Chapter 20:

Day 597 and 1/2: Today, My Ex-Girlfriend and I Will Ride A Chariot Home

Death by Ex-Girlfriend: War Cloud

Bishamon raised his blade, preparing to plunge it through Tsukiakari's chest. He thrusted his arms forward, but just before the blade reached her, she suddenly rolled out of the way. Bishamon struck his sword into the ground, missing her entirely. Bishamon noticed something else; her hands were clasped. Tsukiakari had casted some sort of magic before rolling out of the way, but Bishamon couldn't guess what it was, or whether it was offensive or defensive.Bookmark here

Suddenly, a staff-shaped column of earth bursted from the ground, slamming directly into the side of Bishamon's sword. To his utter shock, his sword broke at the hilt upon impact. Tsukiakari then shot up from the ground and ran directly into Bishamon, attempting to tackle him to the ground. As she lacked his physical strength and stature, she couldn't even make him lose his balance. Bishamon restrained her with his hands, but the tempestuous Tsukiakari bit down upon one of them, using her teeth as strategically as she would her sword.Bookmark here

"Let go of me!" Bishamon roared, to no avail.Bookmark here

The more he tried to push her off, the harder Tsukiakari bit down. She unclasped her hands and slammed her right palm onto Bishamon's chest.Bookmark here

"What the hell are you doing?!" Bishamon screamed, just before receiving a small, explosive blast to his sternum.Bookmark here

Bishamon's blood sprayed around in a scarlet mist, while the force of the blast sent small strips of flesh flying around like confetti. Her desperate move left the audience speechless, including Izanami and Osamu. Bishamon fell to the ground, his hands placed over his bleeding chest. Tsukiakari plopped herself down on top of him, punching him repeatedly with her right fist.Bookmark here

Amaterasu smiled as she watched. "So, shattering his sword was her plan from the start. The lightning attack, the heat transfer, and the waterspout all played a part in her strategy."Bookmark here

"What? She planned all of that?!" Osamu questioned in shock.Bookmark here

"She heated his blade with the first two attacks and then quenched it with the waterspout." Uzume added. "You saw the sword quench when the waterspout was filled with steam. Gekko did all of that in order to harden his sword, making it brittle and prone to breakage. Goodness, she's as reckless as ever."Bookmark here

"I believe it's time to put an end to this. Bishamon won't be able to get up from that." Amaterasu said, walking over to Tsukiakari. Osamu, curious to see Bishamon up close and personal after losing the fight, followed after her.Bookmark here

Tsukiakari had made a bloodied, bruised mess of Bishamon's face as she punched him repeatedly. Even her own knuckles were turning purple.Bookmark here

"Bastard! Fight me! Get up and fight me!" Tsukiakari screamed.Bookmark here

She winded her arm back to deliver another punch, but found her arm suddenly restrained by her mother, Amaterasu.Bookmark here

"It's over, Gekko." Amaterasu declared. "He hasn't got much left in him."Bookmark here

"It's a duel to the death. I have to finish this." Tsukiakari said.Bookmark here

"I know." Amaterasu said, handing Tsukiakari her sword. "So use this."Bookmark here

Tsukiakari stood up, taking a step back from Bishamon. Osamu stood to her left and her mother to her right, the three of them looking down upon the bleeding Bishamon with scorn and pity. Bishamon's arms twitched and spasmed, as if he were trying to sit himself up. It was useless. He was far too weak to move an inch.Bookmark here

" all think I'm the monster?" Bishamon mocked. "'s you. Especially you, Amaterasu. Your ceaseless yearning...your thirst for power...I only did what I did to combat your greed, to save my fellow gods from being cycled out."Bookmark here

"I expected classier dying words from such a notable usurper." Amaterasu chided.Bookmark here

Bishamon turned his gaze to Osamu. "Boy, you've made a terrible mistake. You've gotten yourself involved in a world from which you can never escape. Amaterasu may be your ally today...but she will be your enemy in due time."Bookmark here

"Gekko...let's finish this." Osamu growled. "Together."Bookmark here

Tsukiakari gripped her sword, and Osamu held his hand over hers. They were both going to wield the sword that would kill Bishamon.Bookmark here

