.
“Feel the burning hatred of Surtr with a single slash of my ablaze axe!”
I swing my right hand at Anya when she’s in range, but she easily dodges. As I land, I perform a dive roll and prepare for another strike.
“And with the flaring flames of Muspelheim, will all obstacle scorch in radiant light! Heh!”
I snap around at Anya, sweeping my arm in an arc towards her.
― I’ve got you now!
But I soon catch sight of Anya standing with her arms crossed, unfazed by my action, as I realise something as crucial as my axe is missing.
Before I could reconstruct my axe, I witness my life flash before my eyes as Anya’s katana is on course for my head. It is quite the sound when it collides with my head, and I could do nothing but squeal and curl up in pain.
“Anya… That hurts… Why did you actually hit me…?”
“Hahah… Sorry, Momioka… Did that hurt a lot compared to the others?”
“Yes, of course it did! It…”
“Anya… Hit me again…”
“I need to confirm something… Don’t go easy on me….”
“Just trust me on this. If I’m wrong, I’m sure it’ll just sting a little.”
I stand back up and hold out my right arm out.
I look away from my arm as Anya charges her blade. Soon, there was a loud whacking next to me.
“Did it hit me?”
“Yeah… Did you not-”
Anya reluctantly raises her practice sword up into the air and drives it down towards my arm while I gaze upon the experiment. There again is a whacking sound when the katana hits me, but this only provides more evidence towards something I didn’t want to believe it’s true.
“Again, Anya… AGAIN!”
― There must be some error in my findings… There have to be…
“What are you waiting for, Anya? Again!”
I feel tears rolling down my cheeks when suddenly Anya throws herself at me.
“That’s enough, Momioka… That’s…. enough…”
With Anya embracing me tightly, we both slowly drop to the ground.
“I can’t feel pain, Anya… I can’t…”
“How did I not realise this sooner… How did I… If I can’t actually feel pain, what can I actually feel…”
“Hah… Hahahaha… Then what were these past two days? How did I feel the warm water of my baths…? Or the breeze of the morning wind… How… How about the time I ate or drank…? Do I even need those? Why did I even feel hungry back then? Was it just because I was thinking about how I hadn’t eaten in a while? Then… Is everything I’ve felt just my imagination filling up the gaps for my non-existing body?”
I look directly at Anya’s eyes, clenching the collar of her hoodie behind the illusion of her black dress.
“Momioka, they aren’t fake. You’re-”
“Then please tell me, what had I been feeling all these times…? Are these… Are these even real tears I’m crying out right now?”
I desperately try to wipe away whatever is rolling down my face.
“Is this the reason why I’m not feeling tired? I’m just a ball of energy, the battery you said I am. Do I even need to breathe to survive? Am I… actually alive? Is there anything else I need to know…? Is there…? I… I… I can’t take any more of this… I can’t-”
Anya grasps my shoulder tightly.
“We will get your body back! I promise you that we’ll get your body back.”
“How are you so sure that we could get my body back? Do you even know if you can bond whatever I am back to my body?”
“I… I believe my sister can! I’m sure of it!”
I push Anya’s hands away from me.
“Believe? You believe your sister can do it? So, you’re not even sure… Can you even answer if I’m alive or not, or just one of those light-construct you made and given a mind by your sister?”
“You are alive! As much as you are a sentient ball of energy in the form of a light construct, your mind and soul are of your own, true self.”
“… How do you know?”
“I… I just do.”
“You’re a terrible liar.”
“I couldn’t hear you.”
“…Now I’m supposed to listen to one of those ghosts who’s trying to kill us. Great…”
“If only I had just listened to my father all those times and stayed at home, I wouldn’t be like this…”
Anya puts her hands on my shoulder once again.
“I promise you that I’ll get your body back. With everything I have, I will help you return to how you were before.”
“You swear on your life?”
“… I… I swear on my life …”
“…Don’t promise something you can’t keep. I don’t want any empty promises lik-”
Then again, I am thrown into Anya’s embrace. Her stern rhythmic heartbeat echoes in my head, suddenly reminding me of a moment I had spent with my mother.
“No, I intend on keeping this promise.”
I begin to shed tears again. Soon, weeping becomes sobbing, and I am then crying my heart out while listening to Anya’s heartbeat, something I might not even have.
