—Fate is fundamentally cruel.
The vast barren wasteland stretched on as far as the horizon. Corpses of humans, demons, and monsters alike painted the land in the gory dark red color of blood, their weapons lying beside them.
—Something which forcibly drags you along into its predetermined route with or without your consent. It gives you no chance to refute, to counter or to resist.
A great war happened here, one that brought down shadows of annihilation to man and monster equally, and swept along the rest of the lives of this world into its chaos of conflict. So much blood was shed, and so many lives were lost. The lives of the innocent and the sinned. The man, the women and the children. All were lost to this war.
—And the only thing that makes it bearable is its existence wouldn’t reveal itself until the very end.
And for what? In the middle of the battlefield, there lied the answer.
—So, people can believe that they are in control of their own choices if they so decided.
The lines of corpses that were stacked on top of each other almost look like a base to a throne of flesh and bones. On top of that throne, was a large silver cage.
—But that’s why Fate is so cruel. For there was no choice for you to choose in the first place...
And inside that cage, a person was restrained there. The caged person had golden hair so long they spilled outside. The hair shined with glistening golden aura, giving their owner a divine and majestic presence.
—You can look away from it. You can pretend to not see it. You can even forget about it. But eventually, the time will come when you have to leave and face it.
The caged person’s face is that of perfection itself, the pinnacle of physical beauty. The tin irresistibly alluring lips, white exquisite skin, and big round golden eyes that despite being devoid of life, still represented unparalleled captivating attractiveness.
—But when the time comes, would you be able to do it?
That person’s body, however, was chained by various restraining device elaborately design with care and precision. The wrists, neck, and back piece's gorgeous design could even be considered a decoration of the petite yet charmingly unrivaled body. Artificial wings were attached in the back, completing the divine image of the goddess of beauty.
—Would you take upon your God-given responsibilities, even while knowing that it would deprive you of everything you hold dear?
A sick and twisted method of showing affection, the lovingly created binds that were burned into the pure white skin.
—Or would you rather stay in blissful ignorance, and live happily with your loved ones. Disregarding the consequences that may happen?
Bewitching, enchanting, tantalizing, and beautiful. As if those words were invented specifically to describe the person inside the cage.
—Sorry, that was a trick question.
But there’s no one else who could appreciate the beauty of the caged person now, for there’s no one else left in this world.
—Because fate is cruel. There isn’t even a choice, to begin with...
Soon, the round lifeless golden eyes closed, the breathing ceased, the caged person body hung forward.
[ The City of Anorlon ]
The sun is high in the vast blue sky, sea of clouds forms fascinating shapes that paint the horizon with a magical intrigue of nigh-infinite possibilities.
The bustling sidewalk of Anorlon, the vehicles that pass by and the sounds of many people from all walks of lives intersect briefly. The lives that touch without leaving any marks. Men and women walk onward, as children quickly chase after their parent, worrying about being left behind.
Scenes such as these happen every day, they are common, normal, ordinary.
A few minutes’ walk from there is an even more bustling market, with the sounds of merchants and buyers echoing enthusiastically throughout. The smells of people, various products, food, and flowers fill the area with a chaotic but lively atmosphere. Shops and stalls trying to sell their goods while the patrons choose what they need, considering the price.
I would assume scenes such as these are normal and ordinary as well.
I tuck the hat I am wearing so that it hides my eyes, all the while feeling both nervous and excited about the new environment that I'm in. And also because this is the first time I did something against Athena’s order.
I snuck out of the mansion.
She’s going to be so angry at me when I'm back, but I can’t hold back my curiosity. Those books I’ve read in the library are way too strange, and I want to see if all of it is really true and the only way to prove that is to experience it myself.
So, I snuck out.
I hope she doesn’t even notice that I'm gone, but it’s Athena we’re talking about here. She’s the smartest and most beautiful person I know. There’s no way she wouldn’t notice it. But it doesn’t matter, I'm ready to face my punishment when the time comes.
As I walk through the market enjoying the sight of the largest crowds I had ever seen in my life, a sense of guilt comes over me.
Ah right, at least I shouldn’t slack off on my study even if I snuck out of the mansion.
I pull out a thick dictionary book that Athena gave me from my bag and begin to use it to decipher the meaning of the spoken words, billboard signs, and storefront.
Alchemical components mean specific ingredients used for the practice of alchemy and the making of potions, right?
I see I see.
Martron’s Smithy. That sounds like a smith’s shop, and Smith means the place is likely selling arms and armory for the Valkyrian guards.
I see. Impressive.
I wonder if they also have those fancy firearms I saw in a book once, those things look scary and dangerous.
And uh, Magic Wand means a staff that is used to channel mana into the practice of sorcery’s spellcraft, they have various types and are made from different magical materials.
And sometimes the word Magic Wand is used as a euphemism for... Sex toys?
I know what ‘Toy’ means but what’s a ‘Sex’? Athena has never taught me about it.
I try to look up the meaning in a dictionary but I only find the disclaimer saying 'This is a PG13 rated edition of the official dictionary, please consult your nearby adults before looking further into this subject and ask them for access to the full version. Directly asking anyone the meaning of this word isn’t recommended.'
What kind of thing is the PG13 version? And why would they mention the word in the description of another word without explaining what it is?
This dictionary is weird, but it’s also one of the first things Athena gave me, so I will treasure it.
But still, though, I'm curious. If only there is a way to get the full version, maybe just for a little bit.
I continue to walk down the market’s street avoiding other people’s gazes, eventually, my eyes land on a sign that says.
“Fairwright’s... General Bookstore.”
Delighted, I run to the store.
[ The Mansion of House Athena ]
““Lady Athena! Eden is gone from the library!””
With a loud bang, the door to my office is forcibly open, the panicking male and female twin servants of the house barge in. I ignore their rudeness and answer them without looking up from the document on my desk.
“Why are you two panicking, just use the tracking device I gave you and find him”
“Yes, uh, we did that Lady Athena, and here is what we found.”