"Any last words?" Tsukiakari asked.Bookmark here

"Welcome to hell." Bishamon said, smiling.Bookmark here

"Sorry, Bisha. You're going there first." Osamu said.Bookmark here

"This is for Taeko and her daughter, who you murdered in cold blood. It's for Goro, Chiya, Inori, and all of the others that perished at your hand." Tsukiakari said. "They'll finally be able to rest knowing you're dead!"Bookmark here

Osamu gave a glance to Tsukiakari, a wordless confirmation that he was ready. They both thrusted the blade into Bishamon's neck, piercing his throat and silencing him forever. His eyes bulged out in pain and blood spurted from his mouth, but his facial expression quickly relaxed into a state of deathly relaxation, his eyes still partway open. Bishamon took his last gasp, and in a few moments, he was no more. At long last, Tsukiakari had her revenge.Bookmark here

"He's gone. You've won the fight, Gekko." Amaterasu said.Bookmark here

"I...I really did it..." Tsukiakari said, unable to actually believe she had won.Bookmark here

The clouds above began to part, showering Heaven in a brilliant blast of sunlight. Osamu wrapped his other arm around Tsukiakari's shoulder, bringing her in for a warm hug.Bookmark here

"You did it, Gekko." Osamu said.Bookmark here

"We did it, Osa." Tsukiakari replied with a comforted grin.Bookmark here

Amaterasu released a huge sigh of relief, allowing a smile to form on her usually austere face. "Looks like it paid off. You did well, Gekko."Bookmark here

Before Tsukiakari or Izanami could respond, they found themselves embraced by a crying Izanami and cheered on by Tsukuyomi and the Shoku Twins. Most of the crowd that gathered to see the fight were stunned silent, their eyes widened in shock. To them, Bishamon was an unstoppable war god and an embodiment of strength itself. They couldn't believe he was ultimately bested by his former pupil.Bookmark here

"Gekko! You're alive! I was so scared you were going to die!" Izanami cried. "I thought you'd be cut into pieces or beaten to death and it took everything I had not to jump in and help you! Why are you so reckless all the time?!"Bookmark here

Tsukiakari softly chuckled. "Izanami, you're a slobbering mess right now."Bookmark here

"It's kind of cute, isn't it?" Tsukuyomi teased.Bookmark here

"Never change, Izanami." Osamu said with a smile.Bookmark here

The Shoku Twins, meanwhile, got their own slice of revenge on Bishamon. Both Akatsuki and Omagatoki delivered soft kicks to his limp head.Bookmark here

"That's for wrecking our lives!" Omagatoki shouted, trying to sound viciously upset but only managing to sound adorably cute.Bookmark here

"And for trying to wreck our lives again." Akatsuki added.Bookmark here

Uzume arrived with two shrine maidens at her side. Now that the fight was over, Bishamon's body had to be disposed of. One shrine maiden carried him by his arms while the other carried him by legs.Bookmark here

"Uzume, if it's not too much to ask, can you give him a proper burial?" Tsukiakari asked.Bookmark here

"After all he's done to you?" Uzume recoiled, a bit surprised.Bookmark here

"He was the wickedest man I've ever known, rotten to his core, but he was still my master.”Bookmark here

Uzume bowed. "As you wish, Gekko. Congratulations on your victory."Bookmark here

Everyone watched as Uzume and the shrine maidens took away Bishamon's corpse, drawing a mixed cacophony of angered cries and cheerful shouts from Heaven's crowd. Tsukiakari could care less if opinions about her were divided. After everything she had gone through because of Bishamon, she was able to attain her revenge with her family and friends at her side.Bookmark here

"How do you feel, Gekko?" Tsukuyomi asked.Bookmark here

"It feels like a massive weight was lifted off my shoulders just now." Tsukiakari smiled. "I spent all of these years terrified that he'd come after me and Izanami, but after all of his best efforts, he failed to kill either of us. He was the last of my enemies from the Warring States era. I won't be dealing with anymore ghosts from the pasts now."Bookmark here

"Knowing you, Izanami, I'm sure you prepared for this many years in advance." Akatsuki surmised. "There's no way you made a snap decision to break Tsukuyomi out of prison."Bookmark here

Izanami nervously chuckled as she rubbed the back of her head. "Well, it actually was."Bookmark here

"You improvised all of that?!" Osamu recoiled, shocked and appalled.Bookmark here

"I thought that if he ever returned, I'd be able to kill him before he ever posed a threat to Gekko." Izanami replied. "However, instead of approaching me or her first, he confronted you, Osa. He saw that I lived with my friends, and he tried to leverage that against me so that I couldn't act."Bookmark here

