Chapter 45
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Chapter 45:

  "I wanted to apologize. Even though you've been so good to me, making love to me and raising our six children, I've only come to announce I want a seventh." I went down into dogeza position and struck my forehead at Rose's feet.

  Rose sighed, looking down at my shameless raised behind. "I'm used to it by now. Eizen is already ten, so it's fine. Soon enough my apartment would be empty again and it's not like my job at Police Headquarters is exactly riveting either."

  I stood up with puppy dog eyes. "Then?"

  "Seven or fourteen, it's all the same to me." Rose gave me a thumbs-up and a cocky grin, and I sighed in relief. I always felt like I was going to die when I started asking too much of her.

  "By the way, I noticed the Cenotaph Sakura Appeared outside my workplace." Rose sat down in my lap sidesaddle and wrapped her arm around the back of my neck. Her bright blue eyes contrasted brilliantly with her bright red hair to the point that it left me breathless even after all this time. "I think it's great that you've finally spelled out exactly what's expected of us. It's hard to be a police force without any laws."

  I was mesmerized by her face and took the opportunity to kiss her on the lips, to which she readily assented. But then she gave me a glare to show she wanted something different today.

  "It's always been your job as shepherd to lead people towards a pure life in service of God. I think it's wonderful that you're taking your job seriously. You've always been the chosen one, and you need to assert yourself as such. As your squire, my station is affected too whenever you let yourself get trampled over. And as a member of the Scattered Bones, I can't allow sin to fester if the law fails to act. You're saving me the bother of becoming an outlaw by assigning the Police Force to what I'd have done as a vigilante anyway." Rose smirked, daring me to question how serious she was.

  "Cute-sama suddenly cut off the life of eight of my children, people who had families, who people loved and depended on, suddenly gone. It's true that they haven't died, but I feel bad for the people who miss them, who now have to go without. For all intents and purposes, to their friends and families they did die. In the interests of avoiding a repeat of that tragedy I wanted future generations to know when and where they were going wrong and for God's sake to turn back while they still could. I thought my "Arts, Literature, Philosophy and Morality" class would be enough to show people right from wrong, but apparently not." I sighed.

  "Not everyone loves 2d as much as you do, even though we were all born from it." Rose smiled gratefully. "They'll see the same things, the same people, and say 'kudaranai, I could do so much better.'"

  "Even after years and years of different stories all approaching it from different angles and revealing the same underlying values?" I protested. How did 200 anime franchises, 50 video game franchises, 50 visual novel franchises, 75 manga franchises, 100 authors, 200 movies and 10 tv shows still not get their messages across?

  "Even if I watched a thousand shows telling me the death penalty was wrong, I'd never be convinced. Though I admit I was troubled by that scene in 12 Kingdoms. When the daughter of the lord, who had never done anything, was sentenced to being torn apart by oxen walking in four different directions with ropes tied to her limbs, even I started to wonder if death was something that could be trusted in human hands. But then I thought of all the evil people who would have gotten away scot-free if I hadn't been there to kill them, and I clench my fist again. Even if the innocent have to die every now and then, that the guilty should continue living would be even worse. Someone has to draw the line. Someone has to make clear that certain things you simply cannot do, they aren't okay, and they won't be forgiven. I decided that someone would be me, and nothing you or anyone else says is going to change that." Rose said.

  "But that's because Rose is Rose. Most people don't have such strong convictions. And especially as children, they should be more pliant. . ." I countered.

  "I have the strength of my convictions out of a strong sense of justice, but they also have strong impetuses to ignoring your classroom lessons. If they're attracted to other men, or other women, they're going to search for excuses why they should be able to indulge. It isn't very different from your polygamy." Rose said.

  "Polygamy and incest are still traditional bonds that work with the biological reality of sexual dimorphism, not against it, and are capable of reproduction, not just revelry." I rattled off.

  "I know, but you probably thought up those things after you looked at two different girls and wanted to hold their breasts in two different hands together." Rose smirked. "As the boy who stood up at a dinner table and demanded every threesome he had ever dreamed of from us, are you really going to tell me it was out of some philosophical ideal?"

