Chapter 59:
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Chapter 59:

Girls' Side:

  Shiori Amsynth was the last child of God and her partner, the progenitor of this universe, Mayor Christopher the First of his name. She had over 1,000 older siblings but 0 younger siblings. She could look to her left and see an endless string of varied personages, but on her right there was nothing but a cold void. She was the end of the line. That made her very much akin to the alpha and omega of this world, which meant it was up to her to summarize and encompass its meaning. Being such a historical figure meant she always had taken a strong interest in history, so she had thrown herself into her studies whenever that class period arrived in school.

  Eden had no history, as history was the study of change over time, but nothing in Eden had ever changed. It was still run by its founders after all this time, and they had maintained the same culture and laws throughout. Eden hadn't yet left the garden of Eden. So aside from a brief introduction of Eden's founders and founding principles perforce the study of history was the study of their origin world, Earth, which mostly meant a study of every wrong thing Earth did in its long but inglorious course. Basically, if you learned how Earth messed up in every single way imaginable, which led to all of its cultures and empires eventually falling apart, you could choose not to do any of those things and by order of elimination end up at perfection.

  In first grade humanity's mistakes were pretty obvious, because history covered the uncivilized, illiterate regions of the Earth and how they developed before coming into contact with the wider world -- the Eskimoes, Maoris, Australian Aborigines, Amerindians (North and South), Africans and the like. It was pretty jarring stuff for a young innocent child to hear about, but nothing a demigod couldn't handle. It was an unrelenting horror show of human sacrifice, torture, self-mutilation, slavery, endless petty tribal warfare and cannibalism. It was hard to believe these people were actually sentient, fully evolved human beings and not just another branch of apes. They certainly didn't act like anyone she knew.

  Second grade focused on a slightly superior region and culture, the Indian subcontinent, which accounted for a surprisingly huge fraction of humanity's total population, despite never achieving anything of note with it. There she learned of silly religions like Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism that trapped the populations into a false sense of complacency (the idea that you were born into a caste and could never deviate from it so there was no point trying hard or being ambitious in life, or that everything in this world was illusion so nothing was worth achieving in the first place, or utter pacifism which meant you were no better than bugs and should let anyone and everyone trample over you). It's no wonder people raised like this never won any wars against the wider world, had a ridiculously low Olympic medal to population ratio, was poverty stricken and backwards.

  Third grade focused on the Muslims of the Middle East and North Africa, a terrifyingly effective religion and culture that nevertheless only exported death as its legacy. Eventually these Muslims had spread to all corners of the world and then destroyed the world in nuclear fire, perfectly in keeping with their religious mandate to wage jihad on the infidel and to die as martyrs in order to reach Paradise which was chock full of virgin brides. (Actually her father's and Islam's idea of paradise weren't that far apart from each other.) The history of this region was a history of unrelenting war on all their neighbors all the time. A ring of fire surrounded Islam's borders -- wherever Muslims went there was conflict, with whoever they met, and wherever the Muslim diaspora traveled there followed horrendous levels of crime -- rape, murder, vandalism and all the rest that made life unlivable in their vicinity. Islam was what you ended up with if you left women completely out of the equation. Harems, crimes and wars of conquest were what all men wished for and would eventually focus on if left to their own devices. Sidelining women, covering them up and keeping them locked in their homes, silencing them, ignoring their wishes and refusing to even educate them so they couldn't effectively articulate the thoughts and feelings in their hearts, let the primordial instincts of men run rampant and drown the world in blood and fire.

  Fourth grade covered the grandeur and majesty of ancient Greece and Rome. Finally instead of reading old deranged religious texts they were able to survey cogent and rational deeds and men. Their textbooks were straight from the source: Tacitus, Herodotus, Plutarch, Plato, Aristotle, Aeschylus, Virgil, Lucretius and all the rest. Because Greece and Rome were so great it was all the sadder that they, too, went away. Gibbon described their decline and fall in great detail, but ultimately it came down to selfish, shortsighted decisions by one leader after the next killing the golden goose of the people's spiritual virtue, martial prowess and economic productivity for temporary local gains like peace in their time, luxurious living through debasement of the currency and increased taxation, or winning a power struggle by starting a civil war and defeating some rival claimant who was basically the exact same as them and would have ruled just as well, in the process destroying half the empire. They took what should have been an unassailable ascendancy and degraded it by stupid personal vices all the way down to the point where random barbarian tribesmen started outcompeting them, who took advantage of the situation to sack and pillage the now supine and listless land they had previously always admired and feared. The Byzantine Empire lasted a while longer, but the same stupid mistakes kept hounding them. A war with the Catholics over which form of Christianity was correct while Muslims amassed at their door had to be the height of human stupidity. They also managed to exhaust themselves warring with Persia before the Arabs took advantage of the situation and conquered both them and Persia, basically unopposed.