"To think that someone that handles things so strategically fell for such a simple trick involving the sword..." Omagatoki groaned.Bookmark here

"Bishamon had the mind of a general and a divine warrior." Amaterasu tittered. "However, Tsukiakari had spent plenty of time with her human comrades. She must've seen the humans engage in sword smithing. She understood what it takes to make and maintain a weapon, as well as how to break it. This fight was a fine example of how a commoner's knowledge can be a noble's downfall. Gekko, your experiences with humans is what led to your victory today. It was their spirit of craftsmanship that triumphed over Bishamon's delusions of grandeur, and of his attitude that such things were beneath him."Bookmark here

"What are you...getting at?" Tsukiakari asked, almost scared of the answer.Bookmark here

"Normally, the actions you took today would've gotten you the death sentence." Amaterasu said. "You were excused when you brought news of Bishamon's treachery, but that would've still left Osamu here with a noose around his neck. Humans aren't supposed to be here. This is the first time in Heaven's entire history that something like this has ever happened. Regardless of what Bishamon did to you, Osamu, I would've had you executed as well, at least to protect the secrets of the supernatural world."Bookmark here

"T-that's past tense, right? 'Would've'?" Osamu nervously stuttered.Bookmark here

Amaterasu gently laid her hand on his shoulder. "Tsukiakari demonstrated that living with humans can actually be quite beneficial for a goddess such as herself. Plus, I would hate to kill you when you're the lover of both Gekko and Izanami. It wasn't your fault you got wrapped up in all of this, anyway.'re off the hook."Bookmark here

Osamu released a massive sigh of relief as Omagatoki hugged his hip in a show of joy.Bookmark here

"However, if you pull something like this again..." Amaterasu began.Bookmark here

"No, believe me, we won't." Izanami assured. "We were in a really desperate place, Amaterasu. I apologize for our extremely drastic measures. As Gekko said, we don't have anymore enemies in Heaven or on Earth. We're finally free of our past.”Bookmark here

Tsukiakari suddenly shouted in pain as she fell to her knees, holding her hands at her forehead. Before anyone could ask what was wrong, the others felt stones pelting into their backsides. The surrounding gods threw rocks at Tsukiakari, cursing her from afar. The screamed and hollered like beasts or demons. Bookmark here

Osamu couldn’t believe what he was seeing. The gods behaved like barbarians, like children even. Bookmark here

“Gekko won a fair duel and they’re throwing rocks at her?” Osamu said.Bookmark here

Tsukiakari stood and pushed Osamu aside, stepping between her mother and the gods lobbing stones. Bookmark here

“Enough!” Tsukiakari roared, her anger potent enough to split mountains.Bookmark here

Her mighty scream silenced everyone. Even Osamu found himself petrified by her rage. Tsukiakari looked upon the angered, tear-soaked faces of the gods. Legions of godly men and women with diadems crowning their heads stood before her like an army of rioters. Not one of them dared to take a step closer to her.Bookmark here

“My fellow gods, the fight is over.” Tsukiakari said. “Bishamon lies dead, bested by the daughter of Amaterasu herself, the runaway princess of Heaven! And what do the gods do? They weep like the sycophantic dogs they are, throwing stones like women!”Bookmark here

Tsukiakari wiped the blood from her forehead. “Before you throw another, let us lay down the truth for all to see, of how I have been treated by you, and how you have been treated by me. When I left this realm, it was after the court, of which some of you here now are members of, threw my father into a prison on the moon. You deprived a little girl of her father for centuries! When that bereaved girl ran away, you punished her even further by branding her a stray, by forbidding her from ever coming home!”Bookmark here

Tsukiakari continued. “As you all know, following my exile from Heaven, I became involved in the Warring States era of Japan, a century-long conflict. The loss of human life was unfathomable. You all watched as your own country erupted into flames, and not a single one of you did anything about it. And you all know why you didn’t. It was because the work I did during that era helped you live longer. It helped you sleep soundly. It assured for you all that you will reincarnate throughout the ages, no matter what may befall you. Many of you standing here today owe your lives to me! You draw breath from Heaven because of me! You, vampires and parasites, the lot of you, leeched off of my sweat and blood, my tears and suffering!”Bookmark here