Altarin, the male twin in a butler uniform nervously presents me a small piece of paper. Which I take from him to read.
“Dear everyone <3 This is Eden. I’m very sworry about this but today I will go out on my own to explore the city to prove the content of the book, please don't worry about me, I know my way around a bit because of what I’ve read in the library and I should also be back before dinner. Love, Eden. P.S. If I can’t come back before dinner and something happens to me please tell Athena that I love her and I’m grateful for everything brother Altarin and big sister Vena did for me...<3”
He can’t even spell ‘sorry’ right. And what is with those heart signs? Is it some kind of subliminal messaging?
“He left it with the tracker,” Altarin says.
“WE NEED TO FIND HIM RIGHT NOW!” Shouts the female twin in the maid outfit, while banging on my table.
—I’m the master of this house, Vena. The least you can do is show some respect.
“What if he gets kidnaped by bad people? What if some crazy girl falls in love with him at first sight and tries to take him away? What if he gets into trouble because of that cute little face of his? I swear if someone lay a finger on my little Eden, I'm going to rip them apart!”
She has been like this ever since we took Eden in 3 years ago. Long gone were the cool and composed Vena of the past, she’s now playing the complete act of a doting, overprotective mother who can’t leave her child alone for a second. And Altarin? He's not all that better off either, looking at him shifting nervously and walking around the room tells me everything, though he’s better at keeping his act together than his sister.
Sigh. These two are definitely bad influences on Eden, they are spoiling him too much.
“I don’t think we need to go out to find him immediately, he did say that he would be back before dinner. Even If he doesn’t, then there’s still time.”
“But are you not worried about him at all?”
I touch the earing of my left ear while considering for a bit before answering, “I do worry about him, but you two might be worrying a bit too much. Eden is definitely not as defenseless as you seem to think he is”
“But he is still very defenseless, I still remember that incident in the bathroom very clearly,” Vena says with a serious look on her face.
“That’s... a little different from what I meant by him being defenseless.”
But, ah...Yes, that bathroom incident. The door has to be replaced with military grade electronic lock after that. Eden really doesn’t have a sense of privacy or personal space at all, and it’s going to take a while before I completely drill commonsense into him.
“Nevertheless, he can take care of himself, I also doubt other people can hurt him. Or do you want to be the one to ruin his fun by forcefully dragging him back, Vena?”
Vena goes silent with a conflicting expression on her face before Altarin speaks up his own doubt, “But what if it’s the other way around? There’s a possibility of him hurting others. Isn't there?”
“We still have our contract, that isn’t really likely to happen considering Eden’s personality.”
“No, I meant that in another way.”
“And in what way is that?”
Altarin scratches his cheek nervously before leaving the room, saying that he needs to go get something and then comes back.
Now I'm alone in the office with Vena, who is still going through her internal conflict between her worries and her desire to be the perfect, kind, and gentle big sister in front of Eden. In spite of her rather cold original personality.
I wonder what they would think if they know Eden’s true nature. They would probably be able to accept him without conditions, Eden has already completely stolen their hearts after all.
But I will still hold that out from them for now. Being cautious is always better than not.
After a while, Altarin comes back with a cart full of books that I assume to have come from the library, but there are some magazines I don’t recognize.
Greatest beauties ranking of Anorlon?
Top Angels from the Valkyrian Guards?
What? Why are you bringing them here Altarin? Are you coming out of your closet about being a low-key pervert? You don’t have to, everyone knows.
“Kuhum, these are, Hum, my collections of the monthly Anorlon Times Magazines. Despite the interesting taglines, they are actually good sources for news and gossip if you actually look deeper into them.”
Both I and Vena just look straight at him without saying anything, causing him to starts sweating and blushing.
“Here, uh, lady Athena, you’re even featured in one of them,” he says as he presents me the book with the title ‘Goddess of Anorlon’s business world’, I wonder if he knows that kind of publicity is what I actively try to avoid.
“So? You didn't really bring all of these here to tell me ‘congratulation’ did you?”
He takes the book back awkwardly before starting to explain, “Well, a while back I showed these to Eden thinking that he would like them because they have you in them lady Athena, and he did like them, really like them. So, he began to go through reading all of them even the ones that I deliberately kept hidden.”
Altarin wipes the sweat that forms on his forehead. I take another looks at the pile of books and sigh, “I have said before that we should control his education very strictly and then you went ahead and do this?”
“I am very sorry lady Athena,” Altarin says apologetically.
Vena who is looking through the books speaks up, "They don’t have anything too dangerous in them, do they?”
“It shouldn’t be too much of a problem considering we have him read a lot of ‘safe’ romantic fictions since last year to give him reference information regarding the male and female relationship. So, he should not be very affected by the subject,” I reply.
“Well, about that,” Altarin says as he pulls out a book from the pile, titled ‘How to make a girl’s heart yours. By Mister Casandro Casanova’.
“I think he might have also read this, it’s a little more graphic than most dating tip books and it details the acts of seducing woman without really loving them. The ultimate goal of the book is to teach how to build a harem... among other things.”
I blink twice in disbelief and Vena looks as if she is about to strangle her blood-related brother, oh wait she is doing it right now.
—Also, how does he know what most of them are like? How many of them has he read?
“What are you teaching my innocent little Eden, huh!? Why do you have these books anyway, it's not like you need them!”
“Being around Eden all the times is making me confused, okay?! I need something to anchor my rationality!”
“Why does Eden hang out with a guy like you more than me?! Girls should be with girls!!!”
“Eden IS a boy!”
“Eden IS NOT a boy! Eden is Eden!!”
“You-Cough! Have stopped making sense completely!”
I sigh as I watch the two fight, considering the situation of Eden while touching my earing. So, Eden read that book, along with the romance fictions I gave him and the differences between them are making him confused.
I’ve come to a conclusion.
“Didn’t Eden say he wants to go and explore the city to prove the content of the book?”
Vena freezes at my words.