  Shortsighted decisions all. Anyone with a brain at that time could have seen the need for unity and strength in the face of the uncivilized world ranged all around their border, but ceaselessly the civilized world fell into infighting. There was even a war fought over whether the green or blue chariot teams were the proper fandom. Shiori wasn't kidding. Rome fought a civil war over chariot squads. It's no wonder such a culture sank into oblivion, never to be seen again.

  Fifth grade dealt with the beautiful but tragic Orient. There, time and again, an invention would be made, only to be buried again by the next Emperor. Or an art style would emerge, only to disappear after losing favor in court. China would be united after a long and bloody war, only to immediately break apart again due to a single Emperor's bad decisions. Every time the Far East looked like it was getting ahead, every time it looked like a land of scholars, prosperity and philosophy, they would inexplicably reverse course and return to ruthless barbarism. Slavery, eunuchs, foot-binding women, purdah, piracy, the entire wealth of the nation robbed to support harems and palaces for a single despot, and like usual, the same old infighting between meaningless differences all while the Mongols gathered on the border. China and Japan's history didn't move forward in a line, but inexplicably went in circles. In the 1600's Japan was a land of rifles and cannons, but in the 1700's it was back to swords and bows. It was dizzying.

  Sixth grade covered the exciting developments of the Renaissance and the Age of Exploration in Europe. There the first glimmerings of a connection between modern reality and humanity's past began to take shape and form. Europe took advantage of the powers of capitalism and science to outcompete their neighbors not just with military might, but also population growth via increasing crop yields, trade networks, the printing press which allowed them to record and disseminate all useful innovations between each other, and a passionate missionary zeal to spread their superior religion and culture to the rest of the world, which they rightly perceived as shrouded in darkness. These Europeans in their glorious galleons travelled the world only to find skull racks and feasting on other people's brains. Bare breasted women poked full of bones and metal and hair encased with mud as decoration. Lands with little or no domesticated animals or crops because the people had been too stupid and wasteful with the native flora and fauna, never thinking to cultivate instead of exterminate the lower life forms. And into all these backwards regions of mankind, which had been perpetually frozen in time, never doing anything since she had learned about them in first grade, the flowers of new nations bloomed like the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Nations which went on to contribute massive wealth, new technologies, new artistic masterpieces, new crops, new ideas, new everything to the world. They created a new world vastly superior not only to what they had found on arrival, but even the old Europe they had left behind. This was an old Europe not far removed from the Black Plague and the 100 Years' War, Russia being conquered by the Mongols, Spain by the Muslims and Hungary by the Turks. It was a relief to get away from it all and start over with an open frontier whose only challenge was malarial swamps and naked men wearing war paint.

  Seventh grade covered the Industrial Revolution, the Protestant Reformation, the American and French Revolution, Napoleon, the American Civil War, Catherine and Peter the Great, and all things European. There was a lot to learn from Hume's History of England, a sort of companion work to Gibbon's Roman history, Dostoevsky and the collected plays of William Shakespeare. Lots of bad stuff still occurred during this period, like the 30 Years War where the Christians yet again decimated their population fighting over how many angels could dance on the head of a pin and similarly inane disputes. But overall it was a hopeful story of mankind throwing off the shackles of superstition and embracing reason and progress as their driving purpose in life. The world seemed limitless back then, with natural forces being systemically categorized, explained and then brought under control. Disease was no longer a curse given by God to the sinful, but a microorganism that could be controlled via clean water and regular bathing. Kings were no longer God-given rulers of mankind, but people given legitimacy by the social contract of their subjects, who agreed to be ruled by them so long as their reign was just. Slavery and serfdom were voluntarily set aside as antiquated customs beneath human dignity. Nations were based not on marriages between various noble families with large land inheritances, but by the natural borders of the people's beliefs, language, customs and ethnic ties. Mankind harnessed the nigh-Godlike power of steam, coal and steel.