Tsukiakari saw bitterness stain the faces of the gods, for they all knew her words were true. They bit their lips and shook their heads, their gazes lowered in shame.Bookmark here

“My body is covered in scars from head to toe, scars that should’ve been on your bodies, were you not all cowards! Even now, you can only throw stones instead of stepping up to fight me! Swords, arrows, rocks, whips, spears, I suffered wounds from them all! I suffered violent deaths over and over again! I buried my loved ones, all of whom died not only for me, but for the glory of this very pantheon! And what do I ask for in return, after all of these years, besides for the death of the man who killed everyone I loved? To be welcomed back to the land I was wrongly banished from? Is that truly too much to ask of the pantheon that wronged me to the degree that you have? Who among you believe you have suffered more because of me than I because of you? Go on, prove it! Show me your scars! Tell me how many battles you fought, how many of your friends you had to bury, how many gods conspired to take away all that you hold dear!”Bookmark here

The fury of the crowd of gods was all but snuffed out now. Not a single one of them could meet Tsukiakari’s challenge. Bookmark here

“You took my father for murdering one god, but you played whore to Bishamon even after he murdered thousands of mortals! So go ahead, throw your stones. Shout your obscenities. But don’t you dare think I am beneath you, or even equal to you, because it was me who strengthened this pantheon, not him. It was I who created a nation from the ground up. They said the chaos of the Onin War could never be tamed, and I did it anyway. They said the likes of the Ashikaga, the Ouchi, the Hosokawa, and the Yamana clans could never be bested, and then my meager army punished them all! They said the gods themselves could never be conquered, but now you say nothing, because I have subjugated the strongest among you! My legacy will permeate throughout this realm forever. Yours? It has already vanished. You wear your robes and your diadems to grasp onto your phantom glories, all while you owe your very lives to me. You are not, have never been, and never shall be me equals. Throw as many stones as you like, peasants! You will always live under my shadow! Begone!”Bookmark here

After that, not a single stone was thrown. Not a single word of defiance was uttered. The gods, drowning in their defeated silence, dispersed and returned to their homes. Tsukiakari breathed a sigh of relief as she turned to Osamu and the others, all of them too stunned to speak.Bookmark here

“Sorry about that, guys.” Tsukiakari said. “I’ve kind of been waiting to say all of that for hundreds of years. It all just…came out.”Bookmark here

“No, all of it needed to be said, Gekko.” Izanami replied. “Don’t worry about them. They’ll have no choice but to come around now.”Bookmark here

"I can't believe this all worked out. But, Amaterasu, does this mean Gekko will be welcomed home now?" Osamu asked.Bookmark here

"Uzume said that was the case." Tsukiakari said.Bookmark here

"Yes, I'll have the court lift your status as a banished goddess." Amaterasu replied. "You'll be allowed to come and go as you please. However, I can't promise that all of the gods here will accept you. Bishamon dominated the politics of this realm in the centuries you were absent."Bookmark here

"That's fine. It's not like I need their acceptance anyway. I've got everyone I love right here." Tsukiakari said with blushing cheeks. "Well, almost everyone. We're still missing someone."Bookmark here

Amaterasu momentarily closed her eyes. She knew exactly who Tsukiakari spoke of, the name souring her mouth as it sat on the top of her tongue. Bookmark here

"You suffered quite a lot, didn't you, Gekko?" Amaterasu asked.Bookmark here

Tsukiakari nodded as she rubbed her arm, wincing in pain. Now that the fight had ended and the adrenaline wore off, Tsukiakari really began to feel the pain of her injuries. Her arm and chest burned as if they were on fire as the blood dripping from her wounds started to dry.Bookmark here

"Let's get Gekko patched up first." Tsukuyomi recommended. "Shall we sit on the steps?"Bookmark here

"Fine with me." Amaterasu replied.Bookmark here

Free from Bishamon's presence, Tsukiakari couldn't help but grin and laugh as she spoke with her friends and family. It was the first time that her mother, grandmother, and father were all with her at once. They sat down at the steps leading up to the hilltop village, the sun beaming down upon them from the clear, blue sky. First, Amaterasu rolled up Tsukiakari's sleeve to deal with her arm.Bookmark here