“That is what I've been trying to say!” Altarin breaks himself free from Vena’s grip and looks at her. “What if Eden’s trying to do something strange? What can stop him? You know how he is, whenever he wants to do something, he will get it. And he still hasn’t learned what’s right and what’s wrong yet!”
“This is troubling,” Vena perplexedly says.
Yes, I agree.
They are a few things in the realms that I can’t completely predict.
The future, the hearts, and then there’s Eden.
“What do we do now, lady Athena?” Vena asks with a serious tone, and Altarin turns to look at me as well.
To that, I let out a sigh.
[ Fairwright’s General Bookstore ]
A sigh comes out of my mouth, as I press my chest on the counter.
You know, running a personal bookstore nowadays is a work that requires more passion than mind. You really need to love books to be able to simply sit there and wait for customers, who might not come. Even worse when you’re running an unpopular family bookstore opened by your late grandfather.
I love my grandfather, and I love books, so I'm fine with it. At the end of the day, this store is my life... So today as well, I’ll be running this store.
A sound comes from the front door, signaling the arrival of a potential customer. I straighten my posture and begin to send out a friendly greeting, “Hi, welcome to Fairwright’s General Bookstore, is there anything I ca—”
But then my words halt, so does my mind when a whiff of enchantingly pleasant fragrance touches my nose, leaving me with a floating feeling for a brief period. The scent is so intoxicating that I can feel my heart skipping a beat, almost stopping completely.
I cough a little while trying to understand what that was, before my eyes land on the figure that comes through the door and is surprised once more.
Long golden hair, exquisite white skin, golden round eyes that are more attractive than any jewels... I've never seen such a beautiful girl—no, I've never seen such a beautiful being before.
I recover from my absentminded state and continue to awkwardly introduce myself, “Hi, uh, my name is Ruby Fairwright, is there anything I can help you with, little girl?”
The little girl stares at me in silence for a second, before answering in a small silver bell-like voice that fits her sweet look, “Nice to meet you... my name... is Eden.”
—Such a pleasant voice! A bit monotonous, but so pleasant!
“Yes, Eden. Why are you here today?” I ask gently while trying to ignore the deeply distracting scent that I now know the source of.
But then out of the nowhere, the little girl begins to say expressionlessly. “Ruby... you are very... cute.”
Sorry? Hold on, what? I felt like my brain has stopped working for a second there. What did she just say? That I-I-I'm C-CUTE? ME!?
—Why am I getting so excited from being complimented by a stranger, and a girl at that?! What is happening to me?!
“Ah, is that so? Thank you for that but I'm not really that cute,” I clumsily answer, worrying that I might start blushing for whatever reason.
“Your boobs... are very big... As well.”
Huh!? What is she saying!?
Now I immediately start blushing and attempt to cover my chest with my arms. Why do people keep mentioning them to me, it’s not like they’re that big? I mean they have been kinda getting way too big recently...but that’s not the problem here!
—Why do I feel like I'm being hit on by a little girl?! ...And why am I getting so excited over this?!
“So... it did work?” the little ‘Eden’ girl mutters in a small voice before walking around the counter to grab my hand. “Can you... help me find a book?”
“Ah, oh, right, yes I will help you, what kind of book are you trying to find?” I come to myself and awkwardly nod at her before leading her into the store.
The outside sky that was earlier clear and vast now filled with foreboding storm cloud that had gathered to hide the sun. The horizon was painted with ominous darkness, representing the other side of the grim reality.
Before long, rain began to pour down.
“He died, and everything was left for me to manage, it was difficult at first, but my memories of my grandfather keeps me going. I do love running this store, though, being surrounded by all the books. But lately, there have been fewer and fewer customers, there are even some of them, who just come to ogle at me while pretending to check out the books, those guys are kinda creepy.”
Ruby found herself sitting behind the counter, spilling out her entire life story to the beautiful little stranger she had just met. There was just something about Eden that allowed her to feel comfortable when she was around him, she thought.
“Is that so...? Must be tough.” Eden was sitting beside her, looking through the stack of books Ruby has collected for him.
“It is. Well, there was this one boy who directly approached me and asked me out, he looked honest enough, but in reality, he was just coming after my body and was very direct about it. The way he kept staring at my chest and all.”
“Do you not like it...? When people tell you... That you’re pretty?”
“I don’t really think I'm all that pretty but many people seem to think that, and honestly, sometimes I felt really good being complimented. However, the more people telling me how pretty I am, the more I think the only thing people see in me is how pretty I am.”
Ruby paused to look at Eden’s face before continuing.
“And some people are fine with that, I think? Some people can use their looks to their advantages and have it easier. But for people like me who don’t want to just rely on my looks, I have to work really hard, harder than most people to just be recognized as a hard-working pretty girl, instead of just a pretty girl.”
Ruby patted Eden’s head, running her fingers through his smooth, silky, golden hair.
—This girl is way too pretty to have come from a normal family. A child of house Alphelia, perhaps? She must have her fair share of trouble too for being this beautiful.
Eden closed the book he was holding and put it aside, then let out a small, cute sigh.
“What is it? Did you not find the thing you were looking for?”
“Um... I did... But... It still doesn’t... make sense,” Eden replied weakly with a frown. One that inadvertently caused alarm to set off in Ruby’s head.
—No! Eden! A frown isn’t something that fits on that cute face of yours. What’s troubling you?! Big sister will go and deal with it immediately with all her strength! Kuhum. I mean. What came over me for a second there? Calm down me.
“What was it that you were looking for? if you let me know maybe I can help you,” Ruby calmed her mind and said to Eden.
“Yes? What is it that you want to know?”
When Eden looked straight into Ruby’s eye, she felt like she was being pulled into those golden pupils that shined as if they were the most brilliant of jewels. But the next word that came out of that cute, innocent looking lips threw her off completely.
“What is.... ‘sex’?” Eden.
—Kids these days grow up so fast!
“Ah, uh. W-why are you wondering about that, Eden?” Ruby asked awkwardly, feeling embarrassed that her earlier confidence had completely disappeared.