  "It's both. I have impulses and desires like everyone else, probably more than most, but if I knew the impulse was wrong, I wouldn't act upon it. It's because I think it's both beautiful and moral that I made my wish. . . at the dinner table, and the one to Cute-sama. . ." I responded carefully.

  "That's the difference between you and them. But you have to see how easily twisted it all is. If they can justify their act as moral too, then there's nothing different between them and you. And sophists can justify practically anything. Which means in the end people can't be cajoled into doing the right thing, in the end it always comes down to the dagger. Or in Eden's case, our patented tossing off of cliffs." Rose smiled at the memory of Araragi falling to his doom. He had solved his sexual emergency, and we had solved his rottenness emergency, so it had worked out for all involved.

  "Eden will be subsumed with kegare just like Zestiria was, if we aren't steadfast. You are the shepherd, I am your squire, your enforcer, your sheepdog, and they are our flock. They'll blindly wander all over the place and be lost to the wolves if we don't occasionally bark at them. It's just how sheep are." Rose explained.

  "Do you see any holes in the Ten Commandments?" I asked my disciplinarian.

  "I worry about a cold sleep strike. If an entire generation of girls demanded they be allowed to put off marriage, and they were all fine with going into cold sleep and going their own way together, it could spell trouble. Once girls feel just a teeny bit independent, they go crazy with the euphoria of ball crushing." Rose warned. As a girl who had lived at the top of a hierarchy of men, thinking she needed one like a fish needed a bicycle, she would know how hard it was to fall in love and settle down with someone herself.

  "I guess there's a couple antidotes to that. One is, even if they fly away together, it won't do them much good unless some men choose to join them. And what man would willingly give away the mandatory marriage custom in order to be with women who could and most probably would eternally turn them down?" I pointed out. "Second, so long as our men stay as handsome, strong and cool as they are now, what reason do they have to object?"

  "With the citizen's dividend, women don't need men for financial support. For that matter just with Siri, or even just with Riko or Sakura Kinomoto or Mitsuki's help, they don't need men. The major reason women were ever attracted to men doesn't exist on Eden. Also, since there are no foreign threats, we don't need men's protection from anything. For that matter, on average aren't the women stronger than the men?" Rose raised her eyebrows at me.

  "I've always felt the weakest link in our community was keeping women interested in men, and the one thing holding our planet together is the mandatory marriage law. If that went away Eden would be gone. The very next day, just stick a fork in it. And since the mandatory marriage law is the only thing keeping women interested in men, of course they'll resent it more than anything else. It's not only the pillar that supports our world, it's also the target of everyone's ire." Rose warned.

  "As to how women would make it on their own, there's sufficient genetic engineering and cloning technology to see things through. That isn't a serious objection. The real reason girls don't want to fly away is because they are genuinely attracted to men, so they'd be lonely without them. We have to find a way to make our men more attractive. More and more attractive, to make up for everything they've lost. They aren't providers, they aren't protectors, they're just men. Women consigning themselves to marriage early, before they're corrupted, fed a daily diet of wonderful romance stories, and then buried in the needs of crying infants isn't a bad idea. It's actually a masterful plan. But I worry whether such a sleight of hand can last forever. Ultimately it would be better if the girls could fall in love and want to marry naturally." Rose appraised my efforts so far.

  "We're only human. If being moral, smart, strong and cool isn't enough. . ." I gestured helplessly. "I was a virgin throughout my long life on Earth. The only way I got a wife was by wishing for one. I have no idea how to make men attractive to women. It seems to me that it's just impossible."

  "You were pretty cool when you slew that dragon." Rose kissed me soothingly.

  "That's what I'm talking about! Cute-sama help us! For every waifu it was a dark god here, a dragon there, a fallen angel over there -- the laws of physics are broken! I had to fight people who were blowing up entire solar systems with meteors multiple times in a row! That's how I got the girl. I got hit by a meteor that just blew up the solar system, got back up, and Omnislashed a one winged angel! Isn't that asking a little too much??????????" I gave out a full throated wail of despair.

  Rose started laughing and beating her fist against my thigh, the longer I narrated the fights the more she cracked up against me. I could feel every shake of her body against mine so the pleasantry was more than auditory.