"Oh, Mom, can you not heal it all the way?" Tsukiakari requested.Bookmark here

"What? What do you mean?" Amaterasu asked.Bookmark here

"I mean, close up the wound and everything, but I want there to be a scar. I don't want to heal any of the scars I've garnered in my lifetime. I want to wear them with pride, as proof that no one has ever succeeding in destroying me." Tsukiakari explained. "I want to be battered but beautiful, just like the moon."Bookmark here

Amaterasu was stunned, staring at her daughter with wide eyes. "Gekko..."Bookmark here

She then lightly slapped Tsukiakari's cheek, clearly unimpressed with her request. "That's the silliest thing I've ever heard. Just let me heal you all the way."Bookmark here

Tsukiakari laughed. "No, really! Leave the scar!"Bookmark here

"I agree!" Osamu interjected. "Gekko's scars really give her a ton of personality!"Bookmark here

"Oh?" Amaterasu tittered. "Is that what it is? Or do you just like my daughter's body?"Bookmark here

"Guilty as charged!" Omagatoki cheered, pointing an accusatory finger at Osamu.Bookmark here

"Oma, you traitor!" Osamu shouted.Bookmark here

"Alright, alright." Amaterasu laughed. "I'll leave the scars."Bookmark here

"Don't forget to kiss her boo boo's." Tsukuyomi teased.Bookmark here

"One more word out of you, and I'll duel you next, Dad." Tsukiakari pouted.Bookmark here

"Now that's a fight I want to see!" Amaterasu said.Bookmark here

Tsukuyomi took her by surprise and kissed the scar left on her arm, while Amaterasu planted a soft kiss on her bruised knuckles. Ambushed by parental kisses in front of Osamu and the others, Tsukiakari's face turned as red as a blood moon.Bookmark here

"All better!" Amaterasu smiledBookmark here

"You two are the worst parents!" Tsukiakari giggled, tickled by their kisses. "That's why I love you both."Bookmark here

Watching Tsukiakari enjoy the company of both of her parents, Izanami's eyes welled up with tears of joy. "Sorry everyone in your family is so overbearing, Gekko. I think they get it from me."Bookmark here

After Tsukiakari's wounds were taken care of, everyone stood up from the steps and returned to the flowery meadows below. It was Amaterasu's intent to send everyone home for the time being, until the smoke from Bishamon's death cleared.Bookmark here

"Izanami, Osamu, Gekko." Amaterasu began.Bookmark here

"Yes?!" Osamu said, still terrified that Amaterasu might still punish him.Bookmark here

"Osamu first." Amaterasu laughed. "Thank you for taking care of my daughter. You were her only light during such a long, dark time. Even now, you dared to assault heaven and risk a second death by her side. I can see why she fell in love with you. You're strong and committed. You have my respect and appreciation. Though I'd normally punish you for slaughtering so many komainu and soldiers..."Bookmark here

"Hehe...sorry about that." Osamu sighed.Bookmark here

Amaterasu shook glad hands with Osamu. "All is well, mortal. Now then, Izanami."Bookmark here

"Yes?"Bookmark here

"It seems your love knows no limits. You treated Gekko as I should have treated her myself. I've decided to learn from you in that regard. Thank you for guarding her for all of these years." Amaterasu said with a bow.Bookmark here

" was no problem." Izanami smiled.Bookmark here

Amaterasu turned her gaze to Tsukiakari. "Gekko, my love. Can you ever forgive me for forsaking you?"Bookmark here

"Of course, Mom." Tsukiakari replied.Bookmark here

"Awww! You're so mature now!" Amaterasu doted, bombarding Tsukiakari with kisses.Bookmark here

"Come on, not cool! I'm too old for this!" Tsukiakari laughed, still as ticklish as she was when she was a child.Bookmark here

"I'm sorry dear." Amaterasu tittered. "You can return and stay in Heaven if you'd like. This place is your home, and there is an empty throne in the palace."Bookmark here

(Tsukiakari, the new god of war?)Bookmark here

"Sure, but I will not be a goddess of war. I'm done living my life by the sword. I don't want to end lives anymore. I want to enrich them. I'll decide how I want to do that later." Tsukiakari explained.Bookmark here

"Take your time, darling." Amaterasu said. "Now then, Tsukuyomi."Bookmark here

Tsukuyomi had his eyes closed and his heart prepared. "I did not come here expecting to be forgiven, or for our family to be put back together. I simply wanted to help our daughter and the young man who died with her."Bookmark here