“Because... the explanation... in the books.... don't make any sense,” Eden was both perplexed and confused, tilting his head left and right.
“W-Well, isn’t it said in the book you’ve found. An act of a man and a woman expressing love for each other and conceive a child. B-But if you are asking about the act of doing it...” Ruby explained hurriedly with a flushed face.
“I understand.... that part,” Eden said. Then before Ruby could even comprehend those words' meaning, Eden took her hand and locked his own with it; intertwined his fingers with hers in a tight grip.
Ruby was startled by their sudden intimacy, but strangely, she found the feeling of Eden’s soft hand wasn’t something her body or mind can willingly give up. Ruby unconsciously gulped, frozen stiff as Eden pushed closer until his face was a few centimeters away from hers.
A face of perfection, white smooth skin without any blemish, more beautiful than even a portrait of painting, along with that pair of endlessly attractive golden round eyes. As Ruby’s mind was becoming blank, Eden spoke in that sweet voice of his into her ears.
“An act.... perform by lovers?” Eden's eyes grew a little dimer. “That.... doesn’t.... make any sense at all... Ruby.”
Ruby’s heart twisted like a knot that started to tangle up. Her pulse quickened and her breathing hastened.
“Nee... Ruby... do you... love me?”
“Eh? Uh, w-what do you mean? We've just met. I-I don’t...” Ruby explained in a panic, her face more flustered than before.
“So... You don’t... Love me?” Eden continued with a tone which stirred Ruby’s heart with a pang of sadness.
“I... I mean, you’re a girl, Eden. And that’s...”
“Eden... Is not... A girl.” Once again, before Ruby could properly comprehend what was said to her and reply. Eden moved forward and locked her mouth with his.
—Eden!? What are you!?
Ruby widened her eyes, but soon after the initial wave of panic, a sense of pleasure washed away all her fears.
—Eden’s lips are so soft, so sweet!
She could offer no resistance when Eden’s tongue began to come inside her mouth and intertwined with her own, nor does she have the will to do so. The sweet sense, fragrance, touch, the pleasure of the kiss drowned out her rationality and everything else, the boiling temperature of her blood was causing her body to feel like it would melt right then and there.
Unconsciously, Ruby’s hands moved to Eden’s waist and held him close to her body, she found herself wanting more of that mesmerizing taste. But before she could do more than want, Eden pulled back, separating their lips that were connected for only a brief moment in reality.
Ruby also came to realize her own state, but her mind was still swirling in chaos and confusion. Amidst all that, there was even a tinge of disappointment.
“Haaa... haaa-Eden! W-what are you doing?!” Ruby asked panting and gasping for breath.
Eden responded calmly, almost as if the sudden attack didn’t happen “It doesn’t make sense... The books... Athena gave me... Or mister Casandro! Or anyone! They were all wrong!"
But then his voice started to tremble by the end of his sentence, his golden eyes grew dimmer. “You don’t... Love me... And I don’t... Love you.”
Eden continued, his expression distorted as if he was remembering something he doesn’t want to. “Then why...? didn't you resist?"
Outside, an ear-deafening sound of thunder strike came down from the sky.
“T-That’s because I... I.” Ruby stuttered, surprised at herself for struggling to come up with an answer to such an obvious question.
“No one ever resists,” Eden stated with a completely flat tone and started to move away from Ruby’s body, only to be prevented by the hands that were still unconsciously wrapped tightly around his waist.
“And no one ever let go.”
To Ruby, Eden’s eyes were now completely devoid of life.
“An act.... performs by lovers? Whether It'll be kissing... or sex... Love doesn’t have...anything to do with it.”
Only then did Ruby realized that Eden was taking this way more seriously than she had thought, she had underestimated the meaning of his question and its relevance to him.
“Because love... isn't anything like this... love... isn't anything like that... love is...”
“Eden...” Seeing Eden’s dejected demeanor. Like a shining star that has lost its radiance. Ruby’s heart felt a sense of loss, and a sense of guilt.
—Eden, I might not know anything at all about you, but... Seeing you like that, it hurts me, it would hurt anyone. To kiss without love, or to have sex without love, for you... isn’t that just...
Ruby made a resolve in her heart.
“Eden, that isn’t always the case, you know?”
Instead of freeing Eden from her arms, Ruby decided to use them to pull him closer instead and gave him another kiss. She knew that it wasn’t necessary yet parts of her still desired it, and she was unable to resist the temptation.
Receiving the passionate offense from Ruby, Eden didn’t try to resist or comply. He simply let her do as she pleased without reacting to it, like a lifeless doll.
After enjoying herself despite the guilty conscience, Ruby separated their lips and spoke to Eden, “It isn’t always the case, that, I didn’t resist because I like you. And you have also caught me off guard.”
Eden's eyes flickered a bit. “You... like me?”
“Um. Yes, I like you, Eden. Maybe not to the point of Love, but I definitely like you.”
Eden tilted his head in confusion. “Since when...? We've only just met.”
“From the moment I laid eyes on you, I thought to myself that I’ve never met such a beautiful being before. Maybe it was like love at first sight?” Ruby declared with confidence.
“Is that so? Maybe... mister Casandro was right...? That first impression.... is everything,” Eden said as lights returned to his eyes.
“Well, your weird compliment was out of the blue. But you are very cute when you said it, do you know that?” Ruby continued, kissing Eden’s soft cheek while she was at it.
“I do.... being cute... is all Eden is...” Eden spoke flatly and Ruby felt like she has to say something in response.
“No! Of course not! You're super cute, a-and you listen to all of my naggings without complaining at all. I feel more comfortable when I'm with you than when I was with anyone in years. That’s why I didn’t resist you.”
“But that was only a kiss... if it was more... would you still—”
“Eden, are you really not a girl?”
“Of course not... it isn’t obvious... is it?”
Ruby took a more thorough look at Eden petite yet mysteriously enchanting body. Only now did Ruby notice the choker on his neck and the two black bracelets on his wrists that contrasted the delicate white skin and long golden hair.