  Eighth grade saw the end of regional history as the world entered a new global era, where all people's developments were in line with events from all over the globe. No one could escape modernity anymore, which became clear with the First and Second World War. Humanity was all connected whether they liked it or not. Following those two horrendously destructive wars, where all old Empires and old ideas came to an end, there followed an extremely tense Cold War, then a War on Terror, followed by a war to maintain the 'rules-based order,' whatever that was. The world never really stopped warring ever since that stupid archduke had to go and get himself killed. There were pandemics like the Spanish Flu and Covid-19 that swept the entire world, Great Depressions that toppled regimes spanning oceans, and talk of Global Warming where everyone everywhere was responsible for wildfires and hurricanes occurring on the other side of the globe. There were some benefits of globalism, like the World Cup and the Olympics, where the whole world came together to celebrate human excellence and fair play, or the spread of otaku art from the narrow confines of Japan to the entire world, or the movies of Hollywood airing in theaters all across the Earth, or one small step for man also being one giant leap for mankind, but all in all it was hard to say if the balance had been positive.

  Ninth grade was the study of Earth's denouement. There history ended, because the Earth ended. It was easy to blame the Muslims, because the Muslims had in fact destroyed the world, but it wasn't really about them. Just like how Rome's inner weakness invited their barbarian conquerors, the decay of personal virtues, the rise of parasitism over productivity, and the decline of the nuclear family, opened the door to what should have been an easily solvable challenge. Weakness invites aggression. Strong cultures, strong people, never had to worry about what some evil outsider might be plotting or thinking, because none of it would succeed anyway. Only weak people, like weak immune systems, fell prey to predators. The excesses of toxic masculinity were thoroughly documented in third grade, and its mirror was the excesses of toxic femininity which ruined mankind in ninth grade. For some reason male leadership faded away in this era, and whatever men who did rule did so by parroting the thoughts and feelings of women. Excuses were made for the inexcusable, everything was tolerated, forgiven and justified. You literally could not do wrong. Criminals could do ten felonies without serving a day in jail. You could sleep around with ten different men in a year, kill your own babies, betray your marriage vows, manipulate and pervert children into demented and self-destructive lifestyles, shatter your body and brain with toxic substances -- it was anything goes. Anything that weakened yourself, your bonds with others, society, or your relationship with God was accepted or even commendable. You were still a special and beautiful snowflake no matter what you did, deserving of sympathy and charity. The only unforgivable sin in this brave new world was the refusal to conform to the latest fad, the most womanly sin imaginable. If you ever disagreed with the ruling consensus you were banished and demeaned as subhuman. It was to the point that serial killers and terrorists would vociferously make clear they weren't like those bad people, the racists or sexists, they were killing and eating their victims for purely personal reasons. On the totem pole of human goodness, the serial killers were far higher status than the people who clung to reason, truth or God and refused to step on the fumie of whatever the prevailing fashionable belief of the day happened to be.

  Her father had been one of those lowest status sewer rats, the gutter trash of society, for refusing to believe the unbelievable, and his life had been made impossible, miserable, and ultimately extinguished by that merciless world. That one criminal act was enough to justify the end of the world right there. Considering what that same person had created in Eden when given the chance, it was hard to believe how insane Earth had become. How many millions of additional people had been likewise tormented and crushed underfoot by that mindless conformity all across Earth's final century? How many tortured for the sin of being right and demanding more from humanity than this putrid rotting fruit? How many brilliant lights were extinguished, snuffed out, their creations never seeing the light of day, because they would not toe the party line?

  In the end the Muslims had been the coup de grace, a mercy killing, for which the Earth should have been thankful. It had become such a disgrace, such a mockery of what had come before, of all those inventors and philosophers and statesmen who had brought humanity all the way to outer space, only to see it end in zonked out zombies, conmen and clowns, that nukes were a step up from the status quo.

  Tenth, eleventh and twelfth grade still had history courses, but they were based on the freedom of self-study. You could delve deeper into whatever era or topic you liked and learn all about the Ottomans, the Hapsburgs, the Vikings, Southeast Asia, ancient Israel, Egypt, Mesopotamia or whatever. Places and times that ultimately didn't make much of an impact on the world's history, and usually disappeared forgotten by even the people who lived there. Shiori had focused on the U.S.S.R. and related communist entities for 10th grade, reading a neverending fount of wisdom about the human condition by Solzhenitsyn. 11th grade had been Japanese history, because Eden was seeped in its culture so it made sense to learn the names of every last warlord and poet from that corner of the world despite their ultimate insignificance. And for 12th grade she learned about Latin America after the revolutions of Bolivar which set it on a separate course from Europe thereafter. Other than flamboyant dances, food, music and architecture it was a pretty sorry course, though. Lots of dictators, guerilla wars and narco gangs. Lots of murder, poverty and pollution, but not much else. At least they were good at soccer.