"It was wise to lower your expectations." Amaterasu sighed.Bookmark here

"Wait, what's going to happen to him? He helped us out in all of this!" Osamu said.Bookmark here

"I'm very sorry, but Tsukuyomi is still a banished god." Amaterasu replied. "He killed the god of food and harvest long ago, causing the human race and the gods of heaven to grow hungry. That is his crime, and it can never be forgiven. Though I am grateful for what you've done, Tsukuyomi, I'm afraid you must be sealed again. I will forgive Izanami for unsealing you, given the circumstances."Bookmark here

His happy ending soured, Osamu could barely form any words of protest. "But that's..."Bookmark here

Tsukuyomi smiled and laid his hands on Osamu's shoulders. "Don't fret, Osamu. I expected things would end this way. I'm glad I was able to meet you and reunite with my daughter. And I too am thankful that you were a positive influence on her. It was an honor to get to know you and fight alongside you, Osamu. Keep on being who you are. Keep on being the glue that holds people together."Bookmark here

Osamu simply had to accept that Tsukuyomi was okay with the outcome of all of this. "I will. I promise I will. Thank you for saving my life."Bookmark here

The two men shook hands and bade farewell to each other.Bookmark here

"Izanami, thank you for saving these two, and for giving me a taste of freedom. None of this would've been possible without you." Tsukuyomi said.Bookmark here

Tsukuyomi and Izanami bowed to each other. And now, all that was left was to say goodbye to his daughter. Just by looking at her, he could tell his daughter was trying not to cry.Bookmark here

"Come on, don't give me that face." Tsukuyomi teased. "We got to see each other, be together, fight together, and have all sorts of fun again. You be a good girl, alright? If you ever feel lonely, just take a good look at the moon. The moon is my heart, and it shines with my love for you. It will always be in the sky. You were named after that very light, Tsukiakari. From now on, be a goddess of whatever you choose to be. You no longer have to do what anyone else tells you. You no longer have to fight in wars."Bookmark here

"Thank you...for everything." Tsukiakari whimpered.Bookmark here

The two gave each other their last hugs, both of them hanging onto the other as though they were about to disappear.Bookmark here

(He took this on knowing he'd probably just be sealed again. But he did it for his daughter...)Bookmark here

"You know...Amaterasu..." Tsukuyomi said with a renewed spring in his step. "Can I just have you honor one request?"Bookmark here

"What is it?" Amaterasu asked.Bookmark here

Tsukuyomi smiled. "There's something our daughter has always wanted to do that she's never had the chance to before..."Bookmark here

Back on earth, it was the morning of a new day in the neighborhood. Yoko and Isabella sat on the porch of the house eagerly awaiting the return of Osamu. They both looked towards the sky, watching for any sign of him, wishing him victory as each second passed. The spring air was cool, offering a nice counterbalance to the warm sun shining in the clear sky.Bookmark here

" stomach is killing me..." Isabella groaned.Bookmark here

Yoko suddenly stood up, sensing something deep in her bones. "Here he comes....I can feel it."Bookmark here

"I'm not sure about that. We've been waiting forever." Isabella said.Bookmark here

Just as Yoko sensed, a sign presented itself. Osamu, Tsukiakari, the Shoku Twins, and Izanami made their descent back to earth in Amaterasu's golden chariot. White horses led the way back down to earth, taking them to the woodlands just beyond the house. Isabella and Yoko knew, just from the golden twinkle in the sky, that Osamu had returned successful.Bookmark here

"Yoko, go get him! Bring him home!" Isabella said.Bookmark here

Yoko cheered out loud, crying tears of joy as she ran off in the direction the chariot was going. Osamu, and the others landed in the sun-spotted woodlands, exhausted from their journey. They all disembarked and got a fresh breath of clean, spring air, sweetened by the blooming flowers in the distance. Both of the chariot's white horses neighed and wailed, announcing that they had safely arrived at their destination.Bookmark here

"I told you we'd ride in a chariot together someday! I told you!" Tsukiakari said, leaping off the chariot and onto the soft grass.Bookmark here

"Alright, you were right! It wasn't a silly dream after all!" Osamu laughed, surprised she remembered that conversation.Bookmark here

"Be kind, Tsukiakari! Osamu isn't really the cheesy type!" Izanami tittered.Bookmark here

"Alright, alright. I forgive you, dummy." Tsukiakari said.Bookmark here

"Whew! Well, this has been an eventful twenty-four hours." Omagatoki groaned.Bookmark here