  "It's the same in principle, but I don't think it always has to be to that degree. All we really want from men is that they be our rocks. They should keep us grounded, anchor us down, stand firm against outside pressure, withstand emotional stresses and carry our weight when we're feeling overwhelmed. In Zestiria I appreciated your strength, but before then, independent to that, you were already what I wanted in a man. A guy who dealt with others freely and fairly, not worried about looking good to others, confident in himself and in his ability to navigate and enjoy life. You never met a challenge you weren't willing to take head on, you never shirked a responsibility once it had fallen to you, you were centered. You were zen. And I know only the brainwashing makes me respect that in you, but that's how my heart feels. Your strength started from the core and only at the end did it reach the dragon slaying tip. Your soul was strong enough to be the chosen one granted the strength of the spirits to fulfill the ancient prophecies. We aren't stupid. We aren't blind. Even if there aren't any dragons or demons around, if you show that strength of spirit to us we'll always, 100% swoon. Just like I did for you then -- and just like I do for you now. The man who can post his very own Ten Commandments and promise to throw anyone off a cliff who doesn't like it -- even his own wives or children -- that's a rock I can tie myself to and never worry if my footing will crumble. I feel safe with you, I feel safe trusting the things important to me to you, and most of all I feel stronger at your side. And again, it isn't the strength to slay a dragon we women need. We mostly have that and we don't need it here. We need the strength to master ourselves, our flightiness, our constantly flickering emotions, our contradictory desires pulling us every which way -- we are like water. Without men to guide our course, we just gush everywhere and spread out into a formless ooze. We need you to stand firm, stand tall, and stand for what is right. All men, ideally, are women's shepherds." Rose finished.

  "I've actually heard that before. That in the home, the patriarch was meant to explain scripture and channel God's authority to his wife and children." I mused.

  "You have it good. As God's husband, there can be no doubt of your plenipotentiary authority. I have to say we're all a little floored over here. I'd be nervous about having to compete with Cute except I keep thinking back to those calls for threesomes and I know one girl will never be enough for you." Rose smiled and kissed me again. "But if your sons and grandsons and great-grandsons and great-great-grandsons want to keep up, if they don't want your daughters and granddaughters and great-granddaughters and great-great-granddaughters going into a cold sleep strike, they need to be as spiritually solid as you. They need to stay calm, collected and assured in their judgments, they need to withstand every test made against them, and they need to demand the same from us without trying to curry favor by letting us get away with anything less. That's what we'll admire, and that's the men we'll stick around for."

  "So maybe a class describing the Ten Commandments, the penumbras and details surrounding it, and what happens to the worlds that go against it. . ." I brainstormed.

  "For high schoolers, add a few hours somewhere, and literally teach them theology. There can be no doubt that this is God's word. Cute is across the street and she hasn't objected to your cenotaph, which invokes her constantly. Men are the bridge between God's eternal constancy and women's ever changing fickleness. We yearn for that bridge to bring us closer to God -- so just make it so." Rose suggested.

  "Theology. Maybe we can even ask Cute-sama for some pointers. I know she's chatted with a lot of people who came to the shrine asking for clarifications. If we combined all their notes -- with our perfect memory we should know exactly what she said word for word." I started really liking the idea.

  "Eventually we'll have our very own holy book, but this time it really will be the word of God." Rose enthused. "And what could be more important teaching our children than the literal word of God?"

  "Okay, anything else?" I stroked my hand through Rose's short red hair appreciatively, my thumb caressing her cheek.

  "Yes. The cenotaph clearly says we shouldn't cause needless harm to animals, but we're still slaughtering animals out in the Siri butcher yards. Technically, as a loyal member of the police force, I should be arresting everyone on Eden. And the penalty for every crime on Eden is death. . ." Rose pointed out.

  "Needless! Meat is important so it's okay!" Being around Rose really was life endangering!

  "But with the advances Earth made in meat substitutes, can you really say that anymore? Plants with the same taste, texture and nutrition as animals exist. Cell cultures exist. So isn't it about time I lay all your bones to rest?" Rose asked curiously.

  "Meat substitutes! Free the cattle to range the plains!" I squeaked, writing down another note.

  "Yoroshi." Rose kissed me once more with an enigmatic grin.