“Plus, my sister had revived small creatures before. So, I’m sure with a little more practice, she’ll master her skills.”
“… You… you… you better keep that promised, okay?”
“I will. Let’s find my sister as soon as we can then.”
Little by little, I begin to calm down.
“Hey, Momioka. I’m sorry if I’m imposing too much…”
“No, it’s… fine… And… I’m sorry if I was selfish back then and threw everything on you…”
“Sometimes, Momioka, you can’t bottle up everything. It’s good to let it out.”
“… Thank you… Anya… Really… Thank you…”
I put myself more at ease, slowly relaxing from my breakdown.
“Ummm, Momioka… Ehhh… If you want to rest, do you want to return to your room?”
“Can we stay like this for a bit longer?”
I slowly sit back up straight, looking towards the sky.
“This… This reminds me of… Oh? Are you okay, Anya? You look a bit red. Are you not feeling well?”
“Oh… Um… No, I’m fine. So, what were you saying?”
“Umm… Oh. This reminds me of the times I had with my mother when I was younger… I remember I would sit close to my mother, and we would look at the sky for hours if she’s at home.”
I glance up into the clouds and shuffle my way across to Anya, sitting next to her. Anya soon tunes in on cloud-watching and lets out a sigh.
“To be honest, this also reminds me of the time I spent with my father and my sister.”
“Yeah… My mother works in the hospital, and she usually works many weird shifts. So, it’s up to my father to look after me and my sister. Of course, he has his own job as an instructor and a blacksmith. But whenever we’re free, he’ll sit with me and listen to whatever I had in mind just like this. And whenever my sister is free, I’ll do the same with her.”
“Your family sound very close… I… I miss my mother so much… But it’s weird, it seems that I’ve only just met her, yet it seems I’ve known her my entire life… Is it the same for you too? Since you’ve only recently found out that your mother and aunt are literal goddesses.”
“Yeah… my family is indeed an interesting bunch, and I miss them so much more because of it. More than anything… I’ve already lost most of them… I can’t lose my sister too.”
I look up at the sky and raise my arm up, forming a fist in front of the sun.
“We’ll recuse her, for both our sakes!”
“Hah! That’s the spirit!”
I lower my hand and sit under the peaceful day. With the ultimate goal of saving Polya in my mind, I put myself at ease under the morning sun.
* * *
After an hour or so, I find myself awake on Anya’s shoulder who’s lying asleep on a wall she had created.
― I guess I could still sleep. That’s good to know.
I sit up slowly and whisper at Anya.
“Anya… Anya… Are you awake?”
Seeing that she’s sleeping quite peacefully, I decide not to bother her and move towards the middle of my garden to practice summoning a weapon. I focus on how Anya had taught me, but nothing appears like it did before. After a while of failing miserably, I lay down on the grass, thinking about what I’m doing wrong…
“Giving up already?”
“Anya... How long were you awake for?”
“… Nothing is working, Anya…”
“You want to have a duel again?”
“Eh… What was the score again?”
“Oh, I’ve stopped counting ever since that time you used my shoulders as a ummm… a vaulting table.”
I walk closer to Anya.
“I want to train harder, Anya… No more messing about on my end. I don’t want to be deadweight.”
“Still… As much as the duels aren’t really coming out successfully on your end, they are still the only times you were able to construct your weapons… Even if it’s for a short while.”
“But there must be something I’m missing… Let me think of something…”
With Anya thinking of an easier way for me to learn, I return to practice creating a weapon the same way Anya does with no success.
“Oh, I’ve got it!”
“Yeah! Wait, look away first, Momioka.”
I hear Anya snapping her fingers behind me, followed by a couple of footsteps.
― What could it be, I wonder…
“Okay, I’m ready.”
I turn around and see something I truly wasn’t expecting.
“Odinsdottir! Thou shalt lay waste to my own land no more. I dare thee to war.”
― What is happening… Umm… Umm… Ummm…
“If it be true I hath destroy thy village, then there must be a significant reason for it.
“Nay. Thee, Odinsdottir, hath killed my father. Prepare to die by my swords.”
Anya charges straight at me with her dual Viking-styled swords while wearing armour straight out from a Viking show.
― Ahh, this is actually happening…
“Have at thee!”
I quickly form a small circular shield in my left hand and block the swords of Anya.
“Quite daring, I must say. Tell me, who art thee, who art so wise in the ways of the swords.”