  Eden had no college, so the later years of high school tended to allow more range and freedom of academic thought than usual. Another way of saying it was the people of Eden were smart enough to condense all of school, including college, into the first eighteen years of life, so that they could then go out and actually live while they were still young enough to enjoy it. Shiori was satisfied that any history worth knowing she had already learned, that school had done its job, and she didn't need it anymore. Endless extra years of education weren't a strength, they were a crutch, an excuse to not become an adult and do something meaningful with your life. She knew that men and women had vital contributions to society and neither of them could be spared without disastrous consequences. She knew why the family, which included a man, a woman and children, was the elementary particle of human existence and not the individual, which was prone to mental and emotional imbalances on one side or the other. She knew why Christopher should continue ruling the world, because the alternatives were unthinkably awful. She knew why it was important that she fall in love and start a family of her own sooner rather than later, so that she didn't get lost in a maze of hedonism and self-indulgence, but took up an overarching purpose and duty that could help shape her legacy and contribution to the community that had doted on her as the last and thus most precious and adorable child on Eden. She knew that when it came time for her to rule over a galaxy or two, she would be a selfless but stern ruler like all the best examples history had provided, the rulers who had made their empires flourish instead of decay. She knew that teaching history to the kids who followed after her, her own children included, was a good way to keep that talent sharpened until the day of its necessity arrived. She even knew about Shiori Rin, the wonderful girl she had been named after and hoped to match someday.

  She knew who she was and who she was meant to be. Shiori Amsynth, the last child of God, and the first of the coming Galactic Empire, which would make all of human history worth it.

  The only problem was the quintuplets were all in the same grade and classroom, so it was hard to stand out and get a boy's attention. Shiori was as beautiful as Helen of Troy, another demigod like herself, but what was the use when Rei, Kotone, Chiharu and Aiko were too? Wherever a boy looked there was a demigod! Actually that wasn't the real problem. The real problem was every last boy in her class was a coward who thought a demigod was too good for him, so wouldn't even approach her. Didn't Cute, a full blooded God, marry a mortal man? Why didn't they try to repeat that fairy tale, didn't they want to seize that pleasure for themselves? Here she was, as cute as a button, eager to fall in love and start a family. And over there -- on the other side of the classroom! -- clustered the boys as they talked about baseball, anime and video games between each other. She was eighteen and about to graduate! Her father was going to throw her off a cliff in two years at this rate! (Though the execution method would have to be altered a bit for her, given that she had angel wings and could fly at will. . .Shiori learned in French history that the guillotine had been invented as a method to elegantly execute nobility who deserved better than a common headsman, so no doubt her noble neck was destined for that.)

  She decided to consult her father, who seemed well versed in romance, given that he had successfully managed 101 wives for 600 years, during class together. Father made time for all of his children in this manner, being there for them two hours out of every day, during "Arts, Literature, Philosophy and Morality" class. She wondered how many of his other decisions were deviously well intentioned like this, always finding an excuse to love the people he wanted to love as somehow a part of his duty. Actually, since all her sisters were in the same boat (Thank God! It would be too humiliating if she were the only single quintuplet left!), it would be better if they all confronted him together. How could he execute them when they were doing all they could to be pleasing but no one would dare look them in the eye much less confess?

  Rei, Shiori telepathically sent to her closest sister. I have a plan to avoid the guillotine. Can you convince all the sisters to cooperate?

* * *

  "Otou-san, Chichi, Chichiue, Tou-chan, Papa," The quintuplet angels ambushed me at the front of my desk, all calling me by their favored terms, in a cuteness collision that threatened the fabric of the universe.

  "What is it?" I kept a poker face, trying to maintain my dignity as world ruler.

  "You wooed a God, so surely you know. Tell me, how do divinities and mortals get together? We need your help!" Shiori pleaded.

  Thinking back, wasn't it Cute who wooed me? If she hadn't made her intentions known, I never would have dared to make a move on her. Oh. That kind of explained everything about these five pensive faces in a nutshell.

  "Have you considered proactively hugging a guy and offering to marry them?" It had worked for Cute, after all.

  "That's way too embarrassing!" Shiori blushed, scandalized. The other girls nodded in synchrony. Well, they were clairvoyant quintuplets, so synchrony was to be expected.