"Indeed." Akatsuki nodded. "Sis and I should be heading back to the shrine. We've still got jobs to do."Bookmark here

"Aww, so soon? I was hoping you two could hang out with us today." Osamu pouted.Bookmark here

"Fear not, Big Brother Osamu." Akatsuki assured. "We will be visiting you quite frequently. You have friends in us."Bookmark here

Osamu knelt down, hugging both of the twins in each arm. "Thanks for everything, you two. Next time you visit, I'll properly introduce you to Yoko and Isabella!"Bookmark here

"Yoko we've met already, but I do look forward to meeting this Isabella." Akatsuki said.Bookmark here

"Yes! Even more friends! Mortals, too! We're getting quite popular, Sis!" Omagatoki cheered.Bookmark here

"Thanks for everything, you two." Izanami said. "I'll check on you soon!"Bookmark here

"Don't get separated or anything, alright?" Tsukiakari joked.Bookmark here

"We'll try not to. Let's go, Sis." Akatsuki said.Bookmark here

"Bye everyone! See ya later!" Omagatoki sang, waving goodbye as she and her sister walked off.Bookmark here

"Bye!" Osamu, Izanami, and Tsukiakari all shouted in return, waving back at them.Bookmark here

Osamu put his hands on his hips as the twins disappeared beyond the tree line. "There they go. I hope they visit soon."Bookmark here

"What about you, Gekko?" Izanami asked.Bookmark here

Tsukiakari blushed as she hugged Osamu and planted a gentle kiss on his cheek. A wave of sadness hit him all of a sudden as he reciprocated her embrace.Bookmark here

"Are you leaving now?" Osamu asked.Bookmark here

"Yeah. I gotta go home. I need to start over with my mom, you know?" Tsukiakari said. "Plus, it's gonna take some time to undo Bishamon's influence. I have a lot to explain to everyone in Heaven."Bookmark here

(So she's leaving. This is how it ends...)Bookmark here

Tsukiakari pulled away and lightly slapped Osamu's shoulder. "Don't let it get you down, silly. I'll come down and visit real soon! This isn't goodbye, it's more like 'See you later'."Bookmark here

Osamu frown cracked into a smile. "Yeah, I guess you're right."Bookmark here

Tsukiakari smiled right back at him. "I love you, Osamu. Thank you for everything, and of course, for the chariot ride. You made a girl's dreams come true. I'll never forget that."Bookmark here

"No need to thank me, Gekko. I just did what any decent guy would do." Osamu modestly protested.Bookmark here

Tsukiakari closed her eyes and rubbed her chin. "You know, Osamu, I don't mean to point this out like this, but there's a big wasp on your forehead."Bookmark here

Osamu tried looking up with his eyes to see this wasp, freaking out in the process. "Where?! Where is it?! Don't toy with me, Gekko!"Bookmark here

Tsukiakari took the moment to steal a kiss from Osamu, one that was long overdue. Osamu stood paralyzed from the sneak attack as Tsukiakari rubbed her lips with her index finger.Bookmark here

"As sweet as honey!" Tsukiakari winked.Bookmark here

(Normally, I'd protest to such a devious trick. But, for some reason, I'm actually really happy she did that.)Bookmark here

"Someday, when you die, I'll make a special reserve for you in Heaven. That's the day where you and I will get married!" Tsukiakari declared.Bookmark here

"Seriously?! You haven't given up on that?!" Osamu recoiled.Bookmark here

Izanami slammed her palm over her face as she giggled. "Oh brother..."Bookmark here

"My chariot dream came true, didn't it?" Tsukiakari said. "I have faith my dream wedding will also come to pass. Until then, Osamu, keep your eyes on the moon. The moon is my heart, and it shines with my love for you."Bookmark here

Osamu nodded. "Thanks, Gekko. In that case, I'm looking forward to our wedding."Bookmark here

Tsukiakari gave him a thumb's up and turned to Izanami. "Izanami. What can I say? I'm only here because of you. You saved me yet again. Thank you for loving me and being so patient. I know I'm a bit of a problem child."Bookmark here

"A bit? You're responsible for most of my headaches and worries!" Izanami scolded.Bookmark here

Izanami hugged her even tighter than her mother did in heaven. "But you're still the best thing in my life, Gekko. I love you. Take good care of yourself, and don't forget to visit!"Bookmark here