“Thou shalt know me as Anya.”
“Then Anya, thou dare declare war upon a god?”
I strike at my shield, causing a blast of energy towards Anya as I perform a back handspring towards safety.
“Blinded by the freezing fog of Niflheim, will you be lost in the world of mist.”
“Thy tricks will not work on me.”
“Then may Mjolnir grant thee mercy as you witness upon its truest form.”
With all my might I can gather, I forge Mjolnir with a longer handle which will be wielded with two hands.
― I’ve actually done it! I must maintain this.
“Now, go back to thy home, Earth dweller.”
“My name is Anya! Remember it.”
“Aye. Valhalla shalt remember thee.”
I charge into battle with my heavy Nordic sledgehammer, measured about half my height, while Anya charges in with her swords. I first spin myself and the hammer around, sweeping my oversize mallet across Anya's legs, trying to catch her off-balance, but she evades it by jumping over me.
“Hey, shouldn’t dodging be more of my moves?”
“I could pick up a trick or two. Even from someone like you.”
“Hey! What does that even mean?”
Once I establish footing again, I bolt towards Anya, preparing for my next attack.
“Kneel before your goddess!”
I swing Mjolnir over my shoulders down onto the ground, but I accidentally channel too much of my energy towards it, causing it to grow much in size. I try to stop its movement, but it’s too late, and it’s set on collision at Anya with full force.
Seeing the colossal sledgehammer coming for her, Anya jumps backwards, and the hammer instead collides with the grass, creating a shockwave that knocks both Anya and I away from the origins.
Thanks to the grass, it dampens my landing, but I still have managed to launch myself quite far away.
― I should not have done that… Oh…
As much as I enjoy lying down in the grass for a prolonged amount of time, I quickly get up and check on Anya, who I’ve perhaps nearly killed.
Anya returns her clothes back to normal and walks towards the crater I’ve created. We then gaze upon it once we arrive at the opposite edge of the hole.
“Didn’t think you have it in you to kill me…”
“I… wasn’t trying to…”
“Are you sure about that?”
“So, what was that? I thought you said Miyo- the god hammer is a small single-handed hammer.”
“It is! But… let’s go back a bit and tell me what was… all that just now?”
I start waving my hands around.
“Umm… The… The sparring we just did. What was all the… armour and the act? I thought you didn’t know much about Norse Mythology and all…”
“I… don’t. But I found out that you can control your powers best when you’re in character, so I thought, wouldn’t that be the best way for you to learn about them. So, I threw everything I’ve learnt from you and my aunt and created what you have witnessed just now. Not my best performance, but I got what I wanted at the end.”
“No, that was the most fun I had in a while. It was amazing! Did you see it? I was in control of my powers!”
“You were definitely much better, but you’re forgetting something…”
“Oh… yeah… Besides almost killing you, I was mostly in control of my powers.”
“That reminds me. I created a two-handed Mjolnir because I wanted to try using a bigger weapon so that one day I could use Gungnir, which is going to be twice my size! And besides, Mjolnir was supposed to have a longer handle anyways.”
“I’m sure with more training, you’ll be able to create and control your whole arsenal of weapons you have in mind.”
“Can’t wait for that to happen! Now I’ve got to-”
“MOMIOKA! What the hell happened? I could hear you from the other side of the house!”
My father slides open the door to the backyard and stares at me fiercely.
“Sorry, father. A few springs of the trampoline snapped, but don’t worry, it’s fixed now.”
I point towards where my trampoline should be before it was moved away this morning.
“Alright then, be sure not to be too loud. I made some food for you; it’s in the fridge for whenever you want to eat.”
“Okay. Thanks, father.”
My father returns into the house as Anya and I sigh in relief.
“The illusion snapshot of my backyard you created this morning sure came in handy.”
“Good thing it actually works because I wasn’t sure it would.”
I kneel down on the grass and feel the dirt of the crater I’ve created.
“Well… It seems we both have learnt something today… And also, we should do something about this hole. I believe there’s a florist here that sells some beautiful Blacknight Hollyhock. What do you think about planting flowers here and putting some rocks and pebbles around them?”
“I think it’ll look nice.”
“I’ve always wanted to plant those Hollyhocks in the garden, and this just gave me the perfect reason to do it. Let’s go get them on our way back.”