—Nope, it isn’t obvious at all. She... or he is an unquestionable beauty, for him to actually be a boy. Well, I suppose when you are this pretty, gender doesn’t matter anymore.
“Eden, that wasn’t your first kiss, was it?”
“No,” Eden calmly replied.
—I figured. He was way too good for that to be his first.
“Then, would you like to test it?”
Eden blinked. But soon he realized what Ruby meant by her words.
“The store isn’t very popular in the first place, plus it’s raining outside. There shouldn’t be anyone coming here anytime soon.”
Eden stared at Ruby, causing her face to burn up in embarrassment.
“Your eyes... they’re ruby,” Eden observed the blushing girl.
“Well, that’s how I got my name. Or so they say.”
“Your face... is also ruby.”
“That one is because of you!”
Their lips kissed once again. This time with even more passionate intensity than before.
Eden moved his hands to Ruby’s chest to unbutton her blouse, just enough to reveal her swollen soft breasts and deep cleavage. Ruby’s breathing became a bit ragged. When Eden started to hold her breasts with his hands and kissed them. She felt like her heart beats got so loud, that she worried that it might jump out of her chest.
After thoroughly kissing her breasts, Eden’s kisses moved upward to her collar bone, nape, lip, cheek and then to her ear with a light bit. Simultaneously his small hand hasn’t stopped massaging and squeezing her voluptuous bosoms, while the other hand moved down to pinch her plump thighs. After a while, he began to undress her.
“I know... What I have to do.”
As the rain continued to fall. Eden led Ruby into a soft, gentle, pleasuring dance.
I wake up to a sound of flipping pages, and to the now familiar sweet fragrance that still lingers in the air. Looking around while lying on the floor and leaning against the counter, I see that there are several more books surrounding me now. I also find myself fully clothed, except for the bra and underwear that were lying a little bit away from me.
“You were out... For an hour,” a sweet silver bell-like voice rings in my ears. I look down on my lap to see Eden lying sideways on my thighs, looking through a book. And my mind flashes memories from an hour ago.
—Oh no! What have I done?!
I try to move away and stand up, during the process I accidentally drop Eden’s head to the floor.
“Ouch.” A monotone voice rings out
“Oh no! Eden!? I-I'm so sorry. I didn’t mean to do that.” I quickly move to look at Eden, holding up his face to examine if there’s any wound.
—Phew~! Good thing there isn’t any, because if something happens to his face, even the great Judgementor would not forgive me.
“Eden is all right...” Eden brushes it off and holds the book he was reading in front of me. “Eden looked around... and found this... Why is it here?”
I take the [Pyromancy Tome] from his hand and say to him, “That’s something I bought for myself to study. It isn’t for sale... but hold on, before that...”
I hold my breath and look straight into Eden's eyes. “Did we... actually did it?”
“Actually.... did what?”
“You know? IT!”
Eden tilts his head cutely then answers in an even cuter voice, "You mean... The part where we were kissing... Or the part... Where I use my-”
“STOP RIGHT THERE!”
—SO IT DID HAPPEN! Halfway through I thought I was dreaming and my mind was a little fuzzy. I was actually seduced by a little succubus—no, by a little angel!
After a moment of feeling like I want to bang my head against a wall, Eden's voice brings me back to reality, “Do you... regret it?”
"Huh? ...Do I?"
—Regret? What's done is done, I was caught up by the moment and now I have to face the consequences.
“No... I don’t really regret it.”
Apparently, Eden is a little confused by my answer. But if I'm allowed to trust this brand new sensation in my heart when I look at him now... the truth is obvious.
“Because I might have already fallen in love with you, Eden,” I say and push to the cute little angel down and kiss him again.
Then eagerly, I ask him the question that has been on my mind, “Eden, do you love me?”
“No... I love Athena.”
—Well, that is not the response I was eager for.
“N-no? Not at all? Not even a little bit?”
Eden expressionlessly answers in a totally calm voice, “Eden like Ruby... we could be friends... but I love Athena.”
—Hi, my name is Ruby Fairwright. 18 years old. My first heartbreak happens 5 seconds after I realized I had fallen in love.
Eden continues to say, frowning slightly, “Also, Eden doesn’t want to become... Someone like Mister Casandro.”
Mister... Casandro? Where have I—Ah! “Mister Casandro? Mister Casandro Casanova!? That shameless pervert who wrote those shameless books? And you’ve read them?!
“There was this... older brother—” Eden begins to say, but I interrupt him.
“Stop reading something like that, they're evil! They will poison your innocent mind!”
“But they have.... really good illustrations... by really famous artists.”
“Listen to your big sister, Eden!”
He backs off, but doesn’t look very convinced. Is this what the rebellious age is like? They've suddenly become so hard to control with their growing curiosity. Someone needs to set him straight before he starts going down a dark path!
But still... pouting Eden is very cute too.
“Hahaha, that’s fine. I can be your girlfriend and teach you everything.”
“Yeah! I'm a girl and I'm your friend. Girlfriend! Makes perfect sense.”
“I see...” Eden makes a small nod.
—So adorable! I’m definitely in love!
But then suddenly a sound comes from the front door along with a woman’s frustrated voice, “Damn it! Seven different decoys to mislead [Divination]. How did he manage to put one on a freaking helicopter? He is getting way too clever in such a weird way.”
—No way! Someone actually came!?
“Eden, take my underwear from over there and crawl to the back of the store, okay? I can’t let anyone see you like this,” I whisper to Eden.
“No but! And don't speak! Just listen to what I say and let big sister take care of this, okay? No, it’s too late! Just hide under here!”
I stop Eden from making any sound, check my clothes, then stand up to greet the new visitor, “Hi! Welcome to Fairwright’s General Bookstore. Is there anything I can help you with?”
The woman who came in is in a silver raincoat. She has beautifully braided white hair and calm, dignified facial features, giving the impression of a matured beauty.
“Yes, have you seen a golden hair little... girl? Came in here by any chance? She was pretty eye-catching you couldn’t have missed her.”