"I won't, I won't! I promise."Bookmark here

Yoko finally caught up with them, drawing their attention with the sound of her footsteps. "Gekko!"Bookmark here

"Huh? Yoko?" Tsukiakari asked, initially unable to believe her eyes.Bookmark here

Yoko caught her breath and stood tall, walking towards Tsukiakari with unclear intentions.Bookmark here

"It's okay if you hate me. I'll be going away soon anyway. You and Isabella have my deepest apologies." Tsukiakari said.Bookmark here

Yoko surprisingly kissed Tsukiakari on the lips, and quite passionately too. At long last, Osamu's suspicions were confirmed.Bookmark here

"I knew there was some sort of girl love going on that I didn't know about!"Bookmark here

(My harem senses were right on this time!)Bookmark here

Tsukiakari's face was flushed red, completely caught off guard by Yoko's kiss.Bookmark here

"You are one hell of a chore, Gekko. Never do that again, alright?" Yoko pleaded.Bookmark here

"One of these days, I'll repay you for your hospitality." Tsukiakari promised.Bookmark here

(You mean your SEXY hospitality!)Bookmark here

"Until then, Yoko...will you be my girlfriend?!" Tsukiakari proposed.Bookmark here

The jaws of Osamu and Izanami hit the floor.Bookmark here

(No way! No way! No way!)Bookmark here

"Yes. I would love to be your girlfriend!" Yoko proudly sang.Bookmark here

"B-b-but that's impossible! How can a girl love another girl?!" Izanami asked, her pale face turning red.Bookmark here

(Izanami, still so innocent!)Bookmark here

"Yes! I've got a girlfriend now! I can leave happy!" Tsukiakari cheered.Bookmark here

Tsukiakari gave a quick love peck to Yoko before hopping back on the chariot.Bookmark here

"Well, I'm off. I'll be sure to visit you guys whenever I can!" Tsukiakari said, giving everyone a salute. "I love you all so much! Thank you, from the bottom of my heart! Give my love to Izzy as well! Tell her I'm sorry!"Bookmark here

"She already forgives and loves you, Gekko. No need to worry." Yoko assured.Bookmark here

"Good, I'm glad. Hey, Osamu..." Tsukiakari began.Bookmark here

"Yeah?"Bookmark here

"Wear a white tux!" Tsukiakari said with a sly grin and wink.Bookmark here

The horses kicked their legs and the chariot soared into the sky. From the ground, the three could hear Tsukiakari cheering from the sky, her life finally back in order. The chariot disappeared beyond the sapphire-blue expanse of the heavens, leaving just Izanami, Yoko, and Osamu.Bookmark here

"So long, war goddess." Osamu saluted with a proud smirk.Bookmark here

Finally together again, Osamu, Yoko, and Izanami made the walk back to the house. As they strolled through the woods, Osamu's head spun around in circles. His vision grew foggy, causing him to stumble over his own feet. It seemed his body was finally giving out from the extensive traveling and fighting he had done over the past year.Bookmark here

Yoko caught Osamu on her back as he fell and carried him. "Osa!"Bookmark here

"Are you okay, Osamu?" Izanami asked, her hands clasped in worry.Bookmark here

"Yeah, sorry." Osamu assured with a tired smile. "It's been a long year away from home."Bookmark here

"You must be exhausted, dear. You did good, Osamu. I'm proud of you." Yoko said.Bookmark here

Osamu closed his eyes, surprised that Yoko was strong enough to carry him. "Thank you, Yoko."Bookmark here

"Get some rest. I'll carry you the rest of the way back home." Yoko commanded. "You've gotten really light, huh?"Bookmark here

"I think he lost a considerable amount of weight over the past year and a half." Izanami said.Bookmark here

"Well, now that you're both back, let's get you rested!" Yoko sang. "You two can relax. Izzy and I will cook you a big meal!"Bookmark here

Osamu's work was done. Now he and Izanami could finally return home and rest. The house that had become empty and miserable would have its occupants return and its laughter restored.Bookmark here

(In the end, Tsukiakari chose to live with her scars, to wear them with pride. She accepts them as proof that not a single tragedy or enemy had the power to break her. I think I can learn a lot from her. From now on, I'll wear my scars with pride as well, Gekko. Who would've thought that my kindergarten love could teach me so much?)Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.