  I pondered the matter a little longer, not wanting to let my littlest girls down. That was when my perfect memory came to the rescue, and I recalled a similar story to this situation. In Hinowa ga Yuku!, a princess who had every quality in a woman imaginable, from beauty to grace to kindness to good cheer, including a love of country and a core of inner iron to do what it took to help that country, with a talent for singing on top of it all, had been such a remote existence, a romantic prospect that men could only yearn for from afar. But Hisame had married her in the end, despite being a lowly peasant who could never dream of such a match. How had such a thing come to be? He had won her fairly in objective competition, and she had pledged to fairly join with whoever might be the winner and never complain of the result whoever it might be. If these girls were willing to do the same, to pledge on their honor to make such a match work, suitors would start appearing from all corners of Eden. And if the competition was rigorous enough, all five of them would come away with a suitor worth having.

  "How about a contest, with your hand as the prize?" I summed my cogitation up.

  The girls gasped, struck by the romanticness of it all. In how many stories had princes slain dragons to win over their fated loves? Perseus and Andromeda. Sleeping Beauty. Lodoss War. If it were the winner of a contest, there's no way he'd be some irresponsible schlub. He'd have to be the prince they'd all been waiting for.

  "So what kind of contest?" Shiori eagerly asked, assuming her Dad was omniscient, always knew best, and had the answer to every thorny question readily available. I couldn't let that face down!

  "Jousting?" I pitifully proffered.

  The girls giggled nervously. Their fated marriage partners settled by a jousting competition, a sport exactly zero people were skilled at in the entire world? That was as good as a roll of the dice.

  "It can't be some generic skill. Skill at something and being a good person aren't related at all." Chiharu rejected.

  "Yeah, it doesn't matter if you're good at sports, or cooking, or war, or making money. What I want is someone who's good at loving me and my children. Someone who will help me rule and raise children I can be proud of." Kotone concurred.

  "An objective contest that shows you have what it takes to love someone for life." I wondered what that could possibly be.

  "Hmmmmmm." All the quintuplets harmonized.

  "It should be a history quiz." Shiori's clouded face cleared up like a falcon diving for its prey.

  "How is that different from a swimming contest?" Aiko asked, not confrontationally, but earnestly desirous to understand.

  "History is the study of mankind's struggle to excel, for their virtues to vanquish their vices, and the qualities it takes to do so. Anyone who knows history, who truly understands it, would have to have learned those lessons along the way. And if you've learned those lessons, I know I could trust my body, heart and soul to that man, whether he can play the tuba or not. Sight unseen, I will, without qualification, trust him to do what's right." Shiori swore.

  "Even if the guy is already married to someone else?" Rei asked, the biggest pitfall to an objective contest with open admission looming ominously.

  "If it was good enough for mother, it's good enough for me." Shiori's jaw took on a determined cast. That's the spirit! I cheered for her in my heart. All marriages started with faith and determination, the partner was less important than the attitude you took towards said partner.

  "I'm not going to be a history teacher." Rei announced. "History is not the highest priority for me. But I'll marry one of the five highest scoring participants in a history quiz. Because I trust Shiori. If she thinks a good guy will appear for me, then I'll take him. It's not like I found one any other way."

  "On the bright side, we at least get to parcel out the guys we prefer out of the top five, so there's some chance at compatibility." Chiharu resigned herself.

  "I want to marry and have kids." Aiko spoke plainly.

  "I want to have sex and romantic candlelit dinners." Kotone impishly followed up.

  And so the word went out, that five 18 year old demigods were offering their hands in marriage, to anyone who wanted to help rule the cosmos together for eternity, and could score well on a carefully constructed, currently confidential history exam. Since no one wanted to marry a guy just for being good at studying, the test would take place in one week, before anyone could prepare anything other than their hearts. The wedding invitation included a picture of the five quintuplets smiling in winsome garb, in case any boy didn't understand what sort of prize was on the offing. Dragon slaying had evolved to a new pinnacle.

* * *

  "Our last daughters are wed. I have nothing left to worry about in life." I hugged Cute-sama as hard as I could, all the relief in my body pouring out into my embrace of hers. The mandatory marriage law had done its job. Without actually killing anyone, it had spurred everyone to decisive action, and let them start down a path they'd never regret taking.

  "I raised them well." Cute bragged.

  "You're the best!" I agreed.

  "And so are you." Cute gently replied.

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