"Shhh!" I lightly kick Eden to shut him up.
—Please forgive me!
Going back to wearing a professional smile on my face, I continue to say to the white-haired woman, “Not at all, miss. I've not seen someone such as you described.”
The white hair woman slashes me without any warning!
By reflect, I catch the attack with the [Pyromancy tome] that's in my hand! The ice formed blade of the white-haired woman is stopped, but at the same time, a cold, chilling voice comes out of her mouth as the woman's eyes turn colder the then the frost blade she's formed. “I can smell her scent on you, why are you lying to me?”
—This woman... doesn’t feel like a good person at all.
Feeling a little threatened, I try to delay some time by saying to her, “N-no need to get violent. How about you first tell me why you want to find... him?”
Hearing that, the woman instantly snaps. “So, you have met him. Where are you hiding my little Eden?”
“Your? Little Eden?”
—I already don’t like this crazy woman.
I evoke [Pyromancy] on the tome, melts the frost blade, then twists the tome and swipes it at the woman to splash the water on her. Surprisingly, the attack lands, and the woman would’ve been soaked if not for the silver raincoat she wears. But despite having been splashed face full of water the woman didn’t back off, instead, she continues to glare at me with eyes colder than before.
“Just as I thought. He was actually taken away by some crazy girl!”
The white-haired woman then forms another frost blade and agilely slashes at me across the counter! I evade the slash. Then quickly evoke another [Pyromancy] from the tome and use it to deflect her slashes, dodging while looking for an opportunity to counterattack!
Finally, I jump over the counter to the front of the white-haired woman and release a full blast of [Pyrokinesis] at her, sending the woman flying outside the store! She leaves a trail of snowflakes and ice into the drizzled streets behind her, but doesn't fall down.
I follow after while still maintaining my [Pyrokinesis]. It evaporates the falling dribble of rain and the ice trails the woman creates.
“Whoever you are, I won’t just hand Eden over to some bad guy,” I say to the woman and she looks back at me. Then throws off her slightly burnt raincoat, revealing the maid outfit that she wears underneath.
She forms yet another frost blade with seemingly no evocation of any kind, and I ready my [Pyromancy Tome]. But before we could continue our scuffle, a voice rings out from behind me.
“Big sister Vena! Stop!”
—Why did you come out!? Wait... Big sister Vena?
I look back at Eden (who is wearing my brassiere as a hat to block the rain) then back at the white-haired woman.
—Big sister? Do they know each other? Eden and this crazy woman?
Eden comes to grab my arm and speaks to the white-haired ‘Vena’ woman, “Please... Don't hurt her... Ruby... Is my ‘girlfriend’.”
My heart! Calm down me! He obviously didn’t mean it like that, but still!
On the other side, Vena looks equally as shocked as I am—no, even more shocked than I am.
“E-Eden? What did you say this woman is to you?” she asks with trembling voice.
“She’s my ‘girlfriend’,” Eden answers, confidently, with my brassiere still on his head.
Vena staggers and almost falls to her knees. “Why? I take my eyes off you for three hours and then this happened? I refuse to accept it!”
“It’s true... Big sister Vena... We have... already did it... and everything,” Eden says with an innocent look that is purer than pureness itself.
“WHAT!?” Vena glares at me with a piercing gaze that is now colder than the frozen scape of Hell! “For just a Low-ranked angel... How dare you!”
The 'Vena' woman bursts into a cold rage and spreads her [Silverlight Wings]! The rain and the droplets of water in the area around her are instantly frozen into snowflakes!
—She’s a High-ranked angel?!
She charges straight at me with a frost blade and I'm forced to spread my own [Flames Wings]! But even so, it quickly becomes apparent that the power I hold is pale in comparison to hers. And the white-haired woman’s continuous, and furious attacks make me a little distressed.
“I-It wasn’t my fault, you know? Eden was the aggressor here!” I try to calm the woman down.
“That’s even more envious! Do you know how hard it is for me to hold back, you red-eyed thief!?”
Only to enrages her even further!
—Also, red-eyed thief!? Don’t insult other people’s eyes color just because they aren’t as cold and dead as yours, okay!?
I think Vena might have heard my internal jab because her attacks suddenly get more and more aggressive to the point where I can’t continue to deflect them anymore. Then she holds the frost blade back, drawing in the ice from all around to morph it into a frost javelin! And with a mighty force gathers in her arms, she attempts to pierce me with it!
As the frost javelin slashes through the air towards me. I realize that if the attack lands... then I’m going to be killed without a doubt. But there is simply nothing I can do to stop it. Her attack is simply too powerful for me to do anything.
—The differences between our strength are too great… Sorry, Eden. Big sister couldn’t protect you...
I close my eyes, thinking that at the very least, my life is worth it now that I've met him... But contrary to what I thought was going to happen—death never came.
When I open my eyes again, Eden is standing in front of me, spreading his arms to protect me from the frost javelin that has stopped only a few centimeters away from his face.
“Eden, you would... risk your life for her?” Vena says in a tone full of love and gentleness completely different from before.
“Big sister Vena... You can stop now... I'm sorry... For sneaking out.” Eden moves in to hug her waist, then looks up to Vena and continues with pleading eyes. “I’m sorry... For making you worry... Please forgive me.”
Vena is clearly affected by Eden’s words, as she cancels her [Hydromancy] and the area’s frost starts to melt. In return, she uses both her arms to hold Eden and says to him in a voice filled with affection.
“Do you even realize; how worried I was?”
“It’s fine if you understand. We can go back home now, right?”
—Maybe... she wasn’t such a bad person like I thought she was? If so, then that must’ve been so embarrassing.
“But what about... Ruby?” Eden points at me and says.
But Vena still looks at me with the same cold gaze as before. “Who cares about her? We should just leave her here, she’ll be fine.”
“That’s no good... Big sister Vena.” Eden comes to grabs my arm again. “Look at what you have done... She needs treatment.”
—What is he talking about?