I stand back up and look around the garden.
“Should we leave now then? Or do you want to continue sparring for a bit longer?”
I look up at the sky with my hand blocking the sunlight.
“I think we should go now. But before we leave, I want to try something.”
I start walking into the house as Anya follows me behind. Once we enter the house, I turn towards the kitchen.
“What do you want to try.”
Once we arrive in the kitchen, I open the fridge and take out the two sandwiches my father has made me.
“… Are you sure?”
“I have to know.”
I grab a knife from the rack and cut a piece of the sandwich for myself. I look at Anya for a quick moment before taking a bite of the sandwich. After a bit of chewing of the initial bite, I slowly lower my hands down onto the counter, then proceeds to stuff the rest of the sandwich I’m holding into my mouth and shake my head at Anya.
“Well, it was worth a try, I guess…”
“Here, you can have the rest of my sandwiches. I’m sure you’re hungry after all the sparing we did.”
I push the plate of sandwiches over to Anya and offer her my food.
“… Thank you.”
“Let’s go after we’re finished here.”
* * *
After cleaning up the kitchen, we start making our way towards Aunt Sawada’s house. The walk to her house is hushed, similar to when we are in the kitchen. But after a while, I decide to break the ice.
“So, you said your aunt taught you Norse mythology?”
“For the sparring session just now, you said everything you used was something you had learnt from your aunt and me. So, I was wondering, does she like… read you Norse stories when you were younger?”
“Oh, no. My aunt is a museum researcher and sometimes curator. Umm, there was a Viking section in the museum, and she gives me a tour of it every so often.”
“Your family really sounds fun and exciting, wish my family’s more like that.”
“I’m sure your mother and aunt are cool in their own way. Besides, didn’t we see your uncle’s gun in the evidence room.”
“Do you think he was a part of a huge crime syndicate, and he’s like… really skilled in shooting and all?”
“Hah. It’s funny how different the two sides of my family are. One side is criminals, the other, priestesses. I really wonder how it all started. That must be some story to tell!”
I run ahead towards the empty T-junction in front of us and turn around to wait for Anya.
“Come on, I can see her house!”
Anya picks up her pace, and we soon arrive at my aunt’s house. I once again ring the doorbell, but there isn’t a response.
“Well, this calls for the contingency plan!”
I run towards the Sakura trees in front of my aunt’s house and start knocking on the tree trunks.
― Nope, not this one. How about this? No…
“What are you doing, Momioka?”
“Just a moment.”
I run towards another one of my aunt’s Sakura trees and knock on it. And unlike the other trees, it gives out a hollower knock.
“Ah! I’ve got it! Third time’s the charm!”
I push my hands against the tree, and it opens a secret compartment with the house keys in it.
― Thank you, Aunt Sawada
“A secret compartment, in a tree. So, what were you saying about your family not being fun?”
I grab the keys and open the front door to Aunt Sawada’s house.
“We’re coming in!”
Anya and I enter the darkened house that used to be always bright and cheerful. The place feels like it was abandoned for some time as the furniture is covered with dust in the still atmosphere.
“What is going on? Where could she have gone?”
I run towards the kitchen and open the fridge.
“There’s still quite a lot of food in here, Anya… That means she wasn’t planning on a trip or anything…”
“Let’s check upstairs.”
Anya and I quickly run up the stairs towards her room. We first knock on the door, and when there’s no answer, I barge into her room and see nothing special except some opened wardrobe.
I walk into Aunt Sawada’s room and search around the room to see if there’re any clues to her whereabouts. Until soon, I came across my aunt’s phone on top of her dressing table.
“She left her phone… too?”
“I guess she was also in a hurry.”
I pick up the phone, checking the notifications piled up on the lock screen. Among the many missed calls, there is a text that caught my eyes.
“Anya… Look at this…”
Anya walks into the room and looks at the phone in shock.
“Supreme Priestess Azumi. Please return to the Spire. Mikoto III would like to speak with you.”
“Anya… This is getting much more interesting than I would have ever thought…”
Anya takes a step backwards, amazed by what she has just saw. Until suddenly, she crouches down and examines the floor.
“Momioka… Come take a look at this, were these ever here before?”
I kneel down to discover a dent on the floor with some markings around it.
“Burn marks? I don’t think I’ve ever seen those here before.”
“Then, it’s as I feared…”