“Eden, don’t worry about me. I'm completely fine—”
That sound... where did it come from? Oh, right. My left shoulder.
“Bring her back with us... Please,” Eden continues to convince Vena.
“Fine, I'll patch her up a bit. Besides, it was my fault for being so rash. Eden, go get your stuff,” she sighs and gives in.
“Thank you... Big sister Vena,” Eden quickly runs back into the store to get his clothes and bag. Vena then pulls out a seal from her chest pocket and starts to operate it.
—That crest... it’s the crest of house Athena... I see... Eh? Wait a minute? House Athena? That Athena? The Goddess of Wisdom and War?!
But before I could speak out my doubt, my body was already transported away.
[ The Mansion of House Athena ]
Big sister Vena left with Ruby to the infirmary, leaving me to go to Athena’s office alone.
Standing in front of the door, I check my own appearance before going in. If only there was a mirror. I was out in the rain a bit before. I’m not really looking too bad right now, am I? I can’t go into Athena’s office looking like this. I need to—
“Just come in already!”
She sounds like she’s really angry. W-what do I do?
I put my trembling hand on the doorknob and turn it to open the door.
“U-um... Excuse... Me?”
Inside, I find Athena sitting at her usual desk. She wears a casual business suit with a plain white shirt. The earring on her left ear sparkles in the dimly lit room. Her short silver hair and sharp silver eyes still look beautiful as ever, but on her beautiful face today, there's a really scary frown.
“Come closer, Eden.”
I slowly move closer as Athena commands
I quickly move closer as Athena commands.
Finally, at the front of her desk, I nervously glance at her eyes. Athena seems slightly annoyed by my pace of action, but right now that's the least I have to worry about.
“Come over to this side.”
I do as she says and moves around the desk to Athena’s chair. She lightly pats her thighs, signaling me to come and sit on her lap. I would be happy if this was any normal day, but today this is giving me a bad feeling.
—But there is no choice! I did say that I was ready to face any punishment when the time comes!
I muster most of my courage for today and awkwardly climb up to sit sideways on Athena’s lap... this makes my face turn a bit red.
“Why are you blushing?” Athena asks me, raising her beautiful eyebrows curiously.
“Athena... You are... very beautiful toda—Ouch!”
Suddenly, Athena’s slender hands pinch my cheeks. Somehow, she always makes it hurt without leaving any marks, she’s an amazing person. But still, ouch!
“Do you think a little flattery would help you get out of this? Not for what you did today, Eden, not today.” She pinches my cheeks harder.
“Amm veery... Sworry... Althenea—Ouch!”
“Who’s this Althenea you’re talking about? Your new friend?”
“I am veryy... Sorrryyy.”
Athena pinches and pulls my cheeks like marshmallows, and she isn't done scolding me yet. “You’ve snuck out of the mansion without permission. Ran around the city. And not only that, you’ve even acquainted yourself with a young, Low-ranked angel from a cute little bookstore.”
“I wasn’t cheating on you, Athena! Ruby is just a ‘girlfriend’!”
“Sure, just become fluent all of a sudden why don’t you. Wait... ‘girlfriend’?”
Athena's hands stop pinching my cheeks for a second. Now is my chance to explain myself!
“Ruby is a girl... and she’s my friend... Makes perfect sense.”
"Ouch." For some reason, I feel as if she isn’t terribly impressed by my explanation. Maybe, because she starts pinching me again.
“Vena is going to freak out if she heard you say that.”
“Sometimes I find your innocence to be incredibly destructive, Eden.”
I tilt my head in confusion.
“Well, never mind that. That isn’t important.” Athena brushes it off and then she looks into my eyes and says in a tone more serious than before. “What’s important is that you didn’t end up telling her about what you are, did you?”
—Ah, yes... That's right. In this world, only I...
“No... I didn’t tell her... that... I'm a human being.”
—In this world of angels... this plane of spirits... and this Realm of Gods... I’m the only one that’s human.
“I didn’t tell anyone... that.”
—I’m an outsider. A transmigrator. The one who doesn’t belong.
“Then, that’s good.” Athena softly caresses my cheeks before pulling me into a gentle embrace. “Three years ago, I found you floating in the river of Styx, not quite dead or alive. And I've saved you. I gave you a name, and a purpose to live. And then I brought you here.”
I close my eyes and lean on her chest. My mind resurfaces memories from long ago. The lifeless void. The hands that pulled me back.
And the voice that called my name, the voice that continues to be my reason to live even today.
“That name also binds you and me to a contract.”
Athena’s earing glistens in the dimly lit room.
“So that I can control your Shine and suppress your Radiance. But by doing so, I’ve also cut away parts of you and caged them. Some parts of you are lost forever because of that... because of what I did.”
Athena caresses the back of the choker on my neck, or rather, the back of the collar on my neck.
“I can’t heal the scars that are left because of what happened to you, Eden. Despite all that I've taken away from you. I can’t take away all of your pain.”
Athena’s hands move under my hair to my back, gently stroking it. As I am being reminded of that painful, burning sensation, I lean closer to her and she embraces me tighter.
“You can hate me for that if you like. If you find your existence miserable due to my meddling, then leave anytime you want. I will not stop you. I don’t have the right to stop you. So, I will not scold you for what happened today.”
She says that as if it's the most obvious thing in the world. Isn't it hateful? How could she do that?
“I love you, Athena. I would never leave you.”
I will stay with you. Forever. For you are my guiding voice in the infinite void. My wisdom in time of crisis. My goddess Athena.
“Your boobs... aren’t very big... at all... though.”
“Ouch... Athena... Why are you... pinching me again?”
“...I’m not even going to answer that.”
“That kind of lines works... Mister Casandro said so.”
“I'm also ordering Altarin to burn those books later.”
A day later...
Altarin, who had spent the entirety of yesterday chasing a helicopter all the way to another city, finally, have some time to laid back and relaxed.
—Or so he thought.
Only for his metaphorical heart to be ripped apart by his lady’s order. To burn the collection of books he spent years of his life collecting, and along with it, a part of himself—he could only grip his own white hair in anguish, and obey.
In anger, he set off to find the culprit for his emotional loss, who usually hung around inside his room for some reason. And inside Altarin’s room, Eden was rolling on his bed in a night pajama short that revealed way too much for Altarin’s heart to be comfortable with. And by the sight of those pure white calves, Altarin’s anger flown away into the wisp of the winds.
—I will let you get away with this because you’re cute, Eden. But not next time.
Altarin cursed. Completely ignoring the truth that he knew deep inside that if Eden ever does anything to him again in the future, he would probably still not be able to bring himself to get angry at him.
“Brother Altarin... did you really burn... all of it?”
“Yes... Whose fault do you think that is?”
“But the really good illustrations... by the really famous artists.”
“All gone, Eden. All gone. Some of those are limited editions. And they’re also gone.”
“I see... well... it doesn’t matter all that much.”
To Eden who quickly shrugged it off, Altarin held back the urge to smack him in the head, with all his power.
His conflict didn’t last very long for they were interrupted by the ringing sound that came out of the electronic speaker inside the room. Signaling the arrival of a guest. They both looked at each other. Before wordlessly agreeing to take a look at the newly arrived visitor together.
At the front door of the mansion, they found that Ruby Fairwright was there.
When she noticed Eden, she moved faster than the speed of sound to pull him into her embrace. “Ahhh, Eden. Finally! I thought I would never get to see you again!”
Eden’s face was stuffed into Ruby’s bursting chest, while Altarin looked on with envy.
“Brother Altarin... Stop staring... You're being rude,” Eden said in a muffled voice, his face still stuffed in Ruby’s breast.
“If I am being rude, then you are being shameless.”
But alas, shamelessness or innocence all depends on the perspective. Altarin, who couldn’t bear to watch it anymore, decided to pull Eden back.
“Miss Ruby Fairwright, correct? I believe an introduction is in order.”
“Brother Altarin... Ruby... Ruby... This is brother Altarin... The low-key pervert.”
“Why are you introducing me like that?!”
“I see... Greetings, brother Altarin the low-key pervert.”
“Nonononono, you’re not calling me that! And why do you believe him so easily?!”
“Because Eden is too innocent to lie, no?”
“Um... Eden... Can’t lie.”
“This...” Altarin, who couldn’t say anything against that, chose to change the subject. “Kuhum. So then why are you here miss Fairwright? Didn't Vena send you off yesterday?”
“Is your shoulder... All right?”
“Right! I'm completely fine now. I’m here today to borrow Eden for a bit.” Ruby then took Eden’s hand and led him around the corner a little away from the mansion, where a boy was waiting.
“See? I have a boyfriend now. A child of the goddess Athena. He's cuter, smarter, and better than you at everything,” Ruby said to the sullen looking boy and then kissed Eden in front of him. During the kiss, however, the boy was actually more envious of Ruby. But it all went well and he promised that he wouldn’t be bothering Ruby anymore.
“What was? That about?”
“That was that guy I told you about yesterday. Basically, my body and mind are all yours only now, Eden.”
“Is that so...?”
“Yes, meeting you has changed a lot of things for me. I finally found the courage to move forward with my life and stop clinging to the memories of my grandfather, just like that time you step in to save me. You were so brave and beautiful. I want to be more like you, Eden.”
“So, I'm going to start writing stories, Eden. My meeting with you has filled me with inspiration! I’m going to write down all of these overflowing emotion into words. I would definitely be able to write an interesting story, and when I'm finished, you'll be the first to read it. So, cheer me on, okay?”
“Come visit the store anytime you like and bless me good luck!”
And then Ruby ran off into the horizon, leaving the confused Eden behind. Due to that it was raining all throughout yesterday’s night, the sky is only now becoming clear, leaving behind a few beautiful rainbows that painted the horizon in colorful lights.
While Eden was confusingly watching the rainbows, Altarin came up to him.
“Is she always like that?” Altarin asked, baffled by the young woman’s pace of action.
“Don’t know... Only just met her... Yesterday,” answered Eden, still confused as to what that was about.
Altarin patted his head. “But it seems like everything will work out for her, no? She looks fine despite everything.”
“We should probably go back to check up on Vena before she starts freaking out again.”
The two returned to the mansion only to find Vena in the kitchen making sweets, humming happily with unexpected enthusiasm.
And when she noticed Eden, she moved faster than the speed of sound to pull him into her embrace. “Ahhh, Eden. Finally! I thought you would never come to see me again!”
“Is that so...?”
“Yes! I've now reflected on my actions, Eden. And I realized that the attitude that I was having toward you growing up was more out of my own fear of you abandoning me than of my worry for your well-being. I'm very sorry...”
“So, I'm going to work hard to become your perfect big sister. I will not be overstepping my bound anymore. Whether you want to go out and have friends, girlfriends, or boyfriends. Your big sister will support you with all her strength. Whatever kind of troubles you get yourself into in the future, you can just rely on me, okay?”
“Now, get out of the kitchen and wait for a bit. I'm going to bake the best cookies ever with my new recipe, and you’re going to be the first one to try it when I'm finished. Bless me good luck”
The two were then chased out of the kitchen, they looked at each other.
“This one is always like this,” Altarin concluded.
“Um... Nothing... Seems to be wrong.” Eden agreed.
“We should just go and wait for those cookies in the library.”
“That sounds... good.”
On the way to the library, Altarin spoke up his doubt, “By the way, I've been wondering for a while now. How did you manage to get one of your divination decoys on the blade of a helicopter?”
“Eh...? But I didn’t do... Something like that...” Eden replied, confused.
“But you did! I have to follow it all the way to another city! Are you telling that wasn’t you?” Altarin said while making a face of unfathomable mystery.
“All Eden did was... tied one strand of my hair on a pigeon’s leg... and told it to fly up... Ah.”
“I feel bad now.” Eden.
Today, the Realm of Gods remained peaceful...